I didn't have any social media accounts before 2018. I knew what they were, had friends on them but I hadn't ventured there at all.
Just before Unpacking Harper Holt came out, my brother was in London and went to the London Book Fair. Like me, he was hoping my book was on display, but it was just a bit too early. He is a curious person, likes to learn about new things, so while he was there, he sat in on a few presentations. What he learnt about writers and self-promotion he passed on to me - I needed to think about social media, he had said.
Now, to an introvert, putting yourself out there, especially on social media, in which you have no experience, is a daunting idea.
So, before jumping into it I contacted my then editor, Nancy Conescu, and talked to her about it. (I think I was secretly hoping that she would say it wasn't really necessary - she didn't.) Her main advice was to be authentic and follow other writers - see what they are doing.
After a bit more advice from a few media people, one being my fabulously talented cousin Elly Castles, I launched my first social media account on Instagram.
I also had a go at developing a website (which I recently had expertly updated by the talented Evie Foster) and that led to this blog... so it's been a journey.
Throughout this exploration and learning experience it has been my family, friends, and colleagues who jumped onboard at the start and have liked, shared and commented on my amateur posts. And they are still there! I've been so thankful for the support.
It's been two years now, since starting my self-promotion, so what's the verdict?
With my reader's hat on, it's a great way to find out what authors and publishers are up to - who is releasing new books, festivals that are happening - either in person or, for the past year, online. Booksellers are fabulous at promoting authors and their books, and of course podcasters let you know who they are speaking to next.
Living and working in a regional area, with dogs to walk and sport to attend on the weekends, it's a real challenge to get to festivals, or writing events in the capital cities. But Covid changed all of that - it moved online. Through social media it had become possible to watch events that I couldn't attend in person, via a live stream. Booksellers and publishers organised book launches online.
With my writer's hat on, I've learnt a lot from following other authors. It is a vibrant and supportive community and I feel that this past year has made it even more so. When a writer shares that they have signed with a publisher there is a positive reaction of congratulations from a whole range of other authors.
There are also the book bloggers - who read stacks of books, write about them and create enticing photos. Social media for a reader, is a wealth of information, from around the world.
And how talented are the illustrators!! (I am totally addicted to Karen Erasmus on Instagram and her #100dayprioject.) When a book is released credit is given not only to the writer but to the clever cover designer too. After all it takes a team to bring a book from the manuscript to the bookshelf.
But what's the downside?
From the very beginning I had to decide what I was going to post about, where to draw the line. Basically, at the beginning my rule was there is my writing life and my personal life however sometimes that line is blurry but at other times, it's steadfast.
Social media also takes time and as much as I only want do a quick post or just have a spare moment, I have found that I spend more time viewing who I am following than creating my own.
There are times that I think I should just leave social media - delete the account and remove the app from my phone. But then a post pops up about an upcoming episode from one of my favourite podcasts, or a book blogger releases a review of a book I'm interested in and there is also the thrill of seeing my books in stacks and reviews, getting messages from readers...
Like other aspects of my writing life, it's something I am figuring out how to find the balance, the time and where it's taking me - but then again, I suppose we all are.
Now - talking about balance, I can't dilly dally anymore - I have some posts to create for Everything We Keep - check out my social media to find out all about it!