Monday, June 27, 2011

Why social media matters

As you read this, I’m probably landing in New York City after flying all night to attend the national conference of Romance Writers of America.

My two male housemates are at home plotting new ways to use my dog to pick up girls.

I’m expecting to be overscheduled, over-stimulated, and sleep deprived all week, so I may or may not be blogging.

But I did want to leave you with a thought. Well, a few of them, really, but they all tie the basic notion that social media makes a difference for authors. I can prove it.

I know a lot of us get overwhelmed by all the blogging and tweeting and Facebooking involved in building a platform and a career. It’s easy sometimes to beat your head on a wall and wonder if it even makes a difference.

Here’s how I know it does:

On Friday I told you I was attending a concert of one of my favorite performers, Marc Cohn. It was my seventh time seeing him, and the show was spectacular, as always.

Then he started to introduce the song “True Companion.”

“I saw a blog post today that said someone was considering throwing a brassiere at me,” he began.

I swear to you, my knees buckled.

He went on to talk a little more about the post, leaving no doubt whatsoever he was referring to my blog. At the end of the show, my hands were still shaking as I walked up to the table where he was signing autographs.

“That was my blog post you mentioned,” I stammered like an idiot. “The one about the bras and 'True Companion' and—” 

He stood up and gave me a giant hug. Marc Cohn – one of my favorite musicians on the planet – GAVE ME A HUG!

And then he smiled at me. “You’re an author, right?”

I did not French kiss him right then. I also didn’t hand him my bra or grope his ass, though I strongly considered doing all of those things.

Instead, I asked how he came to read my blog. “I have people who keep an eye on that sort of thing,” he said, which is probably a cryptic way of saying his publicist has Google alerts on his name to watch for potential stalkers like me.

Still, I’m dumbstruck. Sixteen months ago, nearly every single one of you reading this blog right now had never heard my name before.

Now Marc Freakin’ Cohn knows who I am?

That’s the power of social media.

And here’s a second piece of evidence. The morning after the concert, I woke to an email telling me I had a private message on Facebook. The message was from author Xandra James, and I asked her if I could share it with you here:

Hi - just wanted to say something without sounding really nuts... :)

Have been following you and your blog for some time now and was looking forward to your book release from the start. I clicked on your link today to pre-order at Amazon and suddenly realised something. I have no idea what the book was about! How dumb was that? lol.

I guess what the point of this message is (and there is a point, promise) is that the power of social networking and blogging is just as big as the experts (Kristen Lamb for one) say. I knew I'd purchase your book because I liked your quirkiness and fun personality that's apparent in everything I read about you and from you. It didn't matter what the book was about, I'd have bought it anyway. (note - I've read up on it now and it sounds great, LOL).

So congrats on the up and coming release and am looking forward to reading it.

Have a lovely day :) Xandra

In the sixteen months I’ve been blogging and tweeting, there have been moments I’ve wondered how much it matters. Will it make a dent in book sales? Will it really get my name out there?

Though I believed the answer was yes, I also knew that could never be what it was all about for me. If I didn’t come here every day because I genuinely love interacting with you guys, I would have burned out months ago.

But seeing now that it has made a difference – at least in small ways – well, that warms the cockles of my heart. 

So thank you from me and my cockles. 

And behave yourselves while I’m in New York.


Dr. Cheryl Carvajal said...

That is SO cool! And so is your blog! That's why I keep reading it.

Sarah W said...

We keep telling you that you rock!

Have a great time! We want photos!

Matthew MacNish said...

How many shoes did you end up bringing?

Unknown said...

That is awesome, Tawna. Glad you had a blast :)

Delia said...

Okay, THAT? Is cool. I think I'd have about peed myself.

I'm one of the ones who can't wait to get a copy of the book (though I do know what it's about) because of the writing here. And for the record, I want to read Embalming Bitch's story, too. You're working on that? Yes? Please? ;)

lora96 said...

I'm with Delia. I would have peed my pants if that happened to me. How awesome that one of your fave musicians read your blog and also that you have good bladder control!

ParaJunkee said...

This was an awesome post. And guess how I heard about it? Twitter.

Roni Loren said...

That's amazing about the concert! I'd seriously have passed out. (Though my musical crushes are more of the the hard rock variety, so I'd probably have to do a whole other kind of blog post to get say, Motley Crue's attention.) ;)

And I'm so with you on the social media thing. Beyond my blog helping me get a referral to my agent, I have met so many terrific people and have had many tell me--I don't usually read your genre, but I'm definitely buying your book. It's awesome. (And hey, I get to sully the minds of perfectly innocent people with my erotic romance, so bonus.) :)

Judy, Judy, Judy said...

Tawna that is so great that he referred to you on stage!

Have fun at RWA!

I'm another person anxiously waiting the 'pirate bitch' book.

I'm not sure why I started blogging. I do love it, though. Right now I'm shamelessly promoting my blog with a free book giveaway.
Enter a contest to win a free copy of Smokin Seventeen by Janet Voinovich @

Robena Grant said...

That must have been awesome. Did you turn as red as the red lace bra, or did you go with black lace?
I've often wondered if all of the social media crap payed off. Now I see it does!

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Social media is amazing! And meeting all these wonderful authors and creative minds online - I don't know how I could've ever started the query process without it. :)

Unknown said...

I'm with her. I've been planning to buy your book since I first started following your blog. Your sense of humor shines on this site so I figure your book will be just as good.

Sooooooo cool about the Marc Cohen moment! *swoon*

Unknown said...

I totally agree with you about the power of social media. I have bought books that I never would have if I didn't follow the author's blog (and yes, yours will become one of them). As you said, it's not just about increase in sales and platforms though, it's about connections - and that's why I love social media so much.

Allie Sanders said...

I would have absolutely died. Or maybe thrown up. Or squeed in excitement. I don't think I would have managed to be cool.

As a reader I can say that I am more likely to buy a book from someone who interacts than someone who doesn't. I find many authors on blogs and via twitter and if I like them, what they represent and what they have to say then I add their books to my to be read pile. The writers who make me feel like a person they're talking to and not a fan who needs to be answered out of obligation are more likely to get my money when I buy books.

As a writer, I love interacting with everyone on Twitter. I love sharing ideas and seeing how others do what we all love. My blogging is a little sketchy but I'm still dealing with "I'm young and no one ever cares what I have to say" thing I've been fighting since high school but honestly I enjoy doing it, even though I'm only posting once a week to your daily. I just don't have your mind to always have things to say :)

Social media has introduced to some of the most amazing people in the world and given me a lot of chances I would have never had if people like you didn't utilize it.

Hannah Hounshell said...

Behave? Where is the fun in that? :D

Jason said...

I can say without a doubt that had I not been directed towards your blog and then followed you on Twitter and traded funny tweets (well, yours are, not sure about mine) and friended you on Facebook and asked you about where to get food in Bend...I probably never would have bought your book. But I did all of those things, and I come back each day and comment or not, and I pre-ordered your book the first day it was available on Amazon without a second thought. So...yeah. Plus 1 for the social media. :)

As I work through my own novel and keep my fingers crossed I can convince an agent it's good and then we convince someone to publish it, I hope I handle the social media aspect half as well as you have. And if my agent or someone asks me where I learned this stuff? I'll just say that's what Tawna did and it sure as hell worked for her. :)

Nate Wilson said...

Plus, I'm sure I'm not the only guy who plans on making Making Waves his first ever romantic lit purchase because of your blog and whatnot. (And no, "your whatnot" is not a euphemism... though it could be.) Just more evidence that the combination of a fantastic sense of humor and social media can be a powerful thing.

Mark Simpson said...

There's no question that your social media marketing has helped you tremendously.

I read the other day that there are now services available for social media background checks on prospective employees. They check not only for indications of illegal activity and nonprofessional behavior, but also for inappropriate comments and controversial views etc.

Since the bulk of my own online activity is made up of such things, I may now have cause for concern. In order to mislead potential employers into believing I am a reputable candidate I may now need to create an alternative online persona who is kind, respectful and politically sensitive.

It's a stretch, but with a healthy dose of deliberate detachment I just might be able to pull it off.

Jen J. Danna said...

I saw your tweet about Marc C on Twitter - what an absolutely amazing story! But so is your tale about how your life has changed because of social media in the past year or so. Pretty darned incredible. And thank you for sharing Xandra's note... that's seriously great inspiration for those of us still in the very infant stages of our social media journey. Kind of gives you a little push to keep going, even when the hits are low and the comments are few...

Kriten Lamb said...

Squeeee!!!!!! Xandra is awesome and I LOVE being right :D. It is so funny, I was putting together my Mash-Up of Awesomeness this morning and I had to get the link to your blog because I love your posts and am a huge fan...and I saw MY NAME. Weird and fantastic, right?

I just love how social media works when we take time to love and serve each other and form a community. I know I buy books almost every day simply because when I met the person on Twitter or FB...I LIKED her.

Have an awesome time and I wish I could be there. Let me know if you need anything to help you promote the new book.

Kristen Lamb

Xandra James said...

Oooh, I'm mentioned on your blog! Not quite as awesome as being hugged by Marc Cohn but hey, I'll take it :)

And I'm a total convert of the Kristen Lamb way. I'm pretty sure she's forming a cult to take over the world, though... but she's always right, so i listen!

Anyway, thanks again for the mention Tawna and I'm glad it helped you to realise that you're doing something great here.

Xandra x

Christine Tyler said...

Your blog is just as good as a romantic-comedy-novel. May life continue to be your greatest inspiration, you lucky (okay, hard working), dog you. :D

Unknown said...

Wow! Truly inspiring. Definitely stalking the bookstores in August :D

You've given me hope! I've been blogging for just over a year now, and I still only have 5 followers and about 8 regulars who read everything once I post it on Facebook.

Your post just made my day :)

Claire Dawn said...

I think social media makes such a difference in sales. I feel like I'm "friends" with a lot of pubbed and pre-pubbed authors. To the point where I walk around saying "My friend has a new book out this week."

And I think that you just couldn't build that sort of "believership" outside social media.

I've also "met" a few bestsellers online. And a super-famous agent once commented on my blog, giving me heart palpitations for a week.

Diane - It's All Good Until You Burn Dinner said...

I just ran across this post after doing a search for Kristen Lamb's site. Love it! I've bookmarked you and your blog and I'll look for your book! :)