"When we make friends online, we need to be authentic and we need to set aside our agendas. We must make friends because we value people, not because we want to get something out of the relationships."
This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately as I prepare for my book release. Why? Because now is the time when you contact your online friends and ask them to take part in your blog tour or cover reveal, or just help you spread the word in general.
|Image from cheezburger.com (It's a cute cat, where else?)|
But when I was planning my blog tour, I left a lot of my online friends off that list. I went through The Blog Tour Exchange to get a list of potential hosts and mentioned it on Facebook, but I didn't actively seek out any of the connections I've made over the past year. Why? Because I value those connections too highly and I don't want to ever feel like I am abusing it.
I'm highly grateful for the online friends I've made in the writing community. Without people like Stephanie and Jessica, who willingly beat my MS to a pulp in order to make it better (and I like to think they succeeded), or people like Krystal and James who mentored my newbie self, my book wouldn't be ready to be published. Without my critiquing group and my friends over at There & Draft again, I wouldn't have a clue what I was doing and I'd probably be insane, having no one to talk to about all this writerly stuff. Instead, I have people like Priya, who barely knew me and yet willingly talked to me on the phone for an hour, sorting through my jumbled questions about self-publishing.
I don't do very well in public groups where I don't really know anyone. I'm part of a local writing group, but I can't help but feel like the odd man out. They're great people, don't get me wrong. And they've offered me some really sound advice. But I'm not the overly social butterfly I was in my younger years, so I don't really know them all that well, and haven't really given them the chance to get to know me. I don't come across as shy, but most of the time I really am. I'm still an actor at heart and I tend to slip into that when I'm in uncomfortable social settings (which can be a lot of the time if I am surrounded by people I don't know).
So the online writing community, for me, is like heaven.
|It's a cheezburger.com kinda day.|
These people know me. They see the silly things I say, they listen to (er, read) about my rants, and they've been here with me through just about every step of the process. I don't want to ask favors from them because I already feel like I owe them so much, and to ask anymore would be taking them for granted.
One of the reasons I'm so lucky to have so many awesome friends is because my writerly friends get it. They probably read that quote and shouted "AMEN!" because so many of us grow tired of the spammers out there. I'm not overly active on Twitter or blogging (meaning I don't actively check my feeds to see what others are up to--Twitter overwhelms me and I only last week got around to starting up with a new RSS feeder since Google Reader went away months ago), but I do try to use both for conversations. Read: Actual conversations between myself and another person. I don't want to spam with links all day long. I use them to be social, and my friends do too. In fact, if I get a follower on Twitter, I tuck the notification email away until I have time to go back and look at that person's profile. Because if all they are doing is posting links or talking about their own books all day long (meaning nothing personal at all--not even a mention of a TV show they might enjoy. Nothing.), I am not gonna follow them.
I did at first. I followed everyone who followed me because I thought that was proper Twitter etiquette. Kinda like accepting a friend request on Facebook. But...As time went on and my newbie clouded glasses began to clear, I became aware of the apps that follow then unfollow you in the hopes of tricking unsuspecting and polite people like me into becoming another faceless follower. That's probably why my feed is so overwhelming. And I think this is also why I grind my teeth every time I see someone do a self promotion post in the World Literacy Cafe group on Facebook (The rules are pinned at the top, people! No self promotion is clearly stated! If you are going to be a writer, learn to READ!).
Whew. My point in all this is simple: If you want to build a following, build friendships first. Friendships are two sided streets, meaning you need to care about the people you interact with and be willing to learn from them. Appreciate them. And check their blogs more regularly than I check my friends' blogs (sorry guys!). The writing community is huge, but if you abuse it then it will be nothing more than a vast wasteland to you. You get what you put in.
Oh, and go read Kristen Lamb's book so you can get a better understanding of all this.
Pre-Release contest. I really do have the most amazing group of online friends ever!