G.I.V.E. — Four Questions to Define Your Social Media Presence

I go to a lot of author events, and both there and among aspiring authors, I hear the same question repeated often: Is social media worth the time involved? Personally, I think that depends on how you invest that time online.

I’ve done a lot of things wrong over the years when it comes to social media. In fact, the whole point of the three-hour workshop I teach on social media for writers is to teach people how not to do what I’ve done wrong. But the one thing I’ve done right is that I’ve never given up on it. Everything else is fixable. So whether you have five followers or five thousand, you don’t have to be a slave to what you’ve already accomplished. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the time you’re spending or underwhelmed by your results, take charge. You can do it!

Establishing a positive and sustainable social media presence for yourself comes down to four simple questions you have to ask yourself. It comes down to what can you G.I.V.E.

  • Goals: What do you want to achieve with social media?
  • Inspiration: What inspires you? What strengths and talents can you offer to others?
  • Viability: How much time and effort do you want to put in?
  • Enjoyment: Are you going to enjoy doing whatever you decide to do enough to continue doing it indefinitely?


One of the classic newbie mistakes of social networking is that we writers tend to start blogs about writing. Do you see me raising my hand? Yep. I have a writing blog. And a twitter feed for writers. Is that going to help me sell books? Probably not. I didn’t think through my goals before I started blogging. I went to a local Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators meeting with a friend and heard an agent tell us that all aspiring authors had to have a blog. My friend and I decided to begin a blog together. Since we were just starting down the road to publication, what interested us was writing, and ergo, that’s what we blogged about. I don’t regret that at all. I learn by writing, so writing *about* writing was my way to move up the learning curve. Eventually though, I hit the point where I wasn’t learning anything new by creating articles for beginning writers, but I didn’t feel comfortable offering writing advice that went beyond the basics. At the same time, my blog partner had personal issues that took her away from blogging, so for a year and a half, with the exception of the First Five Pages Workshop, I handled the blog on my own. I let myself get overwhelmed. Instead of being able to focus on reading other blogs or craft books or just interacting with other writers via social media, it was all I could do to keep up my “required online presence.”

The solution? I examined my goals. Over the course of my blogging journey, I have met fantastic writing friends and critique partners. I learned a lot, but there is much more I want and need to learn. I want more time to read blogs and craft books, to read everything. I want to encourage and support other writers and connect with readers so I can learn more about what they want to read. Most of all, I want more time to write.


There isn’t any one way to achieve your social networking goals. The most important thing is finding a vehicle that will connect you with a network of people in a way that meets your goals and inspires you as a writer.

Before investing time into any social medium, make sure it will work for you in the longterm. That includes matching the type of medium to your goals and inspiration; they all have different strengths and conventions. Research them and discover which one will help you connect to the audience that will buy your books, help you grow as a writer, or support your emotional needs on the journey.

Any social medium is subject to change. New social media pop up all the time, and they can fade just as quickly. Remember MySpace? Consider who you want to reach, how you want to reach them, and what kind of content you want to provide to find the vehicle that will help you achieve your goals and keep you inspired to continue, and always be open to new ideas.


Users of different formats of social media have different expectations. Blogging, for example, works best on a set schedule so that your readers know when to stop by to catch their favorite feature. Tweeting too frequently can clog your readers’ feeds and result in them “unfollowing” you, but if you don’t Tweet enough, you can’t build much of a following. Writing long diatribes on Facebook is a great way to get yourself “unfriended.”

Before you jump into a particular social network, take the time to investigate what works for other people on that network, how often you will need to provide original content, and what your “followers” will expect in reciprocity.

With any form of social medium, creating original content takes little time compared to how long it takes to read other people’s blogs. For most authors, it also yields the least success. Social networking is all about being social. Sharing. Giving back. Building up others. If you don’t have the time to do that, then you aren’t creating a network and having an online presence isn’t going to do you much good. If you’re not the kind of person who wants to engage with people, put up a static website and don’t worry about the rest. Really. Chances are, if you don’t like being social–on the Internet or in real life–you aren’t going to be good at it if you force yourself to try, so find a medium that lets you put out the level of social contact with which you feel comfortable. You also have to be careful not to take on so much that your writing time gets sucked away.

A joint blog may be a good solution for writers who may not have a ton of time, or those who are hesitant to jump into social media too deeply. I definitely prefer to have someone to share the responsibilities, the occasional aggravation, and the success. For me, assessing my goals, inspiration, and viability led to inviting new blog partners/mentors to join me at AdventuresInYAPublishing.com and the 1st5PagesWritingWorkshop.com. I also started a new blog for readers called YASeriesInsiders.com, where I have not only author friends helping out, but also a great group of readers who collaborate to collect and share content from all over the web.

If you are considering a joint blog, or any kind of shared media, be sure to leave yourself room for branding. I have had to slowly transition my Twitter feed back to my real name, because I made the mistake of setting it up as a blog-related feed. I have also only recently discovered that we can post on the blog under separate names. Branding is critical in building relationships with your readers and potential readers. Investigate the options available for whatever kind of media you are considering, and remind yourself that you can’t build relationships on anonymity.


In case you missed that last sentence, let me restate: your online presence is all about relationships. You don’t have to do it, but if you choose to be online, make sure you participate in a way that doesn’t become a chore. Have fun and don’t make it all about you. Make it about the people you like and respect. Share information. Pay it forward.

Consider who you want to reach and what *they* want. Then G.I.V.E.


Martina Boone was born in Prague and spoke several languages before learning English. She’s the acclaimed author of the romantic southern gothic Heirs of Watson Island series, including Compulsion (Oct ’14), Persuasion (Oct ’15), and Illusion (Oct ’16), from Simon & Schuster, Simon Pulse. She’s also the founder of AdventuresInYAPublishing.com, a three-time Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers Site, and YASeriesInsiders.com, a site dedicated to encouraging literacy and reader engagement through a celebration of series literature. She’s on the Board of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia and runs the CompulsionForReading.com program to distribute books to underfunded schools and libraries.

She lives with her husband, children, and a lopsided cat, she enjoys writing contemporary fantasy set in the kinds of magical places she’d love to visit. When she isn’t writing, she’s addicted to travel, horses, skiing, chocolate flavored tea, and anything with Nutella on it.

Should YOU be using Instagram?

How authors should be using Instagram

With over 300 million users a month, it’s hard to see the downside to using Instagram when it comes to promoting your book(s). Authors are unique in the way that they write these incredible stories that connect with readers in ways they could have never imagined. The beauty of social media for an author is allowing their reader to get a glimpse into the life of the person who wrote the words that touched their life.

I understand why some authors may not see the value in Instagram because it’s a social media platform based on photographs and visual appeal…but isn’t that what a book cover is? Here are a few reasons you should be utilizing Instagram as an author…

Bloggers are on Instagram

Book bloggers are using Instagram…to share their love of books, what they’re reading, and offering followers a glimpse into their real lives. You can connect with book bloggers by searching specific book-related hashtags or research some of the largest book bloggers in your genre and follow them (#bookblogger #amreading)!

Connect with your audience

No one wants to follow an author, musician, brand, etc. that has a third party running their social media all the time. There is a level of trust that is lost with your followers when posts seem artificial or fake. Instagram is a perfect way to give followers a glimpse into your REAL life…a mix between posting about your book and posting about your everyday life– including family, hobbies, inspirations, and (of course) your pets (#catsnbooks).

Target Your Hashtags

Hashtags are a strategic way to target your audience and potential new followers. It’s important to have at least 1 or 2 unique hashtags—for example, instead of #reading you could use #readingBreakingDawn. In addition to your unique hashtags, it’s also important to use widely popular hashtags targeted at your audience—for example, #amreading #bookworm #booksncats. Instagram users can search specific hashtags and discover new accounts.(see Giveaways below for more hashtag tips)

Product Placement & Giveaways

Following and connecting with some large-follower accounts can be beneficial to getting your book in front of their followers as well. For example, let’s say you have a new young adult book and you follow a YA book blogger on Instagram that has 10K followers. It’s in your best interest to send that blogger a copy of your book and ask them to Instagram a picture of your book with one of your unique hashtags!

If your book is featured in some local bookstores or boutiques, ask them to also post a picture of your book in the store on their Instagram account and use your hashtags!

This would be the perfect opportunity to have the book blogger or bookstore do a signed copy giveaway to their followers—have them post a picture of your book & ask them to share the photo and use your unique hashtag!

Cover Art

Cover art is everything when it comes to sales. Imagine yourself walking through a bookstore looking for a new read…what draws your attention first? The book covers. As you go through the design process for your book cover, post pictures of your changes on your Instagram & ask for follower input! Some authors even do social media cover contests so that the followers can vote on which cover they like best…this is a great promotion to do when you have a series or trilogy.

To read more about the importance of book covers, check out our blog post Cover-to-Cover by Courtney Stevens.

Author Support

The beauty of the writing community is that authors support authors! Follow authors you admire and know on Instagram and show them support—share & comment on their photos! You can also get some great photography and marketing ideas from fellow authors who are touring and doing events. 


Instagram allows you to upload and post 3-15 second videos. Utilize this option by compiling a short video that has pictures of your novel or characters from the book. You can give a quick “hello” to your followers too or announce an Instagram giveaway contest winner! There are some really useful apps that can help you compile a short video! Here are a few apps that will make your Instagram videos easy to create AND amazing!

  1. PicPlayPost (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/picplaypost/id498127541?mt=8)
  2. Lapse It (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lapse-it-time-lapse-stop-motion/id539108382?mt=8)
  3. Videoshop (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/videoshop-video-editor/id615563599?mt=8)