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TYOH Q&A: Kate Pullinger

Author Kate Pullinger kicks off our "Tweet your Own Horn" series with her insights on using Twitter, what she enjoys about promoting her own work, and interacting with her readers.

Tell us about yourself. What do you write and which social networking tools do you regularly use?
My most recent novel is The Mistress of Nothing, which won the GG in 2009.  I also write collaborative online multimedia works of fiction, the best known of which is “Inanimate Alice.”    My main social media tool is Twitter, of which I am very fond. I find Facebook much less useful and much more annoying; however, I maintain a 'business' page on FB, as well as a personal, only-people-I've-actually-met page.

How much work do you do to promote your writing? Do you enjoy it? 
I'm happy promoting my book in the usual ways, via readings, events, interviews, online chat, tweetchats, etc.  Promoting work is fine, it can be enjoyable—depends upon the circumstances. For me, I really do want to help readers find my work, so anything that can aid that I will do happily. I use social media to let people know about what I'm involved with, but I don't use it to promote my books or to attempt to sell books. I don't think social media, in particular, twitter, works well for that kind of promotion.  

Is there a line when it comes to self-promotion? How do you make sure you aren’t coming on too strong?
I'm averse to heavy self-promotion; I don't like it when I come across it in other writers, so I use that as a guideline for what I do myself.  

Do you have a personal story of a social media interaction that has gone horribly wrong?
Hmm.  Not really, no.  Though I do find it entertaining when readers post negative comments about my work on Twitter—I can see that they assume that I will never see it, but of course, Twitter picks up and forwards all mentions very effectively.  I always consider replying, or making a joke, or something, but usually don't.  

Conversely, do you have a personal story of a social media interaction that made your day?
Too numerous to mention!  I have had commissions for work and invitations to conferences etc, via social media.  But it is always great when you connect directly with a reader who has enjoyed your work. That is the most satisfying kind of interaction.

How do you feel about being so accessible to your readers?
I really don't feel all that more accessible to readers than I was in the past —sure I'm there, and people can connect with me, but it is easy to control the way you use social media.  You need to make decisions about what is private and what is worth sharing, so that requires thought. But for me the ease of connecting is a huge positive. I haven't had anything negative happen via social media—knock on wood—and I'm happy to answer questions and discuss my work in this manner.  

How essential do you think using social media is to the professional life of a writer?
These days it is becoming more important, but I still know plenty of successful writers who do not use social media at all. But as the industry is transformed via digitisation and the internet, finding ways to connect readers with your writing via online and social media will become increasingly important. 

What advice would you give a first-time novelist trying to build a following?
When you use social media, be yourself, and connect with people who share your interests.  On Twitter, do not relentlessly tweet about your book and yourself, but use it as a kind of conversational tool: talk to people. Jokes are good. I think Twitter is an extremely useful tool for research because of the way you can find people who share your interests, and because of the very broad range of people who use it professionally.  

Follow Kate Pullinger on Twitter: @katepullinger

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