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TYOH Q&A: Sarah Selecky

Author Sarah Selecky is on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. For her, social media is "all about what you can give, not what you get."
Tell us about yourself. What do you write and which social networking tools do you regularly use?
I’m the author of This Cake is for the Party. When I released the book I created both Facebook and Twitter accounts. I was reluctant to start them, but I quickly learned to relax. I like using them for a variety of reasons. I now also use Instagram and Pinterest. 

How much work do you do to promote your writing?
I don’t promote my writing a lot, but whenever something new comes out I’ll send out a link. And if someone writes me, I always respond. But I don’t use social media to promote my writing per se. I just use it and it turns into promotion, but in a different way.

Would it make you uncomfortable to do so?
Uncomfortable is one word, but it’s also that it’s just not very useful. There is so much noise and advertising out there. I just want to put out inspiring, motivating or fun things. The problem with using social media to promote your work is that there’s an understanding, or hope, that you will get people to buy things from you. And I think that’s backwards. I think being on social media is all about what you can give, not what you get from people. 

Is there a line when it comes to self-promotion? 
I think your personality shines through in the media you use. Who you are comes through in how you broadcast yourself. Ultimately you have to find what you love about the media you use. You can’t do it for any other reason than you’re having fun doing it, otherwise it will fall flat. I think a lot of publishers want it to be about marketing in an old-fashioned way, but really it’s just people talking to each other. So if you’re an introvert and you don’t like talking to people, building a social media platform is going to fall flat. You have to find what you love about it. And if you don’t love anything about it, don’t start using it.

Do you have a personal story of a social media interaction that has gone horribly wrong? 
No. Except occasionally I get caught up spending too much time worrying about what people think of me - which is the other side of it. Everyone’s out there trying to get attention and that can get kind of toxic. And it’s contagious. I have caught myself. And that’s the worst experience of all, second guessing what I’m putting out there. We just don’t need that self doubt, and once it gets to that point I turn it off and then come back when I’m ready to be myself again.

Conversely, do you have a personal story of a social media interaction that made your day?
It makes my day every day. There are times when people who are discussing my book tag me in their conversation. They know that I’m on Twitter so they tag me so I can overhear what they’re saying. That’s such a joy. Sometimes I respond and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I just listen in and appreciate that they tagged me but I let them talk about it themselves, because who wants the author to barge in?

What is your favourite social media tool for promotion and why?
My favourite for personal reasons is Instagram. I have a curated list (people I follow) and their images make my day. That’s my favourite place creatively. And my favourite place for conversations is Twitter.

How do you feel about being so accessible to your readers?
I love being able to talk to my readers and this is a way to hold a big space for that. I don’t think I could connect with so many people if it was through email. My inbox is too full. But because this is short and brief and clear and fun I feel like I can be really connected in an authentic way even though it is only in short bursts with a number of people. I really like being accessible. 

What advice would you give a first-time novelist trying to build a following?
I recently received a Tweet from someone. It said something like “Please follow me, I’m new to Twitter. I’m promoting this collection and I don’t Tweet much except to promote this book.” I felt it was the most joyless tweet request I’ve ever received. So my advice is don’t do that. Don’t ask people to follow you and tell them all you are going to be doing is using your account to promote a book. 

On the other hand, you can allow yourself to feel a little uncomfortable at first. It’s a new skill you’re developing, and there’s etiquette to learn. Think generosity, generosity, generosity. Don’t think about what this is going to give you. Think about how you can enter the dialogue in an inspiring, motivating, entertaining, and educational way. If you’re not going to add something to the conversation that makes it better, than don’t do it.

Sarah Selecky will be launching her own online writing competition on March 1st. Find out more about the Little Bird Writing Contest.  

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