Blogger in Residence, Chris Kerr, looks at how established YA writers creatively utilise social media. Read on to be inspired!
One common thing aspiring writers are told is to make sure they have a good social media presence. Not everyone is convinced that social media has a positive impact on writers: American novelist Jonathan Franzen has argued that writers are trapped into wasting energy and time promoting their work on social media. I think Franzen is wrong to ignore the opportunities that social media offers writers when it’s used well. Still, it’s not enough to set up a blog and a Twitter account and update them very occasionally. If you’re not passionate about using social media it will probably show.
I decided to look at the imaginative ways authors of Young Adult fiction use social media to gain and sustain audiences. This genre seems like a good place to start because the characters in YA fiction spend as much time on social media as their real-life counterparts.
Craven is a Brisbane-based YA author. Her first book, The Grand Adventures of Madeline Cain, includes extracts from the Facebook conversations of its characters. It’s available as a physical book and as an eBook. What’s really impressive is that Craven also created an interactive Facebook experience linked to the eBook. This allows readers to see their favourite characters from the book, like Madeline Cain, interact on that social media platform. This concept gives the book an intriguing digital afterlife.
Craven also has two blogs, one about writing and the other about publishing. She tweets several times a day.
Anske is a fantasy and YA author originally from Russia. Anske is a prolific user of social media. Her Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus, Pinterest and YouTube accounts are all very active. She has racked up more than 97,000 tweets, and her posts feature her dark sense of humour, biting honesty, unfailing passion, or all of those at once. Anske often writes about what people can do to help writers and she gives some of her novels away for free. This creates an impression of good will that is more effective than any kind of repetitive hard sell.
Levithan is an American writer whose books include novels about gay teens. Levithan has been tweeting what he calls an ‘unabridgement’ of his novel, A Lover’s Dictionary, since 2010. (He’s roughly halfway through the alphabet.) I was curious about whether Levithan has a personal Twitter account too. The answer is yes, in a way. His one and only Tweet on this account reads ‘I am never going to use this, but I didn’t want anyone else taking my name. So there you have it. The end.’ For someone who is sceptical about sharing too much on social media, Levithan has still found a striking way to promote his work in that medium.
These three very different writers show that a wide range of social media styles can engage audiences in effective ways. You don’t have to expose much of yourself at all to use social media effectively, as Levithan’s creative solution demonstrates. The three writers share a commitment to giving some content away for free, but that’s an extremely flexible concept. Content can be anything from a tweet to a book to a Facebook experience. That’s what keeps audiences happy. If Levithan had forced himself, against his better instincts, to adopt a voice he wasn’t comfortable with and tweet about his personal and writing life, he wouldn’t have fooled anyone. And he might just have proved Jonathan Franzen right.
If you’re passionate about Australian YA fiction, join the conversation on Twitter using #loveOzYA.
Chris Kerr is a poet, reviewer, editor, publisher, former technical writer and budding copywriter. He co-edited issue 62 of UK Poetry magazine Magma and edited a book forDead Ink. Chris is an assistant editor of the April 2016 issue of Meniscus. He wrote a poem about Chernobyl that appeared in Ambit just after he’d moved to Canberra from London. He’s currently working on a series of collaborative code poems and aspires one day to write a poem about tennis that’s good enough not to bore readers who couldn’t care less about tennis. Chris is still happy that Lana Del Rey set T. S. Eliot to music on her last album. You can follow him on Twitter @c_c_kerr.