Thursday, October 22, 2009

Guest in Progress: Carollyne Hutter

The smart and savvy Carollyne Hutter is back today with this interesting report from the social media battleground. Maybe “battleground” is an overstatement, but as writers we are constantly being told we must be active in marketing our own work, which automatically seems to mean Facebooking, Twittering, blogging, and so on--which doesn’t leave much time for the writing part of it. All this running around cyberspace: how can we spend our marketing time effectively? Is “more” really “more”?

(Also check out Carollyne’s previous posts: writing young adult fiction, helpful resources for YA writers, and the place for technology in your writing.)

Social Media versus Traditional PR?
by Carollyne Hutter

To the chagrin of many writers, they need to effectively market themselves and their work. I recently attended an informative conference called: Pushing the Electronic Envelope Even Farther! Using Cyberspace to Advance Your Career, organized by American Independent Writers and the wonderful, ever-so-helpful Kristen King. The conference was chockful of information on Twitter, Facebook, websites, blogs, and LinkedIn. I left the conference stuffed with advice and tips, my head feeling like it would explode from all the bells and whistles available for using the various social media. (There are 15 apps alone for Twitter on the iPhone.)

In contrast, a few months ago I attended a talk by a successful Washington PR woman. She pooh-poohed social media and said when she wanted to promote a story or event for a client, she directly called her extensive network of editors and pitches the idea on the phone. She keeps in touch with editors through coffees and lunches.

Which is the effective way for writers to market themselves—social media or traditional PR methods of direct contact?

One of the best pieces of advice at the social media conference was given by mystery writer Austin Camacho (author of Successfully Marketing Your Novel in the 21st Century). He said writers should see the web and social media as ways to have conversations and ways to connect with people, rather than treating the web as a monologue or a bulletin board. Austin has it set up through Google Alerts so that he’s contacted when someone mentions his book on a blog or website. He then writes a note in the comment section of the blog, thanking the blogger for mentioning his work, even if the review isn’t positive. Austin feels the personal touch is so important, even on the web.

I have to admit it—I have mixed feelings about social media. On one hand, it can be a great way to stay in touch with people and even meet new people. This week, I discovered through Facebook that a charming young-adult novelist lives in my area—Pam Bachorz, author of the intriguing YA, Candor.

On the other hand, social media can be a great distraction, and pull one away from writing or being with friends and family in person. As I mentioned before, I am a bit overwhelmed by all the bells and whistles out there to use social media.

The panelists at the social media conference echoed throughout the conference some wise advice for writers using social media to market themselves. Here are their main points:

1. Set up a marketing plan and then figure out which social media tools to use. In particular identify your goals.

2. Don’t try to do all social media, just focus on one or two that you like, or you feel are effective. A number of the panelists picked Twitter as their favorite social media. Nancy Shute stated that Twitter is a great tool for journalists.

3. Set aside two hours a week for marketing using social media.

4. Think of social media as a way to have conversations, not monologues.

5. And never forget the importance of the personal touch, such as posting or sending a simple, thank-you note.*

About: For over a decade, Carollyne Hutter has been a freelance writer/editor in the Washington, DC area, specializing in international and environmental topics. She also writes fiction for adults and children (early readers and young-adult novels). Please visit her website— — to read Carollyne’s stories, essays, and nonfiction pieces. You can contact her at

*Carollyne is definitely a “practice what you preach” person, as she included a lovely thank you for including this post on my blog when she sent me the bio I needed!


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.