Authors have an opportunity in 2014 they didn't have 10 or 15 years ago.
They are able to chat daily with readers.
Sure, readers could write fan mail in the past, and possibly meet a favorite author at a book-signing. But these days, due to the prevalence of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook and Goodreads, they can actually find out what their favorite author had for breakfast.
(Peanut butter toast).
This is a good thing and a bad thing.
The good thing is that readers love the interaction with their favorite authors.
The bad thing is that sometimes readers hate the interaction with their favorite authors.
GOOD: Reader gets on Facebook and finds out that her favorite author is writing a novella with some awesome secondary characters, and is having a give-away. Cool!
BAD: Reader gets on Facebook and sees writer get rude and snarky with a critical fan and finds out favorite author is a douchebag.
Social interactions can have both positive and negative effects on your brand, your sales, your peace of mind.
If you're a super social person, you may love chatting it up with fans. As long as you are professional and don't waste 24 hours a day on social media, this can be a great thing.
If you're an introvert and resent time away from writing, or are generally a cranky bastard and can't help telling folks to f*ck off when you get angry, this could be a bad thing.
Which leads us to...
1. Are you social? Do you love chatting with fans? GO TO STEP 4
2. Are you anti-social? Do you hate people? Do you despise social media and want to hack Facebook and make it disappear off the internet? GO TO STEP 3
3. Skip social media sites like Twitter and Facebook and focus on your website (non-interactive) and newsletter. Minimize social interactions with readers. You may want to work on advertising spots and other non-social forms of publicity.
4. Do you have a limited amount of time to spend on social media a day, and need to maximize this time? GO TO STEP 6
5. Do you enjoy taking frequent breaks during the day and chatting with other authors and readers? GO TO STEP 7
6. Get a Facebook account. If you only have a limited amount of time a day to spend on social media, this is the #1 way to connect with readers, colleagues, spotlight your books and releases, and brand yourself via dialogue/comments. It is essentially a low-maintenace blog where you can post book covers, pictures, links, excerpts, make announcements, and most importantly, chat with readers and answer questions. Skip Twitter which is real-time and a big time-suck. Also avoid message boards and other sites that require lots of time/energy/up-keep.
7. If you need frequent breaks during the day, Twitter is the way to go. It's real-time chat, so you can pop in any moment of the day or night and find someone to talk to. Readers, agents, editors, bloggers, authors. Just beware: it can turn into a big time-suck.
8. Do you love making visual collages, collecting images for inspiration? Try Pinterest.
9. Do you want a place to connect with other readers and feel part of a community? Try Amazon message boards, AAR message boards, Goodreads, Shelfari, Booklikes, etc. Reading social sites. BEWARE: There may be special rules about promotion for authors.
10. Just remember, keep it light and friendly with readers/fans. You may want to avoid topics like politics/religion, etc, if you are unable to discuss these topics without erupting like a volcano. Also, as difficult as it may be, you need to present a professional public persona and be cognizant of your behavior on-line at all times.
You want your readers to say "I'm so glad I got to talk to Penny today! She's the best."
"Penny is a d-bag. I hate her."
Good luck out there!