PEN DIY: Jennifer Weiner on How to Be Authentic on Social Media
Discussed: Strunk & White’s , the literary merits of genre fiction, how to use Twitter as a watercooler for introverts, and Jonathan Franzen.
The hilarious and social media-savvy Jennifer Weiner took to our DIY stage earlier this week to discuss what “Jennifer Weiner-ish self promotion” really is, and why it works.
In a talk titled “How to Be Authentic on Social Media,” she discussed how important Twitter and Facebook can be to a writer who wants to get their voice heard and their books read. Bubbling with humor and honesty, and drawing from her extensive personal experience, Weiner took us through the essentials of building an authentic social media presence in four easy steps.
Step 1 – Find Your Voice
Just a few years ago, “an author wasn’t expected to be anything more than a postage-sized photo on the back flap of her book.” Now, times have changed, and avoiding social media is no longer an option, except for the “crème de la crème of the literati, the two-reviews-and-a-profile crew.”
So you’re on Twitter. What are you going to say? First things first, don’t spend all your time trying to sell your books. People use Twitter for connection and entertainment, and the “fastest way to shed followers” is to use social media as a place to sell books. If you promote, do so occasionally, and humorously, and pay attention to the writers who use Twitter well.
Contrary to those who believe that Twitter is the antithesis of literary writing, Weiner argues that all writing is practice, and “like a sestina or a sonnet, Twitter has its own rules,” which fall in line with the teachings of masters like Strunk & White, who “preach the gospel of brevity and precision.”
Where better to master brevity than within the confines of Twitter’s 140-character limit?
Step 2 – Find Your Topic
Once you’ve become resigned to honing your chops on Twitter, find the topic that you’re going to focus on. If you’re stumped, pretend you’re at a cocktail party, listening to a number of different conversations, and then choose the one you’d most like to join.
Jennifer Weiner live-tweets The Bachelor, and has been doing so for years, in a style not unlike her own writing. She’s “funny, frank, occasionally bawdy, feminist, and accessible.” And at the end of each show she lets her followers know that if they like her tweets, they can pick up her books, which are “like the tweets, but longer and with sex scenes.”
Step 3 – Build Your Brand
Social media is an ideal place to establish a brand and a voice: “the goal is to be a consistent and welcome presence on Twitter, someone who’s not there to sell, but to connect, to inform, to amuse.”
Step 4 – Only Connect
“Twitter, at its best, isn’t a monologue; it’s a conversation.” Mere hours before Jennifer Weiner took the stage for our DIY event, Judy Blume tweeted at Weiner, and her “ twelve-year-old self died of joy.” You can make people happy by engaging with them, and “you don’t have to be Judy Blume to make someone feel fabulous.”
Weiner concluded, “Twitter is a place to talk. It’s a watercooler for writers who work in solitary confinement… It’s not a curse, it’s a blessing, and one that novelists have never had before.”