Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of THOSE WHO SAVE US and THE STORMCHASERS, is a Social Media power user. She chatted with me about some her best experiences with social channels and how it’s been such a cornerstone of her writing career.
After reading Jenna’s latest book, I was searching for her contact information online and found a link to her Facebook Page; I’ve been following her ever since. I sent her a message, not really expecting anything back. Imagine my surprise when I received a personal response from her.
Kristina: Hi Jenna. Thank you so much for being willing to do this interview.
Jenna: Hi, Kristina: Thank you for the opportunity. This interview typifies one of the things I like best about social media: the surprise connections with friends you haven’t yet met in three dimensions!
Kristina: You are active on Twitter, Facebook , do book clubs via Skype, and you have a blog. Not many authors are that active (and most importantly interactive) when it comes to social media use. What brought you to using it?
Jenna: I joined Facebook in 2008 because I had a little time on my hands (which some say is the devil’s tool) and wanted to see what everyone was talking about. There was a feature on Facebook then called Dogbook. I couldn’t stand for my black Lab Woodrow not to be popular, so I spent an inordinate amount of time finding friends for him. From then on, I was addicted. Facebook is super-helpful to me in keeping up with friends, family and readers far away–as is Twitter. I like and rely on the instant feedback, especially when I’m on the road promoting my novels. It’s like having a community of friends literally in your back pocket (for me, on my iPhone). In return, I try to provide commentary on and photos of the places I’m lucky enough to travel to, for the folks back home. And I blog so readers know what I’m up to–as well as answering the excellent writer questions I get asked every day. I’m so grateful people take time out of their days to check in and to care!
Kristina: Out of all social media channels available, which one do you use most frequently?
Jenna: I’m on Facebook and Twitter every day, several times a day. I try to post on Facebook only once daily (to avoid inundation) and to mix it up: to offer my friends photos, links, thoughts and information about writing, other authors’ book promotions. I comment on others’ posts throughout the day. On Twitter, which allows for more constant posting–in fact, you’re encouraged to!–I try to post a couple of times a day and to respond to friends’ and readers’ comments. I was especially active on Twitter during the Presidential debates; blowing off steam that way and connecting with like-minded friends has saved my sanity. (Watch out once I get into the Patron, though. The second Presidential debate, I started posting everything my mom said; for instance, she told Romney: “Go sit down now.”)
Kristina: How has using Facebook, Twitter, and other social channels changed your relationship with your fans?
Jenna: I connect with readers on my website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and LinkedIn, and I’m thrilled to say it has opened up a whole new universe of communication. I think social media makes interactions with readers much more immediate, friendlier and more fluid. I love the fact that I can communicate via social media with writers who are my icons as well: Erica Jong, Cheryl Strayed, Pam Houston, Elizabeth Strout (to name a few).
Kristina: What has been your favorite experience in regards to social media?
Jenna: Social media has introduced me to people who are some of my best writer friends, even though we live far away from each other. For instance, I met bloggers Jennifer Lee Erickson and Nina Badzin via Twitter, and Nina imported me to Minneapolis to talk about my first novel, THOSE WHO SAVE US, at a large fundraiser for her local branch of the JCC. Instead of fumbling through small talk when we met, we hugged and bantered as though we’d known each other for decades. Same for WW2 novelists Sarah McCoy, Kristina McMorris, and Ruta Sepetys. We [first] met via Twitter and Facebook, then came face-to-face at the Tucson Book Festival 2012. I thought–and said–”These writers are like my sisters. They’re my tribe.” And although we’re literally in four corners of the country–when we’re not actively promoting our books on the road!–hearing from them brightens my every day.
Kristina: We spoke of your favorite experience, but has there ever been a time when you stepped away from social media for one reason or another?
Jenna: No, I haven’t stepped away from social media. I imagine when I’m working 24/7 on my next book I’ll be a little less active, but I’d post why so readers would know what was happening–and I’d still rely on that community support to keep going!
Kristina: As someone who has been active on Facebook and Twitter for a while now, what would you tell other authors who might be wary of using social media in a more personal way?
Jenna: Two things:
1. Many writers have a personal page and an author page–on Facebook, that is. I tried this, but I found I was posting in duplicate, and I figured I was saturating friends who subscribed to both my fan and personal pages–nobody needs to hear THAT much from me! It was also double the work. So I merged them and am a sole Jenna Blum once again.
2. Because of this–and because anything you say anywhere in the social media universe is public property forever–if you feel the *slightest* compunction about anything you’re about to post, DON’T POST IT. Even if you erase it, it will always be recoverable.
You don’t have to post EVERYTHING in your life to be successfully accessible on social media. Post what you think is relevant to your readers, what will help people know you better, what will entertain and inform, what you feel comfortable with. My postings are like Hemingway’s iceberg: what you see is the truth, but it’s only about 10% of the truth. You can be a social entity and still have a private life.
Kristina: Thank you so much for your time, insights, and candor. I appreciate the opportunity to see how you use Social Media for yourself as a professional function, as well as for your personal life. And most importantly how to mesh the two.
I look forward to continuing to see you around facebook and twitter for a long time to come.
A huge thank you to Jenna for taking the time to speak with me. Do you have any authors that you follow online?