Social media Q & A with writer Richard Skinner


Richard Skinner authorMy guest today is Richard Skinner who I had the pleasure of first meeting at the Vanguard Readings which he organises in London each month, attracting big name readers and a loyal audience. Vanguard also has its own publishing imprint, Vanguard Editions. Richard is the author of three novels, all published by Faber & Faber. His work has been nominated for prizes and is published in seven languages. His poetry has appeared widely and his new pamphlet Terrace will be published by Smokestack in April 2015. Richard is Director of the Fiction Programme at the Faber Academy.

Do you have a blog or blog(s)?

Richard Skinner blog

I do have a blog page on my website but it is not a standard blog, it is more of a place to post essays and reviews and anything else of interest to me. I think of it as both an archive and a resource. I have recently taken a lot of these posts down because they will be collected together into a book of essays, reviews and interviews that will be published in May by Zero Books.

How often do you update it? Do you follow other blogs?

I don’t update my blog in any regular way, just when I find/write something that I’d like to share. I follow a few other blogs, mainly by other poets, for example And Other Poems run by Josephine Corcoran, and Spectral Lyre. I tend to follow blogs when someone posts/tweets that a new post is up.

Tell us what other social media platforms you use regularly. How do you manage the time you spend on social media – do you have any rules or tricks, for example?

I am a regular user of Facebook and Twitter, which I use for both personal and professional purposes — the two often collide.

I put time aside first thing in the morning to catch up on social media and then stop at a particular time in order to write. When I’m at home, I use my MacBook to post/tweet. When I’m out and about, I use my iPad mini (I don’t have a smart phone), but I can only use my iPad in WiFi hot spots, so I’m limited to when I can post/tweet (which isn’t a bad thing, I think). I just use the Twitter/Facebook interfaces. I did have Tweetdeck for a while but I didn’t find it particularly useful.

Richard Skinner on Twitter

How do you balance social media activity with your actual writing – any advice?

When I’m in the middle of a novel, I try to be strict with myself and only deal with social media at particular times. It doesn’t always happen though!

One tip that works for me: I have set Notifications as my Twitter homepage, not Home. I have a large enough number of followers that it would be impossible to read every single tweet on my feed, and so, by setting my homepage as Notifications, I don’t miss tweets that have my handle in them. They are the more important tweets to respond to, I think.

Some people find social media stressful. What do you most like about it what do you most dislike?

I think there’s a lot of very dull/trivial stuff on both Facebook and Twitter (kittens!)* but there’s also some amazing stuff there, particularly on Twitter. I have come across some incredible photos, links, articles and so on, none of which I would have found otherwise.
The Mirror by Richard Skinner
I think the key is to tailor your Facebook timeline and Twitter feed by stopping notifications or muting anything you don’t like so that you’re only seeing what you want to see. Be ruthless about that. The other golden rule, I think, is not to use social media solely for promoting yourself and your work. Use it to share your likes, loves and interests. There is no greater turn-off on social media than someone who only says ‘Buy my book. Buy my book. Buy my book.’

*I quite like the kittens! – Robin

Six Reasons to have an Author Page on Goodreads


Goodreads Author Page

Goodreads is a huge online community of readers, 25 million members and counting, but did you know there are over 100,000 authors in its Author Program? If you have published a book, even if it’s self-published, you can apply for an Author Page on Goodreads.

One of the key pieces of advice I give writers is to connect with your readers, rather than just market to them. Social media gives us the tools to grow our reader base one person at a time, and where better to do that than within a ready-made community of readers? Here are six good reasons why you should have an Author Page on Goodreads.

1) You can create interest in your books & develop a network of fans

This starts with a ‘stand out’ Author Profile Page. Make sure you upload a professional headshot for your photo and fill in your biog (this doesn’t need to be any more personal than the biog on your book’s dustjacket). There are other areas of your profile worth filling in – it all helps generate interest in you and your work. Here’s a good example of an Author Page. You should also make the most of your book(s) by creating dedicated book pages. Essential is a book cover (but it can’t be changed once you’ve uploaded it – so don’t put up a dummy or ‘working design’ cover). Give some details about the book, maybe even an excerpt. If you are a new author this is your chance to ‘sell’ your book. Here’s an example of a book page.

Remember also you are a reader not just an author – use Goodreads as a reader, by putting books on your ‘read’ ‘reading’ or ‘want to read’ bookshelves, list your influences, follow other authors, write reviews or rate books you’ve read, connect your blog feed* or post updates. All this activity gets seen by members – they’ll learn more about your reading interests and tastes and be more likely to take a look at your book(s) and even become fans to follow your updates. (*Only Goodreads Authors can connect their blog feed so that latest blog posts appear on their Author Page – regular members don’t have this facility.)

2) You can promote your books with Giveaways

Either in the run up to publication, or once it’s out, a Giveaway can kickstart interest in your book and generate a spike in reviews and follower numbers. Only give away what you can afford to (and remember shipping costs – you can always specify which countries are eligible). Start and end on odd days – May 6th – June 5th, for example, rather than May 1st – 31st. That way there will be less competition when your Giveaway starts.

Giveaways are listed on a special page and are very popular – and average 20 copy giveaway in the US attracts over 900 entries! People see the giveaways their friends are entering and often join in. It can be a good way to extend your reach into the Goodreads community.

3) You can build a body of good reviews and use them for promotional purposes

One of your aims as a Goodreads Author is to increase the number of reviews for your books, which starts with getting your books onto members ‘want to read’ lists. Every member has a newsfeed of activity, and friends’ activity shows up first. User-generated reviews are trusted, and when a member sees a friend’s review they’re more likely to have a look and place it on their ‘want to read’ list.

Basically, reviews help other users discover books. And not just within Goodreads – millions of readers share their reviews on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. You can display your Goodreads reviews on your blog or website, if you wish, which can not only support sales of your books but may also encourage your blog readers to join Goodreads and enrich its value as a community still further.

4) You can have conversations with fellow readers/enthusiasts & invite questions

There are umpteen special interest groups on Goodreads. If you’re passionate about your genre or a specific sector, join a group and take part in discussions there. This is slow-burn strategy for building your network, well worth it in the long term. But it’s important not to join groups in order to sell your book. They are for discussion, nobody there wants the hard sell.

Another popular feature is ‘Ask the Author’. Once you start building a network of readers, open up for questions – you can set it for whatever period of time you wish, but make sure it’s a time when you’ll be around to answer the Qs. Take another look at Ayelet Waldman’s Author Page for an example of a ‘Ask the Author’ and the questions/answers it generated. It’s a great chance to answer individual questions, like a ‘meet the author’ session in real life.

There are plenty of other ways to overtly promote your books, and one of the most obvious is targeted ads.

5) You can extend your reach with ads

Ads on Goodreads run on similar lines to Facebook ads, in that you have control over how much you spend (pay per click), what the ads look like and targeting. Goodreads admin suggest broader targeting than on Facebook, because when you think about it you’re already targeting a niche – people who read and are interested in books and their authors.

According to Goodreads, a Giveaways backed by ads increases entries by up to 200. Ads are an opportunity to extend awareness of your books outside your circle of friends and fans. Make sure you include a call to action, and check your stats before, during and after your ad campaigns. Has the campaign resulted in more fans, more ‘want to read’s, more reviews? All these activities are building your influence on Goodreads, helping more readers to connect with you and discover your books.

6) Great things can result from having a strong Goodreads presence

Your books may get selected for site-wide exposure by being added to Listopia Lists and voted on by the community, or even featured in Goodreads newsletters. Both of these features brings you to the attention of more members and can thereby increase the numbers of fans, bookshelf listings and reviews for your books.