Today, I am sharing my conversation with Cynthia Leitich Smith. Cynthia is the author of the YA TANTALIZE series, the FERAL NIGHTS series, several YA short stories and books for younger kids as well as the popular Cynsations blog.
Cynthia: Authors should begin by setting up home base on an official website. This will be the foundation and launching point for everything that follows. It should look professional and remain up to date with regard to new releases.
A blog is like a puppy. It’s always hungry. If you blog, think about your reasons why, your content focus, and most importantly, your blogging schedule. At the risk of sounding vaguely gastrointestinal, it’s better to be regular than frequent. Most other options are a lower commitment, and keep in mind you can always guest blog for someone else (and probably should do that on occasion regardless).
Debby: The hardest part for me is thinking of things to say-do you recommend that an author have a strategy or theme to their posts?
Cynthia: Start with Author You. Who is your audience? What kind of books call to you? What topics? What are you passionate about?
If you are a YA fantasy novelist, write about the craft of creating that kind of book. Invite fellow authors in that arena to chime in with their thoughts. Highlight those books that you love. Post photos of dragons.
If you’re a nonfiction writer, highlight articles and breaking news related to your topics. Interview experts in those respective fields and authors coming to those subjects from another angle. Include photographs of your research trips. Do you write about bees? Give away a jar of honey!
If you’re a Writer Mom, offer tips to parents who’re likewise trying to balance childcare and the creative life. Share the occasional book tie-in activity or recipe or décor coup or article on gender and toys.
Mitali Perkins is passionate about India settings, multicultural children’s-YA literature, and social justice related awareness-raising as it impacts young readers. You can glean all of that from visiting her site, Tweet deck, etc.
My husband, Greg Leitich Smith, writes adventure stories-most recently on about three young Texas teens that travel back to the Cretaceous to rescue their sister and solve a family mystery. He has an ongoing feature wherein children’s-YA book pros send him photos of themselves with images of dinosaurs – museum displays, stuffed toys, Sinclair signs, whatever. He did a Dino-A-Day T-shirt celebration, modeling dinosaur T-shirts at various Austin settings.
Libba Bray’s blog, like everything she does, is a tour de force. An exercise in her awesomeness. You can do that — just rock on with Amazing You and share it, so long as you have the confidence.
Debby: How do you balance the time you spend writing with building of your relationships?
Then I work out for an hour or two between 10 a.m. and noon, and then Writer Cyn takes over for the afternoon. The two Cyns vie for dominance in the evening. The winner is typically contingent on what’s going on in terms of my global workflow.
Debby: Writing is such an isolated career, yet we are expected to have connections. I have found other writers, even really successful ones to be extremely accessible and helpful. I have also made many writer friends through SCBWI, can you share some of the ways an author can network?
You mentioned SCBWI, and it’s wonderful. There may also be additional writing organizations in your area. Here in Austin, I’m likewise active in The Writers’ League of Texas.
You can take the incentive to organize a private workshop or get together. I’ve made some of the best friends of my life by simply inviting them to (bring food and) write around my dining room table.
Debby: One thing I have to ask you about social media and building a following-should one pay attention to their numbers-and what do they really mean?
Debby: I also wondered about changing your photo tag. I see some people changing their photo often, and others never change them. Do you have an opinion about this?
Debby: If you had to give authors one piece of advice about building their platform, what would it be?
Cynthia: People buy what you sell them. Think about how you want to be viewed. What you want to say. How you can lift up your audience. In the end, that’s what it’s all about–not just work but life–having the courage to share the best of yourself and doing it in such a way that it empowers others.