Guest blog by Tam Francis, The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress

Diving into social media

I am fortunate to have met Gretchen through her “Scare the Dickens Out of Us” ghost story contest three years ago. Her support and enthusiasm for writing and writers is boundless and has often buoyed my own quandaries. She is a proponent of self-publishing. So when she asked me to guest blog I knew I had to share my experiences in building a social network which is vital to self-published authors.

A year ago I launched my website and blog and dove into the deep end of the social media pond. Honestly, it feels a lot like skinny dipping, a bit exposed, a bit of learning how to swim with sharks, a bit of navigating the water, but a bit freeing too.


At first I felt absolutely naked out there in cyberland. I’m pretty sure I had a huge sign on my avatar that screamed “newbie” and many times, “idiot.” I did a lot of things wrong like blasting tweets and facebook posts about my novel and website. Just a few words to the wise: Please, do NOT post on any social media outlet, Buy my book, buy my book, buy my book; which includes variations of: Read my blog, Read my Blog, Read my blog, juicy lines from your novel, book cover photos, NOW on Amazon, etc. Tantalizing lines from your novel mean NOTHING if you haven’t created a community (aka made online friends.)

The thing is no one on twitter or facebook tells you this stuff; they just ignore you. It seems cruel, but would you approach a stranger at a party and tell them what they’re doing isn’t socially cool? No, it would be rude.  I try to give hints and direct the wayward to sites I’ve learned from. Here are a few of my favorites, not specifically etiquette, but good people imparting valuable advice. There are many, many more social media gurus out there. Find one that speaks to you (and share).


You have to learn how to swim with sharks. Let me tell you, authors can be a desperate lonely lot and they really, really, want you to love them, or love their writing at least. Be wary of new online friends who want you to critique their work after knowing them for forty seconds, have robots tweeting for them, or spam your page with ads for their site and novel. These people are

not interested in building relationships; they are interested in building faceless numbers.  Faceless numbers mean nothing if the person behind them has no interest in you or your writing. Word of mouth is still the best sales tool there is.

Learn what kind of strokes you enjoy ( aka blogging, tweeting, facebooking, pinning, tumblring et al.) Find what you’re good at. If you like blogging, blog, if you like pictures pin, you get the idea. There are rules for each social media outlet. If you’re going to do it, learn to do it right. Take time to do the research. Do not spend months spinning your wheels.  It takes about a year to build an author platform and social network, don’t waste it.


That said, once you get past the learning curve it can be very freeing. I thought writing the novel and launching my website was amazing and unique and it is and it isn’t. There are scores of writers in the same boat you’re in. And this is good news, you’ve got lifeboats all over the place, all you have to do is reach out. But here’s the catch, and it took me a while to learn this one: You have to invite them into your boat first. Believe it or not, even with the cyber-distance, it’s all about giving online. The more you give the more you receive in support, attention and love.  But don’t give just to get, give to give. Don’t ask someone to comment on your site, page, retweet, if you haven’t done it first. You know the old adage: Be the change you want to see.

I make it my policy for every single person (real person) who follows me to click their link and check out their website. I read their blog post or facebook updates until I find something I can relate to and comment on. Then I send them a DM (direct message) and thank them for following me. I let them know what I liked about their site, blog or novel.  Do I expect them to return the favor? To be honest, at first I did.

I was surprised and hurt when most people did not return my courtesies. It was almost enough to make me pull up oars, but I kept going. I found that although most would not reciprocate, those who did evolved into excellent online friends. I began sharing experiences, links and posts with them. I did not feel resentment for those who did not. This is the essence of true goodwill and it applies not only to your social media network, but your life.

Do you have an online experience you would like to share? We would love to hear it.


Thank you, Tammy. 

Tam Francis is the author of The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress and the publisher of two indie magazines (From the Ashes, Swivel: Vintage Living Magazine, now out of print). She has been featured at The Scottsdale Center for the Arts, Visual Voices Public Access show and New Times Magazine. She blogs about, swing dancing, writing, vintage lifestyle, and era specific book and movie reviews at She enjoys writing stories across genres with a dash of vintage and romance in each. Tam is currently working on a collection of ghost stories.




Gretchen’s  books can be seen at


WHAT I READ THIS WEEK:  Riding The Rap by Elmore Leonard.  Twice Buried by Steven F. Havill.




4 thoughts on “Guest blog by Tam Francis, The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress

  1. This is all soooooo true… I’ve dived in this year – and at the beginning I felt like I was drowning in social media. I was totally new to Twitter and didn’t understand how it worked; thought it was all about how many likes you have on your Facebook page (it’s not); and was worried I wasn’t doing enough – when really a little in the right place goes a long way.

    When I reached out to people whose work I genuinely loved to tell them so, I was hurt in the beginning not to get a response. And I was at first flattered by people following me (people started Following little old Me!) until I realised they wanted something in return or were spambots. But absolutely – after finding guidance from some lifeboats sharing their inside knowledge of how it all works, I’m starting to get it! And I’m embracing the real relationships I’m making, ignoring the fake ones…

    When you say : ‘I found that although most would not reciprocate, those who did evolved into excellent online friends. I began sharing experiences, links and posts with them. I did not feel resentment for those who did not. This is the essence of true goodwill and it applies not only to your social media network, but your life.’ – This is completely my experience and I entirely agree.

    Definitely give for giving’s sake… And you’ll find it’s amazing what can come of it!

    • I’m glad to here you feel the same. I often wonder if the way I look at something or approach something is crazy or normal. I don’t mind a little crazy, but I do want to be the best human being I can be, so stuff like this counts. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. Great post, Tammy, and thanks for the shout out. Thanks to Gretchen for hosting you, too.

    I absolutely love that you connect with people who follow you, because I try to do the same thing. I’ve made some amazing connections through social media, so I’m a big proponent. But I try to always remember that it is SOCIAL media, not a contest to collect the most followers.

    I work alone as a freelance editor, and it gets a bit lonely sometimes, so I’m happy to interact with others, even if only for a few minutes on Facebook or Twitter or other social media. My absolute favorite was a tweet from a new Twitter connection who wrote, “Looking forward to getting to know you better! Did you know your smile lights up your eyes?” Made. My. Day.

    • Thanks for coming over and checking this out. I read other’s blogs and am inspired and it gets me thinking about my own experience and things I wish people would have told me starting out. 🙂 I love your “it’s not a contest to collect the most followers.” So, true even if it feels like it sometimes!

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