Hey everyone! We’re back on our blog to share an awesome piece by Karuna Riazi, author of The Gauntlet, one of our most anticipated reads of the year. In case you need a refresher, here’s the (amazing) cover and synopsis:
A trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that’s a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair.
When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand—a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube—they know it’s up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. But first they have to figure out how.
Under the tutelage of a lizard guide named Henrietta Peel and an aeronaut Vijay, Farah and her friends battle camel spiders, red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats as they prepare to face off with the maniacal Lord Amari, the man behind the machine. Can they defeat Amari at his own game…or will they, like the children who came before them, become cogs in the machine?
We are so, so excited for this book! Thanks to Sona Charaipotra and Karuna Riazi, we have a post below from the author herself!
Social Media for Debut Authors
One of the most beautiful, and most frustrating, aspects of the debut process is how much information there actually is out there from authors who have already gone through the hurdles, the upsets, the highs and lows.
It’s beautiful, of course, because you are fully aware you are not the first to wake up in the middle of the night wondering if you should add some postcards to that bookmark order – and definitely not the last – but it can also be frustrating because there is a ton of advice that might not actually work for you, and you don’t want to find out that it doesn’t work for you after you’ve shelled out a lot of money (and energy) because it worked for someone else.
Social media is one of those things. Everyone is on there. Everyone seems to be better at it than you, whether that is peppering Instagram with award-worthy shots of their kids or discussing their favorite TV shows and actually managing to get a response from the incredibly funny leading guy.
And everyone says you should be on there, too. If anything, it feels more like a requirement than a presented option.
Here’s the thing: social media is a wonderful way of connecting with others, and I too, have lost many hours on Twitter like many other members of the community. But the foremost point of social media is how much you enjoy it and how willing you are to use it to communicate with others. Willingness and enthusiasm really counts. If you’re not sure what to do with the app you just installed, or leave it to gather dust, focus on what really excites you.
So, first of all, figure out what works for you. You don’t have to be on every medium. I use Pinterest and Twitter and occasionally Tumblr for outreach and am working on a website (which, I would say, is the most crucial because it is your hub of contact information and because not every librarian, teacher or contact wants to reach out publicly on unlocked, visible social media – and, if you need a personal endorsement on it, I can safely say that a lot of things would be a lot easier for me if I had made one sooner).
If you need someone to tell you what social media is likely best for you, or at least give some suggestions, I would point again to a website, maybe with a blog component, and a Twitter if you’re the type who likes to keep everyone updated in 140 characters or less. If you’re the type who likes to snap pictures of where you’ve been or where you want to be, add in an Instagram. You can use, or stop using, whatever you want. It’s about you and what you want to put out there. That’s it.
When I said focus on what excites you, that goes for the content you generate, too. Make sure it is balanced between what you feel you should be posting (stuff about your book, what people are saying about your book, oh, look, someone just got an ARC of your book) with what you want to talk about and what you’d like people to know about you. I personally have two Twitter feeds, and one is all about feminism and social justice and magical girls while the other is solely devoted to book news and – right now – talk about my upcoming release and the jitters I’m having. It works out well for me, and sometimes one may mix in with the other, and that’s perfectly fine, too.
If you do post a lot about your book and want to keep all of that organized so people can look back and get excited, that is what hashtags are for – particularly if you are going to have an author Twitter account. The best hashtag is really your title, and once you’ve gotten that down, you can use the same hashtag over on your Instagram, too.
Again, the main rule here is doing what works for you. There are a lot of brilliant authors out there who do the bare minimum in wielding social media. There are a lot of them who don’t even bother with it, which is probably excellent for their productivity, but might not always work when you’re just putting yourself out there and need to work up some buzz.
(On that same note, your feed is also for you. A few authors have advised me, for instance, to keep a ratio of more authors than bloggers, and make sure to give said bloggers space. I’ll put it out there right now, as a former book blogger: putting a search on your name and popping into bloggers’ mentions when they say it a la Voldemort is not a good idea. Having an argument with said blogger about the importance of your love interest’s name and why you can’t believe they didn’t like it is even less of a good idea. I won’t say this has happened, but…don’t do it.
Don’t worry at all times about reaching out for the sake of promotional purposes – which can get annoying for others, or keep you from making genuine connections because you feel like you need to be wearing an author hat every single time you’re online. You also might consider weeding out what you don’t want to see, like the news for the sake of your blood pressure. Again, it’s for you. It’s what makes you feel like being part of this connective resource is worth it.)
Another rule you should keep in mind: when you can, where you can, schedule. If you want people to know about a pre-order campaign and you’re tweeting about it whenever you can (but also, exposing yourself to the glittery wonderland that is a Twitter feed and all its associated distractions), for instance, look into using Tweetdeck and plugging in a few tweets in advance for certain high-traffic hours.
Social media can be a real time sink, and what you want to be doing is balancing yourself out between that and the other things you’re supposed to be doing, like your edits, or writing that next project for your agent.
One more quick note, on the subject of author-reviewer interactions: Be mindful and respectful of others online, particularly underage readers and bloggers. Not everyone is going to like your book, and that is their right. Not everyone is going to write a review that will necessarily make you feel cheery. And not every review requires a response from you, or retaliation – and believe me, I am aware of how personal comments may feel when you are the author.
My suggestion with GoodReads is that it may be the social media that you’ll least want or need to be involved in. Ignore it. Don’t log in. If you feel something needs to be addressed or you do feel the need to apologize for a potential hurt caused by your work, the best thing to do is at least consult your editor and agent over the right procedure before stepping in yourself.
Also, in the same vein, in a way: know when to step away. If you are spending all your time on social media, making it your priority or feeling drained, it’s your right to unplug for a while and focus on other things, like building your website or responding to e-mails you’ve been putting off or your edits (I promise your editor did not compensate me for these continual reminders).
At the end of the day, social media is supposed to be a tool to improve your outreach and help you, rather than harm you or aggravate your anxiety or leave you with fewer hours to do what you need to do. This is an overwhelming, busy time and you have plenty of other responsibilities to worry about.
Take a deep breath, choose what sounds like fun, and don’t worry at the end of the day if you haven’t logged into Twitter once or had more pressing things to do than add a few more pins to your book’s board on Pinterest. Best of luck and happy debut year to you!
Thank you for the insightful post, Karuna! Happy book birthday to The Gauntlet!
Sarena & Sasha