Monday 20 March 2017

Reader Question: Should I Hire Someone to Build my Social Media Presence?

By Iola Goulton

An agent liked my manuscript, but said I needed to build my social media presence before he’d consider representing me. I work full time. Should I hire someone?

Short answer: Maybe. 

Long answer …

Maybe. It depends on what your agent means by a social media presence, the kind of books you write and plan to write, on your brand, and on what God wants for your writing.

Let me explain.

I don’t have an agent. I’m not seeking representation from an agent. (I’ll tell you why some other time, if you’re interested.) I’ve lurked on a lot of agent blogs over the years, and one thing I’ve found is that agents are all different.
  • Some only accept electronic submissions; some only accept paper.
  • Some want a query letter first, others think a query letter is a waste of time and want a full proposal.
  • Some seem to think numbers are the only important aspect of a writer’s platform, others make no mention of the subject.
That’s an extended way of saying that for every agent who reads this blog post and thinks I’ve got something right, another will think I’ve got it wrong. The right answer to this question depends very much on the agent you’re talking about.

What is a Social Media Presence?

If your agent thinks a good social media presence is 100,000 engaged Twitter followers, then I can make some suggestions. Start by reading Rayne Hall’s book on building your Twitter following, and implement her suggestions. Then read Ian Sutherland’s book. He built a following of over 100,000 people in around a year, and he offers support services to help other authors do the same. That might be something you could consider … but only if that’s what your dream agent is thinking of.

What does this agent expect in terms of building your social media presence?

But this might not be what your dream agent means. So you need to know what he means before you invest your time or your money in developing a social media presence. Does he mean social media or does he mean a platform—your entire online presence including social media, your website, and your email list?

Also, what manuscript did you submit that he liked?
  • Fiction or non-fiction?
  • What genre?
  • Was it written for adults, teenagers, or children?
You’ve got the basics of a social media presence although it could do with refreshing, updating, and perhaps expanding (depending on your book):
  • Website and a blog (although they should be combined onto one site).
  • Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
You also need to consider developing an email list and regular newsletter to subscribers, as this might be what your agent is looking for).

Build Your Brand

But how you do this will depend on what you are writing, and who you are writing for. You need to decide who you are, and build your author brand around that persona. Then you need to attract and engage with potential readers.

I believe you should do this yourself.

Because you can’t hire someone to tell you who you are.

Once you know who you are and who you want to be online, you can hire someone to help you broadcast that message. But you’re going to have to do some of the hard work up front.

It’s generally agreed that a non-fiction author needs more of an author platform to interest an agent than a fiction author. That’s especially true in the case of true-life stories—for example, I’ve read that agents aren’t interested in cancer stories. They’re all too common.

Once you’ve decided who you are, and once you know what kind of platform your dream agent wants you to build, then you have another decision: is that what you want to do? Is it what God wants you to be doing? (I ask because your social media profiles make it clear you’re a Christian.)

Should you hire someone to build your social media presence?

The answer is going to depend on the answers to other questions:
  • What does this agent mean by “build a social media presence”? This is the most important question.
  • What manuscript is he interested in? What’s the genre? Is this the same as the books you’ve previously published, or different?
  • What is your brand? In other words, who are you? How do you want people to see you?
  • What does God want for your writing? Is this closed door a challenge for you to get past, or is it a door God doesn’t want you to open? Is chasing this agent God’s plan for you and your writing?
  • How much is hiring someone going to cost? What results will you get? Is that return on your investment worth it to you?
  • Could you find a way to do this yourself, perhaps by investing in online tools such as Buffer or Hootsuite?

Once you've answered those questions, then you can get back to your original question: should you hire someone?

I suspect the answer is no.

That might change in a couple of weeks or a couple of months, when you find the answers to some of my other questions. By then, I suspect, the answer to your original question will be obvious.

If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in a future blog post, please email me via, or tag @iolagoulton on Twitter.

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction. Visit my website at to download a comprehensive list of publishers of Christian fiction. 

I also write contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist—find out more at

You can also find me on:
Facebook (Author)
Facebook (Editing)


  1. Good post, Iola. I think it all depends on one's priorities as well. If spending time each day assessing what to tweet/post isn't how you want to use your available hours then maybe having someone help you is a good idea. Recognising that it only has to be a 15-20 minutes a day but if it also involves other aspects of marketing (e.g., Amazon ads, FB ads) then it adds further sense to do so. But there's also the little thing called cost.

    But I actually believe this is a new opportunity for bookish types to support authors with true VA-type services. But once again cost is a factor and also the VA needs to be up to spend with all the latest plus be passionate about supporting each author. So in a true partnership the VA is always thinking about ways to enhance their authors presence. The beauty of it for both parties is that the results of the VA's work is quantifiable so a bonus arrangement could be factored in to their remuneration based on the achievement of certain pre-determined targets.

    1. Yes, it's always that little thing called cost ...

      I agree that VA services can be a great option, but they're going to get the best return for the author if they know exactly what they expect from the VA (which will also be a lot more satisfying for the VA!).


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