I mention the word free in the title because I’ve heard there are companies who guarantee increased sales results if you pay them to show you how to work with social media in order to market and promote books. Or, some claim they can do it for you. From what I’ve heard, they promise to make you the next bestseller…for a fee of course.
The only thing I can say about that is that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. And, if these things actually worked wouldn’t everyone be doing it? Maybe I’m too cynical, but I’ve seen too many “too good to be true” scams over the years and I’ve learned through my own mistakes.
So when I see free advice being given by people I consider reputable, I try to pass it along. The articles to which I’m linking below are all things I’ve done (or have not done) in the past by learning them the hard way…mostly by trial and error…and there’s really nothing I can disagree with. I would also like to add that not every piece of advice will work for every individual author. In most cases you have to figure out a plan that’s right for you, and a plan you think you can handle without becoming overwhelmed. If you’re like me and you enjoy social media, it makes things easier. If you don’t enjoy it, you’ll have to figure out a way to embrace at least something. While I don’t think social media overkill helps, I do think in this day and age of all things cyber authors have to build some kind of an online presence. In fact, I think that’s far more important now than book signings and traveling to events, for some authors.
Today we have a visit from one of my favorite online author-friends. I knew her even before her name was Roni Loren 🙂 Roni is an awesome blogger who always has something innovative and thoughtful to say at her blog for the Fearless Romantic. She’s become a bestselling author for Berkley Heat through her smart use of social media, so this is market-tested advice. My experience with Twitter and Facebook mirrors hers. I much prefer Twitter, but the readers seem to be on Facebook.
This is a guest post on Anne R. Allen’s blog I literally found by accident. I highly recommend reading anything on this blog about social media because Anne co-wrote an excellent self-pubbed book this past year with bestselling author, Catherine Ryan Hyde, titled, “How to be a Writer in the E-Age.” I reviewed the book here. And Anne’s blog is also one of the top 50 blogs for authors. In this case, I don’t think you can go wrong.
I don’t think there is much of a difference between authors with small start up e-presses and self-published authors anymore, so that’s why I’m linking to articles related to self-pubbed authors. They’re all doing basically the same thing now: publishing e-books. When it comes to marketing and book promotion with small e-presses, you’re basically in the same position as the self-published author. Small e-presses are excellent if you’re not comfortable with the details and business end of self-publishing, or you can’t format, but you’re still going to have to do all the promotion and marketing on your own when the book is published, like it or not.
It’s not about saying ‘Buy my book’; ‘Look at this review about my book; ‘Here’s why you’d like my book’.
Again, everything in this post can be applied to authors with small start up e-presses. And for those authors with small e-presses who think you’re too grand for reading anything relating to indie authors, take a closer look at what you’re actually doing. And like I said earlier, not everything is going to work for every author and you’ll have to figure out what works best for you. But I think this article gives a realistic approach, and doesn’t freak authors out too much.
This one is interesting because it talks about what not to do. And believe me, I’ve seen a few train wrecks with authors and social media.
Never dedicate every single social media post of your life to your writing. If you’re on social networks, be social. That is, act like a human being who does human being things—as opposed to an all-promotion, all-the-time automaton.
I’d also like to add that getting too political can be really annoying and offensive. During the last Presidential election I can’t tell you how many people I hid from my news feed because of their political rants. I really don’t care about your politics unless you’re actively involved in politics and giving up your money and your time. Unless you’re Barry Eisler, and you really know how to post about politics in a smart, educated, informed way like only Barry Eisler can do, I think it’s better to just stay away from it altogether. It stands to reason at the most basic level: you’re trying to get people to buy your books and that’s not going to happen if they don’t agree with your politics. In fact, they might hold it against you forever.
Another thing I don’t like seeing is “cute.” It’s hard to really explain this one. You usually know it when you see it. The gag reflex kicks in. Seriously, there’s only so many times you can rescue that puppy or save that basket of kittens before people start to wonder. I guess this falls into the category of “keep it real.” If you don’t, it’s going to start to show sooner or later. Also, remember you’re dealing with people who live in different parts of the country…or world…not just in your own small town. In other words, you don’t want to sound as if you’ve just hopped off the back of a turnip truck to someone in New York or Philadelphia…unless that’s a goal you’re trying to achieve.
Create an account for your main character. This is especially useful if you write a series that evolves around a single character. Create accounts for your character and engage the character in public conversation—author to creation. The results can not only be entertaining but can also go viral very quickly helping you gain momentum with your social media endeavors.
This article isn’t for everyone, and neither is the advice. Just based on number one above, if I did this I would have so many main character accounts I’d never be able to keep up with them. And, I actually did try this once with a hetero romance book I wrote with a pen name for the Home Shopping Network, title “Loving Daylight.” I gave the main character his own facebook page and it was a huge waste of time. It was not only creepy, but because the character was a vampire I had to write facebook posts after dark all summer that year. I learned my lesson that time by trial and error. However, if you are an author with one or two books out, this sort of thing might work for you. On that I can’t comment.
Ask for opinions and input. One of the best ways to really engage your followers is to ask for their input for something like naming a new character. Your followers will be more than willing to pitch in with the possibility of having their ideas used and if you do use their ideas, be sure to publicize it—they will be the first person in line to buy your book!
I’ve seen this before and it might work for some authors, so I’m not saying don’t do it. However, I happen to come from the school where the author works alone and owns his or her work. In other words, I love hearing suggestions from readers and I love input as well. But I work alone. In the same respect I actually named the MC, “Wilbur,” in “My Fair Laddie,” after a facebook discussion with LGBT book reviewer, Amos Lassen. I didn’t solicit his opinion, and he wasn’t offering it. We were just discussing character names and Amos mentioned that “Wilbur” was a character name he’d never seen. And I thought it would be a perfect name for the MC in the book.
The key, in the early stages of your career, is to focus on becoming an expert in only one or two social media channels, such as Twitter and Facebook, plus an author blog.
Quality, not quantity is the rule here: If you take time to learn how to become highly adept at just a couple of channels to begin with, you’ll be far more effective at attracting attention and growing your readership, than by opening up 15 different channels and trying to use them all at once, without developing any effective user skills.
From what I gather here, it’s more important to take it slowly than it is to jump into every single social media network and crash and burn. So far, Twitter and Facebook seem to be the most popular social media outlets, and they can be daunting at best for a beginner. I would recommend facebook over twitter for those who know nothing about social media. On facebook you get more freedom, where on twitter you have to come up with a way to express a limited amount of information. And it’s not easy getting followers.
Blogging can be an excellent way to connect with readers, too. But don’t expect miracles at first. Blogging takes time, and sometimes you’ll never figure out why some posts are more popular than others. I’m still getting over a thousand hits a day for a post I wrote two years ago and I don’t have a clue as to why. I guess that post resonated with people for some reason. Which is why blogging is such a great tool for authors. I get most of my hits through random search engines and I have no idea how I do it or why they find me. This blog is linked to more than a few social media outlets, but the majority of my hits come from all over the world and always through searches, not something I posted about on another social media outlet.
These are only a few articles that offer advice. I saw a few more in my search but didn’t feel comfortable linking to them. But, as I said, there’s no set pattern for anything when it comes to marketing and promoting books with social media. It seems to work differently for all authors and what works for one might not work for another. The secret is figuring out what works best for you. And that’s going to take time, so don’t try to rush it.