I hate to break it to many of you writers out there, but whether you’ve just published a new book, written a new blog, are promoting your writer’s workshop, so on and so forth, the fact is that social media has to be your new best friend. No, I’m not talking about the countless hours a day spent on Facebook squeezing out status updates and commenting on everything you see in your news feed (for the sake of being seen.) I’m talking about opening yourself up to new and endless opportunities every day of the week. Of course this advice isn’t limited to writers only—it could be applied to anyone who has something to promote, but it seems as though people in business who have products to sell have far-mastered the art of promotion via social media. They use Etsy, Pinterest, Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter and others—in addition to Facebook. But what’s the difference between someone who, let’s say, sells handmade jewelry, tee shirts, or repurposed art and an author who is promoting a new book in hopes for additional sales? The answer? No difference at all. Books are consumable products and they should be promoted as such to the buying public.
I’m not suggesting that writers should spend their days spamming their books to everyone under the sun on each and every social media platform. What I am suggesting is removing yourself from the Facebook bubble and venturing out onto a new platform in attempts to grow your audience even further. Sadly, I know many, many writers whose only form of self-promotion is commenting on other writer’s posts—the same writers, over and over, hoping that people will take notice of the fact that they too have a book available. There’s not much room for growth there. It’s about as exciting as an AOL chat room (ask your parents, kids.) Yeah, remember those?
Just very recently, I had personal conversations about book promotion with three different writers and each one had these things to say about their favorite methods of promoting their books on Facebook:
- One writer searched out roughly forty different Facebook groups that allow you to post your links to your books. Their idea was to post in five or six different groups every day and do this on a continuing basis. Post, rinse and repeat. I’m sorry (I told them), but this method, and pardon my le français, is chicken shit promotion. It’s lazy and counterproductive. Who do you think will be frequenting those groups? Other authors who are only concerned with promoting their own books, that’s who. I guarantee you that readers on a legitimate quest to find something good to read aren’t skimming through those Facebook groups.
- Another writer held a contest in which their Facebook friends would be entered into a drawing for a prize if they went on their book’s Amazon page and wrote a review for said book. I’ve seen this a bunch of times and it’s never ended very well. First of all, it’s unethical and even worse, it’s against Amazon’s review policies. Book reviewers are not to receive any monetary compensation (cash, gift cards, etc..) nor are they to receive rewards or prize incentives. Amazon has actually gone so far as to delete reviews if they get wind of such practices and some authors have even been banned from using their website—in many cases, up to a year. The other reason that this is a poor method is while you’ll generate some reviews for your book, a lot of times the reviews aren’t convincing. When I read reviews such as, “This is the best book I’ve ever read” or “I’m not a reader but I really loved this book,” then I’m not inclined to purchase that book. It sounds as though the author’s friends and family had written those reviews.
- The third writer, and this one takes the cake, said that they post a new photo each day on Facebook of their cat posing with a copy of their book. First of all, unless the book has something to do with cats, then it doesn’t make much sense. This might be fun to do once every so often, but on a daily basis? Not only will your friends get tired of seeing your book, they’ll get sick of seeing your cat as well. I’ll assume that your cat will start to hate you too.
While Facebook definitely has its place in the realm of self-promotion, the fact is that our Facebook profiles should be used more as a communication tool and less as a self-promotion assembly line. Our friends and family shouldn’t be made to feel like customers. Create a Facebook page for your promotional purposes. In addition to this, however, I recommend that writers get themselves aquatinted with the following social media platforms.
- Twitter – I’ve heard a lot of writers say, “Ugh, I just don’t like Twitter. I’ve tried it and I got nothing out of it.” My suggestion? Try it again! This time, actually invest more than five minutes into learning how Twitter works. It’s a very useful social media platform and can propel you into an entire new universe of potential new fans, friends and resources. It’s one of my preferred forms of social media and I find it to be the most effective when it comes to generating leads, resources, website traffic and news on upcoming events. The thing Twitter has over Facebook is your website (or Amazon) link is visible to everyone you connect with. Facebook keeps our website links buried from view. We are, after all, trying to drive new people to our sites everyday. This is how we increase our sales.
- Pinterest – Believe it or not, there are book lovers galore on Pinterest and if used correctly, you can get the attention of someone looking for their next beach read or late night novel.
- Instagram – Another one of my preferred platforms, mostly due to its simplicity of use and the effectiveness of its reach. Not only do I use it for my personal use, but I maintain accounts for my custom stainless steel business and my hot sauce company. I’ve generated business for my companies and have increased website traffic for my writer website, all by posting eye-catching and engaging photos. Some people have told me, “Oh, I’m no good at taking pictures. I don’t know what to post.” Listen, I’m no Ansel Adams and I seem to be doing just fine. Use your imagination and get creative. You are after all a creative individual, are you not? Once you figure out how Instagram works, you’ll find it to be an enjoyable experience.
- Vine – If you can get creative by making engaging 6 second video clips, then Vine is for you. While I use it for my hot sauce company, WATTSauce, creating food related videos, I have seen some rather crafty videos from authors promoting their books in humous ways within a six second time frame. (Update): Apparently Vine will be turning the lights off so you won’t be enjoying their benefits for much longer. It would however be in your best interest to pay attention to the next “Vine-styled” social media app that comes along.
- YouTube – Video has become the most popular form of promotion online and it definitely receives the most engagement. Whether you’re posting a 30 second clip of your book trailer or a 30 minute discussion about your new book or perhaps related topics such as book marketing, YouTube will get your message to the masses. Take for example, Derek Murphy, a cover artist and author, who posts informative daily videos about cover design, marketing, editing and a slew of related topics in the publishing industry.
- WordPress – Duh! Yes, create a blog for yourself and post informative information for your audience. Don’t use it to directly promote your book with every new post. Write interesting and engaging articles, post it on places such as Twitter, Pinterest and yes, even Facebook. You don’t need to have web design skills to create a WordPress blog. Select a name for your blog, choose a clean design and header, and start posting away. Simple as that.
One final thought that I’ll share with you about book marketing on social media. Don’t just get all gung-ho with posting on social media when you’re promoting a new book, and then jump ship as soon as you’re bored with the process. Sure, maybe you’re short on time and/or your book has reached it’s saturation stage, but here’s the thing; if you’re a writer and you are serious about your craft, then social media needs to be your new best friend from here on in. You need to establish a presence and maintain your place in the circles you create. Otherwise, people will write you off as someone who likes to dump and run. You don’t have to use every venue listed above. Pick one or two, get the hang of them and take even just a few minutes out of your day to share something that will grab attention. Continue to be seen and known between book projects—not just when you have a new book available. Share relavent articles and engage with other users. Establish credibility by being a constant source for quality material. And always keep in mind the 20 / 80 self-promotion ratio; 20 percent self-promo and 80 percent useful and entertaining content that generates inclusivity among your followers. Facebook is great—there’s certainly no denying this, but you and your work deserve a much larger audience. Stretch your creative marketing wings and build a larger and more-diverse network.