Let’s be honest, you don’t have to be an author to love social media. At least to a degree *grin*. As an author though, social media is less about mindlessly being social and more about figuring out how to make the most of your social media “leverage”. Yes, that sounds quite mercenary and it really isn’t meant to. You see, authors have had to adapt or die (as it were).
Before the rise of eBook publishing and the age of the internet, you’d find that most authors were published by well established publishers who had an in-house marketing or publicity department that would assign a proportion of their annual budget to promoting your book. They would invest in traditional print or radio advertising, perhaps some marketing material (posters or the like) for bookshops and then they would arrange signings and tours for their authors. Even smaller publishing houses tended to follow the same path and so your journey as an author could be fairly predictable.
Fast forward to today and your journey as an author is very different. Even those authors that are published by the larger publishing houses are encouraged to engage with their fans through various social media channels. For the author published by smaller, independent publishing houses the social media journey is a “must” rather than a “nice to have” and for those authors who self-publish, it’s an absolute non-negotiable.
Why is that? Well, in an average day, people are bombarded by information from thousands of sources. In order to stand even the smallest chance of being heard in all that “noise”, you need to be one of those sources. Authors can no longer afford to simply write and wait for sales to come to them. We need to take control of our voice. Modern readers like to feel connected to their authors and at the end of the day, they are far more likely to part with their hard-earned money if they feel like it’s going to a human being they care about rather than some faceless “writer”.
Let’s be honest though, social media can be extremely overwhelming. It seems as though there is something new every time I turn around and it’s almost impossible to keep up. Even if we only tried to post to every social media platform that currently exists without worrying about new ones, we’d never have time to write! Yes, there are tools that can assist in posting to multiple platforms, but even those require time to be set up.
So what would I tell a new author about social media? Well, there are some basic guidelines that I have shared in the past.
- Have a website or a blog: Having an online presence in this digital world is essential. You don’t need to invest a lot of money in having a site built, you can use one of the many free website building tools or simply set up a blog through Blogger.com or WordPress. Figure out what works easiest for you. Then figure out how often you can update the site. You need to have fresh content that returning visitors or fans can read when they come back to your site. It doesn’t have to be every day, but it should be regularly.
- Facebook: Facebook can be fun and useful for you to stay in touch with friends and family. It has just as much usefulness for an author. You can set up an author page on Facebook that will allow your fans to “like” you and stay in touch. This should definitely be updated far more often. The recommended frequency is roughly 3 – 4 posts a day (or approximately every 5 hours). Share interesting articles, information regarding inspiration you found for characters, pictures of your writing area, gardening achievements… you name it. Anything that interests you or contributes to your writing journey could be fun for your readers to see.
- Twitter: What can you possibly say in 140 characters or less? You’d be surprised! Best of all, you could also set up your Facebook page to automatically post to your Twitter account. This means that you’ll catch two different types of audience with 1 post.
- Pinterest: Pinterest is another interesting and great way to draw attention to your work in a visual way. It’s also fun for you!! You can create boards for each book and pin images of pictures that inspire characters, locations, story ideas, covers and even links to the graphics in your blogs which will lead people to your blog / website. You can also pin the cover from Amazon or other sales websites which will allow people to click on that “pin” and buy your book.
- Goodreads: This is an amazing place to reach a dedicated community of readers. As an author, you have a lot of functionality on Goodreads, including being able to blog there, offer give-aways and more. It’s worth setting up a profile even if you’re not terribly active. This is a site dedicated to lovers of books and there’s really no better place for an author to be!
Is there more to social media than these 4 elements? YES! There is Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, YouTube etc. I think they all have their merits and if you want to swap out one of the others (Twitter or Pinterest) and use one of these or even use them in addition to the ones I mentioned above, that is great. You need to do what you feel comfortable with.
My greatest advice to authors is to investigate all the various options that they’ve heard of. See what makes sense to them. What they feel is manageable and what is too daunting to even try. Start small. Don’t be afraid to experiment to see what works for you.
In future blogs I’ll try to expand on various individual forms of social media. If you have any questions or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time…