Welcome to part 3 of our "Self-publishing mistakes killing your book sales" series. Check out parts 1 and 2 here and here. Now that we have that minor housekeeping out of the way, let's start the show.
Just about any profession has a phrase or two that people in those jobs hate. For a delivery driver, it may be “flat tire.” For a school principal, it might be “food fight”. For many self-published authors, the phrase “social media” seems to fill them with a stomach-churning sense of dread. Not because they’re unfamiliar with the various social media platforms (most people have a least tried Facebook or Twitter). But unless you happen to have a background in marketing or advertising, most people simply don’t have the knowledge or experience to use social media as a tool for marketing their book. Not to worry, the Knockin’ Books crew has folks with decades of experience in marketing, including a bestselling self-published author who knows a thing or two about how to get readers to click that all-important BUY button.
Here’s the good news: There are lots and lots of social media platforms to choose from. They’re mostly free (although some offer premium versions) and each provide you with 24/7 access to millions of people. No two ways about it, social media is a marketer’s wet dream. Now the downside: With so many different platforms—each with their own unique strengths, weaknesses, demographics and complications—figuring them out can feel overwhelming.
In addition, authors aren’t exactly known for being especially social creatures in general. It’s sort of a chicken/egg question, really. Do authors tend to be solitary because it’s the nature of writing, or do solitary people just naturally gravitate towards writing? Either way, the idea of getting out there and tweeting, snapping, pinning and “liking” other people can give some writers the heebie jeebies. Not to worry, we’ve got a plan.
Putting in work
The very first thing to do is figure out which social media platforms make the most sense for you and your book. Start by doing a bit of research on the 4-5 most popular platforms. (We’d recommend Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and Instagram.) Now, before you panic, we are NOT suggesting you maintain a presence on all of them. That’d be a crazy amount of time and energy and quite frankly, would likely be counter productive. You probably want to end up with only one or two, three at the very most if you’re super ambitious.
Once you’ve decided which platforms to explore, start by searching for other authors within your genre. You should probably avoid the biggest names since they’re going to be on all the popular platforms anyway and will likely have an entire marketing staff who manages those accounts for them. Try looking for some popular mid-range authors within your genre and see how popular they are on each platform. Do they have a ton of followers? Do they get oodles of likes and engagement? Are they getting more attention on one platform over the other? Are they more active on a particular platform? Getting a sense of which social media your target audience tends to use can be a good first step in determining where you want to focus your attention.
The other big factor to consider is your own preferences. Are you already active on social media? If so, are there ones you tend to use more often than others? Understanding your personal tendencies could go a long way to shaping the success of your book marketing efforts. For instance, most platforms have a way of sharing graphics but Pinterest and Instagram are especially focused on sharing compelling images. If you tend to be a highly visual person and/or enjoy taking and sharing interesting photos/graphics, maybe those platforms would be a natural fit for your book marketing efforts as well. The more you enjoy what you’re doing, the more likely you’ll do it consistently.
What do you have to say for yourself?
Now that you’ve targeted the social media platforms you plan to use, it’s time to turn the book marketing dial up to full blast, right? Um...no. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to start flooding your social media stream with sales messages about your book (or any book for that matter). You know how much you hate smarmy spam in your email inbox? Yeah, it’s kinda like that. No one is going to follow or like someone who just wants to sell them something. Even if it’s something they might want.
First and foremost, you have to get people to engage. You do that by posting a steady stream of content that’s funny, interesting and hopefully results in regular engagement with your followers. It doesn’t necessarily have to relate to your book or even books in general. It just has to be compelling and attention grabbing. It’s also helpful if you use your unique writing voice to ensure your readers will make the connection between your social media posts and your book.
Do’s and Don’ts
Once you have a loyal and engaged set of followers, there are some general rules to keep in mind moving forward:
Finding the time
We know what you’re thinking. Sure, this all sounds great, but where do I find the time to write and post all this social media stuff on top of my normal writing schedule? It’s a good question, and that’s before we even mention you should probably spend a bit of time paying attention to what’s trending on the various platforms and who’s mentioning you in their posts. Well, don’t hyperventilate. Take a breath, have a seat and relax. Trust us, we know how you feel, but luckily for you, we’ve got a few tricks to share.
As social media has become a universal device for marketing, a wide variety of tools have become available to help individuals and business manage their social media presence. Here at Knockin’ Books for example, we use Hootsuite to manage a portion of our social media posts. They offer several tiers of paid accounts, but they also have a basic version that’s completely free. With Hootsuite, you can schedule posts in advance, monitor what’s trending and see who’s mentioning you in their posts. Besides giving you access to a ton of useful information, it’s also an enormous time saver as well.
In addition to Hootsuite, there are a number of other tools available to help you manage your social platforms as well as create compelling visuals to include in your posts. The following is only a partial list. If these aren’t quite what you’re looking for, feel free to fire up the Google machine and dive a little deeper. There’s likely a solution that’s perfect for any work style or any budget.
What to avoid
Chances are, you’re probably already using at least one or two social media platforms for personal use. And like most folks, you likely use it to express your opinions on a range of topics. But when it comes to your author account, it’s critical that you avoid any divisive topics such as politics or religion.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “But I see Stephen King and J.K. Rowling making political comments on Twitter all the time”. You’re absolutely right, but here’s the important thing to keep in mind: you’re not them. Those two authors are so wildly successful, they don’t have to worry about their sales taking a hit if their comments upset a few people. You on the other hand, could easily kill your sales with a single post. Think of your book as a business and you just opened your doors. Would you want to risk upsetting any potential group of customers? When in doubt, it’s best just to avoid any possibility of conflict.
Before we finish up, I need to share a brutal truth about social media: it’s probably not going to result in a ton of book sales. It doesn’t really matter how many followers you get, the bottom line is that it’s a numbers game. The chance that one of your tweets or posts converts to an actual sale are fairly low. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying social media is a complete waste of time, especially if you enjoy engaging with your readers. There’s no question that it can buy you a ton of good will which can be extremely valuable. Just don’t expect it to goose your sales significantly.
Wow, look at that word count, we’re already up to almost 1,400 words. We’ve got more stuff we want to talk about, but we’re already past our normal word count for a typical post. I guess we’ll extend this series to a Part 4. While you’re waiting, drop us a line and let us know how you’re using social media to sell your book and which techniques have worked for you. We’d love to hear from you!