Photo by Karsten Winegeart designed in Canva

At the Digital Book World Conference & Expo in 2017, representatives from Hachette and Perseus admitted to checking out author platforms and social media engagement then reporting those findings during acquisitions meetings. This shouldn’t be a surprise to authors, because literary agents have admitted to doing this for years. Like it or not, publishers are using social media as a measuring stick so wouldn’t be nice if we could impress or at least pass the inspection?  

Despite popular belief, social media marketing is not a set it and forget it type of marketing. Today there are billions of people on social media right which is why every business on the planet is trying desperately to market their services and products there. Social media offers many advantages and some of those include:

  1. It’s free to join
  2. You can reach people anywhere in the world
  3. Advertising on social media is cheap (for now)
  4. You can build a community of devoted readers
  5. Analytical data on your content, followers, and ads.

Right now, next to email lists, social media is the best way to reach and stay in touch with readers.     

Learn Your Demographic

Before you sign up for just any site, be sure to know your genre and the fans who support it. For example, if you’re trying to reach young people, they’re probably not on Facebook. Most teens and young adults prefer Instagram, Snapchat, and Tiktok. If you’re targeting men, they can be found mainly on Youtube, Reddit, and LinkedIn. It’s important to learn who you’re trying to reach and where they hang out online so you don’t waste your time talking to the wall.      

Forming A Community: 

Before you start a community of any kind, you need to ask yourself the big question: Why should people follow me? This is important because people are on social media for a variety of reasons and some of those reasons include:

  • To connect with others
  • Entertainment
  • Information or news

If you can’t provide value and just talk about yourself ad nauseam you will repel people. Even the most narcissistic celebrities take a break from talking about themselves once in a while. It sounds strange but your page and community aren’t so much about you as it is about the readers.         

Creating Content

Social media experts everywhere agree that content marketing is still king and that’s great if you’re an author. If you’ve written a lot, you’ll have plenty to share and lots of ways to share it. The types of content that most authors post on social media include:

  1. Excerpts: text, audio, video
  2. Announcements of new releases, sales, and book signings 
  3. Q&A’s
  4. Live readings
  5. Quotes
  6. Funny Memes
  7. Personal photos
  8. Interviews
  9. Jokes
  10. Factoids: historical, pop culture, language, art, etc.

It’ll be up to you to experiment and decided which format you’ll be using to communicate with your readers.  Visuals like pictures, and video do best on most social media platforms. However, if you don’t have any design or video experience you can hire a freelancer from Fiverr or Upwork to design some social media posts for you. Otherwise, you can DIY it like most authors by using apps like: 

  • Canva (Free & Paid)
  • Crello (Free & Paid)
  • Visme (Free up to 5 projects)
  • Photoshop (Paid)
  • Apple iMovie (Free)
  • Windows Video Editor (Free)
  • Audacity: Audio Editor (Free)

*Not affiliated with any of the products mentioned in this post*

Scheduling Posts:

Pre-scheduling posts take a lot of stress out of social media, almost all the authors I know use scheduling apps to help ease their workload. Many of these apps can tell you the best time to post and some like Buffer, and Social Weaver offer content ideas. Scheduling apps are great for evergreen content like quotes from your book, or for upcoming interviews, and events. Here is a small list of popular scheduling apps:   

  • Hootsuite (Free & Paid)
  • MeetEdgar: (Paid after 30 days)
  • Buffer (Free & Paid)
  • SocialOmph (Free & Paid)

A Friendly Reminder: Sometimes You Must Show Up

There are times when you need to show up and not leave things to scheduling apps. This includes but is not limited to; Q&As, contests, and live events. It may seem like a no-brainer but you’d be surprised at how many authors check out of the socializing part of social media. Remember, there is nobody that can be you, even if you hire an assistant, they can’t tell people what your favorite color is or why your character is blind in one eye. That’s a story only you can tell, so try not to opt-out of interacting with your readers.  

Free Social Media Courses: 

Did you know that Facebook has its own set of video tutorials that cover everything from advertising to analytics? Most of the major social media platforms have tutorials and some even offer certifications. 

Below I list the top 8 social media sites in the English speaking world and their free online courses:     

General Social Media Courses:

If you want to go further in your education there are several websites that will help you with your social media marketing. The course topics range anywhere from content creation to targeted marketing. Some of these are free while others have both free and paid options.        

Authors Who Are Crushing It On Social Media

If you want to check out real-world examples of indie authors who are doing well on social media, check out:

  • Mark Dawson
  • Maria Louis
  • Marie Force
  • Shawn Inmon
  • H.M. Ward

Here’s a glimpse at the type of content that H.M. Ward shares on her Facebook page:

And we all know pets are a must on social media:

Let’s not forget the books

And here’s Mark Dawson announcing the translated versions of his book:

Mark offering a signed edition of his book:

I also found several traditional published authors who are doing well on social media and they include:

  • Nora Roberts
  • Danielle Steele
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Lee Child
  • Sylvia Day

An example from Nora Roberts’ Facebook page:

And a Q&A session with Nora:

Click the pic to see the video on Facebook

Here’s a random question Sylvia Day asked her readers which had nothing to do with her books but revealed a little about her personality:

And here’s an anniversary post for her characters:

There’s something to learn from all of these authors like the art of conversation, the science of branding, as well as sales copy. It would be wise to follow them and see what you can glean and try to apply that to your marketing.   

In Closing 

Don’t be discouraged if you’re not an overnight sensation because building a following takes time nonetheless, you do have to start. Gone are the days where social media was optional, today’s authors are expected to have an online presence no matter if they choose to go the traditional route or not. 

Yes, this is more work but it is also a good thing because whether we choose to go traditional or not, our audience will follow us, not our publisher. It’s this connection to your audience that’s the key to a long-term career and isn’t that what we all want?    

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