Book Marketing Techniques That Don’t Work Anymore

Book Marketing
Pic via Pixabay

Over the past 10 years, publishing has evolved into a very profitable business with the 5 biggest publishers reporting a profit margin of 10%.  And according to Author Earnings, in 2015, self-published authors had taken 33% of the ebook market.  However the tables were turned in 2016, when self-published authors lost a little bit of their grip on the ebook market not to mention several major publishing companies actually reporting losses.  So now it’s more important than ever that we indie authors spend our time and money where it matters most.

Things will only continue to change as the market ebbs and flows and we indie authors need to be able to adapt no matter the disruptions to the market.  What worked in 2007, won’t necessarily fly in 2017, so I compiled a list of just a few of the things that used to be marketing truths but are now myths.

Post An Eye-Catching Photo With Social Media Posts

The old advice on social media was to post a nice text quote along with a photo and it worked pretty well.  Now the advice is to write your quote directly on the image itself because when you share a post sometimes the original text gets lost or relegated to tiny font at the bottom.

For example:

Pinterest

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Facebook

james-patterson-fb

 

Banner Ads

Back in the day, banner ads were the way to get your product noticed but now with ad blockers, nobody even sees them anymore.  Today, the click through rate of a banner ad is around 0.1% down from 50% in 2000.  Sadly places like Goodreads, offer banner ads in their expensive marketing package which can cost anywhere between $6,000 and up.  However most indie authors agree that the best places to advertise books are in discount newsletters like; BookBub, Bargain Booksy and Free Kindle Books & Tips.

Perma 99 Cents

A few years ago the advice was to lower your price as much as humanly possible which is what tons of indie authors did.  As you have already guessed, this doesn’t work anymore, the new advice is to try price pulsing.  That’s where you lower your price for a limited time and then set it back to a more reasonable one.  The feelings are mixed, many say you have to promote the lower prices but if you’re selling a book at 99 cents, promotion may not be wise if you’re on a low budget or just low on time.

Black Hat Marketing

This means anything shady like buying reviews or even buying your own book in bulk.  It’s one of the oldest tricks in the marketing business but with technology most people can easily spot a fake.  Not long ago, U.S. President Donald Trump was busted buying his own books during his campaign.  Also, several Christian ministers were found to have contracted a service that promises to help authors get on the bestsellers list by buying large quantities of the author’s book.  They might have gotten away with it too if they hadn’t used money from their own congregation to do it.

Same goes with social media, a few celebrities were busted buying fans a few years back and were exposed by a major media outlet.  To make a long story short, your money is better spent advertising or hiring a good book publicist.

You Need To Be Everywhere on Social Media

It’s old advice that’s still being repeated and it’s just not true and never really was.  Your goal on social media is to build a community which means conversations and engagement.  You can’t do that everywhere because you only have 24 hours in any given day.  So it would be wise to just pick one or a few social media sites where your audience is going to be and set up shop there.  If your book is for young adults try sites like; Snap Chat, Instagram or Tumblr, and if it’s adults you’re targeting, try Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

Spamming Works

For those business owners who are too lazy to build their own email lists there are services who are more than willing to sell you email addresses.  Sadly, these people aren’t interested in your book and sending unsolicited emails goes against the CAN-SPAM Act which can result in a fine of $16,000.  Also, it’ll get you banned from email marketing services like Mail Chimp or AWeber.  As if that weren’t bad enough, according to law enforcement and online security firms, the average spam campaign is often a front for organized crime which is why most email filters send these emails straight to the trash bin.

I would be remiss if I didn’t address the few books out there that list so called promotional groups on Facebook and Goodreads.  I’ve personally tested them and found them to be a complete  waste of time.  If you look closely at these groups, you’ll discover that they’re nothing but spam pages with author after author dropping links and yelling “Buy my book!”  This is pointless unless, your book is for authors who desperately need to learn about marketing books. 😉

So What Does Work?

Funny enough, it’s common sense that will help you sell a book successfully.  No tricks, just hard work and persistence, oh yeah, and time.

  • Write a book people want to read
  • Edit professionally
  • Get a nice (industry standard) book cover
  • Start building your platform.
  • Invest in your education: Take courses and read books on marketing, publishing and editing.
  • Join a network of professional authors, there are Facebook and LinkedIn groups as well as websites like The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) who help educate and support self-published authors.

In Closing…

There will be more changes on the horizon in 2017, that’s inevitable but that doesn’t have to be a scary thing.  Instead of seeing self-publishing as a disadvantage see it for the opportunity that it really is.  As more and more indie success stories become common place, it will light the fire in some of us to go beyond what we’ve ever imagined.  So until next time, here’s to a creative and profitable 2017 to indie authors everywhere!

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By Leland Francisco

SEO Keywords for Self-Published Books: Part 1

SEO Keywords for Self-Published Books 2 Pitnerest
Image via DesignFeed.io

Three years ago, I wrote an article for authors called SEO Keywords for Fiction Authors and it was one of my most popular posts.  However, a lot has changed since then and SEO has become even more important for authors. Over the past few years Amazon as well as a few other sites have changed their rules about how many keywords you can use and which ones. In fact, several authors have found their books recategorized after choosing the wrong keywords. If you don’t want this happening to you, it would be in your best interest to learn which keywords are best for books in your genre.

Why Bother?

Every major retailer has a search engine to help their customers navigate their websites. Today, the biggest search engines in the world are Google and Amazon. Yes, you read that right, Amazon is considered a search engine as is Apple, so it would be wise to learn how shoppers search if you want to position your book for better visibility.

A few years back, when indie authors everywhere were squawking about keywords and claiming to have gotten sales by tweaking the categories and keywords on their books, I wasn’t a firm believer. That was until I did an experiment with one of my free stories on Wattpad and went from having just a couple of views to a few thousand views. So SEO does matter when ranking in the search engines but as for sales, that’s another story. I do believe that SEO can be a powerful asset to a marketing strategy but in and of itself, it’s not a strategy to rely on. You still need to do other things like advertise, secure interviews, and utilize social media right along with strong SEO.

Types of Keywords Authors Can Use:

Genre: Romance, Thriller, Sci-Fi, etc.
Subgenre: Sweet Romance, Crime Thriller, Sci-Fi Adventure, etc.
Geography: Chicago, Medieval England, Mars.
Language: English, Klingon, Elvish, etc.
Topic: Social Issues, Pathologies, Special Groups.

To find your genre and subgenre go to Goodreads and check out their genre page. Click on the genre that fits your book best, and it will take you to a page with related genres in the upper right hand corner. You can find everything from Bulgarian Literature to Dragon Lance in the Goodreads genre list. When I clicked on Young Adult, I was taken to a page that listed subgenres ranging from fantasy to contemporary literature.

SEO Keywords for Authors
They kind of take out the guesswork don’t they?

If you want to find your subgenre, go to their genres list.

You can also do this also with Amazon, by going to their books section here and choosing to shop by category. When I chose Teens and Young Adult, I got not only subgenres, but the most popular categories, authors, and series. Meanwhile in the left hand margin, I got more subgenres to consider like art & photography as well as social issues.

Keywords for Indie Authors

 

Lost?

If you are totally lost and don’t know what genre to list your book, ask yourself several questions:

1. What age group is my book geared towards; adult, teens or children?
2. Is the conflict internal or external? If it’s internal, then you might want to consider labeling it literary.
3. Is the book geared towards women or men? Men’s fiction usually consists of thrillers, crime and graphic novels. Meanwhile women’s fiction usually consists of romance, chick lit, and erotica.

Even if after all this, you’re still confused just ask another author or even a beta reader what genre they think the book is. Don’t stress this too much, if you mess up, you can always go back and tweak things later.

Before I go, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t tell you that SEO is just one part of a successful marketing campaign.  There is no magic bullet when it comes to marketing books just ask the publishers at the New York big five.  However good SEO does help give your book the visibility it needs to compete in a market saturated in books.

Affiliate Marketing for Indie Authors Part 4: Advertising

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Image from Pixabay

For the past month, I’ve been talking about affiliate marketing as another stream of income and also about using it as an opportunity to promote your book. Today, I’ll talk about approaching affiliate marketing as an advertiser. Yes, you can pay an influencer to promote your book to their audience. However before you get excited, there are some questions you need to ask yourself.

Why Use An Affiliate?

If your platform is small to nonexistent then you’ll probably need to borrow someone’s audience. I talked about this in my post: “How to Pitch and Approach Influencers” last year. A large platform takes time and hard work to not only build but also to maintain and most authors don’t have the time or know how to do it. This is why it makes sense to seek out influencers to promote your book.

How Much Are You Willing To Pay Them?

This is important because price will matter significantly when it comes to interest in your product. If you’re selling a 99₵ eBook, there will be little interest in it, even if you’re splitting 75% of the profits. However, if you’re selling a print book for $8-$20 and splitting 75% of the profits, that may generate more interest. If you’re selling other products like eCourses, or workshops it will generate even more interest because those usually cost more and more money, means bigger profits for the content creator.

Do You Have A Marketing Plan?

Dellani
A meme I created for author Dellani Oakes

As convenient as hiring an influencer is, it doesn’t let you off the hook when it comes to promotion. You still have to plan because wishful thinking doesn’t sell books. You need a release date (or rerelease date in some cases), a good price, a social media strategy, blog posts, interviews, etc.  Yes, you still have a responsibility when promoting your own book.

Things To Consider Doing During Your Campaign:

1. Create a script for the content creator: You can be as formal or as informal as you want to be.
2. Create social media posts: If social media is part of the deal make sure to supply them with the info they need like; links, prices, sales dates, etc.
3. Create: Graphics such as memes.
4. Hold a giveaway or contest on your site.
5. When you get those people to your site, make sure you get them to sign up for your newsletter. You do have one right?
If all goes well, you’ll get a few sales and a few new subscribers for future promotions.

The Takeaway

Yes, affiliate marketing can be hard work no matter which side you’re approaching it from. It takes study, planning and not to mention, guts to succeed at this. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t remind you that affiliate marketing isn’t a get rich scheme. Like with most things, it takes time to learn and it takes time to build trust with advertisers and content creators.

Affiliate marketing isn’t just profitable monetarily but also in the sense of platform building. If you want to make a career as an author, your thoughts should be more on the long term rather than on the next sale. But that’s another post for another day…

If you missed the other 3 parts here they are listed below in order:

Affiliate Marketing for Indie Authors Part 2: Rules & Expectations

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Pic via Pexels

Last week, I talked about the basics of affiliate marketing and today, I’ll be discussing the steps a indie author can take for a successful and hopefully, a stress free campaign.

When selling someone’s product, it’s obvious you should put as much effort into it as if it were your own product. That means learning the rules and laws concerning selling products, yes, there are rules and if you don’t follow them there could be serious consequences. We’re talking about being banned as well as getting fined by the government in extreme cases.

Also, I discuss why you need not only a large following but an engaged one to sell anything. So let’s get started…

Rule #1: If They Don’t Make Money, You Don’t Make Money!

Affiliate marketing shouldn’t be something taken lightly. If your campaign is a disaster, you could lose long term opportunities. That means future advertisers won’t touch your platform with a 10 foot pole. Your goal should be to make the advertisers some money. That’s why it’s important to be choosey as to which products you’ll endorse. This is a job and not a get rich quick scheme so treat it like you would any professional project.

Rule #2: Platform Is Vital

In order to get sales, you’ll need to get a significantly large audience. Marketers know for a fact that a website needs a large number of visitors before someone converts (clicks buy). It’s not unusual for a large company to require bloggers have an audience of at least 10,000 unique visitors per month before they will consider doing business with them. Keep in mind they will require you prove your stats through a service like Google Analytics or Clicky.

With social media it’s worse, you not only need a large following but an engaged one before you can make a conversion. That means conversations where you’re not talking to yourself and lots of likes on your posts.  This is important because your sales will be tracked with a special link. If you don’t make any money, it’s unlikely you’ll get another shot with that advertiser.  So there’s no faking it till you make it here.

Rule #3: Share Those Links

If you are going to promote a product be sure to use those affiliate links everywhere. However just be sure not to spam people and don’t be too salesy. Also, if you’re a traditionally published or indie author, you can make more money promoting your own book so why not share those links on your blog, and social media accounts? Amazon and most retailers make that possible now.

Rule #4: Know the Law

Recently, reality television star Kim Kardashian, got in hot water with the FDA when she promoted an antinausea drug for pregnant women on her Instagram account. Apparently, the drug company she was affiliated with didn’t list the correct warnings by failing to mention the drug was never approved for pregnant women with a severe type of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum. Sadly, that fact wasn’t addressed in Kim’s post and because of that, it had to be taken down. Though this wasn’t Ms. Kardashian’s fault, it was still a faux-pas that could have been avoided. If you’re promoting prescription drugs, alcohol, adult products, or cigarettes, you need to know what the laws are concerning those products.

Another important law to remember, if you live in the U.S., is that you need to let others know you’re a paid affiliate if not, you can be fined by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). There is a PDF file you can download if you want to know more.

Rule #5: Know The Rules

As if that wasn’t enough, they are also the rules concerning social media sites like Facebook, who forbid selling anything on personal accounts. You must have a business or a fan page for that. Also keep in mind that Facebook likes to lockdown accounts that post nudity or sexually suggestive images. So if you’re selling erotic books, be careful about the images you’re posting. If in doubt, go to Facebook’s community standards post and to their ad policies.

Every social media site from Pinterest to Youtube has its own rules and it’s your responsibility to find out what those rules are least you find yourself locked out of your own account.

Now if all this has you scared, be assured that most affiliate marketing campaigns go off without a hitch. However you do need to be educated about what’s expected of you.

Rule #6: Know Where To Look For Legit Opportunities

Did you know there are actually two ways to get affiliate deals?  Many entrepreneurs look for companies with large marketing budgets and directly pitch them.  The second way is through an affiliate website which is kind of like a dating service for affiliates and advertisers. However be warned, many sites take a percentage of all sales made through them. This is why pitching direct is the way to go for some business owners.  The percentages vary from site to site so be sure to read any contracts or agreements before signing. Here are the more popular sites used by bloggers and website owners.

  • Social Fabric
  • Tap Influence
  • Flex Offers
  • eJunkie
  • Link Vehicle
  • BlogHer
  • SITS Girls
  • Sponsored Tweets
  • CJ Affiliate
  • Influence Central (accepts small blogs)
  • Weave Made (small blogs)
  • IZEA (small blogs)

These are just some of the sites you should investigate if you are considering affiliate marketing.  There are more targeted ways for indie authors to approach affiliate marketing and that’s  something I’ll address next week in part 3 of this series.   Yes, there’s a part three because as you may have already guessed, this is a complicated subject. o.O

If you missed last week’s post check it out here.

Affiliate Marketing For Indie Authors Part 1: The Basics

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Pic via Pexels

These days it seems as though everyone’s hustling products, from celebrities, athletes, and even politicians.  Usually, they can be found promoting anything from beauty products to prescription meds, often serving as an affiliate of a company or of several companies.  Before I go on, let me explain what an affiliate does: An affiliate is a person or entity chosen to promote services or products on behalf of a business.  Affiliates are usually given a percentage of any sale made through them.

There is serious money to be made these days selling products to your online audience.  And today, an indie author can approach affiliate marketing in two ways first, as an affiliate (also known as a content creator), and as an advertiser.

Now I have to be honest, most indie authors say that the earnings they make from affiliate marketing can barely cover their Netflix subscription.  On the other hand, there are few who are making thousands from affiliate marketing.  It all depends on what you sell and the deal you make.

Popular Things Authors Sell and Promote

  1. Books; digital, audio and print versions.
  2. Writing or editing software.
  3. Learning eCourses.
  4. Subscription services like; Audible or Amazon Prime.
  5. Book related swag like; T-shirts, posters and tote bags.
  6. Book cover design services.
  7. Editing services.
  8. Conference or workshop tickets.

Before You Start

Before you go signing up for all the affiliate programs available, please be careful and realistic as to what you are most comfortable promoting. If you’re a religious person, maybe signing up with Harlequin (a romance publisher) isn’t the best idea. Keep in mind, if you don’t like or understand a product, this affiliate experience will most likely end in a disaster.
Another thing to seriously consider is your audience’s tolerance for promotion. When your readers sign up for your blog or liked your social media page, they are signing up to connect with YOU not your benefactor. It is possible that if you promote too much, your audience may get turned off by it and leave.

You Don’t Have To Sell Your Soul

As a content creator, it is up to you as to who you’ll work with and what products you’ll promote. You can always say no to a deal especially, if the terms are unreasonable or pathetic. As I said before, it’s all about what you’re comfortable with.

What’s Expected

It’s not uncommon for a company to want a content creator to write an article or review about their product. This can mean anything from a Youtube video or a blog post. And as the content creator, you’ll have to act natural as well as keep the dialog organic.

Spaces You Can Rent To An Advertiser

  • Social Media
  • Blogs
  • Newsletters (Check the rules, Amazon doesn’t allow affiliate links in emails while other sites do.)
  • Podcasts

Be warned that some companies might give you a script that you’ll be required to read from or post on your blog.  Usually, these scripts consist of the sales copy, a call to action and links to the product. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are companies who will give you the freedom to sell a product anyway you see fit.

Know Who You’re Selling To

The only way for this affiliate marketing thing to work is to make sure that you’re selling to the right crowd. For example, you can’t sell wheat bread to an audience of Celiacs. I mean you could, but I doubt they would appreciate you for it. So you need to know your audience before you can sell them ANYTHING. Hopefully, you’ve gotten to know your audience through your analytics, the comment section of your blog or through random polls. If you haven’t done this, you had better get started. The most common questions content creators ask their audiences are;

  1. What are you struggling with? (Find a product that can help them with their problems.)
  2. What are your favorite books or products? (Try pitching that publisher/ company for an affiliate opportunity.)
  3. What products do you hate? (Avoid them like the plague.)
  4. What are your goals? (Find a product to help them reach their goals.)

If you can get your audience to answer some of these questions, you’ll have a pretty good idea as to which products to sell and which ones to avoid.

Well there you have it, tune in next week where I’ll discuss the requirements for successful affiliate marketing.

You can check out Part 2 here: Affiliate Marketing for Indie Authors Part 2.

Booktube for Indie Authors

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Pic via Pixabay

Youtube isn’t the first site that comes to mind when authors go looking for reviews but maybe it should be. When I published my book in 2012, there weren’t that many people on Youtube who reviewed books and those that did, didn’t review indie books. In fact, some of them didn’t even know what an indie book was. Ouch! Fast forward to 2015 and Youtubers are a force to be reckoned with, they endorse everything from cosmetics, clothes, and yes, even books. Several Youtubers have even become millionaires and in response Forbes created a list of the wealthiest Youtubers.  Several of these channels have a subscriber base of millions which means they often reach more viewers than some popular television shows!  In fact, corporate America is taking notice and getting their products and services in front of this untapped market.  Sure ads are okay, but to get an influencer to endorse your business is gold and gives your product credibility.

Same thing goes with a book, if you can get a Booktuber (a person who reviews books on Youtube) to give the thumbs up on your book, that can be a powerful endorsement.  But before I go on, I should give a few facts…

The Rundown On Youtube

Youtube claims over 1 billion users reaching more young people (18-49 year olds) than cable television. Also, the hours spent on the site has gone up 60% in the past 2 years.  Youtube is so powerful that many book marketers have recommended authors create their own channels or the very least, create a book trailer for promotional purposes.

An author who took the plunge and created his own channel was bestselling author John Green, who along with his brother Hank, created Vlog Brothers, a channel where they discuss all things nerdy.  Since its launch in 2007, Vlog Brothers has amassed 2.6 million subscribers.  Not bad for an author, and his brother, huh?

¿BookTube en Español?

For those who doubt that Youtube could provide any opportunity for the indie book movement, doubt no more. The Booktuber phenomenon has gotten so strong that it’s gone global for instance, while I was researching for this post, I stumbled across several Booktube channels in Spanish. Amazingly, I got to watch John Green being interviewed in Spanglish. (Spanish & English) I loved it!

In case you have a book in Spanish and you’d like to get it reviewed, here are a few channels to check out:

Booktubers Who Review Indie Books

Before I go on, I need to give the disclaimer and remind you that many of these vloggers are busy, and have normal lives so they can’t review ever single book that is pitched to them. Also keep in mind, you are competing with other authors so if they say no, don’t take it personally.

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t state the obvious, but be sure to read the guidelines in a Booktuber’s “about” tab before pitching. Trust me there’s nothing worse than getting an unsolicited email from someone who never bothered to learn your name or the genre you review.

How To Find More BookTubers

If you want to find someone on Youtube who reviews books in your genre, it’s best to use the search engine. Try to use key phrases like; reviews, book recommendations, book hauls, book swag and of course, your genre. Use them in combination for maximum results:

  • YA Book Reviews
  • Book Hauls
  • Book Swag
  • Romance Novel Recommendation
  • Booktube

Helpful Tip: Many of the top Booktubers are inundated with requests so try to target a Booktuber with a smaller audience.

In Closing

I believe the Booktuber phenomenon will evolve giving indie authors a greater chance at exposure. Who knows, maybe you will be the one who builds the Youtube channel solely for indie books? As far as I can tell there isn’t anyone doing that right now and that’s a shame but that’s another post for another day.

Pinterest for Authors: Cool People & Boards to Follow

Not long ago, I wrote an article about Pinterest but never really got into the nitty gritty because I was new to the platform and had no clue what to do on there. Recently, I’ve been finding it easier and more fun to use than Facebook or Twitter. There aren’t that many annoying restraints or constant algorithm changes—yet! Also, I can save time on all my social media accounts by sharing interesting pins to Facebook, Google or Instagram, sites that all favor images.

So let’s start today by using the search engine to find cool people and boards.

Search Terms That Could be Useful

In a Pinterest search you will find several search options which can confuse some people. There’s a small almost unnoticable tab that you can click on where a list of  all of the most popular subjects on Pinterest pop up. Pinterest 2For the sake of this post, we’re just going to go to Film, Music & Books where you’ll find this: Pinterest Basic Search As you can see there are a whole lot of irrelevant non-book related things that were pulled up from this search.  However, you can narrow that search by typing something more specific like: Book Lovers. 

When you do that you will be presented with the All Pins tab as well as the, Your Pins, Pinners and finally, Boards. If you’re looking for something or someone specific, Pinners or Boards are what you want to choose.  Also, if you look toward the top of the page you’ll see several other tabs relating to the words (topic) you have searched. Pinterest Search Techniques If you’re not careful, you can spend hours on Pinterest as I sometimes find myself doing.  So here are a few search terms that will speed up your search.

Tip: You can sign up for Pinterest’s own blog which gives tips and tricks on how to navigate the site.

Boards with Writing Tips

If you’re constantly looking to improve your craft or even looking to challenge yourself as a writer, then Pinterest has you covered. Here are a few boards with everything from character development tips to jokes about writing.

  • ~Writer~  is a board by Sian Rickett’s who pins good tips and half a million other pinners agree!
  •  To Write Characters by Rowena Murillo, has several interesting boards for authors filled with solid tips on the psychology of characters.
  • Writing Tips from Hazell Longuet, has everything from grammar to productivity.
  • Character Personality Traits is a board by yours truly, where I post about personality traits and psychological disorders.
  • Write ✏️✏️✏️ D.i.a.n.a. G.u.n.d.e.l.a.c.h. has tips and jokes.

Boards with Publishing Tips

What indie author doesn’t need marketing advice these days? Here are a few boards for those of you looking for some resources.

  • Author Resources is another board by yours truly and it’s filled with everything from free books on self-publishing, to lists of book reviewers and advertisers.
  • Self-Publishing 101 is a board by Self Pub Nation and is for newbies, naturally.
  •  Book Promotion and Publicity by Your Writer Platform also has awesome pins about promotion and publishing.
  • How to Sell More Books a board from Penny Sansevieri, from the Author Marketing Experts Inc. has everything you’ve ever wanted to know about DIY Publishing.

Quotes & Funny Stuff

Want to post something inspiring or funny to your readers but have nothing to say? Then try seeking out quotes and jokes, they’re everywhere on Pinterest and some of them are unique.

Some Familiar Brands

Yes, companies feel just as pressured as we are to keep up appearances on social media.

Being True to Thyself

Like your books and website, your social media presence should be used as a business card, letting people know who you are, while your posts (pins) should show them what you can do.  This is 20% of social media, the other 80% is sharing, commenting and connecting.  Social media is not about collecting followers or faking engagement.  No one benefits from that.  When the marketing experts talk about building an author platform, they mean building a reputation.  Social media is a great place where you can be you and show the world what you’re all about.  This quote from the late Dr. Seuss says it all: