Lately it is becoming more and more common place for agents and publishers to assess an author’s platform before signing them. That means they are looking for authors who can reach the readers they are targeting. In fact at the Digital Book World Conference & Expo in 2017, representatives from Hachette and Perseus admitted they are checking out author platforms and social media engagement then reporting those findings at their acquisitions meetings. 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?
While doing research for my upcoming book Social Media Hacks for Authors, I came across several resources, in the form of courses and tutorials that can help authors who struggle with social media. And here’s the plus, many of these resources are available for free directly from the social media sites themselves! I understand that many authors can’t afford the more expensive social media courses so I went on a mission to find the help we all need for free or at the very least, real cheap.
Below I list several resources and no, I’m not affiliated with any of the services or products mentioned.
Direct From The Horse’s Mouth
Did you know that Facebook has its own set of video tutorials that cover everything from advertising to analytics? Twitter, also has a Skillshare video featuring their marketing manager Sandra Vega and you can view it for free. Below I list the top 7 social media sites in the English speaking world.
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.
Udemy Social Media Marketing courses (they also have paid ones ranging from $90-$200 but I only linked to the free ones)
Coursera Free for 7 days then $49 per month after.
Tip: Take advantage of the free material and later, if you feel like taking a more targeted course like Mark Dawson’s Advertising for Authors then go for it.
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 is the key to a long-term career and isn’t that what we all want?
Most indie authors are interested in finding out, how to get readers. In fact, there are webinars, books and businesses that are devoted to that very subject. However, not many of us ask the more important question like: What do we do with them once we got them? We’re so focused on bumping up our email subscribers or social media numbers that we forgot about the human aspect of our job.
As I did the research for my latest social media book, I noticed authors asking over and over again, what do I say? Honestly, there is no rule for that because it all really depends on your book and your message. Do your books have a theme or moral? If so, then your content should revolve around that.
I’ve been studying some of the indie elite, looking at their social media pages and even their newsletters and came up with a few tips that will work for those authors who want to not only get fans but keep them long term.
Idea #1: Plan Ahead
Many social media influencers and newsletter writers often plan months in advance what they’ll post. One Instagrammer /model confessed to using a mood boardto integrate certain colors into her feed to create the perfect aesthetic effect. I don’t recommend that unless color or fashion is at the top of your agenda but thinking about what you’ll say and sharing things on that topic keeps your message consistent. For example, if you’re writing about 1940’s gangsters, then your social media posts should consist of posts about 1970’s fashion. Your readers didn’t sign up for that.
Idea #2: Express Gratitude
When readers sign up for bestselling author, Bella Andres’ newsletter in the first auto responder, she thanks readers for their support saying, “Hello! First and foremost, I want to thank you for reading my books! I’m beyond grateful that I get to dream up and write romantic stories every day—and it’s all because of you.” If I were one of her readers, I would’ve converted to fan status after that interaction. I mean who doesn’t like heartfelt appreciation?
Idea #3: Be Sincere
In the summer of 2016, a social media influencer publicly quit Instagram because of what she called, “contrived perfection made to get attention.” She publicly confessed to having photo shoots for her social media account just to make herself look perfect in all her posts. She even discussed fake relationships on Instagram. In essence she confessed to being a fraud. Don’t fall into that trap, it’s one thing to edit wrinkles from a selfie and another to have a completely fake life. Remember: You don’t have to create a persona or a character of yourself. The top celebrities on social media hire professional photographers all the time but authors don’t need to because we have an actual story to tell. They on the other hand, can only appear interesting.
Idea #4: Hold Real Discussions
I’ve seen so many authors fail at this and it’s because we haven’t really learned the art of conversation. You know the saying, “People only listen with the intent to respond, not to understand?” That’s exactly what I see authors doing, they’ll ask a question and answer it or they’ll try to tell their followers what to think. That is not a discussion, it’s just them standing on their soapbox. If you want examples of good reader-author conversations head on over to Indie Author & Book Blogs’ Facebook page.
*You have to be logged in to see the post.*
Here are a few tips about how to get a conversation started:
Give facts about a subject you know a lot about.
Hold open confessions.
Ask an open-ended questions like; Who are the most talented writers of our century?, How do you see (insert character’s name) life unfolding?, What should be addressed in the next book?
Hold a Q&A
Share a quote from your book on an eye-catching pic.
Record a video
Do cover reveals
Idea #5: Reward Your Subscribers
Many marketers say that the fewer questions you ask, the higher your conversion rates (for your newsletter) will be. However when I signed up for Stephen King’s newsletter in 2008, I was surprised to receive a birthday greeting on my actual birthday. Back then when you signed up, you were asked for your name as well as your birthday. Needless to say, I thought a birthday greeting was super cool but personally, I would’ve taken it a step further and offered a coupon code or a free gift to my readers. Why not one-up the man? 😛 Just explain why you’re asking and allow readers the option of skipping the question.
Idea #6: Cross Promote
Long ago, I was listening to a podcast (the name of it escapes me) and an author was asked if she was afraid of the competitiveness of the market. Her answer was simple, “I don’t see other authors as competition but as colleagues.” That was the most brilliant way to answer the question and since we indie authors are on our own, we need to support each other when we can. Interview other authors in your genre and start the good Karma train rolling. Who knows maybe one day they’ll interview or promote you.
This could be a lot of fun for readers who will be introduced to a new author, and it gives you content to use for social media, newsletters, and blogs.
I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t flip the script and talk about what happens when readers reach out to authors only to get repulsed by the response. Case in point, just a few months ago, S.E. Hinton, author of the Outsiders, got into a Twitter scuffle with a teenager when asked about the sexuality of one of her characters. Anyway, Hinton came off looking a bit homophobic and I’m sure she’s not, but the question could have been handled a lot better. Note to authors: If someone asks if one of your characters is gay or transgender, a simple yes or no will suffice.
Socializing isn’t necessarily complicated if you plan ahead. When interacting with readers make sure you’re open to hearing them. You don’t have to understand exactly where they’re coming from but it would be nice if you simply acknowledged their responses. Your readers will thank you later and who knows they may even start conversations with you.
When I first started out in 2007, many of the marketing gurus told writers that a website was optional. Some of them were telling writers that Facebook or LinkedIn were more than enough for a web presence. But a lot has happened since then and with social media sites charging for visibility, it’s nearly impossible to reach an audience organically. Also, there’s the control issue, does a business owner (you) really want a middleman controlling when and if you have access to your readers? So today the advice is to get people FROM social media on to your newsletter or website.
This doesn’t mean abandon social media completely, what they mean is have other avenues that you can rely on to get your message out there like podcasts, blogs and of course newsletters. If you can only reach your readers via Facebook then you might want to take things to the next level and start branching out.
I can already hear you all asking: why are we doing all this work? It’s hard and at times tedious, well I’m glad you asked…
Reason 1: Information Gathering
I know many authors are blogging and on social media believing they’re there to build a massive platform (whatever that means to them) but that’s not exactly why. The truth is you’re reaching out to readers because you need to learn from them. And by the way, social media is a great place to mine data from customers (readers). As you put your life and thoughts on display, you should be exchanging information with your readers, so try asking them questions (open ended ones) such as:
What authors are you reading?
Name one personal pet peeve you have about modern books?
Who are the most influential authors today?
What kind of stories do we need to see more of?
Which book character deserves closure and why?
Author H.M. Ward once discussed meeting with a New York publisher and when she began talking about her demographic, she was astonished when one of the executives asked her, “How do you know this?” Well duh, she monitors her social media and newsletter analytics. By the way, she has over 50,000 subscribers on her email list and over 59,000 Facebook fans.
If you feel like you don’t know what to say, study the indie authors who are good at connecting with their readers people like; Mark Dawson, Bella Andre, Adam Croft and Marie Force. Look at their social media accounts and subscribe to their newsletters and see what they’re doing right.
Reason 2: Showing Your Expertise
This is particularly for nonfiction authors who need to show their knowledge of a given subject. A platform gives you a non-censored channel that you can use to educate or inspire. It also gives you an opportunity to connect with other thought leaders in your field.
Reason 3: Promotion… Of Others
It goes without saying that promotion is one of the main reasons authors build a platform. However your books aren’t the only thing you can promote, you can promote other authors, there are tons of them out there who have little to no support, and a shout-out or friendly word never hurt anyone. Another good idea is to promote your readers, these are the people who should get regular shout-outs. Thank them for their positive reviews and support.
Reason 4: All The Cool Publishers Are Doing It!
Over the past few years, several major publishers like Penguin Random, Guardian Books and even Harlequin have started their own podcasts. Those same companies also have newsletters and social media sites even though they’re already household names. Despite what a lot of authors think, they’ve been watching indie authors closely and have been taking notes. This means we indies need to step up our game, and that requires us to learn from each other.
In closing, if you learned anything I hope it was that you can’t depend on anyone to reach and build your audience. This is your job no matter if you’re a traditionally published author or an indie. It’s your job to know who your readers are and what they want. This is what a platform is really about, it’s not about stats or image, it’s about connecting and building relationships, real ones that will endure your entire career.
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. For the sake of this post, we’re just going to go to Film, Music & Books where you’ll find this: 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 Pinstab 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. 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.
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 notabout 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:
I was going to post this separately but since it’s relevant to the other two articles on social media services, I’m extending this series. Today, I want to discuss how to research and analyze social media marketing services. Don’t worry, I won’t get too technical. This is important if you want to discern which marketing strategies have a real chance of working for you. As I learned while writing this series, information isn’t always readily available. Sometimes, you will have to dig for what you need to know. But you’re a writer, and already used to that sort of thing, right? So here’s how to find out if a social media service is legit…
Look At Their Numbers
If you’re hiring a social media service it would be rather important to look at their social media accounts and ask yourself the following questions:
Do they have more followers than me?
Are they promoting books to readers?
Do their posts have more interaction than mine?
If you answer no to any of these questions, you should consider moving on. You don’t have the time or money to throw away on a service that isn’t going to help you promote your books. You probably already have a social media presence that’s either small or nonexistent, so there’s no need to add a zero to your marketing equation.
Getting To Know Them
Once you’ve found out if their following is on the up and up, it’s time to go deep and start analyzing their followers. You need to be sure these accounts are real. Granted, there are going to be some spammers and fakery but if their Twitter following is more than 20% fake, this is a huge problem. Let’s put that into perspective, if a promotional site claims to have 50,000 followers but 20% are fake, that means 10,000 of their followers are worthless. Can you afford to pay for that? Fortunately, there are several apps that can help you analyze someone’s Twitter account.
Fakers.StatusPeople.com (You have to allow the app to access your account first before plugging in anyone else’s Twitter handle)
Sadly for Facebook, things aren’t so easy I know, shocking right? On Facebook, you’ll have to go to a person’s page and click on “likes” in order see the countries from which these likes are coming from. If they all come from places in Southeast Asia, they’re most likely fake. Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East are renown for their online scams as well as their spam but they’re also a hot bed for like farms which you can read about here.
How Do You Know If A Service Has Gotten Any Traction?
Okay, so you finally found a promotional service that has legitimate followers congratulations, however, you’re still not done. Before you submit your tweet, post or excerpt, you’ll need a link to wherever your book is sold. When you grab that URL, I would suggest you get a trackable link. This is important if you want to know for sure if a service is actually working for you. Trackable links can be found at:
These sites not only shorten your URLs but track them as well. This means you’ll know exactly how many people clicked on your promo and when. It’s a win-win! In the beginning, you’ll want to monitor any services your use whether it’s advertising or social media blasts. It would also be wise to schedule different campaigns on separate days just to keep things easier to track.
Helpful Tip: If you haven’t gone exclusive with Amazon’s KDP Select, I’d advise linking to various book sellers like; Kobo, Barnes & Noble, or even Google Play. This also keeps things easier to track and it helps promote your book across all seller platforms.
Checking Sales Rank
I know this is obvious but it must be pointed out that you need to keep track of your sales during your promotional campaigns. You have to know which services are giving you the best ROI and which ones are duds. This will save you time and money the next time you promote your next book. So there you have it, if you have any tips on how to research and analyze a social media promoter, let me know in the comments section.
Also, if you didn’t check out the previous 2 posts, what are you waiting for?
Should Indie Authors Use Social Media Services to Promote Books? Part 1:
Should Indie Authors Use Social Media Services to Promote Books? Part 2
Last week, I discussed social media services and today, I’ll talk about services geared specifically towards authors. Since social media is becoming more and more of a pay to play kind of environment, many authors are either abandoning their accounts, or moving on to other sites. This is a mistake. Social media is still useful, I talked about it before in, “How to Approach & Pitch Social Media Influencers.” However, for those who simply lack social grace, there are services which will retweet/like your posts, hold Twitter discussions, and even build your community for you. Here are just a few of the more popular ones. P.S. I am in no way affiliated with the services mentioned.
Here, you share your book’s excerpts on their website and Bublish tweets the excerpt to their followers. Bublish also promises to optimize excerpts with keywords and metadata. This is something you can easily do yourself which I discussed in this post.
I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t discuss the major problem with their website, you see, it gets poor traffic. My blog almost has the same Alexa ranking as this site and lately, my blog gets around 60-90 views daily. Also, upon inspecting their Facebook page, and their Twitter feed, I saw lots of posts marketed towards authors, not readers. However, if you must try it, they have a free trial period but after that, it’s $9.99 a month.
A.K.A. (BookTweetingService.com) this company claims that their followers are real and actually block spammers, as well as fake accounts. They even go through the trouble of showing their stats here while slamming some of their competition. I found one author who used the service but never broke even for her nonfiction book. To be fair, this was not the experience of another author.
If you want to test it out yourself, their rates start at $29, for 1 day of tweets, and go up to $125, for 5 days of tweets.
Book Tweeter is a well known social media service that claims a following of over 480,000 of both readers and writers over 5 different accounts. Their services start at $19 for 1 day, (60 tweets) to $75 for 7 days (300 tweets). They do not accept erotica or books with hate speech and reserve the right to reject any book for promotion. P.S. Sometimes they have sales so sign up for their newsletter and keep your eyes peeled for coupon codes (Scroll to the near bottom).
Book Bear is a bare bones social media promotion site that offers packages from $10 for one post/tweet to $100 for a 1 post/tweet per day for 5 days promo.
Their Facebook page is a ghost town but their Twitter feed is a different story. Their Twitter account has 116,000 and a little activity.
Masquerade Tours is a blog touring service but they also offer several social media services including Twitter blasts, and a live Twitter chat featuring you and your book. A simple Twitter blast to their 50,000 followers will run you about $40 and the Twitter chat will require prizes and swag (from the author) and runs about $75 (minimum) but the experience can be customized so prices can go up.
Pump Up Your Book is a public relations service that specializes in setting up virtual book tours, creating book trailers, handling social media blasts as well as website design. Their social media blasts offers cover reveals, blog posts and a mention on their book tour page for about $199.
Virtual Book Tour Café offers book tours of course, but they also offer to help build your social media as well as advertising on Facebook, banners, book thongs, book reviews and a plethora of other things. It runs about $599 which is quite steep but it seems like a more comprehensive service rather than the tweet and run servicesI’ve been seeing.
Ghost tweeting has a specific service for authors. It is the perfect for those authors who don’t want to deal with social media at all. Ghost Tweeting promises to create content, post it and build your community for you. They will also create content for not just your Twitter account but also, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn pages as well. Their rates start at $295 and go up to $1,295.
For many including myself, social media doesn’t work when it comes to promoting books and never really did. But as I said before, if you want to go hybrid, you’re going to need a pretty sweet looking platform because agents are now Googling authors before saying yea or nay to a project. I still believe you should try to do things the old fashioned way by building relationships and networking. Influencers in charge of large reading communities are much more responsive to people they are familiar with, than those who send their middlemen. Besides, most of the prime real-estate (fan and community pages) on social media isn’t for sale.
Read the rest of the series here:
Should Indie Authors Use Social Media Services To Promote Books Part 1
Should Indie Authors Use Social Media Services To Promote Books Part 3
Several years back a few websites popped up promising to help people grow their social media accounts and even make them look popular by liking or retweeting them. Immediately, celebrities everywhere became their biggest clients by paying for fake fans, retweets and even comments, I talked about it a while back on Writer’s Weekly. Most people, myself included, considered it to be nothing more than useless vanity metrics. Anyone who knows a little about online marketing understands how easy it is to manipulate metrics.
Sadly, not everyone has been clued in and that includes those within the publishing industry but are you surprised? Believe it or not, they still think that having 5,000,000 Twitter followers actually means something. Remember just this past year, an author on Wattpad was given a six figure deal after writing 3 fan fiction stories that got over 1 billion views. So publishers love big numbers, go figure! Unfortunately for those indie authors wanting to go hybrid, (meaning self-publish as well as traditionally publish) they are going to have to grow their social media following. There’s no way around it.
What About The Indie Who Doesn’t Want To Traditionally Publish?
It often takes years to organically build a following that is both large and engaged. You can speed up the process by following and unfollowing random people or by signing up for quid-pro-quo groups online but that will never gain you true fans and that is why you’re on social media for, right? Being an indie author gives you time, but I still see some indies trying to grow their social media following in an attempt to fake it till they make it. But I digress… There are many legitimate reasons to use a social media service:
Grow your social media following—duh!
Promote your book launch or sale.
Get comments or shares for a blog post
Promoting book signings, interviews or social media events
Grow your email list
Things A Social Media Service Can’t Do For You
One important thing these services can’t offer is genuine interaction, they can’t respond to people who actually engage with this campaign. It will be completely up to you to show up and answer questions or thank people for their comments and compliments. Today, I’ll focus on social media services that promise to help broaden your reach online. Below is a list of some of the more popular services.
Thunder Clap This past year, I saw several authors in my Facebook group promoting their Thunder Clap campaigns. Basically, ThunderClap is a crowdsourcing site where people join a campaign to tweet something simultaneously, thus making it more likely to trend on Twitter. P.S. None of the authors I’ve spoken to, have reached their goals. Even the guys over at the Self-Publishing Podcast, didn’t speak too highly of it. The inherent problem with Thunder Clap is that in order to use it, you have to already have an engaged following. Also, you will have to find followers willing to allow the ThunderClap app to access their Twitter accounts in order to tweet your post. As you can imagine, this may be unacceptable to most people.
Easy Retweet Easy Retweet is a site that allows you to upload your blog or website post and members of the website will retweet you in exchange for free credits from the site. You can also purchase credits for around $2.00 for 500 credits or $60 for 80,000 credits. They also try to target these retweets by asking you to select the subject you’re tweeting about. The subjects range from tech, blogging, and of course, writing.
AdRetweet Works just like Easy Retweet and offers retweets for 7 days at $4.95 to an entire year of retweets for $89.99.
Fiverr Fiverr is an outsourcing site and often one stop shopping for lots of indie authors. Here you can hire graphic designers, copy writers and yes, even social media promoters. All this usually for under the price of $20.
Social Promotes Social Promotes offers a free exchange of retweets but you’ll have to retweet others to get the credits offered. Social Promotes also offers credits of 100 retweets for $2.00 and 1,000 retweets for $29.00. Keep in mind they have targeted and non targeted services which basically means targeted retweets will come from accounts in the U.K. Australia and the U.S. which isn’t really targeted enough for my tastes.
Professional Social Promotion Professional Social offers to grow not only your Twitter following but your Youtube, Facebook and Google Plus following as well. Their prices range for $10, for 250 Facebook likes, to $100, for 3,000 likes. Also, their social sharing which includes blasting your posts to sites like StumbleUpon, Twitter, Google Plus and Facebook runs about $10.
Round Team Although, Round Team isn’t like the other sites mentioned above, I believe I should mention it because it is becoming rather popular with authors. This is an automatic retweeting service that let’s you control who youretweet by letting you define the settings. You can choose to retweet posts with certain hashtags or even just retweet your followers. They have several plans starting at free and going up to $29.99 per month. However, keep in mind with the free service, Round Team sends out their own posts with banners and links to their website. Here’s how they look (name of author has been redacted): If you’re okay with promoting someone else’s product on your Twitter account, then the free service is right up your alley.
Although, many of these services are cheap and claim to have many followers, there’s no guarantee that any of your social media posts will be seen by actual readers. This is the critical flaw in all of these services. Unless, you go through all their accounts (which is impossible to do since many of the sites won’t reveal that info) it’ll be a shot in the dark at best. I think these services are perfect for the author who sucks at social media or just don’t want to be bothered with it. However, in order to use them effectively, you’ll have to know something about hashtags, the best times to post and how to use images to enhance posts. That’s because most of these companies only provide a basic post and run type service. So this isn’t ideal for book promotion or any sort of literary promotion. However don’t fear, because next week, I’m going to discuss social media services geared towards authors and book promotion. So stay tuned…
Read the rest of the series here:
Should Authors Use Social Media Services to Promote Books? Part 2
Should Authors Use Social Media Services to Promote Books? Part 3