Social Media Marketing for Authors
Book marketing. Those two innocuous words instill fear and loathing into the hearts of so many writers. You just want to write your books and have them sell themselves. Why do you have to tell people about it?
Well, Susan, because you do.
I know you want to write, but if your goal is to write, publish, and make money from your books, then you’re going to have to find a way to make them visible. Thousands of new titles are uploaded to Amazon every single day. Millions of books are being published every year, and no matter how good your story is, without marketing, there’s not much chance very many people will find it.
It’s no different from any other business out there. If you were selling shoes, opening a restaurant, or putting your house up for sale, then you have to tell people about it if you want anyone to give you their hard-earned dollar bills.
The Importance of Your Social Media Presence
Of course, one of the first things people think of when we talk about marketing is social media. I’m not going to tell you if you should or shouldn’t be on social media to market your books. There are many schools of thought out there—some would argue that social media doesn’t sell books. Personally, I’ve experienced the opposite, but there are several factors to consider, of course.
The first is… do you want to be on social media? If the very idea of it makes your blood run cold, then maybe consider if this is the path for you. You might actually be better off keeping that day job for now and spending money on advertising or paying book influencers instead.
If you’re saying to yourself that you don’t have extra money for those things, then I get it. But marketing will cost you something. Whether it’s time or money or a mix of both. There is no way around that. Word of mouth will only get you so far and only works if you can get your book in front of thousands… which brings us back to you and your one-person marketing show.
Choosing the Right Social Media Platforms
If you’ve decided to take the bull by the horns and dive into the world of social media to sell your books, then let’s talk about platforms. There are plenty out there and you can easily burn yourself out by trying to do too much.
If you’re brand new to social media marketing, you might want to start with one or two that appeal to you. You’re better off using a few platforms well rather than stretching yourself thin over a bunch of them.
The ones I’m going to talk about today are either really popular or the best bang for your buck.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the power of Booktok and its potential to launch author careers. It’s not just hype. A single viral video on TikTok has the potential to change the entire trajectory of your career. Which sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
Here’s the catch: making that happen is like winning the lottery. Except you have to work much, much harder to catch lightning than just buying a ticket.
Authors who do well on TikTok spend many hours a week making and posting videos. It’s kind of a “you’re all in or you’re out” proposition, and you have to weigh your time with your desire and your ROI. The good news is that you don’t have to go viral on TikTok to move the needle. Even just a steady stream of views over time can help you sell more books. Explaining how to use TikTok as an author is an entire course or post unto itself, so here are some resources you can check out:
- TikTok for Authors: https://kindlepreneur.com/tiktok/
- Self Publishing Formula’s TikTok Marketing: https://selfpublishingformula.com/tag/tiktok-marketing/
- 21 Authors to Follow on TikTok: https://insights.bookbub.com/authors-tiktok-book-promo-ideas/
- Ultimate TikTok guide for authors: https://www.writersrepublic.com/blog/ultimate-tiktok-guide-authors
If you’ve used social media in the past, then you might be a bit more familiar with Instagram. This is the place where photos reign supreme. Or they did until IG added “Reels” by trying to capitalize on the popularity of TikTok.
Recent pushback from users though has forced them to take a step back because no one came to IG looking for videos. IG is a great place to share quotes and snippets of your books, cover reveals, character art and more. It gives you more opportunity to connect with your audience than a platform like TikTok.
Obviously, Facebook is one of the most well-known social media platforms and is still the most widely used network in the world. You can engage on Facebook either as yourself, as an author page, or through an author group.
While organic reach on Facebook is virtually non-existent anymore, and its most active demographics might not be your target audience, you will need an official business page if you’d like to run advertising on either Facebook or Instagram.
In general, Twitter isn’t really the place to sell books. (Not saying it can’t happen, but the odds are low.) Twitter is one of the best places to engage with the author community, though, and that in itself can be a good marketing strategy.
While authors should never be your primary audience, what you can do is build relationships with authors in your genre and work together on promotions, newsletter swaps, and contests. Plus, it’s just nice to find some friends who understand the ups and downs of this wacky business.
Pinterest is a platform that I think gets overlooked a lot when it comes to book marketing, but I’m here to tell you from personal experience that there are readers on there.
Using their “idea pins” function, I repurpose content from my TikTok and it often gets tens of thousands of views and plenty of interaction.
In terms of conversions, Pinterest users are 3x more likely to click on a post to learn more than any other social site, and their advertising tends to be more than 2x cheaper than other social media.
It’s worth considering adding it to your social media strategy.
Developing Your Author Brand
One of the most important things you’ll want to do when considering your social media is your author brand. But this step should actually come long before you start marketing. You should be thinking about this before you ever put a word on the page. Don’t come for me.
If you want to make money at this, then you need to think about your market and your audience. Who are you writing for? Are there enough people looking for books like this?
And I’m going to add the disclaimer now that there are absolutely ways to be a breakout success by bucking trends and doing your own thing. But that is not the norm. That requires even more luck than average book marketing does, and I’m speaking generalities here.
Some things to think about when developing your content are:
- Tone, style, consistency: What kind of tone are you using? If you’re a dark romance author versus a cozy mystery author, the tone and style of your posts is probably going to be pretty different from one another. Are your posts light and upbeat or dark and mysterious? What is the mood you’re trying to create?
- Authenticity: Ideally, you want to believe in the story you’re selling. The more you believe your hype, the more other people will too. How much of yourself you want to reveal is a personal decision you need to make. This might not be as big a deal when you’re first starting out, but the more popular you get, the more that readers want from you.
- Connecting with your audience: Again, consider how you want to come across on social media. Are you going to engage with every comment and message you get? Are you going to share pieces of your personal life or keep it strictly to books? There is no right or wrong answer here, but it’s something you’ll want to consider.
One of the most important things to remember about social media is that consistency wins. You likely aren’t going to go viral overnight. Or even within many months or even years. This is a long game that requires patience and needs to be fed regularly over time.
Try to be consistent and post a certain number of times a week. You can use a scheduler to make this task easier such as:
- Hootsuite: https://hootsuite.com/
- Buffer: https://buffer.com/
- Later: https://later.com/
- Planoly: https://www.planoly.com/
- Tailwind: https://www.tailwindapp.com/
Okay, so you’ve set up your social media platforms and you’re ready to go. Now what the heck do you say? Good question. Here are some ideas:
- Quotes and snippets from published books and works in progress
- Character art
- Updates on your writing process
- News and updates
- Cover reveals
- Personal experiences
- Reviews of other books
- Book recommendations
Those are pretty high level, and it’s important to keep a few things in mind:
- What kind of content suits the platform you’re using best? On TikTok you need a video. On Facebook, you should use an image and potentially a link. Tailor your content to the platform.
- Consider how much you want to share outside of your writing. Some people like to share memes and recipes. Things about their life or even advice to other authors. All of these things can work. It depends on how you position yourself and how your audience responds. There is no right answer here, so you need to test for yourself and see what works.
- When in doubt, go and look at what other authors in your genre are doing. What posts are getting a lot of likes and engagement? Can you emulate that with your own writing?
Growing Your Following
One of the most common things people focus on when it comes to social media is the idea of “followers.” Generally, it’s considered the more followers you have, the better . And that’s kind of true, but it also isn’t really.
The far more important thing to focus on is engagement.
What you want to do is attract people who are genuinely interested in your books and your writing. Those are the only followers that matter. Going into a group of authors and asking for a “follow for follow” just to get your numbers up is literally the least effective thing you can do for your social media.
In fact, when the algorithm realizes a large percentage of your followers don’t engage with your posts (because they’re other authors who don’t actually care about your books), then it will penalize you and show them to even fewer people.
Social media growth is slow and steady, and a curated audience of 1,000 followers will always perform better than 10,000 followers who don’t care about your message.
The best way to cultivate followers is to talk about your books. Give them reasons to be interested in reading them by offering snippets and quotes. Talk about the tropes. Tell them what books yours compare to. If you have time, engage with your audience. Respond to comments and questions. If someone tags you in a post raving about your book, thank them for sharing.
Team up with other authors in your genre and cross-promote one another. Remember that readers of a specific genre want to read all the books in that genre. No one ever said to themselves, “Wow, I loved that book, I never want to read another one like it.”
Tips for Social Media
Social media is a large topic and you can find literally endless information out there. It can be easy to get overwhelmed. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Keep it simple: Choose one or two platforms to focus on. Consider what types of content you want to create. Do you hate the idea of making videos? Then stay off TikTok. Look around and see what other authors in your genre are focusing on—chances are that’s where they’ve found the readers already.
- Pay attention to your metrics: There are lots of ways to deep-dive into metrics, but when you’re starting out, look at the big picture. Are your posts getting any attention? Which ones seem to resonate better? Do more of what’s working. Is your follower count growing steadily and authentically?
- Prepare yourself for negative feedback: Eventually, you’ll get negative comments and feedback from people. Sometimes on your own posts or sometimes it’s when someone tags you in a negative review. Consider how you want to respond to these types of comments. Sometimes no response is truly the best response.
- Remember your job is writing: It can be easy to let the day-to-day management of social media get in the way of your writing. Try to limit your time spent on these tasks. Batch create content and use one of the schedulers mentioned above.
- Pay or collaborate with someone else: The “good” news is that you don’t have to be the one doing the social media. You can also tap into the many, many book influencers out there. You can find them on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and with blogs. There are thousands of them out there. Some are happy to promote your books for a fee and some will do so in exchange for free books. Search for ones who share books in your genre—those are the best ones to start with.
This article has focused on high-level stuff because we can only get so deep in one post. Now that you understand the basics, you can also look into some more in-depth courses and other resources listed below to help really bring that A-social-media-game:
- Social Media for Authors by Jane Friedman
- Social Media for Writers by Writers Digest
- Social Media Marketing for Authors and Writers by Udemy
Having said all this, you can’t market a book if you don’t actually write one. That’s where Dabble comes in. Our handy tool helps keep you organized, focused, and on task so that you can finish that book and start shouting about it to the world. Try it free for 14 days for yourself.
Book marketing. Those two innocuous words instill fear and loathing into the hearts of so many writers. You just want to write your books and have them sell themselves. Why do you have to tell people about it? Well, Susan, because you do. I know you want to write, but if your goal is to write, publish, and make money from your books, then you’re going to have to find a way to make them visible. Thousands of new titles are uploaded to Amazon every single day. Millions of books are being published every year, and no matter how good your story is, without marketing, there’s not much chance very many people will find it.
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