Social Media for Self-Publishers

facebookLarge publishing houses have many resources they can utilize to market a book through national book store chains, large magazines, and even television ads. As a self-published author, your options may be much more limited but that doesn’t mean you can’t still get the word out effectively and inexpensively. The internet is one of your greatest resources as it can be used for a very low cost, and often for free, to help you market your book, connect with other authors, and communicate with your fans and potential readers.

Despite the title for this section, social media should not be treated as a form of advertising. When you advertise, you have one specific goal: showcase your product in an appealing way in an attempt to get people to buy it. Ask anyone and most people will tell you they dislike advertising. So what should you use social media for? Building relationships with your readers, showcasing your knowledge, and engaging your audience.

Social media marketing takes TIME. It can take months before you feel like you’re getting anywhere with it. Don’t give up! Everyone who starts a new blog or Facebook page goes through the same thing. Stick with it and you WILL reap the benefits!

Before you start, analyze these questions:

  • What are my goals?
  • Where is your target audience? Are they active on Facebook? Twitter? A niche site that you can participate in?
  • How much time can you devote to social media?

Below are three of the most useful sites to get started with. Each one requires a slightly different strategy and used together can create a powerful network. From the following information, you can choose to do parts of it or all of it, according to the amount of time you can devote to social media and your needs.

Blogging

A blog is one of your most powerful resources as a self-publisher. If you ignore all the other marketing suggestions on this site, I strongly suggest you don’t ignore this one. A blog can be one of your most effective tools.

When you begin blogging, a good place to start is to figure out a goal. As a self-published author, your goal may be to gain more visibility for your book, to become recognized as an expert in your field, or to get your name out there as an author. Figuring out your goals will give you a direction for your blog and help keep you motivated to continue blogging.

One major benefit to having a blog is that customers can find you even if they don’t know who you are, or that you wrote a book! For instance, if you’re authored a cookbook, you might post a few of your recipes to your blog. Someone who Googles “red velvet brownie recipe” could end up on your blog, and then you have a potential new reader! Blogs are also great ways to connect with current readers, other self-published authors, and potential readers.

No matter what the subject of your book, with a little creativity you can create a relevant and engaging blog. Say you’ve written a diet and exercise book. A blog is a great way to illustrate to your customers that what you’ve written about works. Share your journey to becoming a fit person. Post healthy recipes, workouts, interviews with people who have completed your program or who have successfully changed their lives, your thoughts on current weight loss trends, or anything else you can think of. A blog allows you to create trust and credibility between you and your reader and they will be more likely to buy a book from you as they know they will be getting quality content. Even if you’re not writing non-fiction, a blog can still be one of your most important assets. You can start a blog to help others on their self-publishing journey, a personal blog chronicling your life experiences or interests, a self-help blog, or a cooking blog. The content of your blog doesn’t necessarily need to correlate to the books you’re writing; you could focus on selling yourself. The point is to help the reader feel connected to who you are as a person and want to help support you in your endeavors.

Tips for using blogs to market your book:

  • Buy a domain name. Make sure the domain name is easy to remember and easy to spell. You can set up your blog through a free site such as wordpress.com or blogger.com. Both sites make it very simple to buy a domain name and host your site for you.
  • Update your blog often, at least 2-3 times a week. If you aren’t updating with regular content, you risk losing readers who may forget about you or decide to get their content elsewhere. Create a schedule that works for you and stick to it, no matter what.
  • Make sure you have an RSS feed. Many people who read blogs organize them in a feed so that they can see many different blogs at once and are able to read your posts as soon as you hit publish. For maximum visibility, make sure your RSS feed is functional.
  • Make sure you have a readable blog design. Wordpress and Blogger both have some beautiful templates that are free to use. As a rule, dark or black text on a white or light colored background is easier to read than white text on a dark background.
  • Link to other blogs and websites. The authors of those blogs will be thankful for the recognition and may just return the favor!
  • Develop unique columns that you post weekly. Not only will this always give you something to blog about, but it could become something you are known for in the blogging world!
  • Be sure to leave comments on other blogs whose content you find useful or relevant.
  • Guest post on blogs and ask relevant bloggers to guest post on yours. This helps make their readers aware of you and vice versa.

Facebook

With millions of users and growing, Facebook is a great way to connect with potential readers and help spread the word about your book.

The first step is to set up a Fan Page. It’s important to separate your personal Facebook page from your fan page. People who “like” your page are expecting to see some content relating to your book and by liking your page, they are essentially saying they’re ok with that. That doesn’t mean you should spam people who like your page with links to buy your book. That’s a quick way to get someone to unlike your page. Always keep in mind that social media is about creating relationships with people who have similar interests as you. Be sure to like other pages that are relevant to your topic and participate in those with thoughtful discussion as well.

Getting people to like your page requires some creativity. You can offer an incentive—such as a free copy of your eBook for liking your page, suggest your page to friends, promote your page in more traditional ways (put a link on business cards and other promotional material), and cross promote your Facebook page with your twitter page and blog. There are many ways to get people engaged, so long as you’re friendly, offer excellent and relevant content, and use a bit of time and effort.

Tips for marketing your book with Facebook:

  • Buy a domain name. Make sure the domain name is easy to remember and easy to spell. You can set up your blog through a free site such as wordpress.com or blogger.com. Both sites make it very simple to buy a domain name and host your site for you.
  • Don’t use your personal Facebook page to bombard your friends with messages about your books. Every couple of weeks you can update your status and remind people to “like” the fan page you set up. Then through your fan page you can talk more about your book.
  • Share things that you find funny or useful. Do keep in mind this is a business page, so make sure anything you post is relevant to your business and tasteful.
  • Try not to make selling your book the main focus of your Facebook page. Use the 80/20 rule: 80% of the content you post should be useful to the people who “liked” your page, while the other 20% can be used to promote yourself and/or your book. Figure out why your readers are following you and what information can be most useful to them and post about it.
  • You need to give people a reason to “like” you on Facebook. Run a promotion. Give away digital copies of your book to each person that signs up. Be creative! You can also pay Facebook to promote your page to people with similar interests.
  • Respond to your fans. Once you have the content set up and your fans start liking the page and writing responses to the things you post, be sure to write back! Let them know you’re paying attention and that you appreciate their input.
  • Be sure to get your own Facebook URL that you can use on any printed materials you may have. Facebook allows you to customize your URL so you can direct people to Facebook.com/YourBook.

Twitter

Twitter is an important tool for connecting with your audience and getting your name out there. Would you knock on your neighbor’s door and ask them to buy your book? Of course you wouldn’t! But it might come up in natural conversation that you’ve written a book and are selling it. If you’re on good terms with your neighbor, he might be inclined to check it out.

Twitter is no different. People use twitter to connect with interesting people and talk about their day. Think of all the users on twitter as new neighbors that you haven’t met yet. You’re goal is to meet them, get to know them, and let them get to know you. Twitter should be used more as a way of getting your name out there. That’s not to say that you can never ever mention your book. You just need to be creative about it. Give people a reason to check it out.

Be sure to spend some time building your content before you begin following other Twitter users. To other users, it can look bad when you are following a large number of people, but have few followers. If you spend some time adding relevant and interesting content, some of those people you follow will gladly follow you as well!

Tips for using Twitter to market your book:

  • Search for trending topics that are relevant to your book and utilize them.
  • Communicate with your followers. Twitter is all about conversation. Use it to get closer to your readers.
  • Twitter, like Facebook, is a great place to host giveaways, conduct polls, and get feedback from your readers.
  • Follow relevant users, both related to your book topics as well as other self-published authors.
  • Be interesting! Give people a reason to follow you. If you’ve never used twitter, spend some time looking at what other people are saying. Take note of what catches your eye.
  • Do not use your personal account. Make a separate account that you can link to your Facebook and blog.
  • Offer freebies and specials through twitter. For instance, you could host a monthly giveaway for a free eBook.
  • Use an eye-catching avatar that can only be associated with you. A striking photograph of yourself, your book cover art, or a photo you took are all great. Make sure it’s unique and then use it throughout every social media platform you use.
  • As with any social media platform, do not spam. Sending constant messages with links to where to buy your book is considered spam and will hurt your reputation. Work on building relationships with people and having conversations.
  • Get feedback and engage your readers. Post a chapter of your book on twitter and ask for people’s thoughts. This is a much more subtle way to advertise (and a great way to find out if you need to change anything!).
  • Search twitter and answer questions, or offer your opinion if it’s relevant. Be helpful and friendly. Help out other self-published authors.

Other resources

Here is a great resource to using Twitter for social media marketing. I suggest you read the entire thing before you begin. It will be very worth your time. http://www.copyblogger.com/ultimate-twitter/

Goodreads

Goodreads.com is a place where readers get together to discover and discuss books and is an excellent community to get involved in. You can create discussions about books, create a virtual book club, and even share your own writing. You can also set up your profile with a link to your website, blog or Facebook page. Goodreads is made up of people who are passionate about books; many users blog about books, write lengthy reviews, and love to spend time discussing books with other people.

Once you join, a good approach would be to spend some time writing well thought-out reviews on some books in the genre of books that you’re hoping to sell. This will help you gain some credibility with potential readers and help you connect with people who may be interested in the book you wrote.

Goodreads is far more community-oriented than the other suggestions on this page and definitely not a place to try to push your book on people. As with all social media, the point is to get to know people, get your name out there, and make connections.

Tips for using Goodreads to market your book:

  • Some authors have been known to “friend” hundreds of people while having only their own book on their bookshelf and don’t otherwise participate in the community. Users can see right through this behavior and they don’t appreciate it.
  • There are many active authors on Goodreads. Connect with them as well as your readers and help each other out.
  • Before you jump in, spend some time reading reviews and getting a feel for the community. Figure out how you can fit in to it.

Other Social Media Avenues

Everyday more and more social media sites pop up. Below are some other suggestions that you may think about incorporating. A word of warning: don’t try to do them all! Figure out how much time you can devote to social media and which sites you feel are best for you and focus just on those. You might also consider searching for niche communities related to your genre (for instance, if you write about travel, there are many travel sites you can get involved in).

  • social-mediaPinterest is an online pin board where users share websites and photos. Topics range from fitness to fashion to books.
  • social-mediaTumblr is a micro-blogging service that allows you to post videos, music, photos and text and reblog other users content.
  • social-mediaGoogle+ is a social site similar to Facebook. This is a good site to keep an eye on as it grows.
  • social-mediaLinkedIn is a popular site used for professional networking.

Other book communities:

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