Selling your soul to the devil? Social media marketing for authors (part one)

Selling yourself on the social media is not quite the same as selling yourself on street corners, although at times it feels alarmingly similar. At times, it can make you feel very grubby, and no amount of showering will wash that unpleasant sensation off your skin. So why do it? And how, without selling your soul?

The why is simple: because you have to. Because no one else will do it for you. Because, as an independently published author without the backing of an agent and publisher and the resources that they can use to promote your work, all you have is your wits and your social network. Because, whether you like it or not, social networking is where it’s at. So put aside your qualms and your reservations, and all your fantasies about what life as a published author will be like. You may have written your book for a million different reasons; you may have written it for yourself. But as soon as you publish it, you’re basically saying that you want it to be read, and for that, you need readers. And you need to go out there and find them. Put aside your pride, and your insecurity. You have written a book; you have published it. Great. Now stand up for it. Put yourself, and your book, out there, and do the best for it that you can. Give it the chance to reach as many people as possible.

As for the how: by being genuine. By being yourself. By resisting the temptation to sound like everybody else. When we stumble into the world of marketing and promotion, we often fall into the trap of trying to adopt a marketing persona and the voice that goes with it. We start using stock phrases that we have never uttered before in our lives, and the too-bright or overly dramatic tones of advertising. Don’t do it. That’s not your voice, and it will always sound wrong. And, more to the point, it will make you feel wrong. That grubby feeling I mentioned before? It comes from pretending to be someone else and trawling the social media begging for scraps of attention. It’s not a good feeling.

If you believe in the book you’ve written, there is no shame in backing it up. But do it in your own way, in your own words, and stay true to who you are. Treat the social media as a tool for giving your work the exposure it deserves: you can put your soul into it without selling it to anyone. In fact, you have to put your soul into it and risk making a fool of yourself. If you’re not prepared to do that, you might as well give up right now. But if you take the chance, you can’t go wrong. If you’re genuine, you will attract the right people who will happily support you, and that – regardless of how many books you sell – feels good. If you stand by your work, with honesty and modesty and pride, it will always feel good.

Are you ready to take on the social media? Read on for a few insights I’ve stumbled upon in my own journey of shameless self-promotion.

Social media marketing for authors, part one: facebook

In terms of social media marketing, facebook is non-negotiable. By all accounts, this is where it all happens: facebook is becoming less of a social networking site and more of an advertising platform, and an excellent tool for promoting your work, if you’re prepared to put in the time and effort and learn how to use it.

Through months of trial and error, I have found that a combination of my personal account and professional facebook page works best. You may arguably want to keep your personal profile separate from your professional presence but, on the other hand, many of your early readers will be people who already know you and care about what you’re doing and who will go out of their way to support you and help spread the word about your book. They will be your launchpad: the place to start. I used to say I don’t care if people like me, as long as they read my work – but it doesn’t quite work that way. If people like you – if they’re interested in your story – they’re much more likely to support your work.

Writers have gotten away with being socially challenged, obnoxious arseholes for a long time – it was practically a requirement, but in this age of independent publishing we can no longer get away with that, if we want our books to sell. We need to connect with our audience, build relationships, so that we can convert them into readers and potential PR agents who will promote our work to their own networks. And though a professional page is an essential and very effective tool, it can be faceless and even intimidating. Opening up your personal profile makes you more approachable, as people know they’re interacting with you directly.

What I tend to do is create posts that I initially publish on my author page, and then share on my personal profile a little later. That way, I reach as many of my followers and contacts as possible, and also subtly advertise my author page to friends who haven’t joined it yet. I make all my posts public so that they can be shared without restrictions, and tag friends and other pages where appropriate, as that gives my posts more exposure. I also stay involved with all of my posts, by replying to comments, thanking people for mentions and shares, and responding to all messages received through my author page. And it works: slowly but steadily, I am building a following of people who are, by and large, genuinely interested in my work and the story behind it. Not all of them will buy my book, but some of them will: enough to make it worth my while. And I get to meet lots of good, interesting people in the process, people who are willing to share their own stories with me, which is pretty cool, too.

A few useful things you may not know:

– People can “follow” your personal profile without actually being your friends. They only see your public posts.

– Personal profiles include a feature to create different friend lists (i.e. close friends, followers, etc), which allows you to accept friend requests from people who are interested in your work, drop them into the relevant list, and exclude them from personal posts intended only for your actual friends.

– Facebook pages allow you to schedule your posts. This means you can spend some time creating the posts you’d like to publish on your page during the day, or even the week, schedule them for the date and time you’d like them to go out, and then let facebook do the work for you.

– Facebook also offers paid advertising options through the “Boost post” button on your author page. Boosting a post means that facebook delivers it to a targeted audience of your choice, which you would have no access to through your personal network alone. It can be a good way to get more “Likes” for your page, but you have to clever when specifying your target audience, to hit that happy place between too narrow and too wide. I can offer no further wisdom on this, as my experience with it is very limited, but it’s definitely worth looking into.

Good luck!

(Next up, part two: twitter, instagram and google+)


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