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Social Media for Self-Publishers – A Beginner’s Guide

April 6, 2021 in , ,  

If we made a list of the questions clients often ask us; ‘do I need editing?’ would be on it, as would ‘what is the best size for my book?’, as would ‘how much does it cost to print my book?’, but marketing and promotion? ‘How do I market my book?’ No! Not as much as you would think.

We can’t emphasise enough how important marketing and promotion is for self-publishing authors. If readers don’t hear about you on the radio, or learn about your book on social media, they won’t buy it in the bookstores, come to your launch, or help spread the word. In today’s world, it’s not enough to write a brilliant book and expect readers to come to you – you have to go to them.

Lettertec has always taken marketing and promotion very seriously. We give all our clients the option of using a professional publishing consultant. The tips and guidance below is hard-won, based on our experience of helping authors bring their books to fruition.

Social Media Marketing – The What & How

If you are not an avid social media user at present don’t worry. The principles behind social media are quite simple. When you join a social media platform, be it Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok or another, you connect with friends or followers. Once you have enough followers, you can then produce content in the form of photos, jokes, stories, links to interesting articles and websites, and more. If your content is quality, your followers will interact with it by liking, sharing or commenting.

When it comes to setting up an author’s page, you need to target followers who are interested in you as an author, and your book. How? ‘Content is king’ in the words of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and that principle applies to author pages just as much to any other type of page.

A common mistake made by authors is to bombard followers with salesy content; when your book is out and why it’s so brilliant; special offers and reductions. That works in traditional off-line marketing, but it doesn’t work in the digital sphere. On social media you have to be more subtle. One of our favourite quotes on content comes from author and CEO David Beebe: ‘Content marketing is like a first date. If you only talk about yourself, there won’t be a second one.’

If you go on social media and talk endlessly about how wonderful your book is, you won’t get followers, you will lose them.

What does good content consist of then? Good question. Produce content that is interesting, inspiring and useful to your followers. So, if you’re a historian, good content would include: photos from a historical period, links to an interesting blog, live-streaming a talk you give on a significant topic. If you’re a poet, good content would include: inspirational quotes, details on an up-coming open-mic, a video of you reciting from a poem that inspired you.

This doesn’t mean you can’t promote your own work, it just means you have to get the timing right. The key is to build a loyal base of followers, and gain a reputation as a source of interesting, inspiring and useful content. Once you produce this content on a consistent basis, you will get more followers. Then, when the time comes to promote your book, to notify people of your launch-date, or a fantastic offer you have, you will be notifying thousands or tens of thousands of loyal followers, as opposed to ten or a hundred people.

Another thing to keep in mind is the more interesting and relevant your content is, the more ‘interactions’ you will get. Social media platforms rank posts through algorithms. It is complicated, but, to make a long story short, the more interactions your post receives, in the form of likes, shares and so forth, the more likely your followers are to see it. Producing interesting and relevant content is therefore a win win.

Also, if you want your followers to interact with your content, then interacting with theirs is a good idea. Like, comment-on and share posts that you consider relevant and interesting. If you show an interest in your friends or follower’s social media content, they are more likely to take an interest in yours. Don’t live in a bubble, it is called social media for a reason! Reach out, network and interact.

Marketing my book on Social Media – Which Platform is for Me?

There are numerous social media platforms of course, and some will suit you better than others. When deciding which one to choose, ask yourself what platforms do my readers use? Where are people who like my work likely to be? Different social media channels have different demographic profiles, and it is worth considering these before investing your precious time into them. If your book is a YA fantasy novel aimed at under 16s for example, then TikTok is the best platform for you – it is very popular with book-loving Generations Zs. If your book is a collection of travel photos aimed at back-packers, then Instagram is for you. Instagram is a great platform for photography, and very popular with students and people in their twenties. If your book is a coming-of-age novel, then Facebook, which has a wide audience, including middle-age to older people, is a great platform. If your book is a business book aimed at CEOs and consultants, then Linkedin is an ideal platform.

It’s possible to be on several social media platforms. Although, keep in mind, maintaining a social media page properly takes time and effort. As a general principle, it is better to have one or two active, well-maintained pages, than several inactive, poorly maintained ones. Apps like Hootsuite allow you to upload posts on various platforms simultaneously. Although, do keep in mind, the platforms’ algorithms favour unique content. Which platform is best for you therefore depends on you the author, how much time you can invest into social media, and where your readers are likely to be.

Twitter

Twitter is a micro-blogging site, where users produce content in the form of 280-character ‘tweets’. There is a strong, active and helpful writers’ community on Twitter, so it’s certainly one to consider targeting. One advantage of Twitter is it’s great for Google SEO. Unlike Facebook or Instagram, Google and other search engines index Twitter, which means if someone searches for you on Google, your Twitter feed will appear if it’s active.

Pictured below is author Stephen King’s Twitter feed on Google. It’s what appears when I type ‘Stephen King’ into a Google search bar. His feed appears just below his author website. If you don’t have an optimised author’s website yet, an active Twitter page can really help increase your exposure on Google.

Facebook

If you are new to social media, Facebook is a very good place to start. It’s friendly, accessible and its audience is very broad in terms of age and background. Facebook also gives you very detailed stats and ‘analytics’; if you use the business page option, you can find out how many people viewed your posts, and what geographical area they are from – data that can help inform your marketing strategy. Depending on your budget, you can purchase ads and target them at very specific age groups and locations. The possibilities are endless.

Instagram

Instagram is the home of the book influencer. Authors and self-publishers should always try and reach out to literary influencers, and try and have their book reviewed by them. One interesting fact – Instagram users, despite their reputation for shallowness, are actually quite generous when it comes to interactions. Instagram users are 58 times more likely to like, share or comment on your post than Facebook users, and 120 times more likely than Twitter users.

TikTok

TikTok is a growing social media platform, and very popular with Generation Z (people born between 96 and 2012).  ‘BookToK’ videos, where teenagers review their favourite books, are proving so popular large book stores have designated ‘BookTok tables’ and publishers are hiring TikTok influencers, for fear of being left behind. Penguin Random recently admitted to having hired 100 TikTok influencers for their YA and children’s department. As TikTok is new and relatively undiscovered, the platform is an opportunity for self-publishing authors to stand out from the crowd.

If you are an author, and you are about to self-publish, you should use the following mantra – marketing and promotion are necessary. You owe it to yourself, and the book you worked so hard on, to promote it and help spread the word to the millions of potential readers out there.

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