Social Media Marketing for Authors
Publishing a book is hard – make no mistake. It’s a long and often difficult journey from the first idea, to the first word, to the first draft. And it’s not even over then! From there, you have to review your manuscript, make a seemingly infinite number of corrections, format everything, and design the cover. Once the book is finished and published, the anxiety really sets in: will anyone actually read my book? This is where social media marketing comes into play.
The promotion of a book is by no means an easy task either. It requires a lot of effort on the author’s part. But we have good news: thanks to the Internet, promoting a book is a lot simpler than it used to be, and if done right, you might even have fun doing it.
The Internet offers many marketing opportunities. The most common one for writers has been to create a personal author’s website to keep their readers updated and interested. In the past decade, however, social media have also become an increasingly popular tool for book promotion, supplementing, or even replacing the traditional website. This article will discuss marketing your book via social networks, as well as tips and tricks for different social platforms.
Why promote your book on social media?
Since its inception, social media has rapidly gained ground to the point that it is now an integral tool for most businesses. The same applies to you as a self-published author. The immense reach of social networks, combined with the personal nature of the interactions taking place there, make them ideal for reaching your potential readers. Furthermore, marketing your book on social networks is cost-effective, and promotes a feedback culture through direct contact with your readers. This can strengthen the positive perception of your book significantly. Here are a few advantages you should take into account.
Although promoting your book on social networks requires more time and effort than traditional book marketing methods such as advertisements, brochures, or posters, this method is much cheaper, and often more effective. In fact, the initial promotion efforts on social media are free of charge. Later, with a small budget, you’ll be able to afford more ambitious publicity campaigns to increase your reach.
Social networks allow you to build a lasting online community and thus, form your fan base. The followers you accumulate on these networks are not only going to be fans of your book, but also fans of you as an author. Hence, you can present more than just your book; readings, progress updates, and other writing-related projects are also good ideas. Having many followers does not guarantee that everyone will buy your book of course, but it’s important for your online reach anyway. Do it well, and you’ll have a team of digital ambassadors promoting your book voluntarily!
Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter also provide statistics and analytical tools for advanced users. You can use these to track the progress of your online community – how many followers you’ve gained, what content is most popular, etc. You can use these to keep track of your online community and tailor your promotion strategy for maximum efficiency.
Thanks to social networks, connecting with your target audience requires little effort. Just make sure to define your target audience before you start. Is your book aimed at teenagers or adults; at people who read for fun or a group of experts?
You might also want to focus on different social media platforms depending on the type of book you want to sell. For example, you might post an excerpt of your novel on Facebook, upload a few pictures on Pinterest to promote your photo book, or you can provide your followers with progress updates on Twitter. You should also add links between your website and social networks, as well as between the networks themselves.
Something to keep in mind: When posting an excerpt from your book, we advise revealing between 10% and 50% of your story. Thus, you offer your readers a decent chunk of it for free, and have a better chance of piquing their interest. This is not difficult to do if you have your own website. This is the strategy Andy Weir used to get his bestseller The Martian published.
Ideally, once you’ve set up your platforms and established a sharing routine, the dynamics of each network will do the marketing for you. News of – and reactions to – your book will then spread via word of mouth, i.e., followers sharing it with their friends and acquaintances; audiences which you would not have been able to reach otherwise.
In order to facilitate the distribution of your book, you can place widgets on your Twitter profile, Facebook page, etc. These are small interactive links, which can function as e.g. “buy” buttons. The integration of widgets arouses interest and testifies to legitimacy. Mybestseller offers these widgets for free.
Social networks live by, and for, interaction. The ability to like, comment, and share lets you not only increase the reach of your publications but also gauge your readers’ reactions through their comments. Did people like your book? Which of your posts were most popular and why? Readers can react, comment, and give immediate feedback, regardless of the time of day or the reader’s location. You, the author, are in direct contact with your readers and you can answer them at any time.
Of course, you’ll also have to deal with negative comments; it’s important not to delete or ignore these! Respond openly to criticism and value all comments. You can always learn something from this for your next post or book!
Perception of you as an author
You can take advantage of all these features to create an image of yourself as an author. If this image is well-liked by a community, it can help increase your sales and by extension, your profits. In other words, your participation and availability on social networks can thus contribute to your personal brand which, when developed, can lead to further success.
Specific tips for book promotion
In addition to the general benefits, it is always good to take advantage of the platform-specific features of each social network. All the examples outlined below can be used to build a community of followers and readers. You can make use of this later on by including a link enabling people to order your book. Spamming messages or emails should be avoided – otherwise, you risk annoying and alienating your followers.
Facebook and book marketing: how does it work?
While Facebook has been on the way “out” for years now, it’s still the largest social network by far. This alone makes it worth creating a Facebook page as an author. Naturally, you’ll need a Facebook profile first. The next step is setting up a page dedicated to you as an author, to promote your writing.
Important to keep in mind: include some personal information and relevant links on your Facebook fan page, so that people can find your official website and sales platforms.
Once you have your page set up, you can post status updates to keep your readers informed and excited. Which projects are you currently working on? Who or what inspires you? You’ll also be in a great position to ask for feedback from your readers. It is important that you always keep an eye on their interests. When interacting with your readers via status updates, ask yourself: what do you want to achieve with your status updates? Who are your readers and what are they interested in? Which general concept connects you with your fan page, your readers, and the news you post about?
Another useful feature on the platform is Facebook events. With the help of this feature, you can draw the attention of your readers to the publication date of your book, invite them to lectures or workshops and announce other important dates.
Of course, you need to build up an audience before you can actually do any of this. Facebook’s algorithm is notoriously harsh on new pages, so don’t get disheartened if your audience is growing slowly. To grow your audience and increase your readership, you need to commit to and develop your fan page. This means creating quality content and spreading the word elsewhere. Additionally, badges and widgets, both Facebook’s own and those you receive from Mybestseller, can be useful in this regard.
Facebook Creator Studio
The Facebook Creator Studio is a relatively new feature that allows you to create, schedule, and analyze posts on both Facebook and Instagram using a single interface. This is extremely handy if you don’t want to spend time maintaining your social media presence every day, or if you want to save time by posting the same thing to both Facebook and Instagram simultaneously. Head over to the Creator Studio help page to learn more about how you can make use of this feature.
In addition to managing your own Facebook author page, we highly recommend joining existing writer communities on the platform. These groups often let you present your own book project, including links, excerpts, and teasers, to other authors. You’ll likely get likes, constructive feedback, and enthusiastic responses in these dedicated communities. At the same time, these groups offer a lively exchange of information between authors concerning topics you might not have thought about before: from book production to legal issues. This is where the whole world of authors meets and informs each other.
Now, we know what you’re thinking. Looking up and joining all these different Facebook groups sounds tedious and time-consuming. That’s why we’ve looked up a bunch of them for you already. The list below includes a selection of 60 groups that will help you promote your book.
Keep in mind: read the rules of each group you join! Some only allow the exchange of information and questions. In other groups you may also be allowed to promote your own book!
Twitter and book marketing – how does it work?
Twitter is the other major social network for writers, and possibly even more popular than Facebook in this regard. As you’re probably already aware, the concept is rather different, however. As such, you’ll need to adopt a different approach. The limit of 280 characters requires you to keep your posts short and sweet, for instance. Fortunately, you’re a writer and can bend words to your will!
5 good reasons to use Twitter
You might be thinking that 280 characters is hopelessly limiting from a marketing perspective, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Twitter can help you:
- Introduce your book to the market
- Tweet about your work, but focus on quality – it’s better to tweet less, whilst keeping it interesting and useful!
- Build up a regular readership/network with comparatively little effort
- You can connect with old and new readers. For example also with copywriters/editors/publishers etc.
- Get inspired and learn from others
- There is always something happening on Twitter. You’ll find tips for all situations in your life as an author under hashtags such as #writersblock #authorslife or #inspiration!
- Acquire and share expertise
- Teachers, school writers, copywriters, marketing experts, publishers, agents, and many other interesting people are present on Twitter; data, links, institutions, and more are shared there
- Make your book visible in search engines
- Twitter news is often better assessed by Google than contents from regular web pages
When it comes to Twitter, your profile, tweets, retweets, hashtags, followers and following, favourites and your own lists are very important. Below we will explain all these aspects and provide some tips for dealing with them.
Your Twitter account/profile
The following questions must be answered when creating your profile:
Who am I?
What am I going to do?
What are my subjects?
Why am I on Twitter?
Why should people follow me?
You have the option to insert a link in your profile. Make sure you use it to connect to sites where people can learn more about you and your work. This would be a good place to direct people to your website, for example.
Don’t forget: set a background image for your profile, and make it creative and memorable. This makes your profile look more professional, and will retain followers better. Furthermore, make sure to welcome new followers and thank them for useful tweets or retweets.
Tweeting and retweeting
You have 280 characters available per tweet. Tweets are public and can contain hashtags (using # – see below more information), links (as URLs), references to user profiles (using @), images (as URLs, or inserted directly), and locations. The hashtags, links, and retweets connect these tweets to wider topics that reach a broader audience than just your followers.
In terms of content, almost everything can be tweeted: opinions, experiences, thoughts, activities, book titles, status updates, appointments, etc. Keep in mind, however, that these tweets are public – as previously mentioned. If you want your tweet to be exclusively visible to your followers, you can use the “secure tweet” function.
Ideas for your tweets
- Unveiling your idea or your book
- What are you working on now?
- Links to free samples of your book
- Questions and discussion
- Information about reviews for your book
- Links to your blog articles, interviews, other online content
- Something personal to build a connection (hobbies, children, role models, sources of inspiration)
- Weigh in on hot topics relating to your book, or writing and publishing in general.
Ideas for your retweets
- Tweets that you liked, helped or inspired you
- Remarks about tweets
- Writing competitions
A hashtag (like #mybestseller) serves to emphasize a certain keyword or topic in your tweet. Placing a # in front of a word in your tweet automatically connects it to any other tweet containing the same hashtag, which makes it easier to follow certain topics. A hashtag can consist of letters and numbers, but cannot contain punctuation or spaces. You can either use existing hashtags (such as #writerslife or #writersblock), or can create your own (such as #[title]book or #[name])
Following on Twitter is a fairly straightforward affair, much like on other social media. Go to the profile of people or organizations that interest you and click “follow” in the upper right corner. Their activities will then appear on your Twitter homepage – the so-called timeline. However, there are some points to keep in mind:
- Wait until you’ve posted a few tweets. Your goal is to get people following you back, and they will only do that if you give them an interesting content-related reason to do so.
- Don’t follow too many people too quickly: for one thing, you have to be sure that you only follow people who are really interesting to you. It’s all about tailoring your community. Furthermore, this behaviour quickly gives others the impression that you do not value their content or are a spammer. Don’t let us put you off by saying all this though! If you click through other profiles and follow people, you’ll get the hang of Twitter etiquette soon enough.
Much like on other social media, Twitter allows you to show your appreciation for posts you like. You do this by “favoriting” i.e. clicking the heart under a tweet.
We’ve already covered the nuances behind following people, so let’s talk briefly about the people following you! Once someone has followed you, it means they’ve subscribed to your profile and see your tweets on their timeline. The whole purpose of Twitter is to “follow and get followed” – this should also be your goal. If you keep your message and your interests clear and focused, you will eventually win over your reader permanently.
Once again, however: make sure your followers are really interested in you and your work! After all, your goal is that your book eventually gets purchased – spammers and auto-followers will not help in this regard!
Keep in mind: searching for followers can take a lot of time. Keep an eye on the success of your promotional efforts to gauge whether the search is paying off. Have I reached my goals? Am I being contacted? Am I receiving feedback? Are my sales going up? Don’t give up right away though – this is a marathon, not a sprint.
Finally, Twitter lists are worth mentioning. Lists are curated groups of accounts, which you can use for e.g. bundling messages together, creating an overview of influential users within certain areas, and more. You can view a step-by-step guide for creating lists here.
How to promote your book on Reddit
For people looking to explore their hobbies and interests with the help of like-minded people, Reddit is often the first stop. There’s a community (or subreddit, as they’re called) for almost everything – woodworking, politics, self-publishing – you name it. These subreddits are where people come to get authentic responses to their questions and ideas. Understanding this authenticity is key if you aim to promote your book on Reddit. As a community that prides itself on being “real”, self-promotion is usually frowned upon if done outside of designated times and threads. That’s not to say you can’t do it, but you do have to be mindful of how you attempt to promote your book.
As Reddit is built on contribution, it’s a good idea to engage in discussions on your chosen subreddits before attempting to engage in any promotional activity. Intention matters – Redditors don’t like their communities being spammed or used for shallow advertising. As such, simply creating a new account and starting a marketing campaign across relevant subreddits is a good way to get yourself banned. Instead, spend some time identifying relevant subreddits that would be relevant to your book and engage in discussions in those communities. By doing so, you’ll create some legitimacy for yourself, which will give you a bit more leeway for casual self-promotion.
Once you’ve established yourself a bit, you can start trying to promote your book directly. However, it’s important to be transparent and above all, humble about it. In addition, it’s recommended that you include book promotion as part of a more extensive comment or post. For example, if you’ve written a fantasy book and someone on r/Fantasy is asking for recommendations, you might respond with a list of your favourite fantasy books, and include a mention of your own book at the end. This type of approach will generally be received much better than if you had made yourself the primary focus of a post. In fact, this strategy may very well stimulate more genuine interest than a straightforward approach would. Make sure to include a brief summary of the book, and preferably a link to a sample chapter or two as a gesture of goodwill.
As stated in our guide to promoting your book, it’s often beneficial to start promoting your book while writing it, in order to build an audience that’s ready to buy your book as soon as it gets published. Reddit is a great place to get started with this. As you’re working on your book, you can go to relevant subreddits and ask for input on your writing process, share sample texts and ask for feedback, or ask for opinions on the cover art. Involving people in your writing process like this is a great way to pique interest, and may even result in people asking to buy your book before it’s out. Furthermore, Reddit is full of people asking for recommendations, and if you manage to build a loyal audience, they will almost certainly act as ambassadors and recommend your book to others.
Read the Rules!
As we touched upon earlier, most subreddits have fairly clear rules about what makes a post acceptable. One of the first things you should do before committing to a subreddit is to read the rules (located on the right side of the screen). It may be explicitly forbidden to engage in any form of self-promotion, in which case you’d likely be wasting your time. Alternatively, a subreddit may have a weekly or monthly self-promotion thread reserved specifically for this purpose. As mentioned, there are subreddits for even the most niche literary topics, so just keep exploring until you find those that are right for you.
How to promote your book on Pinterest
Pinterest is perhaps not the most intuitive choice when it comes to book marketing. As you may know, Pinterest is a social media site best described as a gigantic digital bulletin board. On this bulletin board you “pin” your photos and videos with descriptive text and a link. The content generally encompasses exchanges about hobbies, interests, and ideas. Photos that you like can be “re-pinned” on your own message board.
This can make Pinterest very effective for more visually oriented promotional efforts, as opposed to Twitter’s textual focus, for example. You might pin and re-pin great book covers quotes from your book, concept art, and more. Here are a few suggestions for what you can include in order to promote your book:
- Pins about yourself, of your desk, or your current project
- Pins about your book, your cover, or your favourite font
- Quotes or sayings that motivate you; tips that have helped you
- Pins about your protagonists and antagonists, their hairstyles, their clothing, their environment
You can also use Pinterest to bring your book to life visually, and hence, make your writing experience more colourful. This not only allows you to get even more immersed in your book but also gives your readers a tantalizing peek into your creative process.
Book marketing on Instagram
Instagram is an interesting option for book promotion, in that it combines the visual focus of Pinterest with the hashtag and follower culture of Twitter. The upside of this is that you get the best of both worlds – the attention-grabbing potential of a cool image, with the attention-retaining and conversion potential of well-written copy. It’s also a platform that attracts a young demographic, so if that’s the audience you’re writing for, then it might be a good choice for you.
It is, however, notoriously difficult to build a substantial audience on Instagram – while users are more active than on most other platforms, getting these users engaged will be hard.
Using hashtags strategically is one way to make progress in this regard. Don’t overload your posts with a myriad of unrelated hashtags – instead, focus on a single theme. Another good tip is to colour-coordinate your feed, i.e., making sure that each individual picture you post has a similar dominant colour to the adjacent ones. This way, you can arrange your feed in various different colour blocks (made up of 6 posts or more), which tends to attract more followers. Check out popular accounts using the #bookstagram #amwriting or #writersofig hashtags for inspiration on how and what to post.
Most importantly, however: take quality pictures! If you want to present yourself as a legitimate author on Instagram who’s serious about their craft, and whose book is worth paying money for, you need good photos. This means sharp pictures with good lighting and solid colour composition. Don’t post pictures that deviate too much in terms of subject, colour scheme, or image quality. Not even if they depict something important – that’s what Instagram stories are for!
Another useful Instagram feature is the “Stories” function. Stories are a series of pictures or video clips strung together in a sequence, with each one being visible for 24 hours. This method of posting tends to get far more views and engagement than regular posts and is a great personal way to share your writing and thought processes with your readers.
If you want to share or highlight something that pertains to your book, your writing, or yourself personally and don’t have the time or resources to take a good picture, just post a story about it. If it’s something really important, like a book launch, you can add stories to your “Highlights”, preventing them from ever expiring. Your followers can view your highlights at any time.
Sharing to Facebook
Another advantage to using Instagram is the ability to share all your posts directly to Facebook. This allows you to post content on two major social networks at once, while only putting in the work for one of them. Perfect if you want to dedicate more time to more important things, like finishing your next chapter!
What else is there?
LinkedIn is another online community you’re probably familiar with, which enables you to grow and manage your business contacts and readership. Particularly interesting on LinkedIn are the numerous subject groups that promote the exchange between authors, readers, or self-publishers.
If you don’t already have a LinkedIn page, it’s easy to create one. Simply click on “Create an account”, and you’ll be guided through the process. While it is important to include information about yourself, you mustn’t forget to describe your book! Also, completing all the fields on this page is not mandatory – so you can decide for yourself what information you want to give out.
In addition to your profile, LinkedIn lets you use public event calendars and appointment functions. On LinkedIn, there are over 70.000 forums (only partially public) and many international groups. Their members organize meetings and thus, establish personal contacts. Events like these could constitute good opportunities to make direct sales.
Use these groups and discussion forums – as well as status updates, articles, and direct messages – to promote your book.
Important: do not confuse LinkedIn with Facebook or Twitter! Content on this platform must be much more professional than what you’d find elsewhere. Messages about your feelings, self-praise, or the weather are not really what to talk about on this platform. Instead, praise other users for their help, share useful tips and knowledge, or spread the word about your next reading date.
Have you ever considered making a trailer for your book? It’s not as hard as it sounds, and has the potential to be a genuine sales catalyst! According to Cisco, by 2020, 80% of all consumed content on the internet will be video. Needless to say, this is massive. The steadily growing popularity of video content is reason enough to invest some time in promoting your book this way. Fortunately, even if you aren’t the most tech-savvy, there are several simple, free and intuitive video-editing programs available! Use the flexibility of the medium to introduce your book (and maybe yourself?) in a creative, engaging manner.
The number of book trailers on social media is increasing rapidly. In other words, it would appear that there’s a clear demand for them. While you can be ambitious and stage a reenactment of scenes from your book, you can also start slow, by reading excerpts, or trying to capture the mood of your story using music and visual material. YouTube is therefore definitely a channel to consider!
Disadvantages of social media marketing
Now, we’ve talked about all the possibilities of social media marketing, so it seems reasonable to discuss potential downsides as well. This will be a fairly short section, however, as we genuinely don’t think there are any major disadvantages to using social media as a book marketing tool.
The main issue with social media marketing is that it can be very time-consuming if you want to do it right. If you aren’t willing or able to invest this time, then the result will most likely be disappointing. You could of course hire someone to assist you in this matter, though that discussion goes beyond the scope of this article.
In our experience, authors are often worried that engaging in social media marketing will result in them losing control of their own narrative. This seems to stem from the fear of overwhelming negative feedback destroying one’s credibility. However, this is an unlikely scenario for individual authors; just stay open and friendly with your readers and there won’t be much to worry about.
Finally, keep in mind that as an author, you must always be aware of what you want to do with your platforms. If you do not regularly maintain your online presence, it may harm your sales, rather than help them. Furthermore, we advise you not to shy away from criticism. Engaging with the feedback from your readers allows you to make improvements and ultimately produce a better book!
To conclude, social media platforms offer a wealth of tools and features to help you market your book for free. Achieving success with these tools requires effort and patience however – do not expect a sales boost overnight. Make a habit of updating and interacting with your followers, focus on regular quality content, and watch your fan base grow.