You've been told by someone what you have to do. Now that you have a book out or coming out you need to be blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking, LinkedIn, Glad-Handing, and selling your soul. You need to add an extra 12 hours into each day just to manage the new schedule your publishing contract requires. But is any of it actually working and are you paying attention to that?
I think I've always been very open about the fact that I don't necessarily believe that social networking and all of the "have to" publicity and promotion you hear about necessarily works or should be required of all authors. I don't necessarily think that blog tours sell books, especially if you don't even know the audience you're reaching with each blog. What I wonder, though, is how many of you are actually tracking the success of the publicity you're doing.
When sending bookmarks to writers conferences, for example, do you really pay attention to how many bookmarks are taken from the table versus how many are simply tossed in the trash at the end of the weekend? When you do a blog tour do you actually follow up with the host of the blog to see how many readers (not hits) the blog gets both before and after your post? Have you ever polled your readers through Facebook, Twitter, or your website to actually learn what brought them to your book?
I guess what I'm trying to say is are you running your publishing career like a business or are you simply throwing stuff into the wind book after book, the same "stuff," and assuming because that's what you're "supposed to do" it must be the right thing to do?
Do blog tours sell books? I don't think they can hurt, unless you're spending hours and hours on a blog tour and not selling one book. Time is money and losing all that time is losing money, so in that sense then yes, I guess it can hurt. Great publicity and marketing means changing things up. It means not doing the same things book after book, and it also means that you need to understand that what might have worked for one book or one author doesn't work for another, even if you are the same author with another book.
When planning your publicity and promotion it's important to work smart. If you're going to spend time and money doing something then I think it makes sense to spend time figuring out if that something worked. If it didn't, then for your next book it's time to switch things up, think outside of the box. Just like you did when you wrote the book, it's important not to follow the crowd. If everyone is doing a blog tour, does it make sense for you to jump in and join the pack, a very full pack, or find a new way to sell yourself and your book?
Wow, great post, Jessica! I've been dreading the idea of using Facebook as a promotional tool. Maybe it's just me, but Facebook seems like a less than professional place to do business. Plus I have a mean sister with lots of embarrassing photos who does not hesitate to post them.
I'm curious, what do you advise for people with that kind of problem?
It's so hard as an author to know what you should be doing. Everyone says you HAVE to do this, that, and the other thing, and writers are gullible and fearful that our book won't sell, so we often over commit. I'm speaking for myself, here.
Finally, some reasonable advice about platform building and publicity.
At a recent writer's conference I attended, a fellow author was asked what one thing she would have done differently regarding publicity. She said she would have spent less time platform building and more time writing.
A good and thoughtful article as usual, Jessica. I think people often get into the mindset of "this seemed to work for me, therefore it must be a rule that works for everyone." But each author--and each book--is different. I'm nowhere near the point of promoting my novel (at least beyond querying agents), but I don't like wasting effort. Just as I think carefully about my blogging efforts (do I participate in this blogfest, or post on this day, etc.), I anticipate I will apply the same thought to book promotion. Does it make sense to promote here? Would an in-person appearance be more effective than a blog event?
The social media marketplace is so vast you need a mathematical approach (in my opinion). This is what I do and it seems to be working:
1. I blog once a week and post the link on FB, Twitter, Google+.
2. I respond to nearly every blog posted by authors/agents/editors which I follow. A few lines, nothing more (usually).
3. I try to respond to ten tweets a day and I make sure my website is visible on my twitter profile.
4. If you do not have a website, create one. I used RapidWeaver for Mac to create mine. It was easy to use and has beautiful templates.
5. I especially comment on critique services such as Evil Editor and QueryShark. Takes no more than 5-10 minutes of my day to do this.
6. I review a couple of GoodReads writer chapters (under creative groups) a day. One minute each.
7. I add anybody and everybody I know or remotely know to my Facebook so that when I do post entries on my blog, twitter, etc it posts to my FB and I have a widening audience and judging by Google Analytics, the traffic is steadily increasing.
8. I do this daily. Total time is probably an hour--just a mechanical habit. Approach it with a plan and you won't be confused at where to start.
9. I've only been doing this for a couple of months but the results have been positive and steady. This large audience can only help one's future success and possibly sway an agent your way when they google your name.
I know we are creatures of art and not maths, and some would disagree about adding just about anyone they remotely met to their FBs, but it works.
Lastly. If a writer does get a book deal, why not spend some hard-earned money on promoting yourself using a respected publicity firm? Naturally, independent publicists are more effective promoting non-fiction than fiction.
But don't tell me money is an obstacle. Money can be had, money can be made. Or mortgaged. It all boils down to what you are willing to sacrifice for your success.
My two cents.
#8 "on" where to start.
"I don't think they can hurt"
This is important. No one knows what really does work. Some authors have found areas that work for them, but might not work for other authors.
I have never spent a dime on promotion...other than bookplates and maybe a 25.00 donation or two to an event someone is organizing with a group of authors. But never big money. My real mortgage and monthly health insurance is far too important to spend money that may or may not work.
The ability to promote nowadays, without spending money, is there in ways that it wasn't before. And part of the secret is having fun and interacting with other people (readers and authors) in a natural way.
I get a lot of feedback from blog stats that helps me track readership to a certain extent. It comes from places like Russia and areas I wouldn't have imagined before I started checking stats. But I don't go overboard and follow up on everything I do. It would take too much time away from writing and social interaction.
Thanks for posting on such a relevant subject. It is hard to know what works and what doesn't. Bookmarks are always so attractive, but most of them end up in the trash. I see this every day in my day job as a librarian. I hate to think how much money authors are wasting on paper that speedily becomes landfill.
I think the best thing is a free read of some sort. An excerpt, either online or in print, usually works for me!
Ryan brings up a good point that nobody really knows what does work, and I'll go one step further. As soon as somebody does find a way that does work, it becomes overused and thus ineffective for the next person.
I tried something new with bookmarks. At least, I thought it was new; haven't seen anybody talking about doing it before. I think the reason I didn't see a lot of chatter is that, once I did it, I realized that it didn't work. Will be writing about it at my own blog later this week, in fact.
I hate to even add this. I have never done it and never will do it. But I have seen some authors creative some kind of controversy...or drama...for the sake of getting attention to promote themselves and their books. And the minute they stir something up or spark a flame war, they are instantly recognized. However, I've also seen it backfire with some. So the secret to doing this is to do it with care and in a way that doesn't offend people. Is this a cheesy way to get attention? Of course. But I've seen it work and I've seen some thrive on it. (How I wish I could mention names :)
I 100% believe in social media. But you have to do it right! If you're doing a blog tour, you need to research the blog stops the same way you would research city stops on a bookstore tour. Does this blog reach your intended demographic? Do they have enough readers to make it worthwhile? Have they reviewed you positively before? etc...
You can't just expect to flail blindly and put some stuff on the Internet and have it work. It needs as much thought, planning and strategy as anything else.
Great post! I don't have any novels published yet, but because I'd like to someday, I've been working the social media non-stop. I've been hoping that would help me develop a following/platform, but who knows how much it will help? I'm going to do some more research on this. Thanks for the info.
@MissSharp--You can make an author page that is different from your regular FB page. Just make it and don't tell your sister. ;-) I have found my FB page to be the best way to connect with readers. I don't know if it sells more books, but it's really fun to interact with them, so give it a try--you might be surprised.
If at first you don't succeed, try social media con-man-sulting.
The truth is that the biggest advocates of social media are the people selling consulting. One rule of thumb should be that no author should EVER pay someone to help them "build a social media platform."
It's just one way to reach people; if you can get your book reviewed/interviewed/excerpted on sites that matter to your audience, of course that's worth doing. But that has more to do with old-fashioned PR than "social media marketing."
There's way, way, way too many people talking about how "essential" "Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr!" are who have no idea what they're talking about.
This is GREAT advice! Thank you, Jessica.
I am always looking out for the best way to market for when the time comes I am prepared. I like how you mentioned not to follow the crowd.
I think that self-promotion only works to keep your readers, not necessarily create new ones. I know that I discover new authors when:
1) Authors I love recommend something via Facebook or their blog
2) I read a neat review in People.
3) It's handsold at the store level.
What do these things have in common? Great writing that captured the author/People reviewer/book associate.
On the flip side of the coin, there are certain blog writers that I adore but I don't like their books (wrong genre or else the blog writer just isn't a good fiction writer).
And not to be rude, but anyone who is offering advice on how to do promotion that I've never heard of before...there's your answer right there regarding if self-promotion works.
Thank you for this post. I mostly notice that I'll get more pageviews after a new post because I post links to the new blog update on social networking sites, including ones where my profile is public instead of private and I get a lot of attention internationally. Unfortunately, the number of pageviews doesn't add up to the number of followers or comments I get. Maybe they think I'm a try-hard because I'm new, maybe I just need to wait until I can prove myself before I get more attention. Whatever the case, I'm going to keep trying and hope for the best, try new tactics when I think of them and see what works for me and what doesn't. :)
Thank you for such a great post. I'm putting the final edits on my first novel and people in my writing group encouraged me to start social media efforts. As soon as I got my blog up and running, I was asked when I would join twitter.
Ack! I work full-time and have a husband and two kids. Between writing, critiquing and now my blog, I barely have time to eat. Thank you for taking the pressure off.
My strategy is to focus on what I can do well and not worry about the rest for now.
@anon @5:01 pm
I often find great books through places like People Magazine. But you aren't taking into consideration that there are authors and books in genre and sub-genre fiction who will never be mentioned in places like People. These books and authors, although you haven't heard of them in the mainstream, sell a lot of books to niche markets that have strong readerships. These authors need to self-promote and in some cases are expected to self-promote. The publishing community is much more diverse than most think. And with digital first releases it's growing more with indie authors.
What a great post. Lots of useful info here!!
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