Social Media for Authors

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

We’ve blogged a lot about the need for authors to be savvy marketers, as well as great writers, and to use social media wisely and effectively to promote their books. At the Willamette Writers Conference I attended a few weeks ago this was evident in all the presentations provided on publishing and marketing ebooks. 

As someone who has only used social media sporadically in relation to my books, I was interested in how many of the presenters viewed the social media world as a fragmented one – with options such as Facebook and Twitter having, in their view, only limited reach and effectiveness in terms of actual marketing. I have certainly noticed a real uptick in the number of Facebook posts I receive that are little more than either blatant self promotion or thinly disguised marketing (To be honest I’m getting pretty sick of hearing what # on Amazon’s rankings certain author’s books are – does it mean I’m more likely to buy their book because I read a Facebook post on this – short answer, no). Most of the time it doesn’t bother me though – I’m always interested if it’s a post on a one-day sale or some special event/signing etc. – but I remain unconvinced that Facebook is a tool for actual marketing. In my mind it’s more of a tool to connect with people who have already opted to be your ‘friend’ (either on your author page or for you as an individual). I’m not sure it necessarily gains an author new readers.

After digesting what many of the presenters at the Willamette Writers conference said on the use of social media, I thought I’d get some feedback from the TKZ on their views. It will be interesting to get your take on the issues raised. So…here goes… 

  • When mapping out your own marketing plan (or author platform development) how do you view Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, or Tumblr etc. 
  • Do you adopt a different approach and have different expectations in terms of using these? 
  • Do you use all or only some of them? 
  • Are there any you just don’t bother with?
  • Do you replicate content across social media or do you produce discrete, original content/posts for each?

In short, how are you navigating the social media world when it comes to marketing and promoting your books?

15 thoughts on “Social Media for Authors

  1. As an unpublished author, I can’t comment on what works for books. But I do know what works for my community newspaper. Our print newspaper, website, E-Edition and Facebook products all have different audiences. We have found that each one does best with its own approach. The print product is more in-depth. Facebook is great for conversations back and forth and posts that solicite an opinion. The website does best as a repository of information and a place to put late-breaking news that comes between print editions. We just use Twitter as a news tip to direct people to our website, so we are probably missing some opportunities there. People are more likely to look at photo albums on Facebook than the website.

    • Faith – this sounds like what many authors should do – use each social media site for what it’s best suited for rather than a scattergun approach.

  2. I’d rather be pulled into a story by reading bits and pieces of the content here and there. If I like the content, more than likely I’ll remember the title. If I remember the title, I’m likely to go on Amazon and scout it out.

    Rarely do I search for a book based on something I’ve seen as rated high on Amazon. The ranking thing isn’t a great tool for discovering good books. And I HATE marketing and self-promotion on Facebook. Not so much on Twitter.

    • Like you Diane, I’m getting tired of all the marketing on Facebook. One author sometimes posts five times in a row and it’s all self promotion (ugh!). Content is what gets me intrigued and I think authors need to be savvy in delivering content that draws readers in across multiple platforms.

  3. Clare, early on I got some advice from a social media expert: specialize in one medium and don’t try to have a presence everywhere. I chose Twitter for its flexibility and speed. I have a Facebook author page, TKZ, and at least a profile on Google+. That’s about it.

    The other rule I follow is that 90% of the time should be about real engagement and community and earning trust. Then 10% can be about your books, deals, etc.

    • Jim, sounds like good advice though I fear sometimes authors use the wrong medium! The 90/10 rule sounds great and I think originally that’s what I saw happening on Facebook but recently there’s been a real shift towards just marketing and promotion.

  4. This is purely an ancecdotal observation based mainly on TALKING to readers at signings and events: The only thing that truly seems to work is word of mouth. I know, that sounds fuzzy and worthless (we ALL know it already) but readers seem to trust primarily the opinions of other readers. And by that, they seem to mean readers they know and trust. “Know” is the operative word here because that can mean a friend, book club mate, relative, good bookstore person or someone in a book-oriented community like GoodReads. I know this is how I, personally, get new books — from folks whose opinions I trust. The last two books I bought were on recommendations of an indie bookstore owner and my hairstylist. I think this has pretty much replaced the traditional book critic, whose venues for exposure has dried up. And the average reader has no concept at all of Publishers Weekly, Booklist, et al. Now how we, as writers, exploit this reader-centric dynamic is another question!

    • I buy a lot of non -fiction books after listening to CSPAN Books, and others after hearing a discussion on NPR. Few of my friends in real life share my preferences in reading, so real-world WOM doesn’t help me as much. However, I am currently reading William Manchester’s The Last Lion after our own JSB praised it a few weeks ago, and am enjoying it immensely. I’ve purchased quite a few books after hearing about them here, but none on the basis of Facebook or Twitter self-promotion, except from authors I already know. I do appreciate it when authors let me know when they have a new book out, or there is a special price available.

    • I’m with you on WOM as well as reputable recommendations on NPR etc. I have often been intrigued by a book (usually non-fiction) after I hear an interview with the author…but Facebook and Twitter won’t make me read a book by someone I don’t already know, admire and whose books I already love.

  5. Nothing turns me off more than a drive-by “OMGBUYMYBOOK!” complete with rankings and number of 5-star reviews.

    Facebook is my primary social spot. I live in a really small town and don’t have a lot of in common with my neighbors. I go to FB to hang out with writers, meet new people, and keep up with far-flung family. But it is about give and take and interaction.

    However, when (not if, when) the book comes out, I do hope some of that work and interaction will pay off in buzz more than advertisement. That people who are true friends and professional acquaintances will share the experience and pass on the word.

    But there will be no listening to advice such as, “Join 5 FB groups a week and work a mention of your book into every post,” stuff.

    I try and always support my friends’ Twitter Launch Parties and other events that aren’t over the top. The website is now the new black, no writer’s presence is complete without it.

    It is all about networking and building bridges. But that takes time and skill and some writers aren’t willing to spend the time or develop the skills. I remember one self-pubbed girl who built a website with a big forum. She pre-populated it with topics like “What is your favorite part of my book?” “What is your favorite character in my first book.” “Would you like to live in (fantasy world)?” and, of course, it was ::crickets:: except for her and what I suspect were her roommates making posts like, “OMG, I cannot believe what Adriannalillyanna did in chapter 3! I SO totally did not see that coming.”

    Like water, social media marketing has to find its own path. Force it and bad things happen.


    • Terri – I also think you have to be authentic on social media. It cannot be all about marketing and promotion. Readers actually want to know about you, the person, and to forge a connection. They don’t want “BUY my Book!” Or “Look at this Review!” rammed down their throats.

  6. I hear you about the Facebook Burnout, Clare! I’ve gotten to where I try to post things that people might find interesting to read, rather than talking about myself very much. Some people on Facebook talk about themselves incessantly, and frankly, few people are that interesting. In real life, we don’t value friends who hog every conversation and talk about themselves ad nauseum–why is it okay online? I found this fun article about what not to do on Facebook over at
    Thought Catalog

    • Kathryn, that article is a real laugh because OMG this is what so many authors are effectively doing!!! I think in the last week I’ve seen almost all of these ‘what not to do’s….sigh…

  7. Social media has changed a lot in the past 5 years that I’ve been on it. I think so many publishers have told people that they need to promote themselves on social media that people have jumped on it to promote themselves and have forgotten the “social” in social media. It’s turned into a constant barrage of self promotion without the interpersonal relationships that used to characterize it.

    I view social media as a place to get to know people and to chat with them. My preferred social media has been, up until recently, Twitter. For several years I was active on Twitter and I loved it. It was like a cocktail party that you could drop into and out of whenever you wanted to. In fact, that is where I’ve met everyone in my field (cooking and baking). It was so convivial. There was a moderate amount of self-promotion, but it was tempered by the interpersonal stuff. I think the “early adopters” understood the underlying “social” part of social media and didn’t abuse the self-promotion part.

    Then the atmosphere changed. People started doing more and more self-promotion (understandable given that it’s free). And they started doing more and more “scheduled” promotion. So while it looked like they were online, they weren’t. Being on Twitter is now often like being in a wasteland populated by billboards yelling at me to buy something, click on something, or vote for something. Twitter has turned into a less convivial place that is littered with ads. I am on it less and less.

    I am now on Facebook a bit more. Less self promotion–or self promotion that I have to see. I can block people without outright unfollowing them. And there is less tolerance of self-promotion. If you do it all the time, you start getting called out on it.

    I think the most advantageous use of social media is to choose what works for you and to do it well. You don’t have to be everywhere. For example, even though in my field Pinterest is now the number one social media that drives folks to blogs, I am less interested in it. I go there to see what’s happening, but I know myself and I know that I’m not that interested in it. I stick to FB and Twitter. And my blog. My blog is my main social media tool. And it’s a place that I like to be and where I do good work. I think it shows and it’s where my readers can always find me.

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