These days, many traditional publishing contracts include clauses that require an author to have a social media presence for the purpose of marketing and promotion. An author hoping to use social media to sell books might think the best way to go about this is to incessantly blast Buy! Buy! Buy! on every social media platform.
Yet the average social media user doesn’t scroll down a newsfeed to be sold to. Most folks engage with Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms to maintain contact with far-flung friends and family, to keep up with breaking news, and to connect with people who have similar interests. Social media is all about networking. To use it well, an author needs to spend the bulk of her time attracting friends and followers—not selling books. Straight-up advertisements are the least loved posts.
In fact, using “hard-sell” promotion and marketing techniques may actually get you blocked, unfriended, or—worst of all—labeled a spammer.
So how are writers supposed to use social media to encourage sales if an author isn’t allowed to, well, sell?
Savvy Social Media Techniques For Book-Selling Authors
Building a dedicated group of friends and followers takes time and effort. If done well, it happens organically. Check out these seven posting techniques on how to talk about yourself and your books in an engaging but soft-sell way.
- Be Yourself. Folks want to engage with people who are authentic, honest, and passionate, while you want to inform folks about your books. These two goals are not mutually exclusive, especially if you can craft posts about where your passions and their interests intersect. For example, if you write sci-fi, share exciting new space-probe pictures of the cosmos. If you write historical novels, share interesting tidbits you’ve discovered while researching. If you write diet books, repost or retweet heartwarming success stories. These posts will attract folks with similar interests who may be willing to join your tribe—and buy your books.
- Share Challenges as Well as Successes. Finishing a new book or making a sale to a big publisher is fabulous news, but you’ll seem more approachable if you also share your work struggles, such as brainstorming a new title, finishing a difficult chapter, or meeting your daily word count goal. Drawn into the narrative, people will follow your progress in the hopes of a happy ending.
- Be Generous. It’s human nature to have warm-fuzzy feelings for people who are selfless. Offering up a book giveaway, for no more reason other than it’s Tuesday, is a great way to draw interested readers to your backlist. Hosting contests with books or related swag as prizes may attract new friends and followers. Engage your followers in your writing process by giving them a chance to name a secondary character, a pet, or even a town or storefront in your next book. Giving your followers a heads-up about a freebie offer for another author’s book will show your willingness to spread the love.
- Be Positive. The old adage about avoiding discussions about sex, politics, or religion in social situations goes double for social media—except, of course, if you’re writing about sex, politics, or religion. There’s enough negativity in the news, so friends and followers may flee if your page becomes too polarized. Generally, strike a positive tone, even when discussing challenges. And never, ever engage an Internet troll.
- Get A Cat. Nothing draws more attention than cats or dogs, with recipes coming in a close third. Posts about your life, whether about pets, food, or family, can be surprisingly intriguing. They let curious potential friends and followers see that you’re just like them—except you also write books. But be careful about oversharing, for the safety of both yourself and your family.
- Always Respond. Make sure to respond to anyone who has taken the time to comment on one of your posts, even if it’s just a “thanks so much!” or an “aww, you made my day!” If the response allows it, ask a question to engage them further. Developing a dialogue helps cement the bonds of trust and friendship for when the time comes to harness the power of your network to build a newsletter list or sales.
- Choose Your Timing Wisely. If you’ve used the above techniques to develop a trusting relationship with your growing list of followers, they’ll be less likely to balk when you ask for a favor—or put up the occasional sales-oriented post. Pave the way by cluing them in about an upcoming launch. Tease them with an exclusive book cover reveal or an excerpt. When you’ve got a big launch or a big sale going on, you can post your sales pitch and follow up with humble thanks. If you’ve done it right, your followers will be as excited as you are to watch your book climb the charts.
It’s a strange quirk of social networking that the key to making sales is not pushing sales, but making friends. Better to spend your time growing a network of enthusiastic, encouraging, like-minded followers than to spend your time grandstanding like a politician. When the right moment arrives to ask for their support, all those happy folks will have your back.
Question: In your experience, do you think social networking is a waste of time or a vital way to grow an audience for your books?