In early August I gave a talk to participants in the ASA’s ‘How to publish your ebook’ course on promoting their ebook through social media. They had already had the chance to hear from Joel Naoum, Publisher, Momentum Books on the state of the market, Anna Maguire on preparing and producing an ebook, Jim Demetriou, Sales & Marketing Director at Allen & Unwin on selling an ebook (price and placement) and Airlie Lawson on metadata and digital rights management. Below is a summary of what I talked about.
What is social media?
I started off with a quick definition of what I meant by social media: applications that let us create and share content on the web, such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs and general author websites.
- Twitter.com – 140 characters of content posted frequently
- Facebook.com – one to two sentences posted once or twice a day at most
- WordPress.com or blogger.com or your website – as much as you like, once or more a week
The use of social media is a change in the way we communicate and it has both opened up communication gateways while and flooded them, forcing us to find ways to cope with large quantities of information. The question isn’t how to put your content out there, it’s how to get people to read it, engage with it, and follow it to where you want them to go.
Essentials for using social media
There isn’t a magical formula to using social media successfully and anyone who tries to sell you such an idea is taking you for a ride. What is essential is for you to be genuine. If you aren’t really interested in what you are saying, then it will show. You also need to be comfortable – use social media that you enjoy using. That doesn’t come straight away, but give yourself time and get used to the language of social media, eg. tweeting, re-tweeting, status updates, and so on.
There’s no need to go ‘all in’ and start accounts on Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook, create a new blog and start a website. Start slowly.
Get a website
I recommended to the class that if nothing else, they all have a basic static website. This means that anyone searching for information about you will have a place to go, and a basic website is very forgiving if you don’t have time to make frequent updates. It also means that if and when you create a presence on Twitter or Facebook, you have a place to link back to. You can create a website for free on wordpress.com. WordPress offers a range of templates that you can customise with your own pictures so your site looks unique. Your website will end up with a web address like janesmith.wordpress.com. If you want a web address like janesmith.com you will have to make a small payment (which can be done through WordPress, or whichever website host you choose).
WordPress websites can be run as blogs, meaning you can create entries and talk about anything you like. You can also just keep it as a basic website, with a few different pages. To browse their blogs, just go to their homepage, http://wordpress.com/ and you’ll see they’ve served up the most interesting recent blog posts.
A look at different sites
I logged into Twitter and Facebook and showed the class how to use them. I pointed out that I would recommend using Twitter over Facebook if you had to choose one. I find that we’re much more open to meeting new people on Twitter. It’s not a place you load with personal information, unlike Facebook, and therefore there’s nothing to be lost by following new people on there. It’s very easy to start conversations with people, following conversations and join them (eg. by following a hashtag such as #bookerprize12).
I showed the class how to create a new Facebook author page – I wouldn’t recommend creating such a page until you have content to put on it though, so wait until the week of publication or even after it. For the most part, I wouldn’t recommend creating a page for your actual book because if you do this, you then have to create your audience anew every time you publish a new title. It’s better to promote your books through one spot: your Facebook author page.
Creating a Facebook author page:
- Go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php
- Click on ‘Artist, band or public figure’ (bottom left)
- Go through the dropdown menu and select writer, then follow the rest of the instructions to customise the page.
A great example of a well-customised author page on Facebook is Kim Falconer’s:http://www.facebook.com/kimfalconerfans
When should you start?
The time to start is now, before you publish your work. Don’t be a door knocker, I said to the class. No one likes it when someone knocks on the door and tries to sell you something out the blue. You need to build relationships with people slowly, getting to know them and letting them get to know you. It’s a two-way street. If they know you, they are more likely to read an excerpt of your work, and then consider purchasing it.
How often do you need to update on social media?
You can post very frequently to Twitter, because the quantity of information on it moves rapidly. Keep in mind that this also makes it harder to resurrect conversations though. On Facebook you shouldn’t post status updates more than once or twice a day, unless you are participating in an event – and even then, think before you post. On your own blog or website you can post as frequently as you like, but don’t forget to leave time for your writing work!
What should I write about?
Write about things that interest you and that you think would interest other people.
Some of the class thought Twitter was quite boring and people were only updating about what they eat for breakfast. If that’s the case, you’re following the wrong people. Look around for people that interest you (most writers will have a link to their Twitter account from their websites, for example). Twitter will also recommend people for you to follow, based on how they relate to you or people you follow.
Think about what you would find interesting to read about and write accordingly. You can also write about your writing process, your journey to publication, ask questions about things you want to know more about … be thoughtful about it at the beginning and the rest will come naturally.
You can hone your craft by using social media, writing succinctly and engagingly is hard – so use it as a challenge. Don’t let your spelling and grammar slip.
A few other things
If you run a website or blog, check your site statistics and find out what is driving people to your site. Make sure you tag your posts with good (and relevant) terms that will help your readers find your site in search engines.
Set up author pages for yourself on social reading sites like Goodreads, LibraryThing and Shelfari – and make use of Amazon’s author tools as well, updating your author page there and ensuring all profiles link back to your website.
Having a social media presence doesn’t necessarily lead directly to book sales, but it can lead to situations that do … get talking to festival and convention promoters and you might end up a guest at their events and getting a great chance to promote your work there.
These are the top five things I suggested the class take away from the session:
- Start using social media now and build connections by having two-way conversations and putting the ‘social’ in social media. Share ideas, gossip, chat.
- Be genuine. It will show and it will affect your online relationships accordingly.
- Take the time to get to know the medium. If you’re not comfortable with it after a few months, it’s okay not to continue.
- Use social media to hone your writing skills – make your blogging, facebooking and tweeting concise, elegant and enticing in small spaces. Do punctuate and capitalise.
- You are a writer. Social media can be distracting. Manage your time to ensure you spend most of your time writing.
Thank you Natalie for your guest post on Digireado!
Convener of the workshops: Linda Funnell has over 30 years publishing experience. Linda worked for ten years as HarperCollins Publisher, Fiction and Literary Non-fiction. She is a book editor and publishing consultant and co-editor with Jean Bedford of The Newtown Review of Books
Information on the course can be viewed on The Australian Society of Authors site.
You may also like to read:
Part 1 of How to Publish Your Ebook – The growing market for eBooks and recent developments.
Part 2 of How to Publish Your Ebook - Preparing and Producing an Ebook.
Part 3 of How to Publish Your Ebook - Sales and Distribution
Part 4 of How to Publish Your Ebook - Metadata and DRM