This is the sixth post in my continuing series INDIE PUBLISHING FOR INTERNATIONAL WRITERS, a step-by-step guide to getting your stories into (digital) print. I’ll be doing each step with you, learning as you do, because I’ve never done this before either.
Step 6: Market Your Story Part 2, Social Media
Last time we covered the importance of having a website or blog, and talked about the difference between a static page and an interactive page, and why the latter is better. Today we are going to talk about signposts, social media, how to connect the dots in your little online world, and how not to behave.
One of the reservations people have with indie publishing is that they are worried that their novel will get lost in a sea of titles without a big publisher trumpeting their work. People wonder how they will find anything among the 800,000 or so Kindle e-books, and shudder to think what that will be like when there are millions of them.
I think they are looking at this the wrong way. There are over a trillion unique webpages. People have no problem finding stuff, and buying stuff. And even though billions of new webpages get added every day.
And despite the amount of junk webpages out there, despite the amount of scammers, internet use and e-commerce is booming year-on-year.
How do people find anything? Signposts. Every link on the web is a signpost. Google is just a very sophisticated set of interactive, trusted signposts.
But anyone can make their own signposts. People talk to each other all the time, helping each other find the good stuff. They email links, tweet them, blog about them, text them. They love sharing signposts. You just need to get some of them pointing towards you.
Amazon Author Page
Once you have uploaded your story to Amazon, you should check out Author Central. This is a tool from Amazon that allows you to view up-to-date sales rankings for your books, edit the descriptions that the customer will see on your book page, and, most importantly, this where you can set up your Author Page.
This is a powerful tool and I recommend you exploit it as much as possible.
Readers will see your Author Page when they click on your name in the Amazon listings (here’s mine). If a reader is interested in your book, and considering purchasing, they often check out the Author Page. If that sounds interesting, they may give your book a chance. Every little helps.
As you can see, it displays all your book titles in one place (I only have one, for now). It also allows you to upload a photo (very important as this will then appear on all your book pages and in the search listings), link it up with your Twitter account (showing your latest tweet) and your blog (showing your latest posts), and provide a short biographical description. You can even upload video.
I have noticed quite a bit of traffic going from my Author Page to my blog, and an uptick in Twitter followers. This is all great; it means you are moving beyond what I described in my last post as networking, and actually beginning to reach your people who might want to buy your book.
If they like your blog or your tweets, they will stick around, and now you are beginning to communicate with the people you really want to reach: your readers.
If you pause for a second, like I did, thinking that all potential readers will see your tweets and blog posts, that’s good. It means that you are starting to realise that all your online interactions are public and will form an impression in your readers’ minds.
You want that to be a good impression.
Your blog is not the place to plant flags or settle scores. Your Twitter account is not for chasing chicks or talking about boys. And, for the love of God, if your Facebook profile is open to the public, please be careful with not only what you share, but what your friends share.
It’s important to set some dividing lines here. You can have a Facebook Page for business (we’ll talk about that below) and a personal one for fun. You can have as many Twitter accounts as you like, but keep one strictly for work.
Just think about some of the things your friends or acquaintances might share, and whether that will reflect well on your professionally. My advice is to keep these worlds separate. You may want to switch off yourself sometimes, so it’s good to have a personal hideaway.
Don’t Be A D*ck
If there is one commandment in all online behaviour, whether that’s forums, Twitter, Facebook, or blogging, it’s this: Don’t Be A D*ck.
Don’t go on to forums just to spam people about your book. Don’t tweet your new release every hour. Don’t use your blog to take on your enemies. Don’t turn every conversation into, “That’s enough about me, let’s talk about you. What do you think of my book?”
In short, don’t be a d*ck.
People forget the “social” part of social media. It’s about interaction, it’s about engagement. This means asking your readers questions and caring about the answers. This means listening to your audience. This means responding to comments in a timely manner. You know, being nice.
As I said before, interaction is one of the key advantages of the web, and if you are not leveraging it, people will soon change channel, and there are over a trillion channels.
However, if you care about your readers, if you say interesting things to them and encourage them to respond, if you start having conversations, rather than giving speeches, readers will come to you.
It’s the same with Twitter, it’s the same on forums, it’s the same with Facebook, it’s the same with blogging.
Do Unto Others
No-one likes being spammed, friends that only go on about one thing are boring, people who talk and don’t listen are annoying, and everyone shuts the door when they see the salesman coming.
There are lots of different reasons I buy books. But the only ones I have checked out through social networking were written by people that were smart, interesting, funny, had way with words, a different perspective, or were just plain nice.
Lots of people have very strong feelings about Twitter (I get it; I was one of them up until a month ago). They swear they will never use it, but are worried they will have to.
None of the things I describe in these marketing posts are required. And none will guarantee you success. If done right, some of these things will increase your chances of people checking out your work – if your blog is boring, your cover is horrible, your Amazon description is limp, or your sample is poorly written, all of this will be a waste of time.
And you don’t have to do all of them. If you decide not to blog, or not to use Twitter, or Facebook, that’s fine. But you will have to make up for it in other ways.
Word of mouth is still the most effective way to sell books, but nobody can talk about your book if they don’t know about it.
I’m very new to Twitter, so I would love to hear any tips and tricks from all of you in the comments, but I can say this – the same rules of social media apply, you just have to be more careful because now you have a megaphone.
Everything you tweet is publicly available, to anyone, whether they are Twitter users or not. Every tweet gets picked up quickly by Google. Remember this: it’s like a permanent record of anything you ever said, so be judicious.
Also, every tweet appears in the feed of those following you. If you keep banging the same drum, they will cut you loose. Use it wisely.
For the reasons I mentioned above, I don’t think it’s a great idea to direct readers to your personal Facebook profile. Aside from that, there are some very powerful things you can do with a Facebook Page that you can’t do with a normal profile.
I’ve just set mine up (you can see the new badge in the sidebar), and I am still exploring all the possibilities (it’s not very pretty or exciting at the moment, but it will be). If you want to check out what you can do with this tool, this is the definitive article.
Making Friends Is Nice But…
So what’s the overall strategy? Making friends is an approach, a disposition even, but having a strategy is good too.
My aim is to create as many ways as possible for people to find information about me or my work. I look at all these tools as a little interconnected world. My book listing on Amazon has connections to my Author Page which in turn has links to my blog and my Twitter feed.
My blog has links to my books, my website, my Twitter feed… you get the idea.
A reader now has a huge amount of ways to discover my writing, and I am offering them a number of different ways to engage with me if they choose. They might prefer Twitter, they might like to read blogs, they might like to interact on Facebook, they may choose to start a conversation on Goodreads or LinkedIn or Shelfari.
The point is you are giving the reader a vastly increased number of ways of finding you, plus the choice of a number of ways to engage with you. An engaged reader is one that is far more likely to buy this book and your next book.
But this is the most important bit.
An engaged reader is an invested reader. They are interacting with you because they enjoy it. And because they enjoy it, they want you to succeed. They will tell their friends about your books. Some of those will tell their friends.
Word of mouth.
But all of this will mean nothing if you don’t have a good story. And the best marketing tool, the most powerful promotional weapon a writer has, is new stories.
I’m going to start a new one right now.
If you are interested in blogging, but don’t know what to start, or if you have a blog full of cobwebs and want to spruce it up, check out Sommer Leigh’s excellent College of Blogging series over on her blog. Also, Margo from Wicked & Tricksy has written an excellent post on social networking basics – worth a read, as are the posts from the rest of the team this week on Community.