Does social media help or hinder your presence online? Jill Kemerer and Michelle Styles talk to the PHS about their experiences...
Love it or hate it, social media is part of the writing life. I occasionally question if it’s worth my time. Do Facebook updates really help sell my books? Are my tweets drowning in an ocean of meaningless information? If I’m on Instagram and post a picture of the cupcake I plan on devouring, will it help my career in any way? I’ve spent the past nine years building an author platform, and I’m convinced social media is worth my time. That being said, I also believe it’s only worth a fraction of my writing hours.
To maximize results and minimize the time I spend keeping up with social media, I concentrate my efforts on two to three sites. Since I write romance novels, my readers are on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. But if you write Young Adult, your audience might be on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Think about the audience you write for and research where they’re likely to hang out online. Once you’ve narrowed down the most likely sites to reach your audience, set up accounts under your author name, add a bio, a quality author photo, and a link to your website. Then start posting.
What should you post? Readers get turned off if every update involves a sales pitch. Aim for 30-40% of your posts to be book or author related. This means 60-70% of your content should be engaging to the reader. Think videos, interesting articles, recipes, questions, pictures, and polls.
Sounds time-consuming, doesn’t it? I’m not going to lie—social media can suck up an unbelievable amount of time if you’re not intentional about it. Decide in advance how often you will post to your preferred sites. Try to curate and create content once a week (or every few days) and, if possible, schedule your posts. Gather pictures, links to videos, recipes, articles, and draft any writing-related updates. Then copy/paste your content into the sites on the days/times you decided on earlier. You’ll still need to check in to the sites regularly and respond to comments. Set a time limit—and an alarm if necessary—to keep your sessions on track.
Does all this effort pay off?
It depends on your goal. If you want to grow your audience, get the word out about new releases or sales, and gather readers into a street team to help review and share your book news, than yes, these efforts work. I have a secret Facebook page with a core group of readers who review my books and share my book news on their feeds. They spread the word about my writing farther than I can on my own. However, if I expected each one of my posts to translate into a book sale, I’d be very disappointed.
Social media is all about relationships. By offering readers a peek into your life, sharing your latest release news, offering giveaways, and showing a bit of your personality, you’re increasing the chances that new readers will try your books. When they like your books, they tell their friends about them, which translates to more followers seeing your updates and more potential sales.
Word of mouth. It’s a good thing. And that, my friends, is why social media is worth your time.
Jill's latest book, Hometown Hero's Redemption, is available for preorder now. To find out more about her and her writing, check out her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Social Media was supposedly the great leveller, a way for the cash-pressed author to interact with readers and perhaps sell a few more books. Instead the time pressed author can feel like she is on a constant gerbil wheel, running without getting anywhere and often putting out content to plateaued or decreasing audience. It can massively increase the pressure and lead to a highly stressed author who is incapable of stringing words let alone a novel.
Self-promotion, particularly on social media equalling guaranteed success is a hugely popular publishing myth. There are books written on it which authors and aspiring authors pour over like the holy grail BUT while some promotion can help, it is not a guarantee of success. Many times, you will not know if a promotion has worked until much later and even then...
The last book that the author wrote helps to sell the next book. The single best thing an author can do is write a fabulous un-putdownable book and then another one and another one. Because it doesn’t matter how much time an author spends on social media and promotion, if her books do not connect with readers, they will not purchase the next one. If she does, her readership will grow and promotion will take care of itself.
People only have 24 hours in a day. In addition to writing, authors often are often holding down other jobs, raising children, volunteering, looking after aged relations, you name it. So they need to prioritise as writing time is precious. It is always about maintaining that quality that has readers fighting for the next book and buying your back list.
But there are times when authors need to communicate with their readers. Limiting promotion time to when an author has new content to sell is a strategy that has worked for a number of high profile authors such as JR Ward. Then social media promo can be effective but it does need to be targeted and not so much that it takes away from the first priority which is to write the next book.
There are ways to use dashboards so that an author can instantly update Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and whatever the social media du jour happens to be. If an author is very organised, she can write content during dead times and schedule it to appear in a systematic way. (Great in theory but...more of an aspiration for me than a reality). Discipline is a great asset. An author can repeat some of her content, particularly if it has been well-received.
There are a number of reasons to do social media besides promotion. For some authors, it is the interaction. Writing can be lonely. It can be a way of procrastinating, particularly when the manuscript (pile of dung aka the first draft) is not cooperating. It can make the author feel like she is doing something positive. Writing blog content can give an author a chance to exercise her writing muscles in a different way and this can help to maintain freshness. But that time should come from the pot marked free time, rather than writing time.
In conclusion, it can be very hard to see the direct correlation between ANY promotion and book sales. The best sort of promotion is to write an unputdownable book which has the reader reaching for the author’s back list and eagerly looking for the next one!
Michelle writes warm, witting and intimate historical romance. Her latest book, Sold to the Viking Warrior, is out now. To find out more about her and her writing, check out her website. Although she does use social media for promotion sometimes, she readily admits to being a Procrastination Princess for the most part.