Disclaimer: this post is the result of a panel discussion I took part in for Albacon (the NY Capital District SFF convention which took place this past weekend). However, the concepts expressed here are solely that of yours truly, and may be taken with or without a grain of salt--or a dose of aspirin... This is a two-part post--in this month's column, I'll look at what doesn't work.
One of the major problems a new author faces --especially one who is either self-published or published by a small press-- is that of marketing. Getting your name out there, finding an audience who will be willing to shell out their limited disposable income for the hard-won fruits of your labors.One of the most effective ways of doing this, I've found, is through the use of social media.
Let's look at some ways of accomplishing this. And let's start with a vital maxim: Don't Be That Guy.
The worst thing you can do is to constantly post something on the order of “Hey, I’ve just written a book and you should buy it.” This is annoying, and worse, just plain rude. Yes, you may get the word out that you've written a book and it's for sale--but you'll find that what you think of as your customer base is rapidly disappearing over the horizon as fast as their little legs can take them. That's because you shouldn't think of them as your customer base. You should think of them as the community of which you are a part.
The second worst thing you can do is to set an automatic response so that whenever someone does follow/friend you, they get an automatic message that says “Hey, I’ve just written a book and you should buy it.” It's a rapid transit trip to social media oblivion. People with whom you might have developed relationships will not only look askance, but will block you on principle. While I don’t always block someone who DM’s me like that, I certainly take a very close look at whether I really want this person in my circle of sociability.
Plus you’ll get a rep as an annoying jerk whose only reason for using up air and bandwidth is to market something. Don’t be That Guy (or Gal). The one with the bad rep. The one who makes people cringe when they see his/her facebook/twitter/instagram post.Because they know it's not going to be anything interesting or amusing or thoughtful. All it's going to say is "Won't you please buy something from me? Anybody? Bueller? Bueller?"
So what do you do when you’ve finally made it. All your sweat and hard work and endless editing and revising and re-revising have finally paid off, and you've published –either traditionally or on your own—a book and want to get the word out?
Well, hopefully you started earlier than your publication date. If not, you’ve got a lot of ground to make up. But realistically, you should be establishing a presence on social media well in advance—up to a year, if possible—of your book’s release date.
It’s really not so much about tooting your horn as it is about establishing relationships and credibility. You don’t need customers—you need friends. People you can engage with. People who’ll find you interesting and amusing and possibly thoughtful and insightful. People who’ll want to listen to what you have to say—even when it is, on occasion, “Hey, I wrote a book; maybe you’d be interested in it.”
Next: Be nice. There’s that old saying “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Now personally I've never had any particular desire to catch flies. Even with honey on 'em, they just don't taste that great. . But the saying is true.Oh, it’s ok to be snarky or sarcastic on occasion. But on social media, just like in life, you’ll meet and be befriended by a heck of a lot more people if you have a reputation for being nice than if you’re always ranting about something. Nobody wants to listen to a whiner—that’s another quick way to get muted or blocked.
Remember it’s not all about you. Sure, you have things to say. That’s great. But be appreciative of what others have to say as well. Retweet or share their posts with your friends/followers. It’s a two-way street. If all you ever do is Toot Your Own Horn on Social Media, you’ll find you don’t have many folks to toot to. Be interested. Be engaged. Be helpful. Respond—even if it’s just a throw-away funny line, or especially if you’ve got something cogent to say. Develop a rep as one of the good guys/gals. It’ll go miles towards getting you where you want to be.
Finally. No cat videos. Ever. Just. Don’t. Do. It.
Ok, that's it for this session. Next time, I'll look at how you connect with those friends/followers in the first place, and more about what to do when you've connected. The What Works part of the equation.
Until next month... Keep writing. Keep connecting. And remember. Don't Be That Guy.