By Hannah Woodlan
How do you get your book to float to the top of the crop? There are no easy answers and no quick-fixes to the issue of getting your book into the hands of people you think would enjoy it. You can’t force anyone to read your book through promotion. You can, however, become part of a community, giving your book and your message a better chance of reaching anyone who cares to read it. Social media is all about give and take, and you have to give a lot if you want readers to listen.
There are a lot of social media options out there. Try them all out, if you want, but know that stretching yourself too thin is never a good idea. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, and Instagram all have their advantages and limitations. You can’t do it all, and you don’t have to. Life needs balance, even when undertaking book promotion.
Create a Schedule
Setting a strategy before diving in is a must. You want to start building your community early. You don’t want your media to lapse and you don’t want it to overwhelm followers to the point where they unfollow you. Figure out your budget for paid promotional options like Facebook ads, and decide how often and where you want to post. Be realistic about your motivation to keep up with the platforms you choose, and also be responsive to your readers; be flexible while figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
Create a Website and Facebook Page
A website is pretty much a must, while giving your book its own Facebook page is a great way to ensure that more people learn about its existence. Unlike personal Facebook pages, the book’s page can be liked and shared. Don’t be afraid to self-promote; many Facebook groups have been created to allow authors to share news of their upcoming books, and as long as you’re not pushy, asking for reviews on your book’s page is a legitimate way to raise awareness.
On your website, be sure to include a bio that can be used across social media platforms. Add a photo of yourself. Tell your story and explain what makes your book amazing. Make sure to link everything you post about your book on social media back to the website.
Tailor Posts to the Individual Platform; Be Visual
Social media users love a good, richly-colored photo. To take full advantage of this, promote your book with images of the cover, or of you at a book-signing. Design different posts for different platforms; don’t just auto-share. And don’t just tweet about good news—screenshot it. You want to create the most appealing post for each platform. Along the same line, punchy headlines are also important, and users on different platforms respond to different headlines. If you have the money, paid tools like BuzzSumo can give you an idea of what is trending where and when. Or you can do your own research. Trial and error is nothing to be ashamed of.
Post when your followers are online—different platforms and different topics have higher user rates at different times. Use relevant trending hashtags. Be sure not to overuse hashtags, though. Two or three is more than enough.
Create Contests and Giveaways
Many authors design simple Facebook photo contests, encouraging their readers with a photo prompt or giving away signed copies to anyone posting a photo of the author’s book launch or signing. To approach this idea from another direction, other authors have invited bloggers to review a book in exchange for a few free copies for the bloggers and their readers. A smaller approach might be to offer free chapters of the book in Facebook ads, or perhaps embed a retweet button in a free chapter.
Stay humble, and reign in the “Buy My Book!” vibe. The best way to avoid the salesman-like aspect is to share things of value from your book or about themes in your book. Invite your followers to ask questions, or ask them questions. Start a conversation or run a survey. Reply to posts or tweets from your followers. Create a Facebook community around themes in your book, and ask your followers for their stories. Post videos of your process or create a book trailer to draw more people in. If your book is a part of a conversation, it’s got more staying power. You want your followers invested, and you accomplish this by investing in your followers.
Similarly, some authors reach out and make connections with people of influence, whose retweets and shared posts garner a lot of attention. Investing time and attention in peers and humbly asking for a little quid pro quo is not playing dirty–quite the opposite, in fact, as Koehler Books’ D.J. Lutz discovered during his foray into crowdfunding (Read More). Many authors and public personalities have been where you are and are only too happy to help if they can. Building relationships is the point of social media, after all.
Learn from your mistakes and keep going. Don’t become obsessed with discovering what makes the online community tick. Best advice? Work on your next book!
*These tips are a good jumping-off point for Crowdfunding a novel, a topic becoming more relevant with the rise of co- and self-publishing.