Best Practices: A Social Media Guide for Authors

For authors, social media is a wonderful place to share with friends, family, the writing community, and the world at large how fun and stressful the publishing journey can be. But if you’ve never used social media to promote yourself or your book, it can be hard to know how to get started. This blog post won’t teach you how to use different social media platforms (as there are plenty of tutorials online), but Ooligan Press is currently working on ways to help our authors start their social media journey—or at least help them start looking forward to it. While social media isn’t a prerequisite for authors, it’s helpful for those marketing your book to know that you have a following.

The Importance of Platform
There are so many social media platforms that you could explore. You don’t have to be great at all of them. Just like writing, social media is an extension of storytelling, and where you tell that story has a lot to do with how people will interact with it. If you are an author who loves to talk about books, consider creating BookTube videos or podcasts. If you are more visual, try Pinterest or Instagram. If you like to make people laugh, TikTok is quite popular these days. If you just like to write, blogging and platforms like Facebook and Twitter are solid. Spend some time experimenting with each platform.

Engagement and Relationship over Promotion
While social media is used as an extension of marketing, no one likes to be marketed to. See social media as an extension of your story, whether that story is your personal brand or your book. The truth about social media is that it is not too different from actual relationships. The sheer amount of followers isn’t everything: it’s your level of dedication and interaction that produces hits. Get creative with it and don’t be afraid to be yourself. Be authentic. Readers love hearing anything about their favorite—for example, how many cups of coffee or tea it took for you to finish rewriting a particular section. More often than not, I will check out an author’s book if I’ve gotten to interact with them on social media over something unrelated to the book that is simply relatable. Author recognition and book-title awareness are just as effective as targeted marketing, if not more so.

Mindful Sharing
The editing process in itself can be an emotionally and mentally challenging experience. Editors may seem like an enemy whose sole goal is to destroy the work—or “book baby,” as we like to say here at Ooligan—that you’ve put so much time, heart, and energy into. But the truth is that editors are just trying to make sure that your book is the best it can be so that it will sell, which is mutually beneficial.

Be open about your successes and struggles, but know that any rude or derogatory comments toward your editor and publisher may unintentionally backfire on you. Readers may not buy your book if they feel you are not satisfied with how the book turned out. It also sends a negative message to future agents, editors, or publishers you may work with. You should always stop and think before venting your frustrations online.

While we have plenty of helpful and insightful posts on the Ooligan blog, here are a few to help you start thinking about your social media journey:

Building a Social Media Following for Aspiring Authors

You’re an author. You’ve written at least one book, and you possibly have a few more on the way. You’re looking for an agent. You’ve secured an editor. You have a publishing contract. You’re at the very beginning of a beautiful and meteoric rise in the publishing world, but then someone suggests you focus on your personal brand. Your author brand. Because as much as publishers like to think they are the main reason someone picks a book off a shelf, it’s more likely because of the author name (though the title and the cover can help too).

Where do you go first? Out of the plethora of social media options available, which is going to net you the most bang for your buck? Which is going to be the most efficient and effective use of your time?

Where To Go

Instagram and Twitter are essential for establishing and maintaining a following. Instagram should be used primarily for shelfies and aspiring-author content. Once you’ve been published, it’s a great place to showcase covers or fan art or to document the publishing process and talk about what you’re doing now (readings, speaking engagements, etc.). Creating a dedicated Facebook author page will allow you to cross-post content between Instagram and Facebook, so lean heavily into the stories features on both for unpolished fun and behind-the-scenes moments. A presence on Goodreads is good to have, but it’s not essential. Update or create a profile. Be available for author chats. Post blogs and book reviews. Being active there is as easy as cataloguing the contents of your shelf and rating what you read.

What To Do

Be consistent. Post two to three times a week when first starting out on whatever primary platforms you choose. That’s no easy task, especially if you’re using multiple social sites, writing, working a day job, working two jobs, going to school, or raising a family. Before starting your social media presence in earnest, stockpile content. When you’re at a conference, workshop, or other event, take plenty of photos. Social media is a written and visual medium. Facebook especially loves video. When all else fails, shelfies will do the trick every time.

Don’t care about how many followers you have. And don’t buy followers. Instead, find your core audience, no matter how small at first, and engage them. Ask them questions and get to know who they are. Don’t just post a question and walk away. Don’t ignore the comments. You have to be interested as much as interesting.

Pick a platform and tailor your brand. Your brand should be reflected by the platform you choose and the genre you write in. Once you’ve established a brand, don’t be afraid to experiment, especially by leaning into standard social media convention. Eighty percent of the content you post should not be about your book; instead, it should be about writing, publishing, other books, etc. Twenty percent of the content should be about your book, or books, which averages out to about once a week. If your book is newly published, then you can reverse the 80/20 rule for a few weeks before and after publication.

And Finally

Don’t read negative reviews. Don’t respond to negative reviews. And don’t ask people to buy your book. If they buy into you as an author, if they buy into your brand, and if your craft is solid, the social media presence will sell your books for you.