All writers must come to terms with knowing that bringing the book to press is the biggest but not the last step of the book publishing process. Authors need to be actively involved in the promotion of their books. Those who develop a social media presence and attend to their fanbase online are more attractive to agents and publishers.
For all authors, especially those who can’t do extensive media tours, it is now common practice to launch a social media campaign. Ooligan Press’s own author Sean Davis is on tour promoting his memoir of his life as a combat veteran, The Wax Bullet War. It took Sean years to write the book while he worked through the trauma of his training and his experience in the Iraq war. Sean has embarked on an intensive publicity tour, and he chronicles his stops on the tour on his Wax Bullet War blog.
Many writers are more reclusive than Sean and still need to find a way to promote their books. Sean is not shy, but still he takes the opportunity to promote his book on social media platforms: He began using Twitter to share news about his book and some of his personal interests in early 2012. He added a Facebook author page in early 2014. Ooligan encouraged him to keep his social media “real” by continuing to post selectively about his personal life. Writers also need to take time to respond to readers and fans on social media. Fans want two-way connection, and writers find that it truly endears them to their readers when they engage this way.
Writer Alison Baverstock recently keynoted a conference on self-publishing at PSU (organized by Ooligan Press and Writers & Artists). She’s also the author of Marketing Your Book, An Author’s Guide. Alison uses social media to blog, believing that blogging provides an opportunity for authors to create a community around their work. She says, “Blogging about personal interests other than the book itself helps spread positive interest in the author. It works best when it is genuinely interesting—not a direct sell.” She ties her guest blog posts into her other interests, like running marathons. Through guest blogging, Baverstock benefits from the host blogger’s expanded platform, reaching a wider audience without the time drain of maintaining her own blog.
Writers who want to understand how to find more readers through social media will also benefit from the expertise of Tim Grahl, author of the e-book Your First 1000 Copies. Grahl offers tips through a series of newsletters that help writers tackle their biggest problem: how to effectively use social media so that it doesn’t steal time from writing. Ineffectively used, social media platforms don’t increase book sales. According to Grahl, for example (he has many other writer marketing strategies to share), “authors sell more books from their email list than their Facebook, Google+, Twitter, blog, and podcasts combined.” Writers still need multiple platforms and can enjoy using them, but they have to keep their ultimate goal in mind. Grahl’s experience comes from building writer platforms for the likes of Hugh Howey, Daniel Pink, and Dan Ariely. Grahl’s Out:Think Group offers a free 30-day course on building an author platform and using it to sell more books.
The current industry mantra for success in bookselling is to engage with potential readers on social media platforms a year before the book is published so that authors have a network in place before the book release. But of course it’s never too soon to begin building that network.