Thursday, December 13, 2018

Some notes on book promotion

I have several clients in the platform building trenches, and it's a tough place to be. We have weekly conversations about strategy, content and ways to build a following.

First, you follow as many people as you can. If you're querying, agents are a good place to start. Clients of those agents. Bookstores. Other authors.  Just follow them and build your Twitter stream FIRST.

 Then we work on getting people to follow you back, the Make New Friends Plan!

The best way to do that is talk to people you don't know.
Same as it was in junior high when you were the new kid, and just as awful now as it was then.

So, how do you talk to people?
You watch for people asking questions, and not just "what's the capital of Freedonia" kind of questions either. Then you chime in with an answer.

I've fact checked books on Twitter when I needed a boots on the ground view of a city. I was damn glad to have those answers, and ended up following back a couple of the kind strangers.

I've offered up comments on things in the news (not all that often) and had interesting conversations with people who replied.

My client Loretta Ross found herself with a spectacular burst of new followers when she asked about people's favorite holiday memories.  My twitter handle got caught up in that madness and my stats on "mentions" went up to  81%. And my mentions weren't hovering in single figures before that.

this is the screen shot from 12/7/18 not the actual ApocolypticTweetStorm

So, finding common ground.
And being brave.
And being brave once a day.
For a long time.

It helps of course if you have a fire-breathing shark on the other end of your phone once a week but fellow authors can help in that way as well.

One thing you want to be careful of is including people you don't know in tweets with things like "Hey I wrote a story for Christmas."

Or worse "here'e my blog post on things I learned in 2018" and @ a bunch of people on the tweet that you don't talk about in the post.

Generally you don't alert strangers to your blog posts by using their name.
If you want to alert strangers to your blog posts you do this:

You can find common ground by responding to things they post:

And notices of things that other writers like you will find useful is always worth a re-tweet.

And if you have a pal who is also building her platform, you can make introductions so to speak, IF the topic is of interest to her:

I'm using Twitter as an example because while Twitter is a wasteland, it can also be very useful IF you are judicious.

Some absolute no-no's on Twitter:
1. raging
2. politics
3. insults, particularly around religion and politics. Not everyone agrees with you. Some of us aren't witless idiots.

I recently posted an observation that #45 did not recite the Apostle's Creed at President Bush's funeral service in DC. I thought it was pretty ironic. I also thought it was small and petty of me to notice and I said so.  A lot of people agreed with me, and I own that.  But the people I won't hear from again (cause I muted them) were the ones who took that opportunity to fire a shot across the bow at Christianity in general. I know there are people who have strong feelings against my religion. We live in a place where that's ok (at least I hope we still do.)

But it doesn't mean I have to listen to you.

And if you're in the business of building a following the last thing you want is people putting you on mute.

Twitter can be useful in driving traffic to your other sites (like Facebook, Instagram etc)
It can also be a tar pit for the unwary.

I think of Twitter as the bushmaster of social media. Yes it can kill you faster than any other snake in the world, but if handled correctly, the venom is a potential treatment of cancer.

Building your platform might be one of the things you're going to work on in 2019.  The trick is to work on it for a little while, every day. You won't get a lot of followers quickly.

Any questions?


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Comment - I don't wanna, please don't make me.
Question - do I have-ta?

All those followers? Egads, it's like not only answering the door when a stranger knocks, I have to open it, let them in, and entertain them...every day.

I always thought that to be successful you create the product people want and then sit back and the accolades and riches abound. Now I have to actually WORK? Now I have to actually lasso and corral, round-up and pen readers?

Okay mom, I'll do my homework. I'll study but I'm not going to like it.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Twitter is a terrible, mixed bag. I definitely avoid politics and religion, but my presence is bleh at best.

I love following agents harrowing exploits with the MTA. It makes me think of my daughter and her life in New York. She is looking for a new apartment in Williamsburg part of Brooklyn and I am worried about the whole L train debacle and what will happen to her commute. This helps my author platform not at all, but it does make my daughter groan when I ask her about how the trains are running. She thinks I might have read too much into Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.

I do closely watch and follow debut authors to see what they are doing for platform building. I like to see how they execute in real life. I also follow loads of established writers to see what they are doing to keep themselves on the map.

I saw one idea that I just loved. A new author was doing an ARC give away, a common thing, but with the ARC, he was sending a cool bookmark (readers can never have enough) and a mug with the title of his book blown into the glass. And this was one of those really awesome beer mugs, the kind you find in old pubs in ages past.

I can't imagine making a customized mug was cheap but as a give away - it was awesome sauce. I entered the contest. And jotted the idea down for when my time comes. Because a beer mug or shot glass will fit well in with my books.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

I think Louise Penny (and her marketing people) does a fantastic job. I just watched the youtube video of her event in Sandwich, MA, which is my home town. There have been audiences of over 1,000 people on her book tour. She is great on stage and she communicates with her devoted following in such a warm friendly way you feel like she would surely be your new best friend.
It's not for all of us, but I admire how she does it.

There's a story about Linda Greenlaw meeting her publisher before her first book. She hears the comment "she's adorable" and she thinks, really?
Then she realizes they are saying, "she's tourable."

Theresa said...

Another very helpful post, Janet, thanks. It's good to know that I'm doing the right kinds of things on Twitter.

I'm always happy to follow Reefers who are on Twitter. You can find me @KaminskiTheresa.

Theresa said...

Oh, Sharyn, that story about Linda Greenlaw is one of my all-time favorites! I think of it every time the subject of book promotions comes up.

Dena Pawling said...

On Twitter, I follow several people who comment on this blog, especially those who are writing in my genre/category - MG. A few months ago, one of them asked for book recommendations for "books like this" and gave a title. I'd recently read a book that I thought was like the one indicated, so I replied with that title. About two days later, the author of the book I recommended followed me, so I followed him back. I didn't @ him in my reply tweet, so he must have had a google alert [or something similar] set up for his book titles.

A published author voluntarily followed me. Should I swoon now?


Sarah said...

I just followed Theresa and Dena. If anyone else wants to leave their Twitter handle, I'd be happy to follow them, too!

Julie Weathers said...

I used to keep a facebook page simply to keep up with pictures my kids posted of what's going on in their lives or their kids. I belonged to a few writing groups there, which was fine. I got tired of Facebook antics and the constant political rants and decided it wasn't worth it.

If it weren't for following some interesting historical and military feeds on twitter, I'd get rid of it. I've stopped following most agents and writers. I have an author twitter account I'm going to fire up to post a few things on if I must. I'll probably lock my current twitter account. I would get rid of it, but I have some people on there I enjoy conversing with who probably won't follow me to another account and I wouldn't ask them.

I know the popular theory is agents only care about what you write and if you're an ass, but if they find a picture of you supporting an unpopular (to them) political figure, it goes in the equation. You are right there with the Deliverance hillfolk. Get out your banjo, darling, and prepare to have your teeth counted. If you have more than three, they'll be amazed.

Politics are fine as long as they are the right kind, I mean left kind.

I'm not going to debate religion, but neither am I going to hide it. Gretchen Smith of @CodeofVets often sends out prayer requests for ill vets or family members or vets who are at risk. We had one who was in a very dark place not long ago and a bunch of people got involved in trying to find him, including James Woods. If this irks people, so be it.

Diana Gabaldon has a policy of not talking politics or religion most of the time and just declines discussing them though she doesn't make a secret of being a practicing Catholic. She's wise to do so. People get rabid about this stuff.

I suppose I'll have to build a platform in this coming year, I just wish there was a different medium than facebook and twitter. I hates them, yes I do.

Julie Weathers said...

"but my presence is bleh at best."

I feel that way with mine, but I don't have the energy to put into it right now. And I am terrible at supporting people, but I do try to promote books and people whenever I can.

Sherry Howard said...

Thanks for the great ideas, JR! I’m one of those people who love social media! I used to have a pen pal in Finland when I was young. It reminds me of that experience. I truly love engaging with people all around the world, and have made some wonderful friendships. What ship are we on here at the reef, after all, but the ship of social media?

B said...

Twitter is great for some authors, but I've experienced too many negative things on there to continue using it. I've found it flares up my social anxiety in unpleasant ways. Some of the things I've witnessed:

1) Literary agents / publishing professionals being the opposite of classy. Not all of them are like Janet, unfortunately. I've seen them call others nasty names outright, be rude to authors, or make really dimwitted remarks. (One agent tweeted that any author who used the word "half-breed, no MATTER the context," would go on her blacklist.)

2) Author cliques. I've seen these threads come up again and again, and it's especially bad among the YA authors... Multiple debut authors have expressed being snubbed or ignored in the past by their bestselling, six-figure-deal toting peers.

Back when I was a newbie author, un-agented and without a book deal, people treated me like I didn't matter. I would participate in conversations and be nice to everyone, but 75% of the time my remarks went unanswered. Now, more people engage with me, but I feel it's all sort of fake.

So, that's my opinion. Others might have had more luck (or thicker skin!) but I will rest quietly in my social-media-free shell... with the daily venture to the Shark's blog.

Colin Smith said...

I've said this before, but it bears repeating: It's all well and good to be puritanical and dismiss social media as not worth your time. There's a lot of negativity out there, and aspects of it are not good for anyone's mental health. The problem is, this is our world now. If you want to be read, you have to engage somewhere, somehow. I think that's the whole point of Janet's "build platform" message. And it's hard. I'm finding it difficult. I'm one of those trying to figure out how to get people to look at my work. And I'm not just talking about agents and publishers reading submissions. I'm talking about readers taking an interest in my free stuff. Stuff I post on Twitter, on my blog, and on WattPad.

Janet's point here about engagement is at the heart of it, I think. And I appreciate these tips. I use Twitter a lot (@colin_d_smith), but I'm not always good about engaging. Sometimes a "like" is the best I can do. But that's not really enough to make a connection with someone. Yeah, it's fun when a celebrity likes your comment. But when, say, Stephen King actually replies to your Tweet, that warms the heart.

Anyway... I'm rambling. Thanks for the suggestions Janet. Though I often lose heart, I won't give up. Not yet. :)

John Davis Frain said...

I haven't done much research, but I've yet to see any data that says a large following on Twitter or any other social media translates into sales. Based on personal Twitter interaction, I'd be skeptical such data exists.

OTOH, I suppose you could argue the same thing about starting any marketing. It's a slog at first, and you never know what's going to resonate with people.

So, despite showing up with little confidence, I'm at least going to show up with a positive attitude and try to inch along a platform at Twitter. 2019, here comes @Frainstorm... I'll look for y'all.

(Thanks for the kick in the pants, Janet! I think "Thanks" is the right word.)

Colin Smith said...

John: I don't think it's all about sales. It's interest. Showing you have an audience. That it's not just you and your grandma who like your work. Not all of them will be buyers, but they each have friends who might be. The whole word-of-mouth thing that worked so well for Harry Potter in 1997.

In any case, whatever anyone's misgivings about the whole social media enterprise, it's all for free. You don't have to pay anyone to do anything (aside from your internet service provider), so what have you got to lose? Except for a few hours every day getting sucked into people's Twitter feeds... but hey! What's time? ;)

Colin Smith said...

John: Let me rephrase my initial sentence. It is about sales, but it's not necessarily about a direct correlation between platform and sales. Ultimately, yes, publishers want to sell books (authors and agents are not averse to the concept either). But social media helps with both direct and indirect selling ("Buy my book" and "Psst, hey, you should buy so-and-so's book"). Just wanted to clarify. :)

Konnie Enos said...

Could I get a question or two answered? I do have a Facebook page and my sister and I have a blog, and I've been told I should start building my fan base and contacts with a twitter account but I know nothing about it other than posts are supposed to be short. I don't even know where to begin.

Any advice?

Barbara Etlin said...

I couldn't care less about having a huge following on Twitter or elsewhere. I try to engage with people, commenting when they say something interesting. And I'll retweet people I feel I know when they announce a book launch, as long as they don't promote constantly.

I do buy books by Twitter people who seem nice or funny, if their book is on an interesting subject or if it's MG.

Lennon Faris said...

I like seeing rants. It's so interesting to me to know that people like that exist.

For anyone else on Twitter, I am @ LennonFaris. I mostly post illustrations for kidlit, so if you need a colorful pick-me-up, come visit.

Found Dena and Theresa. Sarah, what is yours?

B - I know what you are saying. But I think *most* people don't try to snub. I think they are just too caught up in their own world.

Sarah said...

I was already following Colin and John, but I've added everyone else who listed their handle. (Why didn't I do this before??)

Lennon, mine is @fireplusalgebra (from the Luis Borges quote: Art is fire plus algebra.) I'm a math teacher and author, so it just makes sense....

C. D. Monson said...

Lennon, I just checked out your illustrations. They're beautiful!

Miles O'Neal said...

It really frosts my shorts that publishers expect writers to do so much marketing. Most of us are not marketers at heart and lack the skillsets. But that's where we're at.

I'm looking at guerrilla marketing techniques, but I'm also working on the modern traditional platform building. I've finally established a blog schedule (MWF, each day of the week having a theme). I post each blog's link and pic to my author FB, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.[1] Those posts include something to try to pique interest (as do, hopefully, the pics and blog titles). Wix has pretty good blog insights (in beta), so I'm trying to understand better what works and what doesn't; I'll be engaging a pro to help with that, too. I'm reading up on all of this.

My twitter is @miles_oneal . Some of us sent our handles to Colin, who maintains the blog list that's near the upper right of Janet's blog (at least in a computer web browser; no idea on a phone).

[1] I have FB set up to also post to IG and Twitter, but it almost never does any more. I have to do them all by hand. Yay, technology!

Miles O'Neal said...

Oh, and I try to engage some, too, and I follow people, though not everyone who comes along.

robinssis said...

This has been on my mind a lot lately. I have a Twitter account and Facebook page under the pseudonym I used to self-publish back in 2013. I didn’t know the first thing about publishing or marketing back then. Ha…as if I’m an expert now. Anyway, the FB page is all but dormant these days and while I surf Twitter, I don’t provide any of my own content. I’m hoping to start querying my current work in progress this spring – fingers crossed – and the consensus among my writer’s group is to start building the platform beforehand. As in now. I’d like to use a pseudonym again which means – I think – that I need to make a decision and run with it. The whole thing just feels so insurmountable. Most days, I’d rather crawl under a rock, but I’m guessing that’s not an option.

Gabby said...

Janet, thank you so much for this. As someone who's just stuck a toe in the Twitter waters, I've been wondering what I'm doing and how it works. Like Lennon, I'm trying to drum up interest in my children's illustrations, but I'm discovering that it's also an easy way to see what's going on in publishing. Being a lurker, I don't feel easy swanning in and brandishing my twitter name, but I do enjoy the commentariat here and will certainly be checking you guys out.

Emma said...

I can't often add to these comments during the day ('cause you know, day job), and all the conversation seems to die down by the time I can sit down and participate. But this topic is very much on my mind now.

I've seen authors do better launching and selling their books when they have a bevy of devoted followers on social media, but only when they already have a few books under their belt and have fans. And I'm not talking about megastar authors.

It's harder for debut authors, for obvious reasons. If anybody wants to connect with me on twitter, I'm @emilyanaymark

I'd love to follow all of you, and will do so in the middle of the night when (I do all my stalking) I'm not working my day job.

Colin Smith said...

A bit OT: I've always wanted to be good at drawing, but that skill went primarily to my older brother. As a result, I do okay, but I drool with envy at anyone who can paint or draw well. And today I added Gabby to that list. Check out her website, folks! :)

Tales from Teesside said...

I read the blog and read these comments, then went to Twitter. The first thing I see is a tweet from Janet.


Timothy Lowe said...

Sigh. Guess we have to embrace this madness. @AllTimLowe

I am going to follow those I haven't on the comment feed. If I miss you, feel free to try me and I will follow you back.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

It's sort of improbable, but I actually love Twitter (handle @AuthorizedMusin )

I've made REALLY good friends with some people (Writers and otherwise)

I've driven traffic to my blog, my writing, my patreon, and my novella (now in both ebook on a bunch of platforms, and pod paperback on Amazon)

It's a place to get information, good and otherwise, because you should also look into things yourself! (I feel)

C. D. Monson said...

I followed everyone who left their twitter handle. I agree with Sarah, we should have done this before. Mine is: @ cd_monson for anyone who wants to follow me back.

Woodland creatures unite!!! :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Mine is @McDowell_Ellie. I will follow those I do not already follow who listed here. We can help each other.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

I'm on Twitter but I haven't made a single tweet. That will change Year's Day.

I'm @Cecilia09817211 (sorry, still trying to replace this auto-generated handle)

Panda in Chief said...

I (mostly) play on Twitter by Janet's recommendations. It's hard these days not to talk about politics, but I try to (again, mostly) comment in the "this is an injustice, let's do better" variety than getting snarky about what's going on, though I do read and enjoy those. For those who enjoy well informed snark, you can't do better than follow Joyce White Vance, a former Alabama prosecutor and frequent MSNBC expert guest.

For some reason, I don't know if it's the changes to how FB is set up, I find it easier to have real time conversations with people on Twitter. There is a wonderful panda community there, and I love engaging in "panda improv" I just can't help putting words in pandas' mouths, especially the current twins in Atlanta.

I can't authoritatively comment on any cliquishness among the YA writers, but Picture Book and Middle grade people are generous and welcoming. You can't go wrong joining conversations about food, pets, and retweeting cat videos. Panda videos are very relaxing. I've gotten some great book recommendations, and shared many as well. I've followed some fabulous illustrators and have been followed back by many of them.

No matter what social media platform you choose, it's the "social" part that's important. If anyone wants to find me, I'm @PandaChronicle on Twitter and Bob T Panda on FB. I'm also PandaChronicle on Instagram, but I still haven't seen the point of it, so I'm not there hardly at all. Mostly I am lurking around Twidder.

Lennon Faris said...

c.d. monson - thank you! they bring me a lot of joy.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Panda in Chief I agree with you about Instagram! I have one now, because it was necessary for entry into a "free boots for life" contest and I decided that I might as well use it for book promotion, interspersed generously with puppy pictures. Mostly, the people I follow are people that I follow on Twitter.

However, I accidentally hit that button in the app that says "search your phone contacts" and I found a significant portion of my family there! So now I get to see my art school cousin's projects and my uncle's rain gauge and stuff.

Dena Pawling said...

I'm @DenaPawling on Twitter. I just followed everyone who followed me and/or posted their handle here. Looking forward to being "social"

Aphra Pell said...

I read an interesting study a while back about Instagram influencers - the gist was it isn't the number of followers that matter, but the level of real interaction.

For what it's worth my hypothesis is that a slow-burn but authentic development of community is better than following thousands of people in order to get thousands of follow-backs. The latter gets your numbers up, but if those follow-backs are following thousands on the same principle, then they are actually highly unlikely to see most of your content. 100 people who are actually interested in what you do is more use.

I'm @AphraPell - I mostly post about animals and history and other random things that interest me. There are a lot of animals.

John Davis Frain said...

Well, this was kinda funny, provided you have a warped sense of humor.

With my commitment to reclaim my place on Twitter, I came out of a work assignment tonight and promptly checked Twitter in my car. Without realizing, I turned the key to play some Christmas music on the radio, but didn't start the car. After spending some time (too much time apparently) surfing Twitter, I turned the key to start the engine.

Except I'd drained the battery.

My wife was at a holiday party. My son who drives was downtown without his car. And, yes, it was raining.

Social media killed my car. Fortunately, my sister was around to help me jump my car.

Stay tuned for tomorrow when I tiptoe back into Instagram!

Miles O'Neal said...

Video killed the radio star.
Twitter killed John Frain's car.

New song on the way?

John Davis Frain said...

If John sings that new song, Miles, it's headed straight for the Bottom 40 in record time.

April Mack said...

Konnie Enos, I was really hoping someone would answer your question, because I’m in the same boat! I have no idea where to start when it comes to Twitter.