Standard #1. Use Social Media Wisely. More is Not Better
As mentioned, one of the biggest mistakes that many new authors make is to over-promote on different social media platforms. This is not only unhelpful, it can work against you. Social media can be a powerful promotional tool IF used correctly. Unfortunately, too many writers (especially newly published writers) shoot themselves in the foot using social media the wrong way. Most writers have been guilty of this at one time or another and, to be fair, there is no clear dividing line between promotion and spam. Furthermore, your friends/followers will have differing levels of tolerance. All authors who I talked to agreed that over-posting (to the point where it may be considered spam) was ineffective and annoying. Here’s why, and what you can do to fix it:
1. It just plain doesn’t work-There are thousands of different “book pimping” groups on Facebook. And it may seem logical to join as many as you can, but don’t. Before you join a group, scroll through the feed. Is there productive conversation going on? Are the posts getting attention (based on the number of likes and comments from other members)? If so, go for it. Or, is the feed one long list of promos that no one seems to pay attention to? If that’s the case, pass it up. It’s probably not going to help you, and to post in such a group too often may make you look desperate. As a general rule, don’t self-promote on Facebook or Goodreads more than once per group (unless requested by your street team for sharing convenience) or more than once a week or so on your regular wall. These same rules apply to Google Plus.
On Twitter, the game is slightly different. Tweeting your book every five minutes is not likely to increase your sales and may cause you to lose followers. Hashtags are ineffective unless a lot of others are using and following them as well. Tweets tend to get lost in the massive Twitterverse. My advice: have a single pinned post about your book that your followers can retweet, and otherwise, use good judgment when you tweet. Paid tweeters have varying results and are certainly worth a shot if you feel like trying them (See my comments below about paid advertisers).
Instead of plastering any social media platform with book promos, use them in conjunction with your street team to cross-promote.
2. Excessive self-promotion is annoying to your friends and followers-People’s tolerance varies, but some people will block you for this. If they didn’t buy your book the first 50 times, they probably aren’t going to on the 51st. Most authors are guilty of this, but the easy fix is to use good judgment, follow the rules of the group, and tweet wisely. There is no defining point between self-promotion and spam, as mentioned earlier, you’ll have to use your judgment. If you think you’re over-posting, you probably are.
3. By focusing on yourself, you’re passing up wonderful opportunities to network and cross-promote with colleagues- By ignoring others and only focusing on yourself, you’re sending the message that you aren’t interested in interacting with others, which will make them think you’re unfriendly. People are more likely to recommend you and work with you if they like you. Instead of posting about your book, post about other authors’ books (although this can cross the line into spam territory if done excessively as well-once again, use good judgment). Participate in group discussions. Ask questions about things that concern you. You want to show the world that there’s a real person behind the book. Choose groups wisely; look for signs of drama and trolling (name-calling, off-topic conversation, etc.) and spammish posts (ads for anything other than books). This is a sign that the group is not being supervised, and plus, the trolls will turn on you soon enough. Being involved in an Internet fight will do no good for your reputation. Facebook and Goodreads groups that actively encourage cross-promotion and free, writing-related discussions while discouraging excessive self-promotion are a wonderful way to meet new authors. It’s probably wise to join 2-3 groups that make you feel welcome and comfortable and be an active participant. Leave any group where you’ve been inactive for six months or more, where you feel unwelcome, or doesn’t help you; You’re just receiving unwanted notifications for no good reason.
4. Any time spent on social media, for valid reasons or otherwise, is time taken away from writing-Maximize time spent on social media to your advantage. While taking a “brain break” is good and even beneficial, make sure you’re keeping up with your writing as well. The single biggest factor in writer success is to continue to produce quality works that people want to read. There’s nothing wrong with goofing off on social media. Just keep it to a minimum if you have a book you’re working on. If you’re interested in assistance managing your social media accounts, several authors have recommended hootsuite.com and roundteam.com
What DOES work:
1. Cross-promotion and street teams.- As author Krissy Belden explained, a street team is “a group of people, sharing promotion for your book, commenting on blog postings, and sending "teasers" and links around on your behalf. They do the promotion work for you.” You get to concentrate on writing while the street team does the work. Street teams can be formal or informal, large or small. The key is to select a street team who will work with you and to treat them right. Author Jen Winters puts it this way: “a street team is a group of your fans (can be large or small) that you use to promote your work.these people should be the first to know what is going on with you, the first people you turn to to promote your work on Twitter or Facebook. Because they work for your benefit for free it is essential you reward them with benefits such as contestant gift cards, advanced reader copies, and other such benefits.” You want to have as many people as possible to shout your name to the four winds, but you don’t want to get so overwhelmed that you forget to thank the people who helped you or cannot properly reward them. Don’t make any promises you can’t keep. In my opinion, it’s best to start out small with street teams. You can always add more to your team as needed. Jen, who writes paranormal fantasy, reports she has had success in cross-promotion because, in her words, “I promote EVRRYONE. What’s good for you is good for me.” For more information about street teams, read this excellent blog post by Karin Tabke: http://writerunboxed.com/2008/06/11/what-exactly-is-a-street-team/
In a nutshell, you promote someone (on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or anywhere else) and they promote you back. It’s a win-win.
However, there are some things to be mindful of when it comes to street teams and cross-promotion.
a. This goes against what was posted in the blog, but never ask your street team to do anything unethical, including attacking another author or re-shelving books in bookstores. Author Jamie Jeffries explains it best, saying, “Guess who the bookseller is going to send an angry letter, at the very least? Remember that whatever your street team does in your name comes back to you--and they are usually just enthusiastic fans who want to help you. They don't know the inner workings of the publishing industry.” You have to remember that anything done in your name is going to reflect back on you. If your street team is doing something iffy while promoting you, it’s your butt that’s going to have teeth marks, not theirs. So do not ask or encourage this type of behavior from your street team, don’t look the other way if you know someone’s doing something they shouldn’t, and immediately dismiss anyone who is not acting in your best interests. On this same note, do not allow any author to talk you into doing something out-of-bounds. They will get found out, and you wouldn’t want your name associated with them.
b. Do not agree to promote material that you don’t like or found personally offensive just because you feel you owe someone or you need their help. Your lack of enthusiasm will show, so you aren’t doing the author any favors. If someone promoted you but you don’t feel you can give an honest endorsement of their work, you can repay them in other ways, such as a gift card. You need to kindly but directly tell them why you can’t promote. If they refuse to work with you again, that’s their right. There are plenty of others to take their place.
c. Don’t get so over-involved with cross-promotion in any form that you don’t have time for writing. Some web presence is essential, and what you decide on will depend on your personal preferences, your comfort level, and your time commitment, but writing should always come first. look for signs of drama and trolling (name-calling, off-topic conversation, etc.) and spammish posts (ads for anything other than books). This is a sign that the group is not being supervised, and plus, the trolls will turn on you soon enough. Being involved in an Internet fight will do no good for your reputation. Facebook and Goodreads groups that actively encourage cross-promotion and free, writing-related discussions while discouraging excessive self-promotion are a wonderful way to meet new authors. It’s probably wise to join 2-3 groups that make you feel welcome and comfortable and be active participants. Leave any group where you’ve been inactive for six months or more. If you haven’t needed them in that time, you probably won’t and meanwhile, you’re just receiving unwanted notifications.
2. Book Bloggers: Author Kim Cresswell shared this list of excellent book bloggers: http://www.theindieview.com/indie-reviewers/. And these aren’t your only choices. Many other writers, readers, and reviewers you meet will be glad to give you a spot on their blog. When many of these are done at the same time (called a blog tour), this can be an extremely effective form of promotion, especially when you reach out to bloggers with a large following. You should open up your blog as well to other authors you’d like to promote. Politely email the blogger at the email address provided. Address the blogger by name (“Dear Mary” instead of “Hi!”), politely request a review, and ask which format he/she would prefer the book. Allow the blogger plenty of time (around 3-4 months if you need it by a certain date). Some bloggers have certain submission rules, so make sure to follow them. Don’t assume that the blogger will accept your request. If he/she declines, politely thank him/her and move on. If the review is accepted, you will generally be expected to provide a copy of the book. My advice is to be wary of bloggers who ask for money to guest-blog you. They may give you the promotion without reading, and while this may seem like an easy way out, in the long run you really want people who are going to promote you from the heart. Plus, any form of paid endorsement, not just on Amazon, is technically against FCC regulations. Best to keep everything above-board. http://www.theindieview.com/indie-reviewers/. ALWAYS thank a blogger after he/she promotes you, or if you can, promote them back.
3. Radio interviews, Youtube channels, and podcasts-Many authors I’ve talked to reported an increase in sales after an on-air interview. Author Kelly Marsden recommends ArtistFirst Radio (http://artistfirst.com/) and has reported an increase in sales after an interview. She points out that many readers who don’t frequent social media will listen to these interviews. You can always start your own YouTube channel or podcast for you and your street team to use. Just remember that it may take a while to get a solid following. Audio broadcasts are an excellent avenue for cross-promotion as well.
4. Paid advertising-there is mixed consensus on this. Some say don’t waste your money, and others swear by certain paid promo groups. Author Jessa Jacobs has given her personal endorsement for Give Me Books (https://www.facebook.com/givemebooksblog). They are certainly worth a try, but my advice is to start out small, and test one paid reviewer at a time with no other promo to see if it works. The only way to determine if a paid promo will work for you is to try it. It’s better to get personal recommendations from other writers you trust. A few caveats: (1) paid reviewers may give you a spike in sales, but your long-term goal is to have a fan base. Don’t rely on them too heavily (2) different advertisers have different guidelines and submission requirements. Read these before signing up (3) You will have to sign up well in advance of your desired promotion date (4) paid advertisers are not allowed to leave you a review.
5. Word-of-mouth and personal recommendations-This is the hands-down best way to win new readers. People who like your book will hopefully recommend you to their family and friends. Street teams function as advocates for your book, but nothing beats a personal recommendation. It just has to be genuine; otherwise, as mentioned earlier, the lack of enthusiasm will be obvious.
The main point is that “book spamming,” is a waste of time and can ultimately backfire. However, I asked some other authors if there are occasions when a little extra self-promotion (within reason) is acceptable. The vast majority agreed that it’s OK to post a little extra (key word: “a little) when: (a) you are running a free/discount special of your book (b) the period pre- and post-launch. (c) occasionally, to renew interest in an old title (d) if there is a purpose to your post other than a sales pitch (for example, to announce an especially cool review or to respond to a genre-specific topic of conversation).
Additionally, in conversation with the groups, authors have told me that that following are NEVER acceptable:
1. Using another person’s group or page to self-promote unless given permission to do so.
2. Tagging another person for the purpose of self-promotion without permission.
3. Private messaging a person more than once to make a sales pitch.
4. Bugging a person who’s agreed to do a review to check their “progress.”
5. Becoming rude or belligerent when a person declines your offer or can’t meet your request when you want.
6. Hijacking a discussion topic to promote.
7. Crashing another person’s promotional event.
8. Doing anything that’s generally agreed to be unethical, immoral, or illegal (or encouraging others to do so)
So, what if you’ve already broken a rule? Are you doomed?
No, of course not. We’ve all done at least some of these things at one time or another. No need to beat yourself up. Just learn from your mistakes and move on. Hey, we understand, and we forgive you. I myself have violated every single rule on this manual a time or two (or three…thousand) and probably some others I don’t even know about. We understand that you only want to get the word out about your book. We’re just here to let you know there’s a better way, one that will result in more sales for you and better relations with your fans and colleagues.
How can you handle an errant author?
If you see someone else violating industry standards, there are some steps you can take.
1. First, reserve judgment. People aren’t trying to be annoying. They really don’t know else to do. Remember, you were a first-timer once, too, so try to have some compassion.
2. Deal with the situation before it gets out of hand. It’s natural to want to avoid confrontation, but silent approval of inappropriate behavior benefits no one. It’s better to deal with the issue than to allow an author to continue behavior that might damage their careers or cause them to lose readers.
3. First, talk to the author directly, gently, and PRIVATELY. If possible, give the author a chance to save face. For example, you can say (via PM), “You probably accidentally posted to the wrong group, but just a reminder that posts are limited to once a month.” It’s not necessary to reprimand the author, but at the same time, don’t dance around the issue and hope the author “gets” it.
4. Try using humor to alleviate the situation. (“Could you limit posting to once a month, please? I’m starting to get “Ice, Ice, Baby” stuck in my head”). Smiley-face emoticons and a “LOL” sprinkled in may let the author know you aren’t trying to be confrontational.
5. If this is a group issue, designate one person to speak with the author. That way, he/she can correct the problem without feeling like the group is ganging up on them. Use a “group intervention” only if this technique fails.
6. Reiterate that the author is still welcome to participate in regular group discussions.
7. Suggest an alternative when possible (“we are doing a blog tour in a month, and we’ll be glad to put you on the list.”
8. If the author fails to respond, you’ll have to be firmer (“Posts are limited to once a month, please.”)
9. Your third-and final-warning should be hard-core (“Constant posting interrupts the flow of discussion. The rules of this group say that members are limited to one post a month, and unfortunately, I have no choice but to remove non-compliant members.”)
10. Use drastic measures-banning, unfriending, etc.-as a last resort when an author refuses to respond to lesser methods.
For the sake of time and simplicity, this chapter discusses professional behavior on Facebook, Goodreads, Google Plus, and Twitter. There are many social media platforms available. For advice on etiquette within other social media platforms (Pinterest, LinkedIn, and others), ask an admin or another author you trust.
For more information, Jamie Jeffries has recommended The Coffee Break Guide to Social Media for Writers: How to Succeed on Social Media and Still have Time to Write by Amy Denim. http://www.amazon.com/Coffee-Break-Guide-Social-Writers-ebook/dp/B00GPJOB78
Oh, and don’t worry about anything: be patient and give your book time to catch on. You’ll be fine. Just keep writing.