This semester, I had a great time teaching my first graduate-level publishing class at Rosemont College. It was a real thrill, spending so much time with students eager to get into the industry, and exploring different ways to venture in. Some were aspiring editors, others wanted to get into publicity. The class? A marketing course.
A lot of the course touched on social media, as well as discussing ways to utilize various publishing-industry-specific tools when working on publicity and marketing campaigns.
I loved it so much, I thought maybe I should start blogging about some of the stuff I dished out. Maybe take some lessons from my pals and colleagues Carly and Maria over at P.S. Literary, and start doing advice-type-things on the ol’ blog.
So, this is the first of what I hope will be many.
There are a lot of reasons why I’m on social media. I use it to network with people in the publishing world, keep track of news both locally in Philadelphia, nationally in, you know, the world, and keep an eye on what’s going on in the book industry. I meet new authors, both as a fan and as potential clients. I tweet out links to things I find interesting and hope others will too.
But I don’t think of it as a place to sell books. Because social media seldom does that well.
Now, there are certainly a few exceptions to the “social media doesn’t sell books” claim. When an eBook deal hits for a book that plenty of people love and an author is able to rally their friends around it… well, that can do wonders. But that’s a $1.99 eBook we’re talking about, not your $17.99+ novel.
“Then why am I even on here?!” You scream to the heavens, your finger hovering over the ‘delete account’ button in your Twitter’s settings.
Calm down. This is why.
What social media will do, is make you part of a community. It’ll endear you to readers. It’ll serve as buy-in for someone thinking about covering you and your book. And later on down the line… maybe the result of that will sell a book. Maybe.
But again. That’s not why you’re on there. For sales. You should be on there for other perks. Let’s dig in.
Sometimes you just wanna hug your favorite authors.
1. ENDEARMENT & WHY I’VE BOUGHT THE SAME BOOK EIGHT TIMES: Like every book lover ever, I spend way too much time fussing over my personal library. Moving this book here or there, buying a new box set so I have to shift an entire shelf. Maybe I’m having a rough day, so I just decide to go all High Fidelity on the collection, reorganize it autobiographically or some such silliness.
Whenever I do this, there are a few books that always stay in place. Two dozen or so. Written by authors that I’ve become pals with on the ol’ social media. Some I’ve never even met, some I’ve only seen once or twice at a convention. But these are the books I talk about with people the most. And this is a huge takeaway for authors and social media that people don’t consider enough.
Social media has the power to endear you to your followers and fans.
See, social media has endeared the authors and their books to me. And this, in my opinion, is the number one reason to be on social media as a writer.
Publishing is always trying to figure out how to get consumers to know about their books. “Discoverability” is a fancy buzzword that gets tossed around a lot. And the most powerful method of discoverability isn’t big ol’ ads, book trailers, microsites, marketing campaigns, etc.
It’s word of mouth from passionate fans and book lovers.
Those two dozen or so books? They’re the books I giveaway the most to friends who come over. The books I rebuy constantly. For example. Recently while looking over my expenses, I noticed I purchased Something Strange & Deadly by Susan Dennard SIX TIMES last year. Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland? EIGHT times. The list goes on.
Following people that love your work, booksellers you admire, communicating with other authors. They’ll keep those special books on their shelves, and tell their friends about them.
It’s an emotional connection. That’s something no amount of ad money can buy.
2. COMMUNITY & NOT BEING “THAT GUY” AT THE PARTY: When I have a bit of book news, there are a handful of authors I tend to send a big ol’ BCC email to, or bug on gchat, or hit up via DM on Twitter. If we weren’t friends and in the same community, chances are this would result in an irritated email back or a subtweet, and then zero results.
But when you’re part of a community, the result is wonderful.
Signal boosting cover reveals, eBook sales, new deals, etc. Blog posts listing books, including maybe yours. Reviews on Goodreads. Group blogs for debut authors (lookin’ at you, Swanky Seventeens). No matter your genre, there’s a community out there for you, full of writers, booksellers, bloggers, librarians, and readers that will bolster you up.
And now, for a quick lesson.
One question I get a lot regarding joining a community, is figuring out how to actively participate IN said community. How do you build a following? Make friends? It’s easy.
I want you to think back to every house party or college bash you’ve ever been to.
When you walk in, and people start talking to you… do you want to talk to the person who won’t shut up about themselves, or to the person who asks you questions? Who inquires about your projects, wants to know you, wants to talk about you to other people? Who takes the time to introduce you around?
Think about social media and joining the online community like a party. Chances are, you’ll make more friends and more connections by being genuine, by being curious, and by taking a vested interest in others. If you’re just at the party to talk about YOU, no one will want to hangout with you.
Don’t. Be. That. Guy.
There are a lot of reasons why writers write. To tell a story, maybe educate. But one thing you probably don’t think about going into all of it, is the community that you’ll inevitably discover. And finding your people, like minded folks… that’s another reason to put pen to page.
When I announced WELCOME HOME back in February, I didn’t expect to hear from several dozen authors and book lovers that were adopted. My entire life, I maybe knew a handful of adopted kids, who moved in and out of my life. Once that announcement hit, I suddenly knew close to a hundred. I might have cried a bit. Or a lot. It was probably a lot.
Joining a community makes you feel like you’re part of something bigger. You discover a support system you didn’t know you had. Social media is the perfect way to find your bookish people.
Don’t let this happen to you!
3. BUY-IN BUT NOT SALES, DON’T GET EXCITED: When I say ‘buy-in’ I don’t mean purchasing.
When you have a book ready to hit the market, having an online presence is an important way to encourage people to learn more about you not just as a writer, but as a person. The books I love the most and talk about the most aren’t just written by talented writers. They’re written by good people I admire.
If you’ve ever been to a conference ever, you’ve likely been talked to death about platform.
Someone can check out your social media profile, your website that lists your writing, the articles you’ve posted on your site… and know a few things right away. Are you the kind of author who might draw people to their bookstore, if you’re say, plotting an event? Are you someone that might be good on a panel? If you’re unagented, and querying around, are you part of the community? If they are a person in the media, a book blogger or an editor at a magazine, can they learn about you quickly to help with potential pieces?
There are a ton of things that having an established online presence helps with, and this is a big one.
They can be fun!
4. #HASHTAG: THE AUTHOR-CENTRIC ONLINE EVENTS: Still querying? Don’t have a book out just yet? Besides all the other reasons I just listed (which yes, you should still be active on social media in the book community even if you don’t have a book on its way), the author-centric hashtag events are a must reason to be on social media.
Since becoming an agent, I’ve requested manuscripts from SO MANY authors via social media, and signed quite a few as a result of events like #PitMad. I’ve offered to rep authors I’ve found on there, only to find numerous agents clamoring for that particular manuscript, which always fills my heart with joy.
Want to check out a success story? Check out Samira Ahmed’s post about us connecting in #PitMatch, here!
If you’re unfamiliar with #PitMad, you can learn more about it via Brenda Drake’s website. It’s an online pitch event, where editors and agents alike scour for projects they might be interested in. And there are many of these.
There are also excellent resources like #MSWL, or Manuscript Wishlist, which allows you to read through book ideas agents and editors are excited about potentially finding. It’s an absolutely incredible resource, and it all pools into this great website.
And then of course, some authors run them on their own. Dahlia Adler’s Instagram hashtag campaign was FANTASTIC (I presented it in my class!), and helped scores of authors and readers connect. Learn more about it here.
And there you have it!
Hope you liked this, you guys. I’ll do more. Promise.