20th October, 2022
8 min read
Hints and tips on using social media for authors, including Facebook, Instagram and Blog Tours
Author J. D. Pullan published her novel I'm Going to Find You with Troubador. Here she gives her top tips on using social media for authors
Why Social Media for Authors Matters
Social media plays an important part in making sure potential readers know about your book. However, it is sensible to have a plan e.g. style and frequency of posts. I tend to post once, sometimes twice, a week on Facebook and Instagram and plan the content in advance. I also try to vary posts whilst keeping them ‘book’ related as this (hopefully!) keeps followers interested in what I have to say. I am not comfortable just continually promoting my own book and, having followed others who do this, it gets very boring very quickly and I usually end up ‘unfollowing’ them. However, you do still need to let potential readers – and new followers - know your book exists so it can be a fine balance. It’s a good idea to post about other book-related themes as well as updates about your own novel to widen the content and always try to keep posts visually appealing. Do also engage with followers, always reply to comments and keep all interactions positive – remember this is your ‘public profile’. It is important your posts consistently align with your author brand and always have a link (usually in your ‘bio’) to make it easy for followers to access your website to find out more or buy your book. Over time I have also learnt to be adventurous with hashtags – having been very new to social media this has been a huge learning curve for me! It is worthwhile taking the time to research which hashtags have the most success for your posts, and again to simply have fun experimenting.
Facebook – General Posts
The most success I have had with Facebook has been finding groups specific to a location near a bookshop that is stocking my book and then posting to let potential readers know. This helps to support local bookshops too, which is something I always try to do. When a post works well you will see an immediate result – stock with Gardners will reduce as bookshops order copies and there will be an uplift in the sales rank on Amazon, both useful tools to monitor levels of interest. As an example, my first ‘experiment’ was with Chepstow Bookshop which is local to me. I posted in the Chepstow Community Facebook Page, which has 26.2k members, to say thank you to Matt at the bookshop with a little blurb about my book and a photo of the cover. I had already visited a couple of reading groups nearby who had thoroughly enjoyed it, so immediately there were positive comments from local readers recommending it to others. I then received invitations to two more book clubs and it went from there.
Building on this, I was then lucky to have further success with a number of bookshops in Cornwall where the town they are in also has an active Facebook Group. Different Facebook Groups will work for different genres or even non-fiction. For the latter, you may find groups with a specific interest in the topic so you can find a suitable target audience for your posts. If you use this method do ensure you do your research and adhere to the rules of the different Facebook groups. Some do not allow advertising and may decline your post, others actively promote local businesses and are the best ones to select. Some are public – where anyone can post – others are private so you will need to join them in order to post. Again, take time to look at the different groups to select the most appropriate. One of the highlights of using Facebook, however, has been receiving messages from people who have read my book and simply wanted to tell me how much they loved it. I have also had other aspiring authors get in touch to ask for advice. Do keep track of your posts to avoid duplication and also to identify which ones are most successful. It is a good idea to follow up on these a few weeks later to maintain sales.
Facebook – Author Page
I realised about seven months after publication that it would also be useful to have an author page on Facebook. Until then my posts had been via my personal account and I was very aware of not wanting to continually bother my friends and family with all my book-related posts. Usually, only members of the specific groups see the posts but occasionally others will too if it is a public group. By setting up an author page people have to specifically elect to follow you and therefore want to see your ‘bookish’ posts, so I feel more comfortable with this. I set up my author page to coincide with my Instagram Virtual Book Tour and I now enjoy posting a variety of book-related articles. Hopefully, this maintains interest as well as providing updates about my own books and writing journey. As with the website, it is good practice to think about the content in advance and always keep it consistent with your ‘author brand’. There are also a number of Facebook reading groups that may suit your book. A lot of these don’t allow self-promotion but some do on certain days of the week which can be a good opportunity. Two I have found useful – and with some great recommendations for other books too – are the Good Housekeeping Book Room and Seasalt Words. I have been fortunate to have my book recommended on both by readers who have enjoyed it. You can also share the link to your author page, when appropriate, to enable book club members to follow you.
My first post was four months before publication and I had no experience of Instagram prior to this. It was recommended to me as a popular platform for sharing information beyond your usual friends and family, so this was my main reason for experimenting with it. I soon discovered a whole new world of book lovers from all over the globe, some of which have 1000 followers, so I started following various accounts – including reviewers, authors and booksellers - to do my research and learn how I could use it in a way I was comfortable with. Still a relative novice I now post once or twice a week, although I have become more adventurous with ‘hashtags’ to ensure posts gain wider coverage and appeal. As with the newsletter it takes time to build up a loyal bunch of followers and pays to plan the content of your posts, likewise do keep these consistent with your author brand. Instagram is extremely visual so it is fun being creative and the more you use it the less daunting it becomes, plus there are numerous websites offering advice. On occasion, I ‘tag’ @Troubador_Publishing if I think my post is one that may be of interest to them. The Social Media team loves to see how authors are promoting their books and will support by sharing posts when appropriate.
Instagram – Virtual Book Tour
I began to notice some book launches were supported by virtual book tours where ‘Bookstagrammers’ or bloggers are given an advance copy in return for an honest, open review about a book. This got me thinking about doing something similar for my book as to date my posts had only been getting a handful of likes or comments, yet I felt there was an opportunity to do far more. 29 June is a significant date in my novel so, after much consideration, I decided to arrange a mini-book tour around this day for extra impact. I messaged a number of bloggers who I thought may be interested - there would be no use in sending it to someone who reviews other genres - so that I could ask them each to post a review on a specific date culminating on 29 June to tie it all together. I was thrilled to hear back from six Bookstagrammers who were delighted to have been asked and it has been a pleasure working with them. To make it more fun I sent each of them a package including various items related to the plot to build the suspense – an original copy of Jackie magazine from June 1976, which just happened to have some articles that were extremely pertinent to the story, a postcard from Cornwall, a mocked up ‘Missing’ poster plus a signed copy and, of course, some Cornish chocolate!
Prior to the tour I also posted a ten-day countdown on Instagram, with daily themes related to the plot and tagging all the bloggers so they could share these with their own followers. The plan was to create interest - and intrigue - in the book tour before it started. By this stage I was extremely nervous - I didn’t know if the reviewers would even like my book and they are very honest in their opinions. However, when the time came they each posted a fabulous review with eye-catching photos on their agreed date and it was a successful seventeen days from start to finish. Looking back, it was extremely hard work. Creating the packages and writing the daily articles was incredibly time-consuming and I needed to be very organised.
Unfortunately, it also coincided unexpectedly with a close family bereavement but, being past the point of no return and after much agonising, I decided to continue and perversely having something to concentrate on actually helped me through a very difficult time, plus the bloggers were amazing. With hindsight, a 10-day countdown was too long and 3-5 days would have been a lot easier. However, I enjoyed being creative and it made a change from phoning bookshops and I would definitely do it again, albeit in a more streamlined way. In terms of results, although the positive reviews of my book were seen by hundreds, possibly thousands, of the bloggers’ followers I didn’t see an immediate increase in sales, whereas with Facebook I definitely do after a successful post.
However, just the fact that so many people are now aware of my book must be a boost. It takes months - if not years - for word of mouth to get around so patience is essential and a lot of people will remember a recommended book even if they don’t actually purchase it until much later. A number of companies offer this service, some with book tours lasting a whole month, however, if you decide to do it yourself my top tips are to be as creative as possible and make sure you have the time and commitment to see it through.
Social media for authors is an essential part of the marketing mix and something that all indie authors should invest time in. It's not simple, but I hope the tips above which I have tried and tested will be helpful. I'm Going to Find You was published by Touabdor in November 2021. Website: https://www.jdpullan-author.com
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