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Book Promotion When Time Is Limited — What’s Most Worth Doing?

| Posted in Book Marketing, Social Media |

20

A blog reader sent me a note asking what I would do to promote a series like my Emperor’s Edge if I was starting from scratch and had an hour a day to work on the marketing side of things.

I rambled a bit and tried to give a helpful answer, but I wasn’t sure I articulated myself well, because the truth is… enh, there’s not an easy answer or one specific thing you can do to find certain success. Oh, I know what I would do if I were starting from scratch (I recently laid out my plan for launching a pen name in a different genre and getting — I hope — reviews and sales as a new author), but what should you do if you only have a few minutes a day for book promotion?

I’ve seen different things work for different people with having a free/cheapie Book 1 in a series combined with advertising (ideally several sponsorships on high-traffic sites/mailing lists spread over a few days) being the easiest way to make #1 (below) happen. Having a mailing list and encouraging people to sign up as soon as they finish your first book (with a link in the back) is how you get to never having to start over from scratch for the next book or the next series.

But how do you sell those first books in the first place? Especially if you can’t afford advertising or you haven’t been able to get enough reviews to qualify for the most trafficked sites? Or you find, as I have, that there just aren’t that many good sites where you can advertise, and they’ve either booked up and don’t want you or you’ve already pimped your stuff there.

Basically, there are two ways to sell books:

1. Gain visibility on Amazon (and, we can always hope, the other stores) so lots and lots of people find your books while you’re sleeping, eating, and vacationing in Hawaii thanks to your book earnings. We all want this. Some people get it, usually after doing a lot of #2, and building up a mailing list/fan base that helps them launch future releases into the tops of category lists at Amazon.

2. One reader at a time.

#1 is so awesome and profitable and awesome (yeah, I said that twice) that it’s no surprise that’s what we all want. But it’s hard to make it happen when you’re just starting out. Instead you end up on social media sites and blogs and forums, spending hours a day, hoping that you’ll find readers by splattering yourself and pictures/blurbs of your books everywhere. Maybe you get some sales, but you really have no idea why or where they came from, and you’re afraid that if you stop doing all that stuff that you’re calling promotion, your sales will dwindle to nothing at all.

I actually think aiming for one reader at a time is the sanest way to go about building a fan base (you can make yourself crazy reading every success story out there and scheming up ways to gain Amazon fame) and the most sustainable, but there are ways to go about it that are smarter than others. I’m going to give a list of ideas — these are things I’ve done and that have worked, and they’re things that should continue to work no matter how competitive and crazy Amazon gets — but first let me point out one thing (for those who are underwhelmed by this one-reader-at-a-time-thing):

If you acquire one loyal reader a day, that’s 365 people at the end of the year. (We’ll assume others tried your work, but one a day liked it enough to sign up for your newsletter because he/she wants to buy what’s coming out next.)

If you send out a new-release email to 365 loyal readers who go out and buy your new book within the first couple of days, it’s enough to:

  • Sell at least 365 books in the first week! 365 x (3.99 x 0.70 royalty) = $1,019 (this may completely cover the costs of the editing and cover art for many authors, meaning everything after is profit)
  • Get into the Top 20 of a small to medium category on Amazon, at least for a couple of days (who knows — maybe you’ll have a blurb/cover that attracts new eyes and you’ll stick there for a while)
  • Get 20 reviews within the first few weeks your book is out (make sure to ask and don’t be afraid to give out some review copies to your proven readers), thus qualifying your book for a lot of advertising options.

In other words… a reader a day adds up. Before you know it, you could have the kind of following that turns you into one of those visible-at-Amazon-and-selling-books-in-your-sleep authors.

So let’s talk about efficiently finding those readers without spending hours a day on book promotion (seriously, if you’re spending hours a day, you need to apply the 80/20 rule and use some tracking links so you can figure out what’s selling books for you and what isn’t). If your books are good and you’re able to consistently spend an hour a day doing this stuff, you should see results.

4 Things You Can Do Right Now to Find Your Next Reader:

1. Have a free ebook or have a nice long free excerpt on your site — promote this.

It’s not that you can’t sell a full-priced book as a no-name author; it’s that it’s much easier to get someone to check out something for free. If they read it and like it, you get a sale anyway (either of the full-priced book or of the non-free next book in your series).

2. Write a blog post in the same engaging style that you write your fiction in (assuming you’re trying to sell fiction) on a topic that might be interesting/helpful for your potential reader — promote this.

You can start your own blog or ask to do guest posts on other people’s blogs (make sure their blogs get traffic and are places where your readers might hang out). Either way, you want to tailor your blog post so it’s useful to the target audience. You know your genre, so you know what this might look like. If you write fantasy novels with smart/geeky heroines, maybe you’ll want to write a post on the five best geeky heroines in fantasy (mention your stuff and throw in a link to your site/book at the end, but make the focus on characters lots of your readers will already be familiar with, and encourage engagement by asking them what they think).

Note: I write about self-publishing, not the best subject for attracting fantasy readers, but it works to help me sell books anyway because a) some self publishers happen to be fantasy readers and b) the content tends to get tweets and link-backs from the writing community, which ultimately means more traffic from social media and the search engines and more of those fantasy-reading authors finding my site.

3. Join one or two communities or follow blogs where your potential readers hang out and put your free excerpt link in the signature/profile/url space. Then post helpful and/or entertaining comments regularly. 

This kind of thing can be a time sink, so be careful and monitor whether you actually end up getting any traffic (clicks on your link) from those sites (if you install Google Analytics on your personal site, you can see where traffic comes from; if you use a service like bit.ly, you can make trackable links that go other places, such as your book page on Amazon; if you sign up as an Amazon affiliate, you can see which sales of your book come directly from your site/affiliate links — and make a few bucks on the side).

I’d only pick the communities where you’d enjoy spending time even if you didn’t have anything to sell. If I wrote science fiction and loved doing book reviews, I’d find the SF/F people on Goodreads. If I loved forums and wrote steampunk, I might post on a popular steampunk forum. If I enjoyed reading blogs and wrote romance, I might leave comments on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

You get the gist.

4. Join one or two social media sites and put the links to your profiles in the backs of your books.

When it comes to marketing, people talk about social media this and social media that and how awesome-sauce it all is. It can help, but it can be another time sink if you’re not careful. Again, I’d say pick one or two sites that suit you and that you could see yourself hanging out on whether you had a book to sell or not. My main one is Twitter. I was on Twitter before I had any books to sell. Posts have to be short, and that appeals to me. Others like Facebook. Others like Google+. Others like Pinterest.

Pick your favorites and post there regularly. What do you post? Again entertaining/interesting/useful stuff. Which might include links to your excerpt/free book and your blog posts. But which should probably include some other stuff too. Links to other people’s entertaining/interesting/useful stuff.

Any why are you here? So your existing readers can find you (that’s why you’re putting your links in the backs of your books) and so they can easily share your cool stuff (including the occasional self-promotional tidbit) with others. You’re not going to sell piles of books on Twitter, but every now and then, especially if people other than you are sharing your posts, a new reader will find you.

There you go. Four things that can all be done on an hour a day (or less). Writing a blog post is probably the only thing that could take more than an hour, but there’s no rule saying you have to compose it all in a day. With social media, I wouldn’t spend more than a few minutes a day on it. When commenting in other communities, it shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to read and contribute something worthwhile.

With a lot of this, the secret is consistency. I’m not all that brilliant at marketing (none of this is utterly creative or going to sell me a bazillion books tomorrow), but I’m there, day in and day out, publishing new books, posting on social media, and scattering blog posts around the web. The little things add up. A reader a day.

5 Facebook Marketing Tips for Authors

| Posted in Social Media |

20

Month after month, Facebook and Twitter are the top sources of traffic for my site (after the Big G and its search engine, of course). If we consider that I spend much less time on Facebook than Twitter (I usually post to my FB author page 3 or 4 times a week, versus using Twitter incessantly throughout the day, because I’m become a tweet-happy addict), then Facebook is the clear winner when it comes to time spent versus results delivered. I should also point out that I don’t post links to my site on Facebook very often, so all of this traffic (1,000+ visitors in January out of about 23,000 total) comes via two or three updates a month.

And is getting traffic to my site a win insofar as book sales goes? It’s hard to say if the folks who come in via social media outlets are buyers (I suspect many have already bought), but it’s a rare day that I don’t have at least a couple of sales at Amazon (monitored via the affiliate links I provide to my own books) that originate on my blog. Sales aside, I believe that having an oft-visited Facebook page gives you a lot of brand-building benefits that aren’t easily quantifiable.

So, what’s the trick to doing well with Facebook as an author?

I’m not a guru (though am I dorky enough to listen to social media marketing podcasts), but here are a few things that work for me:

  1. Create a Facebook “Page — This is different from your personal FB account, which requires you “friending” people (and perhaps revealing more of your life than you’d wish to relative strangers) so that they can follow you fully. Pages are specifically for businesses, organizations, artists, bands, authors, etc. and can be followed simply by giving a thumb’s up. Once someone “likes” your page, you can keep in touch with them, letting them know about new releases, updates to stories, character interviews or other extras you’ve posted on your blog, etc. (Note: because of something called EdgeRank — see the infographic below — less than 20% of the people who like your page will see all of your updates, but you can pay a few dollars to “promote a post” that you want everyone to see, such as the announcement of a book release. There are also things you can do — keep reading! — to increase the number of people who naturally see your updates.)
  2. Include the link to your page in the backs of your books (especially useful for ebooks, where people can click directly from their e-readers) and ask readers to click like — As an author, this is really the only place you should be asking for likes. These are the people who have already enjoyed your stories, so these are the ones you want following you, thus allowing them to easily learn when you have more books out for them to grab. Many authors get this backward, believing that lots of Facebook likes will translate into lots of new people buying their books. I get lobbied for likes often from authors I’ve never heard of — a like from me would be meaningless because I have no relationship with you or your work. In short, you don’t want likes from people who never plan to visit your page again — due to the way Facebook’s algorithms judge share-worthy updates, this could even negatively affect your promotion efforts. (For those who are trying to figure out how to get more people to buy their books to start with, I’ve done lots of other posts on that topic; try 7 Reasons You’re You’re Not Selling Many Books for starters)
  3. Update regularly — This one’s fairly obvious. If you abandon your Page for months and only start making posts again two weeks before a book release, it’ll be as if you’re starting over from scratch. Because people haven’t interacted with your page in ages, they’ll no longer be seeing your updates. You don’t have to post a lot, but shoot for a couple of entries a week. If you’re already blogging about things that are of interest to your readers, some of your Facebook updates can simply be links to your blog. Here’s my author page if you want to take a look at how I roll.
  4. Make sure some of your updates encourage interaction — More people will see your updates in the future if you get more likes and (especially) comments on your existing updates. You can encourage interaction by ending your post with a question. For example, I got 78 comments last month on a quick question asking people what they were reading. (I got some ideas for new books to check out too!) I won’t do a question every time, as I figure it’s good to mix things up, but this is a great way to get comments, encourage conversations, and start to build a community (sometimes your visitors will start interacting with each other). All of these things make people more likely to visit again.
  5. Keep things interesting for people who have already read your book(s) — Because so many authors are trying to use Facebook as a place to sell their books to new people (I’ve already discussed why I don’t think this is that practical), they often post reviews or sales-pitchy tidbits from their existing book(s). Hey, there’s nothing wrong with throwing a character quotation or something in once in a while, but you should assume that the people who are most likely to follow you on Facebook are already familiar with your work. Think about the types of cool things you can post for fans who’ve already read everything that you have out. They may be hoping for teasers from the next book, links to author/character interviews, updates on how the next book is coming along, etc.

At the end of the day, you want to make your Facebook page a cool destination for existing fans, not a marketplace stall where all you’re trying to do is sell the books you have out. (Don’t worry, if you make your page a fun destination with an active community, the word will spread — i.e. people will share your updates — and new folks will be exposed to your online presence in a way that makes them want to check out your books.)

Bonus material for marketing geeks who really want to get Facebook:

What is EdgeRank?

Source: CopyPress

How to Promote Your Books on Pinterest

| Posted in Social Media |

21

If you’re an author, you’re probably already getting social (and trying to sell your books) on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn, not to mention leaving comments on blogs and writing posts of your own. I know what you’re thinking: it’s just not enough!

Okay, that might not be exactly what you’re thinking. But Pinterest is another place where you can establish a presence as an author and perhaps woo a few more people into checking out your work. I signed up at the end of last summer and Pinterest was the 43rd highest referrer of traffic to my site this month, which… isn’t all that impressive really. That accounted for 15 visitors. Not a lot! However, I spend very little time on Pinterest (as opposed to Twitter and Facebook, where I’m quite active), so I didn’t have to work very hard for those visitors. Also, according to Google Analytics, those folks spent a much higher-than-average time on my site, meaning they actually stuck around and read the excerpts of my books (more on how I know that’s where they went later). Did any of them end up buying my books? Since my sales all happen on other sites (Amazon, B&N, Kobo, etc.), it’s impossible to say, but so much of book promotion is a matter of being in as many places as you can, that you may find it worth it to set up a Pinterest account.

What is Pinterest?

According to the site, Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that “lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.”

Uhm, all right. So what does that have to do with promoting books? Well, there’s a social aspect to the site (people can like, comment, and “repin” each other’s images), meaning that your awesome new book cover could get spread all over the site by people you don’t even know. If you were the person who originally posted the cover, you could have linked it to your sales page at Amazon or (probably better) an excerpt of the book on your site, one that includes links to all of the major stores where the book is available.

Ways to Use Pinterest to Promote Yourself as an Author

We’ve already touched upon one way, so let’s go over that first.

  • Upload your book covers. If you have multiple titles out (or plan to one day), you can create a special “board” just for your covers. For example, here’s a picture I just uploaded to Pinterest for my novella, Beneath the Surface. I didn’t put the full book blurb in the description, but you could certainly do that, especially if you have a short one. You’ll see I used hashmarks to tag the book with keywords (fantasy and steampunk), the same way you would on Twitter. Hashtag keywords are searchable on Pinterest. You’ll also see that I edited the link, so that clicking on the picture will take people to an excerpt of the book on my site. If you put a price (use a $ somewhere in the description), people will also be able to stumble across your book when browsing the “gifts” section of Pinterest. Put $0 if you want it to be tagged as FREE.
  • Upload cool artwork related to your books — Remember, the power in Pinterest is in the sharing, and people love to share (repin) cool pictures. If you publish children’s books and you have some fun interior artwork that you can upload, this would be the place to show it off. Again, you can edit the link to point interested parties back to your website. For those of us with adult (non-picture) books, it may be tougher to come up with artwork to share. I have a board where I post the fan art readers create for my Emperor’s Edge world, but if you’re a new author, you may not have anything like that yet. You could also find artwork out on the web that reminds you of your world or your characters. In this case, you should make sure the link goes to the artist or photographer who posted the picture, but you could chat up your story in the comments and mention the title so interested people could investigate further.
  • Upload interesting quotations or tidbits of advice from your books — If you spend any time on Pinterest, you’ll see a lot of quotations or humorous greeting-card-esque phrases pinned on people’s boards. I haven’t done this yet, but I’d like to go through my books’ popular Kindle highlights and turn some of those into images to share on Pinterest (in fact, if anyone reading this wants to make a few bucks doing this for me, let me know :D). You can turn text into images with Word, but there are also some online tools for making things quick and simple, such as Pinstamatic.
  • Network with other Pinterest users who are “pinning” in your genre/niche. I honestly don’t spend much time doing this, but if you enjoy your first few days on Pinterest and see some results insofar as drawing traffic to your site, you could get more involved. In my case, I might look up active pinners (folks who share a lot of pictures and get a lot of likes and comments from their community) who do a lot of fantasy, steampunk, geekdom humor, science fiction, etc. If you get on these people’s radars, they might be more likely to pin your book covers and other genre-related pictures.
  • Pin and comment for the heck of it — People aren’t that keen to help out those who are blatantly promoting themselves all the time, so you may want to post some “just for fun” stuff, too, and do some commenting on other people’s pins without an obvious agenda. I keep most of my boards related to my genre and general geekery, but I added a dog one, too, just for kicks. Food boards are very popular too. You probably shouldn’t post so often that people get sick of seeing your stuff, but nobody will mind a little variety.

For those who are already active on Pinterest, do you have any advice that I haven’t touched upon here? Would you like to point out any authors who are doing a good job on Pinterest? Please, let us know in the comments. You can also follow me on Pinterest if you want to keep track of my pins.

 

5 Tips for Getting More Likes and Participation on Your Facebook Author Page

| Posted in Social Media |

12

My Facebook Author PageIf you’re like most authors these days, you’ve been told that you need to be active on social media sites, especially Facebook with its 1 billion users. At least some of those people must be part of your target audience, right? (If you haven’t made an author page yet — and this is different from your personal Facebook account — you can read about how I made my first one a little over a year ago).

But what if nobody visits your author page? What if nobody comments? Does it matter?

I’m sure there are authors doing just fine without Facebook, but here’s what more likes and participation can do for you:

  • Increase awareness of your “brand” on Facebook (especially when people share your posts with others you wouldn’t have normally reached).
  • Help sell books (I have readers who won’t sign up for newsletters and who don’t follow blogs but who are on Facebook, so they depend on my announcements there to know when new releases are out).
  • Keep your name in readers’ minds in between books.
  • Allow you to easily interact with readers and build a sense of community.
  • Send traffic to your blog, interviews, book excerpts, etc.
  • Publicly show agents/publishers (if you’re hoping to find them) that you’ve built a platform/fan-base.

Though I may not be a Facebook rock star with a million followers, I’m having some success with my author page, at least in terms of interaction and bringing traffic to my site. Here’s what seems to be working for me:

How to Get More Participation on your Facebook Author Page

1. Step 1 is to get some likes for your page.

There’s little chance of Facebook users seeing your updates if they haven’t given you a thumb’s up. This isn’t to say that you should be out there lobbying for likes from strangers (in fact, don’t do this, as there’s no point in extracting likes from people who haven’t read your work and, er, liked it, as they’ll be indifferent to your updates).

The folks you want to stop by are those who’ve read and enjoyed your work (and might want to read and enjoy more of it someday). The easiest way to reel them in is to put your Facebook link at the end of your ebooks and ask them to stop by.

Don’t assume they’ll automatically think to look you up online. With e-readers, though, it’s easy for them to check out a link right from their device. You can include your blog address, newsletter sign-up page, and other social media links in your afterword too.

2. Post regular updates.

People only see recent updates in their Facebook news feeds. If you haven’t posted this week, you’re not going to be on anyone’s radar.

Also, if a long time passes without users interacting with a particular news source (AKA a certain author’s page), that source will fall off the radar. Past likes or not, you’ll have to pay for “promoted posts” if you hope to pop up before those people again, and then it’ll be in the form of an ad. In other words, the more people often you post, the more likely people will see the updates and interact with them.

Some people recommend daily updates, but I think three times a week is sufficient unless you simply adore posting on Facebook. These don’t need to be novel-length entries either (and probably shouldn’t be). Anything from a quick question to a few sentences is considered normal on the site.

3. Post images and videos.

I admit I’ve never done a video (maybe someday), but I’ve heard many social media gurus recommend it, and I can see the potential. I have posted book covers and fan art, and those are almost always the posts that get the most likes, most comments, and most shares. (Shares are great because there’s an opportunity for folks outside of your regular fan base to see those posts.)

4. Pose questions or ask for feedback.

If all you ever do is make announcements (i.e. the new book is out, the cover art is done, I’m working on a new short story), you might get some likes and comments, but not nearly as many as if you pose a question or otherwise invite a response of some sort. Remember, the more people interact with your page, the more likely it is that your announcements will continue to show up in their feeds.

5. Be fun and interesting.

You can certainly post the day’s word count or announce that you’ve sent your manuscript off to your editor, but think of posts that might be more fun for those who follow your page. Out of the bazillion pages on Facebook, why should people visit yours again and again?

I’ve posted humorous excerpts from projects I’m working on, links to character interviews and other “bonus extras,” and I’ve offered folks chances to participate with my world-building in small ways. For example, I just did a post asking for ideas on naming a type of pastry that’ll appear in a novella I’m working on. I got a lot of fun suggestions, and I imagine people who saw that post will smile when they see the “emperor’s buns” mentioned in print.

There are lots of things you can do on Facebook to increase the participation on your site, and they needn’t be big time sinks. I can’t think of many weeks where I’ve spend more than 5-10 minutes maintaining my author page. For this small investment of time, you can reap a lot of benefits.

If you have any other suggestions for increasing participation, please let us know in the comments. Thanks for reading!

Facebook or Twitter, Which Is Better for Book Promotion?

| Posted in Social Media, Writing |

29

There are a lot of social media sites out there, but Facebook remains the big kahuna (estimates say it’ll hit 1 billion users by August), and Twitter is no slouch with 140 million users at the last tally. Twitter seems to be particularly popular with writers, and you can find a lot of publishers and literary agents tweeting throughout the day there.

But if you’re an up-and-coming author with limited time in the day, and you can only manage one social media site, where should you be? Well, as I pointed out in last week’s post on self-published authors making a living e-publishing, blogging and social media may be less important than simply getting a lot of books out there, but let’s assume you’ve got some work published, and you’re struggling to get sales. Maybe you want to get involved in the social media sites; you’re just not sure how to do it effectively and what sort of results you can expect. I’m going to talk about my own experience with Twitter and Facebook today, so maybe that’ll help!

Twitter — My Experiences

I’ve never been terribly social online (unless slaying dragons was involved — ex-Everquest/WoW addict here, yes), so I didn’t flock to the social media sites when they first started getting popular.

About six months before I decided to self-publish (when I was getting close to finishing my second novel, Encrypted, and was thinking that I’d query agents with it), I decided to hop on Twitter, with the vague notion that I could build up some followers that way. That’d be sure to look impressive to an agent, right? Ultimately, I picked Twitter first because I didn’t think I could waste much time on a site that forced one to leave such short posts (hah?).

Well, I mostly chatted with people from my writing workshop. It wasn’t until I’d decided to self-publish and do it all on my own that I got serious about marketing via Twitter. I perused lists of writers and fantasy fans to stalk, er, follow, and I started this blog at the same time. I had a hunch that Twitter wouldn’t work well for selling books, but that it could be effective for driving people to my blog (this has turned out to be true, and many people who’ve visited my blog over the last year have ended up checking out my books).

I now have 4,000-odd followers (after the first 500, I stopped seeking them out, and just adopted a policy of following writers/readers back) and am active on Twitter every day, mostly because I can tweet from the dog park or when I’m stuck in line at the grocery store — sit-down computer time is for writing the next novel and blogging, thank you very much.

How effective has Twitter been for selling books?

Enh. I do know that people have tried my books (especially my freebies) after seeing my tweets (or tweets others have “retweeted”). Several readers have told me so. But as far as it being worth all the time I put into it, I’d say that Twitter is more for networking with other people in the business.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve had a number of guest posts appear on popular writing/publishing blogs because I first “met” the authors via Twitter, and some influential bloggers have mentioned my posts of late. That’s definitely sold some books for me, if in a roundabout way (increasing readership and links to my blog, so that my site shows up when people search for things like fantasy author or steampunk books).

An observant reader will note that Twitter seems to be intrinsically linked to my blog, and that I credit my blog with more book sales. I see Twitter as a tool to get people to visit my site. Would Twitter be as effective for me if I didn’t have a blog? I don’t think so.

A regularly updated blog gives me something new to plug every day on Twitter. Your followers might get tired of it if all you do is promote your book links, and, as I mentioned, I haven’t found the hard sell to be particularly effective on Twitter. In fact, as a reader myself, I ignore the tweeps who do little besides try to push their books. As I’ve observed before, I think most of the successful authors you see doing constant book-promotion tweets are selling well despite it rather than because of it (the successful ones who come to my mind also have large bodies of work out there).

To sum up my thoughts on Twitter, I’d say do it if you enjoy it and can be a regular fixture there (tweets fall off the radar quickly, within minutes, so you’ll find it tough to get much traction if you’re only posting once a day — or less), and especially do it if you have a blog that you want to grow. As for simply selling books, I don’t think you’ll get your biggest bang for your buck here.

Facebook — My Experiences

I was dragged kicking and screaming onto Facebook. I only made a personal account because some buddies I took a trip with held our group pictures hostage (they put them on Facebook and made it so only “friends” could see them). The punks. I made an account, but wasn’t on there much, and it wasn’t until last August that I made an official author Facebook fan page.

At first, I harassed my Twitter followers to get them to run over and “like” it, and I received my first 100 “fans” that way, but it’s grown organically since then, and I’m closing on 1,000 fans (though, being a fan on Facebook only means someone gave you a thumb’s up).

Where’d these folks come from? It’s hard to know for sure, but I mention my blog and social media links at the end of my ebooks. Also, my Facebook page appears right after my home page on a Google search for my name. Either way it’s my readers who are stopping by (I actually see very little point in asking fellow authors to “like” your page, though you might, like me, want to get a few likes in the beginning that way for social-proof purposes).

The first week after I put up the fan page, one lady popped in and said something like, “Yay, you’re finally here!” and that was a reminder to me just how much Facebook is a part of some people’s lives. Some folks who won’t seek out blogs will spend hours there, so it’s worth having a presence on Facebook, even if you’re not sure how much time you’ll ultimately spend there (do yourself a favor and create a separate author page so you don’t have to debate whether to “friend” people back and your fans don’t have to read your personal friends-and-family updates).

How effective has Facebook been for selling books?

Facebook has surprised me. I don’t honestly know how many books I’ve sold through there (I do have a fan page “tab” that lists my freebies, but I was lazy and didn’t set up bit.ly links or anything I could monitor), but I’d say it’s my most active community that’s entirely fan-focused. My blog gets a lot of readers, but many are authors/e-publishers and not necessarily readers of my books. My Goodreads discussion board is fan-focused, but doesn’t see a lot of activity in between book releases. My Twitter followers are a mix of writers, publishers, and fans, and the fans often get lost in the mix there. I have a list for “readers,” but it can be a little hard to keep track of who’s who with all the conversations floating around.

When people come to my Facebook fan page, they’re there because they liked my books and they want to talk about them and hear updates about them. It’s turned into the place where I post snippets of dialogue and teasers from works-in-progress, because that’s where I get a reaction for those things. People “like” or comment. On Twitter, those types of tweets disappear so quickly that people who aren’t on that hour will probably miss them. On Facebook, new readers can find my page and surf through all the old posts.

So, does any of that sell books? I think so, because it’s a way to stay in people’s minds. If your recent Facebook posts appear in their timeline, they’re going to remember you. In a way, posting teasers becomes part of a “product launch” formula, where you’re getting people excited for the next book, so they’ll want to go out and buy it as soon as it comes out.

Also, and I may try this for a week or two when I release Conspiracy (EE4) in a few weeks, you can advertise just to the people who have liked your fan page. This lets you target those who are fans of your work but who might not check in every week.

In summary, I’ve found Facebook to be an extremely effective way of consolidating a fan base. I do think it’s ideal for pulling in existing fans, though, and making sure they don’t forget about you. I’m less certain about how many new readers I get through Facebook (though, there is the viral potential; the posts your fans make on your page are visible in their timeline so their friends might see them).

Can Facebook/Twitter do anything else for you?

If you’ve read this far, you may have the idea that both social media sites have been useful tools for me, but that I don’t attribute either with tons of book sales. You’d be right. I think, in the end, getting a lot of work out there and maybe having a freebie or two in Amazon, B&N, iTunes, etc. is going to do the most for you when it comes to selling books, but I don’t regret the time I’ve spent on these sites. And, as I started this post talking about agents, there’s one more thing worth mentioning:

From what I’ve seen (and I’ve been approached by several of these folks now), publishers and agents get weak in the knees at the prospect of an author who’s already built a platform. While book sales are a bit of a guessing game for outsiders, your popularity — or lack of popularity — on Facebook/Twitter is clearly visible to others. If you’re an indie and want to be courted by a publisher, or you’re thinking of querying an agent, this stuff can only help you there.

 

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