I know the classic idea when someone starts writing sounds a bit like this: “Find an agent. They will find a publisher and then this one will fix your book, publish it and then also distribute and market it”.
Well…this is the dream right?
Even if this might have been true in the past, for most of us these days, such a dream will stay… (how to say that in a kind way?) just a dream!
I am not saying it is impossible that a publisher will do your marketing work for you but, aside for seriously famous people, there is no sufficient guarantee of returns. In short, the risk is too high. Even worse, if it is your first book, there will be no reason for a publisher to rationally spend money they probably will never make back.
Because of this, writers today have to learn a bit about marketing and self-branding. One of the most powerful ways to do this is through social media platforms – these are particularly good because they connect you directly with your readership.
In this post, I want to spend some time, and paragraphs, going through various social networks and giving you examples of how I am using them and how many others are doing. I’ll dedicate a more in-depth post to each platform in the next few weeks.
Bear in mind, I am still at the start of the work to build my author platform so these are the lessons learned of a noob but I hope they can help.
Ok, let’s start with the king. Facebook is, simple to say it, the biggest social network around. Many say it is going down in number of users interacting with it but it is still dominating the scene with its whopping 2 billion monthly active users.
Most writers are using Facebook to build communities.
What am I doing with it? Well, I am special as usual right…the original one. Ok, ok…you got me. I am just building a community.
I post everything related with writing and publishing there. The page has a clear goal and matches that of my blog. I am still wondering if I want to change the name of the page (Sebastiano Merlino Reader and Writer) or that of the blog to make them match each other.
I am being very clear about the mission of the page though – “I review stories and give tips to writers for crafting, publishing and marketing. And I do this as I learn them.”
Many authors wonder if they need a separate page per book. Well, there are various opinions around the topic and no definitive answer. The “a page per book plus author page” strategy definitely maximizes the specificity of your message but massively increases the management cost of the pages (and their marketing costs). The opposite approach of “a single page to take them all” has reduced management and marketing costs but blurs you message.
My personal advice here (and take it with a grain of salt) is that if you have still a handful of followers you shouldn’t be bothering in partitioning them around and tolerate the hit of a more fuzzy message. The game changes when you reach higher targets (10k+ followers), at that point start questioning yourself about the benefit of more specific promotion.
In my opinion, one of the indie authors doing a great job with this is Joanna Penn (who I follow also on her blog and invite you to do the same). She splits her audience for her marketing/writing (following her on TheCreativePenn) from that of her as an author of thrillers (on JFPenn). This helps keeping specificity and it is a strategy she can afford being such a highly followed author.
This one is a personal favorite of mine. I’ve used twitter one way or another since 2010.
I have a way less specific profile on twitter. I tend to post in there anything that matters to me. My profile hints clearly that I will do (“Software Engineer, avid reader, somewhat a writer. Passionate about technology and science. Always ready to hear a good story. Tips for readers and writers“).
Why am I using it like this? Well, there would be a lot to say here but, as a general idea, twitter is my platform of choice to share who I am and allow people to look behind the curtain of the character I am building and marketing around. If you follow me (@merlinoseb) you have probably noticed it already. I will mess around with Zita, post photos and videos of my cat and diverge on discussions about machine learning and programming languages. Of course, I talk also about writing
There are other strategies I see working for others. James Altucher uses one I particularly like. He often schedules Q&As on twitter in which he provides advice on specific topics. This is quite involving for readers given the interactivity and this is paying him back in followers.
With Pinterest I have a very specific approach – quite similar to the one I have adopted with Facebook.
My main rule on Pinterest is that I have a clear profile, with a clear mission. My profile photo, my personal description and boards match such description.
I will never pin anything that doesn’t match that mission nor I will have any board that doesn’t fit the picture. Of course, I do have my own private Minecraft-related boards (because Everyone.Has.Minecraft.Related.Boards), but these are private and shared just between the most trusted folks.
Lucinda Brant has one of the most interesting profiles in my opinion. The boards she dedicates to her novels are full of details around the time period, costumes and dresses of the characters, items they use and everything you may encounter in the books. All of this is described attentively in the pins.
I am pretty much a noob on Tumblr. I am currently using it as a microblogging platform to complement my verbosity on this blog. I like to share there everything that relates with writing that I consume from the web and enjoy.
You’ll find that on my profile I share a wealth of youtube videos, images and posts from blogs. Not sure I have a strategy that works here but I am still exploring the platform as I go to find what works for me. Currently I consider it a middle ground between a specific channel (like Facebook is for me) and a broad and personal one (like Twitter).
As said, I still don’t have a clear view of the best strategy to use on the platform. One of my favorite tumblr these days is Leigh Stein. She has a very relatable approach to the platform and quite often shares behind the scenes of both her personal and professional life.
I do not really use Instagram but it is definitely a platform worth investing on. It is currently out of my scope only for one reason: it was the platform I was less active on for a starter and I needed to learn and practice the others first to avoid spreading myself too thin in terms of invested time (I still have a regular job pals!).
K.M. Weiland has a peculiar approach to the platform. She writes articles on her blog (helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com) and posts title images on her Instagram profile. This helps them fill it with a stream of posts that also convert on her blog.
Sara Benincasa on the other hand uses the platform in a very personal way, giving the followers a view of her life as a writer (and even more broader than this, as a person).
I use Wattpad quite a lot. I have been writing there since a couple of years ago and I often read and consume what other people produce. Despite not having a user base of size comparable with the previously cited platforms, Wattpad is heavily targeted around the world of writing and reading alone. This is something important to remember.
In my profile I mostly publish short stories and I have an old version of my work in progress (Seven Kinds of Darkness) posted there. I also drop some poetry and most probably I will start a critique service in Italian (sorry non-italian speakers!)
I think writers should use Wattpad to promote books, share unedited, or publish content they don’t intend to monetize elsewhere – in short I see it as a great opportunity for brand advertising and it is one I will double down in the future.