When wandering along the precarious paths of book marketing, no doubt you’ve heard of using social networking to market your books. But it’s never as easy as announcing your wonderful book to the world and watching your book climb The New York Times best sellers list or the USA Today best sellers list. We’ll look at fallacies and facts related about building a social media presence and how to optimize social media to promote your romance novel.
First, the Bad News
You’ve written your masterpiece and made it as wonderful as you possibly can. You’ve published it and got it on all the distributor channels for e-books and paperbacks that you can muster — and it falls flat. Your Amazon ranking sits somewhere in the 1 millions. Desperate, you use Facebook and Twitter to announce the book to the world and get nothing but crickets. Maybe your Amazon numbers dip into the 100,000’s and then creep back up.
What in the heck happened?
This is actually pretty common when it comes to books by unknown or relatively unknown authors. Without the fan base to support the author and without the book reaching the intended audience, the books simply becomes one of millions of books available online.
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Time Waster or Book-Marketing Powerhouse?
You can increase your presence and reach your intended audience using social media. Social media promotes your presence online and includes blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube, and a host of other online forums where you can talk with people about all sorts of things, including your book.
If you are already using social media to stay in touch with family and friends, you’re probably already aware of what a time sink social media can be. Between all the memes, the cute cat pictures, news stories, and other items, you can spend hours wasting time with little more to show for it than learning what character in Firefly you are.
Because it can be a real trap to the unsuspecting author, it can suck you in and leave you wondering where the day went. For example, there are games and apps on Facebook that can totally waste your time. However, if you avoid such temptations, you may find that Facebook is a great place for book marketing.
Website and Online Bookstore
Before you go into social media, you need to have a website available so people can find out more about your book and where to buy it. Amazon allows you to create a terrific author profile right inside the store at Amazon Author Central. (Hopefully, other retailers will soon realize the value of allowing authors to create custom profiles.)
Do you need a website? Absolutely. Many web-hosting sites have building apps that make it simple to create a website from scratch. Within an afternoon, you can have a decent website up, or if you’re too squeamish to do it yourself, you can hire someone to put together a basic website for you.
No Spam, Please
Before you start posting to social media, there are unwritten ground rules you should follow. One of the huge problems with social media is the spam and arm-twisting perpetrated by the uninitiated. If you’re using social media only as a sales tool to tell people to buy your book, please stop. Very few people are interested in getting a hardball sales pitch when they’re on social media. They recognize the hard sell and are likely to unfriend you or remove notifications of when you post something. Spamming people with your book sales is worse than not having a web presence at all. You’ll be known as “that person” who talks only about his or her book and nothing else of interest.
Using Social Media to Find Your Audience
The first step when entering the social media market is to find your intended audience. On Facebook and Google+, the best way to do that is to find groups that appeal to your romance writer colleagues and fans. Doing a quick search on “romance” in Facebook yields The Romance Reader’s Connection, Romance & Thrillers Group, Romance Readers, RomCom Erotic Romance, Romance Novel Junkies, and Romance/Erotic Author Promo Group. Each one of these groups has thousands of members to whom you can talk to and with whom you can share your wealth of knowledge concerning romances and romance novels. It’s likely that you’ll make some friends or pick up some followers by discussing romance topics.
Create a Facebook and Google Page for Your Fans
Fan pages are big in Facebook, and business pages are important for Google+. If you don’t have a fan page on Facebook, it can be very difficult to reach your fans. Facebook tinkers with what shows up in your fans’ news feed, so unless your page is popular, earning lots of likes, comments, and shares, individual fans may not receive the information that is so vital to keeping you in touch with them. The way to get around this is to provide plenty of interesting material, showing your wealth of knowledge about a particular subject.
GOODREADS HAS GOOD READERS
Goodreads is the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations. The site allows you to connect with other readers and see what they’re reading. If you haven’t already created an author page, you should do so soon. You can upload your book(s) to the system, add book trailers and links, and even make use of the new Q&A feature that allows readers to interact with authors.
You can also join one of the groups — a quick search turned up Romance Readers Reading Challenges, Paranormal Romance & Urban Fantasy, Historical Romance, 19th Century Epic Romances, and Young Adult Contemporary Romance. and add your fiction to the appropriate Listopia lists, whether that would be College Romance, Intense And “Angsty” Romance, So you love a Bad Boy or Tortured Hero, or one of the many other lists dealing with romance and all its sub-genres.
STICK A PIN IN IT
One of the newer players in the social media space, Pinterest has fast become a powerhouse. Driven by visual content–including images and video–Pinterest is a great place for romance authors to post favorite book covers (including your own), posters or screen captures from favorite movies, photos related to your research, or even share quotes. (Well, quotes that have been typed onto an image.)
You can create boards–these are defined by the categories for the images you upload. For example, you might start a board for “Research” and one for “Actors Who Should Play My Characters” and one for “Beautiful Locations Where My Books Are Set.” This a chance to build a relationship with your audience through visual content. What kind of images best represent your brand? What kind of images will engage your target reader? What images will build a bridge between you and that reader?
Marketing for Romance Writers has created has created several Pinterest boards, including MFRW Authors, Free Books, Book Hooks, Book Video Library, and boards dedicated to various book cover models. Check out their Pinterest boards here.
Here’s a board created by author S. Dionne Moore that shares photographs from her historical research.
TWEET YOUR HEART OUT
While Twitter is, by and large, a terrible way to make direct sales, it is a wonderful way to make new friends and build relationships with romance readers and authors. Start by following people who are interested in the kinds of books you write: other writers, book bloggers, book reviewers, librarians, editors, journalists, etc.
What’s the deal with these pound symbols? On Twitter (and some other social media), the hashtag (#) is used to denote a particular topic or thread. If you click on a hashtag, then Twitter will call up a whole stream of Tweets that include that same hashtag. As such, when you include a particular hashtag, then your Tweet will be entered into that same stream–and you could potentially pop up on the radar of a lot of strangers who may be hearing of you for the first time.
As a romance author, your target Twitter users might be using one of these:
#RWA (Romance Writers of America)
A way to build your circle on Twitter is to be part of #FollowFriday or #FF — where you share the Twitter handles of other writers, readers, and fans of romance ficton.
If you’re running a book promotion, it might be handy to include a couple of these in your Tweet:
Further reading: #TwitterFail: 5 Reasons They Won’t Tweet About Your Book
Be Interesting and Interactive
One of the great things about social media is that you get to chat with your potential fans. Watch and see what your friends and fans are saying on the social media of your choice. Make comments. Post something funny that is relevant (or not) to your romance novel. Keep the spam low, but if you do have a new release, a special book sale, or something worth mentioning, such as an award, do tell your fans. They’ll want to know, because you’ve built up a rapport that enables you to market to them. Many would be glad to hear about your upcoming book and where they may be able to purchase it. A warning though: Once you post about it, don’t continue to repost the same thing. You can subtly remind them with a photo of the latest cover on your fan page’s cover or profile picture.
Keep a Blog
Blogs are a great way for you to chat with your readership and give them plenty of great content that will get them to keep coming back for more. You can link your blogs to many different social media outlets, including Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. When you link Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ to your blog and you post something on your blog, a message with the link to your blog post appears in your social media feed. Blog sites include Blogger, Goodreads, and Livejournal.
What you post in your blog is really up to you. If your romance is a regency romance, you can write about the time period when your book takes place. If your book is a paranormal romance, talking about the supernatural creatures and the history behind them is great fodder. You can post excerpts from your novel, serialize your novel and post it one chunk at a time (assuming you have the rights to do so), post brand-new material, talk about the creative process and how you wrote the book, and write about other things your readers might find interesting.
Can’t think up something to say? Ask your writer friends on the social media outlets if they would be “guest authors.” Chances are they would be delighted to do so and may ask you for a guest post in return.
Historical and Regency Romance UK
A group of historical and regency romance authors teamed up for one blog. This way, they can share the workload, and share the marketing value. Participating authors include Louise Allen, Jo Beverly, Lynne Connolly, Nicola Cornick, Christina Curtenay, Amanda Grage, Elizabeth Hawksley, Anne Herries, Jane Jackson, Jan Jones, Melinda Hammond, Joanna Maitland, Fenella Jane Miller, and Jane Odiwe. The ladies take turns blogging about their fiction, their research, and anything else of interest to their target readers.
Podcast Your Books
One medium that is often ignored by authors are audiobooks. You can podcast your books by posting your audio on Libsyn.com or similar podcast hosting websites. Once your book is up on Libsyn, it can be published on iTunes and other podcasting websites.
The disadvantage is that podcasting takes a steep learning curve. If you’re not gifted with a pleasant voice, or if you’re uncomfortable reading your book, you may find that podcasting isn’t for you, or you may decide to pay someone to podcast your book. Voice talent can get expensive, so it may not be an option for those who have to watch their expenditures.
Another way to connect with romance readers is through videos. They can be as simple as videos you create with a webcam on your computer, to videos where you take readers along with you.
Romance Author A.J. Harmon uses the free Google Hangouts service to connect with her Facebook fans live. She answers questions, shares news, and even gives her readers a chance to be a guest star!
To promote her Christian historical romance novel To Whisper Her Name, author Tamera Alexander and her publisher created a series of videos that took viewers to the Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville, Tenn., the setting for her novel.
Playlist: Tamera Alexander: Welcome to Belle Meade Plantation
How to Get Other Authors to Promote You
If other authors whose works are similar to yours or at least in the same romance subgenre are posting interesting things on social media, there’s no reason to not like and share their posts, as well. Not only will they think of you favorably, but they’re more likely to repost your posts. Guest authors on blogs, interviews of other authors, and book reviews are surefire ways of finding readership, especially if the author has written something that is in the same genre and enjoys the same readership you’d like to attract. Post a good review or an interesting interview and have that author’s name attached, and chances are that author will tell his or her readership to read your blog. Those readers who mosey on over to your blog may check out other posts and note what you’ve written. You may find that you’ve gained some fans just by being a thoughtful and generous promoter.
Will This Get Me on the NYT Best Sellers List?
Now comes the tough question: Will all this work on social media put you on the NYT best sellers list or the USA Today best sellers list? Probably not, but then it really depends on what your goal is. How do you define success in social media marketing? The answer depends largely on how many people you’re able to reach. Decide what your goal is as an author, and make it realistic. Much of your goal will depend on how well known you are. Maybe the NYT best sellers list is out of reach for you, but perhaps getting your romance to sell better than a 20,000 Amazon ranking consistently is doable.
The problem is that there usually isn’t a one-to-one correlation when it comes to social media and book sales. Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule. Even if you do all the things mentioned in this post, you can’t guarantee a certain number of sales from your hard work. But you can set goals for numbers of books sold, number of people reached, number of fans on your page, and numbers of times a particular post was shared. In this way, you can build your small successes into bigger successes.