However you hope to publish your work, whether it’ll be an ebook, an online serial or as a weighty literary tome, one thing is the same: you need to know how to market your wares. In this two-part post, we talk to publishing and SEO guru Chris McVeigh about how authors can navigate the minefield that is social media and digital marketing.
Why do you feel strongly about author marketing?
CM: For most of the 20 odd years I’ve worked in the publishing industry there’s been a tacit agreement between authors and publishers that the publishers were the partner with the appropriate resources and the in-house expertise to market their author’s work. Sadly though, a combination of technology and a shift in the business models of the largest publishers has resulted in an unprecedented number of new titles being brought to the market – publishers’ resources have been squeezed and their marketing and promotional capabilities are no longer as effective as they used to be.
What’s the most important tip about author marketing you’d like to pass on?
CM: Like it or not, if authors want to be certain that their books have the highest chance of success they have to accept the fact that they’re going to have to shoulder more of the responsibility for marketing themselves and their work.
Related reads: How improve your book’s SEO and Google rankings>>
How has ‘digital’ changed the way that writers can promote their work and engage with new audiences?
CM: The advent of digital has made it much easier for authors to access the audience channels that have traditionally only been used by marketing professionals with specialist tools and large budgets.
The rise of social media has not only given authors the ability to form direct relationships with their readers but has also allowed them access to networks of publicists, bloggers, agents, publishers and opinion formers which have hitherto been all but inaccessible to them.
Like all technological advancements, this one offers up both opportunities and threats – these new tools are only useful if authors learn how to use them properly. Many of the authors who have mastered these new digital tools have enjoyed extraordinary success but I hear from a lot of authors who have leapt in without any clear goals or strategy and as a result they invariably end up frustrated and feeling like they’re constantly throwing themselves out into a vacuum and seeing very little return for their time and effort.
How can a writer decide which social media platforms are right (and wrong) for them to use to promote their work?
CM: Which social network to use will depend very much on what an author hopes to achieve. Every social network has its own strengths and weaknesses depending on the tasks in hand. The most useful description I’ve seen is this one:
Twitter: I’m eating a donut
Facebook: I like donuts
Foursquare: This is where I eat donuts
Instagram: Here’s a photo of my donut
YouTube: Here’s a video of me eating a donut
LinkedIn: My skills include donut eating
Pinterest: Here’s my donut recipe
Tools only work when they’re applied to the correct task – there’s no point using a screwdriver to try and chop wood – so to use social media successfully an author should take the time to learn about the strengths and weakness of all the platforms.
For example, Facebook can be a terrific broadcast medium but it’s less good at converting interest into sales. Twitter on the other hand is an excellent sales channel once you have established a reputation as a trusted curator.
Success can mean different things to different people so authors need to define a clear marketing strategy from the outset so they know what they want to achieve – once this strategy has been decided they can choose which social media tactics are most likely to deliver the results they want.
Related reads: How to get an author strategy for your blog >>
Can you point to an author who’s really nailed social media and why?
CM: I can do better than that. Here’s a list of 126 authors who are fantastic at Twitter which was compiled by my good friend Sam Missingham, at Lounge Books.
I’d say that the thing that all of these authors have in common is that they have an authentic voice that reaches beyond just trying to sell you their new book. They invite us into their lives, they’re generous with their attention and they don’t take themselves too seriously.
All of these qualities mean that when they do have a new book to sell they have hundreds, sometimes thousands of cheerleaders standing at the ready to help them get their message out.
If an author wanted to get started on Twitter I’d advise they follow all 126 people on this list and see how they do it.