Books are amazing, and thanks to the creation of ebooks and the subject of self-publishing, more and more author voices are heard each day. Imagine how many authors in the past never reached the light of day because they couldn’t be published, even if they were good. Think of American Idol. Sure, all of the poor performances are vetted out, but think of how many talented singers don’t make it through.

The publishing industry, like many, often works through word-of-mouth and requires having the right connections. I discussed probability before, and it’s not enough to rely on luck. Self-publishing and vanity publishing has enabled every voice to speak, but that alone presents a new challenge. Like with independent music and film, independent books saturate the book market and attach a stigma.

My previous posts talked about the use of social media sites like Goodreads, giving out freebies, and seeking ARCs for book promotion. I’ve learned about permission marketing and decided that I despise spamming, and a lot of indie authors out there just aren’t businesspeople. They also are seldom editors or graphic artists, so readers have been subject to bombardment by sometimes low-quality indie books, and that just hurts everyone. Social media sites like Goodreads are great for meeting readers (but not for spamming).

Freebies through NetGalley or giveaways are a great way to entice readers to pick up your book (but don’t just spam it everywhere), and finding bloggers who do advance reviews is an awesome way to support a book launch (but don’t copy & paste and spam your message to everyone).

Today we’re talking about Instagram, and how a visual content-based platform enables friendly syndication of book promotions. Like Twitter, Instagram allows users to follow people with content they respect or stay up-to-date on public posts that follow a specific hashtag. This has led to a breakthrough of Bookstagram accounts: Instagram accounts with content that focuses solely on stylized book posts. They’re not even specifically book promotions. There are some amazing photos that just center around books. Example account.

 

It’s important to ensure your content is captivating.

The emergence of Bookstagram has encouraged creators to stylize their accounts focused on specific color schemes, show off their favorite books, and more. A number of these accounts obviously work with authors and publishers to promote certain books, but after launching my own Bookstagram, and connecting it to my Facebook business page for my books, I get access to analytics. At the time of this post, 76% of my followership falls into one demographic: that tells me my target audience. How? Well, 76% of people who clicked to follow me and essentially subscribed to my content are in the same category. So, if I decide to launch a paid ad, I know more specifically who to reach out to and engage with.

On top of that, by having my own Bookstagram to spread awareness of my books, other Bookstagrammers can see my content, and some have contacted me for review copies. I previously discussed taking caution with how to solicit reviewers, but as an author, how do you feel when a reviewer solicits you? By chance, I’ve even encountered posts with other  Bookstagrammers using my books within their books. I mean to say, a reader I’d never spoken to or interacted with bought my book, took pictures with it, and uploaded that. Talk about flattery–I immediately connected with them, shared their post, and later found a positive review of my book from them online.

A Bookstagrammer sharing one of my books. Click the photo to see her other posts.

I’ve seen Bookstagrammers profit from promoting merchandise in their photos; they’ll often tag tea/coffee companies with a mug in their hand, authors/publishers with a book, subscription box merch with whatever gift arrived, or even socks (#SockSunday as above), and those companies use their social media accounts to partner with Bookstagrammers for a whole back-and-forth. It’s truly an interesting form of network marketing brought forth by Instagram, and just a week into my launch, I’ve already made several connections.

The beauty is, it’s all permission-based. People can choose to follow me; I follow them back. In my description, I invite them to message me if they’re a reviewer, and have a link to my book’s landing page. I post my own content, and get readers commenting on almost everyone one of my photographs. I don’t even have a need to spam or solicit people, and that’s the power of social media. I can connect with readers in a non-intrusive way. Plus, it’s fun. I’m working with friends and models in my network to create even better content. It’s something I get to treat both as a business and as a hobby, and that’s something I can’t argue against.

 

 

Disclaim: This post and the preceding posts in the series are part of a school project. While the observations, theories, opinions, and suggestions expressed truly originate from me, the motivation is to get a good grade in school. #Pray4yaBoi #GetThatA

There are numerous opinions and hundreds of threads that discuss giving out free ebooks on the web, or distributing free books in general. At the time of this post, I personally have all of my books available as free PDFs for people to review or download; that’s just my position, though I can understand the arguments against freebies. It kills their return on investment.

For example,

I’m going to school for two separate degrees and work a day job in a restaurant. I published two books this year. I’ve spent about $11,000 year-to-date on editing, marketing, proof copies, cover design, formatting, and more for both books. They’re all publishing expenses, and yep, a lot of that money went into some pitfalls, like experimenting with a vanity publisher rather than doing all the work myself.

That monetary figure doesn’t even count the untraceable, countless hours of my personal time I spent brainstorming, writing, rewriting, and self-editing the stories before all those expenses. I didn’t get minimum wage or paid by the word for all that. I enjoyed spending that time writing, but I also worked a lot for the money I spent on publishing. I didn’t take any vacations. I stopped gaming. Hell, I don’t even pay for Netflix anymore because I don’t have time to watch anything. The only way I’ll recover those finances is through sales.

But I don’t write just to sell.

I write because I want people to read my stories. Yes, I love the small royalty checks I do get, and yes, this is a business to me and I would like to make writing my full-time job, but I’m not at that phase yet. What gets me the biggest boost is when I go on social media and see a 1,000-word review written by an avid reader telling the world how much they liked the book. Somebody got my ebook for free on the web and then took that much of their time to tell the world what they thought of it. That is worlds better than just a sale. I sent that reader a free signed copy as a thank you.

So yes, that’s a lost sale, but only assuming they would have paid for a book by an unknown author in the first place despite the social media sites that host and promote thousands of free books. If I were stingy with the book, then I might not have gotten that review or many of the other reviews I’ve received.

Plus, I guarantee that reader isn’t gonna forget that, and their review has already been seen by so many that they perhaps gained me more sales just for writing that post. A free book is the least I can do for something like that. So, I also see it as a give-and-take. Ultimately, I write because I want people to read my books, so making the books available to people to acquire and then discuss on social media works well to accomplish that goal.

I even discovered someone drawing fan art for one of my books and posting it to Deviant Art, a social media site for art and photography. I sent them a copy as well. I mean, come on, someone read my book and drew out some of the scenes?! That’s incredibly flattering.

 

But that’s just my position on freebies…

Many authors will only give out free books if they’re to a friend or to someone who is guaranteed to leave a review, and that’s also a valid position, but where do you find readers who will leave reviews if you just give them your book? Well, besides Goodreads, authors can pay to have their book hosted on sites like NetGalley (which I’ve done to some success), but that’s just another business expense. If you’re not looking to spend money (you know, besides wholesale copies and shipping), there are many, many, book reviewers out there, and while most of them are flooded with unsolicited book review requests and will delete those emails on sight, a good portion of them provide review policies on their blogs. 

Like spamming on forums, there’s a stigma against authors who go through and send generic emails to a bunch of book reviewers on the web. I’ve personally spent hours looking online for reviewers and yes, I’ve emailed a bunch, but this goes back to permission marketing. It’s a mistake I made at first, but I recognize that part of social media is carrying a conversation, and actually engaging with people; not dumping your book off and hoping people pick it up. A lot of these book reviewers get traffic to their blog by picking up books they’re interested in and reviewing them on social media: Goodreads, their blogs, Instagram even. In doing so, readers trust their judgment, but authors covet them. So when you’re browsing social media and in the mood to solicit reviewers, look for their review policy. Most of them will say:

  • If they’re accepting unsolicited requests
  • What genres they’re accepting
  • Their current expected wait time
  • What info to give them in your solicitation
  • If they do Advance Review Copies – which we’re just about to get into

If you go to their territory and follow their guidelines, then your solicitation is welcomed–though it may still get deleted if they’re just not interested, but that’s one way to notify readers your book exists, and it has gotten me some decent reviews.

One thing to truly consider is finding those readers interested in providing Advance Review Copies (ARCs). These people read your book before it’s published and either give you critical feedback that you should consider (like a beta-reader), or wait until it’s publication date to post their review on social media platforms. A well-timed volley of credible book reviews can make a book’s launch a success on search and “what’s popular” algorithms and can help a book hit the ground running.

So if you’re concerned with sales, then using social media to develop a list of advance reviewers and gifting them copies is a strong way to build that momentum.

Disclaim: This post and the following posts in the series are part of a school project. While the observations, theories, opinions, and suggestions expressed truly originate from me, the motivation is to get a good grade in school. #Pray4yaBoi #GetThatA

Yesterday I glanced over how too many authors these days spam their books and don’t really know how to use social media to their advantage. Again, a lot of it’s a mindset. You don’t write to just sell, sell, sell–yes, royalty checks are nice and encouraging–but even traditional businesses seldom succeed if they tackle their industry with the sell-sell-sell/spam-spam-spam mentality. It’s like playing Chess and only maneuvering to claim your opponents pieces. Yes: capturing their pieces is the end goal, but that’s not how you go about it.

Many businesses enter their industry with the idea that they have something to provide, something to say, or something they can do for their community. Look at the business model for Tom’s shoes: they give back and people are happy to support them. As an author, what is your message? What are you trying to say? Are you trying to inspire and educate people with your knowledge and theories about the future of cryptocurrency? Great! That’s interesting. So are you gonna walk through social media saying “buy my book” or are you going to write freely available blog posts, participate in cryptocurrency conversations defending your ideas, and actually work to spread information about cryptocurrency?

I write fiction, and my pitfall is I write different genres of fiction, so my target audience changes. I’m definitely not going to just spam the market with my five books that cater to at least three different audiences. I want to entertain people with a story they can enjoy, but still tug at their emotions by mixing in real-life unfairness, and I’m stingy with my happy endings. It’s natural that I write urban fantasy, paranormal fantasy, horror, and dark fantasy, but there are nuances in each of those genres that I have to adapt to. Sure, they may sound similar (three of the genres are fantasy), but then again so do the music genres hard rock, heavy metal, and metalcore, and as a music fanatic myself, I can assure you that all of those genres have major differences.

So what do I do when I have 5 different books to market to 3 different audiences? I go to Goodreads.

I love chatting with people about books. I recently picked up the Fatemarked series by David Estes, arguably one of my competitors, and his books are quite good. Different from mine, but remarkably inspiring, and they’re newer books, too, so I’m excited to talk about them. Not everybody has heard of them, but they must. So what do I do? I leave a review on Goodreads. I go find other people who’ve read his book–on Goodreads–and see what they thought. Sometimes people point out things that I missed in a book, which makes me appreciate the book even more.

I then see what groups these other readers are in, and participate in their conversations. They often steer me toward new books I might like, a lot of which I can get for free through that author’s giveaways, and I’ve made quite a few friends from it. Some people who’ve noticed my writing have even asked me for writing pointers, and I’ve been glad to talk to them.

I’ve also found some groups that dedicate themselves to author promotion. They do free giveaways and host a bunch of different indie books. It was there that I got the momentum built with a bunch of reviews from a giveaway for The Slender Man. If you look, some of those first reviews are still the top reviews, six years later. That’s inspiring to me. It keeps me going as a writer.

A lot of other giveaways and forums are just more authors soliciting to each other, which doesn’t work. It just doesn’t, but those authors who go back and forth, liking each others books and following each others accounts to boost their numbers are just going to keep doing that, running in circles, and it doesn’t work because it’s not real engagement, and when they go through and message a bunch of readers or spam their books in forums, they get ignored, and they give authors–especially indies–a bad name.

Notice what I don’t do? That.

Yeah, when I was 18 and first starting, those little author circles caught my eye, but it doesn’t work. Again, it’s not real. That’s not how to fake it till you make it. That’s not capturing social media and using it properly. The people that reviewed my book from those giveaways happily did so because I went through the right channels instead of spamming them individually. They got to see my book listed in a giveaway. They got to select it after seeing my pitch in the giveaways post. It’s almost like they were a target audience looking for books to review and not a reader just trying to have a good time. It wasn’t spam, and some of those people still read my books, but I wasn’t going in to sell.

I was going in as a book enthusiast and I participated. I made connections, and then they connected with me.

Notice my other books in the background?

I recently did a paid giveaway on Goodreads, offering 100 Kindle copies of my new book to readers who entered. Goodreads puts it in a designated Giveaways page and readers can go enter to win it. Yes, that cost me money, but it was a way to get my book to people without pushing it on them, and it worked better than self-serve banner ads. Because of that, I have more followers and engagement on Goodreads, my number of reviews increased, and now Goodreads acts as a good hub for me to determine how well my books are spreading AND a social media channel where I can interact with other readers and authors.

 

It’s not a place to go spam a bunch of readers, but when used properly, it can help with your engagement. It links your books to where it can be bought, and then once the word spreads for your book, you can track and see what people are saying. When you are invited to giveaways, you’ll also be in a position to let your book bloom.

Disclaim: This post and the following posts in the series are part of a school project. While the observations, theories, opinions, and suggestions expressed truly originate from me, the motivation is to get a good grade in school. #Pray4yaBoi #GetThatA

Social media has become a powerful tool these days for virtually anyone, and this post could go on and on about a lot of things you probably already know, but this post is for authors.

As an author who wrote and self-published his first book six years ago, when I was seventeen, I know how it feels. That book was my baby. I was proud of it. My family was proud. I wanted everyone to read it, and when I put it up for sale, that smile soon faded.

My first “baby”

Sure, I got some positive reviews from family and friends who wanted to support me–I even reached out and got responses and great reviews from one of Amazon’s former top reviewers; former because Amazon soon changed their policy about authors soliciting people for reviews, so review copies in exchange for Amazon posts are a thing of the past–and I got both good and critical feedback from distributing my book through giveaways on Goodreads and everything else.

But I didn’t know how to do all of that right away.

I first participated in author forums such as Amazons Voice of the Author and quickly discovered a number of echo-chambers with authors squawking about their own books. I think the term “hookers soliciting other hookers” was thrown about somewhere in there.

The short truth is, if you self-publish, you have to do more than write the book. You have to market it, and social media is an incredible train for doing so, assuming you can break through the saturation.

“But there are SO many social media channels. They’re all so different. How do I get sales?”

The first thing is: You don’t jump right into sales.

The human mind is not wired to understand probability. You think of a book launch getting a whole bunch of shares and becoming a bookseller right away because that’s the best book and it deserves to be read. No. That seldom just happens.

And if you’re an author, your initial thought is to point out one or ten or twenty books that you saw that happen to.

There are sometimes over three million books published in a given year.

Check out this Huffington Post article to see what I’m talking about.

But out of the whole pie, the books you’re thinking of are a small fraction that ate up a large percentage of total book sells. Most books don’t sell, and most self-published books are just published and not marketed or sold (and sometimes poorly designed or written, giving them a stigma). It makes sense, too. Back before Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble made it possible to just write a book and post it, published books went through a publisher, who acted like little elves in the background. With self-publishing, a lot of us missed that. When I first published, I missed that, too.

When most books are published, publishers go in the background and hype them up. They reach out to newspapers, submit press releases, hire hitmen to eliminate the competition, and more. Nowadays, even they use social media. No they especially use social media. They go out and find book bloggers, prominent reviewers on social media sites like Goodreads and Instagram, and even known reviewers on Amazon. They work hard to get the word out, because even most traditionally published books stagnate on the shelves.

Social media has made it easier to spread awareness of a book, but only if it’s done right. There are multitudes of authors spamming their book links everywhere, buying generic ads, and saturating book feeds with their “buy my book” cries of desperation. I get it. You could write the greatest book in the world and you would still have to get people to read it, but conversions (book sales) don’t come from just spamming your book. People tune that out. They come from word-of-mouth. They come from that domino effect of people reading your book and telling their friends about it. Eventually, after enough reviews and talk, people start to buy it, but to get that momentum going you need a few things.

Here’s the thing: most authors already know how social media can benefit them, but all they really do is spam. Here’s an article pointing out a lot of things that authors (myself previously included) do wrong with social media, but there are a lot of legitimate ways to market books.

Over the next three days, I’m going to discuss three powerful social media marketing tools for book distribution; ways that are NOT spam: The Bookstagram, The Goodreads Giveaway, & The ARC.

 

Disclaim: This post and the following posts in the series are part of a school project. While the observations, theories, opinions, and suggestions expressed truly originate from me, the motivation is to get a good grade in school. #Pray4yaBoi #GetThatA