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Author Topic: Using social media  (Read 5239 times)

Offline Eli_Freysson

Using social media
« on: January 05, 2016, 08:32:51 PM »
I feel I have reached a point where I either have to get serious about marketing, or just giving up writing. The repeated disappointments are a very bitter pill indeed.

I did very little about my first English-language ebook last February, and indeed sold very little. After that I somewhat wised up and read some advice. I created a special Facebook-page in English, created an author website with Wix and started Twitter and Goodreads accounts.
Still, the second book, out last October, did even worse.

I have never been very active on social media. At all. Nowadays my posts here on FF constitute at least half of my internet posts. I just don't know  how to do this, or what to say. I am at a loss as to how to effectively make use of any of those sites I mentioned. I don't know what to say with daily Facebook/Twitter posts besides "I had pizza today", nor how to engage with specific communities.

I've read up on how other indie authors market successfully, but whenever I see a piece of advice that looks promising it is quickly followed up by another indie stating that it didn't do anything for them. I guess the most consistently promising advice I've see is to keep writing (which I'm doing), word of mouth and engagement. And it seems to me word of mouth springs from engagement, which I have such a problem with.

I've seen some people praise ad campaigns but I tried one around the second book and it did squat. After all the costs I've incurred for proofreading and other things, and my current financial situation, I'm hesitant to spend any more actual money until I turn an actual profit.

Now, I'm halfway through translating my third novel and it should see the light of day in the first half of this year. I really, REALLY need to be ready this time.

So... please. Any advice on using social media? I think I really need to write down an orderly, planned-out approach to this.
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Offline tebakutis

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Re: Using social media
« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2016, 10:05:49 PM »
I have some advice  for you, Eli, but it may not be encouraging. :)  And it's not in regards to social media, but just about indie publishing in general.

I may have told this story before on here, but after pitching it to multiple publishers and agents (and striking out) my first book was bought and published through a (very) small press in 2013. It didn't really sell, even though it was a finalist for the Compton Crook Award and got a few decent reviews from other authors. This was partially my fault (they were mainly a thriller/mystery press) and partly because I didn't have any real marketing connections.

After the first print run, I got the rights back, revised it a bit, and self-pubbed it in 2015 (no traditional press was going to touch a small press book that sold nothing). Since the relaunch, thanks to some more good book blogger reviews and the fact that I have more cross-promotional connections (other, more successful authors willing to vouch for me) my first book has sold ... okay. But it's priced at $0.99 cents, which is part of reason people are willing to take a chance on it.

If you're doing self-publishing the way we've both done it, the "right" way (from your post, that's my understanding) you're spending money on a (good!) editor, cover art, revising your work from multiple readers ... basically, everything a small press or traditional publisher would do ... and you're throwing down a chunk of change for each book. You probably won't get that back anytime soon and unfortunately, that doesn't change ... at least not for awhile.

You're going to be in a hole until you've been at it a couple of years and have a large stable of books - the only reason I could afford to put my first two books out myself (and pay for editing, cover art, etc) is because I have a day job to support me. That's the price you pay for self-pub, at least from what I've learned about it. Only maybe 1% of people doing indie/self-pub (at least in SFF) actually start making a profit in the first year or sooner.

As an indie author, you really only make your investment back in two ways - your first book sells insanely for whatever reason (often, pure dumb luck or some celebrity author endorsement) or you eventually write enough books and have a big enough backlog and devoted audience that you break even or start to make a profit. That's how you succeed as an indie - a large number of books, all high quality, published over multiple years as you've slowly built an audience.

Two of the more successful indie authors I know (Stuart Jaffe and Chris Kennedy) are both great promoters, but moreover, they've developed a loyal following by writing and publishing a large number of good books over a long period of time. We're talking 10 to 20 or more.

You likely won't be "profitable" with your first book, your second, or even your third or beyond, but it can happen if you slowly build up an audience and keep putting out quality books. Just don't expect that to happen in one year, or two years, or even three or more. If you're going the indie route, it takes time.

Ultimately (again, IMO) if you're acting as your own publisher, you should keep trying to get your newer work published in traditional press (even if just short stories) and do it because you want people to read the best work you can put out, NOT because you're hoping to make money. You'll be much happier/less stressed that way. I know several authors who have three book deals with publishing houses in the Big Five and they still haven't quit their day jobs. Unless you're Stephen King, writing SFF is more about telling the stories you want to tell than making money.

All that aside (disclaimer!) I can tell you that I've seen the largest sales spikes from one factor alone - book bloggers. With my first book, I've been fortunate that several bloggers have read it and really enjoyed it. They in turn recommended it to their regular blog readers, and thus copies sold. The "sales uptick" I see from a positive review from a book blogger outweighs any tics from blogging (self or cross-post), social media, author endorsements, ads, or convention appearances by an order of magnitude.

The problem? Most book bloggers won't review indie books. But if you can find one who does, and they like it, that's probably where you'll see your biggest uptick in sales. That's been my experience anyway.

I hope this is helpful without being discouraging. I'm very fortunate in that I have the luxury to write the stories I want to tell, but I'm still aggressively writing new books and pitching them to traditional press. So long as you still love WRITING your books, and at least someone is reading them, try not to get too depressed by the lack of sales or $$. Just take comfort that some people out there actually enjoy your stories. :)
« Last Edit: January 05, 2016, 10:11:41 PM by tebakutis »

Offline AshKB

Re: Using social media
« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2016, 10:12:02 PM »
First, if you find promising advice, use it. Sure, it doesn't work for all people and people are going to say that it doesn't work for them - that's okay. That's the nature of advice.

For a list of things to think about, I find 25 Things Writers Should Know About Social Media by Chuck Wendig useful. He has follow-up post here.

For a game-plan, he has:

Quote
    10% self promotion

    30% signal boosting

    20% me talking about writing stuff

    40% who the fuck knows just gimme the mic

The engaging people is hard, but it's the SOCIAL part of social media. Twitter, I think, is more where it's at, twitter and a blog as your homebase where you can type longer posts and give people things to mull over. A blog might also help with it being more longform, and so you can also talk about writing and narrative tropes which might help ease you into engagement?

If it helps (not sure, might or might not), the twitters I follow or check in on for authors are Chuck Wendig, John Scalzi, Seanan McGuire, over in Romancelandia, Courtney Milan and Cara McKenna, and then Jenny Lawson who is a presence unto herself. Also note that aside from the last three, I don't actually read tons of the author's work, but I do find their media presence both twitter and blog interesting enough that when a book comes around I might like, I'm more inclined to be aware of it and buy it. They also all have blogs, and I check in on them as often, if not sometimes more so.

Authors whose blogs are pretty much the sole things I check: Ursula Vernon (although she also comments regularly at another blog I follow), Jim Hines, Cat Valente, Sarah Rees Brennan.

I know that John Scalzi, Chuck Wendig, and Jim Hines regularly host 'guest posters', usually talking about their books and/or writing journey. That kind of post is a great way for me to find out about new people, as are book reviews. I'm not 100% sure how you go about asking for a slot, though. And also, there is the Fantasy Faction! Commenting around here, maybe hosting a post or two?

Ideas, anyway. And good luck.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2016, 10:57:11 PM by AshKB »
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Offline ultamentkiller

Re: Using social media
« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2016, 10:25:50 PM »
I'm not sure if he has anything out about social media, but go look at Michael J. Sullivan's website. I'm sure there's some pointers there you would find useful.

Offline Eli_Freysson

Re: Using social media
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2016, 07:50:05 PM »
(Sorry about the late reply, folks. I've been distracted.)

I have some advice  for you, Eli, but it may not be encouraging. :)  And it's not in regards to social media, but just about indie publishing in general.

Well... that isn't very encouraging, but it is the truth. Thanks.

For a list of things to think about, I find 25 Things Writers Should Know About Social Media by Chuck Wendig useful. He has follow-up post here.

That is a good read, at the very least for the comedy value.  :)

Quote
The engaging people is hard, but it's the SOCIAL part of social media. Twitter, I think, is more where it's at, twitter and a blog as your homebase where you can type longer posts and give people things to mull over. A blog might also help with it being more longform, and so you can also talk about writing and narrative tropes which might help ease you into engagement?

Yeah, engaging people just is hard for me, in general.
As for blogging, I guess I could take a stab at writing regular posts about my various musings and hope they're interesting. I do have an author site, but I admit it isn't very good. I think I might be better off using the Goodreads blog function.

Also, might creating a TVtropes page for my series help? I checked and the site IS okay with people making pages for their own works. And I have no intention of making it some ego monstrosity: Just listing the facts, like the name of the Big Bad, who has what abilities, the nature of the setting, etc.
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Offline alexsbradshaw

Re: Using social media
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2016, 02:05:39 PM »
Everyone else has given some great responses but I just want to let you know about a specific post if you haven't already found it.

The first is the Reddit /r/Fantasy's biweekly self-promotion thread; (here's the latest: https://www.reddit.com/r/Fantasy/comments/3zcfqr/rfantasy_selfpromotion_thread/)

It's basically what it says on the tin, a post where authors/bloggers/whoever can post about their stuff, I like trawling through there to find something new to add to my to-be-read list, so it may be worth posting there.


EDIT: Just adding the thread that went up today :) https://www.reddit.com/r/Fantasy/comments/41ggef/rfantasy_selfpromotion_thread/
« Last Edit: January 18, 2016, 08:41:22 PM by alexsbradshaw »

Offline k-fish

Re: Using social media
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2016, 05:22:57 PM »
I've had the most luck with Twitter when it comes to social media promotion. Facebook is unfortunate in that your posts aren't guaranteed to reach even 50% of the people who like the page. They've changed up their algorithms so much over the years that it feels like a crapshoot. Tumblr can be beneficial if you want to pull in a YA audience, but I haven't put any effort into maintaining my page so there's not much I can say about it.

I've found that author Twitters that are solely promotional are unlikely to work. No one wants to follow an account that just spams out links. Having a more personal touch has worked the best for me... Reach out to others in your field (especially the people on this site), connect with them, follow them and get into conversations. Retweet. Hope that people follow you back. Seconding the advice of starting a blog.

Good luck!
Writer of Redwood Crossing, an interactive fantasy serial updating weekly.

Offline m3mnoch

Re: Using social media
« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2016, 06:30:34 PM »
one bit from a guy who started a successful digital ad agency back in the mid-nineties and knows a thing or two about marketing:  work at it every day.

sounds familiar, right?  that's because everything works like that.
- diet and exercise
- writing your first draft
- compound interest

you have to do it every single day.  just like writing your first draft, don't worry about it being the best or the most interesting thing.  it's over a timeline, so you're only as interesting as your latest bits.  the more you work at it, the better you'll get.  that means your best stuff will always be the stuff that's in front of people right now.

you won't get famous overnight.

you won't sell a million books overnight.

to be cliche, you have to put in your 20k hours and pay your dues because it's be a slow, uphill slog and you HAVE to be willing to persevere.  every.  single.  day.

but, on the bright side, every day you'll be broadening your luck surface and that only increases your odds of a lightning strike.

Offline Eli_Freysson

Re: Using social media
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2016, 11:00:40 AM »
I've had the most luck with Twitter when it comes to social media promotion. Facebook is unfortunate in that your posts aren't guaranteed to reach even 50% of the people who like the page. They've changed up their algorithms so much over the years that it feels like a crapshoot. Tumblr can be beneficial if you want to pull in a YA audience, but I haven't put any effort into maintaining my page so there's not much I can say about it.

Just how does Facebook visibility work, anyway? As I said, I'm really, REALLY not knowledgeable about social media stuff.
As for Tumblr, I think I'm going to stick with Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads for now. I have quite enough to learn with just those three.

Quote
I've found that author Twitters that are solely promotional are unlikely to work. No one wants to follow an account that just spams out links. Having a more personal touch has worked the best for me... Reach out to others in your field (especially the people on this site), connect with them, follow them and get into conversations. Retweet. Hope that people follow you back. Seconding the advice of starting a blog.
Good luck!

I started a blog on Goodreads a couple of days ago. I'm hoping I can think of enough topics for a weekly post.

As for Twitter... I'm rather at a loss there. 140 characters? I don't know how to approach this kind of communication, or what to add about people's tweets about this or that. There aren't enough hours in the day for me write, tend to my RL stuff and hobbies, and put in the basement-dweller-level of online hours that I get the feeling all this requires.

I feel like I've been shown the world's biggest field, and given a pair of scissors with which to mow it.

I appreciate the spirit of these responses, but I have an ever stronger feeling that my indie author efforts are ultimately doomed.
EDIT: I apologize for the negativity of that last sentence. I was weary, and occasionally despair at the size of the task before me.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2016, 11:46:38 AM by Eli_Freysson »
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Offline Justan Henner

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Re: Using social media
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2016, 05:35:04 PM »
I feel like I've been shown the world's biggest field, and given a pair of scissors with which to mow it.

I prefer to think of it as building friendships with people who have the same interests as me. It feels a bit whorish, after all, I've got it in mind that one day these people will buy stuff from me, and frankly it makes me feel like a terrible, terrible person, but then I look at the friendships I've built and I'm happy for it.

Thank you all, for letting me be your whore.  ;)

Offline tebakutis

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Re: Using social media
« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2016, 12:21:39 AM »
As for Twitter... I'm rather at a loss there. 140 characters? I don't know how to approach this kind of communication, or what to add about people's tweets about this or that. There aren't enough hours in the day for me write, tend to my RL stuff and hobbies, and put in the basement-dweller-level of online hours that I get the feeling all this requires.

Twitter is a bit of an odd beast, but I actually enjoy it. Think of it not as a vehicle for promoting your books, but for promoting yourself. It gives you a super accessible presence where people who might enjoy your work can contact you, or you can contact people whose work you enjoy. It's where people can get to know you.

As far as actual posting, I tend to mix links to stuff that interests me (such as videogame music, game trailers, and interesting blogs) with announcements of my content (if I have a new short story out, a new piece of artwork, a new blog post, etc). I also enjoy trading quips with other authors I've gotten to know at conventions, or book reviewers, or whoever else.

All of those are easily fit into 140 characters.  Mine is http://www.twitter.com/TEricBakutis/ if you're curious about some of the stuff I usually post. Also, there's a number of other authors (I think there's actually a thread here!) that have Twitter accounts as well.

EDIT: Here it is!

http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/introductions/twitter/

Reading those would give you an idea how people generally approach Twitter. As an author, it's pretty straightforward! Just post about things that interest you and DON'T spend your whole feed tweeting "buy my book".

As far as time spent, maybe 5-10 minutes a day, on average? It's not really a burden.

I appreciate the spirit of these responses, but I have an ever stronger feeling that my indie author efforts are ultimately doomed.
EDIT: I apologize for the negativity of that last sentence. I was weary, and occasionally despair at the size of the task before me.

I hope my last post didn't contribute to that. :) I believe the best way to enjoy being an author, whether indie or otherwise, is just to set your expectations at a reasonable area. I've had some short stories accepted by editors, and I've had people actually read my work, and a few of those people have actually approached me at conventions to tell me they enjoyed it.

That's awesome. That's being an author, as far as I'm concerned, even if I barely sell another book. Seriously, I don't really need much else than that.

I don't have any illusions of ever becoming as big as the authors who get their shows made by the SyFy channel, or get on the New York Times bestseller list, or get paid 10 million dollars to write 10 books. If that WERE to happen, I wouldn't complain, but the chances of it happening are so absurdly low that shooting for something like that would just depress me (and keep in mind, it's absurdly uncommon even for authors published through traditional press).

You finished a book. That's an accomplishment. People have told you they liked your book. That's another accomplishment. Don't worry about the day to day sales, and just go on doing what you like doing. Writing and sharing your stories without any expectation other than someone might enjoy it some day.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2016, 04:01:02 AM by tebakutis »

Offline Lady Ty

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Re: Using social media
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2016, 12:17:13 PM »
Eli, Twitter is a great place to gradually build a following, even if you only start by re-tweeting all sorts of things you find that interest you, then people with similar interests follow you back or RT your comments and now and again you exchange a short comment. It may not be useful yet in selling your books but it never hurts to join in.

You don't have to do social chat at all, that is why I like it and it is so different from FB, because comments are short and to the point or just a happy little joke type. People will follow you but no way do you have to follow back.

I retweet masses of different things, book articles, fantasy, humour, social comment, political comment, art, anything I think is worth sending on. Sometimes others RT but also many just read. I actually comment very little myself.

I tried to click on your Twitter button on the profile but got a No account message so maybe you have a new Twitter address. You are welcome to check out my Twitter  https://twitter.com/supergran41 . In the Following list are some  writers and publishing site Twitter addresses that may be of interest.
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Offline S.B Nova

Re: Using social media
« Reply #12 on: March 28, 2016, 03:35:49 AM »
You're doing the right things, just take it one step at a time. Try not to get over-whelmed. Being an indie author is difficult, but quite frankly the publishing industry isn't much better. Yes, you have more time to keep writing, but as for profits and freedom you're facing brick wall after brick wall.

In terms of social media, choose a couple, research and learn what works. Then once you've put in the hours, expand. Don't be afraid to try new things!

Offline Not Lu

Re: Using social media
« Reply #13 on: April 02, 2016, 08:06:53 PM »
In addition to social media there are a lot of book promotion sites that you can use to jump start some sales. BookBub is the most famous (and expensive), but there are free book promotion sites that will highlight your book if it is free or 99 cents.

A lot of authors do a kindle count down deal or set the book free if it is wide, then run promotions at the same time. This gives a boost in the amazon rankings which gives your book more visibility.

Offline Peat

Re: Using social media
« Reply #14 on: April 02, 2016, 10:14:07 PM »
I can't sympathise enough with looking at Social Media as a publication tool and being all sorts of overwhelmed and hating on Social Media. My last editor when I tried reviewing music made fun of how bad I was at Twitter. I've been there and I'm dreading going back. Here's what I'm telling myself

Going onto Social Media is like the first day at school. It's going to be awkward as hell and you'll strike up so many weird artificial conversations getting to know people - Retweeing people, asking inane questions, say inane stuff. But, in time, you'll get comfy. You'll make friends. You'll find interesting people to follow who post things you can naturally say interesting things to, and who you want to say interesting things to. It's just a matter of toughing out those first few weeks of pointless pap.

At which point (to switch metaphors) it's like going to a bar when you're single. If you're going solely to not be single, it's miserable. You're anxious, you've got nothing to say, it's dispiriting when you don't get anywhere - just like being on social media solely to advertise. But if you're going to have a good time and be with your friends, then it's ok - and in all likelihood, the person having fun and being fun is probably going to have more luck finding someone than the person who just goes around hitting on others. Just like the person using Social Media to have fun will advertise better than the person solely advertising.

I guess the Tl;dr version of that would be - Take the plunge, get through the awkward, learn to enjoy it and things will happen.

I hope.