Tag Archives: social media

Starting Out as an Indie Author: Social Media and Cross Promotion

I’m almost there on getting the book version of my series “Starting Out as an Indie Author” ready for publication! I’ve put together some new material on subjects I hadn’t covered in my posts. Today I would like to share a new chapter with you, “Social Media and Cross Promotion.”

Social Media and Cross Promotion

Social Media for Writers

If you are forced by financial difficulties to keep your expenses for advertising as low as possible, social media and cross promotion may be the only effective avenues open to you until you have made enough from your books to reinvest in more expensive ads (or better covers, or whatever you have decided you might need to move your writing career forward). Because when it comes right down to it, most of the cheap advertising sites are cheap for a reason. And many of those that are more expensive have priced themselves so high that you’re never going to get a positive ROI using them. Luckily, there are plenty of authors out there willing to share their results with other authors, so we don’t have to throw our money away, at least not too much.

But to figure that out, you need to network with other indie authors. A great place to start is the Writers’ Cafe on KBoards, which I’ve mentioned before in this series.

So how should you spend your time on social media as an author to sell your books? My answer: don’t. Yes, I know I started this post suggesting it might be one of the only ways for authors who don’t have the money for advertising to “get visible” (to quote David Gaughran, who you should read, by the way.)

But the thing is, you don’t sell your books on social media, not really. You offer content (like me with my Indie Author series), or you become an Internet personality (like Chuck Wendig), or you join groups and start up conversations with readers who are fans of the genres you write in. No one likes authors who are only posting “BUY MY BOOK” all the time.

I’m in the camp of those who believe that social media only sells books indirectly. If you have established relationships with readers through social media, then they might be curious and pick up one of your books to see if they like it. Admittedly, I am far from being a social media guru. I’m not a big fan of FB and Co., since it can be such a time sink. But just consider how you react when “BUY MY BOOK” shows up in your Twitter feed. I bet you’re a lot more likely to click Unfollow than the link to buy the book.

Consider as well that the time you spend on social media is time you could be spending writing. If you only have one or two novels finished so far, it probably makes more sense to concentrate on writing the next one before you go searching for an audience for books that aren’t there. One book does not a career make (except if you’re Margaret Mitchell).

Basic Internet Presence for Authors

There are plenty of recommendations out there, but here are mine:

– Amazon Author Page
– Facebook Author Page
– Goodreads Author Page
– Twitter
– Blog or static web page

One of the reasons I suggest making sure you have at least the above is because many of the advertising sites I have recommended on this blog ask for links to web page, Twitter, and Facebook when you book an ad.

Here a short rundown of those that might not be quite as obvious:

– Amazon Author Page

The Amazon Author page is important because if you don’t set one up, all a reader gets when clicking on your name in the Amazon store are the search results. If your name is Jane Smith, this is not going to help you a lot. I’m lucky that my name is not all that common — not even in Norway. But even for a Nestvold, an author page is still a big advantage over a page of search results. It allows me to have links to book trailers, my blog, author pics, and all of my books:

Amazon Author Page

To create your author page on Amazon, you need to go to Author Central: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/

– Goodreads Author Page

The importance of a Goodreads Author Page is similar — it allows you to link all of your books, as well as your blog feed and whatever book trailers you might have in one place. And that on one of the most important sites for book addicts in the world.

To create it, you need to set up a Goodreads account. Once you have that, all you need to do is find one of your books, click on your name and scroll to the bottom of the page where you will find “Is this you?” When you click on the link, you can send a request to join the Author Program. Complete instructions are here:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/program

– Facebook Author Page

To create an FB author page, click on Create / Page on the left hand side of of the screen in your news feed and follow the instructions. The “Writer” category is under “Artist, Band or Public Figure.”

If you’re a bit of a social media grump like I am, you might be wondering why I recommend so many things to sign up for. While on the one hand I don’t like spreading myself too thin, at the same time, I have fans on all of these sites who only communicate with me through whichever happens to be their favorite. Without those sites, I would be missing out on communication with readers who want to contact me.

While I advocate making sure you have a presence on all of the sites listed above, that doesn’t mean I think you should be hunting down followers or friends on Twitter or Facebook or anything else. That way lies madness, and many hours of wasted time. Believe me, I’m as guilty as anyone of being addicted to numbers when I first started learning about all this stuff. But believe me as well that chasing followers is not going to do you a bit of good. Yes, you should be on all those platforms, but no, following or friending in the hopes of selling more books will get you nowhere and will only eat up time better spent writing.

Further social media sites for authors

– Google+
– Instagram
– Tumblr
– Pinterest
– Reddit
– LinkedIn

I am on all of the above, but with the exception of Pinterest, which I love, I don’t really use any of them. And despite my love of Pinterest, I have no idea whether it can work as a marketing tool. What I mostly use it for is a place to collect links for books in progress, as you can see from this board for Ygerna, a prequel to my Pendragon Chronicles series:

https://www.pinterest.com/ruthnestvold/ygerna/

As for the rest, I signed up for them because I read somewhere that you really had to have a presence there as an author, so I went with the flow. Of all of them, Reddit appeals to me personally most, but at the same time, I know that I could get lost in the discussion threads if I allowed myself to, so I just don’t go there in the first place.

For all of these sites, the main thing to remember is to be on those that appeal most to you. Use them in a way that feels natural, stay authentic, build a presence, and interact with like-minded readers and fans.

Cross Promotion

This is where the real genius of social media for marketing purposes lies. If you can find a good group for cross promotion, when you all have a sale, instead of yelling “BUY MY BOOK,” you will be sharing an amazing deal with dozens of eBooks on sale for only 99c!

Which would appeal to you as a reader more, HUGE SALE or BUY MY BOOK?

In my opinion, group promos are pretty much the best way of getting the word about your novel out to a wider audience for free. The idea behind cross promotion is that all of the authors involved share the information on their blog, mailing list, Facebook page, etc., and the more authors involved, the wider the reach. So it requires some effort on your part in helping to spread the word, but not much more than if you were lambasting Twitter with tweets most people will ignore.

But how do you find out about groups like this in your genre? One of the best resources I know is Kboards, which I mentioned above. I no longer spend as much time there as I did when I was first starting out, but it is an incredible resource for indie authors.

Aside from Kboards, another way of finding group promos in your genre is through Facebook. Try searching for “group promos” or “group promotions” and see if anything shows up that fits with your genre. The group I participate in most regularly, “Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Promotions” organized by Patty Jansen, is on Facebook — although I found it through Kboards. If you also write SFF, you can find the link on the right sidebar of my blog. Join, introduce yourself, help promote in any way you can whenever there is a group sale. If you have found a good community, I am sure you will see results.

But remember, putting a lot of effort into promotion isn’t really worth it if you only have one or two novels out. Concentrate on getting a couple more published before you start spending too much time trying to draw attention to yourself and your books.

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Chuck Wendig on why social media is a misunderstood opportunity for writers

The wonderfully foul-mouthed (foul-texted?) Chuck Wendig wrote an excellent post post about how writers should use social media:

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/09/09/social-media-for-writers-is-a-misunderstood-opportunity/

Go forth and read! At the least, you should get a smile or two out of it. 🙂

Using Pinterest for research bookmarks, and an update

First off, I have to thank Emily Witt for a recent post of hers which I read. It was primarily about music for characters, but she also went into using Pinterest for images for book projects. I’ve been hearing for a long time about how Pinterest is yet another great social media site where authors can reach out to their readers. All I could think was, “Oh, no, another social media site where I’ll be expected to spend way too much time reaching out to my readers.” AKA, another time sink.

I’m pretty good these days about not wasting too much time with social media (maybe too good), but when I saw the images Emily had collected for her WIPs, a light went off in my head. I collect oodles and oodles of bookmarks for the research I do on my books and stories, which then get buried in oodles and oodles of other bookmarks in a big long list of URLs and page names. So for the sake of experiment, while I was working on the last revision pass for Island of Glass, every time there was something I wanted to look up on the internet, I would pin an image to my board for the project. I haven’t done much searching for images that fit my characters yet, like Emily suggested, but I can see where Pinterest would also be very good for that as well. Right now, I’m just thrilled with the visuals for my research links.

I finished another revision pass of Island of Glass yesterday and sent it off to my niece today. For my next project, I’m returning to Book III of The Pendragon Chronicles, A Wasted Land. After printing out the jumble of scenes and notes I wrote in March, I made a Pinterest Board for that project as well and started adding maps and images. I love having all those images in one place! If anyone had told me a week ago that I would become an enthusiastic Pinterest user, I would have thought they were crazy. 🙂

And the way I’m using it now, it isn’t really much of a time sink at all. If I’m researching something anyway, and the article I’m reading has a cool photo or map, I just add it to the appropriate board.

Besides returning to A Wasted Land, I will probably also soon be tackling another publication project of my collaborations with Jay Lake, if I could only decide which! I’m also considering taking an incident from Shadow of Stone, the story of Gawain and Ragnell, and publishing it as a short story, making it permanently free as a kind of advertisement for the novels of the Pendragon Chronicles. I’m a bit worried that it might piss off readers who don’t read the description (I certainly intend to make it very clear that this is NOT new material). But I originally wrote that episode thinking I could try to publish it as a short story in traditional markets to drum up interest for the books. What do you guys think? Would that be ok? Or should I just finally write another Arthurian short story for the same purpose?

How Much Blog is Enough Blog? Or; how I doubled my fiction output in just one month!

I’ve been doing some reassessing (as well as a lot of fiction writing!), and both are part of the reason I haven’t been posting to my blog much lately. I’ve met tons of wonderful people through the blogosphere, but at some point I realized I was spending way too much time on this stuff, to the detriment of my fiction production. While I was reassessing, I read couple of posts that really struck a chord with me. In “Blog ennui and platforms built of bodies” Susan Bischoff summed up pretty much exactly the way I felt:

We’re all under so much pressure to publish content, any content, just to get it out there, on a regular basis, regardless of its quality. Okay, most of that’s pressure we put on ourselves because that’s what we do. But still, we’re not the freakin’ Borg and that idea’s coming from somewhere.

We’re going to commit to blogging three times a week. Doesn’t matter what we blog about. Doesn’t matter what our motivation is for typing the words on the screen, the important thing is just to get it out there and then go promote it. Do I know in my gut that this is a good post, that I wrote it for purpose, that I had something to offer? Screw that, doesn’t matter, promote that bitch and let’s get some numbers on that stats page. Because if we don’t, someone else will and we’ll be lost in the sea of social media noise. If we don’t stop moving we’ll die, DIE!!! and then this platform we’ve been struggling to build, body by b–er, I mean, plank by posty goodness plank of brilliance will be CRUSHED!

I had started feeling like I didn’t really have anything to say, but that’s no excuse: there’s this meme out there telling us if we don’t post at least twice a week, we’re committing social media suicide. I was spending so much time on writing posts and visiting other people’s sites and commenting and trying to be a good community member, it was getting hard to find the time to actually write fiction, which is what I supposedly do (when I’m not translating interfaces and computer manuals). Another thing was, after I started blogging twice a week, I didn’t see any real increase in ebook sales. Yes, my Twitter followers increased dramatically, from next-to-nothing to a little more than next-to-nothing. (For some reason, my number of Facebook “friends” is exploding, even though I don’t use Facebook much at all anymore. Go figure.) But sales? They just trickled along in the same leisurely way they had before.

So I stopped. I dived off the bridge and committed social media suicide. In the last month, I’ve only posted to my blog twice. And I’ve gotten about 36,000 words of fiction written. In the four weeks before that, my output was less than 16,000. Part of the increase in word count is of course due to the fun and games of Nanowrimo, but not all. I’m working on putting Writing First, and while I still get caught in the time trap of reading email when I should be writing, I tend to start writing earlier than I used to, as long as I remind myself of my new mantra: without fiction, platform is schmatform. And – SURPRISE! – when I spend more time on writing fiction, I get more words of fiction created.

A couple of other posts I would recommend in this context:

The Red Pen of Doom, “The Twitter, it is NOT for selling books”

Kait Nolan, “Social Media Ennui”

Kristen Lamb, “Beware the Social Media Snuggie–One Size Does NOT Fit All”

In other news, a Hungarian website put up an article talking about me and my novellas “Looking Through Lace” and “Beyond the Waters of the World,” as well as several other writers with free fiction up on the Internet. I can’t read it, but I still think it’s cool! One of these days, I’ll chase the thing through an online translator and get a chuckle at the results.

Another nice bit of recognition came from the new site for St Michael’s church in Harbledown near Cantebury, the church where the most likely candidate for the real Aphra Behn was baptized. They asked permission to link to my Aphra Behn page, and naturally I told them I would be honored.

I’m off to the next Villa Diodati workshop this week, so my fiction production will most likely drop off again, since I have to read a bunch of stories and write critiques. But at least after that I will have something to blog about — a workshop report. 🙂

Determining my Target Audience (John Locke and the Rest of Us, Part 2)

You can read my initial thoughts on John Locke’s e-marketing ideas here. In this post, I’m going to attempt to define a target audience in the way Locke suggests in his book, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in in 5 Months!

I don’t write in any one, single genre, even though most of my work falls under the general genre umbrella of “sff” — science fiction and fantasy. But among my published works there’s space opera, near future, magic realism, epic fantasy, dragons, witches, and Mars. So it would be pretty hard to define a target audience for my fiction as a whole — it would probably end up so general as to be useless.

Instead, I’m going to try to figure out the target audience for Yseult and maybe eventually I can do something with that.

Ysuelt is a Big Fat Fantasy of almost 200,000 words. The German translation came in at about 700 pages. While Yseult is a retelling of the Tristan and Isolde legend, it is not as medieval in feel as a lot of Arthurian novels. By that I mean that it isn’t set in an era of jousting and tournaments and chivalry. Yseult is set in fifth century Ireland and Britain, a brutal, transitional age. I did a lot of research on Sub-Roman and Post-Roman Britain, as well as early Christian Ireland, trying to create a gritty, historical atmosphere, despite the fantasy elements. At the same time, I read lots of medieval Arthurian works, in particular Welsh. I liked the old Welsh names best, and used quite a few rather than the more familiar French versions, e.g. Bedwyr instead of Bedivere, Cai instead of Kay, Myrddin instead of Merlin. For the same reason, I didn’t include Lancelot (an invention of medieval French writers). While the main plot line is the tragic love story of Yseult and Drystan, I didn’t skimp on the larger political picture, the war of the British kingdoms against the encroaching Saxons, and there are a number of detailed battle scenes.

Next step: what kind of readers would like to read a book like that?

First off, my ideal readers like both fantasy and historical detail. They get a kick out of learning something new, even when they’re reading fiction. At the same time, they want to be entertained; they like grand passion and epic conflicts. They probably have a weakness for tragedy, as long as the ending is satisfying. A familiarity with Arthurian legends is a plus, combined with an openness to seeing old stories told in new ways. They like a good battle scene as much as a good sex scene. They don’t mind their heroes getting dirty, and they don’t like it when magic solves too many problems. They’re fans of High Mud Fantasy.

Ok, that wasn’t quite as hard as I expected. But even if I have a better image now of my ideal readers, the next step according to John Locke is writing blog posts aimed at precisely those readers, posts that will draw them to my page and make them click on the links to where they can buy my books (see the images to the right *g*). Those targeted blog entries are the real challenge. How am I supposed to come up with posts that will attract thousands of readers of High Mud Fantasy and inspire them to buy my stuff?

Locke emphasizes how long he needs to compose those critical posts, but at the same time, he makes it sound so easy. You figure out what your ideal readers will be attracted to, and *whamo* they’re there and buying your books! You do, however, have to use Twitter to promote your blog until your posts go viral. Repeatedly:

When I’ve posted a new blog, I write a couple of tweets to my 20,000 followers and hope some will vist my blog and re-tweet the link. I also send group tweets to Twitter pals, maybe four to six pals per message, and maybe six to ten tweets altogether …. I tweet to different friends each time so I’m not hassling the same people every month. When they re-tweet my news, I let a few hours go by, or maybe a day, and then re-tweet their “re-tweets,” spreading the message out so I’m hitting different times of the day and night. This keeps the buzz going.

From John Locke, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in in 5 Months!

Well, aside from the fact that he leaves out the instructions on how to get 20,000 followers in the first place, if I can ever come up with a post that will bring my ideal writers flocking to my blog, I’ll be sure to write it. But promote it regularly on Twitter? Don’t people get irritated with tweets like that?

There are a lot of good observations in this book, however, probably first and foremost being that too many writers blog about writing. Which means the only readers they are attracting are other writers, not the folks who might eventually buy their books. Definitely something to think about there. I don’t have to worry about all this marketing too much yet, though. The first thing is to make a cover for Yseult and get the novel up on Amazon and Smashwords. Then I can start testing sales strategies.

Otherwise, I’m still doing pretty well on my goals. I added 700 words to a story that was requested for a rewrite, and progress on the medieval level of Fragments of Legend is steady. Since I set many of my goals up as weekly goals, I’ll post a summary at the end of the week.

John Locke and the Rest of Us: Defining a Target Audience and Getting Them to Come to You, Part I

While we were cruising the fjords of Norway, one of the books I read on my Kindle was John Locke’s How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Since one of my current goals is to get my novel Yseult up as an ebook before Christmas, I figure I can use all the advice I can get. At least I know that Yseult can cut it as a novel — it’s been through the editorial process and has sold over 10,000 copies in German translation. (I don’t have any numbers for the Italian and Dutch.) For Yseult, I don’t have to worry about things like hiring an editor for the monster historical fantasy and wondering if I will ever earn out the expenses.

What I do have to worry about is figuring out how to get Yseult to the audiences who would be interested in reading it. Which is what Locke’s book is all about. The problem is, he’s writing a book for authors writing a series character who can put out short novels similar in tone and plot on a regular basis (that’s where the million comes in — lots of publications selling to a regular fan base). Ok, so that doesn’t apply to Yseult, since it’s a retelling of the legend of Tristan and Isolde, but one that starts with the story of the female character rather than the male. But as most people know, the story ends tragically — no series there. It’s a Big Fat Fantasy of almost 200,000 words, and I have to admit, I really don’t want to give it away for 99 cents.

So is there anything I can learn from Locke?

He says the first thing a writer has to do to is define her target audience and then write posts that will draw potential readers to her blog — and the links to her ebooks on her sidebar. The mistake of most authors is that they write their blogs for other writers. Fair enough, guilty as charged. I have the sidebar with links to my books, but my posts are mostly about writing.

Then let’s tackle the next step, defining my target audience. As far as Yseult is concerned, I have a bit of an advantage here, since I have lots of reader feedback to help me try to figure it out. I know who my ideal reader is — her name is Valentina Coluccelli, and she wrote a review of Yseult when it came out in Italian. I hate reading reviews, but with this one, every step of the way, I was thinking – omigod, she got it! she knew exactly what I wanted to do, why I fiddled with the sources here and chose that version there! Finally, someone understands me! She even got some of the details that I thought of Easter eggs. 🙂

But how do I extrapolate from my ideal reader Valentina to define my target audience? That’s a tough one, and I fear it means I am destined not to sell a million ebooks in five months, sigh. My audience for Yseult is very specific, and while I have a follow-up novel also set in Sub-Roman Britain, the other novels I want to bring out as ebooks are all over the place as far as genre and target readers are concerned. About the only thing they have in common is that they share a certain feminist sensibility in the subject matter in that they touch on ways women have been disadvantaged over the centuries or (for my SF) try to illuminate “common sense” ways of thinking are biased against women.

And here I am, in the middle of the night, with way more words than I intended and no conclusion. So I think for the first time in my blog career, I’m going to have to make this a two-parter.

Otherwise on the writing front I’ve been fairly successful in repressing my frittering gene and have reached my word count goals. Haven’t started tackling any of the other goals yet, however. But at least I’m thinking about my target audience. 🙂