How Big Should Your Author Platform Be?

When it comes to a writer’s social media following, how much is enough?

How Big Should Your Author Platform Be?Unless we’re a big name A-list author, publishers want us to have a humongous platform from which to sell books. They expect us to have a large following. Even though the publisher will make some effort to sell our books, this largely falls on us. And if we self-publish, the marketing and promotion of our books is all up to us. We need a platform to do this, the bigger the better.

I’ve heard publishers talk about how many Facebook likes or Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Google+ followers they want their authors to have. The figures are staggering. The amount of zeros they tack on to the end of these numbers overwhelm me.

The marketing guru at one publisher once said she wanted authors to have 50,000 Facebook likes and 100,000 Twitter followers. For those who did public speaking, she wanted them to be in front of 100,000 different people a year. That astounded me. (By the way, she has since left the industry.)

I don’t do much in the way of public speaking. I’m a writer for a reason.

And though I have a presence on each of the above social media platforms (plus Goodreads), my numbers are miniscule. However, I’ve recently gained some traction on Twitter. I’m following people and they’re following back. I’m tweeting and retweeting. And I’m having some personal interaction with my followers.

My number of followers grows by a couple hundred each week. This isn’t easy, however. I spend at least an hour a day on Twitter, sometimes closer to two. And that’s using certain tools to help me. (Hootsuite and Manageflitter, if you’re interested.)

As I stumbled onto a Twitter methodology I inched my way past 1,000 Twitter followers toward the end of last year. I set a goal to have 10,000 by the end of this year. This week I hit 5,000 and am on pace to reach my goal by the end of summer. When that happens, I’ll probably just keep at it.

Given all this, I asked myself a question: How much is enough?

Someone once asked John D. Rockefeller this question about money. He said “Just a little bit more.” I feel this same compulsion with social media. Yet I still don’t know if publishers will be impressed or if it will help me sell books.

What are you doing to build your platform? How concerned are you over the size of your following? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

How to Build a Fan Base

Every writer needs avid supporters to help get the word out about his or her books

How to Build a Fan BaseWhen it comes to marketing our book we need a group of loyal followers. They are apt to buy our books and will be excited to tell others about them. We need a platform.

Most writers cringe at the word platform. That’s probably why some people use other words. One person says tribe and another prefers community, while others say street team. I prefer the word fans, which is short for fanatic. Yes, we all need fervent followers who are committed to our writing, our work, and us. But how do we find them?

Model What We Seek: To have a fan, we need to be a fan. Think about it. Look to serve instead of being served. Give without expectation. If they reciprocate that is a bonus, and we have found a new fan.

Share Freely: We need to give to our fans. This might be our time and attention. It might be personal messages via email, Facebook, and Twitter. We can offer them a nice discount on our book or even share advance copies for free.

Avoid Insincerity: No one likes a sleaze. Don’t become the used car salesperson of books. Avoid high-pressure tactics, false pretenses, and artificial limited time offers. We should avoid doing to others what we hate being done to us. It’s that simple. And if we are to error, lean towards humility.

Thank Profusely: We need to show our appreciation. We can do this with words and with gestures. We salute them: privately and publically. We let them know how much we appreciate them.

Reward Generously: We can recognize our fans in the acknowledgment section of our book. We can mention them on social media. We can let them read our next book before anyone else. How about sending them an autographed copy with a personal note?

Many book promotion gurus claim we only need a thousand ardent fans for a successful book launch. Though that’s a lot, it feels attainable. However, I’ve heard success stories from authors who only have a couple hundred. And I listened to a podcast interview of one successful author admit she focuses on about forty true fans. She lavishes them with attention, and they propel most of her releases into best-seller lists, and she makes a full-time living from her book sales. Finding forty followers is doable.

Cultivating fans is all about being nice. Everyone can do that – and every author should.

What do you do to find fans? How do you keep them? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Three Reasons to Advertise in a Social Media World

Social media and its wide reach on the Internet has given rise to word-of-mouth book recommendations. Given this trend, some book marketers wonder if there’s still a role for traditional advertising. Here are three reasons why traditional advertising is critical to promote books in a social media world:

Three Reasons to Advertise in a Social Media WorldAdvertising Influences Recommendations: We don’t form opinions in a vacuum. Outside forces influence us. One credible source is advertising. These visual mediums provide a strong, but subconscious influence of how we feel and think. This includes influencing the book recommendations we receive and give. Sometimes we even make recommendations about books we haven’t read but only saw in ads.

Advertising Reinforces Recommendations: Once we hear a recommendation we seldom accept it as indisputable. First we contemplate it. When considering a book recommendation we often reject it if it lacks reinforcement. This is a subconscious act and advertising provides a key reinforcement of the book recommendation as it’s being considered.

Advertising Confirms Recommendations: Once we accept a book recommendation as a viable option, we seek confirmation. Without confirmation, the validity of the recommendation falls into question, and we’ll likely dismiss it. Advertising is a key means of confirming word-of-mouth recommendations.

In each case the role of advertising is subtle, and we can’t measure it. The influence, reinforcement, and confirmation roles book advertising plays in word-of-mouth recommendations is seldom realized by those receiving it, but it is a critical factor. Without it the recommendation will fail to materialize and produce a sale.

Wise book marketers use advertising to influence, reinforce, and confirm word-of-mouth recommendations. The only remaining decision is determining where to advertise.

What is your experience using advertising to promote books? What forms of advertising work best for you? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

4 Tips to Capitalize on Social Media

It seems many authors are putting all of their book marketing efforts into social media. This is often shortsighted and not cost-effective. Though I’m not dismissing social media, it’s critical to proceed only in a practical, informed, and responsible way – and not just because everyone else is doing it or in reaction to the latest trend.

4 Tips to Capitalize on Social MediaFirst, it’s called social media, not social marketing. The distinction is key. Use social media for social stuff not for marketing. It seems common sense. While social media can feed into book marketing, it is not a marketing machine.

Next, what are your objectives? Facebook fanatics brag about the number of friends they have. Twitter is about of follows and LinkedIn looks at connections. Then there’s Pinterest, Instagram, and Goodreads – which is a great place for writers. What is your goal for each platform? Is it sheer numbers or significant interaction? Quantity or quality?

Third, we must treat social media like every other consideration, looking at the return on investment (RIO). What is the cost? What is the return? Unless we have unlimited time, whatever we spend on social media detracts from something else. We must invest our time on what offers the best return.

Last, some people claim there is no direct cost for social media, but time spent on social media is time not spent somewhere else. Pursuing social media has an opportunity cost. We shouldn’t ignore this, even though most people do. What we give up for social media could be damaging to our long-term viability as a writer.

Although it may be uncool to not make social media a priority, it may also be the best decision we can make.

What is your favorite social media platform? Is it a time suck or a good use of time? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Social Media is a Tool and Nothing More

In his article, Technology In Business: Use It, Don’t Rely On It, Nathan Jamail asserts that “social media is just another tool; it is not a sales plan.”

Yes, social media is powerful, he says. There are many people who have used social media to achieve many things, including authors who have tapped it to push their book to bestseller lists. Social media can help an author build a platform and become better known. It can also take “word-of-mouth to another level.” Possible social media platforms include Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. But by themselves, they will not do much to increase book sales.

Social Media is a Tool and Nothing MoreThe proper place for social media is to “work in conjunction with a marketing and prospecting plan,” Jamail declares. That needs to be in conjunction with other proving marketing activities.

I couldn’t agree more. Everyone, including authors, is jumping on the social media bandwagon. This isn’t a bad thing – unless, in the process, they abandon proven forms of promotion and platform building initiatives.

I agree that social media is a tool, but it is just a tool. It is not a marketing solution or a bookselling machine that can function apart from other marketing methods. If you like social media, by all means use it. Just be sure to use it inclusively, not exclusively.

Are Your Social Media Efforts Working?

As I ponder social media in regards to building a platform and marketing our books, two things come to mind.

  1. Disappointing Results: Most people are frustrated with the lack of results from their social media efforts. I know I am. It seems the hype from a few prodigious case Are Your Social Media Efforts Working?studies is far removed from the meager following attracted by most people’s efforts. Just because one person used Facebook or Twitter to propel one book to a prominent best-selling list, doesn’t mean everyone can. It doesn’t even mean they can repeat the process. As many promotions warn, “Individual results may vary.” We shouldn’t be frustrated if we fall short of their grand results.
  2. A Time Suck: The second insight is that the amount of time I’ve spent pursuing social media bliss has diverted my attention from more important things, such as family and writing. I wonder how many others have been likewise distracted. This is truly a concern for those who have reallocated time from other marketing initiatives to pour into the black hole of social media.

Although it’s important to not ignore social media, the payoff is further down the road. As authors, we need a social media presence; we need to build a platform; and we need to interact with our fans. We should not expect social media to sell our books or launch us to the stratosphere of success – though if that happens, it will be a welcome surprise.

Like all things in life, we must seek a healthy balance when it comes to social media.

Three Reasons to Comment on Blog Posts – and One Reason Not To

Three Reasons to Comment on Blog Posts – and One Reason Not ToThere are several blogs I follow; I read them whenever I can. Sometimes I just read, and other times I read and comment. Only a small percent of blog readers take time to comment. The reasons are many: too busy, a lack of confidence, not knowing what to say, fear, and so forth. There are, however, some reasons why we should comment. Here are three:

1) To Interact With Others: The biggest reason to comment is to connect with other likeminded readers. Some do more than just comment on the post, they also comment on other comments. Just remember to keep things positive and civil. Don’t say something online you wouldn’t say in person to your closest friends.

2) To Connect With the Author: As we read blogs, we get to know the author, but the author doesn’t know us at all, though most want to. Adding relevant comments, with appropriate self-disclosure allows the author (and other readers) to get to know us. And don’t we all want to be known?

3) A Link to Our Site: Though it’s secondary, most commenting programs allow us to include a link to our website when we comment. This is good for search engine optimization (SEO), and it provides a means for others to learn more about us if they wish.

4) Not to Promote Our Book: Commenting on blogs is not the place to promote ourselves or our books. Comments are for dialogue not marketing. Avoid the temptation.

What reasons would you add to the list? If you don’t normally comment, why not try it today? I’d love to connect with you. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Writing Promotional Copy For Your Book

In five steps to write back cover copy for your book, I acknowledged that most writers struggle producing compelling back cover copy. I also encouraged you to write two versions and to save unused copy, content you didn’t use, and your brainstorming session. Here’s why:

You also need to write promotional material for your book. Yes, if you’re going with a traditional publisher, they may do this for you, but you know your book better than they do and have the most at stake. At the least, you can offer them copy to tweak and be part of the process – or you may opt to do it yourself anyway. And if you’re self-publishing, you need to write this or pay someone else to.

We’ll need to have promotional copy for email marketing, social media posts, online book listings, and other advertising opportunities. The length of the copy depends on the medium, so create multiple versions of different lengths. While back cover copy varies from 150 to 300 words, promotional copy is shorter, usually 100 words or less. I advise four different lengths: 100 words, 75 words, 50 words, and 25 words.

Then, there’s one last item. Make a tweetable version of less than 140 characters, preferably fewer than 120, so followers can retweet it with their comment.

Starting with your back cover copy, try editing it down to fit these different lengths. Do this with both versions Sometimes back cover copy doesn’t scale nicely to shorter lengths. If this happens, return to versions you didn’t use or your brainstorming session. Often these will work nicely for short marketing blurbs even though they didn’t work for a longer back cover copy.

Ideally you should end up with a couple versions of each length; they may be similar in concept or completely different. The goal is that any time you, or someone else, wants promotional copy of a specific length, you have it ready. In some cases it may need tweaking for the particular application, in which case, make the edits and add the result to your cache of marketing blurbs.

Now you have created a great arsenal of book promotional material. Make sure you do this ahead of time, so you’re not rushed to meet a last minute request and provide them with less than ideal copy.

Social Media Articles

Part of successful book publishing is selling our books, which includes self-promotion. Social media, when done right, can play a huge role in promoting our books. Conversely, when done without purpose or plan, social media can be a huge time suck that produces no tangible results.

These five social media articles from Article Weekly can provide helpful information about social media:

Plus, read 31 more social media posts from My Article Archive.

Of course, these are just the starting point. Each social media option has scores of books written about them to teach us how to most effectively use them. Plus there are social media blogs to learn the latest information. Then there are the social media gurus, poised to teach on the latest techniques.

These articles will get you thinking about how to best use social media to market and sell your books. Then, how far you dive into mastering social media is up to you.

Six Tips on Using Social Media as Part of Your Platform

We’ve been talking about making your website the center of your book-selling, platform-building tool and not to depend on social media, which could change at any moment and thereby destroy your efforts. That doesn’t mean social media isn’t important, because it is. The point is not to make social media the star but instead, a supporting player.

1) Pick Carefully: Accept that you can’t be on every social media platform, or even the top five. No one has that much time. Pick a couple to focus on, and invest your time there. Choose ones you understand and like, but also look for where your potential readers are. It makes no sense to be active on Pinterest if most of your audience is on LinkedIn.

2) First Things First: Before you do anything, set up your full profile; don’t leave that for later, because if you’re like me, you may never get around to it.

3) Walk Before You Run: Learn how to navigate your chosen social media hangout. You won’t become familiar everything until you actually use it, but proceed with caution until you feel comfortable. That way you can avoid rookie mistakes and look professional instead.

4) One at a Time: With a good understanding of your first social media site, you may proceed to a second one, if you want. But don’t try to learn two at the same time. That’s just confusing and counter-productive. I know.

5) Include Links: Add links on your website to your social media pages. And most certainly, make sure your social media profiles point back to your website. That’s the main goal of social media.

6) Interact and Redirect: Use your social media presence to engage people and then point them to your website, your primary online station, the hub for all your activity. Your website is home base for your platform, and that’s where you want everyone to end up.

Although an important part of an author’s platform, social media is a means to get there and not the end goal.