As the New Year begins, and we start to plan out 2019, the one looming question remains: What should I do to promote my book?
Social media is, without question, a big book promotion time suck for most authors. We know we need it, but there’s a lot around social media that still leaves us baffled. The biggest issue is this: When it comes to book promotion, is social media really effective? Yes and no. Posting to social, for the sake of posting and “looking busy,” isn’t a great way to drive engagement. Posting thoughtful pieces that drive engagement and audience response is a better way to grab attention on social, but does it drive sales? The answer is not technically – but it drives exposure, which helps drive sales. As with anything you do to promote your book, it’s got to be more about exposure, and less about sales. In most cases there is no direct correlation between a post on Facebook and a book sale. The same is true for a book review, blog interview, etc. But it all leverages into exposure – and the right kind of repeated exposure will get you book sales.
Driving Book Sales on Social Media
A lot of authors want to see a direct correlation between posting and book sales. And I think this is a fair goal to have, though not always a realistic one. Keep in mind that book sales aren’t a direct line – meaning that readers come to our books often indirectly, by seeing a variety of posts, or maybe an eBook promo, or a blog we’ve written. It’s only after multiple exposures that readers may decide to buy. A good book promotion strategy is built on this model of good, repeated exposure, or touches. Social media becomes one of those book promotion touches or pieces of exposure. But it’s not the only way to sell a book.
When I’ve spoken with authors who are trying to drive sales on social media alone, they are almost always disappointed. Conversely, authors who are using social media to drive attention, and to weave their social media efforts into one of their book promotion touches, this becomes a much better experience for them.
How Much Time Should I Spend on Social Media?
This is always the million-dollar question, isn’t it? You want to invest your book promotion time correctly, and you assume that a good portion of that should go into your social media feed, right? That’s partially true, because the time you invest in social media should be focused, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a lot.
When I work with authors, or coach them on their book marketing, I look at all the pieces that encompass their book promotion as a pie chart. How much time they spend on each piece varies depending on their book genre. For fiction authors, the social media slice should be no more than 10% of their overall book promotion efforts. For non-fiction authors, this may be a bit more, but generally not over 20%. This means that you have 80-90% of your valuable time to now invest in other book marketing elements. Once you start to plan this out, prepping posts, etc., you may be able to cut that time down even further.
Where to Spend Your Valuable Book Promotion Time
Often I see authors invest a good chunk of their book promotion time on all of the social media channels, or at least all the major ones: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. In some cases, they’re even on Pinterest and YouTube. But is this really leveraging anything up for you? The answer, sadly, is likely no. So now is the time to punt some of those platforms. Yes, I said leave them altogether. Stop investing your valuable book marketing hours pouring yourself into platforms that aren’t right for you.
Here’s a quick way to figure out where you should spend your time: See what other successful authors are doing. Why? Because success leaves clues. Generally, to discover this, I’ll guide an author to do a search of their genre on Google. For example, you could run a search like “romance and author” which may pull up a lot of ads (these you don’t want), but it should also pull up author web pages. They key is to look for those authors who aren’t household names. Look for authors you haven’t heard of and scope out where they are investing their time. Are they on Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? And if so, how much engagement do they have there and what types of things are they posting?
For this type of search, you’re looking for authors with high search rank on Google. This tells you that they are doing the right things to get that kind of ranking. And by “right things,” I mean book promotion tactics that are paying off for them. By looking at authors who are ranking high, but who are not big celebrity names, you’re finding folks who are getting that kind of ranking organically, which is another piece to this puzzle.
Once you have a list of let’s say five or so authors, start to dig into their social media and see where they are investing their book promotion time. When you do this, you’ll probably see a trend emerge. For example, when I did this for a cookbook author we worked with, we discovered that a lot of other authors were on sites like Pinterest and YouTube, bypassing Facebook and Twitter altogether. This is where she’d been investing a lot of her time. By doing this exercise and ditching the ineffective platforms, she was able to get a better roadmap for herself and her social media. She’s since gained more traction in social, while spending far less time doing so.
Focus on Your Funnels
Next up, let’s figure out what you want to share on social media. If you’re like most of us, you probably get inspired in the moment. You see something you want to reshare with your followers, or you spot a quote you love and you share that. And while all of this is fine, in theory, it doesn’t really create a cohesive book promotion plan. Your social media is sort of all over the place, and then when you do share something about your book, it seemingly comes out of nowhere.
In order to create a plan that’s cohesive, coordinated, and (best of all) easy to implement, I suggest that you find just 4-5 things you want to focus on. These become your content funnels. Everything you post fits into one of these funnels – and, in some cases, you may have theme days to support your funnels. We’ll look more at specific content in a minute, but let’s start first by figuring out what you can talk about. This now becomes your specific book promotion conversation – even though not all of the book will promote your book.
The Brain Dump
In order to fill your social media funnels, you’ll need content. A good way to develop content is via the “brain dump.” You can do this on a white board, or a piece of paper – whatever you’re most comfortable with. Pull absolutely everything that’s sharable, or that you want to share, onto one page. From here, we’ll figure out what you should share and what pairs best with your topic. But first, you need a list. Below is a short one, but it should get you started. You won’t want to respond to all of these. For example, if you’re retired, you can skip the question about your job.
There’s always an element of privacy, I know. It’s hard to know what to share and what to keep to yourself. Mostly I suggest to authors that they personalize their social media somewhat, meaning that while we don’t want you to use your social media platform(s) as your diary, you still want to show that you’re human. An occasional picture of your toddler or grandchild now and again can really help to spur on your audience and show your personal side, which readers love. And believe it or not, it does help with your overall book promotion strategy.
- What are your books about?
- Is there a location or time period you can pull from?
- Is there a theme in your book that can drive your entire social media campaign?
- What’s your job about?
- Tell readers about your kids/family.
- Where do you travel to?
- What trips do you want to take?
- What do you do in your free time?
- What are your hobbies?
- What’s on your nightstand?
- What pets do you have?
- What inspires you?
Now that you have a list, let’s figure out what your 4-5 funnels will be. Obviously one of them will be for your book promotion. This funnel will cover anything from new cover reveals, to eBook promos you’re doing, good reviews you’ve received, and anything else in between.
That book promotion funnel will be your smallest funnel, meaning of all the things you push in social, it’s only going to be about 20% of your content. The rest, the other 80%, is going to be comprised of the other funnels you determine. However, most of them, in some way, need to tie back into your book. Let’s look at a couple of examples.
Let’s say you write historical fiction. One of your funnels will be your book promotion. But what about the other three funnels? Well, historical fiction readers love history – so having a history funnel that ties into your book would be a fantastic idea. In this funnel, you’ll share anything related to this time period. Things like clothing, transportation, food, and music are all great ideas and likely pretty endless. Then, seasonally, you could also tie this back to whatever is going on. If you’ve written a Victorian romance, let’s say, you could go into lesser-known Victorian holidays, or even share images from what a Victorian Christmas looked like.
For non-fiction authors, one of these funnels can be any advice you can speak to. If you have a diet book, then one of the funnels can be advice, written by others or yourself, that you endorse. Or some new workout tips – whatever. If you’ve written a business book, that funnel becomes business advice or tips. You get the idea.
And here’s a bonus tip: If you’re sharing a quote (even if it’s not your own) or a piece from your book, create an image in Canva and be sure to add your website address to it. That way if it’s shared, it will always trace back to you! I do this for all our blog post images, too. When an image is shared, it’s always got our URL on it! (I wrote more about marketing a book with images here.)
As to the final two funnels, that’s really up to you. As I mentioned, one of them could be personal. This works well if you have a book that ties back into your own wellness or business in some way. You could share pictures from your office or maybe how you work. Did you get a new puppy? Share that, too. Your personal funnel may be a smaller piece of the overall pie, meaning that personal stuff is 5-10% of what you post, overall.
Creating an Easy-to-Implement Social Media Plan
So you have your funnels and you know what each funnel will be dedicated to. Now might be a good time to decide if you want to do themes, like Motivation Monday, or encouraging authors to share what they are reading for the weekend in a Friday post. You don’t have to do theme days, but they’re often helpful as they train readers and fans to look for specific content on a specific day. You can also use popular hashtags and gain exposure that way. Like that shot in the arm of inspiration on Monday (#motivationmonday), or a humor post on Friday (#FridayFeeling). Whatever themes you decide on, make sure that you stick to them.
Pull up a calendar, or print one online, or create one in Excel – whatever works for you – and start mapping out the next month. If you’ve got the time, go even farther; two or three months is ideal, because then 90 days of your social media work is done for you.
Once you have your funnels mapped out, it’s time to find your content. I keep images and such in a Dropbox file that I can access on my computer or my phone, if I’m away and forgot to schedule a post, or whatever.
Planning and knowing what you’ll share in social – and having a focused intention of what your message will be and where you’ll share it – will save you a lot of time and effort. And once you’ve done this for a few months, and you’re in the right social media channels, you’ll be able to assess what’s working and what’s not and modify from there. For example, you may find that one of your funnels is more popular than the others. Maybe it’s a good time to expand the content in that funnel and reduce the content in other places.
A lot of social media experts like to talk about the right time and day to post certain things, and while there’s merit in that, it isn’t as effective as the content itself. Without a solid plan for the content you’ll share, and on the right social media channels, nothing else will matter. Also, in terms of the right time and days to post, this does vary from market to market. Yes, there are rules within certain markets, like when activity tends to peak on sites like Instagram, etc. But it the fact remains that if you don’t have good content, the rest won’t matter.
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