Since traditional publishing has begun to shrink as a result of the e-book revolution, among other reasons, the marketing and publicity budget for traditionally published books has also shrunk. All publishers now rely quite heavily on the author to promote his or her book. Social media has become the key means of doing this; it is omnipresent, fairly easy to use, and new sites are being launched all the time. Self-published authors are not immune to this new, invaluable trend in publishing; they too must utilize social media to market their books in the hopes of generating sales. But before you start wondering how to begin and what site(s) to use, there are a few things you need to know before taking the plunge into the ever-changing world of social media.
First, and most important, you must find out who you are. You need to create an identity, a brand; something that will clearly identify you to readers, letting them know what you stand for, and what you can bring to their lives. What are you writing about? Are you a novelist, a poet, or a nonfiction writer? How do you think you can help your readers and get them to remain interested in you and your work? What information or tips can you offer them about the writing process, or about the subject your writing about, if you’re writing nonfiction? Are you writing poetry? Then why not tell your readers something about your favorite poet and why they’re your favorite?
Second, using various social media to spread the word about your book, your writing, and your brand is time consuming. There will never be enough hours in the day to get everything done, but then again that’s why there’s always tomorrow. Yet, if you are truly sincere about getting your name and your writing out there, you have to find the time every couple of days to show your readers and fans you’re still around, and have something to say and offer them.
Third, promoting your brand and your presence in the social media universe takes content, content, content, and a variety of it! Just don’t write brief messages, use images and video, too. The images can be photos you’ve taken or found online, and the video clips you use can be ones you’ve found on YouTube or that you’ve made yourself. What about a brief two-minute book trailer to entice readers about your thriller novel? Or a brief clip of yourself reading a poem at a local bookstore? A great way to utilize social media content is to repurpose images, clips, and information you find on other sites about your topic. Sharing this content is a great way to promote not only your interests, but also the sites you visit whose content is devoted to those interests.
And finally, though as equally important and necessary as the three points above: be sincere and honest. Show your readers and your fans that you are truly a human being, not an automaton. It’s okay to rant once in a blue moon, as they say, but do not make it a regular thing! Nobody wants to listen to daily grievances over personal issues that should be kept private, or over some issue in politics or religion, especially when you’re writing a literary blog. You are utilizing the galvanizing force of social media to promote yourself as a writer, to promote your brand, showing readers you too have something valuable and different to offer, that should be heard above the white noise of the void of social media and shared with countless others.
For years now I’ve considered myself, among many things, a philosopher-poet, a spiritual writer spouting literary and philosophical musings, with a little art and religion thrown in to add some shadow to the light of my thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, I have fierce political beliefs, but I keep them out of the social media I use because what I have to offer readers is a perspective on the arts and humanities, in which I’ve been educated and on which I’ve been writing for almost two decades. I am, first and foremost, a writer and lover of literature: this is my brand, and my love of and thoughts on the written word and all it encompasses are what I know I can offer my readers.
So, look within and give it some thought—figure out whom you are, find your brand, go carve your niche in the social media cosmos, and go viral!