Wednesday, August 1, 2012

50 Shades of . . .You

By Nancy Martin

Discoverability is the most pressing issue faced by the book business right now. How can we help readers find our work? In the last two years, social media has grown into our most useful promotion tool.

But how you portray yourself on Facebook (or Pinterest, or Twitter, or whatever social media option you favor) is more than posting cute pet photos and announcing what you ate for lunch. Some suggestions for success:

First, determine what your brand is.
Do you want to be known as the author of serious novels about Asian art? Or are you the writer of witty cozies set in the world of private chefs? Or maybe you want to be known as an expert in a subject like elder abuse or animal rescue. Do you want to be seen as amusing? Or serious? Snarky? Thought-provoking? Make lists of the qualities you’d like to become known for. Be specific. That’s your brand.

Next, decide what your promotional goals are.
Are you in the early stages of building a fan base? Then you’re looking for ways to collect “likes.” Are you trying to sell your upcoming book to your readers? Or are you encouraging readers to try your backlist? The more specific your goal, the easier it will be to choose the right actions to reach that goal.

Third, decide who your demographic is.
What kind of people do you hope to reach? (Don’t say, “Everybody!” That’s unrealistic.) Men? Women? What age? With what interests? The better you can narrow down your demographic (your audience) the more effectively you will be able to find ways to reach them.

Once you’re determined this groundwork, frame everything you do on Facebook in the context of your brand, your goal and your desired audience.
All your posts, comments, and “likes” should reflect to this specific group the sort of person you want to be known as—and the kind of books you write.

For starters, go back and read the last month of your posts. Author Carla Neggers posted pix of Ireland and the White Mountains—locations where her books are set—to continue to build her fan base. Ellery Adams posted delectable photos of homemade pie and desserts so that I no longer have to see her name on her posts to think of Pies and Prejudice, the title of her new mystery. Both are very effective strategies.

Try not to dilute your brand by posting random things that make a mishmash of your private life. Post only what helps your reader understand your brand.

Get yourself a fan page on Facebook.
Fan pages come equipped with many options for reaching your audience. (Even though readers are more likely to see your posts in their newsfeeds, rather than by clicking over to visit your actual page, you should make an attractive header and use the polling and tab features as creatively as you can.

Here’s the Julia Child page created by Random House. Looks pretty, right? And see the tabs?

More important, a fan page provides “insight” information that you can track to learn which efforts reach the most people. Check your “reach” and your “virality” to determine what kind of content best achieves your promotion goals. Edit yourself accordingly.

Don’t know how to set up a fan page? Google is your friend.

Keep a friend page, too, so you have your own newsfeed to interact with and see what the rest of the world is thinking and saying.
You can be edgier, more personal or more political on your friend page, but don’t become an entirely different persona.

Accompany your posts with photos or graphics.
In an era when people swiftly scroll through their newsfeeds, they’re more likely to notice a photo than take time to read a couple of sentences. Your fans are also more likely to share a photo that strikes their fancy (which increases your virality) and their friends are more likely to look at a photo than read what you have to say.

But choose wisely to reflect your brand. For the last several weeks, I’ve been running a kind of campaign I call the 50 Shades of Pink Countdown. (I started on Pinterest first, then found a way to make it work on Facebook, too.) For the 50 days counting down to the release of my new book, No Way to Kill a Lady, I’ve posted pictures of pink dresses in the hope of building some name recognition and interest in the new book.

Dresses fit my brand because my book’s protagonist wears vintage couture. I include amusing and semi-educational photo captions (which people may or may not read) to show my books are witty, yet have some depth, too. I started out with 900 fans at the beginning of the 50 days, but now more than 400,000 people are within my reach (that is, fans and friends of fans)—all because a certain demographic of people enjoy looking at pretty dresses on their newsfeeds and they share with their friends. Every “like” and “share” exposes me to more potential readers.

Frankly, I was surprised by how viral the pink dresses have gone. That virality contributed to my publisher's decision to send my book back to press before its pub date.

Give your readers more you.
That is, write some short stories or novellas to use as promotional tools. Self-pub them or give them away on your website as a special promotion or reward for “liking” or “sharing” you. Short stories can be valuable incentives to reward your fans.

Don’t re-post the same stuff everybody else is sharing.
If you’ve seen one cute cat photo, you’ve seen them all. (Unless you’re writing books about cats, in which case, go to town!) One photo posted over and over becomes invisible—people scroll past it without noticing who posted it. Be uniquely you.

Don’t sell too hard.
If you’re only announcing book releases, reviews, price changes, and public appearances, your audience will get bored and stop looking. Don’t be the obnoxious self-promoter with a bullhorn who only talks about herself. Pink dresses work better than bald-faced announcements.

Respond to your readers.
Engage them in conversation. Make them feel appreciated. Build a community.

Post every day, but not too many times...unless you’re really, really entertaining.
(Eileen Dreyer, if you’re reading this, honey, lemme tell you, you’re my most entertaining friend on Facebook. The other lady who posts the creepy toenail photos? Not so much.)

Re-post items on your publisher’s page for more reach and to encourage their already captured fans to “like” you.

Post good stuff about other writers.
They’ll reciprocate. And fans appreciate hearing about other books they might enjoy.

Buy Facebook ads (they’re not outrageously expensive) that require an action.
Ask readers to “like” you to build your fan base. Or link to bookstores that sell autographed copies or offer the lowest price or provide free shipping. An ad that requires no action is a lost opportunity—and robs you of the resulting info provided by clicks.

You can run sweepstakes and drawings for prizes on Pinterest and your website, but not on Facebook.
You must use an app to run a giveaway promotion on Facebook, and Wildfire is the company to use. I haven’t figured out if readers trust apps enough to download them, though, so that issue is up in the air for me.

Get extra oomph from your posts by buying into Facebook’s “promote” option.
For $5 or $10, Facebook will send your post to more readers. (Hey, did you think Facebook was going to be a charitable endeavor forever?) You don’t need to promote every post, but if you believe one is going to be more appealing than most, spend a few extra bucks to send it on its way.

Stop complaining.
Anger isn’t a good selling tool, and fussing about life’s inconveniences isn't helpful to sales, either. (Remember: Somebody out there has it worse than you do.) Develop your persona with as much care as you developed your writerly voice. Think about the tone and the sensibility you’re conveying before you click on “post.”

Above all, be entertaining.
When using a promotion strategy that focuses on content, you must delight with every post. Demonstrate to your readers how entertaining you can be, and they’ll soon be eager to read your books.

Social media can be a useful tool, but only if you’re smart about the way you present yourself.

What social media efforts have worked for you or someone you know? A high tide floats all boats, so let’s work together to improve the way information about all books can better reach readers.

Nancy Martin is the author of nearly 50 popular fiction novels including the Blackbird Sisters Mysteries, published by Penguin. The 8th book in the series, No Way To Kill a Lady, is due in stores August 7, 2012.

Find Nancy on Facebook:
and on Pinterest: