Engaging online is one of the most important ways you can connect directly with consumers, spread the word virally, and ultimately increase the online discovery of you and your books.
We look forward to working with you on this important and exciting process as you build your network. Once you’ve read through this document, please email or call your Editor with any questions and to help you determine a workable strategy.
And, if social media isn’t right for you, talk to your Editor about other ways to use your interests, resources, and contacts most effectively.
5 Reasons to Build an Online Presence and Engage in Social Media
1. “Fish Where the Fish Are.” By engaging online you are automatically sharing your voice and book with millions of users already participating in the conversation. For example:
- Facebook has 500 million members +
- Twitter has 175 million members +
- Goodreads has 4 million members +
2. Your readers are online. In today’s marketplace, it’s more important than ever to engage in a direct, consistent, and lasting conversation with readers. The more you can directly connect with readers, the more likely they will be to talk about your books, and to encourage others to read them too. In the health category, consider:
- 80% of internet users, or 59% of U.S. adults, look online for health information.
- 34% of internet users, or 25% of U.S. adults, have read someone else’s commentary or experience about health or medical issues on an online news group, website, or blog.
- 18% of internet users, or 13% of adults, have gone online to find others who might have health concerns similar to theirs. People living with chronic and rare conditions are significantly more likely to do this.
3. It’s viral. Everything you post in social media is immediately shared. If you share relevant media, it will be passed on.
4. Colleagues, booksellers, sales reps, and media use social media. The stakeholders selling your books are active participants in social media. Journalists not only participate in the conversation, but they often scan social media, especially Twitter, to see what news is being discussed.
5. SEO (Search Engine Optimization). When consumers search for content on the web, if the content you’re sharing is linked to often, and the keywords you use are relevant to consumer interest, consumers will more likely discover your networks and posts in search, ultimately improving traffic and online sales.
How to Determine Which Approach is Best for You
There are many ways for you to be active online but there is no need for you to be active on every social network. Be selective. Choose the network(s) that most appeal to you and that you feel will sustain your interest. Keep in mind that a large part of social media is engaging with others on the network (liking other facebook posts, following others on twitter, commenting on other blogs, responding to comments, etc.). Where would you most like to spend your time? Also consider:
- What are my goals? If you simply want a home on the web, you may only need a basic website. If you want to engage in a conversation on a topic, blogging might be the best choice. If you want to quickly and easily follow a large number of people, think about twitter.
- Where is my audience? Consider the people you’d like to reach with your book. Where are they online? Are most professionals in your field active on Facebook? Have you noticed that other successful authors in your category tweet regularly?
- How much time per day/per week do I have to dedicate to social media? Writing a blog post and reading and commenting on other blog posts every week requires more time than a few daily tweets. Do an honest assessment of how much time you are willing to devote to building your online profile. Also consider: can I use my smartphone to update my social media when I’m in-between appointments or waiting in line?
- If you have 5 minutes a day: create a Facebook page and post at least once a day.
- If you have 15 minutes a day: create a Facebook page and post at least once a day; create a Twitter account and follow as many people as possible.
- If you have 30 minutes or more a day: try to maintain 2 of these 3 accounts: Blog, Facebook, Twitter.
- What type of media do I have to share? Do you have a lot of photos to share? Think Tumblr, Flickr or Pinterest. Video? Try YouTube.
General Online and Social Media Best Practices
Begin now. It takes time to build an online platform.
Post to teach or entertain, with headlines that make people want to share.
Post frequent updates:
Blog: at least 1x per week
Facebook, others: 2-3x per week
Update your profile and profile photos regularly, every 6 months.
Tie-in to pertinent breaking news or current events. Use Google Alerts.
Include links to your other networks.
Be human: have a perspective and a voice.
Be concise: get to the point before losing readers' interest.
Be timely: respond to comments and queries as soon as possible.
Use social etiquette: give credit when re-posting or re-tweeting.
Minimize direct self-promotion.
Make valuable connections: connect with other authors you admire. You never know where these connections will lead.
Wait for galleys or for finished books to begin. Develop your networks and strategy as soon as possible.
Use overly familiar or potentially offensive language.
Use industry or social media/tech jargon.
Sound like a different person on different channels.
Be overly promotional (of yourself or your work).
Write about topics outside your area of expertise.
Misrepresent yourself or your qualifications.
Post copyrighted material without proper clearance and attribution.
Underestimate the resources—in terms of content and time—required to launch and maintain a social presence over the long term.
Don't obsess over number of followers. Just be genuinely engaged and people will listen.
Top Networks, How-To and Best Practices
We recommend every author have a home base online like a website (a static collection of related webpages filled with data, all found at the same URL), a blog (a regularly updated, interactive site allowing visitors to leave comments) or a Facebook Page.
Think of a website as an electronic business card and a blog and Facebook Page as forms of social media. (More on blogs on p. X and Facebook on p. X)
Time commitment: An initial upfront investment of time, which could be as little as a few hours, with minimum upkeep.
Building your website: There are many ways to approach building a website. An online search for “build a website” will provide dozens of options. Two of the most popular and inexpensive options are:
- Use a blogging service platform, like Blogger.com or WordPress.com. Some adjustments to the homepage should be made so that it looks like a website and not an empty blog, but these platforms are a good option—they’re free and user friendly. A good example is Jane Friedman’s site. You can also read her helpful post about how she created it with Wordpress.
Best Practices: The basic components of an author website include (either on the homepage or as separate tabs):
- the cover of the book and buy links to all major retailers (Demos Health, Amazon, B&N.com)
- descriptive copy
- an excerpt
- author bio and photo
- advance praise or reviews
- events and readings
- links to social media on every page (if applicable)
- contact info
Additional options include:
- sign-up for an email newsletter
Promote your website wherever possible. Include it in your email signature, your professional bio and in all of your marketing and publicity outreach. Make it easy for people to find you.
A note on domain names: Note these domain names are all the author’s name and not the name of an individual book title. This allows the website to be a hub for all of your work and future books. Consider this when choosing your domain name.
If you have established a brand outside of your proper name, you may want to use that instead. Here is an example of a brand website:
A blog is a website in the form of a diary that allows you to write regularly about topics or events that interest you. Blogs usually include photos, videos, and links, and allow readers to comment on and discuss entries.
Time Commitment: 1 to 2 hrs + per week. If you decide to launch your own blog, be prepared to make a long-term commitment of blogging regularly, at least once per week. Also dedicate some time each week to engaging with others: reading and following other related blogs, commenting, liking, or sharing other posts, and responding to comments your blog posts have received.
Building Your Blog: Blog building platforms like Wordpress.com and Blogger.com are free and make setting up a blog easy.
- Choose a name that is easy to remember, accessible, and connected to you/your work. Consider using your proper name in the title. You may write more than one book. Consider a name that could feature all of your work in one place.
- Include all of the major components of a website (cover shot, retailer links, bio, etc.).
- On your bio page—often the most viewed and commented on page.:
- Sell yourself. Present an eagerness to talk about you and your work.
- Write in third person.
- Cite relevant information.
- Use these widgets:
- A badge your followers can click to subscribe with easy to follow instructions: “Click here for your FREE bi-weekly subscription.”
- Links to social media (your facebook page, twitter feed, etc.)
- A search space.
- Blog Roll, a list of other blogs you like and follow.
- List of Groups you belong to
- Categories. List 3-5 only
- List of Recent Posts
- List of Resources
- Recent Comments
- Subscribe to RSS feed
- Write good content. Blogging is not a constant sales pitch. Aim to create blog content that offers a point of view and can spark dialogue with your readers.
- Blog your niche or expertise. Think about your reader—what information or commentary are they looking for? Would then find most useful? Provide that, and they’ll come back for more.
- Be concise. Keep posts under 500 words.
- Link to other blogs in your posts.
- Use keywords in your text so the search engines index your blog properly. Always add tags (key words) to each post.
- Use images or rich media (videos, podcasts, and so on) to boost engagement and interest.
- Read other blogs so you know what is going on in your niche. Subscribe by email or use a reader, like Google reader, to keep tabs on the blogs you read regularly.
- Encourage comments from readers and answer any queries. Make sure you also comment on other people’s blogs.
- Promote your blog wherever possible. Include a link in your email signature, professional bio, and all outreach materials. Make it easy for people to find you.
Facebook is the largest social networking site in the world and a great place to connect with readers. Members have the ability to create personal profiles, add photos and video, and engage with authors by “liking” pages of interest. A Facebook Page can function well in place of a website or blog, in that you can have a complete author profile, with photos, video, links to buy your books, and a place to host information about your events. You can create a unique URL for your page, just like a web page and share updates of 420 characters, about 82 words. You can also link to or even stream in content from other platforms where you may be present, such as Twitter, YouTube, a blog or personal website, or LinkedIn.
Time Commitment: 10 minutes a day for posting and checking engagement.
Building Your Page:
- Create a public Facebook Page. As an author you can best engage with consumers by creating a public Facebook Page. Facebook Pages are different from personal profiles in that they are meant for professional public communication with Facebook members. Members can immediately “like” Facebook Pages, rather than having to request to be “friends.” You can create and manage a Facebook Page from your existing personal Facebook account. If you don’t already have a Facebook account, you can create a new account to manage your Facebook Page (this is known as a Business Account). You may also choose to convert your existing personal profile into a public Facebook Pages—just remember—if you do this, it’s important to keep a professional presence on your public page.
- We recommend creating a Facebook Page with your author name, that you can then use to promote you and your book(s).
- Use your author photo and/or book jacket as your profile page photo.
- Add a banner photo. It should be relevant and complement the profile photo. Keep in mind that only a partial cross section will appear on the page.
- Invite people to “like” your page through Facebook by importing a list of contacts and searching your email for friends on Facebook (See the “Building an Audience” Tab on your homepage).
- Add your pages URL to your email signature with a call to action to “Like Your Page.”
- Engage as your Page with other relevant authors, books, journals, retailers, organizations, associations, foundations, academic institutions.
- “Like” pages, join groups, and comment on page and group wall posts. Remember to be genuine and authentic in all interactions. The goal is to be part of the conversation without overtly promoting your book.
- Be sure to “Like” and engage with the Demos Health Facebook page. We look forward to you joining the conversation and seeing you as an active member. Please post comments, respond to posts, and share relevant news.
- Post 2 to 3x per week on relevant topics.
- Keep your posts short, between 100 and 250 characters. Use URL shorteners like bit.ly to maximize space.
- Inform and entertain: post things people will want to share.
- Include links to articles, photos, and videos in posts.
- Re-Post the Facebook posts of other pages that you like.
- Ask questions directly to the wall or through Facebook’s poll function.
- Include strong calls to action: ask people to like and/or comment.
- Fill-in-the-blank posts can generate up to 90% higher engagement than the average post.
- Add the free Facebook App to your smartphone so you can engage on the go.
- If you wish to develop a Facebook ad, we will be happy to work with you to select appropriate keywords, images, and profiles to target.
Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that enables people to send and read short messages called 'tweets'. Messages are limited to 140 characters, so each post must be very succinct (use URL shorteners like bit.ly to maximize space).
Twitter is a quick and easy way to build loyalty with existing fans and gain new ones. You can provide frequent updates to your followers about your books, upcoming events, reviews and more. If your book is especially news driven and you’ll have a lot of quick content to share, Twitter is a good option. You can create a unique URL for your Twitter account too.
Time Commitment: 10 – 30 minutes a day to tweet and engage with your followers. Twitter has an extremely high signal-to-noise ratio, so you have to compete to be heard. A good rule of thumb is three to five tweets per day.
Building Your Feed:
- We advise that you use your real name in the field marked 'real name' and a highly intuitive and discoverable version of this for your username, like first initial, last name if available. The shorter your username, the better. Your handle will be @username.
- Follow people. Following someone means that when you sign into Twitter, their tweets will show up in your personal timeline—the first page you see when you log in. As people tweet, the tweets show up in order of posting. You can start with people you know. Click on the list of people they are following, and skim the bios to find people who look interesting.
- Twitter will help develop your network by searching your email contacts (if allowed) or by letting you search their database.
- Follow colleagues, professional organizations, journals, book-related media, booksellers, librarians, and book bloggers. You can also find people interested in your subject area by searching for specific keywords.
- Browse sites like Listorious, Twellow, and WeFollow to browse by category tags.
- To find people to follow in the book industry, subscribe to lists created by @GalleyCat, @PublishersLunch and @ShelfAwareness.
- Try to tweet a few times each day, but at least once per day.
- Link to useful/interesting information on the web. Shorten links with Bit.ly. Be sure not to only link to your posts.
- Use action words—read, watch, enter, please retweet, how to, check out, etc.
- Use hashtags (#) to collect a group of tweets around a particular topic, making it easy to read them all in one place. Create your own and get a discussion started. No more than three hashtags per tweet.
- Retweet other people’s tweets. On Twitter, our authors can also follow other authors of books they admire. Retweeting from those authors can help put the books in conversation with each other and possibly build shared audiences.
- Reply back to people and carry on conversations. Remember, unless you send a direct message, anything you tweet will be widely visible.
- Add the free Twitter App to your smart phone so you can engage on the go.
Other Ways to Expand Your Community
Below, we have provided a brief overview of some additional social networks you might want to consider to build your community and increase visibility for your work.
Goodreads is social networking platform for people who are passionate about reading. The site has over four million members who share book recommendations, keep track of reading lists and wish lists, and discuss books one-on-one or as part of book clubs. Goodreads offers a free Author Program where authors can promote themselves and their work. You can use this tool to create a personal profile with bio, blog, events, video hosting, and more, or promote your title through advertising, book giveaways, Q&As or discussions. There are groups and lists for all genres of book and as an author you should join groups and interact around the site.
- Spread the word about your books by inviting people to join your network.
- Join and engage in consumer groups related to your book, genre, or interests. Remember, do not overtly push your book in groups; rather engage in conversations that are organically happening in groups.
- By making Goodreads connections authors have had the following kinds of positive results:
- Meeting authors to blurb books
- Receiving invitations to guestblog on other author’s sites
- Gaining new fans, resulting in higher book ratings and adds to “to read” lists.
- Add the free Goodreads App to your smartphone so you can engage on the go.
YouTube is the second most-visited website after Facebook. It is a video-sharing site where users can view, share, and upload videos. It displays a wide variety of user-generated content, including movie and TV clips, music videos, video blogs, short films, and amateur home videos. Setting up your own YouTube channel and uploading videos is simple and free of charge. You can automatically share your uploads on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks, or set them up to stream into your personal blog or website.
Videos should be approximately one to three minutes long and incorporate music or images whenever possible to boost engagement. Be sure to add related keywords in the tags field, create a title using targeted key words, and include a description.
LinkedIn is the leading professional networking site. The first step to using LinkedIn is to set up a personal profile. Once you have completed this profile, detailing your experience and activities, you can begin connecting with colleagues and friends. LinkedIn also hosts numerous groups, dedicated to personal and professional interests. Joining these groups and posing questions or responding to queries from members can be a great way to showcase yourself as a leader in specific areas. LinkedIn further offers profile-based, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising similar to Facebook, so you can run targeted ad campaigns to promote your work or events.
Flickr is a social photo-sharing site that you can use to share images with your current and potential readers. This approach can be particularly effective if your work involves a strong visual element. You can embed Flickr photo albums in your blog, or link to these via your profiles on other social networks.
Pinterest is an online pinboard, letting you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes. Authors can use pinterest to feature their work, professional and personal interests. If you’re a visual person, browse pinboards created by other people and see if pinterest is right for you.
Tumblr is a highly customizable, free blogging platform that lets you share photos, text, links, quotes, music, and video content. It has a strong social element and can help boost visibility for your posts through 'reblogging' (similar to 'retweeting' on Twitter).You can also post by mobile device or email. If you are interested in creating a low-maintenance blog Tumblr offers an easy-to-use platform—just be sure you have enough video, audio, or image-based content to share.
Google+ aims to "make sharing on the web more like sharing in real life," with circles allowing the user to group different sets of people (friends, colleagues, etc.) to share specifically to those circles, and hangouts, which allow multiple face-to-face video calls and can be a great way to interact with book clubs or conduct interviews. Google has been using Google+ to influence its search returns and page ranking.
For more on G+, read 20 Reasons to Switch from Mashable.
Don’t be afraid to ask your readers for assistance. When you receive fan mail singing your praises, or see someone give a high rating of one of your books via Goodreads, mention that you’re glad they enjoyed the work, and if they would like to help others to take a chance and give your work a try to please post a review on Amazon or add commentary to a ranking on GoodReads.
Always cross-link so people can find you on all of your networks easily.
Be in touch with any questions.
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