If you’re an author, you have to use social media to promote your books. Publishers expect it and your readers expect it. It’s not necessarily a bad thing.
But it can be done horribly. There are some authors I am friends with on Facebook whose every post boils down to “buy my books.”
So, after listening to much advice from other authors on this subject, here’s what I try to do (and not always successfully):
Be an interesting person with interesting posts. When using Facebook and Twitter, have something to say, even if it’s just sharing a funny cartoon or a joke you heard. Make people want to read what you post. Don’t be negative and angry all the time.
Try to get people to respond. I try to post things with questions, so that people talk to you. And then you can talk back. Sometimes I admittedly ask questions that have answers somewhere on the web. “Anyone know how to keep my phone from cutting off the end of the music?” I don’t make these questions up — I really do want to know the answers. But I’d rather have a conversation about it and get opinions from people than just google it and see what people I don’t know think.
You know this is true: the more you talk online with someone, the more you feel that you know them, even if you’ve never met. And the more they know you, the more they remember you and the more they may say, “Hey, that book by my friend may be interesting.”
Don’t be bland or fake. I don’t shy away from controversy. With my political blog and posts on Facebook, I clearly take positions on controversial issues, and sometimes may be scaring away potential readers. But I’m honest about who I am. I am not creating a false persona. My books may challenge you, too.
Now, admittedly, I would be doing the things listed above even if I wasn’t promoting books. But apparently some authors are shy and don’t like doing this sort of thing — but you have to. Here’s the key — you have to not think about this as self-promotion. Just be an interesting person online.
But even then, you still have to literally promote yourself:
Mention the books when you need to! If you have something new to report, report it! Some of your friends on Facebook are indeed your readers, and they’d sincerely like to know when you have a new book or short story available, or if you’ve just been interviewed. There’s nothing wrong with mentioning these things, so long as you don’t overdo it.
Don’t guilt trip. I hate reading posts from friends who try to shame people into buying their books. It’s even worse than those memes that basically say, “Is anyone reading this? Do I have any friends? Please respond with just a ‘hello’ — that’s all I ask for my miserable existence.” No one is going to buy a book because you make them feel guilty for not buying it. And if they do, they probably won’t then read it.
Promote all books. Talk up your friends’ books! Interview them on a blog and tell everyone. Talk about books you’ve just read. Mention seminars and conventions you’ve been to. Get people interested in reading and books in general. That’s what this is all about, after all.
And remember: Writers are not in competition. Someone else’s success doesn’t mean your failure.
So be a “friend.” Make people want to read books by their friends.
And after all that, one more piece of advice:
Don’t take it personally if people don’t buy your book. All of this advice won’t make a bit of difference if your Facebook friends aren’t interested in your book. You could be the greatest writer ever, a wonderful friend on Facebook, and a very entertaining person but if you’re writing romance novels about women running away from castles, I’m probably not going to read your book because that doesn’t interest me. I know I have friends who aren’t the slightest bit interested in the kind of books I write. So don’t take it personally!