Special IE author guest blog post
By M.M Cochran
Writers and social media don’t always mix very well. But authors and social media? That’s a must. I know, I know. . . writers of all kinds are typically reclusive when it comes to making private life public. All we ask of the world, with puppy dog eyes and hands in prayer position, is this: “Will you buy my book?”
Here’s a fact: the world just might do that––IF you put it out there for them to see. So, the nagging topic that seeps its way into every author’s life . . . “social media as a new author.” Let’s chat about it.
I’m M.M. Cochran, new author of my debut young adult novel Between the Ocean and the Stars, published by our very own IngramElliott. When I first signed my contract with them, they told me to prepare to do some heavy marketing on social media. And if you’re trying to promote your book, personality/brand is what’ll make you or break you. Seems crazy, right? But as a new author myself, I had to find a way to make myself known, and to tell you the truth, branding myself, which means also branding my book, is really quite fun.
New authors, Instagram is your best friend. (Raise your hand if you want to consider spending hours on Instagram “work”!). My tips and tricks for promoting my book is this:
After all, your audience follows you for a reason, and that reason is because they’re interested in seeing your life as a writer. With a debut novel coming out, show them what the publishing process looks like, or the writing process, or the editing process.
My social media development started taking off when I announced on Instagram that I’d signed my first publishing contract. It’s been growing ever since. Here’s some quick tips and tricks that helped me get the ball rolling:
Let me expand on this.
By posting bookish content, my followers became familiar with my brand, what I do, and what they can expect from me. Even if your novel is a year away from seeing a bookshelf, don’t stop promoting it. Keep your followers excited for release. Between the time I signed my contract with IE and now, I have gained fans from all over the world who have told me they love my content, love my story, and can’t wait for release so they can get their hands on my novel.
I let my audience know that they can reach out to me day or night. Just as they encourage and support me, I want to offer the same right back to them. If they see that you care about them, they’ll never leave your side (or your book! *wink wink*). This builds a strong community around you, which, in the discouraging times that writing often brings upon us, is much needed.
This pivotal tip can make or break a follow:
keep your page pretty.
Determine your aesthetic and stick to it. Depending on the season, I keep my pictures on Instagram nice and matching to the weather. During winter, I post white and blue colors. During spring, I like to keep it pastel. In summertime, I post vibrant, colorful pictures. When fall comes around, I like to share lots of outdoorsy, turtleneck sweater pictures. Meanwhile, I keep readers informed on my publishing process and what’s to come.
But don’t be afraid to get honest in your posts. Everyone has a vulnerable side, and sharing yours will draw people closer to you because of your relatable content. Writing isn’t easy. In fact, that might just be the most vulnerable form of art out there. The whole point of publishing your book is for people to feel your words and experience your story. Why stop at a paperback or e-book, though?
New authors, take it a step further and start sharing your words on social media. Be confident in your book––in your vulnerability, in your branding, in your journey to publication––and show the world who you are.
I promise they’ll love you!
Have questions? Need advice as you enter the publishing industry? Follow me on Instagram at m.m.cochran_writer and let’s chat!
As we’ve discussed before, your author brand is crucial to your success as an author. A huge part of this brand is marketing. Your content, social media, and overall marketing strategy are all critical components of you and your book's presence to readers and potential fans. But sometimes it can seem like a lot to manage, right? What if we told you that you didn’t actually have to do it all on your own?
What is a virtual assistant and how can one help me as an author?
Having a virtual marketing assistant is useful on all fronts of the marketing side of your brand. A virtual marketing assistant can do things like reach out to book bloggers and influencers for reviews, create newsletters to go out to your readers, and create content and manage your social media. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t have a hand in the marketing side of things, but it will significantly alleviate the pressure on you to perform all marketing tasks on your own.
Make a list of tasks you want help with
Ideally, once you hire a virtual assistant, you will create a list of tasks for him or her to perform. This list will, of course, vary from author to author. It’s important to know what tasks you want your virtual assistant to accomplish before you even search for one to ensure that you hire exactly who you’re looking for.
Some things to consider putting on the list could be:
A good way to determine what to have your virtual assistant work on is to make a list of things you either dislike or avoid and things that don’t really need your direct input. By doing this, it frees you up to work on the things that do need your direct input – like edits to your manuscripts, important meetings, and speaking engagements. A clear idea of what you want your virtual assistant to do makes it easier on both of you moving forward.
Budget to fit your needs
Virtual assistants typically operate as freelance contractors – similar to graphic designers or marketing specialists. When you hire one, you’ll typically pay somewhere between $10-$25/hour, depending on the virtual assistant’s skill level and experience (some may cost more but if you keep searching, you'll find the right fit). This makes it easy for you to stay within a budget, because a virtual assistant will work within the budget you set. For example, if you have a budget of $150 and you find a virtual assistant who charges $15/hour, you can request 10 hours of specific tasks and know that you will stay within your budget and get done what needs to get done. You can also work with the freelancer to create a monthly budget for a specific number of hours. For example, you can hire someone to manage all your social media platforms by setting a set number of posts per week (say 1-3) across your platforms (say, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), and agreeing on a package prices with your freelancer (say, $150 per month for no more than 10 hours of time). It often helps to have a discussion with a potential freelancer about how they prefer to work, but the effort is worth it!
How to find a virtual assistant
So now that you have a general idea of what a virtual assistant is and how they can help you with the marketing side of your job, you might be wondering how to find one! There are several different ways to find a virtual assistant, but we’ll give you tips on some of the easiest ways.
Start with a simple Google search. Searching “Virtual Marketing Assistant United States” will yield different companies through which you can hire a virtual assistant. Of course, not every company will be a perfect fit, so you’ll need to set aside some time to look through the list of companies and search by the set of skills you’re looking for to find the perfect virtual assistant for you.
A popular site to hire freelancers through is Upwork. If you visit their website, there is an option on the homepage to find a freelancer in the “Admin Support” field. You can then select the “Virtual/Administrative Assistance” option.
Another great way to find a virtual assistant or social media manager is through LinkedIn. You can search for local people in your network with expertise specifically in social media and marketing, content creation, or managing your schedule, if that's what you need.
Belay services offers website and social media specific support as well. Learn more on their website about how to work with their assistants.
Take the time up front for future success with your VA
Although it may take some extra time up front to sit down and come up with a game plan for hiring a virtual assistant, it will save you time in the long run. Hiring a virtual assistant is a great way to prevent yourself from burning out on the tasks you don’t enjoy as much about your job. If, after reading this, you’re interested but still unsure if a virtual assistant is the best option, remember that you can start small! Try hiring a virtual assistant for just one or two small tasks at first to ease yourself into it, and then go from there. There’s no exact formula for what your virtual assistant needs to do, so you have the freedom and liberty to craft it to what you need specifically. With a little research, patience, and open-mindedness, you may find exactly what you're looking for to help boost and maintain your author platform.
We've talked much in our blog about the importance of social media and building an author platform through an online presence. As the leaves change color, consider changing your approach as well. It can be a challenge to make time to keep up online presences but as the leaves go on falling, the world of social media goes on spinning. We get feedback from partners all the time on how important it is that an author have a strong presence online when searched for. An author's social media platforms are used in marketing programs, book awards programs, blog tours and reviews, and even purchasers can find you if you put yourself out there where you can be found.
This fall, we encourage all authors to take a fresh look at their platforms by following three simple steps.
Even if you are not a pro at this, what matters is that you stay active. It really is about connecting to other people which may include other authors, readers and fans, or groups that you are interested in.
A few pro tips
Lastly, if you don't have the desire, interest, or time in doing all of this, search for and hire a virtual marketing assistant to help you do all these things . . . and it won't break the bank! You can specify marketing assistants or social media assistants and hire someone to help build your brand, keep your sites fresh, and work with you on connecting to followers. Search on LinkedIn or Google for people in your area (if you want someone local) or work with people around the globe offering their services. You can also find students at local colleges that may be interested in the job or just through people you know and already work with. Ask around!
As any author knows, your job is not finished when you finish writing your book. Marketing is key for sales of your book, and, as social media continues to evolve, there are continually more possibilities for how to do this.
Enter the Influencer.
In recent years, influencers have become quite popular, especially in the world of social media. An influencer is someone who has built a following of people that trust and respect their opinions in an area of expertise. Some influencers specialize in fashion, others in food, others in family life, and still others in blogging – just to name a few areas.
Influencers exist, as you may have guessed by now, in the book world, too. And these influencers can be huge assets to you in marketing your book! But, understandably, it can be a daunting task when considering how to go about reaching out to them.
First and foremost, it’s important to look at this like you would any relationship. It should never be entirely one sided. Yes, you want them to do you a favor and promote your book. But don’t forget that, as with anything, these things work best with a symbiotic relationship.
Nice to meet you!
When it comes time to finally reach out, there are a few things you should be certain you do. If you haven’t formally introduced yourself yet, start with that! Keep it brief and personable. Then, give a quick description of your book and why you feel like it connects with her or his area of expertise. When it comes to your ask for support, be clear and concise. Provide them with all resources they will need – obviously a copy of your book, any hashtags or social media handles you would like them to use, as well as any copy you would like them to use when promoting your book.
Show sincere interest
In other words, be sincere. Consider what you can do to help them, as well. If you have the time margin, focus on building a good relationship with the influencer before you ever reach out asking for anything. Simple things like promoting them on your own social media, writing about them in a blog, and sharing things they are working on all contribute to a positive relationship.
This, of course, is easiest to do when you find influencers that genuinely interest and inspire you. Consider who your target audience is, and go from there. For example, if young adults are your target audience, a simple Google search will let you know some influencers in that sphere. Take some time, look through their profiles on social medias, and find a few that you are intrigued by. Give them a follow and begin building the relationship!
Quid pro quo
When it comes to the specific ask for help, be clear with what you want them to do. Consider where their sphere of influence is, and go from there. Do they have a successful blog? Ask them to read and review your book on their blog. Do they have excellent engagement on social media posts? Ask them to post a message of support and a link to buy your book.
If you haven’t heard back from them within a week, follow up in a brief manner. Check that they received the material and let them know you would be happy to answer any questions they may have regarding the information.
Finally, continue to maintain relationships even after they promote your book and continue to follow their posts and offer to promote their content across your sites. You can both be beneficial to each other in the future and become mutually benficial allies in this new online world.
Images by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Creating an author blog can be an effective extra 'step' in creating your author platform and reaching your audience. Since blogs can be on any topic you like - including those related to or in support of your book - you may pick up additional readers or reviewers interested in taking a look at your book.
If readers haven't used the particular keywords in their search for you (read more about keywords and meta in our blog post here), they may not immediately see your book pop up in results. Using meta data in your blog post, including keywords and categories, will help search engines find your blog, and in turn, find you as an author. Also include social media share buttons on your blog post (most platforms do this automatically), so that followers can easily post your content to their networks.
Blog posts can be topics of interest for your readers or related to your area of expertise or knowledge. For fiction writers, a little less straightforward than non-fiction writers, which typically have a specific area of expertise, it may mean relying on your personal experience and tying it into your fiction work.
Building an audience takes time.
Building an audience takes time.
Building an audience takes time.
The above is not a typo . . . but it's worth repeating. Whether it's an author blog, author social media sites, author events, and other ways to build your brand, it takes commitment, time, and consistency.
Blogs aren't for everyone and that's okay. You can get the straight-talk from one of our favorite bloggers of business advice for writers, Jane Friedman, in her post Blogging for Writers. She says, "The most successful blogs have a very focused angle and appeal to a very specific audience."
Creating a blog takes time, but may be worth it if you have an author website to which you can add the content (read our blog post on building an author website). It's best to use the platform you are already using for your author website - this keeps everything in one place and helps keep your marketing (social media links, blog links, author bio and info, events, book info) all in one place. There are many good and easy to use author website platforms. You can also work with a virtual marketing assistant to help set one up.
Another easy-to-use blog opportunity is your Goodreads Author Page. Once your author profile is setup on Goodreads, they make it pretty easy. From your Author Dashboard, scroll down until you see Your Blog. From here you'll have options to write a new post or sync with a pre-existing blog. Goodreads Authors are the only members who can have a blog on the site, so take advantage!
So give your potential readers useful and interesting information, and hopefully those beginnings will bloom into followers and purchasers.
We discussed earlier this year how important building your brand as an author is. Strategy, content, and social media all come into play when building your own brand. Here, we will break down some practical ways to begin building your brand and give you a step-by-step guide for getting started!
1. Who Are You?
To begin, you have to figure out who you are as an author. Ask yourself, “Who am I?” When you’re answering this question, consider what you bring to the table as an author. Why are you different? Why is your book special? Why are people going to choose to support you as an author?
2. Who Are You Marketing To?
After you’ve figured out who you are as an author, you can figure out whom you are marketing to as an author. In other words, who is your target audience? Is it children? Young adults? Women? Men? When you figure out your target audience, you will be able to build a brand that markets directly to that audience.
3. Set Up Your Platform
When you’ve answered the questions of who you are as an author and who your target audience is, you can start to set up your actual author platform. First and foremost, you will need to set up your author website. For further instruction on how to best build your website, you can revisit our blog post on it.
4. Don’t Shy Away From Email
If you think of your email list as just another way to connect with your readers, like Twitter or Facebook, it becomes much less intimidating. If you can make a great first impression with your readers and create an easy form for them to use to subscribe to your email list, building your email list is completely doable. The important thing to remember when building your email list is that you shouldn’t wait to start. Begin building the list and develop it as you go, even if your website or book aren’t quite ready.
5. Get Active on Social Media
As we’ve mentioned in posts previously, social media is crucial to your brand. The beauty of social media is that you have the creative liberty to tailor it to exactly the way you want it. Keep in mind the Rule of Thirds that we mentioned in an earlier blog post and remember to use your social media as a way to connect with your audience. If you use it solely as a promotional tool for your book or even for yourself, your audience will not be drawn in as effectively. Keep in mind what your readers connect with about you, and use that often in your social media.
Remember to have patience with yourself as you build your brand and that, even using these practical steps, it will probably take some time. It’s okay to not get everything in order right away, as long as you are making progress!
When it comes to marketing yourself an author, you don’t have to wait until your book is finished and published to begin. The earlier you connect and begin to build familiarity and relationships with your readers, the better.
This becomes possible when you realize that you are marketing yourself more than you are marketing your book. At the end of the day, your name is a more important brand than your book’s title. The key is to build your own personal brand through which you can promote your books. We're launching a new blog series in 2019, dedicated to helping authors build their platforms and their brand. Here's a few things to get you started . . . maybe one or two will make it to your New Year's Resolution list!
If you've already started your online social media presence through Goodreads or other online social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, connect with your followers, like some of their posts, follow celebrities, groups, or other authors that you admire. Just start making online connections, one follow at a time.
For authors with books already published, we strongly suggest creating and keeping fresh your Goodreads Profile and Amazon.com Author Central profiles. Be sure to keep them fresh with weekly posts or link them to your existing blog.
Read more about Goodreads setup here. It's a powerful tool with a great return on investment of your time and energy.
We'll talk more in upcoming posts about creating a compelling social media presence but for now just make a start. Create a profile and bring the new YOU to the New Year!