How I Used Social Media to Sell Books | from the One Stop Self-Publishing Conference

oldpost

In case you missed my endless stream of tweets on the subject, I was at the One Stop Self-Publishing Conference in Killiney, Co.Dublin on Saturday, and in case you didn’t quite understand why for about half an hour I was evidently tweeting about myself in the third person, I was speaking at it too. (The lovely and most helpful Alison Wells took over the live tweeting duties while I was otherwise engaged.) I was one of the last speakers late in the afternoon and having made sure that I was continuously sipping coffee throughout the day, the number one word used to describe my talk on how I used social media to sell books was “bubbly.”

Indeed.

For those of you who were there on Saturday that I not so subliminally encouraged to come check out my site – and for those of you who weren’t there but might have a passing interest in what was said – here are my notes from the talk, expanded enough for people other than me to understand them. (Looking at the page now I see things like, “CENTRAL!!!” scrawled in the margin; I don’t know what it means and I’m the one who wrote it.) I’ve also included links to things I didn’t have a chance to talk about or that were perhaps outside the parameters of the talk’s topic, but that you may find helpful as a self-published – or even traditionally published – author looking to turn your Twitter habit into book sales.

I’ve also included some of the things I forgot to say. Coffee does wonders for bubbliness, but not for recall. And so, without much further ado, here’s how I used social media to sell books

About my Product, Mousetrapped

– I self-published a travel memoir in March 2010. I used the Print on Demand service Createspace to produce the paperback, and Amazon DTP and Smashwords to produce the e-book. With the exception of a few copies in my local independent bookstore (where I had my launch), the book is only for sale online and therefore I sell direct to my readers.

– Almost a year ago, in November 2009, I had nothing in the line of an author “platform” or a social media presence other than my own personal Facebook page, etc. Today, my blog has had 19,000 hits, I’ve sold 900 copies of Mousetrapped without spending money on marketing or promotion, I’ve raised my profile as a writer and I’ve secured representation for my novel.

– Releasing or publishing my book was one of the last things I did. Using social media to sell books is a great tool that can be highly effective but you must do the work before the book comes out. You must get readers anticipating your book.

– The subject matter of my book was so niche that rather than just target specific groups (such as Disney fans), I aimed to get people interested in me as a writer and/or liking my writing style.

Useful links:

Blogging, Websites and Blogsites

– My first blog was on Blogger.com. I recommend this for first time bloggers as it’s really easy to use. When I felt like I knew what I was doing and I wanted a more professional site, I moved to WordPress.com and this “blogsite.”

– A blog is an online journal that is updated frequently. A website is a more static affair where you would normally have information about yourself (About the Author, Contact, Books, etc.) and a news section that is up to date. What most authors have nowadays is a “blogsite” or a combination of the two.

– I recommend blogging between 3-5 times a week, but you can get away with less. (Although not at the beginning.) The length of your posts doesn’t matter as much as the quality and topics covered. Decide what you’re going to blog about (3-6 themes or subjects) and stick to it; don’t just blog about whatever comes into your head. (That’s fine of course, if it’s a personal blog. What I’m talking about is focused blogging where your aims are specific, such as raise your profile as a writer.)

– I started blogging about my adventures in self-publishing, or self-printing as I call it. That I think is the real “pull” of my site. But I also blog about writing in general, coffee (the blog is called Catherine, Caffeinated), book reviews, space (Astronuts) and some miscellaneous stuff. If someone discovers your blog due to a specific topic, they’re only going to wait a maximum of 4-5 posts on other topics before they leave you. I always try to come back to self-publishing or a related topic at least once a fortnight.

– Name your blog. On a list of blogs, the one with the interesting name – as opposed to just the person’s name, i.e. “Catherine Ryan Howard” – stands out.

– How to get people reading it? Start reading other people’s blogs and comment on their posts. When someone comments on one of your posts, respond. This is how blogging communities get built and blogging friends get made.

– How to improve your hits: blog about topical issues. When a post gets a lot of hits, figure out why and try to repeat.

– You can also use free WordPress.com blogs to make a separate website for your book.

– For about $15 a year you can upgrade your WordPress blog to have your own domain name, i.e. instead of http://www.catherineryanhoward.wordpress.com, I was able to have http://www.catherineryanhoward.com.

Useful links:

Twitter

– Twitter is the single greatest thing I ever did for my writing career.

– It’s very hard to explain what it is if you’re not already on there, but it’s like a conversation you can drop in and out of. It’s all about interaction and communicating. People share links, information, videos, tips, advice and their lives. I’ve made some amazing contacts on there, and even met up with my “Twitter friends” in real life.

– It’s the best way to get people reading your blog. If you use WordPress.com, you can set it up so that when you post, a tweet automatically gets posted with the link.

– Sign up on Twitter.com and start following people. (Start with me!) Read Inkygirl’s extremely helpful Twitter Guide for Writers.

– Twitter should not be used only for self-promotional reasons. (Just like in real life, no one likes a relentless self-promoter!) I limited my self-promotional tweets to 3-5 tweets one day a week – Monday – and marked all these tweets with the hashtag “#mousetrappedmonday”. To complete the campaign, I “released” the book on the “final” Mousetrapped Monday.

– There is a fantastic community of Irish writers on Twitter. Great for support, friendship and fun!

Useful links:

Facebook

– You should have a Facebook “fan” page. I’m not talking about personal profile.

– I don’t think a presence on Facebook has translated into sales, but it can’t have hurt. It also helps you capture the attention of people already using social media, and it is very useful for updating people with news of your book, special offers, etc.

– I found it most useful for organizing a book launch as you can set up an event on Facebook and Facebook users can RSVP to it.

– Once you have over 25 Facebook fans (or “Likes”) you can personalize your Facebook page URL.

Useful links:

Adding Content

Now that you have a blog, a Twitter account and a presence on Facebook, you need to start adding content and linking all these outlets to each other, thus building your author platform.

Prior to Publication

– Book trailers. Read more of what I have to say about book trailers here.

My short book trailer: Mousetrapped in 60 Seconds

The longer trailer for Mousetrapped: 3.5 minutes

– Video blogs. Ali McNamara is currently promoting her debut novel using video blogs very successfully.

Release your first chapter as a PDF. There’s little point in doing any of this if visitors to your blog can’t get a sample of your writing/taster of your book.

At or After Publication

– Hold contests. Read more about the contests I held here.

– Sign up for Amazon Author Central. This will complement your Amazon listings.

– Sign up for an author profile at Goodreads.com. Take advantage of their great book giveaway program.

– Offer your blogging friends complimentary copies of your book to review (no obligation).

– Have a virtual book tour. Author Keris Stainton did this most effectively.

Useful links:

Some Don’ts

– Don’t be sporadic. Do all these things with regularity. It may take a lot of time at the start but once you get going it won’t be as much. Right now I spend maybe 3 hours a week blogging, and update Twitter and Facebook when I can.

– Don’t be negative. Be positive. It’s fine – it’s encouraged – to tell the truth on your blog, i.e. I detailed both the highs and lows of my self-publishing experience. But don’t moan, or do something stupid like catalogue your rejections.

– Don’t give up too soon. When you start all this, it feels like you’re doing it in a void. No one is reading, no one is stopping by, no one is following you. But the effect is cumulative: it starts off as a snowflake and then overtime snowballs. So keep at it.

My Results

Just under a year ago I had just finished writing the first draft of my novel and was about to start on the road to self-publication with Mousetrapped, my travel memoir. I decided to start a blog because every writer seemed to have one and I started using Twitter because in the little village where I wrote my novel that was the only thing that would properly download in such a broadband black spot. Since then:

So if you started work on your social media platform today, where might you be in a year?

_____________

Later in the week I’ll be posting about what I learned from the other fantastic speakers at the event – which was a lot – and maybe even telling you a bit about what I did on my holidays. (Remember them? I only got back last Tuesday but already it seems like a month ago… ) Thanks to Vanessa O’Loughlin and Eoin Purcell for organizing such a great event, and for inviting little old me to speak at it.

And if you’re one of the people who was there on Saturday, do say hello in the comments below…

Read all my self-printing posts.

Read about Mousetrapped, the book I self-printed.

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10 thoughts on “How I Used Social Media to Sell Books | from the One Stop Self-Publishing Conference

  1. Music&Meaning says:

    Catherine–thanks for sharing the information. I’m trying to edit/publish my mom’s memoirs & have not been having much success (am probably spending too much time on my own blog), so any help in this direction is appreciated. I’m an Irish-American poet (actually more of an american mongrel, but there’s some West Virginia Irish in me…and I live near a neighborhood called Irish Hill, which must count for something). Have you considered writing poetry…you’re Irish after all, as your stick-with-it-ness demonstrates. Good luck w/ your endeavors! RT

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      I haven’t written as much as a line of poetry in my whole life and for this the world should be grateful – I’d be terrible at it! (Why use 1 word when you can use 10, etc.)

      There’s plenty of info on the site here that should be some help to you re: self-publishing, etc. but the one thing I would say is that all work, whether it be destined for self-publication or mainstream publication, should be professionally edited first, so you might want to look into that.

      Good luck!

  2. Talli Roland says:

    Fantastic advice, Catherine! You prove that social media media – now can you just convince my husband, so he stops telling me to ‘quit Twittering’!

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      LOL! I think the biggest lesson we’ve all learned is that we in fact have a cast iron excuse for spending HOURS on Twitter! Hooray!

      I’m quite looking forward to your blog splash as well – maybe you can do a guest post on here afterwards about its effectiveness. I bet it’ll be great!

  3. Averill Buchanan says:

    Helloooooooooo! *waves*

    It was great to meet you on Saturday. Thanks for posting your notes, with all the links and things. Really, really useful stuff. What about a book about self-publishing (pBooks & eBooks) using (largely free) social media & online marketing?

    AverillB x

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      Great to meet you too! It was a great day – coffee on tap and loads of Twitter folk! ;-D

      Yeah, I was thinking of doing a book, but things change so fast I don’t know if it’d be worthwhile, and right now I’m supposed to be working on Novel #2… Maybe one day!

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