Wrap your mind around this: One of the most important factors that traditional publishers use to decide whether to acquire a book is the marketing platform of its author. You’d think that the main reason for approaching a traditional publisher is to reap the benefits of the publisher’s marketing, and you wouldn’t have to bring your own.
Life is full of mysteries, and whether you’re working with a traditional publisher or you are an artisanal publisher (a.k.a., “self-publisher”), the potency of your marketing platform can determine your success.
There is no scenario under which thousands of social-media followers is not a good thing, so here are 10 social-media tips for authors of any kind.
1. Start yesterday
You must make progress along two fronts at the same time: writing your book and building your marketing platform. You cannot wait until you’re done writing, because a platform takes nine months to a year to build. Ideally, you started building your platform before you even began to write your book.
2. Segment the services
There are five social-media services to choose from. You need not use them all, but each serves a different purpose. I call this the five Ps of social media: Facebook is for people — people who you went to high school or college with and your family. Twitter is for perceptions — perceptions such as “I feel an earthquake and I’m in Chile.” Google+ is for passions — passions such as photography that you cannot share with your Facebook people. Pinterest is for pinning — pinning pictures with little interaction. LinkedIn is for pimping — as in making business connections or finding a job. You can use each of these to build a platform, but your relationships on them are apt to differ.
3. Make a great profile
Your profile page is an ad. Its purpose is to convince people to circle, follow, subscribe, or like you. It should communicate that you are a likeable, trustworthy, and competent person. Two details: First, ensure that your profile has a high-quality picture of your face (and only your face, not your spouse, dog, kids, and car). Second, use the text areas to simply and humbly describe who you are and tell your personal story. For example, Peggy Fitzpatrick has a great Google+ profile. (See image above.)
4. Curate, don’t create
It’s hard enough to write a book, much less create content for social-media sites at the same time. So give yourself a break and focus on curating the content of others while you are writing. Link to articles, pictures, and videos that are relevant to your genre in order to establish your expertise. Power tip: Go to Alltop.com, a site I co-founded, to find content on more than 1,000 topics. For example, the followers of a science-fiction writer would find “How to Deflect Killer Asteroids With Spray Paint“ interesting (found via Science.Alltop.com).
5. Act like NPR
NPR provides great content 365 days a year. A few days a year it runs pledge drives. No one I know likes the pledge drives, but we tolerate them — and some of us even give money. Why? Because NPR has earned the right to promote its pledge drives by providing such great content. This is a good model for authors too: Provide such great content that you can promote your book when it’s done. If you do this very well, people may want to reciprocate for the value you’ve added to their lives by buying your book. So just imagine you are the producer of “Fresh Air” or “All Things Considered” and look for interesting content.
6. Restrain yourself
NPR provides another excellent example for book marketing: It doesn’t run pledge drives very often. Less than 10 percent of your social-media posts should promote your book or other commercial endeavors. It’s OK to pour it on when your book launches, but back off on the promotion after the first four weeks and do educational things like free webinars and Hangouts on Air. You need to make a transition from salesman to teacher.
Social-media sites are busy places, so people don’t notice all-text posts or posts with small pictures. Every post should include a picture that’s at least 400 to 500 pixels wide or an embedded video from YouTube or Vimeo. Eye candy counts in the constant contest for attention — if you’re old enough to remember, it’s like the difference between a Yellow Pages ad and a Yellow Pages listing. Check my posts on Google+ to see what I mean. (See image at right.)
Social media is a conversation, not a one-way broadcast. Every time you share a post, respond to the comments that it generates. (If it generates no comments, you’re doing something wrong.) A big mistake that most authors make is that they think they are delivering a sermon when a conversation is what’s appropriate.
9. Stay positive or stay silent
Even if the topic is an issue that perturbs the core of your soul such as gun control, women’s rights, or ObamaCare, don’t show anger. On a practical level, if you only want to sell books to people who agree with your sensibilities, you should prepare for a life of poverty. If people attack you, ignore them. If they attack you twice, block them from seeing your posts. And don’t look back.
Social-media “experts” disagree with me on this, but I’m telling you it works: Repeat your posts. I repeat my tweets four times every eight hours — you don’t get 1,240,000 Twitter followers by not taking risks. This is pushing the edge, but the assumption that everyone who is interested in your posts will see it the first time is naïve. CNN doesn’t run a story once and hope that everyone has seen it or recorded it to see later. At least try sharing a post when your audience is awake, then 12 hours later, and see what happens.
One last tip: Do, don’t plan. Social-media experts will tell you that the first step is to develop a plan that includes highfalutin elements such as goals, strategies, and tactics. Let me simplify the process of building a platform. The goal is to get 5,000 followers by the time your book comes out. End. Of. Discussion. There is little “right” and “wrong” in social media — even what I say here! There is only what works for you and what doesn’t, so jump in and get going. You’ll figure it out along the way.
Guy Kawasaki has 3,821,000 million Google+ followers, 286,000 Facebook subscribers, and 1,240,000 Twitter followers. He is the co-author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book, which explains self-publishing, and has written eleven other books, including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller Enchantment. Previously, he was the chief evangelist of Apple. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University, an MBA from UCLA, and an honorary doctorate from Babson College.