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Social Media for Indie Authors

22 February 2019

PG is interested in hearing about the following:

  1. What are the best social media practices or systems for an indie author? Speaking generally or with respect to specific social media services – Instagram, Pinterest, etc.
  2. Among indie authors, who is doing a really good job with social media (PG understands this is your opinion). Feel free to provide links to the accounts in question.
  3. What are the biggest mistakes/most useless practices of indie authors in using social media?

Share your thoughts in comments. Feel free to include links to examples.

Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Social Media

37 Comments to “Social Media for Indie Authors”

  1. I just do whatever on Twitter. It’s more my social platform than a serious effort to sell books.

    But Facebook moves the dial for me. I use affiliate links when I share a new release, and it’s second only to my mailing list as far as getting a big burst of sales. I post snippets, pictures of dragon tschotskes, and ask the occasional SF/F-related question to encourage engagement. I find that if you get more engagement regularly on Facebook from that kind of stuff, more of your followers will see your new release and sales announcements.

  2. What are the best social media practices or systems for an indie author? Speaking generally or with respect to specific social media services – Instagram, Pinterest, etc.
    Among indie authors, who is doing a really good job with social media (PG understands this is your opinion). Feel free to provide links to the accounts in question.
    What are the biggest mistakes/most useless practices of indie authors in using social media?

  3. I don’t use any social media. This is in part because of my personal history (do not want to encourage a stalker) and in part because there are so many negatives to the current social media platforms that in my mind, the problems outweigh the benefits. I have a blog, and that is enough at this stage in my career.

  4. Sooooo, my reaction is mostly around the idea of the classic quote about half of all advertising being worthless, and if we could just then figure out which half…I think social media is probably in the same boat.

    There are tons of gurus out there that say:

    a. Keep developing email lists (but I’ve seen links to articles where that doesn’t work as well, particularly in GDPR days);

    b. Try videos — ever watched a video and bought a book based on it? Probably not;

    c. Make sure you’re on site [x] because it’s hot today.

    I think all of it pales in comparison to the other elements to get right first — write the best book possible, edit it so it’s ready for the masses, make it available everywhere you can, and write more. There’s a scene in one of the Castle episodes where a young hot writer is following Castle around, and he decides to bring him down a peg by inviting him to his poker game with Connelly, Patterson and Cannell. And they basically say to him, “YOu know what I did after writing my first best seller? I shut up, started writing and wrote 25 more books.”

    When it gets to the specifics, I see lots of people trying to promote on Instagram, for example, or Pinterest even, or whatever one is hot today. But almost all of it is SPAM. None of it aims at engagement. Your site here is one of the best in the biz, in my view, and I don’t see you spamming people to get their eyeballs.

    About the ONLY thing I think is useful is to think about the target demographic. Older people use Facebook so you need the FB page; hyper 30s are into Twitter; millennials are into Instagram. For FB, most of the same advice applies as applies to having a website for content (scheduled posts, useful info, links to buy, etc.). For Instagram, I have no clue, not my genre. For Twitter, there are a few places out there that share common hashtags, which is cool. I’m on the MurderMustAdvertise discussion group (relatively quiet these days as most groups have gone to FB instead, or Reddit), and they regularly publish common Twitter handles and hashtags.

    I don’t know if that helps…YMMV!

    P.

  5. we use facebook to engage in convos with our many readers

    twitter,instagram,book bub all the rest including pinterest we dont
    use – to us immense wastes of time and the anonymity seems as TXred noted above –sometimes unwelcome thugs that also take time to deal with

    rather we use fb, live appearances and teaching, heavily. With portable store. These work well for us.

    Hope that helps with your thoughts/plans, PG

  6. In the first comment above, Lindsay mentioned affiliate links.

    1. Does everyone know what those are?

    2. Does anyone think of any reason why an indie author wouldn’t use them all the time?

    • In case anyone doesn’t know, an affiliate link means that a sliver of anything purchased over an affiliate link goes to the affiliate. If you buy two Porsches on Amazon through PG’s affiliate link, he gets enough for a sumptuous dinner.

      An indie author should always use affiliate links. Not using them leaves money offered by Amazon on the table. I don’t have an affiliate link, but that is because I am an indolent low volume player, not because I don’t think it is a good idea.

      • It’s not just Amazon offering affiliate links. Apple, Kobo, and even Nook have affiliate programs so you can accomodate even ADSers.

      • But, conversely, buying a sumptuous dinner on Amazon through PG’s affiliate link earn him enough affiliate points to buy two Porsches on Amazon (or anywhere else).

    • Affiliate links do come with restrictions. You can’t use Amazon affiliate links in your newsletters. Make sure you read the fine print or you might find your affiliate account closed and your links useless.

  7. The biggest mistakes I’ve seen:

    1. Getting political in your writer’s platform. Unless this is part of your marketing, don’t.

    Blog posts can be more useful for this, if only because you can develop your argument. And you might get away with it on social media if you’re not being in a rage over it.

    2. Endless advertising. Check out @LKGibson900. Nothing but ads.

  8. I think Anna Smith Spark and Michael J. Sullivan both do it well. Both engage heavily on the r/Fantasy subreddit . She has a lot of style and humor that goes down well. Michael is very informative on subjects like the role audiobooks play in his success and his transition from traditionally published to indie. Fantasy is pretty well targeted and there are over 520,000 subscribers to that subreddit.

    Anna is even more active on the Grimdark Fiction Readers & Writers Facebook Group. It is smaller, but much more targeted for her writing. She’s pretty much up daily on the Facebook Group.

    Personality plays a big role in the success in both platforms. Both authors come across as positive and happy to talk to fans. Both promote other authors’ works and act like fans themselves.

    • I know Michael J. Sullivan. He and his wife Robin are generous mentors to fellow authors, and his online presence is brilliantly done. He engages with his fans closely, and you can tell he enjoys it. Because of his generosity and engagement, he’s become fabulously — and deservedly — successful as a fantasy author. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a terrific writer, too.

  9. Pick one (maybe two) and do them well. I enjoy Facebook the most and know it well. I tie-in my FB ads to pages for each of my books and love interacting with readers.

  10. PG there is a whole biz model for several years now about using affiliate linking on Instagram. Those who I know who use it, say it works well for exposure, sales, partnering. Though it takes time: Look at that.

    Also we are affiliates of many others groups and small publishers and related things. This is a sign up process with each, similar to being an amz affiliate, but far more wide ranging in terms of topics.

    We rec a percentage of sales made through our touting/selling them. Some percentages/ sales for affiliates we keep online only as their %s are small. However some of our affiliates offer up to 40%, and those we take on the road with us.

    Hope that helps.

    Do you know what your exact goals are?

    • Thanks for the tip, USAF.

      My goals with affiliate links on TPV are to earn a little bit of money to offset the value of the time I spend on the blog that could be devoted to other profit-making activities.

  11. Speaking as a reader rather than an author, I think Christopher Nuttall does it fairly well. He writes mostly series of books in science fiction and fantasy. He is prolific, writing somewhere in the vicinity of a book per month, though he is currently ill and undergoing treatment, which has of course significantly affected his output. His main tools seem to be a blog (http://www.chrishanger.net) and a facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/ChristopherGNuttall).

    Some of the things I think he does right? Firstly, he has original content. He will often write an opinion piece on an important issue which has attracted his interest, or book reviews of various authors he respects. He publishes frequent updates on his writing, and even asks for feedback from Readers on what they would like to see him working on in the next few months. He will often publish excerpts from books he is currently writing or has just finished. One recent excerpt was set in a universe he had just conceived, and he was asking readers whether they would be interested in it. He also makes some of his older works available for free download.

    As a prolific reader and not a Social Media fan an author’s social media presence is not that important to me. Having said this, if an author’s online presence keeps me engaged and entertained to the point that I make regular visits then I am aware of when new books are coming out and tend to buy them quite quickly if I’m interested.

  12. I’ll second Darryl. I don’t look at author’s social media at all don’t follow them, don’t read their blogs, and for gods sake don’t subscribe to an email list.

    When it comes to discovery, the thing that works for me is to read short fiction anthologies. If I were going to suggest anything to a writer, it would be to branch out and write some short fiction and place it anywhere they can. While it may not sell big or make big money, the name recognition over time is, imho… big.

  13. > What are the biggest mistakes/most useless practices of indie authors in using social media?

    Assuming your readers follow your social media, or even use the platforms at all.

    “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”, if you’re on FriendFace, and you get lots of feedback from fans on FriendFace, its easy to ger a feedback loop where you cater to one particular group of fans. So the ones on Babble and Jive get ignored, and the ones you’re spamming with email are just annoyed.

  14. I don’t think social media is all that effective for selling for fiction writers. What exactly are you supposed to blog or tweet about? It’s easy if you have a time management business and your book is on time management. But fiction? What do you do with that?

    The recommendation is let the audience get to know you. But you have to really become a star…but then what you selling? The star or the fiction? I see a lot of writers blogging about writing craft to get the audience, but they get only other writers. The result is these writers end up doing developmental editing to appeal to the writers. But what about the fiction books they have?

    The most sales I’ve been able to generate so far have been because I did a non-fiction book and called it an Amazon keyword search. The book shows up on the first page when people search for the term.

  15. For me, social media is a quandary. I’m no good at it, as evidenced by my tiny number of followers, most of whom only followed back out of politeness. I wrestle with the same questions: how is one supposed to be interesting and engaging? How does this sell books? Have I ever bought a book because an author was witty online? Of course not, so why should anyone else?

    I have separate accounts: author and personal, and I can engage just fine on personal interests on the personal account, and have unintentionally attracted followers as a result. But my own self-imposed red lines won’t let me combine the accounts. I don’t want to! That would be unnatural and risky. My author account is a persona, I freely admit. And as a result I struggle to “engage” and be “interesting” because my authorial persona is a boring bugger and my real interests are already catered to, elsewhere. And my real interests and Real Life activities will remain separate and private in this world of doxing and online stalking, both for my safety and those around me.

    So, in that vein, I would really like to believe in the following…

    Paul Sadler, quoting Castle:
    “You know what I did after writing my first best seller? I shut up, started writing and wrote 25 more books.”

    Yes… point taken. But the fictional character in question was traditionally published by a big House with a big marketing budget, and 25 self-pub books can easily disappear down the blackhole of search returns unless enough people know they exist to keep those titles floating to the top. So the question remains: how do you alert enough people?

    By engaging and being interesting?

    Argh!

    I have recently experimented with writing reviews of TV shows and movies, but that didn’t work either. The only way to get them seen was to join Facebook groups and post them, there. If any comments were attracted, they went on the Facebook group, not on the website where I posted the full text! And no one followed the website through email subscription, nor followed my author accounts which are linked from the website. The only people who benefited were the owners of the Facebook groups, whose groups gained more comments and activity and an extra member who was (briefly) quite active.

    Funny, that, because this situation reminds me of many of the criticisms levelled at the Traditional Publishing model. You know, where there are undeserving middle men siphoning off the profits of hardworking authors (where profits = followers/comments/attention).

    Funny…

    Anyway, another remark stood out, one that jibes with my experiences at FantasyCon in particular, and my impressions of most fiction marketing and literary events:

    Linda Maye Adams:
    “I see a lot of writers blogging about writing craft to get the audience, but they get only other writers.”

    I know many writers whose social media accounts are full of other writers. So, to paraphrase the above: how do you connect to normal human beings?

    I met precisely two Human Beings at FantasyCon when I attended, and I sold a book to each of them. This admittedly miniscule case study gives me a modicum of hope that if exposed to more Human Beings, I could probably sell more books. But I’m living in the age of digital publishing in which you can only get a store to agree to a book signing event if you’re traditionally published. Yes, it’s a racket, but there’s nothing to be done about it.

    I suspect I don’t need Facebook. What I need is Face Time. But you just cannot get that anywhere, any more. If there was one thing that trad pub could do for you, it was get you face time with Human Beings!

    There is no digital equivalent.

    P.S.
    Given that I’ve basically just written an essay, the self-promotional part of me is tempted to copy and paste this onto my website instead of feeding someone else’s blog (just as I was feeding reviews onto Facebook groups). But the greater part, the part that keeps author and Real Life separate, has just pointed out that if I do that, no one will ever read it! And this is an important discussion, and I value the responses, because I have no clue what to do.

    Except to stop prevaricating on formatting my first book for Kindle, which I have been doing for three days…

    Disclaimer: I’m not trying to support trad pub against self-pub. That is not what I’m saying. I’m just comparing the two.

    • You write it, you own it on TPV, Michael, but there’s no rule that says you can’t post the same thing in more than one place.

      I’ll take it down if you request I do so.

      • No, no, no… I was just illustrating my earlier point about posting to the Facebook groups, and that while we might feel proprietary about our writing it’s also no good to lock it all away on websites that get no views, or in books that get no publicity.

  16. If anyone reading comments has not seen it, I just put up a post about Facebook Custom Audiences – https://www.thepassivevoice.com/facebook-custom-audiences/

    Has anyone used those or examined the possibility of doing so?

  17. Well, I’ve hit the wrong key twice now and am wondering whether or not I really need to comment. I’m hoping three is the charm…

    I don’t do social media. I do follow a couple of writers’ websites: Karen L. Abrahamson is currently traveling in India and Bali doing research, and her blog and photos are worth following; M.L. Buchman posts a new short story every month on the 14th; Kristine Kathryn Rusch posts a new short story every Monday. I know I like those writers and so I check their websites faithfully. I have subscribed to a few newsletters, wanting information on new releases, but I’ve invariably unsubscribed when the newsletters arrive too frequently without substantial information. When I want a new book, I get suggestions from friends whose taste I trust, or I go to BookBasset, BookBub, FreeBooksy, or some such website for first in series or standalones on sale. If I like what I read, I’ll search for more by that writer, often on their website first. I don’t want to know a writer’s political, religious, or economic status – I just want good stories.

  18. Social media is just that for me – social and fun. It allows me to engage globally with kindred spirits. If it sells some of my books in the process then that is wonderful but I don’t engage to sell.
    I’ve written approximately one book a year (hits. fict and hist fantasy) since 2008 but I don’t want to patronise or ‘use’ my ‘followers’ to do just that. I’m of a demographic who finds engagement for its most basic meaning to be most fulfilling.
    Twitter and I divorced because of overt sales pressure from other writers.
    Insatgram and I are flirting with pretty pictures.
    My blog is the beating heart of my life and Facebook Private and Facebook Page are my daily chats.
    I hate Email newsletters because its invariably Junk Mail.
    I think I may need a talking to by people like David Gaughran if i want to succeed!
    Have a good day PG, and thanks so much for TPV – I love it!

  19. Most have answered your question but here goes…
    Social media is just that for me. Social and fun.
    I’m of a demographic who enjoys Facebook (two accounts) for its global engagement with kindred spirits. I’ve written a book a year (hist.fict and hist.fantasy) since 2008 and hope they sell because my niche readership enjoys them, not because they feel pressured or bombarded by social media.
    Am I missing a huge slice of the commercial pie? Probably, and people like David Gaughran and Joanna Penn would shudder.
    Twitter and I divorced because of sales spam.
    I have unsubscribed from writers because of copious newsletters that equate to junk mail.
    Instagram is filled with delightful images but they don’t make me buy books. I indulge myself on my Instagram account.
    I love my blog. Again, an indulgence that hasn’t a commercial bone in its body.
    Maybe social media is being used wrongly by me – many would say so. C’est la vie.
    PG, thank you so much for TPV – it’s a favourite daily reading.

  20. Speaking as both a writer and a reader, I’ve seen the good and the bad for socialized media. For me, the bad when people get hyper political and their friends/followers (aka sheeple) suffer from the same disease (which for the past two years has been extremely hardcore T.D.S.). It’s fine if you want to spew hardcore political vitriol, but if you want to expand your audience/readership beyond what it currently is, you need to tone it down.

    I’ve unfollowed (but not unfriended) two writers because their hardcore T.D.S. has gotten so out of hand that it was actually causing me stress every time I decided to comment thoughtfully on something. I’ve also been blocked and unfriended by a writer because of my moderate political views as well.

    Civil discourse is one thing, but being attacked by one’s followers/friends takes it to a whole other level of stupid.

    • This is a regrettable trend. Virtue signalling in a blog or even gratuitously in works of fiction is far too prevalent and increasing. In a few cases, for instance where your books are overtly political and partisan, it may be appropriate. If not, why on earth risk alienating half your US readers.

      • I think politics is a tricky one, some authors have built a brand around themselves and their views and that’s what gets the customers to keep coming back.
        A good example is Larry Correia Who is very open about his beliefs in his blog posts and fiction, and I enjoy reading his books because of it.
        I’m sure his views do alienate some potential readers, but I don’t think he particularly cares because those are not the people he is targeting, his blog works as a sort of Rorschach test where if you like what’s written on the blog, you”d probably like the fiction but if not then it’s not for you.

  21. Agreed. Tom Kratman is another example of this on the right. Larry Correia himself highlights other examples on the left. I enjoy reading ideas in books, whether or not I agree with them. However, to quote an example from a recent book I read, a girl brings her new boyfriend to meet her female friend. To their relief, his conversation shows him to be sufficiently progressive in his views so as not to be unceremoniously dumped. Presented in a way that implies patronisingly that progressive views are the only views and that anyone who does not hold them is not worth knowing. Fine in a particular type of book. But inserted gratuitously in a mystery type thriller? I enjoyed the book but found this one moment incongruous and grating. It was simply unnecessary, and the book would have been far better off without it.

  22. This author does a good stream of book reviews from various sources and other tidbits related to books and reading. He drops in his own books now and then as well but not at an obnoxious level.He’s @james_aura on Twitter. I don’t do Facebook, so don’t know if he’s there or not, but
    he is also active on the Goodreads site.

  23. I used to be on alllllllllllll the social media. ALL of it. And then a couple of years ago, I nuked all of it, even my blog.

    People come to me all the time asking, “How did that affect your sales?”

    Answer: Not at all. Like zero. Zip. One international Bookbub ad, or Bookbarbarian promo, moves more units than any blitz I ever did on social media.

    People don’t go on social media to buy things. They go there to be social. Wasting a lot of time there in the hopes of convincing people to buy things is almost invariably that: wasting time.

    My opinion, naturally, but I’m not the only one who’s seen it happen that way. :,

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