Social Media and Book Marketing – Advice from Robert Hoge

Robert Hoge is a good friend of mine, a top bloke and a great writer. We were having a conversation with other friends a little while ago and the subject of social media engagement and book promotion came up. Rob is very savvy about that stuff and he promised to put his thoughts on the subject together. When he did, I found I agreed with him pretty much 100%. So, as I know a lot of writers read my blog, I asked if I could steal his thoughts and spread them out for everyone to consume, like a mass picnic of Rob’s brainmeats. He said yes. I told you he was a top bloke. So here you go:

Robert Hoge’s Social Media and Book Marketing Advice

There are a few simple tips for authors trying to get the best from their social media presence.

There are some good guides out there. I like “Your First 1000 Copies” by Tim Grahl but there’s a lot of stuff available on the web for free. Much of this is geared towards non-fiction writing but with some creativity it can be applied to fiction just as easily. You just need to have something to say.

Tip 1

Have something to say. The most important thing you can do – whatever the channel – is create content that is engaging and adds value. The biggest commitment you’re asking from potential readers is not a commitment of dollars; it’s a commitment of time and attention. Reward their attention with smart, funny, engaging content that adds value to their lives and does more than just ask them to buy your book because it’s cheaper now.

Offer value by talking about stuff that relates to your work but isn’t your work. Establish a relationship with people on social media by consistently being interesting and adding value to their experience. Be real. When the time is right ask them to buy (read) your work. You’re creative people. Be creative.

Tip 2

1908138_871371366267410_6973824597014610978_nBe on Facebook. A lot of readers are on Facebook, as are publishers, reviewers and bookstores. If you want to market yourself to readers through social media, you should have some presence there. When you follow the advice in tip one, the network effects are tremendous.

Understand the Facebook algorithm, then stop worrying about it. The Facebook algorithm helps determine who sees what. For fan (non-personal) pages it initially only serves new content to about one-fifth or less of the people who’ve liked the page. Everyone blames the Facebook algorithm for a post only having eight likes but it’s not to blame. Boring posts are to blame. If you post interesting and engaging content that generates likes, comments and shares, Facebook will reward the post by serving it to more readers. Ask questions, post video, post images. Every time someone comments on your post, like it and reply because Facebook recognises that as engagement.

Tip 3

Be on Twitter. Twitter is a great place to converse and its network effects can sometimes be much greater than Facebook’s. All the points in tip one still apply, plus you get to hone your writing skills by making Tweets sing in 140 characters.

Generally though, Twitter is worse at serving content to all your followers than Facebook. Why is that? Well, Twitter is an ephemeral medium and whether you have 20, 200 or 20,000 followers they’re unlikely to all be online at the same time you post your tweet. Often less than 10% of your followers will see an individual tweet.

Check out www.analytics.twitter.com to start looking at some details of your tweets and what engagement they get. A post on your Facebook fan page remains there for potential new readers to see for quite a while. A tweet will be gone pretty quickly.

Tip 4

If you enjoy other channels, go wild. If you’re great at photos, hang out on Instagram. If you love reviewing, engage an audience on Goodreads. Just be engaging and add value in a way that’s interesting.

I’d discourage you from posting the same content on multiple channels all the time. To me it shows you’re not interested in engaging in a way that suits a particular channel. And if a reader who likes you on Facebook or Twitter decides to checks you out on Instagram hoping to see new content and just sees the same old stuff, do you think they’ll be more or less inclined to follow you on that new channel? By all means, do it sometimes (maybe one post in 10) but doing it all the time is a turn-off. Instead work out how you can leverage different opportunities across channels to serve each other.

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Random point 1

Mobile, mobile, mobile. More and more web content is being served to mobile devices. Facebook knows this and Google knows this and they’re already starting to reward websites that are optimized for mobile. Make sure your website and content is optimized for mobile delivery. Google it. [I’m in the process of updating this website to a mobile friendly format right now. It’s really important these days! – Alan]

Random point 2

Don’t market solely on price drops. This is a really common social media error. If a reader can afford to spend $2.99 on a book, they can probably afford to spend $4.99. When you market solely on price you forget the other thing you’re asking the reader to give you – their time. The value of your work is not in its price. Mention a price drop, by all means, but find something else to talk about too. Why should a potential reader think your 93,000 word novel can hold their attention, when your 18 word tweet barely can?

Random point 3

A lot of writers spend a lot of time on social media talking to other writers about writing (ahem). It’s fine networking and chatting with mates. But don’t confuse that with marketing your books. Readers don’t care. It doesn’t count as reader engagement.

Random point 4

My personal experience is that engaging with potential readers one-on-one, in-person or over email is a really powerful tool. It’s not time effective but for me it has been really rewarding and it has helped convert fans to influencers. Just be careful how you invest your time.

 

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72640_471409952930222_934403925_nRobert Hoge has managed social media for the Queensland Government and Virgin Australia. Mostly though he uses it to talk to people about writing, disability and whatever else takes his fancy. He’s written a memoir, Ugly, about growing up disabled and different. You can find him on Twitter and on Facebook.

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Another Dimension Magazine needs you!

Another Dimension is a new online, print and audio magazine from editor Angel Leigh McCoy, who was the inspiration and driving force behind Wily Writers for so many years. AD is Kickstarting right now, and needs some support. I’m guest-editing issue 2, so I have a vested interest in it, but I would support this project anyway because the concept is awesome. It’s basically a modern Twilight Zone.

To get you started, you can have the digital copy of Issue 00 for nothing. It’s now available for download in PDF, .Mobi, and .Epub on the Kickstarter page. It is a pared down version of the planned publication, in black and white.

And here’s a little widget with the audio Story of the Month:

They’ve also been working hard on a Tumblr with the idea that it will be a source of inspiration to fiction writers, artists, and aficionados of a dark aesthetic. Go check it out here.

So if this sounds like your kind of thing as a reader, or something you might like to contribute to as a writer, or both, go to the Kickstarter page and give it some love. Here are all the links you’ll need:

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Adelaide this weekend, Brisbane the one after

So the Bound train rolls on, and I’m having a ball! I’ll be heading down to Adelaide this weekend, then up to Brisbane the weekend after. If you’re near either of those cities, I’d love to see you. Below are the details and a few links to relevant events.

Adelaide

Saturday, July 19th I’ll be doing a signing at Collins Edwardstown from 1.00 to 2.00pm. There’s a Facebook Event page here. Please come on by and say hello – it’s at Collins Booksellers, Shop 54, Castle Plaza, 992 South Road, Edwardstown.

If you can’t make it on Saturday, the day before, Friday, July 18th, I’ll be dropping briefly into Dymocks in Rundle Mall around 12.30, so if you’re in the city, it would be great to see you then.

Also on Friday afternoon, I’ll be having a chat with Richard Stubbs on ABC 774 Melbourne via live link.

Brisbane

Friday, July 25th is going to be loads of fun. From 6.00 to 8.00pm I’ll be at Avid Reader Bookshop at 193 Boundary Street, West End, where I will be in conversation with the excellent Kylie Chan, hosted by the equally excellent Trent Jamieson. There will be a bunch of other awesome writers in attendance and all kinds of other cool people, plus wine. How can you go wrong? There’s a Facebook Event page for this one too, right here, and here’s the Avid page where you can book a ticket.

I’ll try to visit other stores in the region of these events and sign stock, so watch my Twitter and Facebook pages for updates.

And Melbourne, we haven’t forgotten you! We’re working on something in your fine city and I’ll be sure to let you know when and where that is once it’s sorted out.

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A timely repost of the article about authors dying (on the shelves)

I originally posted this back in September 2010, but it seems very relevant to post it again now. After all, the first book in my new (so far) trilogy has just come out. (Yes, it’s all about me. I don’t have a new book come out very often, so give me this. Come on – hug?) I wrote the original post based on my observations as a reader, and now it’s something that applies directly to me as an author. While Bound is a standalone novel, it’s also the first in a series. There’s a big story that arches over the first three books (Bound, Obsidian and Abduction) with threads left for more books in the series, even though each one is a standalone novel too. So please, don’t wait for the others to come out before you buy Bound if you think the ideas interest you. I’ll explain why by reposting my 2010 article below. It was originally, and very sensationalistically (yeah, that’s a word!), called “While you wait for book three, authors die!” So even though Bound is a standalone novel as well as the start of a new series, the principle still applies. So here it is again:

The title of this post is slightly sensationalist, but in a literary sense it’s actually very true. I mentioned recently that I’ve finally started reading A Game Of Thrones, which is the first book in George R R Martin’s A Song Of Ice & Fire series. This comment lead to a few discussions in various places that has subsequently lead to this post.

When I mentioned that I was finally getting around to reading A Game Of Thrones a lot of people assumed that also meant that I’d only just bought it. Especially when, in answer to the question, “Why has it taken you this long?” I replied, “I was waiting for the complete story before I started.”

A lot of people do this, and fair enough. When you notice a big old fantasy series that you think catches your interest, it’s reasonable to assume there’s going to be a whole story told. Often these days a writer will sell a trilogy (or bigger series) to a publisher and that publisher will set a publication schedule to release those books over a relatively short period of time, maybe even inside a year.

However, if no one buys the first book, it’s very possible that books two and three will never see the light of day. An author survives on their sales figures. If they perform poorly at the checkout, the publisher will discard them like a greasy burger wrapper and think nothing of it. That’s business. It’s fucked, but it’s business.

Going back to Martin’s series, when people started telling me how awesome it was, I started buying the books. They’ve sat on my shelf for ages. I wasn’t going to read them until there was a whole finished set, but I bought them to ensure that Martin showed solid sales figures and stayed in favour with his publisher. (I ended up starting to read recently because of the forthcoming TV series, and I wanted to have read the books first).

Obviously someone like George R R Martin doesn’t need my help, but the same thing applies across the board. For example, I was on a panel recently with Paul Cornell and he talked about one of his comic series being cancelled. There was conjecture that the series was cancelled because so many people these days wait for the trade, rather than collect the individual comic books. If no one buys the comic books, the story is considered a failure and there’ll be no trade.

The same applies to big series of novels. If no one buys the first book, the author/story will be considered a failure and there’ll be no release of the rest of the books. The people who read the first one are denied closure, the people who were waiting for a whole series have missed the opportunity and, most importantly, the author is dropped and never has the chance to expand their career. This is a very sad result of market forces and it’s actually a false result.

So if you see the first book of a series that you think you might like, buy it! You don’t have to read it right away – consider it an investment in your reading future. Buy the subsequent volumes as they come out and you’ll end up with a solid reading experience once the whole series is finished. And you’ve done your bit to ensure the success of an author and their literary vision. Hopefully you’ve had a good read too.

EDIT: And you know what’s even more powerful? Early sales figures. The more books an author sells in the first few weeks after publication, the better for that author’s career. So if you think you like the idea of Bound, please buy it sooner rather than later, even if you’re not likely to read it for ages. I’ll be forever in your debt – and I promise you  great read! Learn all about Bound and sample the first three chapters for free here.

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It’s me and Kylie Chan in Brisbane

Or, I should say, Kylie Chan and I. As part of the ongoing promotion of Bound, I’m coming to Brisbane on July 25th and I’ll be in conversation with Kylie Chan at Avid Reader Bookshop, hosted by the awesome Trent Jamieson. Honestly, I couldn’t be more honoured by that company. It’ll be from 6 to 8pm on Friday evening. Let’s all go out and get drunk afterwards, yeah? Who’s with me!?

Location: Avid Reader Bookshop , 193 Boundary St, West End, Brisbane, Queensland 4101.
Date: Friday, 25th July, 2014
Time: 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Here’s the event on the Avid page. Put the date in your diaries – it’ll be great to see you there. And bring your friends!

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