Many writers shy away from using social media to promote their books because they don’t want to overwhelm their followers or come across as though they are trying to sell a product. But there is a way to build book buzz on social media without feeling like a door-to-door salesperson.
The best way to make social media work to your advantage is to consider it a platform to tell stories. Sharing little snapshots of your journey to publication is the perfect way to engage your audience, offer useful advice, and find new readers.
Here are 6 ways to use social media to effectively to build engagement for your book.
Step 1: Pick a platform.
Twitter is my favorite because it’s a great way to write short universal truths that resonate with others. It takes a while to get used to what works and what flops but once you do it’s really fun. For example, I recently tweeted about how women deserve a retreat to rest; it took off because in that moment people were experiencing pandemic fatigue.
Here’s the tweet:
Aim to post about five times a day because Twitter moves quickly and notice what times of day you get the most engagement. I write about women’s issues and motherhood, so daytime hours are the most successful for me. After school and dinner time gets a lot less traffic. If you don’t like Twitter, don’t force yourself to use it. Your tweets won’t get engagement, you’ll feel like you’re wasting time, and you’ll quickly give up.
If you enjoy Facebook, join groups where you will find new readers. I’m in a group for writers, women’s health, Judaism, and growing up in Brooklyn. Most groups don’t allow self-promotion, so once you form connections, be sure to Friend people so they can see posts about your book on your page.
Many people create author pages on Facebook, but I get a lot more interaction on my personal page. I’m always mindful not to post content I don’t want the whole world to know about because nothing on social media is truly private.
Instagram is one of the best platforms for books because it’s based on visuals, and if you like making Reels—short videos related to your book’s topic—you can quickly grow your audience. I personally don’t like making videos, and while I do occasionally post on Instagram, I mainly stick to Facebook and Twitter. There’s also other platforms such as Reddit, TikTok, and LinkedIn that you can explore.
Step 2: Be Genuine.
A writer cannot just sign onto social media a few weeks before their book launches, post updates, and get tons of engagement. It takes time, sometimes years to build trust and make connections. You want readers to feel invested in you, to root you on, and cheer for you. Sharing parts of your life, both the highs and lows of your road to publication, allows readers to become part of your journey.
It may seem odd that posting a picture of your dog wearing Snoopy pajamas next to your desk will eventually help sell a book that has nothing to do with dogs or Snoopy, but believe it or not, it will. It makes you a real, likeable person behind that computer screen. Here’s a picture of my dog Monte. Isn’t he cute? He sits with me while I write. Now my audience has a glimpse into my writing life.
Step 3: Know your brand.
As a writer, you aren’t just selling your book, you’re selling yourself. My personal brand is a mixture of funny, quirky, and informative with a bit of rage thrown in for good measure. This means I talk about my haunted house, what it’s like to be a city girl living on a farm, and the challenges of being a freelance writer.
I also talk about women’s bodies and how we are often dismissed by the healthcare community. Not so incidentally, these are all themes in my book Knocked Down: A High-Risk Memoir. When followers decide whether they want to buy my book they are already familiar with my voice on the page and are interested in what I have to say.
Step 4: Use your time effectively.
Make it a habit to comment on other people’s posts every time you are on social media. Algorithms make it difficult for all of your followers to see what you are up to, so if you only post to your page many people will miss your content.
Provide advice where you can and express compassion and understanding for others when they post about difficult experiences. And always cheer people on when they post about their own accomplishments by sharing their books, their articles, and their professional accolades. It will not only be appreciated, but it might be reciprocated. If you support other people, they will champion your work in return.
Step 5: Network.
Social Media is one big giant party and it’s your job to work the room. Almost all the press I landed for Knocked Down came through the connections I made on Twitter and Facebook. Follow editors of publications you like, engage with reporters, and talk to people who write about the same topics you do. This way, when it’s time to pitch them, they will recognize your name in their inbox.
I find the writing community across social media platforms to be supportive and happy to share each other’s work. This can provide you with an even bigger reach and a chance to expand outside your own network. Start by following influencers in your field and then follow the people who follow them.
Step 6: Go offline.
I’ve made many writer friends through social media and then connected with them offline. This has led to incredible collaborations including writing groups, workshops, panels, and retreats in which we mutually support one another’s accomplishments. It can also lead to unexpected opportunities.
For example, I attended an online friend’s book panel at a big-name bookstore in New York City. While there I began talking to the manager, who ultimately decided to stock Knocked Down. I also met a few well-known writers and podcasters, followed up by connecting with them on Instagram and now plan to stay in touch for meetups down the road.
The key to successfully using social media to get the word out about your book is to connect, engage, share content, and be authentic. In other words, be yourself. If you’d like to see how I effectively use social media, you can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.