Social Media for Authors: Adding Value

I’m trying to become more active on Twitter. For the past few days, I’ve been scrolling through my feed, checking things out. I’m following 800 people. Surely there will be something interesting, right?

Wrong. Unless you like hundreds of promotional tweets shoved in your face.

Much of Twitter is wading through truckloads of spam. It’s slightly classier than Viagra ads. Then there are those pithy quotes, from famous people and from books authored by the Tweeter. One step up are tweets of interesting articles, some of which I’ll look at. But it’s not what I want.

Finally, I spot a real, live human being (Nat Russo) who mentions losing weight this week. I tweet him back. “Good for you,” I said. Nat responds. OMG I feel like Robinson Crusoe finding Friday. He assures me that there are actual people holding conversations on Twitter and recommends a few (BTW, Nat has a whole series about Twitter on his blog, A Writer’s Journey, which I intent to gobble up as soon as I get a chance).

I’m thinking about those hundreds of writers and others, spending all those hours tweeting, whose promotions I skimmed over because I had no connection with them.

So, Rule 1: Be authentic and share yourself, connect with people. Hugh Howey and Colleen Hoover (follow Colleen on Facebook, her posts are hilarious) are extraordinary at their ability to share themselves with the public. I hunted up Nat’s blog because he talked to me.

Rule 2: People are either looking for information (otherwise known as “help”), or they’re looking to be entertained. That’s why they buy your books. This is called “adding value,” and that’s what will help them connect with you.

Rule 3: Put Rules 1 & 2 together. Connect in an authentic way while being helpful or entertaining. Or both.

Rule 4: Telling people about your book is neither connecting nor is it helpful or entertaining. Promotional posts, shares and tweets should be about 1% of your social media output.

So what exactly does this mean?

The new mantra in marketing is “Something for Nothing.” I just made that up, but savvy marketers like Tim Grahl of Your First 1000 Books say it is vital to give away your content.

If you write non-fiction, it’s easy. Give away valuable bits from your book. Tim says to be sure to give away your best stuff. Make it immediately useful. His mantra? “Be relentlessly helpful.” He says not to worry about giving away too much. It makes sense. If I like what someone has to say, I’m going to go buy their book rather than waste time digging through hundreds of archived posts or waiting for them to put it all on the internet.

If you write fiction, you can post free short stories on your site. If you post an excerpt, make sure it is a complete story in of itself, or the reader is going to be turned off. Find ways to connect with your target audience. Fiction writers typically blog about writing, post book reviews or post about subjects dear to the hearts of their target reader.

I’m still figuring this out. I’m in the process of making this site more attractive to dog owners, my target audience. I’m now creating dog memes for #WoofWednesday, and I have a gallery of my real-life four-footed muses. This is a work in progress.

Oh, but wait, there’s one more rule!

Rule #6: Give the people on your mailing list a gift they can’t get any other way, and keep giving them unique content.

This needn’t be onerous. For my emails, I send out my dog memes in addition to any notices. I add a line or two of back story about the dog or the meme to make it special. As for that special gift, be creative. I give members of my mailing list access to a drop box folder with deleted scenes from my books (Okay, there’s only one in there so far, but I have lots to add!).

For more about this, check out Tim’s book. To see if he puts his money where his mouth is, sign up for his mailing list and get his free 30 day course on building your platform.

#WoofWednesday – Yard Work


Winter Song – A Dog Owner’s Lament

It is so Cold today
The wind is Bold today
And I am Sold today
On staying in my bed.

Oh, No, the puppies said
No matter what your dread
We’ll dance upon your head
Until you see our way.

And so we’ll bark and bark
Eventually you’ll hark
You’ll take us to the park
So we can run and play.

(Sung to the tune of Tra-La-La Boom-de-ay)

How Thick Is Your Skin?

Yesterday, I was watching a video by Jack Canfield, and he said Chicken Soup for the Soul was turned down 144 times before it was published. I thought, “Wow, he must have really thick skin!”

We all get dissed. Our family and dearest friends don’t read our books. Maybe they think it’s silly we write them, or that we’ll never make any money doing it. I hear this over and over again in my writer’s group. Those of us who self-publish still get treated like our money and sales don’t mean anything by authors who publish by ‘legitimate’ means. My mother STILL wants me to look for a ‘real’ publisher. I keep running the numbers for her and she says, “Oh.” Until next time, anyway.

And you thought it was only your family, your friends and your colleagues who were unsupportive?

The one thing that derails success for creative folks more than any other is a thin skin. Every big project I’ve ever done has had naysayers, no matter how great the idea was, or how well it worked out, and it was vital to be able to keep my focus and look for people who did support me.

I wrote my first book as a lark and did not tell anyone about it until the first draft was done. I didn’t have to listen to any critics, and I think a lot of writers operate like that. There’s only one problem with this strategy. It’s essential to gather partners to your success before you’re ready to publish, and it takes time to do that. Thus exposing you to criticism during those crucial early days of developing your dream.

Forty years of creative work have taught me a few things:

  1. Criticism is more about the critic than the thing being criticized. They don’t believe they could pull it off, so therefore, you can’t either.
  2. People who diss you today will forget all about it when you turn out something great.
  3. You have to be 100% behind your project first. Are you willing to invest your time, your money and whatever it takes to make it happen?
  4. People like to be part of the crowd. Get your most likely supporters behind you, then go after the tough sells. List the people they know who are behind your project, and they’re more likely to jump on board.
  5. If they thought it was a great idea, they’d be doing it. If your idea is truly original, NOBODY is going to think it’s brilliant, at least at first. You’re going to have to sell the idea, over and over.
  6. If the criticism is specific, consider it. If it’s valid, use it to improve your project and thank them for pointing it out. Because your detractors will be your best source of information about improving your project. And it will piss them off.

Grab some Kevlar, pour another cup of coffee and keep on keeping on. If nobody gets what you’re doing, you may be onto something wonderful.

Book Sample: “Maximum Security”

My Girl, Max
My Girl, Max

I’m really excited about Maximum Security. It’s going to be another month before it comes out (November 21, Yikes!) and I can’t stand it, so I’m posting the first 10% here. This dog park mystery features my very own Max (yes, that’s her, above) as an escape artist (she’s playing to type). If you want to go straight to the dogs, skip the prologue and go to “Day 1.”

To get the PDF, click here > Maximum Security Sample

I hope you love it!

Here’s another picture, just because.

Max is playing "Stick" while BFF Shadda (AKA "Viola") pretends she doesn't care.
Max is playing “Stick” while BFF Shadda (AKA “Viola”) pretends she doesn’t care.

For Hugh Howey

My response to Hugh’s latest blog post:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Social Media for Authors: The Funnel

The funnel is the most important concept in using social media. It’s the endgame. The funnel is how you obtain permission to directly contact your fans. It refers to the process of using social media to connect with your target audience, then draw them closer to you with great content that adds value (I’ll talk about that in my next post in this series) so that they want to give you their email list.

“Email? Isn’t that passe? I thought the whole point of social media was to get beyond email lists!”

You want email addresses. Why?

  1. Remember MySpace? Social media platforms go in and out of style. If someone loses interest in Facebook (or wherever) or the platform goes belly-up, you’ve lost contact.
  2. ¬†Just because you’re in contact with someone on one of the platforms is no guarantee they’ll see your posts. The popularity of social media sites is also it’s biggest flaw. Feeds can become so crowded, posts spin by at the speed of light or they never show on feeds at all.
  3. Even the social media platforms have discovered they need email to keep members engaged. Which is why they send out notices for every little thing to their members.
  4. People check their email multiple times a day. It’s guaranteed they’ll see anything that winds up in their inbox.
  5. Even if they don’t open your email, they’ve seen your name and that keeps you in their mind. I may only open my LLBean emails a couple times a year, but seeing the name on a regular basis reminds me that I like to shop there.

It works like this: You connect with people via social media. You post new content from your web-site regularly (blogs are great for this). People go to your site to see this content. You have a prominent offer of special content if they sign up on your email list, including a specific (and attractive) gift for signing up, Then you keep that permission by sending out some form of relevant content once or twice a month (or even more often) .

I know this sounds a bit cold blooded. If you set it up properly, it’s an organic means to connect with the people who are most interested in what you have to share, and stay connected with them.

MailChimp is an excellent email service that allows you 2,000 subscribers free, with some limitations. You get great stats so you see who is opening your mail and clicking your links.  They have great tutorials. You cannot get the auto-responder with the free account, but the paid accounts start at $10 per month, if you want to go that route.

The key to all of this, the key to keeping this manageable for you and attractive to your target audience, is content. I’ll talk about that in my next post in this series.