Monday, September 22, 2014

Social Media for Authors 101

By Gary Parkes, @gmparkes

Part of the How They Do It Series 

JH: Please welcome Gary Parkes to the lecture hall today, to share some tips on starting out--and setting up--your basic social media plan.

Gary is the founder of Media Seahorse and has been successfully marketing for twenty years in various roles and in multiple fields--from working with social media to writing radio commercials to planning entire marketing campaigns. He has a creative yet common sense approach to achieve the desired results, and has worked with international bestselling author Jennifer Skiff (Simon & Schuster/Atria), Jeff High (Penguin), Cynthia Lott (Piscataqua), FoxTale Book Shoppe and many others both in and out of the publishing industry. He has helped with media placement for Brad Meltzer, John Lescroart, Adriana Trigiani, Iris Johansen among others. Gary and his wife Stacie have lived in the metro-Atlanta area since 1997 and are originally from New York. They have two daughters, Abbie, age 15 and Delilah, age 11. Gary earned his Bachelor’s Degree from the State University of New York at Albany.

Website | Facebook | Twitter 

Take it away Gary...

Social media is your friend and truly one of the greatest tools available for authors. There are no boundaries to reaching your audience with social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. Some of you may already be overwhelmed trying to even think about adding one more thing to an already overscheduled to-do-list, but it is vital for your book to take flight. We all know that a word-of-mouth recommendation is the best way to reach new readers. Think of social media as lots of mouths moving at once globally.

Now that we have gotten past the idea that you don’t need social media to effectively market your book, I will share some important easy tips whether you are handling your own social media or hiring an outside social media brand manager, based on the questions I typically am asked.

1. Accept the fact that your social media platforms are your responsibility. 

Your publisher will not be running these for you, nor do you want them to. Publicists at the publishing houses already have more authors and responsibilities than they can handle and you want your brand to have the specific attention it needs, that represents you best.

2. Be genuine, be kind, show gratitude and remember it is a privilege for readers to be following you or liking your pages. 

They are there by their choice. Share quotes, contest information, other authors’ works and a little bit of what makes you relatable. People want to like you as well as your work. At the same time, don’t over share – what you have for breakfast is typically not share-worthy.

3. Pictures, pictures, pictures! 

People love pictures and engagement levels almost always increase when your content is delivered with a picture.

4. How often should you post? 

It is important to build your brand consistently and not only when there is a book coming out within the next month or two. When a book is due to be published within the next few weeks through the first few months after publication, I suggest either one or two posts a day. They do not need to all be self-promoting, but you want to stay front of mind with potential readers. Outside of that book release timeframe, I would suggest posting three to four times per week.

5. Tagging is your friend! 

Tag whenever possible so others know you are talking about them! That is the social part of social media. Tag people you are with, give photo credit, tag those who blurbed your book, authors you are reading, etc. Tagging increases engagement across the board and helps broaden your audience.

6. Whenever possible, and it is almost always possible, acknowledge comments from others with a minimum of liking their post. 

Social media is a two-way street and to be most effective, you want to engage with your readers. Answer reasonable questions or prepare an FAQ that you can direct others to visit. Consider social media an online conversation, it takes at least two!

7. Humor, Politics, and Religion. 

Humor, if done considerately and within the social norms of your audience, is a highly effective type of post that can really fuel engagement. Think carefully as to what you post as humor is subjective. Snarkiness, irony and sarcasm are often the best received. Politics and religion – simply, don’t go there. You can adversely impact 50% of your audience no matter what you say.

8. Engaging with other authors, bloggers, book clubs, etc. 

The whole point behind social media is to have brand ambassadors – others telling their friends and followers how great you are.

9. Life experiences matter. 

This also comes up often when an author states their teenage or college-age child can run their Facebook. Chances are they cannot be as effective as you need. They do not have the life experiences under their belt to think broadly and purposefully about what they are posting. Most often, they have little insight as to who your target demographic should be.

10. Lastly, I often hear when should I schedule my posts? 

Yes, they can be scheduled in advance by clicking on the clock icon when posting. From my experience, between 9am and 10pm are the main times people are online. If you have a global audience, keep the time differences in mind. There are hundreds of studies that will discuss this but the easiest way to see is to look at your Facebook insights which is a free tool offered by Facebook for Pages.


  1. Thanks for the tips, Gary. I was wondering if you are primarily referencing FB - or do these tips work across the board: Twitter, Google+, etc?

    1. Thanks for the great question. Overall, these tips can apply across the board although Facebook was used more than the other social networks since I find Facebook is the most effective for most genres. Twitter is certainly effective yet different. Ideally, your tweets should be different than your Facebook posts since the audiences differ.

  2. Love these tips! Yes, if we're authentic and truly care about others, it should shine through in our social media. If we're doing it to sell books, blech, that's icky.

    1. Thanks, Julie! Exactly!! One of the best examples of an author using Facebook well is Brad Meltzer. He is genuine, informative, truly grateful and reads and replies to many posts despite his busy schedule and an involved Dad to three kids. His voice stays true whether he has a book to promote or not.