Part of the Indie Author Series
I put NSFW in the title, so I can swear all I want, right? Yeah, that’s what we’re going to refer to as “click-bait,” or “lying.” Don’t get me wrong, I swear plenty. You can read my Facebook feed or most of my books and find that out for yourself.
But that’s not really what I’m about here. Fiction University isn’t a place for me to be all purple-headed, pro-wrestling loving, life of the party Hartness. It’s a place for me to be…well, still purple-headed, because that stuff doesn’t just wash out in one shot, but I do try to be a little less bombastic and reserved here. Because this is a different audience than for my rough-and-tumble dark urban fantasy, or for the Authors & Dragons podcast, where I play an idiotic bard in a game of D&D with five other writers. Some of you might not want to hear a bunch of fart jokes (or you won’t admit that you want to hear them), so we’ll stick to the stated purpose of the article – making your social media activity work for you more effectively, in a few easy steps.
1. Know your audience
See what I did there? With that whole last paragraph, I explained my perceived differences between the audience for these blog posts here at good ol’ FU, and the audience at my personal site, my Twitter, my Instagram, and my multiple FB presences. Because this is a professional development site for writers, I won’t be dropping F-bombs like they’re commas.
On my personal FB page, you’re going to hear a lot more about my wife and my cat than you will on my FB author page (and I do try to keep those separate, so if you really want to know about my cat, and send me a friend request, follow it up with a message, or it will probably get deleted. I keep my personal page moderately locked down). If you hang out in my FB group (which is the best place to be a fan and see a little bit behind the curtain without actually hearing about my family stuff), you’ll get a different peek at what my world is like, a closer, more personal peek at my life than my author page, but still not nearly as messy and scattered as my personal page.
So figure out who the audience is for your books, and who the audience is for each manner of social media that you use. I don’t personally enjoy Twitter, so I barely use it. My Twitter feed (@johnhartness) is a scrolling billboard, a rotating series of ten to twelve auto-posts that I change out each week. Every once in a while I’ll actually hop on and interact, but it’s not a method of communication I love, so I limit my interaction on it. So my audience on Twitter is strangers who randomly followed me who might be interested in urban fantasy, horror, or comedy.
My Instagram feed is almost entirely photos of my Funko Pop Rocket Raccoon in various odd settings, usually with people wearing cool costumes. I take pictures of Rocket when I go to cons, and I tag them all #rocketismycopilot. Instagram is a visual format, and it’s usually pretty lighthearted, so I just take funny Raccoon pictures and throw them onto the interwebs. But in all of these social media avenues, I’ve spent a little time analyzing the platform and seeing how (and if) I can leverage the natural behavior of the format to fit me and the time I have to allocate for it.
2. Let people see behind the curtain
Obviously there is some danger to this, and you should set your personal limits on how much you share publicly based on what you’re comfortable with, but some of my greatest engagements have been on the simplest, smallest posts.
When I dyed my hair purple, that Instagram photo (which cross-posted to my Facebook page) got nearly 500 engagements in three days! In comparison, many of my paid advertisements on social media get less than 100 interactions in a day. So sometimes the stuff you don’t pay for can be more effective than the paid marketing.
You do have to be judicious in what you share, particularly if you have kids, or if you write stuff that your job or your spouse/partner’s job may not approve of, but that’s kinda the world. You just have to have some discretion in what you post. But letting people see the real you can be incredibly beneficial to building your platform, so give it a shot.
3. Do what you like
Here’s a secret. I don’t like Twitter. I know plenty of people use it a lot. I know plenty of people will tell you that Twitter is one of the cornerstones to building a social media platform. I know plenty of people spend as much time on Twitter as I do on Facebook. I don’t care. I don’t enjoy it, I don’t feel like I can say anything meaningful on it, and I certainly don’t appreciate the fact that most of the people that I know who have been bombarded by attacks from strangers on social media have found that drama on Twitter.
So I don’t use it. Yeah, there is an automated book promo post on my Twitter feed every two hours, but I use an automated platform (called ReaderLinks, and it does a lot more than that.) to post those to my Twitter and my Author Facebook page. I pretty much only log on to Twitter when someone DMs me. And that’s fine. If you love Twitter and hate Facebook, that’s fine. Use Twitter. If you love Pinterest and hate both of them, that’s also fine. If you don’t enjoy doing something, you’re not going to be consistent with it, and everything you do on that platform is just going to be lifeless cardboard posts, so you might as well just have some “Buy my crap” posts that run out automatically, and spend your time on a platform you enjoy.
And I know people talk all the time about how they hate the “Buy my Crap” posts, but I see a measurable decrease in my revenue when I don’t make at least some number of those posts each week, so I keep them going, because they’re worth several hundred dollars to me each month.
4. Be Nimble
Facebook recently announced that they would be focusing more on group posts to newsfeeds, and we’ve known for a while that posts from author or business pages are being shown in news feeds at a much lower rate. So if you use Facebook for your promotion, and don’t have a group for your fans, now’s the time to start one. I have one at https://www.facebook.com/groups/johnhartnessbooks/. I post book promo stuff, but also cat pictures, and info about appearances, etc. I also use it to poll readers for upcoming projects, because the folks in my group are typically my most dedicated fans, and giving them input into what’s coming up is cool for both of us. It makes them more invested in the new release, and it lets me focus my energies on projects that have a built-in buzz.
But you have to keep abreast of what’s going on with social media. You have to stay nimble, and be willing to change course with short notice. This is the flexibility that lets indie authors move faster than big publishing, because we have fewer people to consult, and fewer naysayers to deal with. So take advantage of your advantages. Don’t wait until Penguin and Random House figure out that BookBub sells a lot of books. You should already be out ahead of them looking for the next promo site or style that is on the upswing.
Is Patreon the new way to interact with fans? Is Gumroad the best way to sell your product directly to fans with less of a middle man? I don’t know, but I know that blog tours, which were THE thing to do five or six years ago, are almost useless today. Facebook launch parties were the hotness in 2015, but they’re worthless now. Before long, newsletter swaps will be just too much noise for not enough signal, and they’ll be dead(ish). So stay on your toes, and look ahead of the trends. Is it direct message marketing? Maybe. Is it putting your logo on pop sockets that stick to cell phones? I doubt it, but I’ve been wrong before. So stay nimble, work to keep looking ahead of the curve, and focus your attention on making trends, not following them.
5. Follow Wheaton’s Law
This is good not just for social media, but for life as well. It’s a lot harder to follow on social media, because even if you’re using your real name, there is still a certain level of anonymity online, and there are very little opportunities for people to punch you in the face over what you write on the interwebs.
Oh, you haven’t head of Wheaton’s Law? It’s real simple, coined by Wil Wheaton, former child star, former poker player, still writer, gamer, actor, and huge nerd. Wheaton’s Law is “don’t be a dick.”
Simple, right? Yeah, and “eat less and exercise more” is a simple weight loss formula. Just because something is simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. Did someone say something egregiously stupid online? Weigh carefully whether or not it’s worth losing real-life friends over what you say online.
Did someone say the The Replacements is one of the greatest sports movies of all time? Think about it long and hard before you rip apart their love of something that hurts you not at all. It is, by the way, one of the greatest sports movies of all time. Did someone say that your favorite wrestler is overrated? Maybe don’t call them an idiot, just politely disagree. Unless they’re slagging on the greatest pro wrestler of all time, the limousine-riding, jet-flying, kiss-stealing, wheeling-dealing, sixteen-time World Champion, Two-Time Hall of Famer Nature Boy Ric Flair. Then they’re not worth your friendship and deserve whatever undying fury you unleash upon them.
So let people be wrong, or correct them gently. Let people enjoy things, or let them hate them. You don’t get any brownie points by arguing that Jay-Z is a far better rapper than Childish Gambino, or vice versa (they both rock, by the way). You don’t gain any fans by slagging on another fandom, or another aspect of geek culture, and you sure don’t win any fans by picking fights with other writers or their fans. It’s like in that cinematic masterpiece, Roadhouse, when Patrick Swayze tells his new bouncers, “Be nice.”
People buy stuff from people they like. Make people like you, and they’ll buy more stuff. It’s just that simple.
From JH: Totally agree about The Replacements. Underrated greatness.
John G. Hartness is a teller of tales, a righter of wrong, defender of ladies’ virtues, and some people call him Maurice, for he speaks of the pompatus of love. He is also the best-selling author of EPIC-Award-winning series The Black Knight Chronicles from Bell Bridge Books, a comedic urban fantasy series that answers the eternal question “Why aren’t there more fat vampires?” He is also the creator of the comic horror Bubba the Monster Hunter series, and the creator and co-editor of the Big Bad series of horror anthologies from Dark Oak Press and Media. 2015 has seen John launch a new dark fantasy series featuring Quncy Harker, Demon Hunter.
In his copious free time John enjoys long walks on the beach, rescuing kittens from trees and recording new episodes of his podcast the Writer’s Journey, where he interviews other writers and explores their journey to writing success. John is also a contributor to the Magical Words group blog. An avid Magic: the Gathering player, John is strong in his nerd-fu and has sometimes been referred to as “the Kevin Smith of Charlotte, NC.” And not just for his girth.
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About Amazing Grace - A Southern Paranormal Mystery
Jessica Fletcher meets Aunt Bea meets Odd Thomas in this Southern Gothic Paranormal Mystery with a dose of romance from award-winning novelist John G. Hartness.
Lila Grace Carter is your favorite new detective, you just don’t know it yet. She’s determined, smart, caring, and sassy as the day is long. She also talks to dead people. Of course, as she puts it, “I’m Southern. We all talk to dead people down here. The difference is, they talk back to me.”
Lila Grace has lived in Lockhart, S.C. her entire life, and has always been shunned for being different. Discovering her ability to see and talk to ghosts at an early age, she used her ability to help people settle disputes, communicate with lost loved one, and generally make life better in small ways.
Until poor dead Jenny Miller showed up on her doorstep. Now Lila Grace has a teenaged ghost following her around, a handsome new sheriff in town, and a murderer in her sleepy southern town. This ain’t Mayberry, kids.
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