How Authors Should Sell Themselves, Not Their Work, On Social Media

emphasize the "social" part of "social media" if you want to expand your reach

emphasize the “social” part of “social media” if you want to expand your reach

Everyone tells authors, “you should be on social media.” Well, to be honest, social media can be exhausting, and it has the propensity to be nothing but a time suck. There are SO many platforms to choose from. And SO many ways to do social media wrong.

Less common than, “Use social media,” but still pretty common, is the advice, “Don’t just try to sell on social media.” And that’s good advice. For sure, you should never, ever spam people who don’t even follow you with personalized tweets to buy your book, or notices that your work is on sale. Heck, just don’t send those messages ever. To anyone. (I’ve written before about why that is.)

I’ve been on social media for almost two years now. And I admit, lately I’ve let life interfere and I just haven’t been active there. But now I’m making a concentrated effort to get back on Twitter.

To make my Facebook fan page fun and interesting.

To read and comment on blogs again. Especially blogs that belong to you guys.

Things are still settling down for me and aren’t quite calm yet, but they are getting calmer by the day (and all the things going on are good ones!) Life is calm enough, at least, that I feel comfortable devoting time to social media again.

Which has gotten me thinking:

Everyone says to use social media, and not to “sell” your work there. But how exactly do we use social media effectively, to let other people get to know us so that they’ll want to read our stuff and interact with us? No one talks about THAT too much.

Here are some ways I am planning to do just that:

  • Connect with people who share my interests. I write fantasy literature. I run a blog about creative writing. So I’ll follow people who share my passion for fantasy/ sci-fi and for writing. And not just follow them, but do things like respond to their statuses and posts when I have a response that I feel they’ll enjoy or smile at. That’s how social media is meant to form a network.
  • Post about things that aren’t related to my writing and my blog but that I still care about. Because hey: all of us writers have a myriad of interests and passions, because we are all complex, fully human people. Writing is only a part of that. Me: I really love animals. And Spain. I was an academic by training before I moved home and rebooted my life, so to speak. All that is a part of who I am, and I’d like my Facebook page and my Twitter account to reflect that.
  • Try to draw attention to other artists and creators whose work I enjoy or that impresses me. There is no real drawback to this. I can share the work of other people to help them out. I can expose my followers to awesome articles or books they might not hear about otherwise. And I can give people some idea of who I am through giving my stamp of approval to this or that.
  • Try to comment on the little things in life that are the real things worth living for.  Only when it occurs to me, of course. I don’t want to try to force this kind of thing, because you can always tell when someone’s doing that and it sounds insincere. However, there are moments after a cold, tough day when you get home and you get that wonderful, hot cup of your favorite tea, and sink back in your chair and decompress. Those moments when your four year old nephew tells you, “I miss you these days.” Or when you go to your first Mardi Gras parade since high school. Moments that matter and that you know other people can relate to.

Of course, I will also share links to my blog posts. I feel that is different than marketing my published work every day. I’m not asking anyone to pay to visit my blog, for one. My hope is that people will enjoy the posts and perhaps find confidence through discovering they’re not alone in how they feel or how they write.

Also, each post is unique. Marketing a different blog post each day is very different than tweeting about the same novel week after week. New and varied content…. that’s the distinction. (Basically, I don’t want people to think I’m discouraging them from tweeting about their blog posts. Your blog is your hub. It’s where you WANT to be directing people who want to find out more about you.)

So, how effective do you feel social media is as a marketing tool? How do you like to use it? When do you feel it is most useful for you?

If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy my backlog of posts on social media marketing and how to use Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.

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53 responses to “How Authors Should Sell Themselves, Not Their Work, On Social Media

  1. Reblogged this on Confessions of an aspiring author and commented:
    Very useful

  2. Thanks Victoria for sharing this advice. I have been using Twitter as my main social media platform, and indeed I never tweet “buy my books”. Instead, using Twitter has helped me attract many new readers and friends to my blog, where I write a lot about travel, books, writing, Israel, and Bulgaria.

    • So glad to hear you say that! And thanks for backing me up :-) I use twitter in a similar manner to you and my blog has grown in leaps and bounds. Everything I would like prospective readers to know about me and my work they can find on my blog…. directing them here makes so much sense, more than just advertising one more of the millions of books they could buy and likely won’t!

  3. With any kind of social media, I think the best thing you can do is stop worrying about how many followers you have. If you’re only concerned with becoming popular, you’re going to miss out on a lot of good things that social media has to offer. Especially for writers, you can learn so much by reading other people’s blogs and engaging in discussions via the comments section. Also, it gives you the opportunity to take part in collaborative work. Developing good relationships with other bloggers does not happen overnight!

    • oh my gosh, YES. Yes yes yes. The numbers don’t matter, it’s the relationships and the learning process. The give and take. I could not agree more. I am so glad you said this!!! :-P Thanks for the reminder!!!

  4. Thanks very much for this post. Being fairly new to social media, it’s still a bit of a mystery to me. This approach makes a lot of sense.

  5. I’ve found social media, particularly Facebook, a wonderful way of interacting with people all over the world. For me, it’s never just been about marketing my book but I’m sure letting people get to know you as a ‘whole’ person has an impact on getting them interested in what you might put into a book. I’ve just re-structured the way that I use Twitter too and have a growing following there too – an almost completely different group of contacts to Facebook and Google+

    • That’s cool!!! It’s so awesome how some people have a lot of overlapping followers and use the different forums the same way. And others, like you, use them differently and meet different groups of people! It’s all about personalizing the experience, I think, and using the forums in a way that meets your individual goals and is enjoyable for you. For sure, Twitter and Facebook definitely do have different strengths that we can all make use of if we want to.

  6. I think it’s a powerful tool, but it can be exhausting. I went wild with it when I started and now I’m more low key on there. I have everything hooked into my blog, so my posts become Tweets/FB Posts/etc. That takes some of the edge off of jumping on everything to repeat myself. One thing I’ve recently realized is that the most useful part of social media is sharing the news of other people. Having a post or tweet sit there with no reaction doesn’t really help. Reblogs and retweets are what a person wants, which is easier on WP and Twitter. Facebook? Well, I think people put too much stock in the ‘like’ button and I’m finding less and less of a reason to put effort into my FB postings. Think I’m going into rant mode here.

    Funny that you mention authors spamming about their book. I’ve run into authors on Facebook that will put an ad for their book in the comments of one of my group ads. It’s annoying because these books have no connection to me and it feels like they’re trying to piggyback instead of making a separate post.

    • You’re right, it’s tougher to get shares on Facebook. I’m trying to use my facebook page to start conversations about things and to really let people know who I am. Not to market, per se, just to get to know people who have liked my page. I think that’s the way to use Facebook…. because I do agree with what you say about it.

      • I’ve tried that and I never get anywhere. Seems the only times people comment on my FB stuff is if I say I’m sick or angry. If I get comments, it’s usually from the same 2-3 people.

        • :-( boo. At least you know what’s working and what isn’t. And you’re focusing on what does. That is what successful people do: evaluate and adjust and dole out their limited resources in the most effective manner they can.

        • Yup. If there’s one thing we can say about Indie Authors it’s that we have limited resources. ;) I’m actually starting to plan out my marketing for book 4, so I’m figuring out how to stretch what I have over a 2-3 month period.

  7. Thanks for your advices Victoria

  8. This was great and let me realize that I am doing it correct. I’m still pretty new to this and don’t actually have a book to sell yet. But I am making friends who share my love of reading and writing. And I’m helping other authors who are just getting out there. And I agree that too many posts don’t work great. I get aggravated when someone Tweets the same thing 30 times in a row. One post on FB and maybe a few Tweets spaced out over time. Building relationships is much more important in my mind.

    • You are definitely doing it right! It’s a GREAT idea to get on social media and build a community of people who have gotten to know you and might be interested in your work when the time comes to release. I wish I had done that!

  9. Great advice. As a self published author, struggling to get noticed, its hard to balance everthing. I want people go know me for who I am before they know what I do. Good luck to you.

  10. Victoria, you pointed out the essence of what a author should be doing – making an emotional connection and building relationships with other liked minded folks. This is why I love your blog. Besides sharing an interest in writing, reading, Spain (love Spain- spent 1st honeymoon in Portugal), you know how to connect with others. And that’s awesome-sauce. :)

    • Aw, thanks so much!!! I have to say I do LOVE Spain. Especially Madrid. There was something about the museums there as well as the spirit of the area and the neighborhood around Puerta de Sol to Calle de la Princesa that I just really loved :-)

  11. I just started the Twitter thing. I am clueless, but it is selling books. I did start it because I did not know how else to promote a promo (other than my blog), so I have been tweeting every day that the book is on sale at 99 cents. (with different #s) I also tweet other stuff. I am clueless. I had to unfollow one follower because I was getting as many as three tweets a minute…her every move, her every thought, sixteen hours plus per day. I have only had it for three days. So far it has netted 19 books sold, where ENT netted 200. Seems a slow ride. I am certainly open to suggestions on how to use it. I have been retweeting other authors when I see them. I have made a few statements unrelated to the book. Again, I feel rather lost. It seems not much more than a constant stream of spam and nonsense.

    • It really is that, in a lot of ways. The most effective way to use Twitter is to zero in on hashtags. Go to the hashtag feed and see who is talking about the topics relevant to you. Other than that…. yeah it really is a bunch of spam and garbage. I still LOATHE the people who follow, bot accounts, wanting to sell me followers. I just block them. Can’t do anything else!

      Try not to get too frustrated and to take things one step and a time. Don’t do more than you feel you can handle. And honestly, just try to have fun writing fun tweets that exhibit your personality and feel fun and creative :-)

  12. I enjoyed reading your comments on how authors should sell themselves. It reassured me that I’m on track because I have been incorporating each of your suggestions into my social media. It could also be said that we have to give social media time to work. We have to be patient as we wait to pass the 1000 follower mark on Twitter, which I haven’t done yet, but I’m getting closer. Thanks again.

    • You are very, very right. It’s about patience. It is slow going and sometimes it feels like we take two steps back before launching forward three. That is all normal when it comes to social media.

  13. Reblogged this on knowleselle and commented:
    Do you often feel you are pushing your wares and not real connecting with the world? Here are some great guidelines on how to connect with others by selling yourself! After that’s done, selling your book just falls into place! Thanks so much for the info!

  14. Just re blogged all this useful information on my blog.

  15. I completely agree with this. The main reason I do social media is to obtain a connection with my followers, so you’ll always finding me writing more personal tweets about my daily life than anything else. It’s so important that people get to know the person behind the blog because that relationship is so much more important than simply promoting yourself over and over again.

    • Oh my gosh, yes. I could not agree more. Social media is an outlet to let people get to know the ins and outs to some extent of who you are. And if that’s all they do, that’s awesome. But hopefully getting to know you will get them interested in what you’re writing as well. That’s how it’s meant to work…. The sales always come second, if at all. And that’s not a bad thing, I don’t think.

  16. So helpful! I’m an aspiring fiction author, and this post is perfect for future reference :) and I always get those annoying spam tweets from authors/musicians/pseudo-celebrity accounts/etc . . .

    Reblogging this now!

    • Thanks, Liz! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I totally agree those spam tweets are the worst. I always block the person, and most of the time report them too. It’s a great way to get your account suspended, marketing that way….

  17. Reblogged this on First Person Liz and commented:
    Perfect for future reference, for all my aspiring and established authors out there! Sell yourself, not your work . . . don’t sell yourself short!

  18. Great article I agree. I am like you and jut gettign back trying to make my Facebook more interesting and fun and redesigning my blog also It is a job but i guss one of those necessary evils lol

  19. Great blog! I’m beginning to use my twitter as apart of my brand as a writer. I noticed that a lot of celebrities that I followed never twetted or followed me back. I unfollowed them. I love connecting with writers because I’m a writer of all sorts. I’m started blogging just once a week, but how often do you blog?

    • I used to blog daily…. I was unemployed, so I could make the time. Now I blog twice a week. But weekly is awesome. As long as you have some kind of schedule that works for you and keeps you posting regularly, you’re golden :-) That’s the key to blogging.

  20. Great article. I really appreciate when an author actually tweets about other stuff besides their book that’s on sale this week. If someone only tweets self-promotion, I’m turned off and therefore, mute their tweets or simply unfollow them. Another plus, as you mentioned, is interaction. If a person never seems to talk to anyone and only broadcasts, I’m out of there.

  21. Great post and very true. I find social media very exhausting at times, I don’t like Facebook or twitter, no matter how much of a useful tool they might be! But I do enjoy blogging greatly, I love meeting fellow writers and readers.

    It sounds like you have a great plan :)

  22. social media is a definite time suck! I can’t really speak to results yet as far as selling my book because of an influence on social media, but I know that the more you put into social media that doesn’t revolve around your book/business, the more interested people are. It’s a great plan that you have going, as connecting with people is always a good backbone.

    People sell and buy books, not twitter!

  23. This is such great advice! I find myself unfollowing writers who tweet nothing but links to their books, not least as links don’t give me any sense of their writing. When a tweeter or blogger is interesting, funny or otherwise engaging, I’ll explore their profile to see what more I can read – and that’s the experience I hope to create for my potential readers!

    • Exactly :-) It makes so much sense to approach the issue from the perspective of the person following! After all, we’re all that person for lots of people. We know what we like to see in our twitter feeds.

  24. Thank you sooooo much for posting this! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve scratched my head and tried to figure out just HOW to connect with readers and other folks via social media. There’s so many convoluted rules out there, you know?

    Anyway, I’m going to take your advice and see what happens. Thanks again!

    • Glad you enjoyed the article! I think it’s definitely possible to overthink social media. I’ve been there, done that. When I just be myself and let loose and don’t think about making connections, the connections seem to happen on their own!

  25. Fabulous advice! Thank you for posting. It’s really kind of terrifying to consider putting myself out there, but your post helps to ease my anxiety. I feel like the recipient of a freshly baked apple pie.

  26. I attended a panel discussion a comic convention a couple of years back where they really discussed how selling your comics is much more about selling yourself through social media and the like. I find it an unfortunate trend that an author can’t let their work speak for themselves and that audiences feel a need (unwarranted as it is) to be engaged with those who produce the content in order to be able to enjoy it (I write, responding to your blog post; the irony isn’t lost on me.)

    • It’s true…. it’s the nature of the new, technology-driven marketing beast, I guess. The internet truly has changed culture and society. How we interact and what we expect from people. :-( I personally just like a good story too. I don’t need to read the blog of the person who wrote it or follow them on social media. But the fact is, social media is how we find readers nowadays. I often wish things were different, as much as I love social media.

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