Social Media Strategy: Playing it Smart

social media strategy for writers

Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s up, and what’s down, when it comes to book tours, literary networking, and social media strategy. But it doesn’t have to be this complicated!

In preparation for the release of Flashes of War and my 52 event book tour from 2013-14, I found myself getting overwhelmed with tasks. What felt like 3,276 tasks was actually just three: transforming my website, organizing my contacts, and developing a social media strategy that was genuine. Next up, I called my publicist and asked: What matters most and how do I get started?

The resulting overhaul of my website, contacts, and how I started interacting on social media all influenced my desire to create a course that helps writers, artists, and trailblazers navigate marketing their work in a way that is more about contributing and collaborating. You can read more about Literary Stewardship here .

Here’s a peek at what I learned from working with my publicist. Getting the contacts to my publicist was a top priority and I’ve mentioned how daunting that task feels. But author Alan Gratz gave me the great suggestion to prioritize my contacts so that if I can’t get to all of them, or if my publicist and book tour manager can’t, at least the most crucial people have been contacted. It’d certainly be nice to have a write up in my high school alumni magazine, but wouldn’t I rather approach my graduate school about an online article? Sure, it would be nifty if my college friend whose dad works in Oregon Public Broadcasting interviewed me on his author radio show, but aren’t I a little more infatuated with NPR’s Three-Minute Fiction Contest and syncing Flashes of War with that community? With this idea in mind, I created a spreadsheet and ever-so-slowly starting adding names, contact info, and annotations.

Next up, my publicist said, I ought to prepare my website. What I had worked well, but there were some internal issues with using Blogger as a host that don’t jive with my design preferences, so I did what I could to make it work “well enough,” and started saving money for a major website overhaul down the line.

That left a social media strategy. Friend or foe, there’s no denying its power as a business and marketing tool, but only if handled smartly. Before the book tour, I had a Facebook account but didn’t use it very often. If I did, it was for friends-appropriate content only, or perhaps light-hearted observations about life in Appalachia. I was, after all, still on dial up. But once I hit the road and started meeting people at readings and through literary organizations–some of whom I may never see again–we stayed connected through Facebook. At that point in time, I had to decide whether I wanted just a profile page, or a profile and an author page. I’ve tried to help other writers and artists answer this question for themselves, too, as detailed in my e-course.

With a first book coming out, what needed to change about my social media strategy and content?

By and large it boils down to this: treat social media like a conversation. What are you going to contribute to that conversation? When it comes to Twitter, my publicist suggested a more informal, chatty use of language. Twitter is good for highly time-sensitive updates. I can use it to reach out to strangers who may be interested in my book and find value in the things I have to add to the conversation–even if we’ve never met or they’re unfathomably famous. Who are those people? How do I find them? That’s where my DIY audio download and PDF worksheet come into play, and these materials were directly inspired by what I learned, what worked, and what my publicist advised I make sure to do (and make sure to avoid).

I do use Facebook professionally now, and have ever since my book tour. There, I can “share” the good news of my friends and support them publicly. Sure, I could talk about a release date or give a shout out when the final cover for the book was approved…but I don’t need to do a daily countdown until folks can spend their $16.95 and I don’t need directly ask people to buy my book. People watching will know when it’s for sale and hopefully its availability will come up in pertinent Facebook conversations. Best of all, my publicist told me, if someone else on Facebook announces my good news for my (by posting a review, for example), I can share that link on my own timeline “via” that person’s update. That way, I’m the messenger of a piece of information that’s part of a larger conversation. It’s less about me and more about adding to the dialogue. There’s a “perfect” ratio for how much to add to conversations, and how often to do a direct sales pitch. I’ve written about it extensively in my e-course and I’ve followed this ratio myself for 4 years and counting. It works.

If you’re interested in all that, plus how to grow your audience and give them the opportunity to experience you without sacrificing your privacy, check out the e-course I designed to teach you how to foster community, not capitalism—even though the end result of this e-course is often increased sales and exposure – Click here for more info on Literary Stewardship.

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