When it comes to marketing yourself or a brand, a successful social media strategy is key. The session sees Will Rycroft (Vintage Books) and Simon Appleby (Bookswarm) delve into the world of how to handle an online presence well.
Will is a community manager at Vintage, running online and social media content, and commissioning articles for the site. Bookswarm are a digital agency, delivering projects and websites for people in the world of books.
Express who you are.
So the basics: what platform is good for authors? There are so many social media platforms, notes Will. He would focus energy onto the big four: Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Instagram. Twitter is great for conversation, Facebook is less conversational with isolated posts, Youtube is suitable for weekly content, and Instagram is visual. “Find one that allows you to express who you are.” It’s forced content otherwise.
Twitter gives you an instant communication with readers, to talk with them in general. Doing things well could literally get you a publishing deal in the most extreme cases: many Instagram-based books have come about. If you do YA, know that kids aren’t on Facebook – they’re on Snapchat. Find and communicate where your audience are.
But how do you grow a following? First, follow your friends, then cultural institutions and publishers and bookshops. Everyone talks to one another about books, so join in. Mention people, tag them. If you love a book, tell the author and publisher – there’s nothing wrong with flattery. Don’t obsess about numbers. Raw numbers won’t help you sell books – it’s about engagement and loyalty.
Authors who ‘do it well’, are JK Rowling and Neil Gaiman. They come up time and time again. The general feedback for authors of all levels that are good are that they’re funny and engaging. Jump on pun-based tags – puns work! Work on being funny. Share news and talk about what’s going on that’s of interest to you. Show you’re engaged. It doesn’t just have to be books. Take photos of your work, research – give people a sneak peek of what you do.
Where’s the balance in selling books? There’s a simple ratio, Will offers, that’s 80:20. Never do more than 20% of your tweets on selling books, and even then that’s rather high. Try to talk and bring people to books via the side door – make them trust you. It’s not interesting to just post about your book repeatedly.
“Content is really bloody important.”
So what about a website? When Simon meets new clients he asks about the books, their design preference, if it’ll be in first or third person – simple things that can help set the tone. The most important part is content. Your website is a hub that social media can link back to. Build a constituency of people, reply to them, foster a community. “Your website is the hub around which social media strategies orbit.”
Across social media, you can carve empires in these places but can’t guarantee they’ll always be there. Platforms do come and go. But you control the website, have the analytics and followers’ details. He doesn’t want to fall on the cliché that content is king, but he will offer that “content is really bloody important.”
If you’ve written a book and you have nothing to say other than what’s on the blurb and the publisher website, then you’re missing a great opportunity to offer further insight – character profiles, maps, deleted scenes, research. In Simon’s view, blogging is part of running a successful site and another form of social media. The trick is to work out the style and frequency that works with you and stick to it.
To close, they offer their top five tips. For Will, he says to put the time in and post regularly so people get used to seeing you. Use images so things stand out. If you wouldn’t want your name printed next to it in a newspaper, don’t post it online. Be positive – capitalise on positivity. Be enigmatic with 140 characters – pull quotes from content you share.
Simon says to give people inside insight. Content is the most important part, and design is secondary. Create an email list, think long term and, simply, be authentic.