Here’s the thing about Social Media

I’ve been asked by a number of people to discuss Social Media as a way of creating an author’s platform. I’m talking, in particular, about nonfiction authors – but you novelists may find something to take with you as well.

Editors and agents regard platform in terms of how many people know you, not how many people you know. Social media, like blogs, Twitter and Facebook can only take you so far, and you’re wise to consider this as only one element of your Platform Bag O’ Tricks. I know of a handful of authors who have created a platform based on their blogs – and got book deals because of them. And at that, they had created their blogs years before. When you compare those small numbers against the hundreds of thousands of blogs, you can appreciate how tough it is to create a readership.

The thing with Social Media is that you have get started way before your book is even done because it takes a long time to attract an audience of significant numbers. It’s not enough to say in your query letter that you have a blog and Facebook because it’s hard to quantify. Social Media, for the large part, is faceless, and the idea is to connect with your potential readership. Yes, I realize the power of blog book tours and such, but I’m a bit concerned at how many authors are depending on Social Media to be the end-all, be-all.

Media loves authors who are experts. Look at any of the authors you see interviewed on TV. They’re experts on their particular topic – and it’s the main reason why publicity teams work very hard to create that “expert” tag for their clients.  They become “experts” by pulling various elements out of their books and building on it.

Let’s say you wrote a travel essay about chucking it all and moving to a tropical island as a way to reconnect with your family. Your kids are in trouble, and you’ve lost touch with your hubby.

Having an active blog is a start, but let’s say you take this further by establishing a relationship with the island’s Tourist Information Board and suggest writing an article “ABC Island – It’s Not Just a Beach, But a Bridge Back to Your Family.” Now you have a sponsor who will print your article in their tourist brochures as a way to enhance family tourism.

In addition, you talk to parent groups about the importance of reconnecting with the family and keeping your kids on the straight and narrow. Maybe the seminar would be a “10-Point Method of Dealing With a Rebellious Child and Saving Your Sanity.” You might find receptive audiences at recovery centers, youth detention facilities, high schools, anywhere one would find families and kids in crisis. Since your book contains these general elements, you’re always able to refer back to it in your talk.

You might write articles to family magazines that deal with these same issues. This creates an even wider footprint for you and your book.

The wider you cast your net, the more people know you, which makes it far easier for your publisher to promote you to mainstream print and TV media.

Conversely, if your platform consists solely on social media, it’s harder for your editor to push your book into the hands of those who can ensure wider exposure – and bigger sales – because you don’t have a wide audience already established.

Now, of course, your book isn’t solely about a family in crisis. It’s a travel essay, HOWEVER, what you’ve done is create a bridge between families in crisis and your book because the strong inference is, “Hey, we were so fed up, we bailed out and saved our family…and look at the gems we collected because of it.” What you’ve done is double your readership of those who enjoy reading about that particular tropical island and families who are in crisis.

Now your book is newsworthy and you, being gorgeous and glib, can easily pull off national media. Now, do you have to do all of this? No. But the numerous promo ideas make you more attractive to an editor because she understands the larger potential for bigger sales.

And here’s the thing about social media – it’s HUGE, so it’s harder to be the cream that rises to the top. Rather than concentrating on one small element of your platform, it’s wise to branch out. But sure, it takes time and planning – but the rewards can be so much sweeter.

The thing about promotion is to plan and work smart. Amanda Hocking didn’t become a millionaire by sitting around collecting navel lint. She worked countless hours. So regardless of your publishing option, promotion is key to making you and your book stand out.

Now go forth and be brilliant. BTW, my Twitter name is @behlerpublish, nyuk, nyuk.

5 Responses to Here’s the thing about Social Media

  1. Lynn,

    That premise sounds very familiar. Thanks for all the ideas you’ve given me, as a travel essay writer, and I confess: I don’t spend countless hours sitting around collecting navel lint either. Instead, I sit and stare at my computer monitor and miss every popular TV program, except for HGTV and the segments on tropical islands,

  2. Sonia, I KNOW you are one busy lady know *you* don’t collect navel lint. But I know many who do, and it’s frustrating because they are their own worst enemy.

  3. Good article! It’s a little trickier if you write fiction like I do. You’ve given me some stuff to think about. Thanks!

  4. Nancy Kay says:

    Lynn,

    I’m one of those ‘novelists’ you refer to early in the post, and your sound advice struck a chord with me. Social media is a strange, unwieldy, adventure for me. I’m comfortable writing news releases, soliciting ads for radio spots, and giving a talk at the local library. Tweeting…not so much. The personal connection, a short article in the local paper or asking friends to pass out postcards with my book covers on them, may not be instantaneous, but it’s working as I build a readership. When I come across an article such as yours, it’s like a beacon in a room full of matches. (Social media outlets being the blur of a million flickering lights).

    Thanks for the insight.
    Nancy

  5. Nancy, you made my day. So glad it helped! Good luck to you.

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