Sunday, January 22, 2012

The 80/20 Rule: How to Promote Your Books Properly on Social Networking Sites

Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, etc., have become an integral part of promoting books and building an author platform. However, authors must realize that there are right – and annoyingly wrong – ways to use these sites. Used correctly, sites like Facebook and Twitter can help authors position themselves as valuable sources of information and entertainment. Use these sites incorrectly, and authors risk coming across as self-absorbed and inexperienced.

When posting on social networking sites, authors should remember the 80/20 rule. This rule dictates that you spend 80% of your time posting about things other than your book, and 20% selling. That’s right – 80% of what you post should not be a sales pitch. Why is this true? Remember that readers are human beings, who long to make connections with others. They join social networking sites not to receive non-stop reminders to buy, but to develop relationships and learn about topics that matter to them.

So, what should you post 80% of the time? Well, the most important reasons to network are to build relationships with your readers and position yourself as an expert. Therefore, 40% of your posts should be personal: readers want to know about you, your personal life, your thoughts about writing, etc.

The other 40% should be about your subject area, so provide information that your target audience will find interesting and useful. If you’re not an expert in your field or are uncertain about writing on a specific subject area, write about things you do know, such as the steps you took to become a writer, what you’ve learned about your subject area while writing, etc. Share whatever expertise you have that your followers might find useful themselves.

The other 20% of the time, you can remind readers that you have a book they might be interested in purchasing. But be judicious with these posts; remember, some of your followers and friends will have already seen posts about buying your book before. Do your best to make your sales posts relevant and interesting; i.e., only issue these kinds of posts when there is something new to announce, such as a price increase, a revised edition, or an interesting review of the book.

What happens when you ignore the 80/20 rule? Do so at your peril; authors who post nothing on their social networking sites but constant reminders to buy their books will usually be ignored, or worse, deleted by their followers.

For those who wish to make the most of social networking and sell books (rather than offend visitors), here is a list of important do’s and don’ts:


…set up profile and fan pages on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google+, etc.

…post often about what’s happening in your life, your thoughts about your writing and your book’s subject area, and about topics relevant to your audience.

…if you use Twitter, retweet relevant posts by your followers. And thank them when they retweet yours.

…if you share information on Facebook, be sure to acknowledge the original source.

…if friends sign up for your Facebook fan pages, be gracious and follow theirs. Likewise, if someone follows you on Twitter, be generous and follow him/her back.

…share news about interviews, awards, sales, plans for sequels, etc.

…be inquisitive. Ask friends and followers for information and advice, and end your posts with invitations for others to weigh in.

…be social. Respond to your friends and followers when they post, and they will respond to you.


…constantly post announcements reminding people to buy your book. One announcement every few weeks is okay, but daily reminders will only serve to alienate your followers.

…constantly announce pricing changes and giveaways. Once in a while is okay, but do this too often and your audience will begin to tune you out.

…hog up the airwaves by posting too often. Be judicious and thoughtful about what you’re putting out there for others to read.

…post inane or useless information; especially avoid constant updates about mundane chores, errands, and household tasks,

…incite others with inflammatory political and/or religious statements. Unless your book is about one of these topics, you stand to alienate 50% of your audience with political and religious posts. Keep your posts professional and relevant, and leave the controversial topics for private conversation at home.

…send out automatic responses to new followers urging them to “take a look” at your website, Amazon account, or segment of a book. Develop a relationship with your followers first, before you clobber them with a back-handed sales pitch.

…send automatic responses at all (they come across as perfunctory and meaningless).

…blow your own horn. Listing yourself as an amazing, bestselling, renowned, etc., author, especially if the book is your first, can be off-putting and make readers see you as pathetic and insecure.

…trash agents, editors, reviewers, or other writers (and if you’re a publishing professional, don’t bash or belittle potential or actual clients). Nothing alienates writers and readers more than someone who appears unkind or has a personal axe to grind.

Finally, as with all other areas in your life, do your best to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Follow the 80/20 rule, be a gracious, supportive, and conscientious social networker, and readers will look forward to reading your posts and buying your books.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Top Four Methods for Increasing Brand Recognition and Sales in Book Marketing

I recently asked some of my clients to let me know how their sales went this past year and what methods they thought worked best in their book publicity campaigns. A number of methods stood out, but here were their top four picks:

1. Targeted Speaking Engagements

The number one method for building brand recognition and sales, according to almost all of my clients, is targeted speaking engagements. Those who appeared before niche groups to give presentations, and then sold their books afterward, said that this method was by far the best way to reach audiences and sell books.

Here’s a comment from Ona Russell, author of the legal mysteries The Natural Selection and O'Brien's Desk ( about the power of targeted speaking engagements:

“Book signings rank pretty low on the effectiveness scale, while speaking engagements are, for me, the best way to increase exposure and sales. That gig you got me at the Writer's Guild far exceeded expectations – I sold a ton of books there. Same goes for the law lectures you arranged. When you get a chance to showcase your skills and tell your personal story, audiences are more receptive to hearing about (and purchasing!) your book(s).”

2. Media Interviews

Many of my clients also mentioned media interviews, including print, radio, and television, as being effective marketing tools for selling books. Here’s what Greg Fournier, author of Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel (, had to say about his radio interviews:

“The WDET - PBS interview was the high point of my experiences and the timing worked out great for me. My webmaster added it to my novel's website, and it is getting hit regularly. I hooked up with a free online radio booking outfit and have two web-radio interviews lined up - one at the end of the month and one in March. The subject is "Racism in America and the Obama Era" or some variation of that. The PBS interview online helped me score these new bookings.”

3. Giveaways and Promo Items

Other clients found that using giveaways and promotional imprinted items helped increase sales. Carol Cronin, U.S. Olympic sailor and author of Oliver's Surprise, Cape Cod Surprise, and A Game of Sails (, explains how this method worked for her:

“My most successful selling tool is business cards I made up with the book's cover and a brief synopsis plus blurbs. I hand them out everywhere, on airplanes (see my blog post called "Airplane Sales"), in restaurants, at parties. Those that are already reading ebooks are psyched to be given a recommendation; those who are not yet reading ebooks are intrigued (especially by the QR codes).”

4. Social Media/Blogging

Finally, almost all of my clients mentioned using social media, especially blogging, as a powerful way to engage with readers and build brand identity and sales. Greg Fournier said, “The surprise of all that has happened is that my blog seems to be a qualified success. I have had over 2,700 hits in seven months, starting at ground zero. I have written fifty-six posts, and I enjoy the result of writing them more than the agony of deciding what to write about.” Carol Cronin added: “Social media has been a good tool, especially blogging. People like getting to know the "behind the scenes" stuff, as long as it's not too technical. And passion and personality continue to be the best sales tools.”

What methods have you found to be the most successful for creating brand recognition and sales for your books?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

10 Tips for Writers on Where to Find Ideas for Blog Posts

A friend of mine posted on his Facebook author page that he was looking for ideas for posts on novel writing. Running out of ideas is a common problem for people who post a lot (or those of us who are just plain stumped when it comes time to write a post). Since blogging is an important component of an author’s promotional mix, it’s crucial to keep the topics flowing. So, what can authors do when the well runs dry? Here are my suggestions:

1. Write about what's happening with you and your writing – your writing process, your writing group, conferences you're going to (or would like to attend), your thoughts on writing, your status with your latest book, what you’re reading, what you’d like to be reading, writers who inspire you, etc.

2. If you’re comfortable with sharing your personal life, intermix your writing posts with a few personal anecdotes about what’s happening in your life. Sometimes an event in your day-to-day life will trigger thoughts or ideas that work their way into your written work; share those.

3. Discuss your writing hopes and dreams, how you plan for the future, your vision for yourself as a writer. Other writers are always interested in future trends

4. If you’re an expert in a field, share tips on that subject area.

5. Post a photo or a quote and describe why it pleases or inspires you.

6. Write responses to articles on writing. You can post them and then comment on them, or just share your thoughts about them (reference them with a link).

7. Use Twitter and LinkedIn to get ideas for posts. You can build up your Twitter lists by following other writers (there are thousands of them out there!). If you're not sure who to follow, go to the pages of people you follow who have a lot of followers and choose from their lists. Or check the Twitter hashtags for writing ideas.

8. Google any topic on writing and you're bound to find lots of links on subjects that will strike a chord with you. Give your followers your take on those topics, or start a thread about a subject you find in your searches.

9. Check out other writers’ web and blogsites and see what topics are trending there. Likewise, look at social media, networking, and publishing sites that focus on reading and writing (Goodreads, AbsoluteWrite, Publetariat, BookTrib, The Passive Voice, etc.)

10. Finally, you don't always have to reinvent the wheel. If you’ve been blogging for a while and have posts that are popular or followed a lot, post them again, with updates and comments on what others have said.