Earlier this week, Facebook and Instagram suffered a massage outage, affecting over a billion users worldwide. For the casual user looking for recipes, updates on family members, or cat videos, the outage was no big deal. But for marketers, such as authors selling their books, the outage meant ads weren’t running, scheduled posts of book quotes didn’t post, and followers weren’t engaging.
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with social media for some time. I post on Twitter, but never read my feed because I can’t keep up. I’m on Facebook because I feel compelled to be there, but FB treats its users like crap. Worse, I pay for ads, so I’m paid to be treated poorly. I’m still iffy on Instagram’s effectiveness. I enjoy watching TikToks, but haven’t been able to create a system by which I post regularly. I have a dormant Pinterest page as well.
Except for FB ads, I’m not sure how well these platforms have helped in book sales. One could argue that my lackluster postings and irregular appearances on social media are to blame. That could be true, although I regularly post to my FB group and page.
However, with the outage, and FBs bots that willy nilly block users’ content and ads, authors have to develop marketing tactics outside of social media. You can’t leave your books sales in the hands of third parties. The outage highlights that.
Carol J. Michel posted an article on Jane Friedman’s blog in which she talked about doing a 30-day social media detox from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (she kept her LinkedIn page). After the 30-days, she reduced her FB friends from 750 to 75 people she really wanted to stay in touch with, continued to ignore Instagram, and deleted Twitter. Now, a year later, she doesn’t regret or miss social media.
What struck me most about her article was the research she did on the shelf life of a post. Doing my own research, I found various timeframes, but all were within close limits. In general, the lifespan of content is:
- Twitter: 15 minutes
- Facebook: 5 hours
- Instagram: 21-48 hours
- LinkedIn: 24 hours
- TikTok & Snapchat: minuscule unless goes viral
- YouTube: 1-3 months
- Pinterest: 4 months
- Blog post: 1-2+ years
I found this data disheartening considering the time I spend creating content. I take longer to create it than it exists in many cases.
I’m not saying social media is a complete waste of time because there are plenty of authors who have large followings that consistently buy. I follow Pippa Grant, and her group members are the types of fans who buy swag and share pictures of who they think her characters look like, and much more. But most authors, even those with readers who enjoy them, don’t have that level of excitement, and to create it on social media is a job in and of itself.
Maybe you don’t want to quit social media (I still feel obligated to be on Facebook), but maybe the outage and the data above will encourage you to develop alternative marketing tactics that make better use of your time and don’t put you at risk if there is an outage or a FB bot decides it doesn’t like you.
Before I give you my tips for marketing without social media, I want to encourage you to build your author platform base, which includes:
- Author website: Many authors put this off because of the cost, but the alternatives put you at the mercy of other platforms, which will promote other authors and shiny doodads to distract your reader. Many aren’t customizable. Some have rules that make it hard for you to promote (e.g. if you’re an erotic romance author). Having your own site is the best way to give your readers a place to go to learn about you and your books without distractions or penalties. Some marketing experts recommend having a blog as well. If you’re going ot blog, I recommend having it on your author website (as opposed to two different sites). With that said, I don’t blog on my author site anymore. Here’s a post I wrote about it.
- Email list: I have a post in which I explain how email has higher read rates and conversion rates than social media. Plus, the people who sign up for email are more interested in you than those who click “follow.” It also gives tips on how to create an email list, what to send, and how to grow it.
Social media can be a part of your platform, such as having an author page, but again, you don’t own your FB page so you’re at the whim and mercy of the platform.
How to Market Your Book without Social Media
Once you have your author website and email, you need to reach your readers. One thing I think many authors miss in marketing is that it’s all about outreach. Building a website or posting on social media works only if people know about you. If they don’t know you, they won’t read your books or blogs or social posts. You’ll be lonely if you expect people to find you.
Instead, marketing is about going out and finding your readers and inviting them back to your home (website).
Here are tips for doing that:
Build your email list!
I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. Email lists have a greater power to sell your books than any other source. Here are tips on building your list:
- Offer a free book (e.g. first in your series, a prequel, or bonus material) in exchange for a reader’s email address
- Include your email list in your books!
- Have an engaging onboarding sequence that keeps subscribers on your list, and contact them enough that they don’t forget you, but not so often they get annoyed. I email my list once a week sharing interesting anecdotes or asking questions (recently I asked my lists opinion on pumpkin spiced lattes), provide links to free books (from giveaways–see below), and of course, share info about my books, but sparingly unless I’m launching. You can get more details from this post about email.
- Participate in giveaways. Bookfunnel and Prolific Works both offer opportunities to join in giveaways. My list grows by several hundred subscribers a month using this method. Over 90% of them stay on my list. Pick giveaways that target your readers (don’t join a sweet giveaway if your book has sexy bits).
- Do swaps. Bookfunnel recently added a swap feature to its services. Bookclicker is another swap resource many authors use. You can do swaps or buy space (usually $10 to $20) in another author’s newsletter. Choose authors who create books similar to yours in subgenre, heat, and tone.
- Include your email list (link to your giveaway and email signup) in your outgoing emails and wherever else you have a bio.
Find Your Readers and Reach Out to Them
- Search for blogs and podcasts your readers visit, and pitch them as a guest. Have a schedule where you pitch one or two a week. Note, your goal is to find romance readers of your genre. While writing blogs and podcasts can be informative, those listeners may not be your readers. Instead, find romance book related blogs and podcasts and pitch to be a guest.
- Submit to a serial app. Radish, Amazon Vella or Kiss will serialize your book. Note that Amazon Vella wants unique content. Radish seems to work like Wattpad, where you post your content and create your own pricing. It’s unclear to me if you can serialise published books on Radish. Kiss will take your published book and serialize it for you on its platform. If your book is in Kindle Unlimited, don’t serialize it. However, you can serialize your list giveaway book.
- Contact book clubs. This is one situation in which social media can help in that you can find book clubs on them. Some are virtual, but you can Zoom or Skype into in-person book club meetings. Contact your library about local book clubs.
- Set up readings or signings at local bookstores or other locations in your area, such as a cafe. If you’re self-published, getting into the big bookstores is a challenge, but independent bookstores often work with independent authors. If you use print-on-demand that doesn’t allow returns, you can ask to sell on consignment.
- Attend reader events. There are ton of romance-oriented reader events throughout the country. Many general reader events have a romance track. Find out how to take part as a panelist or speaker so you can sell your books. Some events are signing events in and of themselves. You buy space at a table and attendees show up to shop.
- Library events. I’ve spoken at my library twice and every time I sold out of books!
- Be creative. Where do your readers hangout and how can you hangout with them?
Whether you’re like me, and are burnt out on social media, or you love social media, it pays to have other marketing strategies at work for those times social media goes offline or limits you.
Do you have other ideas on how to market without using social media? Please share them!
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