Let’s talk about social media, shall we? I know, you’re probably tired as fuck of hearing about social media. You’re either baffled by the idea of social media, because you don’t really do the technology thing, or you’re paralyzed by anxiety about social media, because you hate dealing with people and are terrified that someone might talk to you, or you’re annoyed with social media, because people like me keep telling you to use social media and you have no idea what is the right way to do it, and you wish someone would just tell you exactly what to do and then you could do it and get on with your life, but you don’t want it to take up too much of your writing time, because you already have a day job, and kids, and hobbies, and other family, and can barely squeeze in an hour each day to write, and now some asshole has you reading these blog posts every week about how to sell books when what the fuck does he even know about how to sell books anyway?
Does that pretty much sum it up?
I thought so. Look, social media is, at its core, two thing. It is a way for friends to communicate with each other, and it is a way for companies to get their name out in front of customers. There are a lot of types of social media, and it is very easy to drive yourself absolutely bonkers trying to keep up with what the cool kids are using. Is it Instagram? Is it Tumblr? Is it Pinterest? Is it Twitter? Is it Facebook? Is it MySpace?
Here’s a hint – it ain’t MySpace. But any of the others are perfectly valid places to spend time interacting with people and telling them about your books, your life, your cat (people fucking love cat pictures), your poop (less love for the poop pictures), or your kids (they might love or hate kid pictures). It’s all about what you want to focus on. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on scheduled posts on Facebook and Twitter, because that’s what I do. I do scheduled posting on Facebook and Twitter because it’s easy and I can do it without taking up too much of my writing time.
A lot of people will tell you that this kind of shotgun, junk mail posting on social media is worthless, annoying, and will alienate fans. I will tell you that on weeks that I do not do scheduled posts, I see an average of 10% less sales than on weeks where I do scheduled posts. I sell between 30-50 books per day, depending on the month and the recent releases, so we’ll say I average 275 books per week. So I sell about 28 books more in weeks that I do scheduled posting. That’s worth around $75 cash.
That is more money than I am willing to leave lying on the ground for the hour that it takes me to schedule a week’s worth of Facebook and Twitter posts.
I also do a lot of organic Facebook posting, sharing, and interacting with people. I don’t hang out on Twitter a ton, but I go on there every once in a while and go on a retweet or liking binge. But I hang out on FB a lot, so I do a lot of organic activity there in addition to my structured posts.
Here’s the way I set it up each week. I block out about an hour on Saturday or Sunday (the days of the week I am most likely to not write) to do my social media. I have created Word documents with pre-written tweets that I copy and paste from. Yes. this is time-consuming on the front end, but if you write 2-4 different tweets for every product you release, and save them all in a master document, it’s really easy to stay on top of it. If you’re coming into this with 25 backlist titles, that’s going to be a pain. Too bad. It’s still worth it.
All this is my opinion. None of my opinions are humble. That’s your last caveat. From here on out, we’re presenting this as the Gospel According to Hartness. Don’t like it? You don’t have to read it. You are welcome to do your social media however you like. This is what I do, and how to copy what I do. If you want to do it, go for it.
So – I have a Word document with 2-3 prewritten tweets for each thing that I have out there. That’s every book, every audiobook, this website, my Patreon, my mailing list, and my podcast. I don’t promote everything every week. Some stuff is older backlist stuff that I just promote when I don’t have a new release. Some stuff I just rotate through. My Patreon gets promoted every week, my newsletter gets promoted every week, and this website gets promoted every week, These things are evergreen, and I always want as many eyes on them as possible, so I make sure they get promoted. Any new releases get promoted first, then new audio releases, then most recent releases. I try to promote at least one product from each of my three main series every week.
I use Hootsuxte to aggregate my tweets and auto-schedule them. Because I’m an early adopter, the plan I’m on costs me less than $10 each month. The same plan now costs $15/month, which is still a bargain. Because ain’t nobody got time to sit down every day and schedule a shitload of Twittering.
I set things up so that I send out a tweet (which cross-posts to Facebook on my timeline, my author page, the Falstaff Books FB page, and the Falstaff Twitter feed) every hour on the hour between 9AM EST and 6PM EST. That’s ten messages every day promoting me and my work. I do this Monday – Saturday, with the idea that fewer people look at Twitter on Sunday, so that’s often the day I’m using to build the following week’s posts.
Then I go back through and send one message per day for every product that Falstaff Books has published or has scheduled for pre-release. Every book we’ve ever done gets promoted every day, once per day. It’s all I can do, because we have a promotional budget of somewhere near seventy-five cents, and this fits within that budget.
I try to make the messages funny and interesting. I use Bit.ly to build all the links, because I can shorten them, and it offers some tracking. I used to embed my Amazon Associates link in the messages, but someone pointed out that it was against the Amazon Associates TOC, so I stopped.
But that’s it. I end up programming somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 tweets per week, and it takes me less than an hour. It will take you time to get the list of messages built, but once you have that established, you can get all this done in not a ton of time.
Is this better than real engagement with your buying public? Not by a long shot. Is this better than sitting around bemoaning the lack of sales? Yes, by a long shot. If commercials and junk mail and spam weren’t effective, we wouldn’t get so much of it. And you’re not just sending out ads for dick pills, you’re telling people who actually like you and/or your work what’s going on with you. This is much more targeted than that email about your schlong or the RedPlum flyer in your mailbox yesterday. So give it a shot. I find it valuable, maybe you will too.
By the way, I’m working on the page to let y’all buy autographed paperbacks from me. If you want to check it out, click the link that says “Autographed Books” at the top of this page. Thanks!