Since beginning my adventure in self-publishing, I’ve identified several key tools for creating a social media network that will help market your story. I’ll touch on each aspect briefly here, and then devote a full section to each one.
Let’s start with Facebook. As tempting as it is to think your hundreds of current family and friends will be an instant market and take your story viral as soon as you put up a post on your Timeline, I’m here to tell you that simply is not going to happen. You’ll actually need to create a unique presence with an Author page (see here for an example) build up a legion of followers (people who “Like” your Author page) and then use some very specific promotions to generate downloads and sales of your story.
This leads us to Author Karma. Founded by Emlyn Chand from Novel Publicity, Author Karma is an initiative that gets indie authors supporting one another on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. It’s an invaluable network and the best way I know to rapidly build your following. That said, remember that these aren’t “real” fans. They probably will not download your story – remember, they’re writers first, and readers second, and they’re focused on building their own networks, not reading your great American short story. However, they have lots of their own fans and followers, who are readers, and who may well discover your work through them. And, sometimes they actually will download your story – I have discovered a few authors whose work I’ve bought through Author Karma, but it’s literally a one-in-a-hundred case for me. That said, I've also found some other excellent sites and resources by reading the pages and posts of these authors, so this is high up on my "must join" groups for indie authors.
Goodreads is Facebook for readers. Well, not quite, but it is probably the biggest and best of the websites where readers congregate to list their own digital libraries, recommend books to others, search for new material, join virtual book clubs, etc. It’s a key place to establish your presence as an indie author.
LibraryThing is a similar site, although it’s a bit more technically challenging to negotiate, and seems to attract a more high-brow crowd. That said, LibraryThing offers you the ability to offer a “book giveaway” featuring your e-book; something Goodreads does not yet do.
Twitter is a great way for getting a short message out to a lot of people. A lot of people. The beauty of Twitter is how far and fast the extended network of “followers” can distribute your message. Here’s an example. When I was testing promotional methods, I sent a Tweet about a free download for one of my stories to 44 people. Out of those 44 notes, 21 were re-Tweeted – that is, the person I sent it to forwarded it on to all of their followers. I did a little calculation to see how many people that one note reached (assuming it was never re-Tweeted by any of the people who read it on one of my followers Twitter streams) – the answer? That one note, sent to 44 of my followers was read by 97,292 of their followers. It doesn’t take a genius to see that you don’t need a very high percentage of Twitter readers to actually click through and download your story, because even a small percentage, multiplied by a big number like 97,292 is going to result in a lot of sales.
Now, if you’re going to use Twitter, you definitely need to use Bitly. While it’s not a social networking site itself, it lets you take a long web address (like http://www.amazon.com/Happily-Ever-After-ebook/dp/B006RQUZ3I/ ) and shorten it down to the more manageable http://amzn.to/JeTTfd. Completely free, and vital so you can make the most of your 140 text characters in a standard Tweet.
Another site that builds on the power of Twitter is Triberr, which lets you band together with other authors to share your blog posts automatically through Twitter. This does a few things; most importantly, it raises your social capital with people in your “tribes” because they see you reTweeting their posts, and will be more likely to return the favor; and their followers see your blog posts, which means (if you’ve set your blog up right) that they are being exposed to your stories, your writing style, etc. Again, case in point; my 4 tribes, which have a total of 30 members, has a social reach on Twitter of 24,824. That means every time I have a blog post, the title blurb is going out to 24,824 people. Again, even if only a small percentage are interested, that’s still a lot of traffic for my blog. Want to join a Tribe? Send me a Tweet to @E_H_Carpenter and I'll send you an invite!
OK, that's a start, and definitely enough for one post. But there's more. Stay tuned!