I get it. You’ve written, rewritten, and edited your book, and now you have to go out and promote it? Isn’t that someone else’s job? Marketing and publicity teams have all sorts of connections and tactics they use to promote books, but the world has shifted so that readers, teachers, librarians, and influencers often want to hear from and connect directly with the source—that means you! Social media can feel daunting and ceaseless, but here are some guidelines to help save you time and make a meaningful impact.
You need a website
…but it doesn’t have to be fancy. A website is a mostly static platform where people can get basic information. At minimum, you should include a short bio, a list of your books (with buy links), and how to contact you, especially if you’re interested in doing events. This is also a great place to post discussion questions or extras related to your books, great reviews, or media you’ve done, and an events page, if you’re someone who plans on doing events. There are lots of user-friendly platforms that you can set up your own website for a reasonable cost or consider hiring someone.
You don’t have to do everything
There are a ton of social platforms out there. Unless you have lots of time and relish the idea of learning how to master every platform, pick one or two that appeal to you the most and spend some time there. Also consider where you have the largest following, which leads me to the next point…
Don’t forget your own circles
Many authors I’ve worked with are hyper-focused on reaching new audiences, but don’t forget your own established networks and social circles. People are more likely to support someone they already know. Your high school lab partner, former babysitter, or Mom’s book club members are already invested in you as a person and happy to share your book news. You never know where a sale, an opportunity or connection might come from.
Think outside the book pages
First, book pages are getting harder to find these days. Secondly, people who follow book media are constantly swamped with book news and your title may not stand out the way you hope it will. What aspects of your book are somewhat niche or speak to a specific audience? Is your book about a kid who is getting glasses for the first time? Maybe your optometrist will display it in the waiting room for kids to peruse before their appointments and post a pic on their Facebook page. Does your book feature local history? Offer a giveaway copy to your local historical society newsletter. Smaller, non-book communities are not inundated with book coverage requests and may be flattered to see themselves reflected in a book and happy to spread the word for you.
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Don’t be afraid to post multiple times
Attention spans are short and feeds are constantly updating. Feel free to post your cover, links, or news multiple times, particularly on platforms like twitter or Instagram stories, where many of your followers might miss something the first time around. Change your caption or messaging up a little for variety’s sake, but don’t knock yourself out in the rewrite. “Thrilled to share the cover of my next book” becomes “Can’t stop gazing at this gorgeous cover from *insert illustrator and art designer name here*.”
Connect with book people
Social media is most successful when it is interactive. It’s not enough to post something and run away from it, hoping it will result in new followers. You want to engage people in conversation. This is where hashtags and established authors come in. If you’re writing YA fantasy, look up some of your fave YA fantasy authors and start following them. Who else are they following? What hashtags do they use? Check out how publishers, book media and reviewers post and interact online. Spend some time observing the culture before jumping in. A good place to start is to post about books and authors you love or reshare reviews you found helpful. Demonstrate that you are an active member in the community, not someone who wants to reap the benefits of a particular community without contributing.
The views expressed by Open Book columnists are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.
Vikki VanSickle is the author of a number of acclaimed novels for children including P.S. Tell No One, Words That Start With B, Summer Days, Starry Nights, and the 2018 Red Maple award-winning The Winnowing. She has also written the picture books If I Had a Gryphon, Teddy Bear of the Year, and Anonymouse. Vikki started her career as an independent bookseller and spent 12 years working in children's publishing. A devoted member of the Canadian children's book world, she curates and presents regular book segments at CTV Your Morning and balances her writing with arts education for all ages.