Sandra Beckwith is an author and national award-winning former publicist who now teaches authors how to save thousands of dollars by doing their own publicity, promotion, and marketing. You might have seen her on The Montel Williams Show or CBS This Morning or read about her in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or USA Today. Her website, BuildBookBuzz.com, has been named a top website for authors and writers three times. Subscribe to her free weekly newsletter and get a free gift.
We had some questions for Sandra. She had some answers you can put into practice today and build into your ongoing social media marketing plan.
- First things first: what is your #1 social media marketing tip for authors?
- Manage your expectations. Most social media platforms are designed for connecting, not selling, so don't expect to see a huge jump in sales as soon as you set up a Twitter account. Use them in the way they're intended — to make connections and build relationships with the right people — and not for selling.
- Should authors do their own marketing, should they hire someone to do it, or some of both?
- It depends on what the author can afford. If you've got a marketing budget, it does help to outsource appropriate tasks that you don't have time for, aren't good at, or just don't want to do. If you've got more time than money, it makes sense to learn how to do it yourself.
- Are there universal book marketing checklists I can use so I don't have to think about it? How much of my marketing program is unique to my book?
- There probably are, but I would use them as a guide rather than as a "must do" list. What works for one type of book and author doesn't necessarily work for another. The tactics you use and where you use them depend on you, your book's genre, and the book's target audience.
- How important is video for online marketing?
- As with other tactics, the importance depends on the quality and whether it's a good fit for the target audience. Using more video without knowing what you're doing just because people say, "You have to start using video!" isn't going to make much of a contribution.
There's two types of video for book marketing — book trailers and everything else.
Good book trailers are expensive to produce so most authors end up going the DIY route. There are some stellar DIY book trailers, but the majority aren't very good and don't get much exposure. But a good one can be a solid promotional tool.
"Everything else" takes into account Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, and more scripted or less spontaneous videos that you upload to YouTube. They can all be helpful in different ways. Facebook and Instagram videos help you connect with readers as a person, while other types of videos can help demonstrate your topic knowledge, build a following, or even teach something from your book.
- How important is a website?
- VERY. An author without a website is like a vampire without blood . . . a fish without water . . . me without a glass of wine on Friday night!
- How important is a blog?
- I'd like to see all authors blogging but I know that's not realistic. It's more important for nonfiction authors than for fiction because a blog can help build credibility and establish expertise. I like blogs because they help with a site's SEO (helping it get found by search engines), and because your blog content gives readers and fans something to share.
Blogging just for the sake of blogging doesn't work though. You do need to have something to say.
- How do you suggest authors use Instagram for book promotion?
- Use it only if your target audience is using it. Yes, it's popular, but is it popular with the people who will love your book?
As with all other social networks, keep the "buy my book" messages to a minimum. Follow the 80-20 rule — 80 percent of your posts should be slice of life and only 20 percent at the most should be promotional.
- If there is one surprising thing authors get confused about when it comes to marketing, one thing you'd like to clarify, it's . . .
- Your target audience isn't "everybody." We all like to think "everybody" will love our books, but that's just not the case. And because of that, while it seems counterintuitive, the more specific you are about your book's audience, the more books you'll sell. Yes, you'll be marketing to fewer people, but they will be more of the right people, which will mean your marketing is much, much more effective.
- What is the biggest mistake authors make using social media? What is the greatest missed opportunity?
- The biggest mistake is using it to sell, rather than to connect. There's no gatekeeper with Twitter, so it's especially helpful at letting you follow and engage with influential people. If you're always shouting, "Buy my book!" you'll miss out on the opportunity to establish a relationship with an influencer who could write a blurb/endorsement for your next book.
- If you could recommend only one social media marketing activity for authors, what would it be?
- Facebook has the most reach across all ages and genders, so if you could only pick one social network, I'd recommend Facebook. Ideally, you'd have your personal profile, a book Page, and a group. They all serve different purposes. (Learn more in Facebook profile, Page, or group? An author's primer)
- Please tell us about your products and how they help authors promote their book.
- I offer a range of topic-specific, short training programs that help authors learn to do their own book marketing. My one-hour video training, Who Will Buy Your Book? How to Figure Out and Find Your Target Audience is an excellent starting point for any author. Until you know your target audience, you're not sure what you should be doing and where you should be doing it.