How to Help an Author (Beyond Buying the Book): Part Three

By Jen Malone

For the last few months I’ve been posting a series called How To Help An Author. In January, I talked about the most impactful times and places to buy a book and last month I focused on how to get a book on a librarian’s radar. Today’s topic is using social media to help an author promote his or her book.

Those who study marketing know about The Rule Of Seven. Studies show that people need to see an ad or a product seven times before it compels them to action (in this case, a purchase.) In marketing, there is also something called the water cooler effect: people naturally want to be in on whatever others are gathering around the water cooler to discuss (insert Twitter for water cooler here to make this analogy of this century!) Lastly, the single biggest determining factor for whether a person will see a movie, buy a book, or use a service is if a friend recommends it. We’re trained to recognize that ads are mostly hype, but a friend’s endorsement can be trusted.

Newsflash: Your tweet, Facebook post, Goodreads review, or Instagram photo of you reading on the beach is one of the most helpful ways you can spread the word about your favorite author. It gets their book seen at least one of those seven times, it helps create buzz around the book (if something shows up in my Twitter feed from multiple sources, I’m darn curious) and it offers a trusted endorsement of the book. You’ve now cut through the clutter and helped to get the author’s book noticed in a meaningful way.

This isn’t to say you need to tweet or post ads for the book—on the contrary. Those get filed away as clutter by most of us. But tweeting/posting something personal about how much you were crushing on the story’s love interest, how perfect this book would be for your daughter who is currently doing a school lesson on the White House, or how the setting is making you long for a trip to Italy will help others to see the book’s selling points in an organic way. If you cried your heart out (and that was a good thing) while reading, tweet that!

If you’d like to be a bit more in-depth and organized about your online marketing efforts, here are some other, more specific actions you can take:

  • “Like” the author’s page or the book’s page on Facebook. Then invite your Facebook friends to do the same.
  • Become a fan of the author on Goodreads.
  • Offer space on your blog to the author for a cover reveal, a Q&A interview, or a swag giveaway. Make sure this post includes links to the author’s website or to sites selling the book.
  • Join a street team. A street team is a group of fans who sign up to help spread the word on a book’s release (typically online, but perhaps also in each participant’s local community). In exchange for advance copies of the book, swag, and/or access to the author for Skype visits to participant’s local schools, etc., members agree to post frequently across their social networks about the latest release. For example, John Green has organized and named his fans (Nerdfighters) and does a great job making sure they have inside information on his new books and movies and a way to connect with one another.

The general rule of thumb to remember with any of these marketing efforts is to be genuine.  No one, least of all me, is suggesting you do any of these things if your heart isn’t in it. People are savvy and they can distinguish “selling to” from “fangirling” or “fanboying” But if you are genuinely enthusiastic about the book and the author, that will come across in your online interactions. And you’ll make an author’s day (week, month, life…)



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