By Jason Kong
Jason, a frequent contributor, last posted here Giving It Away: Why Fiction Authors Should Offer Free Ebooks. Today he tackles a tough subject for fiction authors—are you really getting all the results you want from you social media efforts? Read on for his thoughts, along with specific suggestions, to help your readership grow.
A waste of time.
That’s your conclusion after endless hours of updating and linking and sharing. Everyone says how great social media is, but for you, it’s fallen well short of expectations.
Sure, you’ve met some cool people and had some fun conversations. You’ve been interesting enough to get a few subscribers to your feeds. But the big promise was to gather an audience, a group of readers united by an interest in your fiction.
That hasn’t happened.
Don’t give up on social media just yet. I’m going to identify some common obstacles that may be blocking your way, along with suggestions on how to address them.
Let’s get started.
Reason #1: You’re attracting the wrong people
Suppose you love talking about creativity.
You constantly blog, tweet, and post about improving your creativity, interesting creative projects, and examples of creative people.
Let’s assume you draw in people around this topic. Now ask yourself: will this gathering care about your fiction?
It’s possible some will. But if your primary goal is to build a readership for your stories, you’ll want to share content that likely attracts those type of people, not just possibly.
This can be a tough adjustment. When your life has many facets and writing is your outlet, you can’t help but type about politics, parenthood, and anything else on your mind. My recommendation is to use a separate social media account, a different place to simply express yourself.
Keep your online platform just centered on your storytelling. This singular focus will make it easier to gain traction.
Suggestion: Zero in on your readers’ interests that relate to your work. Gear most of your conversations and updates around those interests.
Reason #2: You’re selling too much
This is a tricky one, because it’s really a matter of degree.
You absolutely should not be shy about what you offer. The people who enjoy your fiction will want updates on your latest project or publication.
On the other hand, promotion beyond a certain point can lead to annoyance, and ultimately turn people away.
Social media may be a direct connecting medium, but that doesn’t mean you should use it to directly sell. People are looking for reasons to pay attention to you, to click follow or subscribe. It’s up to you to identify those reasons.
Suggestion: Instead of trying to close sales, generate and maintain interest in your writing abilities. Giving away a free story is a great way to bring in new readers as well as please current ones.
Reason #3: Your signal is lost in the noise
Getting someone to opt-in to your social media channel feels like success, because everyone wants to make their subscriber numbers go up.
But the reality is that attention is fleeting. To understand this better, examine your own feeds. Out of the hundreds or thousands of people you chose to follow, how many are really on your radar?
Getting someone interested enough for a social media follow is an important first step. You may have gotten heard, but to keep that privilege you have to earn it again and again.
If you are in a position to stay relevant by firing off updates with little thought or care, then more power to you. The rest of us needs to be more cognizant about what we say to ensure we aren’t forgotten.
Suggestion: If you want to be someone worth following, you’ll need to constantly reward people for their attention. For example, feel comfortable enough to recommend books by other authors in your genre if you believe your readers would like them.
Reason #4: You’re not publishing fiction often enough
Why do people get addicted to social media?
Because they’re always on the hunt for new. They want the latest update, the next bit of interesting content. That’s true for your followers too.
But above all, they want more of your fiction.
That’s the point of this whole exercise, isn’t it? Having an online platform and using social media is supposed to connect readers with your stories. When your intended audience starts showing up, don’t keep them waiting too long.
Granted, even the most proficient novelist can’t crank out enough material to keep up with demand, but in a recent guest post Joanna Penn had a good suggestion of writing more fiction, of varying lengths.
Why not try your hand at a short story or some flash fiction? Each finished product is another opportunity to introduce someone to your larger body of work. That will also lead to more exposure and ultimately, a bigger overall readership.
Suggestion: Experiment with different story lengths and formats. See what happens and do more of what works for you.
Reason #5: You’re ignoring your fans
If growing a fiction readership means making it bigger, then you may believe the pathway to success is interacting with strangers. Engage with enough new people and some of them will stick around.
This is both hard and inefficient.
The alternative? Encouraging the people who already like your work. Heighten their enthusiasm by strengthening the existing relationship.
Fans have a way of bringing in new fans, through their recommendations and referrals. Not only is word-of-mouth marketing effective, it doesn’t cost you a cent.
Besides, conversing with people who appreciate you is far more fun than with those who don’t know you, and may not even want to.
Suggestion: Bond with your fans by regularly delighting them. How can you make them feel special? What can you give them to cause celebration?
Reason #6: You don’t use analytics
You’re using Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and any number of social media channels.
Which one is sending your home base traffic? Which links to your landing pages are leading to sales?
If you don’t know what’s working and what’s not, how can you improve your results?
Sometimes personal observation isn’t enough. Trying to figure out behavioral patterns through what you notice amounts to little more than unverified guesswork.
If you own a website or blog, then you can use free tools to dive deeper behind the scenes. Take advantage of these resources to see what the data tells you.
Suggestion: You don’t have to be a numbers geek to glean something useful. Dan Blank shares some useful tips to get started with analytics.
Reason #7: Your effort is misplaced
How much you get out of social media isn’t necessarily a function of how much time you put into it.
Your key to more followers isn’t posting more frequently or having more conversations. Nor is it constantly checking your feeds to see who said what.
A readership develops because they have something to value and talk about. The best way to accomplish that is to give them more fiction. Writing good stories, as always, should remain your top priority.
Good storytelling will lead to a fan base, and then social media will start returning results. You’ll see more links, retweets, and likes. Your voice will start circulating and your reach will expand.
Joel has even proposed not significantly investing in blogging until you have a readership. I think that makes a lot of sense.
Suggestion: Work on your craft, refine your voice, polish and publish. That’s what matters most. The better your writing, the better social media will work.
Over to you
Which of these reasons resonate with you the most? And what do you plan to do about it? Let me know in the comments.
Jason Kong is a Contributing Writer for The Book Designer. He also runs Storyrally, an email-based subscription that helps fiction writers with their online marketing.