To get ready for my mini-workshop at the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy Conference on using social networks for book promotion, I helped gather a slew of tips and ideas on a wiki. And while there is a lot of great stuff on the wiki now (which is still growing), one thing was clear as I talked to person after person and read story after story: there’s no magic formula for online book promotion, no one thing to do. Not only that, quantifiable results are hard to come by – even authors who love their MySpace can’t point to specific book sales from it. So… should you spend time promoting books via social networks? Absolutely!
A key to thinking about using social networks to promote your book is to forget looking for quantifiable results, at least in terms of number of books sold from any specific online presence. Instead, think of social networks as a place to tell your story – to let people know about your book, about you, about where you (and your book) are, about why they might be interested in what you have to offer
Once you’re thinking that way, look at all the possible upsides both in the short term (you go viral! You get a great review from someone who ran into you online!) and longer term (you build up a reputation; you continue to grow your network of support, you get more reviews from people who run into you online). The persistence of information and contacts in the online world and the ability to grow connections and join communities in a way that wasn’t as easy as before is a big advantage to marketing on social networks.
The example of Leinad Zeraus’ self-published novel Daemon shows that you don’t need to think of promotion in terms of creating a best-seller. Instead, Zeraus’ sales of around 1,200 copies enabled him to sell the rights to his book and a sequel to Dutton (who, of course, will have to deal with book promotion when their version comes out!). Zeraus and his novel have branded themselves… have connected fans together… have built support, all of which have created a demand for him and his product. Ultimately, that’s the goal of any type of marketing, of course, but in the online world you have the chance to do it yourself (and for free).
The tips on the wiki are some of the ways people have been promoting books on social networks so far, and I’m sure there are many, many more to come. Different ideas will work for different books and authors, so a good place to start is to ask yourself what your goals are. Are you trying to go viral? Trying to increase the number of reviews? Are you trying to make deeper, lasting connections and perhaps find your “True Fans” (as Kevin Kelley calls them)? Although there are no guarantees, whatever your priorities, there are sure to be some techniques that will help you on the path to reach your goals. So start trying… and please, share your experiences here in the comments or on the wiki so we can all learn as we go.