Tales from the Net

a work in progress

Monday, June 16, 2008

Book promotion on social networks

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.

Photo credit: Hanging Books by TimTom.ch found via Creative Commons search
posted by Greg at 10:36 pm  


  1. Great post, but I wanted to mention about one thing…you say the publisher “will have to deal with book promotion when their version comes out”

    My experience as a small author is that the publisher sends copies out and sometimes grumbles about doing that. We do everything else in the promotion activity. (Actually, that’s not entirely fair—they get it on shelves at Borders & B&N and interface with sites like Amazon.) They’ve also set up one or two interviews. But we’re also doing a lot.

    I don’t want to name names here. I’m generally happy with our publisher.

    Comment by your anonymous long-hair friend — June 17, 2008 @ 7:55 am

  2. Good point! I didn’t mean to suggest that the author suddenly gets to abdicate. In fact, every technique on the wiki is something I’d think any author would be wanting to do regardless of whether pre-published, self-published, or published by a major or smaller house. A big company has resources, of course, but they are promoting a whole list of books as opposed to an author promoting their own baby!

    Out of curiousity, is there anything you’ve found effective in promoting your own books alongside your publisher’s efforts?

    Comment by Greg — June 17, 2008 @ 8:50 am

  3. Really, I have no idea what’s worked. Sometimes I do something (blog, email) and the amazon needle moves, other times I do nothing and it moves. Yet other times, I do things, and nothing happens. So I think that if I press the lever, I get a pellet.

    Maybe one more press.

    Comment by your anonymous long-hair friend — June 18, 2008 @ 6:18 pm

  4. Hi, I was put on to your site by my wife, Linnie, who met you at CFP 2008.

    This is really helpful – I’ve signed up for Amazon Connect and am now feeding blog posts into that – any idea whether Connect will be rolled out beyond Amazon.com?

    Thanks again, a great resource for authors,


    Comment by Ted Vallance — June 20, 2008 @ 2:35 am

  5. […] Promotion on Social Networks – a great resource for authors I strongly recommend the following for anyone in the process of writing a book and thinking about ways to promote it online. There are […]

    Pingback by Book Promotion on Social Networks - a great resource for authors « Edward Vallance — June 20, 2008 @ 2:44 am

  6. This is such a helpful post! You sum up succinctly what social networking is all about in book promotion. I’ve been doing book trailers as a part of the promotion for my clients and it’s been really popular and helpful to provide quick information when pitching the book for reviews or author interviews for launches. Thanks!

    Comment by Julie — June 20, 2008 @ 5:46 am

  7. […] posted about this last month here on Tales from the Net; there’s also a lot of information on the wiki from his Computers, […]

    Pingback by Tales from the Net » Live from Portland: Promoting your book and yourself on Facebook, Myspace, and other social networking tools — September 27, 2008 @ 1:19 pm

  8. This is great tips for promoting my ebook at social network. I just made a site to sale my ebook.

    Must apply your tips, Greg!

    List of Social Networking

    Comment by Andra — February 2, 2009 @ 4:46 am

  9. I search for these ideas on how to promote my novel “Don’t Mess With Earth,” and I’ve pretty much done all of them, at least all the free ones anyway, but these blogs are all really helpful when you’re just beginning to look for ideas to promote. I have a Facebook page, Myspace, Goodreads, Amazon Connect, all of them pretty much and I’m not sure they work all that well. My sales on Amazon and BN go up and down, but I wish it would tell you how many actual books you’re selling.

    I did do a press release through PRweb, and got contacted by a one guy through my website who works with the American Library Association selling books to them, so I’ll have to see how well that plays out.

    Comment by Cliff Ball — May 7, 2009 @ 12:31 pm

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