Why doesn’t social media work for me?

Well, first of all, check your body wash. Is it Old Spice? No? Then maybe you should consider changing it. Do you write romances? Do you use Tag Body Spray? No? Maybe you should go out and buy some. OK. Ladened with products that make you smell good? Now your social media interactions will run more smoothly.You’ll be a hit with the girls or guys or both. Rewind. Let’s start again.

What did you do? You wrote your first novel and sent queries to agents, publishers, boutique publishers, and now you’re piling up rejections. So, you decide to self-publish? Good for you. You self publish and you sold 6 copies, all to your mom. (You are now out some real dollars, aren’t you?) You have a Twitter account and a Facebook account and a Tumblr and an Intagram account. You were told that, magically, using those accounts, you could make $60,000 a month. How’s that working for you?

Well, if it worked for Old Spice and Blendtec, why isn’t it working for you? Start with this article. My Twitter Friend, Rachel Thompson, turned me on to it.

All these social media outlets are channels, like TV or radio or newsprint. If I gave you a 30 second spot on CBS, could you come up with a compelling commercial for your book? Probably not. How about a 15 second spot on NPR? One column inch in your local newspaper? It’s not that easy. Lucky for you, social media let’s you refine and focus your message over a long period of time but it isn’t free. Don’t forget, the time you spend on social media cuts into your writing time. And writing is what writers are all about, right? (I know I get cranky if I don’t have my writing time.)

Take, for example, the Facebook page for Night of the Living Trekkies, one of the more successful pages I’ve seen in a long time. They do not spend a lot of time posting, “Buy my book.” Rather, what they do is post interesting tidbits tangentially related to the book or directly related to the world of Science Fiction. (Yeah, it deserves the caps.) Why do they do this? To build an audience. They have interactions with fans. Fans repost/retweet/republish all of their interesting and fun memes. The people who like them, help them become famous, a household word even. And finally, the title of the page itself is the ad for the book of the same title. Brilliant.

So, first things first, where’s your second book? Why haven’t you started on that already? Get going. If you become successful, you’ll need that second book. And if your first book is not worth the bits used to store it, you’ll really need that second book.

I wrote my first novel 12 years ago. An agent in Manhattan asked me to send it to her. I am glad I did not. After writing 4 more novels, I finally got back to novel number 0, now dubbed novel number 5 after massive rewriting. (I took an ugly, ungainly 140,000 word novel and shaved it down to a beautiful and workable 80,000 words.)

In my mind, my novel, The Timely Death of María del Pilar, was a shining star of great literature. Editing María del Pilar was a very humbling experience. It needed a lot of work. I am a better person for writing it and a better writer for editing it.

Now, when I send it out, if I get rejected, I know I have done a fine job of writing. My language is musical and my writing is tight, interesting and fun, ditto the story. And if it doesn’t sell to traditional publishing channels, heaven forfend, I will self publish it because I believe it is a great read, a fun read. It started off life as a traditional mainstream novel and is now a magical realism love story with a side of murder mystery.

What sort of advertising campaign will I use to attract readers? Will I put the price at $0.99 or even free for awhile? Will I go KDP Select? Maybe. But the real questions are, how do I make my novel appealing and how do I gather a readership on Facebook and on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram? How do I make becoming my friend, following me, and buying my book easy, pleasant and a must do for readers? Will I use traditional PR channels? Can I get traditional press?

Remember, what you are doing is building a business. It takes a lot of work and planning. Social Media is a channel. It is a new type of channel because it is interactive. How do I, on a shoestring budget, create buzz over various social media outlets?

Nothing is for free. The simplest answer is hard work. I know that I will use the awesome marketing intelligence of my friends and employees to help me sculpt a social media presence. The big boys are still trying to figure this out. Social Media may be a level playing field, but some players are bigger and stronger than others.


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