Socially acceptable

Social media has changed the ways authors and readers connect
Bethany Myers by Tanya Reynolds Photography
Bethany Myers by Tanya Reynolds Photography

 Social media has changed the ways authors and readers connect

In the fall of 2012, Atlantic Books Today magazine ran a story called “The Author-Reader Relationship 2.0: How you can interact with your favourite authors at home or on the go”. (You can have a read here.) Like all things digital, the social media landscape is constantly evolving. While some platforms remain tried, tested and true since that article (Facebook , Twitter)  there is always more terrain for authors and readers alike to explore (Instagram, LinkedIn, The 49th Shelf). But the most significant point that remains unchanged is the importance of connecting with your audience.

We checked in with marketing manager and publicist Emily MacKinnon at Nimbus Publishing, and social media queen author Bethany Myers for the best ways for authors and readers to connect online.

Myers published her YA novel Butterflies Don’t Lie with Nimbus in the fall of 2014 and has a sequel due fall 2015. The duo’s social media expertise will help turn even the most reluctant authors into savvy self-promoters.

The Publishing Perspective

“Social media is a huge part of book promotion,” says MacKinnon. “It’s definitely not the only platform, but it’s certainly the largest and most cost-effective.” What she finds fascinating about social media is tracking and viewing exactly how many impressions/clicks/views you are getting. “When you place an ad in a newspaper, for example, you really don’t know how many people saw it and digested it unless they remember to mention it when they see you next.”

We’ve had readers comment on our Facebook posts that a certain book looks interesting, and we can comment back almost immediately with links to where they can buy it online. Often, we’ll get a response a few minutes later that says, “Thanks! I just bought it” which proves that social media does directly result in sales. Hooray!
-Emily MacKinnon,Marketing Manager at Nimbus Publishing 

While Nimbus doesn’t actively seek out authors with a strong online presence, it’s definitely to the author’s advantage if they do have an online presence. But it isn’t all about jamming your newsfeeds with repeated pleas to BUY MY BOOK!!!

“‘Balance the broccoli with the cheese’ is a phrase I learned in a marketing seminar that’s really stayed with me,” says MacKinnon. “That is to say, you have to feed your readers their broccoli—promotion of your book—but broccoli goes down a lot easier with some cheese.” She suggests funny comics, behind-the scenes photos, art and personal anecdotes. “Nimbus, for example, does a #booknookenvy post every Thursday featuring a picture of a beautiful reading nook. It has nothing to do with our books per se, but our followers love it, and it’s consistently among our most popular posts at the end of the week.”

Balance is important so followers aren’t fed up if all you do is trumpet yourself and your work, MacKinnon says. “Try and balance it out with some fun tidbits and interesting stories or articles. Try to keep the balance at 70-30, though. After all, you are still there to sell your product. ”

MacKinnon creates “easily sharable” content that focuses on one or two books at a time so individual authors can copy and paste the post onto their own pages. “I don’t mind talking authors through the basics of Facebook or Twitter either, but if they’re really new to the whole game, I’d suggest a workshop through a writers’ union or their local library system. Checking out the pages and accounts of authors you admire is really beneficial too: take note of what you like and what you don’t like, personalize it, then apply it to your own account.”

Facebook and Twitter are Nimbus’ most popular platforms with daily interactions and discussions with readers. “Tumblr is becoming a big resource now too, but that’s not as “local-centric” as the others. Goodreads and The 49th Shelf are awesome for connecting with the book community across Canada, and a great way to see what readers actually think of our books. We do a lot of giveaways and discussion boards on both which are always really popular.” She also says the occasional Reddit discussion, Pinterest board, or Instagram post will gain some traction.

YA author BR Myers puts the ‘social’ in social media

Young adult author Bethany Myers has it down to a science. You can find her on most social media platforms, and she understands the importance of meaningful interactions.

What online platforms are you using as an author to connect with your readers?

My website, of course. I try to blog twice a week, usually tips on writing or a pop culture blurb. I’m a fan of ‘Top Five’ lists. I’m also on Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook, and Wattpad.

Which is the most popular for you in terms of followers?

I have the most followers on Wattpad, a little over 13,500. I’ve been on Wattpad for over two years and my success there has been a pivotal factor in my writing career.

Which is your favourite to use, and why?

I’m on Twitter the most because it’s the fastest way to check in with a lot of people at the same time. I like to see what’s trending, plus it’s beneficial to see how other authors are promoting their books—contests, signing events, YouTube videos.

It’s also a convenient venue I can access anytime to help me keep in touch with many writer friends. I’ve met some of my best critique pals through Twitter.

Your various social media feeds are not full of “BUY MY BOOK” pleas. How would you define your approach when it comes to building relationships with your readers?

It’s called social media for a reason. In order to be successful you need to be social. Only posting without replying or interacting with others gets boring quickly. It’s okay to talk about your book and upcoming events because you’ve earned it and it’s exciting, but if that’s all you’re putting out there, you’re going to lose followers. You’re not just selling your book, you’re selling yourself. In essence you’re creating a brand. I try to be funny, inspiring, and most of all genuine.

Pinterest is another venue writers can use to generate a buzz for their books by providing a visual interest for their fans. I’ve started storyboards for all my works so readers can see the pictures, songs and actors that have inspired me.

How do you find the time to keep up with all these circles?

All of my sites are linked together. When I publish a new blog post, it gets posted on my other accounts as well. Buffer is another great tool for saving time. It allows you to line up a number of posts for Twitter to go out at certain intervals for up to several days.

However, it’s important for authors to remember that writing great books is the best way to gather a loyal audience, and if you’re spending all your time on social media, you’re not writing, period.

One piece of advice for authors looking to increase their online presence:

Follow me. Just kidding. With so many options for social media it’s important to find the one that’s easy for you to use. If you only feel comfortable using Facebook, then only use Facebook. Don’t be overwhelmed. Quality and diversity trump quantity every time.

One piece of advice for readers looking to connect with their favourite authors:

Easy. Check out which social media they’re on, then say hello! Better yet, ask them a question or compliment one of their characters. Writers love talking about their characters.

Butterflies don't lie B.R. MeyersFind Myers online:

Twitter
Facebook
Wattpad
Pinterest
Tumblr

 

Want more BR Myers?

Top image: Bethany Myers by Tanya Reynolds Photography

Written By

Heather Fegan is a freelance writer, book reviewer and blogger based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Follow her chronicles at www.heatherfegan.com.

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