Social Media – Worth The Hassle?

I’ve been thinking about promotion, marketing and publicity a lot over the past month. I’ve talked about it before, and how some authors get a little defensive when you speak of targeting an audience. This time, I’m thinking about how I find and connect with my audience.

I see a mistake repeated over and over: authors spending lots of time on social media, working on their connections… to other authors. I’ve been on forums and Facebook pages where it’s simply endless self-promotion, everyone shouting about their own book and ignoring everything else. This just doesn’t work. It’s so easy to fall into this trap and we have all done it.

The second mistake I see happening is when someone builds a page or whatever, and then endlessly spams with their latest release. That’s the quickest way to have someone turn off your updates’ visibility. Again, this is something I did when I started the Top Hat Books facebook page – it didn’t work, and it will never work. It works against you. So, learn from my mistakes…

Do you need to promote, as an author? Depends on what you write, I suppose. There IS no one magical answer. My short erotica stories are never promoted. I write them and publish them, and I know my audience – my audience is willing to seek out the kinks that they like. As long as I ensure my cover meets their expectations and the blurb lays out what they are getting for their money, they find me. I sell around 300 of these a month, without any promotion, because of the type of book and the type of audience.

My romance, however, has not sold 300 copies a month! The Duke’s Disguise was written under a “transparent” penname – Sara Barlow – that I didn’t mind sharing, so I was able to tout it a little on facebook and so on. I know I won’t sell much until I have a catalogue of sweet romances out, but it is disheartening to compare my 70,000 word novel with a 5,000 word filthy smut-fest, and realise people prefer the smut. I am playing the long game, though, and let’s look at these numbers again in a year’s time.

I’m now moving into novel-length erotic romance – you can define this in two ways. Either it’s romance but with a lot of sex which is essential to the plot (not just jammed in to make it spicier) or it’s erotica where the characters develop and change, like in any other story. Either way, it’s meatier and more fun to write. So it’s time for another pen name, as I’ve no wish to confuse the different audiences, and this time I’m thinking about promotion from the start.

I’ve looked at all the different places an author can promote, and I’ve asked myself, “where are the readers?” I have also had to be honest about how much time I can devote to the new name. I won’t be blogging, for example. I cannot commit to that. Twitter works best if you converse with others and I haven’t got the hang of it. I’ve thought about, and discounted, Tumblr and Pinterest. I’m left with the options of Facebook, Goodreads, and a website. Facebook is where the readers are – where everyone is! Goodreads is useful for giveaways. And a website means I can have a URL that brings it all together, and also apply to All Romance Ebooks.

I’m going to use what I’ve learned. I’m going to use Facebook as a place to share, and to make people laugh. My promotion will be minimal, in a way – it will happen through building a personality, not by battering my books at people. Goodreads is a place to support other writers, as well as be a good reader and help other readers with reviews and so on. I aim to increase my visibility by increments.

It will be interesting to compare how this strategy goes. I’ll be comparing it against my romance penname (little promotion) and my erotica penname (no promotion). The comparison is slightly skewed because of the genres being different, but I’m curious to find out how effective social media is. It’s a huge drain on the time yet thousands of authors swear that it’s essential… let’s find out.

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