where the writers are
Facebooking Your Way to Success: Don't believe the hype!
Darwin Stephenson

You here a lot of talk amongst authors and publishers about the importance of social media. As the days of traditional marketing campaigns are waning, we authors are required to contribute more and more to building an audience for our published works. Ask what to do and you'll get lots of answers:

  • Twitter - You don't have a Twitter account? Oh my goodness, you need to be tweeting. That is a wonderful way to reach an audience. 
  • Blogging - Everyone knows that blogging is critical to attracting and sustaining an audience of potential readers and loyal fans.
  • YouTube - The secret is to have a book trailer that mimics a movie trailer. People are so fickle these days, so you've got to grab their attention with an intriguing video.
  • Facebook - Forget MySpace, Facebook is the bomb. Oh, you definitely need to be on Facebook. All the great authors are on Facebook.

To all this I say, "Phooey!" Selling books doesn't work via the Field of Dreams Marketing Plan. Build it and they will come didn't work with traditional media and it doesn't work in the new world either. With my stark opinions, you might think I'm an ol' school conservative that is scared of the changes new media has brought to our doorstep. Quite the opposite my friend, I'm knee deep in social media and employ it to sell books everyday. But that doesn't mean that I believe the hype that the crowd professes these new tools can deliver.

Here's the bottom line: There are millions of people out there that want to buy your book and they have no idea who you are. Traditional media succeeded because those large marketing dollars cast a wide net to snag potential readers. The smartest campaigns had laser focused tactics that promoted a title to the most likely audience. But it was still gunshot marketing and with more rifle marketing opportunities now available through social media...their business models collapsed. 

Not to worry, the publishers were never going to mount that kind of campaign for you anyway. Like any other sales and marketing campaign, those tactics were held to a bottom line profit margin that required a return on investment. And thus they were reserved for the known quantities that produced book sales. That's not you so the new social media opportunities are actually to your advantage. In essence, social media levels the playing field. 

 We could stop here and conclude, "Hooray for Social Media!"

And if you want to believe the hype, here is "the" recipe for social media success:

  • Create an author website that is crawlable by Google and use lots of genre relevant keywords in your copy.
  • Connect your website to a blog and publish blog posts on a daily basis.
  • Create a Twitter account and "tweet" several times a day on topics relevant to your writing.
  • Get on all the social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, <insert new>, etc.).
  • Write and publish relevant articles for free on sites like ezinearticles and scribd.
  • Blah, blah, blah

I cringe everytime I meet an author and ask what they're doing to promote their work and they reply, "I just met someone who is going to get me all setup on Twitter." Ten years ago that was a marketing plan described as standing on the street corner with a bullhorn. And both the crazy guy on the street corner and the tweeting author will snag new readers from time to time. But it isn't a sustainable marketing plan.

The secret to success requires a marketing strategy that delivers sustainable growth. That means that your efforts need to result in more and more readers buying your book every day. And if you're going to follow the crowd blindly into social media then you're going to find this problem: LACK OF TIME

There simply isn't enough time in the day to do all these things. Yes, they're all small little things but they add up. And if they don't add up to book sales then what's the point? Instead we authors need efficient, highly optimized marketing plans that employ social media to our advantage. Please note that this is different than getting on Twitter.

As an aside, what's up with all the services being hawked at authors? I don't need help blogging, laying out my book or getting my work registered on Amazon. I need help reaching an audience that buys books. It's all about reaching readers so try selling me services that result in verifiable sales. Ok, let's get back on point.

The reason we authors have an advantage in this new social media landscape is that the old dudes and gals don't get it. That's right, I'm talking about yesterday's and, to some extent, today's in-crowd. Suffice it to say, "All the people who rejected your manuscript." Yes, they're all really smart people, but they're also dinosaurs. Not all of them, but most of them don't get this new media. And that's why they talk about getting on Twitter as a marketing strategy.

Don't believe me? One visit to their websites will prove my point. They don't blog value, they blog marketing copy. They don't tweet, they hire interns to tweet. The don't thrive on Facebook, heck most of them aren't even on Facebook. And subsequently they don't provide compelling social media marketing services to their clients. They don't get it and this is your advantage.

So what's an author to do? The answer is to get smart and take advantage of this new opportunity. For starters, evaluate every marketing strategy that you're pitched against these simple criteria:

  1. How much time and money will it stake to setup and maintain?
  2. How many new fans (not buyers) will I get and what percentage will buy my book?
  3. What is my ROI? In other words, when will this strategy break even?

No serious business person has ever invested their time and money into a marketing campaign without getting answers to these simple questions. Of course, there are no guarantees but there must be some benchmark of success. What is the experience of other authors like you? Be skeptical if you can't get verifiable answers to these questions.

I'll now tell you that I do everything that I've described in this post. I have a website, blog, Facebook Fan Page, publish on scribd and, "Yes, I do tweet." The point I'd like to make is that your book marketing efforts should be solely focused on building a fan base. With a fan base, you have an audience to promote your work to, get feedback on future titles and sell books. Thus the goal with social media isn't necessarily to sell a book, but rather to build a following that is likely to buy your books.

To succeed, you need to drive potential fans to follow you. With so many choices (e.g. RSS Feeds, Twitter Feeds, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) you run the risk of a few people following you in many different places. As a result, when you attempt to communicate with them you'll only reach a small handful of fans via each social media channel. Instead, focus everyone to a single destination and faithfully publish relevant content via that destination.

For example, I drive everyone to my Facebook Fan Page (please note that this is not a Facebook Account, but rather a Fan Page):


FB.init("c31eceb6c3f2017f05c794fd2b187fbc");Darwin Stephenson on Facebook


On my Facebook Fan Page, I engage my fans in conversation via my wall posts and discussions. The discussions that get the most interest also become posts on my blog. In essence, I'm using the immediate feedback received on Facebook as market research for what will resonate with a wider audience. I'm then using that same content to attract new fans via my blog posts and directing them back to my Facebook Fan Page.

Similarly my Fan Page posts are setup to automatically get published on my Twitter account. As a result, my Twitter followers are getting the same information that is posted on Facebook. The point is that my marketing plan is solely focused on attracting potential readers and encouraging all of them to become fans. With a registered fan base, I have someone to market to instead of blindly tweeting for potential book buyers.

My book has only been out for a couple of months and already I'm gaining new fans on a daily basis. True, this isn't the growth that a high-dollar marketing campaign could generate, but it is within both the time and financial means of a self publishing author. 

Keep in mind that social media is a tool rather than a strategy. You're an author so you've got the talent, skills and knowledge to use these tools. Content is what drives and grows social media fan connections and with your ability to create comes a distinct opportunity that others do not possess. When in doubt, simply write what brings you joy and share it with the millions of people that might connect with what you have to say. Not because it will sell your book, but because it will connect you to someone that is likely to buy your book. And with this strategy, your fan base will grow and so will your booksales.

Darwin Stephenson

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If you want to know where

If you want to know where the future of publishing is follow the money trail. Publishers pay the bulk of their money to printers. Are they signing any contracts for publishing?

I found one: Worldcolor and Macmillan Sign Multi-year Agreement to Print Estimated 800 Million Books

"Montréal, Canada – Worldcolor (TSX: WC, WC.U) has signed one of the largest book printing agreements in North America. The multi-year agreement with Macmillan’s New York based U.S. operations involves the printing, over the term, of approximately 800 million major trade bestsellers, textbooks and mass market (paperback) books, based on current projections. Also included in the agreement are related warehousing and distribution services. The agreement renews and expands a long-running service relationship with the publisher, whose signature imprints include many of the best known names in book publishing such as St. Martin’s Press, Farrar Straus & Giroux, Henry Holt, Tor, Forge, Bedford/St. Martin's, and W.H. Freeman and Worth Publishers. The agreement also adds new value added services to the scope of the relationship. [Read more: http://www.worldcolor.com/macmillan.aspx ]

curation: That long term deal with New York prestigious publishers signals a strong commitment to publishing and printing books. Who's books are going to get published is the question. And you can bet your last dollar their are people who are on the outside trying to find out what book contracts are being signed. Find these authors and or the book titles and you can see what the trend is.

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Social Media Marketing

The Internet is a new way to do an old thing--create networks and make friends while attracting fans and most of it from home. We used to do that before the Internet too--it was more difficult, required traveling and hotel stays and ran up phone bills. The Internet is easier but harder at the same time because there are so many people competing for attention.

The Internet is not magic. No guarantee that being on Twitter, Facebook, Blogging and having a Website linked everywhere is going to sell books.

The old rule that "Fifty percent of marketing works and fifty percent doesn't and no one knows what that fifty percent that works is" hasn't changed.

The strongest marketing tool is word of mouth and there is no way to get those mouths working unless you find an audience that buys what you wrote, reads it and LOVES it enough to talk to someone else so they buy it--eventually, maybe.

Words worth hearing are "persistence and never say never." If the audience is there, the author's job is to find them using the old way or the new.

The writer who writes in isolation and does nothing to market his or her work has the worst odds of building a fan base and a successful writing business.