New “All Things Book Marketing” Podcast Episode: How an Author Successfuly Spearheaded Her Marketing

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In this episode, we talk with author Farzana Doctor how she employed social media initiatives for her book launch, managed virtual book events and spearheaded her own marketing. We also discuss how authors can approach social media, best practices and pitfalls to avoid.

Mike Onorato:
ello, and welcome to another edition of the All Things Book Marketing podcast. I’m your host, Mike Onorato. Hope everyone is warm, well, and healthy. Joining us today is Farzana Doctor. Farzana is in my favorite city in Toronto. She’s the author of four novels, Stealing Nasreen, Six Metres of Pavement, All Inclusive and Seven. Seven has been chosen for 2020 best book lists, including Indigo Chapters, Apple Books, Amnesty International, CBC Books, and more. Her poetry collection, You Still Look The Same, will be released in fall 2022.

Mike Onorato:
Farzana is also the Maasi behind Dear Maasi, a new sex and relationships column for FGMC survivors. She’s an activist, a part-time psychotherapist, an amateur tarot card reader. Farzana, welcome.

Farzana Doctor:
Thank you so much for having me. I’m so pleased to be here.

Mike Onorato:
And thank you for enduring my technical difficulties which our listeners may never know about, but we’ll get right into it on this pod. We talk a lot about, there’s so much discussion about social media. To get right into it, what is the key to an effective social media strategy?

Farzana Doctor:
Well, I have to say that I’m still learning. And I think for me, what I have really found to be useful is that I have to enjoy myself, first of all. As an author who’s doing a lot of social media about new books, I just have to make sure that I’m having fun in the process. So I can’t think of it as a chore. If it starts to get to be a chore, I think I back away.

Farzana Doctor:
And then the other piece is that you want to know how each of the social media platforms work a bit differently so that you’re posting correctly, you’re using your hashtags, right? You’re understanding who the audience is in each one of them. So I think it’s to keep learning. And one of the ways that I learned, or taught myself, was I just followed a few other authors who I thought were doing really well and I mimicked them.

Mike Onorato:
It’s so interesting that you say that because I think a lot of authors, they don’t know where to start. A lot of the conversation that I’ve had with them is they don’t know where to begin. And I think sometimes imitation is the most sincerest form of flattery or whatever that saying is, and mimicking them, seeing the cadence in how they post, and what they post. And it’s amazing to hear that you’re relatively new to it because you’re a wiz at it. And the way you go about sharing and tagging and everything, it speaks to somebody who knows the ins and outs of all the platforms, so that’s to your credit.

Farzana Doctor:
Well, thank you so much. I probably got on Facebook in 2007, and then I slowly began to expand. I joined LinkedIn and then Twitter and then Instagram. And very recently I joined TikTok, but I don’t know if I’m going to stay there or not, or at least I’m not sure if I’m going to post a lot there. So I think it’s I have an interest in all of these. I don’t think every author has an interest in all of these. So I would say people should pick one or two platforms that they think is interesting where they get to interact with other people and build a community. But yeah, a lot of it is just learning from other people and getting tips from other people. I’ve watched YouTube videos. There’s a lot of great five minute YouTube videos for all of the platforms where you can pick up some tips and tricks.

Mike Onorato:
How much of your time is devoted to social media or at least the posting and the sort of cultivating of content?

Farzana Doctor:
I think it really varies. When I was really in the thick of promoting the books, September, October, November, I think I probably spent at least an hour, if not more, each day on social media because there was a lot of content to post. And these days I would say I probably spend half an hour in terms of thinking through posting and commenting on other people’s posts and retweeting other people’s things. So it really varies. There are days when I take breaks and I think that’s important, too. Some of this can get a bit overwhelming. So I’ll sometimes even take off like a week or two and just do a little bit of a detox.

Mike Onorato:
And are there, I should’ve said this at the start, which platforms do you like and prefer? And you can also please feel free to give your handles or screen names so our listeners can follow you.

Farzana Doctor:
Thank you so much. So I’m Farzana Doctor on everything. I didn’t get too complicated. On TikTok, I’m FarzanaDoctorWriter because Farzana Doctor was taken. I like them for different reasons. So Facebook feels like they’re most of the people I know in real life on Facebook, so family, friends, colleagues, and so on. And so sometimes there is more of a personal connection there.

Farzana Doctor:
Twitter feels like more industry folks and writing community. Instagram has become something I have been trying to develop because I’ve noticed that a lot of the book bloggers have turned to Instagram and they create these really beautiful images of your book cover. So that’s a different, that’s more book promotion, Instagram.

Farzana Doctor:
And then I would say LinkedIn. LinkedIn is one of those platforms that can be a bit more boring, but I am seeing more and more writers posting on LinkedIn, so I’ve been doing that as well. I try to make each post just a little bit different. And some of it has to do with how much space you are allowed, where you’re allowed to post links, and where you can’t. I know for all of my posts, I try to have lots of images. I think sometimes people forget to use photos, but they grab attention, as do videos.

Mike Onorato:
Oftentimes I think authors hear the term social media and they panic. They think it’s going to be basically a lot of their time devoted to it. Or the one question that we get asked all the time is, “I don’t know what to post. What do I post?” What are some things that authors can do to keep their social media life, or their social media content is a better word, manageable?

Farzana Doctor:
Yeah. So one thing I tell people is try to start early first of all. I think sometimes authors will be thinking, “Okay, I’ve got a book coming out in three months. I better get on Twitter.” But it takes a while to build up a following and to build relationships. I think with social media, like the social is the real part of it. We are trying to build connections and we’re trying to build communities. So going in with that in mind, start early.

Farzana Doctor:
And then what you want to also be doing, I think, is reposting other people’s posts. One of the common mistakes I see is that people will do too many narcissistic posts. So it’s like, “Buy my book, oh, look at me, look at my book.” And you do need to post some of that because that’s publicity. But I think that if you have a mix of look at me and look at my book along with, “Look at this other person. I really admire them,” or, “Here’s this issue I’m really passionate about, have a look at that, sign this petition,” and so on, that’s really important.

Farzana Doctor:
And in terms of thinking about what to post, you might be posting reviews of your work. You might be posting about a related issue about your book. You might be looking at some of the backstory in your research and posting something about that. People like to know about what was involved in writing a book and what are your own inspirations and who are you as a writer and what’s your own writing routine and what are your own writing struggles. So all of those things can be content.

Mike Onorato:
I heard a great sort of analogy, or a great way to think about social media, is think of it almost like a cocktail party. And when you first walk in and there’s a group of people talking, you don’t go up and just immediately start talking to them and talking about yourself, you kind of exist on the periphery, hear their discussion. And then you get a little closer and then eventually you’re involved by hearing what they’re talking about.

Mike Onorato:
And social media can in some ways be like that. You don’t want to just come in and just yell at somebody with your perspective. You want to see, kind of read the room, right, and see what discussions are, and then figure out how you can contribute to that rather than just amplifying something.

Farzana Doctor:
That’s right. And if you really admire someone else’s posts, make sure you comment about it. Bring positivity, raise up other people’s voices, all of that is important.

Mike Onorato:
Are there platforms or programs that you use to make it easier? For example, I use, when I manage my own socials, I like TweetDeck for Twitter, for example, versus the native program. Are there some of those programs that you use that make a lot of this easier for you?

Farzana Doctor:
I did try Hootsuite for a while. And I think a lot of people like it. I think it is important for people to figure out ways to streamline and how not to spend too much time on all of this, because we have other things to do besides social media, like, right.

Mike Onorato:
[crosstalk 00:10:49] there’s that.

Farzana Doctor:
So, for me, it didn’t work so well. For me, it didn’t work with my brain. I think what I do is let’s say there’s a positive review that comes out. I will post it on Facebook with a long caption because Facebook allows for that. I’ll post it on Twitter and I’ll tag all the people who are involved on Twitter.

Farzana Doctor:
On Instagram, if there’s an image from the review, then I’ll post it on Instagram. But again, it’s a little bit different. So for a little while I was using Instagram’s ability to cross post to Facebook and Twitter, but I found that to be a little frustrating because it doesn’t look very good. And when it goes to Twitter, the image is lost. And when it goes to Facebook, none of the tags cross over. So I have just gotten used to cutting and pasting and then adapting for each platform. Probably not the most efficient way, but that’s how I do it.

Mike Onorato:
But I think that’s a great point, though, I think is that don’t fall into the trap of just using the same content for each platform with the auto share, whatever that term is, because it doesn’t look the same. And as somebody who spends a majority of his time on Twitter in terms of, while I’m working of course, and that is, I can tell when somebody has used that feature to either share something that has originally appeared on LinkedIn or on Instagram, and it doesn’t have the same feel.

Mike Onorato:
And I think one of the things I’ve learned in my years of doing this is that people can see right through that. And it looks like you’re just trying to take a shortcut to get word out versus spending time, as I mentioned before, spending time really immersed in that particular platform. And it just doesn’t have the same feel and the impact is actually bad.

Farzana Doctor:
Yes, I think so. Yeah. It just looks like you’re shouting into space.

Mike Onorato:
Right.

Farzana Doctor:
Yeah.

Mike Onorato:
What piece of advice would you offer for, we have a lot of budding authors and they recognize that before they can really do effective publicity and marketing on their book, they need to get their platforms in order. And so what one piece of advice would you offer for those listening in who want to get active and don’t know where to start?

Farzana Doctor:
So I would say, there’s so many things I could say, but one thing I would really suggest is to ask for help. So I asked a couple of people to be influencers on social media to amplify my messages. The other thing I do is I will often reply to people. I’ll comment on things. If people post something on Instagram, I’ll write to them and thank them in a really warm and authentic way. Sometimes those connections have dropped at that point. And sometimes they have continued.

Farzana Doctor:
And the people who are doing Bookstagram I think are angels of literature. They’re doing it really out of the kindness of their hearts. And some of them have podcasts. Some of them have access to larger platforms or blogs.

Farzana Doctor:
I’ll give you an example. There was somebody who posted about my book in September, turned out she was a librarian. She was a librarian with a really big library system. And she ended up doing an interview with me on their website.

Farzana Doctor:
There was somebody else who does live events, and she did a Facebook live interview with me. So that all came from just talking back to them and saying, “Thank you so much for taking the time to read my book and to post about my book. I really appreciate it.” And then they were just even more generous. So ask for help and interact in a genuine way.

Mike Onorato:
Mm. Authentic, right, I think that’s one of the things that I’ve read so much about is if you’re authentic to yourself on social, it won’t feel like a chore, right?

Farzana Doctor:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mike Onorato:
So if you’re talking the way you talk, if you’re interacting the way you interact with people in quote unquote real life, then it won’t feel like you’re having to sort of adopt this new persona. It’ll just feel like another way of talking or communicating with people, especially about your book.

Farzana Doctor:
That’s right. And I would say to authors you’ve done an amazing thing. You wrote a book and that’s not easy, so don’t be shy. I think sometimes people are very afraid of putting the spotlight on themselves if they’re not used to that. And this is going to sound a little hokey, but I saw a psychic some time ago, who said, “You are somebody who needs to express yourself. Obviously you’re doing that by writing books and don’t feel shy.” She actually said, “Don’t be afraid to just express yourself. This is part of what your role on this planet is.”

Farzana Doctor:
So I started to think about, well, what would that look like on social media? How could I become more of a thought leader around some of the issues that I care about? How could I become an influencer for other people? How could I just be a bit more genuine on social media and not feel, I don’t know, just not feel so self-conscious about it? So it was almost like I got permission from the psychic to just stop being so shy.

Mike Onorato:
Yeah. And I think you mentioned a phrase there that I think is really key to this whole thing and that’s thought leader. We hear and see a lot about what is a thought leader and what platforms they take. Back probably 25, 30 years ago, a thought leader was someone who had a regular column in this news outlet, was a regular guest on that, they made the rounds here or there. But because of the way we all communicate now, and the change in that, and obviously brought upon by social media, we can all be thought leaders in the areas and categories that are important to us. And I think the way in which you share information, share opinions, and the frequency and how often you do that on a regular basis, I think is the key to becoming a thought leader and you can do it too, right, as they say, and social can be that vehicle for you.

Farzana Doctor:
That’s right. And we need people to be thought leaders, right? We need people who care about issues to educate other people and to raise the level of conversation. So one of the things that I’ve been trying to do is to normalize discussions about gender based violence. I’ve also realized that I have some things to say about the literary landscape and what are some of the things we can be doing as writers for our own wellbeing. So those are a couple of areas that I’ve been really interested in sharing about.

Mike Onorato:
Well, I think also you’re commenting on and speaking about some issues that can be viewed as controversial and on social have you ever encountered a situation where you’re almost having to basically say, “You know what, I need to remove myself from this conversation. It’s gone a direction I don’t want to go in,” or, “I’m not comfortable.” Have you found that has happened on social or for the most part, have the conversations been just a good exchange of ideas?

Farzana Doctor:
It’s been the latter, which is great. I know that lots of people get trolled and there can be a lot of meanness, but in general, that hasn’t happened to me. There’s been one or two situations and I just have blocked people, but it’s really not the main experience. Mostly it feels very supportive.

Mike Onorato:
Good.

Farzana Doctor:
So I’m glad about that.

Mike Onorato:
That’s great. Yeah. And I asked the question only because as somebody who also manages our company, some of our company profiles, I have to, unfortunately in this day and age, sort of think again if I’m going to either share something or want to say what are the ramifications if I do this? Well, if I say this on behalf of our company, what could somebody interpret that as? And even in our publishing world, even in our world because there is a lot of controversy in publishing, right, with eBooks and all that sort of thing. So it gives me pause sometimes because you want to always just be aware of that other side, how something could be interpreted.

Farzana Doctor:
Yeah.

Mike Onorato:
Shifting gears for a moment, you had to endure what unfortunately a lot of other authors have experienced, and that is finding yourself sort of in charge of your own publicity after changes at your publisher.

Farzana Doctor:
Yes.

Mike Onorato:
And talk about what that was like especially in the age of COVID.

Farzana Doctor:
Yes. It initially really was freaking me out. So when the pandemic started, nobody knew how long it was going to last or what it would mean. Everybody was just doing their best. And one of the things that happened with my publisher is they laid off my publicist for a period of time because they were trying to figure out how they were going to survive, right?

Farzana Doctor:
So I knew that my book was going to come out and some of the long lead things would not work because there was nobody working on my behalf. So that was the moment when I really realized that I had to take control over my own marketing and publicity. And later on, a publicist did come in and did really good work for me at my publisher. But in the beginning I had to really sort through what I was going to do.

Farzana Doctor:
So one of the things that I did was I hired my laid off publicist on a freelance basis. I asked her to send me a typical looking pitch. I tweaked it. And what I would do is I would gather information of where I wanted her to send it. I would write the pitch, send it to her and she would perhaps tweak it a little bit and then send it off. So, I was working on the pitch really, and she was sending.

Farzana Doctor:
And then eventually I had a publicist to work with at the publisher and so that things got better. But my biggest takeaway was don’t be passive. It was my book and even though I’m not a professional publicist in any way, I am the lead publicist.

Mike Onorato:
Right.

Farzana Doctor:
Because the other piece is publicists can only work with you for a short amount of time. And publicists at publishers tend to be so overworked and probably underpaid so they have limits, right? And often you hear that six weeks in, they have to move on and work on other books and so you are on your own at that point. So, I really think like it’s the don’t be passive, don’t be shy idea. One of the things I did was I looked at a couple of books that had been published about nine months before mine. And I watched like, “Okay, who are you getting reviews from? Who’s talking about your book? Who’s the podcaster you were talking to?” And I just sent pitches to all of those people. Yeah.

Mike Onorato:
That’s the way to do it. You’re a publicist. And I think we kind of call that sort of either reverse engineering or it’s just, it’s intel to see what kinds of things are done. But you’re exactly right in that regardless of how long you work with a publicist, nobody knows the book better than the author. Nobody knows the ways to work it into a conversation better than the author. And so at the basic level, every author is the book’s publicist, marketer, chief salesperson, editor, everything else, that all falls on you. But a lot of the tips and things that you’ve done are little tricks that publicists will use.

Farzana Doctor:
And I’m kind of like, I don’t feel bad about having to have learned all of this. This is good skill. This is good learning to have. And I learned more things when my publisher’s publicist came on board and I learned all kinds of things from Michela Della-Monica, who I worked with at Smith for a short period of time. So I’m just kind of picking up more and more tips and tricks for the next book.

Mike Onorato:
That’s great. And a shout out to Michela who I’m sure will be listening and she’ll hear that and she’ll send me a note. And how did you go about creating your pitch? I think this is an interesting conversation because I think a lot of authors when they hear the word pitch, they think of sort of like an advertising magazine sort of campaign, but a pitch needs to be short, pithy, interesting, I think I read somewhere that we have eight seconds to capture someone’s attention when we send the pitch.

Farzana Doctor:
Yeah.

Mike Onorato:
So talk about that process and how you created that.

Farzana Doctor:
Yeah. So I used a template that my laid off publicist sent me and essentially it was a few lines about the book and why it’s important, a few lines about who I am as an author, a few lines about advance reviews. And then also, depending on who I was sending it to, I would try to talk about why it might be of interest to them. But yes, very short and sweet, full of links if they want to follow up. Yeah.

Mike Onorato:
That’s it. That’s all the important things and I think the links are great especially. We have found that a lot of media will want to check out your social platforms. We have heard from several podcast producers. They want to see what kind of following you have before they book you so that you can help drive up their numbers, right? So providing those links, here’s a link to, and even if it’s visuals or if you have headshots, cover images, whatever, all those things can just help. But again, attaching that to an email gets very clunky and people aren’t necessarily going to open it. So having links, I think, to a good, strong website is crucial.

Farzana Doctor:
Yes. And it is this mutual reciprocal kind of relationship. So, you’re promoting that podcast right back while they’re promoting you so that’s also something to remember. This is all relationship building.

Mike Onorato:
Right. In this day and age with many in-person events shifting to virtual, talk about some of the events that you created for Seven and if you have any data or results that you could share as well.

Farzana Doctor:
Okay. Yeah. So I did everything online. I haven’t done a single in-person event because the book came out September, October. So, I planned a Canada launch. I planned a US launch. And then I found myself after I got some invitations to festivals and to be on panels and different kinds of things, but I still wanted to do some things on my own.

Farzana Doctor:
So I started planning and I was using social media to help me out quite a bit. So on Instagram, I thought about what could I do that would be added value. So I started interviewing people who were involved in my book. So I interviewed my audio book’s actors, which was a lot of fun because actors are very engaging. I interviewed my agent. I interviewed my cover designers. I did an author chat with another author. So I found different ways to do short and sweet events. So the other thing is that people are getting quite fatigued, right? So half-hour events, 40 minute events, keeping it to that is I think a nice idea.

Farzana Doctor:
I learned to do things like send multiple reminders out. Most of us are a little bit, what’s the word, timeless these days like we’re having trouble keeping track and I have trouble like I will say, “Yes, I’m coming to your event,” and then completely forget that it’s happening.

Mike Onorato:
Right.

Farzana Doctor:
So one of the things that my partner did was he had a list of 20 friends and he would send out the link 15 minutes before something was going to start saying, “Hey, everyone tune in in 15 minutes.” And that got lots of people remembering and showing up so that was good.

Farzana Doctor:
What else would I say? I’ve done a lot more book club events, because it’s easy for me to come and show up for 45 minutes. I don’t have to travel anywhere. There can be book clubs in a different country who can invite me. So, those were some of the events and I’m still doing events. I’m trying to think of other tips.

Mike Onorato:
I think it’s interesting, too, that you mentioned other countries. And I mentioned this before on previous pods, some of our longtime listeners will know this, that’s one of the benefits of how we’re doing these events now because it used to be that you had to go to a certain city, right, and you would either do it at a bookstore or another venue and only folks that were in that particular city could attend.

Mike Onorato:
Well, now that we can do things the way we’re doing them, anybody can listen to any author anywhere.

Farzana Doctor:
Yes.

Mike Onorato:
So I love the fact that we’re exposing more books and authors to more people simply because, again, of the way in which we’re all doing them.

Farzana Doctor:
And another cool thing is that all of these events get recorded so then you can post the recording for people who missed it. You can also edit the video to have short clips that you can post on social media. So all of these events end up having a longer life than if it was just a single event in a bookstore.

Mike Onorato:
For sure, for sure. Well, this has been great. This has been an interesting conversation for me to have, because to hear just your tips and tricks and the way you go about it and sometimes it’s not as difficult as creating all this content. Sometimes you just got to be a nice person and comment on somebody else’s book and conversation. That’s the way, too, and I think we should all be nicer people, right?

Farzana Doctor:
Especially on social media, we should be nicer.

Mike Onorato:
Amen. Oh, my goodness. Sometimes I need to just log off. And even, I follow it in the sports world. I follow it in the dog world. And even then sometimes you’re like, “Oh boy, please. I just want to go on here to see a dog picture, get a score and laugh, not get caught up in a rabbit hole of argument.” But this has been great. Farzana, I’ve so enjoyed our conversation. Before I let you go, please tell people how they can find you online with your website address.

Farzana Doctor:
So I’m using Linktree. This is another tip is to use short links. So Linktree is L-I-N-K-T-R.E-E and then forward slash my name Farzana Doctor, F-A-R-Z-A-N-A-D-O-C-T-O-R. So one of the things that’s cool about Linktree is you can post 10 links within there, and people can see some of the recent interviews and articles and things like that.

Mike Onorato:
That’s great. I thank you for your time. Once again, this has been the All Things Book Marketing podcast. I’m your host, Mike Onorato. Bye for now.

Speaker 1:
Thank you for listening to this edition of the Smith Publicity All Things Book Marketing podcast. To reach us and learn about our many book marketing services, visit www.smithpublicity.com or send us an email to info@smithpublicity.com.