Welcome back to Smith Publicity’s Industry Innovations Series! In this new 12-part blog series, the team at Smith Publicity will explore a variety of industry-related topics: from the evolution of self-publishing to the explosion of podcasts to social media and how it’s changed book marketing and much more. Each month, we will discuss how different innovations have evolved and the impact they’ve had on our work as book publicists and the industry as a whole. Let’s dive in…
Social media has changed the landscape of book promotion and thought-leadership for authors, providing a plethora of new opportunities for sales, connections, reviews, interviews, speaking opportunities, and contact with your fan base. It can be an author’s greatest asset. But, social media and its constantly-evolving landscape can also be the bane of an author’s existence, depending on your expertise, book subject, and platforms. Social media isn’t going anywhere, whether you like it or not. The key is to use this technology in a way that is most effective for you and to choose the right platforms to reach your audience. (Tip: You don’t have to be on every app). Once you establish those areas, navigating the social landscape will be a much more enjoyable and rewarding experience.
Many authors don’t even have an active social media presence until it comes time to promote their book- and that alone can cause stress and anxiety. Setting up and maintaining profiles across various apps is overwhelming and time-consuming. And once you find out that you should be online building your platform at least a year before the release of your book, you’re already going to feel behind as you struggle to launch.
On the other hand, some influencers are so successful on social media that they decide to write and publish a book to further build their business or personal brand. For them, posting comes naturally and is a regular part of their day. They already have their community and know how to engage them, so adding in promotion for their book is effortless.
Whichever side you fall on, one thing is certain: authors need a social media presence. If you’re not online, you might be losing all those important opportunities. If you’re online too much, you might lose your sanity. It’s a fine line but with the right strategy, you can find your flow and use these tools to grow.
As a book publicist, I have clients who love social media and those who would rather spend their time doing literally anything else. One client recently got kicked off Instagram for posting something that got flagged and she raved that it was the best thing that ever happened to her. She discovered she had more time to invest in her passions and looking back, realizes that she doesn’t gain anything from social media. It’s not helping her grow her coaching business, or sell books. In fact, most of her author friends have also begun complaining about the algorithms and are wondering if social media is worth their time anymore. So, for this particular client, I suggested she change her focus on Instagram. Rather than worrying about posting in her newsfeed daily, I recommended she use a photo grid app and make the context of her page one huge collage-type image of her book cover. Then, when she wants to share on Instagram, she hops on with video stories that are quick and easy for her to chat. This is working. She is staying connected to her fan base (and establishing a presence for herself and her book) in a way that is authentic to her and beneficial for her life.
I can’t blame authors who hate social media, even if my job relies on it and I pitch influencers to review books on their accounts (thank you for giving publicists a new way to get results for clients!). In fact, as a self-published author who is also a book publicist, I feel the same. I am not a fan of the pressure of social media and keep my presence minimal. I’m not going to spend hours of my days creating Instagram-worthy content, making TikTok videos, or Tweeting about everything that happens in the news. It’s not me and not a fit for my life. I focus on two platforms: Facebook is where I share links to blogs I write on my personal website. Instagram is where I share photos of books I am reading and shout-out other authors I love. There’s a great community of book influencers and reviewers on Instagram, and that’s the one platform I found that I genuinely enjoy interacting on, so that’s where I focus. Sometimes I’ll share personal stories of something that might be valuable to others, but I am not posting just to post or promote. Everything is intentional and only takes a few minutes of my time.
I’ve seen clients go viral with niche topics posting reels on TikTok and Instagram. And that’s awesome, because they are super creative and fun and love being on camera. They’re evolving their platforms along with the ever-changing trends and it’s working for them.
As a publicist, I’m able to leverage a client’s social media following when I pitch them to the media. Producers love to book segments and interview thought-leaders and influencers who boast an impressive following. It’s big “get” for them the book and then once the author shares their interview with the media outlet on their own platforms, the station/website/etc. is getting free promotion to new viewers. Other influencers and bloggers also want to connect with these clients to do Instagram Lives and everyone wins.
Thanks to social media, authors and publishers have so many more ways to reach their target audiences and promote their books than in the past. We should embrace it. That doesn’t look the same for everyone. You may choose to post content on your own, or outsource to a social media manager or content agency depending on your financial means and business goals.
No matter which path you choose, doing it on your own terms will bring joy and success. That might mean you garner a massive following. Or that you attract the attention of brands for partnerships. Or, it might simply mean that someone in need found a post about your book through a hashtag you used and it changed their life. That’s the power of social media and why authors should embrace it. It helps you accomplish your core reason for writing books in the first place: entertain or educate others and make an impact on their lives.
Written by Joelle Speranza, Publicist