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Unraveling the Mystery of Effectively Using Social Media to Promote Your Books

Computer Laundry DayIt’s no mystery that no matter how much marketing/promotion your publisher may do for your mystery/thriller books, it is up to authors to help in this effort.

After all, if you spent all that time writing, revising, finding an agent, and getting a publisher for your books, you do not want to abandon your creations right at the moment of their birth.

Here is the most important secret to marketing/promoting your own books:

It is a mistake to wait until the moment of birth. In fact, the sooner you begin establishing a following for yourself (your brand as a writer) the better.

Let’s look at this in a timeline:

You are writing a mystery novel – or thinking about writing a thriller novel – and no one except perhaps your best friend knows this.

If you start your book marketing now, you will have a sufficiently long lead time so that you will not be starting from zero at the moment your book bursts onto bookstore shelves and/or online book stores.

It is important to realize not all book marketing is created equal. You do not want to utilize a scattershot approach. Instead you want to target your ideal mystery/thriller readers.


Why create a brand for yourself on social media?

Exactly because social media – such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube and blogging – is social. People can “get to know you” and to interact with you.

As your brand is connected to your mystery or thriller novels, you want to interact and exchange information with people who are your ideal readers. These people can often be easily found by using the search function on social media sites.

The end result of this targeted interaction?

When faced with a choice of buying a book from an unknown author or a book from an author they have engaged with on social media, people are more likely to go with the book whose author they feel they already “know.” And that book could be your mystery or thriller.

In other words, putting in the committed effort over a long time period can pay off in book sales. And it can also pay off in many other unexpected ways.

(One example of an unexpected benefit from being on social media: I got the opportunity to write this guest blog post because Mulholland Books marketing director Miriam Parker spoke on a webinar, during which she put out the offer of people writing guest posts for the Mulholland Books blog.)

How to market your brand as a mystery writer on social media before you have a book:

This is actually a very effective time to start working on your reputation as a mystery book author. Because your book is not yet out, you will be less tempted to make the error of constantly promoting your book instead of creating online relationships.

If you are on social media now, you probably have noticed the annoying authors who only tweet on Twitter, for example, about buying their books. This is NOT the way to create relationships with prospective mystery book fans and joint venture partners.

The way to start establishing yourself on social media is to share information related to your interests. As a mystery author you might share links to blog posts about deadly poisons, or finding an agent who loves thrillers, or the changes in ebook platforms, or anything else that others interested in mysteries might enjoy.

Start a blog on a self-hosted website:

Now you are a writer, correct? Then you should be happy to use your writing ability to connect with people who might be interested in you.

Again, as a mystery book writer you might blog about “realistic” ways to poison someone, or even topics related to a main theme of your mysteries, such as drug addiction or sexual abuse.

The self-hosted part of this equation is very important. You do not want to be dependent on the whims of others. For example, while a Facebook Page (as opposed to your Facebook profile) may be a good idea for making connections for a future book launch, this Page is subject to Facebook’s whims – which can change overnight – and your Page could be shut down, never to return.

In other words, while it is easier to start with a hosted blog (such as on blogger.com – and I made this error in the spring of 2008 for my novel “Mrs. Lieutenant”), why not start out correctly with a self-hosted blog that you own?

These days, thanks to the incredible input of so many talented people, a self-hosted WordPress website (actually WordPress.org, which is not the same as the hosted WordPress.com) that you can change yourself once the site is live is the best way to go. Once you get the hang of making changes, it takes only moments to add a new book signing or change the price of your ebook.

Timeline strategy for creating an author brand on social media:

1. Get a self-hosted website/blog and start blogging. (Give thought to the brand you are creating.)

2. Create effective social media profiles on major sites – focus on your mystery writing. (Start with the professional site of LinkedIn and consider joining the Book Marketing group on LinkedIn that I started. We exchange lots of good information.)

3. Use the same good headshot on your website/blog and social media sites, and use the same username wherever you can. (Do not cover your eyes with sunglasses.)

4. On your social media sites share links to your blog posts and other people’s posts.

5. Leave insightful comments on other people’s blog posts. (Get a gravatar.com free account so that on gravatar-enabled blogs your photo will automatically appear when you leave a comment.)

6. When you read blog posts about book promotion sites, check these out. While you probably don’t have time to participate on all of them, do choose a few sites. (One site I recommend is BookBuzzr.com)

7. Learn from everyone – knowledge is power – although do realize that information about the Internet changes literally at the speed of light.

8. Make sure you have a robust Amazon public profile (available for everyone who has an Amazon account – meaning everyone who has ever bought on Amazon); write Amazon reviews for mystery books similar to yours.

9. Remember that, when you do have a mystery novel on Amazon, you can then build out your Amazon Author Page (see authorcentral.amazon.com for the U.S.).

10. Establish relations with other mystery novelists who are online. Retweet their tweets, share their links, exchange info with them – they will probably do the same for you.

In conclusion, as these online social media activities become more comfortable, you can continue to expand your online mystery book marketing activities. And there will continue to be new online book marketing opportunities of which you can take advantage.
After all, who knows what the next Facebook or Twitter will be?

Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the co-founder of the social media marketing company Miller Mosaic LLC, which helps clients with social media marketing and WordPress websites. She participates in volunteer online efforts to support our troops, including disseminating information on PTSD (see www.mrslieutenant.blogspot.com), and another site of hers is FictionMarketing.com to help fiction writers.
She is also the author and co-author of fiction and nonfiction books, including the Amazon 2008 Breakthrough Novel Award semifinalist ”Mrs. Lieutenant” and the ebook technothriller ”Lt. Commander Mollie Sanders”. She is currently working on the espionage thriller “CIA Fall Guy.”