Joel Friedlander of TheBookDesigner.com frequently tells me that when he talks to new authors about what they should do once they publish a book, he usually tells them something to the effect of, “You should have prepared for your first book two years ago.”
Ouch. But he’s right, of course.
When I published my first book, Social Media Just For Authors, in 2013, I’d had a website and two blogs for two years. And I’d been using social media for two years. Sounds good, right?
5 Mistakes I Made When I First Published
While it appears that I prepared for my launch, like many authors I was focused on writing my book. Here’s a summary of five things I did wrong.
1. The domain for my website was ACT Communications. Not a very enticing business name for writers, now was it?
2. Although I’d been blogging for two years, one blog was for businesses. The second blog started out as a blog catering to nonprofits. I didn’t switch the theme of the second blog to writers until I published my book. So again, I wasn’t doing much to build my platform or prepare my audience, authors.
3. The username on my Twitter account was ACT Communications. Worse, I was tweeting about social media for nonprofits and small businesses, and I wasn’t following many people, so my account was stagnant. My story gets worse. I was using a verification app that required anyone who followed me also to use and be verified by the app. If you’re using this type of app, your Twitter account is basically frozen and will never grow. Therefore, your platform will stagnate.
4. I followed the advice of a search engine expert and created a Facebook page for my book instead of an author page. His theory was that writers should have a Facebook page for each book they write. Now I know better. If I’d created a new Facebook page for every book I’ve written my audience would be divided, and I doubt that someone who liked my first Facebook page would like subsequent pages. Why would they? Last year, when Facebook began allowing pages to change their names, I switched my Facebook page to an author page, and I’m much happier. Now people can find my page by searching for my name.
5. I signed up for the Kindle Select Program on Amazon and made my book available for free several days. But guess what? I failed to add my free book to a myriad of lists that exist to publicize free books. Relying only on my social media, I had 800 downloads but think of the number of downloads I could have had if I’d signed up for a variety of services that publicize free books. And unlike people told me, sales didn’t spike after the promotion.
What I Now Do Differently
In my case, I did learn from my mistakes. Here are five things I changed.
1. I ditched the website ACT Communications and started SocialMediaJustforWriters.com.
2. I ceased blogging for businesses and nonprofits and focused my efforts solely on writers, especially indie authors.
3. I sought speaking gigs, teaching social media to authors. So far I’ve taught through Stanford’s and UC Berkeley’s Extended Education program, I led a workshop at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference and the Redwood Writers Conference (twice), and I’m a regular presenter at the San Francisco Writers Conference. I’ve also spoken to a variety of other author organizations.
4. I seek guest blogging opportunities. I’m a contributing writer for TheBookDesigner.com, blogger and Social Media Expert here at BookWorks, and I’ve written for a variety of other blogs, including Joanna Penn’s, Jane Friedman’s, Nina Amir’s, and Susanne Lakin’s.
5. I expanded my brand on social media. I switched my username on Twitter from ACT Communications to Frances Caballo. Plus, I got rid of the verification application and started following 100 people a day. As I mentioned earlier, I corrected my error on my Facebook page. On LinkedIn, I always mention my newest books in my headline now, and I’ve expanded my brand further by joining Goodreads, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram. (Note: I don’t recommend that all authors use this many social media networks.)
8 Correct Steps Worth Repeating
I must note that I did do a few things correctly with my first book:
1. I hired three editors. The first editor was a social media expert whom I asked him to review the manuscript to ascertain that all the facts were correct and to determine where I needed to expand information.
2. The second editor was a developmental editor. In my first book, I compared each social media network to a well-known writer. For example, I compared Facebook to Nicholas Sparks, Twitter to the Spanish poet Miguel Hernandez, and LinkedIn to Agatha Christie. My editor helped me expand on this concept. As a Luddite, she helped me to see where authors with little experience in social media needed more explanation.
3. The third editor checked the spelling and grammar.
4. My cover designer was the talented Kit Foster, who has designed all of my book covers, except for the eBooks I sell strictly on my website.
5. The graphic designer I hired had tremendous experience in the publishing industry and provided invaluable guidance.
6. As soon as I published my book, I arranged to be an exhibitor at the San Francisco Writers Conference. My book literally sold like hotcakes and caught the attention of co-founder and literary agent Michael Larsen. I’ve since become a regular presenter and the conference’s social media manager.
7. I mailed books to influencers in the field. They, in turn, raved about my book on Facebook and invited me to speak to their writers’ groups.
8. I hired an experienced book tour company. They contacted high-trafficked blogs in the U.S., Canada, and France. The bloggers wrote honest reviews, sponsored contests for free copies of my book, and a few of the bloggers also wrote five-star reviews on Amazon.
Now it’s your turn. Please tell me about the mistakes and the great marketing decisions you’ve made as you launch your books.
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