April 27, 2015

Talking Shop: Taking Matters Into Your Own Hands

There's been some very sad news for us here at Foreplay and Fangs this week. Our regular publisher, Breathless Press, has announced its closure, and all Breathless books will be pulled from sales sites as of May 1st.

All of my books will be available until May 1st on the Breathless Press website, and all e-book editions are only $.49 until the site closes. After May 1st, my books will be temporarily unavailable, until they've found a new home.  I will keep all Foreplay and Fangs readers updated. Thank you for your understanding.

Shortly after I started seeing some success in publishing my books, my father shared with me his own creative work: a Vonnegut-esque sci-fi adventure he's been working on since I was but a wee girl. He didn't even realize I remembered reading his first attempts when I was in fourth grade!

My dad has been asking me to help him get the book out there. The problem is, he—quite literally—wants nothing to do with promoting the book. He has no interest in creating an online presence or interacting with readers...he doesn't want to keep up with social media or blogging.

The problem is, for indie authors, it doesn't work that way.

With my publisher closing, many of us authors are looking to the future, and options of self-promotion and self-publishing. When it comes to small and independent press, and self-published authors, promotion is a tricky situation to navigate. The fact is, if you're going to be noticed in the world of publishing—especially self-publishing—you must be ready to utilize social media platforms to put your name, face, and brand out there to potential readers. For many indie authors—like my dad—this is a very intimidating prospect.

So today, let's talk about how an indie author gets started putting their brand out in social media.


The majority of internet users are on Facebook. According to the Pew Research Center, 71% of online adults use it, and I think that's conservative. Facebook ought to be the first site any indie author goes to, to create an internet presence.

As an author, how do you use Facebook?

First off, consider that Facebook is like a wide-ranging, online yearbook of you. When people search for you on Facebook, the likelihood is they're interested first and foremost in finding out about you, your personality, and your social history. Facebook is equipped for hosting and sharing events, interests, and milestones.

Authors often use Facebook to advertise their books, book sales, special offers, free reads, and etc. When these advertisements become repetitive, most of your Facebook friends will ignore them. Some will unfriend or unfollow you. Using your author's Facebook Page as an online sandwich board for your book specials is not an effective use.

Full disclosure: I have absolutely been guilty of spamming my Facebook groups with book promos. At one point I shared every promo post to over 100 groups. I, too, have been a spammer.

It was never effective, though. Every group I posted to was full of hundreds of authors posting the same promos for their own work. So I would spend upwards of an hour every day copying a message to 100 groups, and my message would be almost immediately buried in practically identical promos by other authors. A quick scan through the group walls showed me that very few to none of these promo posts actually received any attention. No one commented, liked, or shared the promos further, because none of the group members were there to find book deals...we were all there in hopes that the others were there to find ours.

You can see how that would be a fruitless effort.

These days, I maintain two Facebook "identities": my personal page, and my Foreplay and Fangs Supernatural Romance page. I maintain my personal page the way just about anyone maintains a Facebook page: I post about my interests, life events, inspirational or funny messages, fun facts, and so on. I do share my book information, including links to buy them and information on sales...but usually just once or twice. It helps me to remember the people who "friend" me are friends. They may have found me through author events or begun as readers, but if they've requested access to my personal page in the form of a friend request, they are looking for the person, not the product. A friend can certainly share a writing success or a book buy link, but your friends are looking for more than that. Stories about your day, your pets, your vacations, your witticisms, your favorite quotes, your recommendations for reading, your favorite movies or music, all these make up the real person behind the book covers, and that is what Facebook friends are interested in.

My Foreplay and Fangs page is my "business" persona. I don't pretend to be anyone else when I use this page; it's simply where I post the majority of my writing-related information, such as book buy links, promotional posts, advertisements, book trailers, and etc. I'll also post here about progress in new projects, and occasionally I include a post or two about my feline muse Schala, who is slowly becoming the mascot of Foreplay and Fangs on Facebook. But this is where the majority of my business posting takes place. People who "like" or "follow" this page are interested in the topic of the page, mainly my supernatural romance, so when they sign up to see my posts they are looking for content related to my work, not so much my personal life.

Followers and Facebook friends will often consist of many of the same folks, which is perfectly fine. Unless you prefer to keep your personal page separate, you should be happy to interact with fans and readers outside your business space. If you do want to keep your personal page separate and isolated from your author endeavors, I suggest keeping two separate personal pages: one for your private life, one for your public persona. Make the private one unsearchable and visible only to the people you want to have access, like personal friends and family. But don't skimp out on giving your readers the chance to interact with you on a personal level, too. This is a more lasting relationship, and will generate more interest, that a repetitive list of promotional postings with no personality to invest in.

My personal goals for Facebook in the coming year: stimulate more interaction on my Foreplay and Fangs page by inviting more reader involvement, such as polls and trivia; participate in author events including games and giveaways, creating more opportunities to meet new fans; increase my number of "Likes" to over 1,000.  Feel free to use these goals yourself, but set some goals for your own Facebook experience!


Everything I learned about Twitter, I learned from Rayne Hall. She's written an eBook on the subject called Twitter for Authors, which I consider an excellent place to start, but she also tweets actively and demonstrates the strategies and techniques from her book in actual practice...and she gets a lot of interaction! She's very present on this social media network, and very accessible to authors and followers with her #writetip and #indiepub hashtags. I suggest following her.

Once upon a time I tweeted only about my books, what my books were about, where my books could be found, and when my books were on sale. Much like my 100 Facebook Groups, this did very little for me. Twitter is a place for conversation and interaction, not advertisement. This doesn't mean you can't advertise...only that you're not going to achieve any sort of real presence if that is all you do.

Twitter is the social network I hear writers complain about most. "I have no idea how to use Twitter", they say. I think this is because there are so many messages flying back and forth, and it's difficult to gain followers at first unless you are already a celebrity, and we end up feeling like it's a wasted effort to try and start conversations when so few people are "listening". So many authors automate their promo tweets and leave it at that.

Like Facebook, Twitter will do you very little good unless you are actually present for your followers. People who follow you on Twitter want to talk with you and interact with you, not be spammed with advertisement (honestly, every time I see a "sponsored tweet" in my feed I want to strangle the Twitter exec who allowed it to take up valuable space reserved for people I actually want to hear from).

I automate about 4-5 promo tweets per day, including buy links to my books. I also automate tweets for my blog posts, which (hopefully) provide interesting information for my followers, or free content for them to sample. I automate about 2 reminders per day that my newsletter subscribers are entered in to win a giftcard prize every month, and I automate my #FF posts (this I automate mostly to be sure I don't leave anyone out, as I have a lot of Twitter folks I consider worth following).

This is, admittedly, a lot of automated posts, and I do often worry that I may be spamming my followers too much. However, my book promos are repeated the least often of all my tweets, totaling about one promo per book, per day, and spread out over several hours. All other automated information is non-advertisement and does not call for my followers to actually buy anything.

The important tweets, however, are the ones that aren't automated. Rayne Hall encourages writers to minimize the amount of automated tweets and promo tweets, and maximize actual reader interaction. Recently, a professional social media seminar speaker suggested this exact same thing, and gave a "target" number for these non-promo tweets: roughly 10 per day. My own personal feelings are, since I already automate about 10 per day, I should be doubling that number in non-promo, non-advertisement, purely conversational and social tweets.

How do I get to 20 conversational tweets per day?

It's not always about starting conversations, or getting others to interact with you. Watch your feed for tweets from others that you can genuinely respond to. As an author, I often see tweets marked as "Writing Question of The Day", or, as an erotic author, "Sex Talk", and similar. I respond and look to start conversations. Quite often the posters of these also respond, and we can trade a half-dozen, maybe even a dozen tweets. Others can also see the conversations and get involved. This creates social interaction and interest, and could gain you some new followers as well.

When not responding to the posts of others, you can tweet about your own endeavors, such as what you are writing or reading currently, who your favorite authors are, or some favorite quotes. There are trending hashtags (which is Twitter-speak for "discussion topics" and "search terms") listed on the left of your Twitter feed. You can click on these to see the conversations going, or post your own thoughts using that hashtag to draw interested parties to you. Sometimes these hashtags are "games" of a sort. I for one post under the hashtag #IfMovieTitlesWereLiteral, when I'm trying to overcome writer's block. A tweet of mine might look like this:

#IfMovieTitlesWereLiteral – "Silence of the Lambs", 2 hour panoramic shot of a sheep pasture. No soundtrack.

#IfMovieTitlesWereLiteral – "88 Minutes", audience watches a clock for just under an hour and a half.

These are frivolous, fun tweets, and there are several other hashtag games similar. Throwing in a few creative ones can help start conversations and gain followers as well.

There are millions of things to tweet about, and several sites and resources to help you think of what kind of content to tweet. But, like Facebook, Twitter is a social network, and to get the most out of it, you have to put social investment into it. You can't sit on Twitter and wait for the masses to come to you...you have to go to them, and be a real person to them, rather than an automated ad reel.

My goals for Twitter in the next year: increase to 1000 followers; Follow more readers and book reviewers; post at least 20 non-commercial posts daily, at least 3 days per week (but 5 is better). Feel free to use these goals as well, but set some goals for your own Twitter experience!

Social media is social. For people like my dad, who haven't really become comfortable with these kinds of interaction, or who feel socially awkward, this presents a problem. It isn't going away, however. In future Talking Shop posts, we'll look at running your own blog and using other sites like Pinterest, Google+, Youtube, and a personal website. Check back for more!


  1. I LOVE all the advice on Facebook and Twitter, but you've forgotten something important... Blogs! Don't forget how wide a range blogs can cover and give opportunity to not only connect with readers, but also with cross-promotion through blog hops and "book tours". *grins* I've noticed a great many authors who may have websites and/or blogs who fail to use them for the great tool they are.

    I do, however, have a question... How do you schedule in all this time for being social with time for writing?

  2. I plan to write a whole post on the subject of blogs very soon. They are probably one of the most important social media outlets authors use, so they warrant at least an entire post of their own!

    As for time, personally I find little moments here and there and everywhere to check in with my social networks, in between my other tasks. I keep my Twitter and Facebook open in the background as I work, and use them to "take a break" every now and then. This has the added bonus of giving me something to post about, too. Very often I hear authors say, "But I have nothing to tweet about!". Tweet about what you're working on! The hashtags #amwriting, #amediting, and #amreading are popular terms to draw authors and readers to your post. You can post little sneak peeks, clever or enticing lines, talk about a scene that is giving you trouble, etc. BUT, you shouldn't be tweeting MORE than you write. I usually give myself word sprint goals: 15 minutes of writing, 10 minute break, repeat. Or I use a program called "Self Restraint" that blocks my internet access entirely for a period of time (I usually go half an hour), then take a little longer break to check in and chat a little.

    It's also good to check in periodically at other times, as you can. If you have a smart phone this is easy. If not, it gets trickier, but not impossible. I took my Kindle with me on a trip and took a few moments to check in when I could find free wifi. I even live-tweeted from the theater at the Penn and Teller show recently, and got replies, retweets and favorites from other P&T fans. As an exciting bonus, Penn Jilette responded to me as well!


What do you think?