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Beginner's Social Media: A Guide for Authors

David Marshall Posted by David Marshall, Vice President of Editorial and Digital , Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

David Marshall heads the editorial department, which is responsible for 40-50 new titles per year and 5-10 digital products or initiatives. 

Beginner's Social Media: A Guide for Authors

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What: Join the social media network that feels right for you, and make the most of it!

The social media landscape is changing constantly, and many authors feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available. The good news is, you don’t have to do them all. It’s much better to be powerful on a few sites than weak on many sites. Becoming an influencer on a social media site can be quite a significant time investment, so concentrate your resources in a strategic way.

Why: As we all know, there are a tremendous number of potential customers on social media. The jury is still out on whether social media is useful for direct sales, but it’s definitely useful for brand awareness, building a reputation, and getting a start on deeper relationships.


Step 1 - Select a service that matches your themes and audience.

You should think about what kinds of social media your desired readership would most likely use. For example, business book authors might concentrate their efforts on the career-focused site LinkedIn. Facebook is more focused on people’s personal lives, so self-help authors might go there to connect with readers on a personal level. Authors of more political books might search for fellow activists on Twitter, where hot-button issues can travel fast. Authors with a charismatic speaking presence might find people connect with them most on YouTube. It all varies depending on the person and the content of the book.

Step 2- Creating a profile that helps you connect with potential readers.

Adding the places where your book is sold and a little blurb about each of your books may be appropriate for interest-specific sites, but for bigger social-oriented sites, just post your personal site. Avoid aggressive salesmanship by providing helpful content even if visitors to your page don’t click through to purchase your

book. Create your own virtual bookshelf on Facebook, showing your book covers to visitors. For sites like LinkedIn, you may spend more time creating a professional image, but otherwise, keep it friendly and simple.

Step 3 - Look for groups of similar interests such as other authors, publishers, book marketing discussion groups, or just others interested in the same topic or genre as your books. Join an ongoing debate or discussion. Hopping on the net and pitching your book immediately doesn't seem to pan out very well on social network services. Social networkers expect communication and a potential ongoing relationship, not a quick sale and exit. Here are examples of social network discussions that align to Berrett-Koehler book subjects:

Quite a few hashtags on Twitter have rousing discussions on social change: http://www.socialbrite.org/2011/12/27/45-hashtags-for-social-change/

ASTD Group on LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/company/astd has lively discussions on business topics.

Here are some Facebook groups that broadcast helpful self-help messages:




Step 4 - Find and add friends who are within your interest groups.

You should enjoy building a friends base, but don't be haphazard about adding friends. Clicking on random profiles doesn't yield as much fruit as locating and nurturing friends with similar interests. You also might consider saying in YOUR profile what type of friends you are looking for. That will help you attract the right people.

Step 5 - Consider building and leading an interest-specific group within a site. The freedom of adding topics for discussion, pictures, articles, links, and videos comes with responsibility. Measuring the pulse of group interest can become a time-consuming activity, but can yield great feedback and buzz if done well.

Step 6 - Link back to your website and bkconnection.com. As you become known on social network groups, let them know how to find out more about you.

How Much: The best part of networking is the cost: free! But time is money, so beware of the time sink; virtual communities can become addicting. Allocate a certain amount of time to network building and stick to it. Social networking can do wonders building buzz around your books, but be patient. Don’t look for big sales spikes right away. Concentrate on building relationships, just like you would in a real-life social situation.


, A blog post on five authors who successfully used social media to reach readers and sell books: http://blog.hootsuite.com/five-authors-using-social-media/ All of these author did have exceptional platforms pre-social media, but they used their social media to keep the attention of their readers on an ongoing basis.

, Here is an excellent article by the well-known Guy Kawasaki, featuring social media tips for authors:


, Here are some tips for organizing your time around social media so it doesn’t become as much of a time sink: http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2013/09/frances-caballo-2/

With these resources to get you started, I hope you feel free as an author to jump into social media. Remember that Berrett Koehler staffers are always happy to consult with Berrett Koehler authors around this issue.