Virtual Events Guide for Authors
Basic Tips for Effective Social Media Strategy
Author Website Best Practices
Ideas for Promoting Books via Social Media
Author Marketing Timeline
Social media has become an essential tool for book marketing and promotion. It’s an excellent way to connect with readers and spread the word, but it can be difficult to figure out how to get started. This guide is a resource for authors looking to learn about social media, either dipping their toes into the social waters or diving right in.
Social media and how it works is constantly shifting. It’s important to stay agile and flexible. There are a lot of different options for social networks to consider and a lot of information on how to make the best use of the medium. Don’t get overwhelmed. Peruse it in pieces. Find the platforms that make sense for you and start where you can. Be authentic and persistent.
Go get social!
Basic Tips for Effective Social Media Strategy
The sooner you start building your social media profile, the better. Building an audience takes time. Social media works best when you consider it a way of building a relationship with your readers. They want to get to know you and interact with you. Don’t think of social media as a marketing tool that you use only short-term to market your book.
Reserve Usernames on All Major Social Media Services…
…even if you don’t use them. This includes: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, and any other popular or emerging platform. While this should be done in the spirit of being proactive and with the intention of engaging with the community, it’s also a smart way to protect your identity. You don’t want someone else registering your name and commenting with it in an active community.
Start with One Platform, and Do It Well
The social media landscape is constantly evolving—new platforms pop up all the time. At the moment, the most popular platforms for authors are Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads. Don’t feel pressured to do everything. Focus on the networks that feel most natural to you and expand from there. It’s better to engage deeply with readers on one platform than to spread your efforts an inch deep and a mile wide. Another way to decide which social network would be best for you is to follow some other authors and see what approach speaks to you. Your marketing manager will be glad to provide strategic advice.
Define and Find Your Audience
Think about the target audience for your book(s). Take a look at comparable authors and interest communities, and connect with these audiences through your own social media accounts. You may find that more specialized interest groups interact more with one another than with broader reader communities. Once you start being active on social media and gain followers, your social networks analytics will provide valuable audience insights that you can use to further refine your approach.
Find Partners and Reach Out
You’re not really starting from scratch—take advantage of existing blogs, influencers, and online communities. There are several ways to do this, like guest blogging or connecting with other influencers offline to find ways to partner. Reach out to other authors, especially the ones who write books in the same genre as yours. You can tweet at them, review their books, or share your favorite parts of their books on your channel. Tag them in your posts when possible. A little can go a long way.
Be Social on Social Media: Interact, Comment, Share
A lot of value in social media is not in what you own but in how you help others on their channels. Comment on the blogs you read, seek out niche forums in your market, share interesting posts with your followers, and participate in the conversation wherever it’s taking place. Interact with anyone who mentions anything relevant about you and your book—even if it’s just to say thank you for reading! Do not post too much promotional content or make it all about you. This comes off as annoying at worst and boring at best. Nobody wants to read constant sales pitches.
We recommend using popular hashtags in your posts to increase visibility…but don’t overdo it! Your own book has an official hashtag that we assign to it. Make sure to stay consistent with that hashtag so anyone can click on it and see all the content associated with it. Not sure what your official hashtag is? Reach out to your marketing manager, and they’ll let you know!
Check Out What’s Trending
Look at the popular topics of the moment for inspiration. Is there a way you can make it relevant to your book?
Go Behind the Scenes
Give people a behind-the-scenes look at your writing process with pictures of your workspace, your book in interesting settings, galleys arriving in the mail, etc. Did your book get a good review? Share your appreciation and, if you can, include a link or picture of the review along with it. You can also repost/retweet and comment with a section from the review. You may also want to share what you’re reading at the moment, or what is currently giving you inspiration.
Make It Visual
Even though we’re all readers and book lovers, photos and videos can help break up the text and complement the content that it accompanies.
- Each social platform requires a different size image for adequate viewing. Keep this in mind when you are sharing a cover reveal on Instagram especially; you do not want any of the details cut off.
- Check out Sprout Social's Guide to Social Media Image Sizes
- Canva is a very easy resource when it comes to creating graphics that fit each platform
Experiment with live streaming to share what’s happening in your day-to-day life. All platforms have a form of livestreaming, but the best ones to use are Facebook and Instagram Live.
Pro tip: If you’re planning a livestream, please let your marketing manager know via direct messages on the social channel you’ll be using or make a post and tag us so we can help promote it.
Not ready to broadcast live? No problem—there’s always Instagram Stories, which becomes increasingly popular each passing day. You can take snapshots and videos of your day and add captions/filters/stickers before sharing.
Don’t Be Afraid to Repurpose Content
A lot of platforms let you simultaneously post across other social media platforms, but this has become less popular in recent years. If you post something on one social media platform, consider whether you can repurpose it on another platform. But make sure to adjust toe style and messaging for each platform.
Pro tip: Asking other people for permission to repost their content with a credit to them as the creator is a great way to build relationships with readers, especially if you don’t have the time or means to create lots of original content. User-generated content is very popular right now. The best practice is to DM (direct message) the creator and ask for permission to share their post on your account with a credit to them in the post.
Keep It Classy
Keep in mind that nothing you post on social media is truly private. As a rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t say it on broadcast TV or to an individual’s face, it’s probably not a good idea to post it on social media.
Pro tip: Don’t engage with trolls—best to avoid them!
Keep Your Profile Up-to-Date
Keep your profile picture, cover photo, and bio up to date so that any visitor can see what you want them to know as soon as they get on your profile. Update cover photos across all social media platforms, where relevant, to include elements of your book cover. Your marketing team has an image available for you to use.
Let’s Be Friends on Social
Tag your publisher any time you post about your book and related events—tagging us guarantees our ability to share something that you’ve posted and expand the reach of your post.
If you include your publisher in your Instagram and Twitter bios, it increases your visibility because your profiles will show up when users search for our handle. It also allows readers to know who your publisher is, and they can follow us for more bookish news.
Remember: Be patient. Be creative. Be yourself. Your efforts on social media will shine most when you forget you are promoting yourself and your work.
BookBub provides information about new releases and pricing discounts to readers across genres via a very popular newsletter.
- Be sure to claim your author page and customize it with your current bio, website links, photo, and any other information that you’d like to share.
- Encourage readers to follow you on BookBub. Your followers will receive alerts when you release a new book. You can also recommend other books, and followers will receive an alert.
Amazon also has a “follow” feature available on your author page that can be utilized very similarly to BookBub's.
- Be sure to claim your author page using the Author Central Portal and customize it with your current bio, photo, and any other information that you’d like to share. Claim any books of yours that aren’t on it—this will get approved by the publisher but must start with you.
- If you maintain a blog you can have posts feed directly to your Author page. Here are two examples from authors Lindsey Tramuta and Janelle Shane.
- Encourage readers to follow you on Amazon by clicking the +Follow button on your author page. Your followers will receive alerts when you release a new book. (Our suggestion is to put this on your Contact or “Where to Find Me” page on your website.)
- Remind your readers that Amazon reviews mean a lot to you. They appear on the site after publication. Be sure to up-vote the ones that are the most useful.
- Additional images and graphics can be added by your marketing team, so if you see something you like, let us know!
Sharing Retailer Links
Something to keep in mind when updating your websites and posting on social media is that the major national booksellers keep an eye on this. To that end, you want to make sure that you’re actively letting your readers know that your HBG-published titles are available at all retailers. We recognize that Amazon/Kindle is often the first choice for readers—especially for authors who have also self-published with that platform—but don’t forget to share links to Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Apple Books, etc. too.
A few easy tweaks to keep in mind...
- If you have a B&N store or favorite independent bookstore in your area take a photo of your book in the store and tag the location of the store and @BNBuzz. It's possible your local store also has their own account, in which case you can @mention it in your post.
- Your website should have links to buy your books at a variety of stores including B&N.
Linking to Retailers on Social Media
When linking to your book on social media or your website, we recommend you link to the title page on hachettebookgroup.com or your title page on your imprint’s domain (e.g. grandcentralpublishing.com). Ask your marketing specialist to send you the correct links to share.
We don’t recommend linking directly to a retailer’s title page, except in cases where a specific retailer is running a promotion, or when you are visiting a specific store.
You can find the link to your book by searching for it on the Hachette Book Group website.
To keep your posts neat, it may help to use a URL shortener to compress the links, like:
A typical post may look like this:
QUEEN OF THE CONQUERED is on sale today!
Grab your copy here: http://ow.ly/2I3050uLPVZ
Author Website Best Practices
Do You Need Your Own Website?
Every author published by the Hachette Book Group has dedicated author and book pages on our corporate website, hachettebookgroup.com. Our web development team ensures that our book and author pages rank high in searches, are optimized for viewing on different screen sizes, and offer easy navigation and purchase options. Your book and author pages on hachettebookgroup.com can be enhanced through special content and link back to your social accounts. We regularly analyze our web traffic to ensure that our pages are delivering optimal performance.
Many of our authors decide that their pages on our corporate website are sufficient. Developing your own Website requires some effort in the initial setup as well as ongoing upkeep. While WordPress and other platforms have made it much easier and cheaper to create a professional-looking website, you may still need to hire a web designer to create a more customized experience.
If you would like to explore options for creating your own website, or are thinking about upgrading an older Website, we’re happy to provide advice, recommend online tools, or connect you with designers. We can also participate in the development of your personal site by contributing platform and design advice or by providing content such as book jackets and excerpts. We've also collected some of our top tips for author websites below.
Our Top Tips If You Choose to Develop Your Own Author Website
You can sign up with a free service like WordPress.com, Blogger.com, or a paid service such as Wix.com or Squarespace.com, which include domain registration. These programs are very easy to work with and don’t require any website coding knowledge.
Building your own website may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Keep it simple: include an extended biography, your books with cover images and links to purchase them (Publisher Page, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo, IndieBound, Ripped Bodice, etc.), a contact email, and all your social media handles. Also, be sure that your website is mobile optimized (which can be done easily using any of the programs above).
Content Your Author Website Should Have
- Home Page. A Home Page introducing your author brand. Your newest book and its description are perfect to include here.
- About Page. Include your author photo and professional bio.
- Books Page. List all of your books, including upcoming titles.
- Contact Page. Include a contact email or other contact method that readers, media, and industry folks can use to contact you.
- Social Media Links. Link all of your social media accounts. Most websites include these in the header and footer, but you may also include them in your About Page and your Contact Page.
Content to Consider for Your Website
- Blog. While a blog isn’t necessary, it is a great way to interact with readers. You can write about a variety of topics, but it is important to spend most posts talking about your writing and books in some way. How often you post to your blog is up to you, but it is important to stay consistent.
- News. Share news about your book and you as an author. Your publicist will share media hits with you, and these are always wonderful to share on your website
- Events. If you are doing any book signings or school visits, streaming on Instagram Live, or hosting other physical or digital events, your website is a vital place to host them.
- FAQ. Many authors include a general FAQ page to answer their readers’ most frequently asked questions. This is also the perfect place to add some humor and show off your unique personality.
- Newsletter Sign-up. If you have a newsletter, you’ll want to include a sign-up section on your website’s Home Page and About Page.
Additional Ideas for Website Content
While none of these ideas is absolutely necessary, each one is a great idea to spruce up your website, make it unique, and encourage readers to keep coming back.
- Share book excerpts and bonus chapters
- Share videos such as interviews, vlogs, and book recaps
- Include a For Writers Page. Since many readers and fans are aspiring authors, a page dedicated to your writing advice and process can be a great addition to your website
- Include testimonials, blurbs, and short reviews
- Include photographs, sketches, fan art, and illustrations
- Create an author podcast and host it on your website
- Include a music playlist to go along with your books
- Create BuzzFeed-style quizzes such as “What character are you?”
Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of making your website friendly to search engines. This is important because you want your website to appear close to the top of the search results when people search your name and book titles.
Here are the basics of SEO to keep in mind as you build and update your website:
- Keywords. Keywords are among the most important elements of SEO. Make a list of keywords that you think should make your website appear in search engines. The most important ones are your name and book titles. While it is fine to stop there, you may also want to include genres, locations, and other noteworthy words and phrases related to your author brand. Once you have your list, you’ll want to make sure you use those keywords throughout your website. Since you’ll be optimizing for your name and book titles, you’ll be doing most of this work already; however, it’s important to keep in mind that your name and book titles should appear on most, if not all, of the pages on your website. Remember that the more widely used the keyword, the less likely your website will appear at the top of the search results list for that term.
- Links. Your search engine ranking will increase when other reputable sites link to your website. When you do interviews, appear on podcasts, and write guest pieces for online publications, make sure that a link to your author website is included.
- User Interface. Make sure that when you design your website, it is easy to navigate and that everything is properly labeled. Search engines reward websites that don’t confuse users and are easy to navigate.
- Tags. Most of the free website builders we suggested will allow you to create tags for pages on your website and on blog posts. Add relevant tags to pages and posts. Tag not only your name and book titles, but also genres, topics mentioned in your content, and any other words or phrases you think may help users find your content.
- Blog. The simple act of having a blog and updating it regularly is great for SEO, especially when you are constantly using your keywords in your posts. If you are considering creating a blog, SEO is a great reason to do so.
- Image Alt Tags. Whenever you add an image to your website, you have the opportunity to add an “alt” tag. This is a simple image description that shows in place of the image if for some reason the image won’t show up on a user’s screen. Adding these, especially if they include your keywords, is a great practice for SEO. They also make the website more accessible to users with visual impairments because screen reading software can use the alt tags to describe the image to the user.
- Social Media and Newsletter. Share your website on social media whenever you have the opportunity. This is a great way to drive people to your website and thus make it more friendly to search engines.
Do not forget to update your website with your most recent release--with the latest projects at the top of the site--in the lead-up to publication.
Author Website Examples:
A newsletter is a great way to share more detailed information or exclusives with your readers. Many authors choose to send newsletters on a regular schedule such as monthly, but others find they work best to send only when there's new information to share. If you’re new to the idea of a newsletter a good place to start is by taking a closer look at those of your colleagues or other outlets that you follow.
There are several tools to manage a newsletter including services like Mailchimp, My Emma, and Constant Contact. It is worthwhile to do a bit of research to determine what platform fits your needs and your budget.
How to Build and Retain Your Newsletter Audience
The first two steps in growing your newsletter audience are adding a sign-up to your author website and sharing the link to the sign-up on your social media accounts. When you share the link, it is a good idea to give a brief description of what kind of content you will include in your newsletter. As you share content and grow your newsletter audience, it is often a good idea to promote that content on social media to remind your audience of the value it adds. That being said, it’s always good to have newsletter-exclusive content, such as book snippets and previews, photos, and contests or giveaways.
Consider hosting a sweepstakes for your newsletter subscribers. You can share your plans with your social media followers and set a deadline for people to subscribe. There are several platforms you can use to host your giveaway, but the one we recommend is Rafflecopter because it includes a free option.
How often you send out newsletters is up to you. It can be monthly, bimonthly, or even just when you have new updates to send. Find what works for you and determine what you can handle so you maintain the quality of your content. That said, it is incredibly important to be as regular as possible with your updates so your readers can expect and enjoy content from you on a set schedule.
You can write unique content, or you can repurpose some of your social media content and adapt it to fit your newsletter. For example, after posting some photos to your Instagram and/or Twitter, you can follow up with a newsletter that goes into more behind-the-scenes detail about the events of that day.
It is often a good idea to create “content boxes” that you can use every time or change up from newsletter to newsletter. For example, you may always include a “News” section at the top and a “Follow Me on Social Media” section at the bottom and change up the content in the middle. Here are some other content ideas:
- News about books, tours, appearances, etc.
- Fun blog posts
- Writing advice
- Q&As to answer commonly asked questions
- Thoughts on recent TV shows, movies, books, etc.
- Fan art
- Memes and other funny content
- Deals (such as when your book is discounted)
- Reader reviews
- Notes or letters to your readers
- Behind-the-scenes moments, photos, or stories
- Sneak peeks, bonus chapters, excerpts, etc.
- Links to your social media accounts (these should be in all of your newsletters!)
There are a lot of wonderful newsletter templates in the programs we've mentioned. Once you pick one, it’s important to keep the look and brand so contacts don’t get confused. If you do decide to change the design, which you shouldn’t do frequently, call it out in both the newsletter and on social media. Here are some other design tips to keep in mind:
- Make sure all text is readable.
- Optimize for mobile phones (this is usually very easy to do in the programs we recommended).
- Make sure your email headline and call to action are visible and have a clear purpose.
- Link all of your images.
- Include “alt” tags on your images so that they are labeled for users whose devices won’t show images.
- Use color in your email, but don’t overload it with too many different colors.
- Keep the length relatively short. Don’t add more than five content boxes if possible. Users won’t want to scroll very far down, especially on mobile devices.
Email Subject Lines
One of the most important parts of sending your newsletter is choosing your subject line. You’ll want to have fun and be creative with it. Ask yourself, “Would I open this email if I saw it in my inbox?” If the answer is “no,” you probably need a different subject line! Here are tips and ideas to inspire good email subject lines:
- Keep it short for mobile email openers (Around fifty characters is ideal).
- Express urgency (especially for deals and giveaways).
- Share deals (e.g. “Book Title” is 50% off at Barnes & Noble!).
- Ask a question
- Answer a commonly held question (e.g. My inspiration for “Book Title/Character Name”).
- Use a creative or interesting line from your book.
- Use a compelling descriptor of your book to incite curiosity.
- Use humor.
- Include numbers (e.g. “Book Title” is only 11 days away!).
- Reinforce the personal connection between you and your readers (e.g. A little note from me).
It’s always a good idea to monitor how many contacts are opening your newsletter. Most newsletter services will show basic analytics, such as how many people opened the email (open rate) and how many contacts clicked it (click rate). As of 2019, the average open rate for email newsletters in book publishing is around 17 percent. Monitor these numbers every time you send a newsletter to get a better idea of the subject lines and content that work best for your audience.
Below are a few free options:
Substack (recommended): Allows you to add paid subscriptions at any time.
Mailchimp: Features marketing and analytical tools and is free up to a certain number of followers.
HubSpot: Free with limitations.
Ideas for Promoting Books via Social Media
Now that we’ve covered the basic underlying structure for your social media efforts, we can discuss ideas for engaging with an audience online. Here’s a list of ideas to consider:
- Post photos from events surrounding the creation, launch, and promotion of the book.
- Discuss every milestone—including title brainstorming, cover creation, tour city planning, etc.— and share them as they happen.
- Run contests and giveaways for your book and other items your readers would love.
- Ask questions with a payoff. Don’t just ask: “What is your all-time favorite character in ____ genre” but tell people their answers will be used to create a list or some other type of content. Give them recognition.
- Respond to fans. Simple @replies on Twitter are very powerful.
- Guest-blog about topics that are helpful to the audience of the host blog. For instance, a fiction author can talk about the craft of developing characters on a blog for writers, or their favorite books of all time on a publishing blog. For every niche/topic, there’s a blog.
- Run Q&A sessions with your readers via Twitter, Facebook Live, Google Hangouts, etc. This could be a one-hour session, all text-based or with video, and should be promoted widely. What do readers want to know? What topic or types of answers would attract a wider readership?
- Create a virtual book tour in which you promote local bookstores on your social media, even if you can’t visit them. You could even do a live Google Hangout Q&A, Facebook Live, or Instagram Live session in conjunction with a bookstore or book group.
- Share content from the book, such as images, charts, or recipes.
- Find partners. It’s impossibly hard to build something without the help of others. Create relationships with other authors who are active on social media. Think of ways to work together and help one another out.
- Follow your publisher on social and tag us in all relevant posts. This allows us to see your post and share it with our followers.