PUBLISHED DECEMBER 2015
by Peter Goodman, Publisher, Stone Bridge Press
At Stone Bridge Press, we have devised a system for boosting our authors’ online presence and the online presence of their books by offering to do most of the dirty work.
Our decision to publish a book today probably has as much to with the quality of the author’s social media “platform” as it does with the manuscript’s content and market fit. How engaged is the author in social media? Does the author have a blog, a Facebook account, a Twitter account, a Pinterest or Instagram site? If so, is the author active and engaged? Are the author’s efforts effective? How many followers and how big a reach?
If your author is a social media maven, that’s great. Off to the races you go. But many authors are unengaged or lack enthusiasm for social media, or just don’t have the time to feed the beast on a daily or even weekly basis. So our publicist and marketing team drew up a set of guidelines and action items that we give to reluctant or super-busy authors to help direct their efforts.
We ask them to be involved (and they know they have to be) but ultimately—even while directing our authors’ energies to where they will have the biggest impact—we are still the ones who do most of the work, sending out review copies, chasing down media contacts, wordsmithing, brainstorming, preparing images, and handling other important tasks.
You’re welcome to adopt or adapt the document we send authors, which appears below, modified a bit for publication here. It focuses on the social media platforms that we think work best for us along with Facebook and Twitter.
You may find that other platforms and channels suit your needs better. But the point is this: Get your authors to do for you what they do best—provide content and a fan base—and handle the nuts and bolts yourself to insure optimal results. Also, don’t try to work every opportunity. Instead, focus on just a few tools and get to know them well.
Social Media + Publicity Tools for Authors (Beyond Facebook and Twitter)
Dear [Author Name]:
As part of our ongoing promotional efforts, the Stone Bridge Press Team has put together a series of strategies and platforms we plan to incorporate into our marketing and publicity work. Since many SBP authors are already active on social media, we’ve chosen to highlight lesser-known platforms that nonetheless offer effective ways to generate awareness of your book.
The key to unlocking the potential of many of these platforms is coordination between the SBP marketing and publicity team and SBP authors. More often than not, we will be able to set up and manage these accounts ourselves, but we will sometimes require you to generate content and ideas. We’ve outlined some of these platforms, how we can use them, and, when applicable, what information we’ll need from you.
Description: Goodreads is a book review, recommendation, and discussion site. It gives SBP the opportunity to hold raffles online for select titles. We ship the winner(s) of each raffle a free copy of the book. If they like the book they are encouraged to post a review online for others to see.
What we’ll do: We’ll run the giveaway through the SBP Goodreads page (goodreads.com/user/show/13230026-stone-bridge-press).
What we need from you: If we can get signed copies from authors, we will sprinkle those into the giveaways. Goodreads users love signed copies! We will send you books to sign and return to us.
- Sake Confidential Giveaway
- I Wait for the Moon Giveaway
Content for platforms like Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, and the SBP website
Description: Big news sites on the Internet grab their readership mostly with tantalizing headlines atop aggregated content, but some include original articles and features. A great way to generate interest in an upcoming title (and grow your social media presence) is to give away free content such as a short excerpt from your book. Depending on the platform, we can even ask users to give us something (like an e-mail address) in return for that content.
What we’ll do: We’ll guide you through posting whatever you choose to publish. However, as the author you may be asked to register the posting account under your name. We will work with you to determine the best placement for your work among several online news and feature sites.
What we need from you: We can always just excerpt from your book, but original unpublished content is better. If you have a section from your book that won’t make it into the final, a video of you speaking about a topic related to your book, a series of quotes, or an article you’ve written but don’t know where to place, let us know.
- “6 Quotes From Author Umberto Eco On Why People Love Lists”
- “Wrong About Anime” with Jonathan Clements
Description: SlideShare is a hosting site for PowerPoint slide shows to be shared and viewed online. SlideShare is great for distributing pithy quotes or cool graphics that relate to SBP books. Content created for SlideShare also works for Buzzfeedlisticles, whose headlines are highly regarded clickbait.
What we’ll do: We’ll design the slide show and put it online.
What we need from you: Ideas about content we can repurpose from your books including quotations, lists, pictures, etc. We can also share these slides individually through our own social media.
- Blooming Twig Books Halloween #Frightening Novels #booksthatmatter
- The Walking Dead Season 5: Tools for Survival
Description: Reddit (“The Front Page of the Internet”) is a huge site with tons of areas of special interest and millions of users daily. AMA stands for “Ask Me Anything” and gives authors the opportunity to engage on Reddit in real time with their fans in a community-moderated discussion. The main AMA page is full of major public figures (including Barack Obama), but there are smaller communities within the Reddit website where SBP authors can connect with specific fan groups.
What we’ll do: We’ll organize the AMA event with the Reddit moderators.
What we need from you: We need to know at least two months in advance that you are interested in doing an AMA. We also need to know several possible dates and times when you will be available to answer questions online.
- “We are the managers at the helm of NASA’s programs to allow us to send humans into deep space. Ask us anything!”
- “I am ‘America’s Most Beloved Author’ David Sedaris. AMA.”
- “I’m a FedEx package handler who touches a lot of your stuff. AMA.”
Description: Thunderclap, a social-media “crowdspeaking” platform similar to crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, invites Twitter and Facebook users to support a cause or product. Instead of money, Thunderclap asks users to donate a tweet or a post. If the cause or product receives the requisite support, Thunderclap sends preapproved messages to be posted simultaneously on supporters’ social media accounts, generating a concentrated “thunderclap” of noise, or what Thunderclap describes as an “online flash mob.”
What we’ll do: We’ll set everything up on the Thunderclap site and brainstorm topics.
What we need from you: Your help in developing a list of bloggers and other reviewers to whom we can forward links generated by the Thunderclap tweets and Facebook posts. We will also want your input on crafting a message.
- “Final Trillectro 2013 Lineup!”
- “The March for Innovation”
- “Happy Birthday AmeriCorps!”
Description: HARO, or Help a Reporter Out, is a free subscription platform journalists use to solicit information from experts and specialists. By sharing their expertise with a writer (often on deadline), authors can get their books mentioned in the media or boost their profiles as go-to authorities on a particular topic.
Here’s a sample helpareporter.com post:
43) Summary: Valentine’s Day Gift Guide – Beauty
Name: ********** PoshBeautyBlog.com
Category: Lifestyle and Fitness
Media Outlet: PoshBeautyBlog.com
Deadline: 5:00 PM EST – 15 January
Looking for a beauty expert for help with the best Valentine’s
Day gifts for makeup/skincare/beauty junkies. Also accepting
suggestions for Valentine’s Day beauty gifts. Thanks in advance
for all pitches!
What we’ll do: We’ll scan the HARO site on a regular basis, looking for potential media opportunities for authors. If we find something that works, we’ll then pitch you to the journalist who posted it. Since HARO requires an account for replying to reporters, we offer to reach out on your behalf.
What we need from you: Initially, nothing. We’ll be in touch with you if we think a lead looks promising.
Description: Giveaways are especially good for authors with lots of followers. You can provide your fans with free physical or electronic galleys and ask recipients to review your book on a popular site like Amazon and/or on their own blogs. This is a great way to generate early grassroots reviews. Because these reviewers are your fans, the likelihood of a positive response is very high.
What we’ll do: We’ll send off the books. For electronic galleys, we’ll use a service such as BooXtream (https://www.booxtream.com) that will personalize each e-book with the name and e-mail address of the recipient (an antipiracy technique known as “social DRM”).
What we need from you: Just give us the addresses of your fans who signed up so we can mail the books.
One Last Tip
Please keep us updated on everything you do related to your book! SBP is active on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, and a number of publishing professionals, including reviewers, book reps, and bookstore owners, follow us. We also have a mailing list that reaches longtime SBP customers.
We can help connect you with these people, but we can do that only if we know what you’re up to! So let us know if you are speaking, publishing, or doing anything noteworthy that you’d like to share and that can help draw additional attention to your work.
Observations to Date
It sometimes takes serious work to get authors on board. Even a summary document like this one will raise a lot of questions or just look intimidating to authors who aren’t active in social media. Be patient. Consider taking up just one campaign at a time until both you and the author gain confidence.
Mechanics and procedures and websites constantly change. Check sites regularly to make sure your links are working.
Be strategic. Think about where you want your message to end up. Are Goodreads and LibraryThing different? Of course. But should you devote time to both, or take some of that time to approach a different kind of reader via a different platform?
We’ve just started implementing these strategies for our spring 2015 titles, and it will be several months before we know how well they’ve worked. But here are two observations so far:
- The people at Reddit were great and made organizing an Ask Me Anything for our author very easy. If only all tech companies were so receptive to helping publishers set up events.
- The Goodreads giveaways have, as intended, generated major activity on our Goodreads page. But they have also proven to be excellent content for our social media streams. There’s nothing quite like free stuff to generate retweets and shares!
Peter Goodman is publisher of Stone Bridge Press in Berkeley, CA. Sales director Robert Koeze and publicist Michael Palmer contributed to this article.