Social media is one of the most powerful tools that you can use to market your self-published books for free. You can pay for advertising on social media, which can be very effective, but it’s also possible to get your books out to a wider audience using purely organic methods.
If you’ve not built a social media presence as an indie author yet, or you have tried, but were disappointed with the results then read on for some top tips on how you can market your self-published books for free.
What should you post?
Post updates on your writing process, your upcoming books, general writing advice and tips, reviews of books you love, and anything you think your target audience will enjoy. If you know your target reader loves animals, and you have dogs or cats, include some pictures of your pets and funny anecdotes about them. If your target audience enjoys shopping and fashion, you can also share a little content about those topics occasionally.
Look at the social media accounts of your favourite authors and see what they post about. Which posts get the most engagement, and can you identify why and then emulate it? The key things are that you should be getting your own personality across while keeping your audience interested and entertained.
Video is an increasingly popular medium on social media, so think of ways you can use video creatively as well as static images and text-only posts.
Choose your platforms wisely
It’s easy to get overexcited and create accounts on every social media site available, but it’s better to make a concentrated effort on one or two platforms than to spread yourself too thinly across them all. You need to make regular posts to keep the accounts active and exciting, and to reach as many potential readers as possible.
So, which platforms should you concentrate on?
Facebook: one of the first sites people think of when you say ‘social media,’ Facebook can be a powerful marketing tool; but they change the rules and their algorithms regularly, meaning it can be challenging to get the organic reach you need.
If you have a budget for paid ads, or already have a large enough following, Facebook is a brilliant place to be marketing your books as it has the most users of any social media platform by a mile. If you don’t have either of those things, then you’ll need to put in extra effort to build a Facebook following.
You may have noticed that you see fewer ‘page’ posts in your Facebook newsfeed recently. That’s because Facebook has been separating them out, and putting most page posts in a separate ‘Explore’ feed for users. Yet many people haven’t realised the Explore feed is there, and pages have seen their organic reach drop dramatically.
What you probably have been seeing in your regular newsfeed are ‘sponsored’ posts from pages and businesses – which are paid ads. You also sometimes still see page posts that your Facebook friends have liked.
These changes mean it’s harder than ever before to gain momentum on Facebook, especially for new indie authors. Creating effective, engaging content is crucial to being noticed, and you’ll also possibly need to enlist the help of family and friends to share your posts to reach a wider audience.
On top of that, you can join reader groups on Facebook and participate in those to help build your audience. Pay attention to the rules for each group though, self-promotion is often against group rules. Once you’ve built a presence in the group as a reader, contact the page admin and politely ask if you could share your author page in the group. Don’t do this without frequently participating first.
If you don’t have the time or money to devote to participating in groups, posting on your page regularly and monitoring what’s working, your effort is probably better focused elsewhere.
Which leads us to Instagram. It’s growing rapidly, and it is not very difficult to gain followers and build your audience on Instagram. It does take work, but with a few hours a week you could cultivate an impressive audience. Building a following on Instagram can seem tricky, but there are two techniques that are quick and easy to use.
The first is hashtags. You can use up to 30 hashtags on an Instagram post, and I’d recommend at least 15-20 per post. It’s tempting to think you should pick the most popular hashtags, but unless you have a huge following and lots of engagement already, your posts will get lost very quickly.
Look for hashtags with 20-50,000 posts and make these the bulk of your hashtags, with only a couple of larger ones. This way, they stay visible for longer to people searching them, and you’re more likely to hit the coveted ‘top posts’ spot for those hashtags.
The second, very effective way of gaining followers is to run a ‘follow/unfollow’ cycle. Follow accounts of authors who write similar genres, or bloggers who review your genres. Then begin to follow the accounts that are following them. This way you are targeting people who are most likely to want to read your books.
After a reasonable amount of time, you can unfollow any that are not following you back. I usually spend a week adding people a few per day and interacting with them on my Instagram feed. This consists of liking and commenting positively on as many posts as I can. Then the next week I start removing non-followers, a few per day, then repeat. You can get to thousands of targeted followers in a few months doing this, and by interacting with them via your feed, you are building rapport and also the added chance their friends will see your comments and visit your bio.
Your Instagram bio should have a link to your Amazon author page, your own website, or your Goodreads author profile. Basically, anywhere that they can purchase your books from.
Twitter is another platform where it easier to reach people, even if they don’t follow you. Using hashtags like on Instagram, jumping on relevant ‘trending’ hashtags, and responding to other people’s tweets are all good ways to increase your reach.
Debates are often lively on Twitter, and while courting a little controversy can help boost your publicity and followers, be careful what you put out there. You don’t want to get carried away and lose credibility. It’s especially important not to respond badly to any negative reviews of your work, as it rarely ends well.
Twitter also works best with higher post volumes. While you can build audiences on Facebook and Instagram with 1 post per day, you’ll want somewhere between 3 and 5 posts per day on Twitter.
Like Instagram, your bio should include a link to somewhere the reader can purchase your books.
Schedule your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts to save time
To make it a little easier there are numerous scheduling apps that you can use to automate your posts to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can write all your posts at the beginning of the week, and the scheduling app will release them on the time and date you specify—meaning you don’t have to worry about it other than to respond to any readers who comment on your posts.
There are lots of scheduling apps available, and most of them are free to use for a couple of accounts, so play around until you find one you like best.
Goodreads isn’t necessarily a true social media site, but it has a lot of the characteristics of one and has the undeniable advantage that Goodreads members are actual readers, often voracious ones. Plus, you can see what kind of books people have read, are reading, and want to read. It’s a great place for self-published authors to connect with readers and keep an eye on emerging reader trends and up and coming genres.
If you don’t have a Goodreads author profile, I highly recommend you create one. Join Goodreads reading groups in your genres, and participate without pushing your books at first. Over time, you’ll build a network of readers that you have developed a relationship with. When you’ve built that relationship, then you can suggest your own book for them to read and they will be more likely to actually read and review it.
Social media for selling books in foreign languages
Social media is growing massively in non-English speaking countries too and is perfect for selling books in foreign languages. If you have your book translated and are selling books in multiple languages, (and why wouldn’t you?), your translators may be able to do some of the social media marketing in those countries for you. If you’re using Babelcube’s free book translation service, promoting the book will be in the freelance translator’s interests too, as the royalties are split, and there’s no upfront fee for the author.
All of the social media platforms have their own charms and are effective ways of marketing your books. However, if you can only choose one or two platforms to promote your self-published books, I recommend Goodreads and Instagram. They are both thriving platforms, and you can get a lot of exposure for your books for free.
Written by Lisa Flynn. Lisa is a freelance writer, content marketer, and social media manager who developed a love of reading and writing from an early age. She has self-published over eleven racy novels under several top-secret pen names and also ghostwrites in the romance and erotica genres.