Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ice Cream Social Media - Q&A with Paul Hochman, SMP Director of Social Media

Most writers today know they can't get away with locking themselves in their garrets to churn out the next great American novel. In a 24/7, information-streaming, Web 2.0 world, readers want a more personal, in-depth relationship with their favorite authors. The possible ways to stay in touch are staggering—and confusing. Where do I reach my readers? How much time should I take away from the actual work? What makes a satisfying social connection? At publisher's offices, in conferences, via emails, writers are asking each other these question. Today at Jungle Red Writers, we have some answers.

Our guest Is Paul Hochman, the Director of Social Media at St. Martin's Press. Paul doesn't place books in a retail setting. He doesn't schedule authors for interviews or signings. He doesn't solicit reviews. But increasingly, all of these activities depend on what he does do: create relationships online. Prior to joining the team at St. Martin's, Paul managed Content, Community, and Social Media at Barnes and Noble.

DEB:I think we can all see the importance of social networking. But it seems very overwhelming--a full time job when WRITING is our job. So my biggest concern is: what three forms of social media are the most important for an established author?

PAUL: With 600 million users on Facebook, 200 million on Twitter, and 2 billion videos viewed per day on YouTube; that's where authors should be concentrating their social efforts. That said; you can cover all your social ground in 20 minutes a day.

HALLIE: Is the answer the same for a midlist author with a new book? What about for one who's come close but never made best seller and wants to break out this time?

PAUL: The above applies equally to a midlist, debut, or bestselling author. There's no better space to market your book and reach your readers -- and it's virtually free!

HANK: Is it better to be all over the place--Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Goodreads and so on--or to concentrate on one and give it your complete focus?

PAUL: If you can manage (post content and respond regularly) on multiple social sites (see my first answer), all the better exposure-wise, but choosing one channel and really running it well is just as effective in many cases.

JULIA: What are the big "don'ts" in social media marketing?

PAUL: The biggest don't is dishonesty. Under no circumstance should you misrepresent yourself, post bogus reader reviews of your work, or try to game the system. Keep in mind, Social Media is ever-evolving and you'll need to constantly craft your content to figure out what resonates best with your audience. You're going to stumble occasionally -- fail fast and learn from your mistakes.

ROSEMARY: How can an author make the best use of all that Amazon has to offer?

PAUL: I'll need more specifics on which offerings we're talking about here but I'm all for blowing out your author profile. As I said earlier, the more exposure, the better.

HANK: I have lots of Twitter followers. But I keep thinking--so what?

PAUL: Great! Start involving them in the conversation. Elicit their opinions. Give them something to talk about -- a first chapter, a cover reveal, or a pivotal plot point. Simply telling them your new book is now available is a huge win.

JULIA: And finally, since things change and evolve so quickly, where do you see the future of social networking headed? If a crime fiction author had a book coming out one year from now, what sort of social media strategy would you recommend?

PAUL: Social Media is changing every minute of every day, but as long as it continues to be a space where readers congregate to share recommendations and content, authors absolutely need be there to facilitate and join those conversations. Remember, nothing sells books better than word of mouth and there's no better tool for word of mouth marketing then Social Media.

Do you have a question for Paul? Comments? Please join us on the back blog and let us know your thoughts on the brave new world of social media.


  1. Fascinating--and maybe not quite as overwhelming as it seemed . . . except for the you tube bit. I have no idea how to tackle that one.

    Also, Paul, you don't mention web pages. Obviously we should keep them up to date (blush) but should we also keep up a regular personal blog? I've failed miserably at this.

  2. YouTube is quickly becoming a vibrant community, Deborah. There's a ton of conversation happening up there, so why not books? If you have book trailers or video of your speaking engagements, collate them into your own channel that you can then cross reference from your other social sites.

    If you already have a website, definitely keep it up to date. If it's an issue of not having the time to post regular content, surface your Facebook and Twitter feeds, so the page is always fresh.

    As for a regular blog; if you have the time to maintain it, by all means publish one and allow your readers to subscribe to it.

  3. Paul, you were a ROCK STAR at B&N (I miss you terribly by the way) and I know your star is rising at St. Martin's Press ( I hope they appreciate you, if not, you know who to call :) ) It's amazing to me that social media, something that none of us knew anything about only a few years ago can matter of factly make or break the sale of a novel, and the sudden stardom of the author. But what I think is really great about social media (I'm a big fan of facebook and am on twitter too) is that most of it is put out there by everyday ordinary people and that's why I take what they say to heart, they're not "authorities" on the subject they just know what they like and either FB or tweet about it to let other people know they like it. I also like that social media has made me e-friends with literally hundreds of people I wouldn't have ordinarily know, like you and Hank (Hi Hank). And I love what you said about saying the truth out there in the ether too, but you know I think most bogus posters are outed because the rest of us are pretty smart cookies and know the difference between lies and the truth. I also like the "nowness" of social media and your so right that we can do our biddings in 20 mins a day.
    Thanks for the interview it was enlightening and I only wish the best for you at St. Martin's Press.

  4. So amazing. And this reminds me..what about commenting on blogs?

  5. Hi Debbie! Yes, I completely agree...xox

  6. [Blushing] Thanks so much for the kind words, Debbie. And, you're absolutely correct in your statement regarding the power of "everyday" readers -- their recommendations, via word of mouth, is what sells books!

  7. Paul - thank you, your comments have been extremely helpful. Twitter, FB, and YouTube are the trinity. Got it.

    Deb - I created a trailer for my first book using It's easy to use, not expensive (they also still have a free option, I believe), and I thought the result was pretty polished. I didn't create a trailer for my subsequent books and I see now that I should have.

  8. Definitely comment on blogs when you can, Hank. A simple "thank you" for a great review goes a long, long way.

  9. Happy to help, G.M., and let me know if you have any questions.

  10. Great interview--thanks so much for being with us today Paul!

    But twenty minutes, hmmm, could you give an idea of how this time would be spent to work well? It sure sounds manageable!

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  12. Yeah, the twenty minutes thing, I'd love to know more.

    I mean--I can check FB and Twitter and blogs in the morning, very efficient, fine. But then I feel compelled (!) to go back and check and see how people are responding, and then add to the conversation.

    And suddenly,my nice compact twenty minutes expands..

  13. Jody Hedlund wrote 5 Ways Authors Alienate Readers on Social Media Sites. To quote her:"Social media is a conversation, not a promotional tool. Readers WANT to engage with authors and get to know them better. We want to know there's more to you than your book."

    I am on Facebook and Twitter. I buy LOTS of books. If you are only on those two sites to promote your books, don't bother. You will be quickly ignored and not only by me.I know which people are asking to be my "friend" because their publisher has told them to get on FB. I give them a chance. If the have a long signature line or everything is about their book, I drop them.

    Let me also say that the women here know how to use social media. Hank, Deborah and Julia for example.

  14. Good to be here, Roberta. 20 minutes is certainly the minimum, but doable depending how big your social presence is. That's why I advocate picking a manageable number of social channels (maybe that's just one even).

  15. I couldn't agree with you more, Judy.

  16. Oh, light bulb! Not twenty minutes at one time!

    (Thanks, Judy, xoxo)

  17. One more thing. If you are not doing your own social media, i.e. you have an assistant handling your twitter and facebook accounts, be up-front about it. If it is discovered you will be dropped and again not just by me.

    I often compare social media to the bar at Bouchercon. A group of people are sitting around having a conversation, you come up and join in. Do you join the conversation or do you butt in and say buy my book?

  18. Indeed; honesty is everything in Social Media, Judy.

  19. Career enhancement, okay. I get it. Build a fanbase for yourself and your series. But if you don't lock yourself away and WRITE a bestseller, you'll never have one.

  20. I only "drop" authors who are obviously spending waaaay too much time on FB (I refuse to Twitter -- the ultimate dumbing down of civilization, IMO). If I open my FB page and my newsfeed is inundated with tons of inane updates by an author, I "unlike" pretty quickly.

    I realize authors are there to promote their work and that's great as long as the proper balance and reserve is observed. They have a venue where they can update readers about new releases, signing events or appropriately related industry news items. I have a venue where I can catch up on new releases, events, etc. Half a dozen pictures of the author's cats, for example, or updates on their weight loss issues, etc., at the top of my newsfeed is oversharing and annoying.

    Also, the conversational tone an author allows on their wall can be problematic. Some authors allow little cliques to take over, others get too personally friendly with some readers while ignoring others. Some authors mix their family and RL friends in with their readership and it's disconcerting -- like I'm witnessing something I'm not meant to see.

    For me, the author who really gets the social media thing dead-on is Robert Crais, although he does not Twitter (thank God -- I see Twitter as a sign of personal weakness, but that's just me...). The tone he strikes on his website, his FB page and his use of YouTube is just right.

    I think it's good to remember that the adage "familiarity breeds contempt" exists for a reason. Also, the ten people on FB who think you're the greatest thing since sliced bread for your position on a political or social issue may feel like a lot of when you're checking your FB page, but they may represent a tiny minority in the real world.


  21. Paul - It's great to see you here with so many of my favorite authors! I am a huge reader and I've discovered a lot of authors by word of mouth - or should I say, word of "net."

    The internet is the fastest way for word to spread about great books, whether it's on Facebook/Twitter/YouTube - the holy trinity of social media, as you mentioned - or on blogs or forums.

    While I do read reviews to get a feel for the book, I tend to put more weight on off-the-cuff comments by people who've read books. If I hear a couple people say they loved a particular book, I'm likely to pick up a copy.

    (Which could explain the state of my Dangerous To-Be-Read pile!)

    We do miss you at B&N, but it sounds like you are having a great time at St. Martins!

    BTW: Can I give Hallie a plug? She's going to be featured at B&N's Mystery forum the week of April 11.

  22. Absolutely, Nina: social media is all about balance and -- like writing! -- finding a voice.

  23. Of course, Austin; the social media part comes after you've written the book ;)

  24. There you go! A perfect example of Word of Mouth via Social! [smiling and waving at you, Becke]

  25. Paul - Because, of course, I saw this link on Facebook! (Smiling and waving right back atcha!

  26. Thanks, Hank! Here's a link to the main Barnes & Noble Mystery forum.

    If you search the names the Jungle Red authors, you'll find "featured author" threads for many of them. For the rest - I'd love to have you visit!

  27. Hi Paul:
    You use words like collate into your own channel on YouTube. Okay...maybe some of us are slightly technophobic? I do all the Facebook, Twitter, blog stuff but I don't always feel I'm getting the most out of it. For example making sure my blog reaches the maximum number of people. I usually post on Google Buzz and Pingomatic. Any other suggestions?
    Oh, and by the way, I have a new St Martin's book out next Tuesday. I hope you're tweeting and doing good things for me!

  28. Don't get me wrong, Rhys; I'm not overly technical either. In fact -- although I'm not sure if you created it or not -- you already have a channel on YouTube:

    Why not add the following videos to that channel to centralize your viewers/reader's attention?

    As for the stretch of your blog: there's numerous ways to increase reach. SEO (technical again, I know!) is one way, but linking to it from your social channels is one of the easiest ways.

    We'll be throwing the works at "Bless the Bride" -- no worries ;)

  29. Hi Paul. I recognize a few here..Yes "Rock Star" fits well. You were Ours on BN...Still Are..I am The Reader everyone wants to reach...I do what I can to promote...And I haven't anyone else to Thank..But Paul. He Gave Us The Power and we ran with it...His FirstLook Programs Have Put Quite a Few Authors on NYTimes BS List. Some are Still There..But its The way he is A Class Act.....A Rare Gift Of Knowing What Just Felt Right..Best..Loving "Gangstagrass" Suze. VTCOZY.BTW. PGA..Like Him So Much..He Rocks our UF World .

  30. Many thanks for the kind words, Susan! Again, there's nothing like trusted recommendations.

  31. Rhys, you go girl with your youtube channel:)

    Nina, so sorry to hear that Twitter is a sign of personal weakness--I just dragged over there this week and made my first 5 tweets. They were little weak peeps, but I'm trying things out:).

  32. Hi Paul,
    I think recommendations from someone makes a huge difference in what books I buy. You definitely gave me some excellent recommendations for books I wouldn't have read otherwise. Especially with my new android phone I am on Facebook and blogs more to hear about books. And I will get to twitter one day. It is more fun that I thought and I concentrate on those authors I have read and sites that help me choose books. (pen21 from B&N)

  33. Indeed; it's all about the conversation, Luanne, and we all love to talk books!