Monday, January 23, 2012

The ABCs of Social Media - a guest post by Dana Kaye, Kaye Publicity

Book writing often seems to appeal to non-technical, introverted, one-foot-in-the-19th-century types. But book publishing (and marketing and selling) calls for high-tech, extroverted, 21st century thinkers. Bridging the gap? Publicists like Dana Kaye.

In addition to having published several short stories and articles herself, Dana is young, hip, and carries a heavyweight roster of clients like Marcus Sakey, Gregg Hurwitz, Michael Harvey, publisher Tyrus Books and on-line readers' community Book Country. Her list just got a little shinier: her client Steve Ulfelder is an Edgar Award nominee for Best First Novel and her client Tracy Kiely has been nominated for the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark Award (along with our own Hallie Ephron!)

Like all good publicists, Dana works with traditional media and speaking outlets, but she really stands out in the sometimes-puzzling, always-evolving world of digital social media. Today, she shares some of her expertise with us.

Social Media Basics

By Dana Kaye

The most common questions authors ask me pertain to social media. From the basics (What exactly is twitter? What’s the difference between a Facebook page and a Facebook profile?) to more advance questions (What’s the best way to translate your following into readers? How do you build a following through content?).

Today, I’d like to address the most commonly asked questions pertaining to Twitter and Facebook, from the basic to the complicated:

Should I make a Facebook Profile or Facebook Page? What’s the difference?

When Facebook first went public, authors were encouraged to have a Facebook profile. They became “friends” with their readers, posted book updates, and uploaded photos for their new friends to see. Most authors who got into the Facebook game early, have hit the 5000 friend mark (the maximum number of friends allotted).

Now I encourage authors to create pages. There is no maximum number of “likes”, you can create custom tabs for events, new books, or contests, and it serves as a more interactive website.

There are pros and cons to both a profile and a page, but right now, pages are more effective for authors. If you haven’t signed up for Facebook yet, start with a fan page. If you have a small following on your Facebook profile, create a page and let all your friends know that you will now be posting on the new page. If you have a large following (800+ friends) talk to your publisher or a social media expert about how you can migrate your friends over to your new page.

What should I post?

Whatever you post on Twitter and Facebook should be a part of your brand. This doesn’t mean that every post should pertain to your life as a novelist or the types of books you write. It means that each of your post should fall fit in with your online persona.

Before you decide “who to be” online (and don’t kid yourself, we all have or should have online personas), you should decide the type of audience you want to reach. If you write romance novels and your target audience is women ages 40-70, I don’t think posting about football or politics is a good personal characteristic to include even if you feel strongly about them. As yourself the following questions:

  • What do you write about? I don’t just mean the tagline of your latest novel. What are the themes, conflicts, and subjects explored in your books? Do you usually set your books in small towns or big cities? Are they high-concept or ordinary people trapped in extraordinary circumstances? Are your characters trying to fall in love, trying to kill each other, or trying to find themselves?

  • What are you about? Look into your background, the things your passionate about, the characteristics that make you who you are, and pick the ones that tie in to your writing. Do you have a passion for travel and write international thrillers? Do you write historical novels and teach history at a local high school or university? Are you involved in a charity, sports team, or other organization whose members might also read your books?

I approach twitter and Facebook posts as I do dinner party conversation: avoid the topics of sex, religion, and politics (unless those are directly related to your books) and always present the best of yourself.

I believe there are four types of posts:

  1. Professional post – links to articles, comment on trends, etc.

  2. Promotional post – encouraging followers to buy your book or attend a signing

  3. Personal post – a tidbit about your personal life that fits in with your online persona

  4. Interaction – replying or engaging in conversation with another user

Most people post heavily in one category. They only post personal things, or they only promote their books, or they don’t post original content and simply re-tweet or respond to other people’s post. Do your best to rotate through the 4 types of posts each day. It’s not a strict rule, you can interact more on one day and post more professional items on another. Just be wary of posting too much in any one category, especially self-promotion.

Will social media really help increase sales?

Though I don’t believe social media directly translates into sales, I know that the fringe benefits of social media will boost sales and name recognition in the long term:

  • Discoverability – potential readers are far more likely to stumble upon your Facebook page than your website. You have many more chances to “meet” people on Twitter than you do driving around the country doing book signings and networking events.

An active social media presence also increases your discoverability by the media. When Lynn Sheene began her “A Debut In Paris” promotion where she’d post photos of her book at famous Parisian landmarks, we began receiving emails from French publications, bloggers, even a hotel owner in Paris who wanted to throw a party for Lynn and the book. Her social media presence brought the opportunities to us, rather than us spending hours researching and sending inquiries to new media.

  • Provides Re-enforcement - I believe that people need to see a name or a logo three times before it sticks in their brain. When someone purchases a book online or from their local bookstore, most of the time, they have already seen an ad, read a review, heard a radio interview, or received a recommendation from a friend. Now, Twitter and Facebook adds to the reinforcement. If I hear a radio interview with an author, I may think the book sounds good and I may want to read it. But I’ll quickly forget. Then if I see people talking about the book on Facebook and Twitter, it will remind me and I will be more likely to actually buy it.

  • Making Connections – As was mentioned earlier, authors attend conferences, signings, and other events in order to build their network. But now, much of that networking can be done online. I treat Twitter like the bar of any conference: people are casually talking, debating, and meeting new people. It’s an online conversation.

Facebook does a similar thing. When I see people I haven’t seen in a long time, we can immediately skip all the small talk because we know what we’ve been up to based on our Facebook posts. We’ve maintained our relationship online so there is less need for reinforcement. If you have a book out every year, people will require less promotion before buying your latest release because you’ve maintained a relationship with them year round.

Dana Kaye is the founder of Kaye Publicity, a full service PR company specializing in publishing and entertainment. Visit Dana’s daily blog, 365 Days of Book Publicity, follow her on Twitter, and “like” her on Facebook.


  1. Thanks, you've reminded me to create tabs for my newest and upcoming books on my Facebook page, if I can remember how to do it! What do you think of the new Timeline feature? It totally confuses me.

  2. Hi Dana,

    Like Nancy, I'd be interested in your thoughts on the new Timeline format. I don't like what I've seen so far. It reminds me of the old My Space pages that were primarily photo-based biographies that people commented on, rather than participated in-- annoying self-promotion format masquerading as social media. Or am I missing something?

  3. Very helpful post, Dana. I enjoy FB but I suspect I'm not using it correctly--meaning, I mostly use it for fun.

    I do like to ask literary questions, i.e. "What are your favorite books set in the South?" "Who are your favorite literary bad boys?" Those can result in illuminating discussions. But now you have me thinking about my online persona. Hmm.

  4. Oy! Four posts a day?

    (My code word is holdhead---exactly how I feel about this!)

    Dana, can I just hire you to post for me?

  5. LOL Nancy M--I'm holding my head too! I love the suggestion about rotating among the four types of posts--that's something concrete that I feel I can try.

    Thanks for being here today Dana!

  6. Dana, after reading a few blog posts on this topic over the past year or so, and a couple of the comments here, I don't know what value my opinion or feelings on the matter might be worth to writers.

    I think it should be said, however, that readers who like to interact with writers are sometimes mystified - mmm, hurt(?) or offended(?) - when they read that the interactions they found to be so enjoyable were exceedingly problematic for the writer in so many ways.

    I'm trying to say to my writer friends, and I do love you and what you do, that it might be good to find a way to like it. Or don't do it. Or don't talk so publicly about how much you don't like doing it. Just a thought from my loving reader heart to yours. xoxo

  7. Hi Dana.
    I'm already active on Facebook and Twitter. My publisher has been bugging me to migrate to a fan page, and as I'm about to hit 5000 friends this is inevitable, but as you say, it's more like a webpage and less intimate and interactive, isn't it?

    My question--I'm always getting friend requests on Linkedin and Goodreads. Should I find time for these too?

  8. Hi Reine, I can't speak for everyone--but I think we can safely say, we LOVE hearing from and talking with readers. The problem is how to fit everything in and still write the best books we can. And have a small life too:)

    I know we Jungle Reds love this blog and the chatting with readers it affords us! so thank you for being here!

  9. Lucy, hi. Perhaps in trying to be brief I sounded like I was criticizing the Jungle Reds. I wasn't. I wouldn't be here if I felt that you were insincere in your enjoyment.

    This issue is, however, popping up all over the Internet on various writers' blogs. A few - a very few - writers have not been very thoughtful when talking about how they don't like it; that it doesn't sell books; that they'd rather be ... .

    So that's who and what I was referring to-- no one here. Today's blog and comments only reminded me of the issue I've encountered elsewhere.


  10. Very good tips! I have been browsing for some thing like that for a while now. Excellent!

  11. I like the rotation you mentioned in your post. It is so easy to get caught up in one or the other without much variety. There's a lot to social media. To get an idea of all that is involved check out the Univeristy of San Francisco's social media marketing training curriculum. There are more considerations than meet the eye.

  12. When I posted Dana's piece, I should have added (for those authors among us with even more in-depth questions) that she does phone consults in, I believe, half-hourly increments. VERY useful for those of us who aren't ready to jump whole-hog into hiring a publicist, but who still need personalized expertise!

  13. Thanks for the very informative post, Dana. That's a really good point about varying the type of posts, although I must admit I'm better at it on FB than Twitter.

    I do have a question, though. I've recently done the migrate-from-profile-to-page thing, at the request of my publisher (and they've been very helpful with the technicalities.) But what nobody makes clear about this process is that it basically cuts you off from Facebook, except for posts you make on your page, and the comments people make on your posts and/or your wall. This means you have no FRIENDS. No news feed. You have no interaction with other people on FB, unless it pertains to you and your page.

    I thought the whole point of Facebook was being SOCIAL, and that's why I--contrary to some of the writers Reine is referring to--have enjoyed it so much.

    Yes, you can do tabs and advertize your books, etc, but I don't think that begins to replace the sense of community that comes with having a FB profile.

    Any suggestions on this?

  14. Deb, this is exactly why I have resisted my publisher's insistence that I have a fan page. I like reading what my friends are doing. I don't want just to advertise myself. However at 4000 plus I'm afraid I'm going to have to migrate and just hope I don't lose the close feeling with my friends and fans.

    And my security word is INGST. Is that the angst you feel when you're stuck indoors in the rain like me?

  15. Hi Reine, you made a good point that needed making - and it was clear you didn't mean the Reds!

    Reminds me of seeing a huge international star of a writer at a literary festival and her saying in the Q&A that the reason she doesn't use her own name was that she wanted to keep her real self away from exchanges with her reading public. A whole theatre full of fans who'd spend £15 each on a ticket felt instantly dumb and snubbed.

  16. Strong points: especially regarding the value of where to spend one's valuable time. Creating great content has to come first, but in the right doses social media cements a brand and increases name recognition -- even if one can't calculate an exact ROI.

    But it's not an either/or proposition with facebook fan pages. Have both if you want. Keep it clear which is your author fan page and which is your personal friends page. "Friend" only real friends, and socialize there as you would in person; direct others to like your fan page. Present the professional brand of you on the fan page, where author promotion is more expected. But still, even on the fan page, keep it conversational and social. It's a telephone, not a megaphone.

  17. Glenn! That's exactly what I was going to ask Dana...why not have both? Is there a reason?

    What's a tab?

    Holdhead. Yes, indeedy.

  18. Thank you, Dana. I have a couple of questions, if you don't mind. :)

    How much impact do you think Goodreads has on the reading public?

    Is Tumblr a social media program or blogging platform?

  19. I just asked pal Meredith Cole about the timeline page - she has it and I don't (although don't know if it's only for profile and not fan or whatever they're currently calling the other page.)Meredith's looks great. I have fan and profile and half the time I don't know where things are and can't see other people's posts (most annoying.)

    I never consciously post something in the hopes that it will directly result in a sale. Of course that's what we all want. We want to be connected to readers and to be able to keep writing stories and having readers enjoy them. We want people to find us.
    It gets sticky (problematic?) when we're advised that our web/fb/twitter addys must be on everything (foreheads too)and every sig line must have a link to every word we've ever written. And we must tag and inject certain words into our websites and posts. Then the fun stuff becomes more like work - but conventional wisdom says it's foolish not to do it.
    I think each author find her own comfort level with online activities. There's no right or wrong thing to do.

  20. Deb..if i can find it I'll forward the lenghty email I sent Hallie about My Miserable Migration. dang, i wish we'd had time to talk this weekend!

  21. Wow, lot's of great questions!

    Re: interacting on Fan pages - You can still interact with the people on your page, but yes, you are unable to post on other people's pages. However, I believe that Facebook will eventually change this. You can also use the "Discussions" tab to interact with your fans.

    Hank - tabs aka apps are located underneath your page photo. There are hundreds of apps already available (YouTube, Twitter, etc.) but you also have the ability to make custom apps (ones that have your books with buy links, an event calendar, etc.)If you want to check out a few examples, James Patterson, Gregg Hurwitz, Jennifer Weiner, etc. all have custom tabs.

    Rhonda - I think Goodreads only reaches a small percentage of the reading public, but it's a DEDICATED percentage. The people on Goodreads will be your "brand ambassadors"; they'll tell their friends and coworkers about the book, thus creating a snowball effect.

    I also view Tumblr as a happy medium between a blog and Twitter. It's more instant (you can update Tumblr via text or email) and it's more content than Twitter, less content than a blog. I find it very helpful for photos (as my tumblr suggests)

  22. I think that readers who are also Facebook Friends with their favorite writers can be counted on to buy books written by those writers. It seems to me that that's the point for the readers: we want to know when we can expect a new book by a favorite author to be coming out, and Facebook (along with blogs, my preferred place to keep up with my favorite authors) is a good place for us to find out about that. (I must say that I don't know the difference between a Facebook Page and a Facebook Profile and a Fan Page!)

    Deb Romano...a reader who can just barely figure out where her messages are on the two or three occasions per month when she is able to access Facebook!

  23. Thanks, Deb! We spend so much time worrying about this stuff, when what we really need to be doing is writing the best books we can. It's nice to know that readers are a little more relaxed about it.