It’s hard being a neophyte at anything, especially something tech-based. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a total Luddite—I embrace technology as much as the next guy—but I also struggle with it at times. Mix that lack of knowledge with my abhorrence for all things related to marketing, and you have an author drowning in dread.
I’ve done many of the things an author is supposed to do to build a platform—I blog, do Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Goodreads—but I’m not always the best at using them. Then there’s LinkedIn and Google+, which I’m on, but do not use. There’s also Pinterest, which I haven’t even attempted yet. It’s all a major time-suck, and they each require a level of expertise to master and make productive.
So while I hardly had the time, when Trish Collins, owner of TLC Book Tours, asked, I jumped at the chance to review Social Media Just Writers for Writers – The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books by Frances Caballo.
After all the time I spent writing and polishing my novel, then finding a publisher and getting it ready to be released, I wasn’t even remotely prepared for all the hands-on marketing I’d have to do. And even though I already had a presence in some of the most popular social outlets, I wasn’t entirely sure how to best use them. But Social Media Just Writers for Writers clarifies much of it, makes it easier to understand and use.
This book delves straightaway into the monster that is Facebook, how to join, create a profile, start a fan page, and manage security and settings. Caballo also advises on how to best use it to help sell your book using SEO and effective posts. While I already had a firm grasp on Facebook, she explains quite a few features I wasn’t even aware of, including the creation of tabs, measuring results, the plethora of third party applications, and the best practices for writers. There were a few inaccurate numbers in there, though, like the total number of Facebook users. It’s not 900,000, but more like 1,000,000,000. That’s billion, not million.
Next, Twitter. Oy, I hate Twitter. Seems like so much work to put into something that literally only last a few seconds before it’s buried in an avalanche of new tweets. Caballo explains, however, exactly why it is the place to be, and goes into detail about all the basics on tweeting and retweeting, following and unfollowing, linking and hashtags, DM and @replies, proper lingo and etiquette.
She takes you step-by-step on how to setup an account, develop a profile, and show some style. She dissects everything you need to know about the dashboard and how to navigate it, lists the most popular and helpful hashtags for writers, and provides tips to get started. After that, it’s all about the apps, the best to use for whatever purpose and how they work, though she didn’t discuss how some are not entirely accurate, like the unfollow apps, ManageFlitter to be precise.
I was a bit overwhelmed by this app portion. It would have been nice if she had rated these apps in some way, but I did find some awesome new ones to help me pre-schedule, flush out unfollowers, and find old tweets. Best of all, Caballo provides twelve tips on tweeting with your tweeps, though I must say, I do not agree on her stance of not cross-posting to Twitter and Facebook. As long as you compose it properly, what’s the big deal?
Then there’s LinkedIn. I joined this platform years ago, so my profile was tailored primarily for my design business. I realize I could start a new one just for my publishing and editing career, but in all honesty, I don’t see the point. It’s too technical and has more of a Job Fair atmosphere to me. But Caballo fully explains its usefulness, how to setup and use it, useful applications, and a dozen best practices. Personally, while I do keep my account updated, I really only use it for the groups.
Next comes Google+. While Caballo gives a bunch of good reasons why to use it—like its connection to the most widely used search engine in the world—I’m with the majority on this one. It was nice to get an invitation when it was in beta, but it’s too unwieldy of a site. I have a Google+ account, but most everyone I know has abandoned it. When I land on someone’s G+ page, I’m not sure how to use it and exit as quickly as I can. But Caballo explains all the ins and outs and features of G+ that make it worth a look at least, including why it works better than Facebook in some ways. So if you want to know more, she has a lot to say, but even that confused me, because G+ is just all around confusing and not very user-friendly.
And then comes Pinterest. My thought when Pinterest first blew up was, oh God, not another social media platform. You’d think I, an artist and designer, would embrace it, but I already spend so much time on the others that I didn’t want to get sucked into it. And I’ve heard it is very addictive. Great, just what I need. But, actually, I’m thinking of giving it a try, of using images to tell the story of my book, The Mistaken. That could be fun and productive. My publisher swears by it. So when I’m ready, I know I can refer to Caballo’s instructions on how to setup and use it. Dry reading about this, however, without any prior knowledge or use of the site, left me a little confused. She used lingo that meant nothing to me and I was left scratching my head, but I’m sure it would make more sense if you were actually doing it play-by-play.
Then Caballo dives into blogs, how useful they are, and the best way to utilize them to increase sales. However, she didn’t go into the different sites where one can setup a blog, only mentioning WordPress a few times as her preference. I disagree on this somewhat. If you’re a beginner, Blogger is the perfect site. It’s where almost all my thousands of blogger friends reside. It’s easier to use, yet she doesn’t go into it at all. But there is a lot of good info in there, including prompts, using keyword-rich articles and titles, applications, plug-ins, and resources for photographs to make your posts richer and easier on the eye, and ideas on how to make your blog successful.
Lastly, Caballo discusses the angles of offline promotion, though several of the items listed, like email, websites, author networks and hangouts, are all online. One platform she didn’t discuss enough was Goodreads, an invaluable tool for any author today. It’s the best way to directly connect with your readers and potential readers. It is the platform for readers. Other than that, Caballo discusses actual shelf space (something that’s not always an option,) bookmarks, fliers, CDs, book fairs and festivals, business cards, ads, press releases, media kits, PR directories, radio and TV, reviewers, and Amazon and Listmania. A lot of the work I’ve been doing recently is in these areas so I found this section particularly helpful.
All in all, this book is chock full of info, ideas, and tips on how to connect with readers and help sell your book. The instructions were typically easy to understand. Even the most experienced and savvy will find new things to learn and experiment with. And there are so many resources listed that you are sure to find something to help with whichever social media platform you use. One thing though, I wish throughout this book that the author would have taken novelists more into consideration when giving tips. Most were geared toward non-fiction writers. But still, I can tailor most everything to fit my needs.
So if you’re a writer and as overwhelmed as I am by social media, this book is worth a look and the $16 you have to pay for the paperback.
On Monday, February 4th, using Random.org, I will award one commenter (of this post) within the continental US with a paperback copy of Social Media Just Writers for Writers. Any winner outside of this area will receive a PDF. Make sure your profile includes an email so I can get your mailing address, or include it in your comment.
You can find Frances Caballo here:
If you’re interested in reading other reviews, check out the rest of the TLC tour here:
01/08: Write Stuff
01/10: Julie A. Flanders
01/14: Creepy Query Girl
01/15: Writing Fiction
01/23: Stina Lindenblatt
01/28: Tossing It Out
01/29: allison writes
01/30: Mina Burrows
02/04: My Bookshelf