Social Media for Readers and Authors

by Barb on a chilly May day in Maine

A couple of weeks ago Edith and I were on a panel at Malice Domestic with Amanda Flower, S.C. Perkins, and Cheryl Hollon, moderated by Dru Ann Love. The topic was “Writing a Series: Keeping it Fresh.”

From left: Dru Ann Love, Amanda Flower, Cheryl Hollon, Edith Maxwell/Maddie Day, Barbara Ross, S.C. Perkins/Celeste Connally

Most of the questions and discussion were about the character and story decisions authors make when writing long-running series, and the craft required to execute them. However, one question about marketing brought about some interesting responses.

Dru Ann asked (paraphrasing): How do you market differently now than you did with earlier books?

The most basic answer to the question is–at this point in our series, all of us have fans. In the beginning, we didn’t.

But there was also a wide-ranging discussion about how authors communicate with fans, and how they find new readers. Honestly, authors have no better answers to this than readers do, or publishers, or anyone else. So I thought I would throw it out to you, dear readers.

Two basic types of communication

There are two basic types of marketing communication between authors and readers.

  • Book discoverability–finding new readers
  • Fan interaction–letting fans know what is new with the author and series, including, in the best of circumstances, (and very, very occasionally in the worst), having meaningful interactions and building relationships.

Newsletters

One thing beginning authors rarely have, unless they are public figures in some other field, is an email list. This is a list of fans who have proactively signed up to receive news from the author. These fans are precious and important.

Authors take different approaches to their newsletters. Some send them regularly, others only when they have news. Some newsletters are chatty and personal. Others are “just the facts.” Some offer contests and giveaways. Others do not.

I kind of split it down the middle. I only write when I have news, but I do include a personal note with every mailing. There’s a giveaway when I have something to give, like Advance Reader Copies and the like, and not when I don’t.

You can sign up for my newsletter here.

You can sign up for the Wickeds’ newsletter here.

Facebook

One common way that writers interact with readers is via a Facebook fan page. A fan page differs from a personal profile in that it’s a public place where people you don’t know can find out what you’re up to. My Facebook fan page is here.

This form of communication is exactly what it says it is. It’s for interaction with and between fans. It’s not a good forum for discoverability.

There are also Facebook groups. Unlike fan pages, you must ask to be admitted to the group. I don’t have one, but the Wickeds collectively do. It’s here. One Wicked Author leads a discussion there every day except Sunday.

I also have a personal profile on Facebook, and since many fans and fellow authors become friends, if you can find it, I’ll probably accept your friend request. Unless you are legitimately a widowed foreign general. In that case, I will assume you are fake and send you off into oblivion. I think being a general’s wife must be much more dangerous than being a general, since they are all widowers.

Instagram

Instagram is another way authors keep in touch with fans. I find it’s less about interaction with followers and more about transmitting information via graphics, but that may just be me.

My Instagram page is here.

The Wickeds’ Instagram page is here.

Twitter

Some authors use Twitter heavily and well. It’s not so much a place for either discoverability or communication with fans, though it may serve as either. It is a place to find lively discussions about the business of fiction writing, publishing, and so on.

My Twitter account is here.

The Wickeds’ Twitter account is here.

Pinterest

Pinterest is like a personal digital scrapbook. Readers use it to display book covers, or photos of people who look like the characters or locations in a book. People with similar reading interests do find each via Pinterest.

I use it mostly to collect images associated with each book and to communicate them to my publisher and cover artist. If you want to see how that goes and what the resulting cover looks like you can check it out. You can follow the whole account or a particular board to see what gets added.

My Pinterest profile is here.

TikTok

Along with the social media plan from my publisher for Muddled Through came information about TikTok, and most particularly, the corner of TikTok known as BookTok. I had pretty much decided to sit this one out. I don’t want to see videos of me, and I’m sure you don’t either. And while it may help new readers to find me, I’m not sure the people hanging out there are my target audience.

I hate to be that Old Fogey who refuses to try new things. Especially now that I’m deeply in the Old Fogey age group. But really, enough is a lot.

Goodreads

Goodreads is a place (owned by Amazon) where readers hang out. They review and comment on books, make recommendations and enter giveaways. I always tell new writers to claim their author profile on Goodreads. The readers are going to be there whether you are or not. And, we’re very lucky that the cozy, traditional, and historical mystery subgenres seem to attract far fewer trolls than some others. Both Goodreads and my publisher would like me to be more active on Goodreads–posting reviews, engaging readers with questions, etc. I’m not going to do those things. I think Goodreads is much more a place for readers to engage with each other. But I am there and will answer questions when asked.

My Goodreads page is here. My publisher, Kensington is doing a giveaway right now of 100 ebook copies of Muddled Through.

BookBub

Unlike everything we’ve talked about so far, BookBub is about discoverability. It informs interested readers about deep discounts on ebooks, mostly via a regular daily email about sales in your selected genres. You can also sign up to follow authors to be particularly informed about discounts on their works. And you can follow other members to be informed when there are discounts on books they recommend.

This an an expensive service for publishers, especially in crime fiction where BookBub has its biggest lists of readers. There is also a service called Chirp for discounts on digital audiobooks.

My BookBub profile is here.

You can follow me on Chirp here.

NetGalley

NetGalley is a service that provides readers who frequently write reviews for publications, blogs, retailers, and social media with access to ebooks prior to release. You must request the book and the publisher must approve you. You need to demonstrate that you are posting reviews in order to remain in good standing.

You can see Muddled Through on NetGalley here.

Websites

I often tell new authors your website is your house. It is where you keep your stuff. People will rarely come there unless you invite them or they are specifically looking for you. (Unless you’re a big celebrity in which case busloads full of tourists will drive past your house–to stretch a metaphor to the breaking point.)

When people come to your house, you want to show off your stuff to its best advantage, you want them to be able to find their way around, and you want the plumbing to work.

The main different between new authors and people who’ve been publishing longer is we have a lot more stuff.

I don’t know about you, but when I take the trouble to seek out an author’s website and it seems like a deserted western mining town with tumble weeds blowing down the streets, if the latest books aren’t listed and there’s a tour from 2014 under the Appearances tab, it annoys the heck out of me.

Keep your website up-to-date, authors.

You can visit my website here.

Blogs

I have been incredibly privileged to be part of this blog for nine years. The Wickeds have had unusual longevity and a stable group of authors. We work hard AND we are lucky. This is a multi-author blog for writers and readers who have a common interest in related subgenres and in crime fiction in general. It is mostly for fans, though there is no question fans of one of us often become fans of all of us.

Another type of blog is one like Dru Ann Love’s Dru’s Book Musings. This blog includes reviews as well as features like cover reveals, Day in the Life character studies, author interviews and so on. It’s a great place to discover new authors in crime fiction, especially, but not exclusively, cozy and traditional authors.

With a Little Help

How do you get all this done and still write books?

One thing new authors don’t usually have, because it rarely makes financial sense (unless their advance is HUGE, in which case more power to them), is any help with all of this. The Wickeds are very lucky to share a virtual assistant named Jen. (To be clear, Jen is a real person, not a virtual person. We work with her virtually.)

For me, Jen does my Facebook fan page posts, my Instagram posts and my Wicked group posts. (However, I’m still there. If I’ve liked or replied to a comment or question you’ve left, that’s really me.) She also does special projects, for example the massive mailing of Busman’s Harbor maps last year, which would not have been possible without her.

I do my own newsletter, manage my own website, Pinterest boards, do my tweets and retweets, and mail books and bookmarks to giveaway winners. But other Wicked Authors divide the work completely differently, depending on their likes, time, and skills.

Jen also produces the Wickeds newsletter with a different Wicked acting as managing editor every month.

At this point, I would hate to contemplate a writerly life without her.

So Readers

I said I would throw it to you. How do you get news from authors? How do you discover new authors and books? Which of the many avenues listed above do you use? Do I have to do TikTok? Let us know in the comments. And writers, tell us where you focus your efforts. We really appreciate it.

49 Thoughts

  1. Thank you Barb for the shout-out. Because I’m always looking for new-to-me authors to showcase on my blog, I scour various sites-Amazon, FictionFB, Fantastic Fiction, Stop, You’re Killing Me, Facebook, and author’s website and newsletters. Facebook is my choice of social media platform. I do check Twitter and Instagram.

      1. I follow author newsletters, FB pages, Instagram, BookBub, Goodreads, and occasionally bl9g posts.
        TikTok is not for me.
        I always check Dru’s weekly blog, but other than lumping the new releases together, and finding a new series, I already know when a new book from my favorite authors will be released.

  2. Barb,

    I discover new books in a variety of ways. The newsletters, websites, blogs and magazines are the usual suspects in that regard.

    I use Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads myself. I did register on NetGalley but don’t really use it at all.

  3. Please, only send a newsletter if you have news. (Some authors are sending me two a day EVERY day, for the same book!) Facebook is OK and I’ll join your readers groups so I can get ARCs. Goodreads and Bookbub are essential’ Booksprout, Bookfunnel, and ProlificReads helpful. Don’t have time for any more Back to the now 16,644 unread emails…

  4. Barb, what a great summary of the biz! I’m definitely with you on the no-TikTok stuff and do most of the rest as you do, as well, although I use Jen’s valuable services a bit less.

    You had me laughing out loud about a few things, including the abandoned western mining town image. It’s such a no-brainer for an author to keep her web site current.

  5. I use the Cozy Mystery site recommended authors, Wicked blog/email and authors I read.

  6. I get a lot of my information about authors that I read from their Facebook pages or following them. For authors that are new to me, I usually read about the book online or see it in the bookstore and something about the cover or the title or the premise grabs me. I don’t follow Tick Tock – must be my age. I am also very frustrated by authors who don’t update their web site – if I am looking for news about your next book, that is the first place I will go! I do check Amazon often for new books coming out, since they have an extensive list. I get a lot of books from the library, and knowing ahead of time when they are coming out lets me request them early and not have to be the last to read them!

  7. Great round up, Barb.

    I have a website (www.lizmilliron.com and I’m in the process of updating it with new information, so please be patient).

    I’m on Facebook with an author page. I’m also on Instagram. I went through a phase where I scheduled something every day, but it felt like I was stretching it, so now I only post when I have something I think readers will find interesting whether that be personal news or book news.

    I also have a newsletter. I send it once a month and it is a combination of personal news and book/writing news. I have not been as successful in building my subscriber list, especially during the pandemic. Maybe now that we’re getting back to in-person events it’ll be better.

    Goodreads, Bookbub – I have pages. I haven’t figured out how to best use them. I have a Twitter account, but the environment became so toxic several years ago I gave it up.

    A publicist I respect said BookTok is mostly successful for YA authors and my target audience isn’t really there. Good thing because, like Barb, I don’t want to see videos of myself and you all don’t either. LOL

    1. I sounds like you’re casting a pretty wide net, Liz. I suspected as much about BookTok, though I suppose the demographic could shift. Fasten your seat belt!

  8. Jen and I just talked about TickTok as a bookstore had recommended one of my books on it. We decided to hold off for now. Great advice! Thanks!

  9. Excellent roundup, Barb. I agree most authors want to connect with readers but doing everything in social media takes away from writing time, a real conundrum.

    1. Agree. The writing is the most important thing, for many reasons. As our friend Julia Spencer-Fleming says, “Your current book sells you next book.”

  10. I find new authors through posts on many Facebook sites, if a book or series sound good I’ll check it out further, usually on Amazon. I like that you send out newsletters less frequently. Some come every week and that is too much

    1. Every week? I cannnot imaging having that much to say. Thanks for mentioning the various Facebook sites dedicated to mysteries. I don’t pay as much attention to them as I should.

  11. Great info Barb. It is a good summary. I tend to use Goodreads for finding my own reading and for info for the book club I am in. I also use Book Pages for info but that is a different type of source than you are speaking about here. However, I collect names of authors as well. The ones who use themes I might like, or have story plots that are my favorites or authors whom I network with through various goups. Your information here is a great relief for beginning authors who are scrambling trying to cover so many bases.

  12. Fabulous info, Barb! Like you, I’ve chosen to steer clear of TikTok. Other than that, I’m at the usual social media places. One thing my author friend Sarah Burr and I recently started is a web series on YouTube called The Bookish Hour. Twice a month, we host a guest author to chat about their latest book and other related topics. It’s live streamed, so viewers can send questions and have them answered in real time. It’s also recorded, so folks can watch it at their leisure.
    It’s a brand new venture, so who knows what will happen, but we figure it’s something a little different, so why not!

  13. I always feel I’m not doing enough to promote my books so I’m glad to see I’m involved in all aspects of social media that Barb has mentioned. I, too, have not ventured into Tiktok. I love being in touch with readers via Facebook.

    1. I think writers always feel they’re not doing enough, but you can only do what you can do. as we all know, writing the best book you can is the most important thing.

  14. I don’t have time to participate in social media, nor do I trust it. I am always amazed at how many ways authors communicate with their readers. I understand it is “part of the job of writing,” but still…. I do read the newsletters (or at least some of them some of the time), Book Bub, Chirp, and always, always, The Wicked’s blog.

    I like to write, but have no patience with the whole publishing gig. So, I thoroughly enjoy reading the wonderful books you great authors work so hard to bring to us. Thank you!

  15. Okay, okay. I’m on the Tik Tok. I do believe the “youth” do it better….but every now and then I post a fun video. It’s mainly books that I’ve read, my cats, and every now and then a writing video.

    I also use the Facebook, Instagram, Twitter trifecta for interacting with readers. I belong to a bunch of reader groups who do author takeovers, and I believe readers have found me there (much like I’ve found books to read on there too).

    Also, I was lucky enough to get my publisher through a Twitter pitch contest, so that one will always have a place in my heart. Plus, I like knowing what’s going on in the world instantly. It’s my favorite if I had to choose.

    I do believe social media has helped me immensely in my publishing journey. It’s also helped expand my palette of reading materials too. I’m intrigued to see how far it goes and what might be next.

  16. I look at the publishers of books I enjoy and then see what they have coming up. I search Amazon’s pre-orders (when Amazon cooperates, which isn’t always the case). In addition to looking for the next from favorite authors, I then also look for new authors who might be of interest. It’s hard to find out about new authors other ways.

    I pay attention to what I see on social media. I’m on Facebook and Instagram. I will post a little at Twitter, but I am not on it that much.

    I find the same issues that authors face apply to me as well. I’m sure I’d get better interactions with all those platforms if I were more engaged. But I don’t have time to do that AND read books and write reviews. After all, I do have a day job.

    I’m not on TikTok either. I don’t have time to record videos and then edit them.

    I definitely learn about new authors from guests posts here and on some other blogs I read.

    I subscribe to a bunch of author emails. I just can never remember if I’ve subscribed to a particular author’s emails or not. 🙂

    A word of warning I will issue: Think about what you post on social media. There are some authors I have stopped reading or never started reading because of what they’ve posted on social media. Sadly, we are a country deeply divided, so if what you post is hateful, you are going to turn off some of your readers. I have seen authors call people they disagree with names and say they should be pushed out of society. If that’s how you feel about me, why should I support your work? Yes, people are entitled to their opinions, and they can post those opinions on line. But if they turn off their audience, is it worth it? If in doubt, just think “How would I feel if Mark posted this to about my side of the political aisle?” (And yes, I have cut back on the political stuff I post on Twitter as well. Definitely haven’t been perfect about that in the past.) (Also, there are some authors I still read but have unfollowed on social media because it was either unfollow them and keep reading their books or keep following them, and then stop reading their books and unfollow them somewhere down the line.)

    1. I should add that I am on Goodreads and Bookbub. I feel like there is more I could be doing at Goodreads. And it might help if I followed more people at Bookbub. But again, I only have so much time. But I post shorter versions of my reviews at both places.

    2. I think authors and anyone with any sort of public life (which is really all of us) struggles with how much of our personal lives and beliefs to expose on social media.

      I tend to think of my Instagram and Facebook fanpage as requiring “at work” decorum. I’m more open on my Facebook personal profile where I have friends from old jobs as well as family members, not just mystery people. There I’ll share news and photos of family (though I know a lot of people don’t). I’m one of those of the belief that no one ever changed anyone’s mind on social media but I will show support for people whom I agree with likes and occasional share on my personal page and on Twitter.

  17. I try to be on Facebook only while I exercise in the early morning, and then maybe just before retiring at night. I like reading posts from all my favorite authors, and subscribing to their newsletters, and try to be up-to-date via this blog also. I am responsible to my book club to keep them in-the-know about all of you wonderful writers, so this daily blog is WONDERFUL!!! I’m not on TikTok or Instagram. THANK YOU!

  18. Great roundup, Barb — thanks! My approach pretty much mirrors yours, except that I rarely use Twitter. I do post reviews on Goodreads and BookBub, though I do little else on either site; if I I like a book I think my readers will like, it’s a great way to tell them and to support the author. Social media and newsletters are big pluses for readers and authors who don’t have much access to in-person events at libraries, bookstores, and festivals (of course none of us did the last two years but that’s coming back) or who can’t go out much for other reasons.

    Great to see you at Malice!

  19. Very interesting behind the scenes info, Barbara! I learn about new books from The Wickeds blog, Mysteries Writers’ Kitchen blog, the Cozy Mystery List blog, Goodreads and several writers’ newsletters. You can skip TikTok and all the other tweets and texts because I don’t follow them.

      1. I have no use for TikTok. I get all of my information from E-mails and Goodreads plus a little bit of Facebook.

    1. Dolores, we are thrilled to have you join us at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen, and thrilled that the Wickes have all been our guests. In fact, Edith was such a great and frequent guest that we asked her to join the Kitchen Crew!

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