eBook publishing diary – Part #4: The “self-publishing half-life work cycle” and 10 practical tips for social media marketing

My KDP dashboard screen shot

Okay, now what?

Okay. So you’ve published. What now? Sit back and wait for the monies to start rolling in? No. Now the work you have to do changes, which is really the toughest part to get used to with self-publishing. The writing process takes you into a consistent, focused routine. This is the longest period in the self-pub cycle. Then you change tempo for editing and polishing, and get into a new working rhythm. It doesn’t last as long, but can take months. Then you craft the xhtml, which exercises a completely different part of your brain, but soon sets up into a working process, but it is finished even quicker. If, like me, you designed your own cover, that’s another week of using another part of your brain. Then you publish, which is a couple of days, if that. The amount of work, the intensity, the time required gets shorter and shorter for each phase of the self-publishing cycle, like a radioactive half-life. But then it all changes into something much stranger…

You begin marketing your book. And that is nothing like anything else you’ve done because it’s not a solid working rhythm, and it never stops…

When are you ready to start marketing your eBook?

That all depends on how much you want everything to be perfect. The truth of the matter is, you may not have a choice. I was still in ePub / Smashwords hell when a buddy of mine posted a link to the Kindle version of my book into LinkedIn, which in turn led to someone tweeting about it, and boom, I was marketing. Of course, if you’ve read my post yesterday about the Smashwords saga you’ll know I had no idea if I was in their premium catalogue or not, and fixing a whole bunch of problems with my ePub file (which you can read about here).

Anyway as it happens I awoke this morning to see this on my Smashwords dashboard:

screen shot of my smashwords dash

Er… what did I do?

I hadn’t done anything since it said I had issues last night, so I guess it takes a while for their systems to update. Yay.

Of course, by this time, I was a day into having conversations about the Kindle version of my book on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Social media is a key part of any self-publishing marketing cycle… so here’s a few tips to get your head round it, if it’s not already.


5 tips for social media marketing your eBook

  1. Don’t think of it as marketing, think of it as networking: The single most important thing to remember is you’re not marketing anything. You’re using social media to network with people, creating a thread of conversation around your eBook. The net effect of this networking is, basically, marketing… but there’s an important difference. The target isn’t you telling people about your product, it’s people telling other people about your product – or, at the very least, people (including yourself, obviously) giving your product exposure through talking about it in conversation with other people. I’ve been at it for a day and haven’t actually told anyone about my book yet. I’ve just talked about it in reply to what they’ve said already.

  3. Don’t think of it as a launch: You’re not launching a book, you’re starting conversations. You won’t get to control how long they last, how far they spread or how big it gets. You should also accept the fact that it will move slowly. This is a good thing. You couldn’t handle a thousand messages about it on the first day anyway, so better to think of starting a couple of conversations about it every day from now until you publish your next book, and there’s no reason to stop even then. Your book is now one of your topics of conversation on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for the rest of the year, get used to it and enjoy the process. Remember, you’ll need time to do other things, so keeping your time commitment down to an hour (or less) per day, replying and thanking people, is a good thing for your workload.

  5. It starts small, with a few emails: The first thing you should do is email everyone that knew about the book and let them know it’s live, and ask them to share it (and offer to buy them a drink for the effort). This seeds social media sites with mentions of the book, which starts building the basis for some social media conversations. Don’t spam people, just be honest and say now it’s live you could use some help. Everyone wants something to post, posting about a book written by a friend actually creates a nice change from the normal content they get to post about, so the chances are this will get things moving.

  7. Keep on top of your feeds: The essence of social media is its real time quality. If someone mentions your eBook – I was lucky, buddies of mine who’d read drafts before launch, took it upon themselves to post about it as soon as I let them know it was in the Kindle store – but even if you mention it first, you’ve got to reply as soon as possible. This might be inconvenient, but you’ve got no choice. When my book got it’s first mention, at that precise moment, I was hacking ePub files with BetterZip2 and Textmate, but as each comment came in, I paused to reply and say thanks. If you wait until a time when it suits you, you’ve missed the chance to get a conversation going, people are most motivated to chat (and remember, more 2-way chat means more exposure) when they post, not a day later.

  9. Be patient: The temptation is to throw all your ideas into the social media world on day one, but that won’t work. Unlike you, most people aren’t watching their streams all day monitoring posts about your book, so there’s no point, most of it will get missed. You need a programme. Mine is pretty simple. I give it a couple of days for the people I emailed to post about my book, then I start posting content out there myself. A week later, I’ll do a few more tweets and posts, the same the week after that… and so on. Don’t think you’ve got to get a critical mass as quickly as possible, take it slow and make it interesting and relevant to the conversations you see on your feeds. Getting into a chat with someone in a LinkedIn group about writing processes, or publishing platforms or whatever is a good reason to legitimately mention your book in context. That gives as much chance of someone clicking on the link to it as posting a million Tweets on day one saying “hey, my book is live”.

  11. Reply to everything: This is a hard one, because some people will say things you don’t like, be mean, spell your name wrong… whatever. It doesn’t matter, reply. Say thanks. Send a smiley face 😉 or a sad face ;( – mention the content. For example, I saw a tweet where someone said “hope the book lives up to promise of the title” – here’s the thread:
    A thread showing a typical social media marketing tweet

    Thanks for the mentions 😉

    The point here is, it doesn’t matter. Talking about it is better than not talking about it. The more it gets mentioned, the wider awareness of the content will spread. There’s no such thing as bad publicity as far as algorithms and search engines are concerned.


  12. Get your website set-up right, and stick it in your profiles: Add your book and a link to your website or blog into your social media profiles asap. This is important. When people check you out on LinkedIn, or look at your Twitter bio, you want to capture the chance of them linking to your book, or at least, learning you have written a book. Make sure when they visit your site, you’ve got plenty of exposure on where to find it, how to buy it, samples, mailing list forms etc. You’ll see them in the sidebar next to this blog post, for example. Again you’re not selling your book, or spamming it at people, you’re merely exposing them to the fact it exists. If they like what you have to say, then they don’t have to go and search for the book, which increases the chances they’ll buy it. Work on the principle that about 30% of people get bored and go somewhere else every time they click a link. The fewer the clicks on the sales chain, the more sales you’ll make.

  14. Create more content: Self-publishing creates a lot of interesting stories to tell, which (because you’re telling them) is showcasing your writing. That’s what I’m doing. This post isn’t trying to sell you my book. But if it’s useful (hopefully it is) and well written (aww shit dawg, I got no idea about that…) and communicates well (not if you work at Smashwords, obviously) then this content will be an effective marketing tool. The important thing to remember is, don’t try and sell your book. Be helpful, be useful, offer your insights – which have value because of your experience. From here on out, all my posts, essays, podcasts etc. will probably return to my normal area of interest, writing about thinking, but that will still bring people to my blog, expose them to my book links, create conversations where I can talk about thinking tools and the topics in my book. So just being here, doing this, and connecting with people IS marketing.

  16. Write another book: I don’t know who said the best self-publishing marketing is writing more books, but it’s true. However, here’s the twist – social media lets you involve people in the new book, which means when you start the marketing cycle for your next one, hopefully you’ll have a bigger group of people you can email and ask to share your new book on their feeds. How do you get them involved? Talk to them about it. Recruit proof readers, reviewers… whatever comes naturally in the flow of your online relationship. I’ve even taken a step to crowd-source contributions for my upcoming projects (a book about alternative funeral arrangements and a book called “Teamwork VS. Bullshit”) which needs a wider pool of talent than just one guy. If that’s you, sign-up and let’s get to know each other.

  18. Make notes about everything as you go along: The whole point of social media is it keeps changing.  Ideas for how to get your book out there (without spamming people) will present themselves all the time.  For example, I saw a guy started following me who uses the Twitter Hashtag “decisionMaking” so I made a note to check that out (my book is about decision making).  I wrote some of my book in a business club, who tweet all the time and have lots of followers, so naturally I’ll tweet them and let them know I wrote parts of the book drinking coffee on the second floor – which might bring some more coverage.  I’ve discovered more LinkedIn groups that could relate to the topics in my book… I saw a business start-up that posted into my feed talking about an event where my book would apply to the content, so I made a note to ping them, and ‘liked’ the post to start a connection with them.  Ideas evolve as you search the web looking for places to promote your work.  Don’t stick to a strategy and miss opportunities because you’ve got a schedule to keep or targets to set.  See how it goes and follow interesting ideas that crop-up.  They may not work, they might be a dead end.  Just like life, just like social media chat.


See what I did there btw, in point 9? Subtle, huh?

Networking is marketing in social media.  It’s built into the concept.   Being there is the first step, using it to do anything except spam people about your book, is social media marketing.


Part #3: Kindle vs Smashwords vs Scribd or “You can’t handle the truth”