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Publicity Day 5: Social Media and Beyond: Why You Must Join the Movement and Where to Start

Guest Post by Rusty Shelton, managing director, Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists
Rusty Shelton, Managing Director, Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists
Rusty Shelton, Managing Director, Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists

I hope this week’s series on publicity provides you with a new outlook on the publicity process. It doesn’t have to be intimidating–or a black hole you envision at the end of the publishing process.

I realize that many authors would rather write their next book than sweat in a green room before an interview but, as you’ve heard this week, publicity is an important aspect of an author’s life. Learn how to play the game and you can reach a wide audience.

When Lisa and I first began planning publicity week, one thing that she made sure we had on our list was social media. While authors hear frequently that they have to start using social networking platforms like Facebook, MySpace, and now Twitter, few know what they should do once they join.

What is a “social networking site,” you may ask.

Without descending into the depths of geekery, social networking refers to a web tool that brings people with like interests and activities together. More and more authors and publishers use these social networking sites to their advantage. It helps you develop brand awareness, dispense information to potentially millions of unique visitors, and can help position a book to a broader demographic range.

These books are getting a bump from jumping on the social media wagon:


Perhaps the most famous social media success story in publishing is Stephanie Meyer.  Heather Green’s article in BusinessWeek details Meyer’s use of Web 2.0 tactics to propel her Twilight series onto bestseller lists across the country and sell over 7.5 million books at the time of the article and over 10 million books today.

The article describes how Meyer went beyond the usual author videos,  Web site and book blogger interviews. She answered readers’ questions on her own website and posted her personal e-mail address.

Earlier this month, our friends at Overlook Press had a genius idea for book publicity: hold a Facebook giveaway! While the contest has closed already – it fell, appropriately enough, on Elvis’ 74th birthday – you can follow this link to see how they did it.

The innovative idea even caught the eye of the folks over at GalleyCat, who wrote up a nice post about it. In addition, the giveaway caught the attention of the good people at West Coast Live, who contacted Overlook Press about the contest.

This is an example of how a good social networking idea can lead to traditional media coverage.

What social networking platforms must an author focus on?


Vital stats come from the blog Web Strategy by Jeremiah [source: Facebook’s site via the Web Strategy blog]:

–          More than 60 million active users

–          An average of 250,000 new registrations per day since Jan. 2007

–          An average of 3% weekly growth since Jan. 2007

–          Active users doubling every 6 months

Facebook is where many authors focus most of their social networking energy. As seen above, authors can not only build pages and connect with those within the industry, but can host book giveaways, events and other gatherings online. In fact, Lisa created this virtual course as a Facebook event and invited her friends on Facebook to join.

We encourage all of our clients to have a presence on Facebook because it provides such a great opportunity to network with authors, fans and other industry professionals.

Where should you focus your energy on Facebook?

–          Connect with other authors by joining writing networks and book clubs.

–          Be available to your fans—answer questions posted; interact with them.

–          Network outside your comfort zone by “friending” authors you respect, media members on your wish list, etc.

–          Create reasons for potential book buyers to visit your page by having an updated blog, offering book giveaways and other offers.

Here is a great article from Sachi studio on how authors can use Facebook effectively:

How authors can use Facebook as part of their social media strategy


Vital stats [source: Web Strategy Blog]:

–          MySpace has more than 110 million monthly active users around the globe

–          85% of MySpace users are of voting age (18 or older)

–          1 in 4 Americans is on MySpace; in the UK it’s as common to have a MySpace as it is to own a dog

–          On average 300,000 new people sign up to MySpace every day,

While Facebook may be the biggest current craze for authors, MySpace still has more traffic and members, which means a presence here is also a big must. MySpace and Facebook serve different demographics.  MySpace users tend to be younger than Facebook users. Companies aren’t allowed to have profiles on Facebook (although there are creative ways around that rule) while they are on MySpace, so publishing houses have a big presence there.

You should focus your energy on MySpace in the same areas as Facebook. Connect with the larger group to build your brand.

Here is a good article from NY Mag on how authors can use MySpace effectively:

How to win MySpace friends and influence readers


Vital stats [source: Compete via]

–          Twitter grew 752% in 2008

–          Had a total of 4.43 million unique visitors in December 2008 after starting the year with only around 500K

By now you’ve heard of Twitter. Surely you’re heard about it. If not, throw “Twitter” into Google and learn about one of the fastest growing movements online.

At first I was a bit skeptical but I’ve since become a convert and now view it as a major pillar of our firm’s online platform. Here is what Twitter allows P&P to do:

–          Talk about our clients (and book media for them)

–          Stay connected to others in the book industry

–          Discuss recent client wins, new projects and events

–          Hear about the latest news–instantly

What I’ve found most rewarding about Twitter is our ability to engage in instant conversations and see how the book industry is responding to the newest literary and national news, new books and trends. It’s something no other platform offers and what a valuable tool it can be.

If you are just getting started, I’m sure you are a bit uncertain how to go about building a following. Here are a few ideas:

–          Start following people that you want to follow you – many of them will reciprocate.

–          Ask your best industry contacts whether they are on Twitter. You’ll be surprised how many are already there.

–          Add your Twitter address to your email signature.

–          To connect with others within the book industry, consult Jennifer Tribe’s handy directory.  If you are not already on the list, submit a comment on the bottom of the list and she will add you.

(side note—Lisa ( and I ( are both on Twitter, so make sure you connect with us there)

Here is a good article from Yen Cheong (, who runs the excellent Book Publicity Blog:

What is Twitter all about? Part 142

One key thing to remember is that you should always treat your website as your home base online. That’s the primary place you want media, book buyers, publishers and other people to go to find out everything there is to know about your work as an author. Each social networking extension that you have should lead people back to your website. For example, make sure you list each brand extension that you have on each page you keep updated—your website should link to your Facebook, MySpace and Twitter accounts, your Facebook account should link to your website and Twitter account and so on.

Social networking is all about making yourself and your books more accessible online. It provides something that authors have not had in the past—the chance to interact with your fans in an efficient and easy way. Although many authors find social networking to be very daunting at first, most end up getting so much more out of it than they put in. I encourage you to make the most out of the opportunities that you have online.

Today’s extra credit is found over at the Phenix & Phenix blog. What authors can learn from brand promotion (hint: social media!)

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

Reader Interactions


  1. lisatener says


    This post has convinced me that I need to take the next step in developing my social media platform. The links for today have been a real education–from Jennifer Tribe’s publishing directory of who’s on Twitter (yes, I’m now following the whole lot of them and a fair number are following me, but I’m still trying to figure out how to get beyond “wallflower” stage) to the Sachistudio article on Facebook strategies for authors (which has my mind swirling).

    Katie’s January 28 post on the P&P blog that’s linked at the end of today’s post reflects something that’s been stewing in the back of my mind–those people who use striking visuals as part of their online branding strategy (images for their blogs, articles, other people’s blogs, as well as videos) are going to exponentially expand the impact of their branding.

    In fact, I just hired a talented designer yesterday to design the Power Point slides for my presentation at Harvard Medical School’s publishing course in March (Writing in the Zone). I’m now envisioning using those slides as part of an online video to create buzz and build my brand online–thanks Katie and Rusty for getting me to think more creatively and leverage my “real world” work with the real virtual world.

  2. Stephen Monrad says

    I used to think that social networking was a glorified way of wasting time. Instead of chatting to your coworkers and preventing them from working, you can waste time with people all over the world.

    Now that I am working on networking, I see the value of online social networks. I have been using facebook for the past few months and am having fun with it.

    Today’s posting has shown me two things. First, there is more for me to do on Facebook than follow my friends. I didn’t realize that I could and should be following people who aren’t in my circle of friends. Second, I thought that I was done with social networking once I got on Facebook. I am now curious to see what MySpace and Twitter have to offer.

    I have enjoyed the week long seminar and would like to thank Lisa and Phenix & Phenix for the first rate content they have produced. I bet I will be coming back to refer to material in these posts later on.


  3. Rusty Shelton says


    I hear similar comments from many authors about their first perception of social networking but I am glad that you are starting to see the value there. Going back to Wednesday, it’s really just a focus on creating authentic relationships–social networking is just another avenue for you to do that.

    I’m glad you got some good information this week. Best of luck with your writing career!


  4. Angie Breidenbach says

    Wow, so many links to follow to learn more! I have all the social networks you mentioned and a few more. But I have to find a way to maintain them in a timely manner. I’ve been trying to learn pingfm because it lets me send out one message to all my social networks. The problem is that I haven’t had time to fully learn it.

    I will be back because it is such great info. I’m really glad you did this week long class. I feel good about the preliminary things I’ve done to build my platform and now I have a great motivation for all the things I’ve learned through your week publicity focus.

    Very appreciative,
    Angie Breidenbach

  5. lisatener says

    One of our blog readers, who’s been following the entire week just asked me about starting a group on facebook, as her major internet strategy. My experience with any social media is that the challenge is growing an audience. Even if you offer great information or support. I found that it was easier to get a discussion going, with lots of input from readers, on my blog than on Facebook. I started a facebook group (Write Your Book) asking people to share their book topic, what they wanted to accomplish, what their commitments were for their book, or what specific challenges they faced (and wanted help with). In essence, this was free coaching, something I charge over $200 an hour for! Yet, a dozen or so people joined the group and few of them shared anything. They signed up more as observers. In contrast, the blog has attracted more people and there’s plenty of discourse–comments, questions, ideas, discussions. Is this typical? Or are there secrets to using a Facebook group effectively?

  6. Rusty Shelton says

    Good question, Lisa.

    Most of the authors that I have seen do really well with Facebook groups have dealt with a topic that had a strong emotional pull. Things like survivors of abuse or dating after divorce where members could share stories and inspire each other.

    If a new author starts a group and it’s centered on their book (which no one has heard of yet) it’s probably not going to be a home run. However, if that same author starts a group centered around an issue discussed in their book and builds it accordingly, they are probably going to have the best opportunity to be successful.

    Authors should always focus on building social communities around shared issues rather than products.

  7. Erin Barrette Goodman says

    Thanks for the encouragement. I have been SO resistant to twitter (one more password to keep track of, one more place to long in, one more thing to do on the computer when I’m trying to consciously limit my time in front of the screen) but reading this post inspired me to take the plunge.

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