After reading Guy Kawasaki’s extraordinary book on self-publishing, Author-Publisher-Entreprenuer, and knowing Ellen Bremen as she experienced the highs and lows of having her amazing book Say THIS Not THAT to Your College Professor published, I’ve been very curious about the impact of social media as a promotional tool for writers. It seems like it is a lot of work. I was introduced to Irish novelist Joanne Clancy when I wrote about Amazon’s acquisition of Goodreads, and her enthusiasm for social media made me curious about her professional perspective about it. So I wrote her a note and asked if she’d elaborate about how social media and technology have affected her writing…. and she agreed.
For Joanne, social media not only drives more people to buy her books, but also gives her a sense of connectedness with readers that she otherwise wouldn’t have. Her perspective on how social media amplifies and enhances publishing is really interesting. Below is a condensed version of our “conversation.” My questions in italics and Joanne’s answers indented. – Jim Dougherty
What are your goals when you’re building or participating in a community that’s organized around your writing?
When I first started writing I read everything I could on how to market my books. I read lots of marketing books and writer blogs, and followed and implemented as many tips as possible. To be honest, I became quite obsessed!
In a nutshell, my ultimate goal is to reach as many potential readers of my books as possible, which obviously takes time and commitment. I begin by following people and joining groups with similar interests to my own. I try to stay focused more on readers than on writers, and to remember that readers are more interested in books than on the actual writing process. For example, on Goodreads, I offer my books to readers in exchange for reviews, and I’ve got a faithful following there now. On Twitter I try to provide content which is engaging to a wide audience, which is the beauty of Triberr. I never know who might click on a tweet that sent via my account, and then be encouraged to try one of my books. I review books on my blog, again if someone reads my review they might be interested in buying one of my books. Mostly, I engage on social media because I enjoy it, and I hope to provide value to others.
You primarily write novels. Can you tell me a little bit about what type of writing you do on your blog and how that content complements your novels?
On my blog I write about the books I’ve read and enjoyed. Most of my books have been contemporary romance stories, so I’ve focused my blog reviews within that genre. Again, anyone reading my review, will see my books on my blog and hopefully be encouraged to buy them. My last two books have been in the crime/thriller genre, so I will be focusing more of my book reviews in that genre going forward.
I am a HUGE Kindle fan! Only for e-books I would never be a making a living as a writer, and Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform is by far ahead of the other publishing platforms. Amazon has single-handedly revolutionized the publishing industry, and I can’t speak highly enough of the company. KDP allows me to upload my book within minutes, and within twenty-four hours new books and updates are available at Amazon. Technology has allowed me to have unprecedented creative freedom. I control when I publish; I design my book covers; I’m responsible for marketing, sales, everything. I can write on my laptop from the comfort of my own home, from the top of a mountain, when I’m travelling…anywhere. I can communicate with people all over the world, buy and sell books, learn. It’s amazing, and something I never thought possible even three years ago.
Are you seeing tangible benefits of your social media outreach in terms of books sales, more readers?
Yes, I am seeing tangible benefits of my social media outreach. It’s taken time, effort, consistency, and patience. I’ve noticed more readers are getting in touch with me via Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads to let me know what they thought of my books, and to ask when I’m bringing out my next book. I’ve built up a loyal group of followers, particularly on Goodreads, which is interesting because that is where I am most active. My followers have told me that they are telling their friends and work colleagues about my books, and I do believe that word of mouth has helped to increase my sales gradually over time.
From an author standpoint – where do you see the opportunities in social media for the future? What channels do you see as most helpful?
From an author standpoint, I think Goodreads is definitely the way forward, especially since they merged with Amazon. Goodreads is a focused place to communicate with readers, and fellow writers because I know that everyone there is interested in books. I’m excited to see what happens with the Goodreads/ Amazon collaboration.
I think it’s important for authors to be involved in social media, as much as possible, without interfering in writing time, because it’s the ideal way to enlarge our internet footprint. The more places we are visible, the more likely potential readers are to find us.
Social media makes it easy for readers to stay connected with their (favourite) authors. Consistent, reliable, quality visibility = consistent, reliable, quality brand image.
As an author, I believe that I am both a spokesperson and a brand. My book is also a product, but effective selling is as much about me as it is about my book. After all, people buy from people they like.
The majority of people who buy my books won’t know me, but social media has dramatically increased the possibility of more people getting to know me. The distance between me and my readers is only a click away.
I’ve read many times that people are looking for information and entertainment on the internet, and social media can provide both.
Last week, I received a rather spiteful one star review for one of my books. Coincidentally, on the same day, another reader contacted me via Facebook to tell me how much she had enjoyed the same book! I asked her if she would post her review to Amazon, which then helped to balance the negative review. I have social media to thank for that.
From reading reviews of your trilogy books, you seem to be okay with ending your books without tying up loose ends. Do you find that people contact you through social media to try and get you to explain yourself?
I’ve had a few readers contact me on Facebook and Goodreads to ask when the next books in the series would be published. Most of them were positive about the endings and excited to read the next books, but some readers were a little annoyed! Obviously, I like to make my readers happy, and I keep their comments in mind, but I can’t make everyone happy, so I try to stay true to my own vision. I wrote the trilogies as a personal challenge to see if I could keep a story and characters together across three books, and also as a marketing experiment to see if I would gain more readers. The books in The Secrets and Lies Trilogy are my bestselling books. I would consider writing another trilogy, but sales are slow until all three books are published, and it’s a bit of a headwreck trying to keep the plot and characters together. Personally, I prefer the satisfaction of writing an entire story in one book.
How do you handle criticism as an author? Does social media amplify the criticism?
I had a review the other day where the reviewer seriously wondered if I was drunk or on hallucinogenic drugs when I wrote the sequel! It was difficult not to respond, because I find reviews like that to be unnecessary and over the top. I appreciate constructive criticism, and I try to take all comments on board for my future writing. I don’t respond to negative reviews. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and I accept that. Plus, I think a nasty review says more about the reviewer him/herself than it does about my writing.
I think social media can amplify the criticism, which is why I don’t respond to negative reviews. I’ve noticed several authors responding to negative feedback, and it resulted in them getting numerous negative reviews afterwards.
In addition to being a wonderful writer, you are a prolific reader. What’s the state of content marketing? Are writers making their content compelling? Do most bloggers have a well-vetted point of view?
I think most bloggers have a well-vetted point of view, and I enjoy reading their different angles and perspectives. I can lose myself for hours on Triberr reading the vast variety of articles. Triberr has introduced me to a wealth of reading that I would never have sought on my own. I find most of the articles interesting and informative.
From your perspective – give me a brief thought on each of these communities: Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Goodreads, Amazon.
Twitter: I like using Twitter in combination with Triberr to communicate informative articles that I’ve read.
Facebook: I have an author page where I post about my books and writing. I tend to keep my author page strictly business. I also have a personal page, which I use to communicate more on a personal level, and have a bit of banter back and forth with friends, readers and other writers.
Google Plus: I’m not a big fan of Google Plus. I keep my profile updated there because it’s connected to my Blogger account, but I find it to be an imitation of Facebook. I tried to convince myself otherwise by reading Guy Kawasaki’s “What the Plus” but I’m still not impressed.
Goodreads: I’m a HUGE fan of Goodreads. It’s the perfect place to communicate with readers, and discuss all things books.
Amazon: Amazon has revolutionized the publishing world, and without it I wouldn’t be a published writer today. They are dream makers, and have given me the ability to control my career. I can make money while also retaining my publishing rights. I can pursue my career on my own terms without requiring the approval from middlemen who take a huge cut. Amazon delivers a professional service which is second to none. They constantly strive to improve their customer experience, they treat authors with respect, pay well, and encourage reading. They are trend setters, not followers, and I admire and respect that.
Many thanks to Joanne for her time and insight.
Illustration by Куликов И. С. (фото Soniaromanoff) (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons