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Best Social Media Books for Authors

A few years ago, I read Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” and the paragraph that stuck with me more than any other was a story about a woman who interviewed Kiyosaki (in Singapore, I think) for a news article. After the interview, she mentioned that she had written a novel, that she’d gotten good feedback on it from family and friends, but that she hadn’t been able to get it published. Kiyosaki’s advice to the woman, much to her chagrin, was to take a marketing class. Then he pointed to his own bestselling book and said, “See that. It says, ‘bestselling author’, not ‘best-writing author’.” (I’m paraphrasing. I don’t have the book in front of me.) So for all of you out there who want to get your book published, here are some marketing books I’ve come across that I’ve found useful. None of them is perfect, but combined, they make a nice Marketing 101 for Writers class, and I recommended them to the students in my Social Media Madness for Writers class at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto.

Get Known Before the Book Deal by Christina Katz—I found this book to focus more on e-mail marketing than social media, but it’s worth adding to your list because it’s the only book I know of that focuses on marketing for unpublished writers. I also plan to write a post soon about e-mail marketing and how/when to use it. You can also follow Christina Katz’s blog.

We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media by Kristen Lamb—This book is riddled with typos, and I completely disagree with her assessment that My Space is not dead and that you should spend time posting to it, but it’s a good book for anyone new to social media. For social media veterans, the beginning, which explains how to define your author brand and to outline your marketing goals, is wonderful.

Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs by Brian Halligan and David Merrman Scott—This book expands beyond social media to include SEO (search engine optimization) which is important if you want clients to find you via search engine searches. I, for example, plan to use it to optimize my title tags and meta data so that when people do searches for “Berkeley editors,” “Bay Area editors,” “social media classes,” etc. my site pops up. It also discusses social media and blogs, and the more you read about those topics, the better. (Thank you Alta Peterson for turning me on to this book!)

Trust Agents by Chris Brogan—This book focuses more on the broader picture of social media and less on the nitty gritty technical details of how to set up a blog, how to Twitter, etc. It will help you think about how you can separate yourself out from others so that you’re using your time more efficiently. (Chris Brogan, if you don’t know him, is a social media guru who blogs. He’s great; I especially like his vlogs.)

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell—This was the first book I’ve read by Malcolm Gladwell, and WOW. What a book. It doesn’t relate directly to social media (I don’t think social media existed when the book came out in 2000), but it’s a wonderful book on business and marketing—both extremely well researched and entertaining. It will leave you wondering, “Now how can I apply all this to my author platform”? and I’m sure you’ll come up with some good ideas.

Crush It: Why NOW is The Time to Cash In On Your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuk—Another social media guru, Gary is the founder of and its very popular video podcast. Gary’s infectious personality will make you want to stay up until 3 a.m. commenting on other blogs “until your eyeballs bleed” as he puts it. I bought the vook—the video book which you can read online—because it includes video clips at the beginning of each chapter that are fun to watch, but I’m sure the book is great, too.

How about you? Have you read any of these? Do you have a favorite? Do you have any other marketing books to recommend for writers?

23 comments to Best Social Media Books for Authors

  • Kristan

    Well, anything by Malcolm Gladwell is great, hehe. I hear Seth Godin is a good one to follow/read for social media stuff too.

    Thanks for the roundup!

    • meghancward

      Kristan, I have Tribes by Seth Godin on my bedside table, but I'm too wrapped up in Room right now to read it. I needed a break from reading marketing books to read some fiction! But yes, I hear he's great.

  • The only one I've read/bought is Kristen Lamb's book as an ebook. Like you, in retrospect I'm a bit disappointed with it. But I did pick up a few pointers. I also followed her advice and created a MySpace account, but afterward realized it's not worth the effort. I'm doing great with my blogs. I'm trying to set up a WordPress one. If only I could figure out how to bring in all the images like you have on YOUR sidebar.

    I'm looking forward to your post on email marketing. And I'm still waiting for my memoir books to arrive from the publisher. Media mail is SLOW. Must be patient!

    • meghancward

      Ann, the images on the sidebar are a total pain. I had to have my husband do it. Basically, you need to upload the images to a website (Flickr, for example), then insert a text box widget into your sidebar and in that text box put the code that points to the image online. I can send you the code, but I have my husband upload them to my website for me. I have no idea how to do that!

  • KLM

    This is a great list. My problem is that I don't want to come across as obviously "marketing myself" — there are times it's so obvious when an author is just adding him/herself to a million blogs as followers just so you'll return the favor. I know it's what you're supposed to do but I guess I prefer a slow build approach to marketing. Do any of the books address that issue? The whole "I'm obviously building my platform" scent that authors sometimes give off?

    • meghancward

      KLM – well, following people's blogs in hopes that they will follow you back doesn't work anyway! I do think these books address that somewhat, but what they address even more is NOT to be afraid to market yourself. No, you don't want to be the obnoxious person whose every tweet and blog post and FB update is about your book (Chris Brogan uses a 1:12 rule – one tweet/post about yourself, 12 about other things), but on the other hand – let's not kid each other. We all know why we're doing this!

  • I have great marketing ideas. Just need that book contract.

    • meghancward

      Trav – I want to hear all your great marketing ideas! And it was Seth Godin who said you should start marketing your book three years before it comes out – so even if you don't have a book deal, you should be marketing yourself as an author (not the book, since you don't know which book will get published). And that would probably begin with – eh, yeah – not being anonymous 🙂

  • MarilynnByerly

    RICH DAD, POOR DAD is nonfiction which requires a pre-published platform of expertise, fiction doesn't, so his advice for the novelist was remarkably bad.

    He should have advised she educate herself in fiction craft and find some like-minded writers for critiques.

    Some novelists have established platforms/fan bases before they are published, but they must have a publishable work for that to do any good.

    When you do have something to market, then market it using tips from authors and promoters who are successful in your specific market/genre, not the Seth Goldins of publishing.

    • meghancward

      Marilyn, I think the point Kiyosaki was making to the woman is that she'd already learned the craft of writing and written a good book, but to get that extra edge on all the others out there trying to get their novels published, some marketing experience was what she needed. Of course platform matters more if you're a nonfiction writer, but don't you think it's important for novelists, too?

      • MarilynnByerly

        I seriously doubt her very first novel failed only because she didn't understand marketing. It's a very rare first novel that is publishable.

        The last figures I saw, courtesy of an RWA survey, said it takes more than three or more novels to be publishable by the traditional (NY conglomerate) publishers.

        If all first novels were as great as the writer thinks it is, so much self-published dreck wouldn't be circulating right now. As a contest judge of unpublished writers for many years, I wouldn't have had to wade through so many unpublishable disasters.

        According to most people in publishing, particularly agents, a platform MAY help to sell more books once it's published, but it doesn't really make an author's book more attractive to publishers unless you are a major celebrity already.

  • meghancward

    Lindsey, thanks for the plug! I think your blog is a great example of how a fiction or memoir writer can market themselves because your writing style comes through so well in your posts.

  • Two of my favourite books there, Meghan. The Tipping Point and We Are Not Alone. I read the former an eternity ago, and wish I'd brought it out to West Africa with me.

    Kristen's book has a special place in my heart for an entirely separate reason. Our newly self-published novel sold next to nothing for its first three months because no-one knew it existed. We bought WANA and did what we could from it. As SMP novices this was pretty much all new to us.

    Did it work? Well, the novel almost every agent in the UK rejected, and that sold zilch in its first three months, is now seven months old, and will pass the 75,000 sales mark later this month.

    We didn't change the book in month four, just our marketing strategy…

    @MaralynnBylerly – "It's a very rare first novel that is publishable. The last figures I saw, courtesy of an RWA survey, said it takes more than three or more novels to be publishable by the traditional (NY conglomerate) publishers. "

    The idea that a writer will somehow acquire publishable standard on their third attempt is rather amusing. Do the publishers keep a tally of previous submissions? Three strikes and you're in?

    No doubt writers can improve with practice, but as a statistic it is meaningless.

    As for unpublishable first novels… It's not necessarily that first novels are unpublishable. Some may well be. Some tenth or fifteenth novels may well be unpublishable too.

    The issue is the huge investment required that makes it too high a risk for unknown names to get a foot in the door. Publishers are turning away books that agents love every day.

    Which is why the self-publishing route is so invaluable to new writers.

    No huge outlay required. Let the market decide.

    • meghancward

      Mark – Have you written a guide to marketing for self-publishing on your own blog? I would love to talk to you more about it – about whether you hired a outside publicist and what you did beyond social media (did you use e-mail marketing? Where did you submit the book for reviews? Are there certain websites that are gaining popularity for reviewing self-publishing books, or do you rely on Good Reads, etc.? Did you try to do readings in bookstores, or not bother? (One friend of mine who self-published got a reading in a local B&N replete with a huge poster with her name and book on it.)

      • We are in fact working on a guide, given our success, but have to say no one is more surprised than us to be where we are now.

        Almost every agent in the UK turned us away. Seven months on and we are being headhunted by one of the most prestigious agencies in New York. You couldn't make it up…

        We'll produce a full guide when time permits, but briefly:

        There are some websites that are good for reviews (Red Adept notably) but Good Reads bizarrely did very little for us.

        Being UK based (quite apart from my living in West Africa) indie books are pretty much ignored by everyone in Britain. There is no equivalent of B&N's support (now waning, I fear) for indies. While the New York Times now lists ebooks, we've sold nearly 75,000 and the UK media won't even acknowledge we exist.

        No email marketing either. It was pretty much all SMP driven. And we were complete novices. I only joined twitter last month and FB not much before. My co-author was a bit quicker with that.

        We uploaded ourselves with a home made cover (we have since paid for a pro version) and made just about every mistake possible. We even put the book on Amazon with three chapters missing originally!

        I guess the important thing was that we learned from our mistakes and quickly rectified problems. We "talked" to our readers, engaged with them, and talked and engaged with other authors.

        In the spirit of Kristen's WANA we helped other authors and put ourself about, but as here only discussing the book where relevant to the discussion already happening.

        A sure fire way NOT to sell is to jump on other people's blogs non-stop shouting Buy My Book! Of course we do use our blogs for promo of our own book, but not every post. In fact by far the bulk of the time and energy blogging goes into helping others.

        This month my site MWi is running guest posts every other day from female writers, including tomorrow (Friday 3rd) a complete unknown who I stumbled across online and happen to think will be a megastar in the future.

        We have no way of knowing whether we achieve any direct sales ourselves from this kind of activity, and I guess most visitors will already have bought into us, so probably not. But it's great fun and is really rewarding when newcomers get a boost.

        No question there was, as Malcolm Gladwell would say, a tipping point as reagrds sales. That came in March, the result of lots of strands of promo coming together.

        We will write in depth about our tipping point, and our mistakes and successes later in the year. We've learned a lot about on-line marketing and in particular what does and doesn't work.

        They key to the new epub world is that you can experiment and take risks. You can learn from your mistakes, and bounce back and give it a second shot.

        Carpe diem!

        • meghancward

          "The key to the new epub world is that you can experiment and take risks. You can learn from your mistakes, and bounce back and give it a second shot."

          Mark, I've been hearing this more and more, and that may be something that really separates e-publishing from print publishing – the ability to continually make changes to your text, your cover, etc. If you put it out too early and it doesn't sell, you can always revise it and upload it again.

          And thank you so much for sharing with us what you've learned! I'm looking forward to reading more posts about that on your blog.

  • Thanks so much for these great reviews. Also to Mark for his in-depth comments. I hope he'll be able to put together an e-book or blog series on just what he and Saffi did to reach the top of the bestseller list.

    I'm a fan of Kristin Lamb's blog and I've been wondering if I should buy her book. But since I deleted my MySpace account long ago, I'm kind of amazed she thinks it's still a viable social network.

    I think the difference between your data about platform and Maryanne's is about a year. Nearly everybody said you didn't need a platform for fiction a year ago. Now nearly everybody does. The change comes from the publishers' marketing departments.

    But agents who have to read slush are still saying "No, no! Learn to write first!" And as an editor, I agree with them. I think you still need to learn to write, no matter how good you are at marketing. And most people learn by writing a "practice novel" they don't know is practice until later. Learning takes time. You can't win Wimbledon the first time you pick up a tennis racket.

    • meghancward

      Anne, I VERY much agree that writers should focus on their writing first, and marketing second. It's great that people are blogging, tweeting, and posting to Facebook, but there is little concrete evidence YET that it really increases sales for most books. I think it's important to do everything you can to promote your book and your brand, but more important is to hone your craft.

  • Excuse me. I meant "Marylynn," not "Maryanne." A little Anne chauvinism going on there. Sorry.

  • […] May, I wrote a post about social media books in which I quoted a story told by Robert Kiyosaki in Rich Dad, Poor Dad, a personal finance book […]