Being an author in the age of social media means practically endless self-promotion. Whether you go the traditional or the self-publishing route, an inevitable part of your journey will be marketing and bringing awareness to your book. Social media gives authors access to potential readers unlike ever before. But, as every author knows, all that access comes with substantial work and often a lot of overwhelm. Which platforms should you use? How often should you post? What kind of content goes on each platform? For many authors, it just feels like too much.
I am new to the publishing world. My first book will be published by a traditional publisher next Fall, and I am very excited about that! Although this is my first time marketing a book, I have spent years honing an effective social media strategy for marketing my business and personal brand. I’ve learned many things along the way that, I believe, are useful to authors who are trying to successfully reach their target audience, but are overwhelmed by it all.
Over the years, I have built a platform of over 600k on TikTok, 17k on YouTube, and recently, I’ve begun to focus on Instagram and have built a community of 24k there, and all within the last few months. I’ve also started posting on Threads (I LOVE it there!) and I sometimes post to Facebook. It’s a lot to manage. Not just from a content creation perspective but also from a community-building and management perspective. It’s taken a lot of trial and error to figure out how to manage all these platforms without getting completely burnt out.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
(1) Video content is preferred by every platform that offers it.
What does this mean? It means that if the platform has a video option, that is the kind of content that’s going to be pushed by its algorithm. That sounds strange when you consider apps like Instagram that began with static photos, but it’s true. I had a phone call with a social media manager from Meta a few weeks ago who confirmed this. As authors, it’s easy to think we don’t need to make video content because it’s our writing that people love. But the truth is, if we want to reach as much of our target audience as possible, we need to work the algorithms. And video content will always be king.
(2) Consistency always pays off, but only the truly dedicated will ever know it.
Every social media app is tracking your activity. They are monitoring how long you have the app open each day, how many times you post to your account, how many comments you engage with, how many other accounts you interact with, and so much more. These apps will prioritize people who spend more time in the app—that’s just a fact. But you don’t have to live on social media. You just need to be consistent. Maybe that means spending 15 minutes twice a day interacting with comments and accounts you follow. Maybe it means posting at least once every day. Whatever you can consistently commit to (and be realistic about that), commit and stick with it. Most people quit too soon, in my opinion. Those big accounts you follow, who have big numbers on everything they post, didn’t get there in a few weeks or even months. It took them years of dedication. So stick with it, even when it feels like you’re shouting into the void. You’re playing the long game, and it will pay off.
(3) You need to decide which platforms are for engagement and which are outbound only.
You cannot possibly be an active participant in every comment section of every piece of content you post on every app you use. You’ll be burnt out in less than a month. You need to make decisions about which platforms you are going to use to build community engagement, and which you will use purely to get your content out (hence, outbound only). For me personally, I use Threads, Instagram, and TikTok for building community. I am intentional about engaging in my comment sections and creating relationships with my audience as well as with other creators. On the other hand, I use Facebook, YouTube, Medium (blogging app), and my podcast as outbound only. I post and ghost, so to speak. Maybe one day I will change that, but for now, this is working really well for me.
(4) Focus your energy where you’re getting your best numbers.
Sort of related to the last point, one of the ways you can decide which platforms to focus on will be to look at where you’re getting the most engagement. It’s easy to think well, I get the least amount of engagement on TikTok, so I’m going to focus my energy there to hopefully make it grow. But in my opinion, you will be much happier, more successful, and less likely to get burnt out if you are spending your time where your audience already is. Be consistent with posting on the apps where you don’t get much engagement because, with time and dedication, you will begin to see engagement there, too. But focus your most invested time on the apps where your audience is being the most engaged.
(5) It’s okay to niche, but make sure you don’t become one-dimensional
This was probably my biggest mistake right after signing with my agent and going on submission with my book. I tried to make every piece of content relevant to the subject of the book and, little by little, I watched engagement on my posts decline. People can only handle so much of one topic over and over. If we get hyper-focused on one thing, people will get bored and check out. We will begin to look flat, one-dimensional. In addition, posting about the same thing every day will cause us to get bored and burnt out, too, no longer inspired by our content. So, although niching can be a useful tool in your tool belt, please remember that it’s okay to post other types of content, too. Some types of content you could try in order to change things up are “get to know me” posts where you re-introduce yourself to your audience, Ask Me Anything posts where your audience can ask you questions, and you answer, or Story time posts where you share funny, inspirational, or relatable stories about your personal life. Your audience is eager to know more about you, so don’t be afraid to let them in.
As we all navigate the complicated path to self-promotion on social media, we must try our best to be intentional with our time and energy. Burn out is real, and often, once you’ve reached the point of burn out, it’s hard to get back on track. Follow these tips for keeping burn out at bay, and hopefully you will begin to see the growth, engagement, and sales you deserve.
Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.