Four Tips for Using Social Media for Author Self-Promotion WITHOUT Annoying Others

One of the women in my writing group is launching her gorgeous debut novel this month (yay Anjali Mitter Duva!). This means, of course, that she is experiencing the thrill of her first book signing, seeing reviews popping up on websites and blogs, walking into bookstores and seeing it on shelves, etcetera. What it also means is that her book promotion campaign is in full swing.

Today she wrote me: “I’m starting to feel uncomfortable about how much book promo and links to interviews and such I’ve been putting on social media. But there are still some pieces coming out, and then there are going to be more later this week, and next week. What should I do?”

Good question and one that I wish more authors would ask. What are the guardrails when it comes to self-promotion in social media?

When the Internet began it was an amazing place for individuals to meet each other, share information and learn. Today it has become an overwhelming barrage of advertising combined with a hefty dose of narcissism. I’m pretty sure you know exactly what I’m talking about when I say that.

So how can you make sure that you don’t get lost in the midst of all that me-me-me talk?

Provide value. 
When you are posting on your social channels, you should either be working to entertain, connect with, or to educate your audience. The last part is the easiest for us authors. Anjali, for example, has a book set in 16th century India centered on a beautiful dance called Kathak.  Right off the top of my head I can think of a slew of things she can do (and she does) to provide value to her audience. She can share information about Kathak dance, what it is, videos of the dance in action, and news of her own Kathak group. She could share information about 16th century India, its culture, the people, the history. Or she could talk about modern day and historic Jaisalmer, where her book is set. She can always talk books and writing as well. In doing this, she is able to talk all about her novel, indirectly, without coming across as self-promoting.

Figure out your content ratio.
Actually, you don’t really even need to “figure” this out because others have done it for you. There are a slew of suggestions at that link that will help you decide what the ratio of your content, to others content, to retweets, should be.  Whether you choose the 5-3-2 rule, the 4-1-1 or the Rule of Thirds, the goal is to have the majority of content that you post NOT be about yourself. But again, if you look to the examples I gave in #1, if you are providing the right types of content you can still, indirectly, be talking about your book. I tend to go with an 80/20 rule. 80% of things I post aren’t mine or directly related to me and the other 20% of my posts are a bit more self-serving.

Spread out the information about you, your book and your launch. 
This is what Anjali was most worried about in her question to me. She’s been in social media long enough to see author after author go WAY overboard in self-promotion of their books. She knows that an audience won’t stay engaged if the content is all me-me-me.  What I would suggest to Anjali is the following:

  • Follow tip #1 and choose the content that you think will be the most valuable and interesting to your audience.
  • Tip #2 is next. Decide what your social sharing ratio will be (I’ll use the 5-3-2 rule as an example).
  • Now, you can employ tip #3. Develop a content schedule or better yet, use a tool like Buffer to help schedule content so it is well spread out. 

    So for Anjali, a few day’s worth of content on Twitter might look like this:
    - News about her book launch. 
    - Shared article about Kathak
    - Retweet something witty a fave author said
    - Local news article about book groups
    - Retweet someone else’s rave tweet about her book  (this blurs the line a little…it is another’s content but also about herself)
    - Article about historical India
    - Link to a story on Grub Daily
    - Share an awesome review of FAINT PROMISE OF RAIN
    - Retweet a fascinating article from someone in her network

    This may not seem like much over the course of a few days, but remember, you can use more than one channel. Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn can all take the same rules. Spread it out and you won’t appear as a narcissist.

Get others to promote you.

Build a network of individuals that will help support you when your book is launched into the world. This is important and you must do this over time, long before you launch your book, and you should keep doing so, even after the book has hatched into the world. A network can take you places you never imagined. As you plainly know by now, Anjali has me in her network and I believe in her product. And the results? How many words did I just write about her? Because of that network connection Anjali has now tapped not only into the thousands in my network audience, but the thousands in the Grub network as a result of this blog article. She didn’t ask for it and doesn’t expect it. This is a perfect example of the importance of building those relationships, both on and offline. You never know how those connections will end up benefitting you.  

How do you go about doing this? Develop online connections with individuals that you feel an affinity towards. Have conversations. Champion the works of those that you admire. Retweet the things that you know they are most passionate about. Be kind and caring. Favorite their tweets. Comment on their Facebook posts and their blogs. Write reviews of their books. Attend book readings. Tell others about said books. People will remember and return the favor. 


Learn more about Anjali and her book Faint Promise of Rain at:

Join Crystal on November 8 for her Advanced Social Media for Authors Grub Street course from 10AM – 5PM. Seats will fill up fast, so hurry and register now!

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About the Author

Crystal King is a 30-year marketing, social media and communications veteran, freelance writer and Pushcart-nominated poet. She is the author of the FEAST OF SORROW, about the ancient Roman gourmand, Apicius, and THE CHEF'S SECRET about the famous Renaissance chef Bartolomeo Scappi. Currently Crystal works as a social media professor for HubSpot, a leading provider of Inbound marketing software. Crystal has taught classes in writing, creativity, and social media at Harvard Extension School, Boston University, Mass College of Art, UMass Boston and GrubStreet writing center. A former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her MA in Critical and Creative Thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in media res. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or at her website:

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