From Instagram to Insights: Book Marketing Trial and Error

When I first heard that every author, especially a debut author with few established readers, needs an “author platform,” I was skeptical.

For one thing, what does that term even mean? Good question. According to David Gaughran—who has a gobsmackingly good free course and many excellent free resources—an “author platform” is basically an author’s presence on the web. This includes their own website, social media, and other online touchpoints.

Cartoon author sitting atop a pile of books while social media logos swirl around her.

But I didn’t believe these gurus, the trailblazers at first and, as a result, didn’t throw myself into the work of developing this platform as much as I should have. Add onto my late start, the fact that I made oh so many mistakes along the way. For example, I spent about 90 days posting on Instagram every day, labouring over my posts and hashtags and emojis, and carefully crafting graphics (which was actually fun) before I actually tested whether this platform attracted the type of reader who enjoys my kind of story.

When I finally ran an experiment, I offered 60 free links to the AI-narrated audiobook version of my novel, and posted the freebie on Instagram, Facebook, and to my mailing list, all at the same time. The result? All 60 links got snatched up: almost all of them from Facebook, the balance from my mailing list, and not a single one from Instagram.

I had suspected that my “ideal reader” was older—and therefore more of a Facebook user than an Instagram user (on average)—but I found these results startling! Even people who had connected with me on both platforms reached out for the link through Facebook!

There could be a gazillion reasons my Instagram posts didn’t enjoy the same reach. Maybe my posts screamed newbie. Maybe I didn’t get the Instagram culture quite right. Regardless, given all the jobs of an indie author (writer, marketer, publicist, web manager, graphic designer, bookkeeper, speaker, etc.), I’ve decided to spare myself some angst and focus on Facebook and my website.

Focusing on the right platform is crucial for effective book marketing.

Here’s what I learned (so far) from my journey:

Know Your Audience

Understanding where your audience hangs out online is half the battle. For me, it turned out to be Facebook. For someone else, it might be Instagram, Twitter, or even LinkedIn. Research your target audience’s demographics and social media habits. Don’t be afraid to run your own experiments.

Consistency is Key

While I saw little traction on Instagram, I learned that consistency matters. Whether you post daily, weekly, or bi-weekly, stick to a schedule. Consistency helps in building a loyal following and keeps you on their radar.

Leverage Your Strengths

If you enjoy crafting graphics and engaging on social media, do it! But if you find that a particular platform isn’t yielding results despite your best efforts, it’s okay to pivot. Focus your energy on what works.

Build a Mailing List

Your mailing list is gold. These are people who are genuinely interested in your work. Keep them engaged with regular updates, exclusive content, and special offers. They’re your most valuable allies.

Use Analytics

Pay attention to the analytics provided by each platform. They offer insights into what’s working and what’s not. Adjust your strategies based on this data.

Engage with Your Audience

Whether it’s through Facebook comments, website blog posts, or email newsletters, engage with your readers. Building a community around your work is essential for long-term success.

In conclusion, marketing a book is no small feat, and it requires a lot of trial and error. While Instagram didn’t work out for me, focusing on Facebook and my website has proven to be more effective. Remember, it’s all about finding where your audience is and engaging with them in meaningful ways. Keep experimenting, stay consistent, and leverage your strengths. Happy marketing!

Book cover, A Mercy of Widows, with star sparkles and caption.

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