Thursday, June 7, 2012

5 Tips On Social Media For Today’s Author—Guest Blog by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Please welcome Bryan Thomas Schmidt as a guest today. Bryan is a writer, a musician, and a professional at social media, so he's going to give us  some valuable information on how to handle social media and book promotion while still writing our books.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt
If you’re an author today, chances are, social media has become a big part of the way you communicate with people. Modern authors often use it for communicating not just with fans but fellow authors, their editors, publishers and other professional contacts as well as family. In fact, many publishers and agents expect a commitment to social media from authors before they’ll offer a contract or as part of one. With the publishing industry in flux due to ebooks, downsizing of bookstores, the explosion of online sales, etc., more and more the marketing of books has come to fall upon the shoulders of the author.

For many, this can be very daunting. Artists by nature are often introverts. Authors, in particular, spend lots of time alone in a room with their computer, working. Social interaction is a distraction and drain they don’t seek. And certainly to do social media well, you have to learn how to come out of that shell. I’ve been building my online platform since 2009 and grown my author blog from 30 hits a month to over 3000 in that time. I’ve had success nationally marketing my novels and work through social media, and it has opened doors I never imagined. So Linda graciously asked me to share some tips with you.

First, social media is social. It’s not about you, it’s about the community. If you’re going to get involved, you must remember that above all else. The surest way to ruin your efforts is to be all about yourself. If your tweet stream is nothing but ads and links to your work, then you are going to chase people away. Your goal should be to build relationships, first, buyers second. People who like you and enjoy your conversations will, eventually, become interested in your work. That will lead to sales. While in the past, readers found a book, liked it, and then started contacting the author to get to know them, this is not how social media works. So you must approach it that way from the start or you’re very likely to fail before you begin.

Second, go with what’s comfortable. There are so many options it can be daunting. Experiment and find the ones you can get into and stick with those. You don’t have to be everywhere. It’d be impossible to keep up. For me, outside of my blog, I use Facebook and Twitter primarily. Google+ is there for me to distribute links from my Twitter and blog and that’s about it. With Twitter and Facebook, I get into comments and discussions a lot. I promote other people’s stuff as much as my own. I started a Twitter chat, in fact, called Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat (hashtag #sffwrtcht) to promote others and regularly interview authors, editors and others live on Twitter, every Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET. This has opened up a huge name recognition and network of relationships which have definitely helped my career. Many people in the business know my name now who otherwise never would have, including some legendary authors I’ve admired for years.

Yes, it’s hard to talk about yourself for most of us, despite our egos. I get that. But once you get into the flow of a conversation, you can get over that. For example, there are ways to support each other without saying much.
RT @rodriguez_linda: #FF these tweeps! @beatsbooknook @laurabenedict @lilithsaintcrow @richyanez @BryanThomasS @thebookmaven @BenoitLelievre @thrillerchick
This is Linda’s Follow Friday (#FF) recommendations. When I RT (ReTweet) them to my followers, I help her and I don’t have to add a thing. Of course, I’m mentioned which is rather kind of her. But you get the idea.

Someone may post blog links, book links, or links to interesting other posts from blogs, news, etc. Perhaps it’s something you have thoughts on which you’d want to discuss. Pretty much anything is fair game but I’ll make two warnings: politics, religion and language are dangerous. Social Media is not private, no matter how low your follower count or what your security settings say. Twitter and Facebook both save copies of everything posted and reserve the right to post it how they wish. Past Twitter conversations can be found via Google Search, for example, so you never know who’s going to see it. I’d say avoid foul language to keep from alienating potential readers. Avoid religion and politics for the same. This is hard. We are passionate artistic people. We have strong opinions. We have strong emotions. But stories are legendary about people who have lost publishing contracts, sales, relationships, etc. over this stuff. Yes, freedom of speech is a constitutional right. But discretion and common sense are personal virtues, so use them.

Third, use variety. I post about my novels, short stories, etc. The kinds of things I tweet are: daily writing goals and what I accomplish, upcoming events, key news, links to blog entries, reviews and books, humor, general thoughts about various things. Blog and buy links are limited to one or two a day. I post at 8-9 a.m. and 5-6 p.m. Those are the busiest times. That way I hit the night crowd. I try and let other people speak for my book rather than myself. For example:
@BryanThomasS: Hours left to win a signed ARC of my 2nd novel. @Paulskemp: "A page-turning story that takes off like a rocket" #scifi
Paul Kemp is a bestselling author. People know him. His recommendation goes a lot further than me saying something like this:
@BryanThomasS: Hey, my awesome new novel, THE RETURNING’s out for preorder, so you should buy a copy now here

Of course I think my novel’s great. But I’m not exactly unbiased. Let others recommend it for you. Write a tweet that’s good enough, and people will retweet it to spread the word:
RT @talekyn: RT @BryanThomasS: Hours left to win a signed ARC of my 2nd novel. @Paulskemp: "A page-turning story that takes off like a rocket" #scifi
Hearing it from other Tweeps (Twitter users) is much more influential than from you, at least until you’re a big name. So that’s why relationships and networking are so important.

For blog entries, interviews, and book links, my rule is twice a day. Other stuff can vary. I also try not to send more than three of these at a time so as not to drown people who follow.

Fourth, use hashtags. Hashtags are important. People follow @myname, yes, but they also follow hashtags. #scifi #fantasy #mystery #writing #mywana #amwriting #science #publishing #marketing are just a few. You can click any hashtag in a tweet and pull up a list of all tweets with that hashtag to follow along. It’s incredibly helpful. #sffwrtcht (my chat) wouldn’t work without it. By selecting appropriate hashtags, you are reaching out to interest groups which hopefully represent your audience of potential readers. So take the time to learn hashtags and use them.

Fifth, use shrinkers. Shrinkers are helpful because tweets have a 140 character limit. Shrinkers will take a tweet that’s too long, especially hyperlinks to websites, and shorten them so they’ll fit with everything you’re trying to say. I know it’s not proper grammar. Get over it. The fact that younger text-addicted generations haven’t learned that they have to talk differently in correspondence than texting doesn’t mean you’ll be the same. There are common shortcuts people use and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s about conciseness as well as clarity. Syntax and etiquette for Twitter are a bit different than other mediums.

For example, say I want to tweet this:
@BryanThomasS: My schedule for @conquestkc is going to be much fun. Check out the panels and other stuff and join us if you can. #scifi #fantasy #mywana
It’s too long by 78 characters. But with a tweet shrinker, it might work like this:
@BryanThomasS: My schdl 4 @conquestkc is gng 2 B mch fun. Chck out the panels & other stuff & jn us if U cn. #scifi #fantasy #mywana
Looks like nonsense? Not really, because as with copyedits and typos, your brain will fill in the gaps with the most logical missing letters to make sense of it. Once you’re used to it, it’s automatic and you can fit a lot more into 140 characters.

Well, this post is getting lengthy, and, as Linda will tell you, this is a subject about which I can go on and on. Perhaps she’ll have me on later for a discussion. I do post Write Tips every Monday, a popular series which you can find on my blog here: And I’d love to respond to comments and continue the discussion. I hope these tips are helpful. I’ll end with a brief bit about my latest novel and myself.

In Bryan’s second novel, The Returning, new challenges arise as Davi Rhii’s rival Bordox and his uncle, Xalivar, seek revenge for his actions in The Worker Prince, putting his life and those of his friends and family in constant danger. Meanwhile, politics as usual has the Borali Alliance split apart over questions of citizenship and freedom for the former slaves. Someone’s even killing them off. Davi’s involvement in the investigation turns his life upside down, including his relationship with his fiancée, Tela. The answers are not easy with his whole world at stake.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories featured  in anthologies and magazines.  He edited the new anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. His children’s book 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids from Delabarre Publishing. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.


  1. Bryan, I've been on social media for years, but am just starting to build a platform as an author. What's your opinion of Pinterest?

  2. Honestly, Mary, I'm not a good one to ask. I have yet to set up my account. I joined because I wanted to know about it, but I am just so busy with everything else I do that I didn't have time. It's really hard to cover everything. That's one thing I find. You kind of have to choose what works for you and focus or you'll wind up with no time to right and spread out so thin, you're exhausted. Do others reading this have opinions which could help Mary?

  3. I was told by another social media expert (who guest-blogged on Jungle Red Writers) that I should do Pinterest, but I too feel stretched thin w/ FB, Twitter, my blog, and some Goodreads groups. I've got to have time to write, too. I think if it's something you're already interested in...

  4. I don't do Foresquare for similar reasons, Linda, and the fact that if my Mom discovers it, I don't really know that I want her knowing what I'm doing or where I am all day. She's too prone to comment. heh

  5. Mary, although I articulated my philosophy well above, I think, but the biggest secrets for authors using social media, I think, are time and content management. Figure out your personal boundaries as far as how much you'll share and what. And stick to them. If they evolve over time, fine. If you make a mistake, learn from it and adapt. But have some clear sense and try and shape your content around that. And then try and plan your social media time. I use Crowdbuster to help me see when the best response times are for tweets and I also look at FB posts and try and focus my "sales" stuff around the high traffic times. But I also limit to no more than twice a day. Once a book's been out a while, I am more sporadic so I don't drown or annoy people. I always share interesting links about writing that I find. I use Scoop It! to coordinate this mostly but also do them individually. To save time, I also cross post to LinkedIn, Facebook and Googleplus using tools from Twitter. Although I do occasionally post separately each so I can avoid the hashtag mess and also shape the look of posts. My blog posts also go automatically to Facebook and twitter, which helps.

  6. Wow, Bryan! I knew nothing about Crowdbuster or ScoopIt! And I use Tweetdeck to post connect my FB posts and tweets, but what other tools from Twitter let you cross post to LinkedIn. Is there something where you can cross post to Goodreads also. And how do you get your blog posts to go automatically to Twitter and Facebook. Mine go to Goodreads and my Amazon page automatically, but not the other two.

    So much great information here!

  7. Tweetdeck works for LinkedIn. Googleplus I just paste because although they have connectors, they don't work consistently yet. Googleplus is still in beta and it's obvious. As far as Goodreads, you can set it up so your blog posts go there. I know Goodreads can send back to Twitter but I have not used it to send tweets to Goodreads. As far as Facebook blogging, they just disabled that feature with the timeline redesign, unfortunately. I can't add that to my new profile, for example, but since I set it up on my SFFWRTCHT and Author pages previously, it posts there still. It's annoying, to me, that they disbled that but then Facebook does a lot of annoying things. So now I use Tweetdeck to send FB blog posts as needed.

  8. That's what I thought. I have a good handle on Twitter and Facebook, and manage to limit the times I check both (morning, lunch, and afternoon) - unless I'm feeling "brain dead" and need a break. Someone else said, "Do what works and it shouldn't feel like work." I understand Pinterest, and being a visual person the concept intrigues me, but I'm not overly motivated.

    I'm on Google+, but mostly that's only because I've had a Gmail account for ages and I only post blog links there. I get far more conversations on the blog, and through Twitter/Facebook, than G+.

  9. On thing about time management, there are good programs you can use that help with time management. You can block certain applications at certain times so they don't distract you and you literally cannot access social media or certain websites. Of course, it's easier just to turn that wifi switch to OFF.

  10. Right, Brian! I also use a free online timer. I go on to check certain blogs, email, Twitter and Facebook in the morning, but I set this timer before I do for one hour. When it goes off, I shut down to go write and do freelance work. Actually, when I get to freelance work, I usually switch Tweetdeck and email back on since I don't need that terrifically focused time for that that novel-writing requires.

  11. Yep, Linda. Each of us is distracted by different things, so we really have to personalize our approach to fighting off distraction.