10 lessons from using the social web to promote a book

10 lessons from using the social web to promote a book


A feature of the social web is that if you create and share a piece of content you’ll get feedback from your audience. Share an image on Instagram or Flickr, a video on Vimeo or YouTube, or a presentation on Slideshare and you’ll get rapid feedback from your audience.

Life on the shelf

It has been great to see reaction to Brand Anarchy, the book that Steve Earl and I wrote that was published by Bloomsbury earlier this year. The publication of a book, marked by a launch event and reviews in the media, used to be the end of the process for an author. But thanks to the social web now it’s just the start of a conversation, and more importantly for author and publisher, a sales process.

Direct and immediate feedback is only one benefit for the author. Engaging in conversation on the social web following the launch of a book supports sales and extends the shelf life of a business book beyond the three or four months that is typical. Authors have an opportunity to use social media to build a profile for themselves and their book via the social web.

Building a community: friends and family

Brand Anarchy received praise at London Book Week earlier this year for the modernity of its marketing efforts. In a session on marketing Michelle Goodall cited Brand Anarchy as a book launch that had engaged directly with its audience via social networks.

The strategy could not have been more straightforward. We used content from the book to engage with our networks, Bloomsbury’s networks and the networks of everyone that we mentioned in the book or that helped us along the way. Amazon reviews have been a primary channel of feedback but there are plenty of others. Here are some of the things that we’ve learnt from different forms of social media.

1. Amazon: seek out reviews

When did you last review a book on Amazon if ever? Only a committed bunch of hard core readers write reviews. It takes a lot of effort. You’ve got to read the book and then commit your views to keyboard. Readers will typically not review your book unless you explicitly ask. I’ve become brazen about this without being overly pushy although perhaps if you’ve been on the receiving end of a request you’ll think differently.

Two variables drive sales on Amazon in our experience: firstly how a book ranks in Amazon’s listings, and secondly the number of positive reviews. Work with your publisher and spend time on your listing and author profile. Brand Anarchy pops up in all sorts of unexpected places thanks to Amazon’s recommendation engines.

2. Print media: an inefficient tactic with notable exceptions

Snagging reviews in the traditional print media for a niche topic is an incredibly inefficient process. Bloombury sent out more than 100 books and we’ve had less than a handful of reviews. Journalists simply don’t have the time or aren’t interested. That said, edited extracts of content really works if you can broker a relationship with a publication. There were two excellent articles about Brand Anarchy; a review in Business Traveller, and an extract in Communicate Magazine.

3. Blogs and online publications: sales accelerator

Brand Anarchy has undoubtedly benefited from the strong media, PR and marketing communities online. These are communities that we ourselves are part of and which without exception responded well to the book. The link between online blogs and sales could not be more apparent. Craig McGill’s review pitching Brand Anarchy as ‘this Summer’s 50 Shades of Grey’ on The Drum propelled it to the top of Amazon’s listings for brand, PR and marketing within hours. Identify and target bloggers in relevant niches.

4. Events: take books to sell

Speaking at gigs around the country is time intensive but hugely rewarding particularly if it’s accompanied by a discussion with the audience before and after the event on Twitter. The benefit to the writer is first hand reader feedback and comment. We slipped up at the first couple of events by not having books available for sale. There is still a very special relationship between author, book and reader. People attending events don’t want to buy a copy of a book via Amazon. They want a signed physical copy direct from the author. If you do speaking events make sure copies of your book are on sale.

5. Flickr: a vanity tactic

We grabbed images of everyone mentioned in the index from the e-book edition and tagged and uploaded them all to Flickr. Anyone vanity searching for themselves quickly found their mention and enthusiastically sought out the book and shared it with their network. It’s a simple tactic no doubt, but it has proved incredibly effective.

6. Pinterest: Brand Anarchy in the wild

Product unboxing has become a feature of the social web. It has genuinely been astonishing how many people have shared images of the book via Twitter or have emailed them to us directly. We created a Pinterest board to record them all for posterity. It also has the benefit of being highly ranked for search.

7. Facebook: fan page a missed opportunity?

We didn’t create a fan page for Brand Anarchy on Facebook as that seemed to be setting ourselves up for a fall but I regularly post updates about the book and good reviews on my Facebook wall. My network is undoubtedly bored of it by now and I should probably stop.

8. Twitter: sharing content

We made last minute additions to the book in a bid to make the content shareable. We suggested readers share their thoughts using #brandanarchy and added short extracts at the start of each chapter and summaries at the end, thinking that these would be shared via social media. They haven’t been. Instead readers have shared excerpts from the book that they have particularly enjoyed.

We’ve set up monitoring to track mention of Brand Anarchy and #brandanarchy. Tweets crop up from time-to-time for example when the book is recommended in a class. People seem to appreciate being thanked for taking the time to read the book.

Wherever possible we’ve connected with organisations that have a large audience of their own such as Bloomsbury (@BloomsburyBooks) and sought out opportunities to engage with their networks. To this end Twitter discussions around a hashtag work really well. The one hour discussion we took part in with Communicate magazine’s weekly #CommChat remains a highlight with high levels of engagement.

9. Slideshare: a missed opportunity

I spoke about Brand Anarchy at an event called SxSELondon in July and published my slides to Slideshare afterwards. It made me realise that we’d missed an opportunity. The deck has generated more than 2,000 page views in two months. We’re now working on a deck that tells the story of the book and includes an explicit to call to action, to drive sales via Amazon. (Update: full deck published here).

10. Guerilla tactics

The original title for Brand Anarchy was very different. Bloomsbury persuaded us that it would result in the book being delisted. That may in itself have helped to drive sales. But it didn't stop a few images being shared on the Internet of the original title. Similarly the book found its way into some high profile libraries thanks to a little help from friends.

Report: Share This at Social Media Week

Report: Share This at Social Media Week

Tyne View: a journey and a story in words and pictures by four Tynesiders

Tyne View: a journey and a story in words and pictures by four Tynesiders