Running Out of Road? Turn Left Here …. by Josh Lanyon

One of the myths writers cling to is that once upon a time, in the good old days, all you had to do josh logo - martini glasswas write a great book and readers would find you. And it’s undoubtedly true that with a fraction of the competition we have now, the chances of being discovered on merit alone were higher. But just like today — and just like tomorrow — literary merit has never been enough to guarantee discoverability.

The sad fact is, you can write a fabulous book, but if readers don’t know about you, they will not read your fabulous book.

But with every writer out there screaming at the top of their lungs in an effort to attract the attention of readers, how do you stand out from the crowd? (Assuming you’ve already written the best book you have in you.) Well, you stand out through your own unique, original and inventive marketing and promotion efforts — which I can’t help you with. And you stand out through recognizing the latest trends in social media and by getting there first — which I can help you with.

It’s very simple. Doing the same thing everyone else does, is not the way to stand out.

The following is a list of a few new and newish social media venues for marketing books. These are venues where very few M/M Romance writers are lurking at the moment. That’s good news because marketing to other writers — which is what most writers do — is not an effective use of your promo capital.

Tumblr – Tumblr is not new, per se, but it’s pretty much the hottest of the “old” social media sites. A cross between an old fashioned blog ring and super-mega cyber bulletin board, Tumblr skews younger and hipper than Facebook or Twitter. The boast is you can share “everything,” plus you can do it under your not-real-name, meaning you can post as your alter ego or your characters. It’s supposed to be all about creativity and collaboration. Music and mash-ups are huge.

Riffle – Riffle is kind of like Pinterest for books. You create a profile and you then you create lists of book (covers) to share with reader friends. It was initially advertised as an alternative to Goodreads, but for the record, there is currently no real alternative to Goodreads. Riffle is fun though, and really easy to use, and it allows you to share your reading habits in different ways. It interfaces with both Twitter and Facebook, so you can share your lists with your existing friends and followers. But of course the goal is always to make new contacts.

Booklikes – Booklikes is also being touted as the next Goodreads. Why, you may ask, would you need another Goodreads? Especially a rather lame version? Because Goodreads is now so big and so unwieldy that it is all but impossible for new writers to gain a foothold there. All the main genre groups are formed and heavily populated, and new authors showing up announcing their Latest Big Release are pretty much old hat — if not a downright nuisance. No, you want to be in on the ground floor of new social media where you can create a name for yourself.

By the way, you can import your entire Goodreads library to Booklike.

BookShout! – “A social reading application that allows users to build community and share favorite quotations.” It offers gift cards, promo codes, and author circles, but it remains a little vague as to what its real purpose is. Still, BookShout raised 6M from investors, so someone somewhere really, really believes in it.

YouTube – YouTube is also not new but it’s being used in new and inventive ways beyond simply making a book trailer and inviting people to come and look at it. Instead, writers are creating channels, inviting subscribers, and creating much more complex content. The book trailers themselves are becoming much, much more elaborate. Old school YouTube is making a video of yourself reading from your latest book. New cool YouTube is making a video of you doing something from your latest book. Er…I’m thinking skydiving or cooking or trying a magic spell. Fun and funny is good. Taking yourself too seriously, not so much.

Wattpad – Wattpad and Figment are forums for posting original work in order to build “viral buzz.” They are geared toward the under 25 crowd and are especially effective for writers of young adult and new adult fiction. In fact, Figment is geared toward teens. A number of writers, particularly spec fiction writers, have scored six figure book deals thanks to the response they’ve received on Wattpad (before you get too carried away, these are books that received millions of reads and thousands of comments). If you’re writing young adult or new adult fiction, you might gain traction on Wattpad or Figment.

A couple of commonsense tips: remember to add value to the conversation. Remember to keep your interactions positive and productive. Be supportive and be social. The point is to make friends and influence people. Not take out your frustrations or show that you’re smarter than everyone else. Don’t over share. Don’t over serve.

It’s important to remember that you can’t be everywhere all the time and still put the necessary attention and energy into writing new work — and writing new stories remains the number one single most important thing you can do to promote yourself. It’s also kind of the point of everything. So pick a couple of social media arenas and make them your own. Be present and engaged in the venues you choose. If the only thing that ever shows up on Facebook are your tweets, then you’re not really on Facebook, and you’re not really interacting with your friends and followers, right?

And on the topic of friends and followers, it’s not the quantity, it’s the quality. Your goal is to create a positive emotional connection with readers. If you really are socially inept and not just being modest, you might be better off cultivating a reclusive authorly mystique and steering clear of social media. Either way, you need to track your progress so that you know whether what you’re doing is working. If it’s not working, you need to try new things.

Analytic tools to consider are Topsy, Social Mention, Google Analytics, or Sprout Social.

But don’t get carried away. Don’t go crazy. The clearest indicator as to whether what you’re doing is working, are your sales numbers. If you’re selling books, you’re doing something right.



  • How’d you get so hip? 😎

    I can’t figure out what Tumblr is all about. So far, all I’ve seen there are pictures — usually the dream ‘n’ steam kind. 😉 Guess I’ll have to explore further. I haven’t yet seen any textual content.

  • Thanks, Josh, for taking the time to put this together for us. There are few I’ve never heard of before, but now I will take a look for sure, and I love the priceless advice too. I’m currently considering ‘cultivating a reclusive authorly mystique’ because it sounds more easy and it allows more time for writing.
    TTG, thanks for mentioning the Amazon’s Collections tool.

    • Thanks, Naaju. The great thing about doing these columns for Wave is it forces me to examine and rethink through some of the things I do by rote. I do try to keep them interesting and useful, so I’m glad you’re enjoying them.

  • Great article as usual Josh. It always amazes me that most authors use the same social networks to advertise their new books as everyone else, such as blog hops etc. Don’t they realize that readers get tired of the same old, same old? I’m not a writer so I’m not supposed to have a lot of imagination, but even I can see that some of the social networks are oversubscribed. Hopefully this article will give authors new avenues to conquer. 🙂

    PS Although I’m on Tumblr I still haven’t figured out how to use it effectively so I guess I’ll have to find the time to do so. I don’t use many of the others because they want too much personal data.

    • Thanks, Wave. When you think how new a development social media really is, it’s no wonder we’re all trying to figure out the most effective ways to use it. Ten years ago we all had blogs and websites and that was pretty much it.

  • Great column, Josh, and interesting point about finding new roads and then growing there rather than try to rise up in an already crowded area.

    I’m still always surprised though when I see new writers not use “regular” social media like twitter, etc. (Or even tap into GR.) For twitter users, it is a nice way to follow writer updates, so when I see a writer that I like, but then see they don’t use Twitter at all, I have to mentally file away following their writing in another way, which seems more work.

    I think Tumblr is amazing, but only have seen it work well (for me) with following fandom things. It’s somewhat overwhelming otherwise, but then again, some authors are using it very well to collect smexy images, which I hear also can gain followers (if you’re okay with collecting smexy/porn as part of your image/brand.)

    What’s nice about trying new tools too is if you’re open to experimenting, you can grow with the tool (or grow out of it, if the new tool fades out, which so many do.)

    It will be interesting to see if/how Amazon’s Collections tool becomes something. In some ways, I’m surprised more writers don’t use it for a quick Amazon snapshot of their work, but on the other hand, I think Amazon isn’t doing a great job on advertising this new tool and how to use it. (And I think they’re still rolling out/adjusting community features, so until that happens, it may not be a sticky enough system to keep people playing.) I know it’s their version of an Amazon item pintrest, so it will be interesting to see if it floats, or if it goes the way of the “like” button.

    (As a user, I’m still trying to figure out how to use it. Right now, I like to use it collect either books on prime lending, and for an example here, m/m books that I recommend:

    • ttg, I do think herding into the already crowded pen is a natural instinct. Unfortunately, it’s also the reason we hear so many new writers wailing that they can’t get any traction, they can’t get the word out, no one knows about them or their book. Well…of course not. You’re standing at the back of a VERY large crowd. This is not to say they shouldn’t bother with FB or Goodreads or Twitter (currently the Big Three) but they need to not invest a huge amount of time and energy there. The time and energy and creativity should go into carving a niche where there’s lots of room and where everything they do has high visibility.

      Amazon Collections is a tool new to me, so thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  • Wow, thanks Josh. I feel super special since I’m pretty established on Tumblr. Sadly, I’m not on any of the others. Being with a small press, I’ve had to do all of my own marketing and promotion. I think one of the best things an author can do is blog swap. Join memes that link to other blogs, host cover reveals and book spotlights, do reviews, etc. The more traffic you get to your blog, the more you’ll get to your website, and your books. I also think Google Plus and LinkedIn are underappreciated as marketing tools. I probably have my hand in too many pots when it comes to social media, but I’m taking advantage of my current situation as a stay at home mom. 🙂

    I always look forward to your posts, keep ’em coming!

    • Of all of these, I think Tumblr looks the most fun and seems to have the most potential, JK. I signed up for some of the others, just to have an account should they suddenly pick up or should I get too bored with one of the existing platforms I’m on. I found LinkedIn useless and deleted my account and I haven’t dabbled with Google Plus yet. I think being active on 3-5 social media platforms is probably a reasonable stretch. More than that and there’s going to be a lot of repeated content, which is an ongoing problem, I think. Even though some people only follow you on one particular platform, you still have to keep that platform content fresh and unique enough that others who follow you everywhere find it worthwhile. How to do that? I’m struggling with it. But then I think refining our social media presence is an ongoing process.


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