Social media for authors was the last thing on attorney Barbara Hinske’s mind when she started writing her first book. She actually self-published the novel under her maiden name so if it bombed she wouldn’t be embarrassed for life. When the novel started to get some positive acclaim, she decided to promote it via social media and went on to write a second one. Four years later, her Coming to Rosemont series—which melds romance with mystery and political corruption—is a hit. She’s an Amazon- and BookBub bestselling author who attributes her success in large measure to her social media efforts.
Once she had finished her first novel, my writing coach client started out by researching online how to self-publish and market a book. With the help of professionals, she set up her website and established a presence on Facebook, Twitter and all the rest before quickly realizing that she couldn’t do it all. So she decided to focus on her Facebook page.
Having created a personal page, a must with Facebook if you want a business page, she began liking and sharing posts that appealed to her and that she thought would appeal to others. Those likes and shares essentially tell Facebook what kind of content appeals to Barbara, so that’s what ends up on her personal page’s news feed. Every morning she goes through her news feed, which has been custom tailored for her by Facebook’s algorithms, to find content to post on her fan page, Facebook’s name for a business page.
“I look for something that I think has a lot of likes and shares which has gone viral, because I know that if I post that it will do the same for me,” she says.
One of her most successful posts was on election day in 2016 when she shared a picture with Tom Selleck on one side and Sam Elliot on the other, and added a note that read: Let’s vote. Tom or Sam? “That thing was seen by 100,000 people without me paying to boost it,” she says. “I had 1,000 comments by the time I laid my head on the pillow.”
Of course she wouldn’t have gotten those kinds of numbers four years prior when she was just starting out. But by then she had built an audience for her author’s page using a strategy called the fan page funnel. The idea is to build your business page with another page that has congruent interests and where you will gather a following. So just as the first season of Downton Abbey was finishing up, Barbara launched a Downton Abbey fan page, which just exploded.
Barbara began posting eight to ten times a day. She included memes (a humorous image, video, piece of text passed along via the Internet), questions, quizzes and more, all focused on Downton Abbey. The TV series was so popular that finding the material online was easy–it was everywhere. Before long she had 120,000 likes on the page, which is still very active. Along the way, she introduced all those people to her books.
The About section of Barbara’s Downtown Abbey fan page reads:
I‘m a Women’s Contemporary Fiction author who adores all things English, and now especially all things related to Downton Abbey.
The Story section of the page reads:
In addition to being an obsessive fan of Downton Abbey, I’m the bestselling author of the Rosemont series (Women’s Contemporary Fiction). Coming to Rosemont and Weaving the Strands (both on Amazon and for Kindle). Find my Books Here:==> http://bit.ly/BarbaraHinskeAuthor.
On top of that bit of social media for authors self-promotion, she regularly invites Downton Abbey fans to “Join our Rosemont reading group,” which has about 1,000 readers in it. An an app on the right-side of the page links fans to information about author Barbara Hinske, her books and any upcoming book signings, along with the chance to sign up for her mailing list.
Stay with me because that’s just the start. Of course she had to build up her author’s page. Although Facebook rewards original content, Barbara simply re-posted content that was already in her personal page’s news feed along. Essentially the only posts she actually wrote had to do with her book. In addition, she launched a Facebook advertising campaign. The ads are short and sweet. A Facebook ad for the opening novel of her series reads:
If you love Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove, travel to the enchanting world of Rosemont.
The accompanying graphic includes a short stack of her Coming to Rosemont books, an upright book that shows the cover, and a cup of coffee on a wooden table, all set against a gorgeous garden backdrop. In short, she’s positioned her ad in a way that evokes the book’s setting, story line and tone.
The ad for her new Christmas novella, which has been seen by more than 3,000 people, is a bit more involved. The post for the short video, a compilation of still photos with superimposed text reads:
From Barbara Hinske, best-selling author of the Rosemont series, comes this heartwarming tale celebrating the generosity of the human spirit and the irresistible pull of love. An instant holiday classic for admirers of Its a Wonderful Life and The Gift of the Magi. Perfect for yourself or as a gift.
That holiday book, which she released on a Tuesday in early November, started out at 62,000 in Amazon’s holiday book section. “When I went to bed it was 512,” says Barbara. As of this writing, it’s #11 in the Kindle holiday section, #8 in Kindle’s romance section, #517 in overall Kindle sales, and #11 in Amazon holiday print sales. Even Barbara is astounded by that last stat.
Admittedly, she spends a lot on advertising—up to $5,000 a month. She’s got dozens of ads running. Every morning she looks at her Facebook ads manager to see how much her costs are when someone click on an ad. If anything is more than 35 cents a click, she turns off the ad.
In addition to her Facebook efforts, she’s active on Pinterest, with a page for each of her books. She’s also got boards ranging from what Rosemont looks like to ideas of what the series’ various brides’ wedding dresses look like. “I have more than two dozen boards,” Barbara says. “They’re so easy to maintain. Every day I get a note from Pinterest saying, ‘You might like these boards.’ I’ll pin a couple of those in the morning. It takes a maximum of five minutes.”
Even though she has hired a virtual assistant who puts in at least seven to eight hours a week managing all this social media, Barbara spends six hours a week on her Facebook ads and an additional hour a day on her social media, which includes answering emails and experimenting with a couple of other social media platforms.
“Now that you can bring your Facebook ads onto Instagram, I’m going to try that,” she says. “I want another social media platform like I want a hole in the head, but I’ve decided that if their ads are really rocking it, I’m better off being an early adopter.”
This social-media-for-authors pro is also determined to try her hand at video and YouTube again.
“I’m always trying something new, which I think is what you have to do,” says Barbara. “You have to be willing to always feel like you’re kind of out on the ledge.”