Finding Your Squad: Online Book Promotion as Community

Written by A Guest Author

By Alicia Sophia

In March 2018, I signed with RhetAskew Publishing. It is a traditional small press publisher, with an independent feel to it. Part of their contract is that authors must do their own marketing and networking.

My first novel 1,4,3 was released in December 2018. It is a work of LGBT Literary Fiction. The genre is rather specific but I shared the bestseller list for 31 consecutive days with legends such as Stephen King and Alice Walker. I also shared the list with one of my personal favorites, Michelle Tea.

I am asked often by fellow writers how I amassed such a “following.” Not only do I correct them and say “I do not have a following, that makes me sound like a cult leader, I have a community,” I also tell the inquiring minds the following steps have worked wonders for me.

You make words to share.

You join social media groups relevant to your genre.

You meet people.

You introduce yourself.

You introduce your work.

You share your work.

You join more groups relevant to your genre.

You meet more people.

You share more of your work.

Make connections.

Make friends.

Rinse and repeat.

I tell people this, in this exact order. I have this saved in a document in my notes for easy access. I do the same step, every day for one week.

As with most things, the more you do it, the more it adds up, and the easier it gets. This idea also helps get your name out into the world. Most days it feels like you are casting your fishing line into a small pond with a thousand other fishermen, hoping for at least one bite. When that one bite happens, all of that work will be absolutely worth it.

As far as finding Facebook groups goes, I go to the search option and put in relevant details. Like for myself, since my genre is LGBT Literary Fiction, I would type in “LGBT Writing Groups” or “Lesbian/Queer Writing Groups” or even “Literary Fiction Writing Groups.” The same would go for “Poetry Groups,” “Creative Non-Fiction Groups,” or “Flash Fiction Groups.”

It helps to have something attention-grabbing and shareable which readers can also relate to. There is a part of my first novel where the title comes from, that says “And that is when she took my hand, and drew 1,4,3 in my palm. 1 letter for I, 4 letters for love, and 3 letters for you.” A few weeks before 1,4,3  was released, that quote started a mini revolution. People from all over the world, and in almost every state in the US sent me a picture with of their palm with 1,4,3 written on it. They also posted them on Facebook, promoting the book.

This really gave the book a buzz, and was a great way to grab attention. It  helped the community feel like they were part of the book and part of the whole 1,4,3 movement, which is part of my brand and my marketing campaign, so to speak.

It really helps to take an interest in your readers’ lives. Not to increase your popularity but to actually care about them. I can rattle off facts about these humans who eagerly devour my words. I know where they live, I know their family members, I know what issues they face. For some of these people, I am their safe place. It’s all about building community around my projects, so they feel as invested in me as I am in them.

When I started this journey, I made a vow to myself that I would be unlike any other writer that I have contacted, or tried to contact with. I made myself available for anyone and everyone who wanted to get to know me. I made myself available for my future fans and followers. Before 1,4,3 released, I had a gal message me, something along the lines of “You don’t know me, my friend shared your book cover on their page and I wanted to tell you that I am excited to read it. I hope you have a good a day.”

It was a random message from a complete stranger. I responded and added her as a friend on Facebook. She was very happy. She and I chat once a week. Being accessible and honest with readers is part as my author brand as well — this is how I portray myself to the world and to the readers who are waiting eagerly to read my books.

I make a point to post to all social media platforms — FB, Instagram, and Twitter. I use Facebook the most and I engage the most there. My posts range from humor to serious posts, to things my friends write and artists make. Which makes them — my followers, my fans — my community.

My community has actually become part of the process of writing, especially with my new book Swan Dive. I’ve already started asking their opinion on scenes and lines. I hold contests which involve the community sharing my work, my links, and other things I have done. The winners of those contests get things such as handmade word art, or I will use their name in my new novel. They are humans and I see them as such. I remind them often how thankful I am to have them along on this journey with me.

 

Alicia Sophia is a 30 something punk rocker from Pittsburgh who chased her dreams to the west coast, where she majored in creative writing. She runs on caffeine, obscene language, and still dresses like she did in high school. Alicia has been writing since she was 8 years old and has magically transformed into a best selling author. You can find Alicia on Facebook, and her book on Amazon.