Promotion might just be the hardest part of Independent Publishing. It is certainly the part that forces me out of my comfort zone. But that’s a good thing, right?
Being an Indie Author and an Indie Publisher requires being a master of all trades. There is no backup team – you’re it. And yet, my own research has revealed that traditional authors are required to do just as much promotion as the Indies – with more or less support depending upon your popularity and sales. I must admit to be guessing about the last part. But I truly hope, that if the publisher believes in the author’s book, they will bring out the big guns and really push the book into the public’s awareness. However, I recently found a post on one of the Big Five publisher’s websites on “how to organize a blog tour“. Clearly, the author still has to do a lot of work, regardless of how they have been published.
So, without further ado, just what did I do?
I could list the things I have tried, like making a Facebook page and inviting everyone I knew. This just depressed me, in the sense that while nearly everyone I knew was happy to like the page, few people were interested in buying the books, sharing the page, or even liking the posts. I made the classic mistake of writing a lot of “Hey! Buy my book!” posts, which no-one wants to read. Followed by posts which were more anecdotal, only to be liked by the same hardcore group of “fans” which were, of course, actual close friends and family. When the likes and shares are in the low single digits, well, it’s sad at best. Something new was needed.
When promoting his book, Lars Simonsen started a Thunderclap. He was inspired by Alastair Humphreys, a British adventurer, who had used a Thunderclap to raise awareness of his book. In his initial post, Alastair mentioned how difficult it can be to grab people’s attention in this age of “constant noise”.
Now, you might be wondering about this Thunderclap, and why and how to use it. The why makes sense when you realize that the Thunderclap app uses social media accounts from project supporters to post a single message with a link at a pre-arranged time on a specific date. Instead of one person’s post being lost in the mass traffic of social media, a single post across a minimum of 100 supporters’ social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr), becomes stronger, louder, and longer lasting with a greater reach. That’s the Thunder – 100 people clapping is louder than one person. Plus, 100 supporters doesn’t sound like very many. So, how hard can it be?
Using Lars’ experience, and with his generous support – and not least his partner, Suzi’s – I decided to give it a shot. But, just to make it difficult, I decided to launch a Thunderclap after I dumped over 300 friends and contacts on Facebook. Really? Yes, I struggle with Facebook, and I am “still trying to quit”. However, as Lars’ experience shows, friends and followers do not ensure the success of a social media campaign. So what does? Here’s what I discovered and tried when launching my Thunderclap.
Start with Friends and Followers
Appealing to friends and followers on social media is a good place to start, and it feels good to see the Thunderclap grow as people support it. In the first 24 hours you will see a relatively rapid growth, but it will fall off and stop in the low numbers. There are three reasons for this:
Accept the App
Supporting the Thunderclap requires people to accept the app, and give it access to your Facebook account. This puts a lot of people off. I understand this, as I am reluctant to do the same. Unfortunately, it is just not enough to “share” the post sending people to your Thunderclap page. They must engage, and accept the app will read their contact list and post – once – to their page.
Your Friends and Followers are not that engaged
This is true. How many of our Friends and Followers like our pages because we invited them, pleaded with them, or even bribed them? (I usually buy my nephew a cinema ticket with the rider that I come with him.) The simple fact is, our content is just not interesting enough, compared to everything else they have “liked” because they, you know, like it.
Your Friends and Followers did not see your post
This is true, too. The data stream, the amount of traffic we are exposed to, makes it easy to miss something. Facebook tailors our stream to our habits. If few people click on my author page posts, then the probability of them popping up in the stream of other followers diminishes. And so, the Thunderclap becomes even more important, and an interesting way of getting the message out there. Lars and Suzi mentioned that there friends suggested they would have supported it if they had been sent a message.
So what’s the next move?
Reach out to Interest Groups
I really don’t enjoy the begging, pleading, and bribing – and I can’t afford it either. Although, there’s a lot of great films on the way in 2017! However, I decided to be specific. Instead of trying to reach everyone, I chose to go for the few who might actually be interested in my project.
I searched for and found two groups on Facebook that made all the difference. My book, The Ice Star, is set in Greenland. I have worked in Greenland, and I found a Facebook group dedicated to everyone who has ever worked in Greenland. I asked to join and was accepted, only to see that the rules specifically state – no promotion. I wrote to the administrator, explained the project, and asked for permission. His interest was piqued and I was quickly given the green light and made my post. Group members – of which there are over 12,000 – quickly began to comment and like, and, importantly, support the project. I liked, thanked, and replied to every comment, and made it personal. They were a part of my team – all of a sudden, I had a team! It felt, and still feels great. I enjoyed, and continue to enjoy the contact and the support. Plus, every new comment bumped the post and kept the story alive. The “Greenlanders” got me over the benchmark number of 50 supporters and into the 60s.
I found another group on Facebook for readers of Crime Fiction. 6,000 members for whom talking about crime books they have read and are about to read was their sole purpose for membership. I joined, and, once again, I noted the specific rules regarding promotion. I wrote to the administrator and she gave me the green light, adding that it was good of me to ask, as they get way too much spam. I was admin approved, and suddenly surrounded by willing folks who liked, shared, supported, and then bought the book. The project starting building, and I was on a wave of support full of positive comments and best wishes. The bonus here was that I was also inspired to write comments about the other posts, to like and contribute to the general discussion, and not be laser-focused on my own. I had found a community all of a sudden, and the support grew. The project had moved beyond the tipping point.
Personal Messages and the Personal Touch
Lastly, I chose to write personally to friends on social media, explaining the project more closely, and making it more personal. Suzi did the same with her friends on my behalf. And then, right there, the project was fully supported with over 100 supporters, and a combined social reach projected at over 96,000 people. At that point there was 9 days remaining.
I learned and gained from Lars’ experience, but I also had that epiphany that I had always recognized but failed to embrace – it’s the personal touch that makes all the difference. It has been said time and again, but I have ignored it – time and again.
So, here are my final thoughts on Thunderclapping, and other social media projects.
Forget the Masses
Find the niche groups and interact. With a common interest, in my case Greenland and a specific genre, it is not only easier to interact, but far more natural too.
Look for Support not a Sale
Even though the project is ultimately about selling my book, I did not frame it as such. I was, and am – there are 3 days left until the 26th, looking for help to launch my book. People understood that, and I like to think they appreciated the lack of “Hey! Buy my book!”. I certainly did. We were suddenly a part of something that was a little more abstract.
Make it Personal
Introduce yourself, explain your project, and make it personal. Again, nothing new here, but without a personal reason to invest in a project, no-one is going to do it. It’s the simple rules of marketing, but more than that, it is simply showing respect and appealling to people.
My last thought makes me smile. I thought that gaining the support of 100 people would be easy. I was wrong. Gaining the support of 100 invested people, however, is far easier and a lot more fun.
Have you tried a Thunderclap? Do you have any ideas, thoughts or comments you’d like to share? Feel free to comment below.