How to Make Your Social Media Interactions More Fruitful

My favorite soda is Dr. Pepper. Joining the almost 16,000,000 other Dr. Pepper fans on Facebook allows me to express my likes on social media and support something I derive pleasure from.

Most people follow businesses and brands on social media because doing so allows them to express what they like as well as stay in touch with the producers of the things they engage with on a regular basis. But, fans want more.

social-media-fruitfulStudies show that individuals who decide to follow businesses on social media do so for three main reasons.

  1. To find out more about the products or services these entities provide.
  2. To receive exclusive offers and coupons for these products and services.
  3. To give feedback through rating or reviewing the products and services they receive.

Readers follow authors on social media for similar reasons. Fans want ongoing information that enriches their lives. They want to know when you are releasing new books. They want exclusive offers for discounts on your books, and they want to give feedback on your books.

If you want your social media efforts to produce more results, keep these three reasons in mind when posting material on your social media accounts. Give your readers:

  1. Sneak peaks into upcoming projects.
  2. Additional information on your book’s topics to enrich your readers’ lives.
  3. Special offers—discounts on current books and on new releases.
  4. The chance to interact with you by answering questions or giving feedback on ideas.

Social media is a place for people to stay on top of news and express their opinions. Give your fans what they are looking for and they will remain loyal and recommend you to others as well.

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Photo courtesy of Gilles Lambert

What Your Readers Want

Every author wants to attract readers for their books. After all, readers equal sales.

But, what do readers want? How do you attract readers to your books?

Enter content marketing. Content marketing is about providing your potential readers with information that inspires, delights, entertains, or meets a need. Providing readers with regular content via your blog, social media accounts, and email newsletters helps you establish an ongoing relationship with readers. This relationship and useful, quality content nudges these readers toward your books.

what-do-readers-want

Content is everywhere on the Internet. So, how do you as an author get your content to stand out from the crowd to attract readers? Following are four tips to help you develop and curate content that is attractive.

1. Meets a Need
Your content must meet a need. Whether that need is to inspire people into a closer relationship with God, better financial or time management, or learning to understand their inherent self-worth, your information must resonate with your audience.

2. Is Niche Focused
Your content must be niche focused. In other words, instead of inspiring everyone to have a closer relationship with God, focus on inspiring a group of people such as students or mothers or teachers in this regard. The more you focus your content for a specific group of people, the more attractive your message will be.

3. Has a Unique Voice
You must develop your own voice. Don’t mimic others. Be yourself. Be unique. You have a special message for your audience. Use your voice and experience to present your information in a way that only you can.

4. Includes a Clear Point of View
Don’t muddy the waters by trying to be all things to all people. Your point of view should be clear and focused on your niche audience. Stay on topic. Don’t get sidetracked. If your message is about prayer, keep to prayer. If it is about relationships, don’t stray into financial issues.

You can attract more readers through top quality content. However, that content must also meet a need for a niche group and be presented with a unique voice and clear point of view.

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Photo courtesy of Freddie Marriage

Is Christian Fiction Growing or Dying?

It is surprising to me how many people assume that “clean fiction” is the same as “Christian fiction.” It’s not.

To be considered “Christian fiction” a book must promote Christian teachings or exemplify a Christian way of life.

Over the years, Christian fiction has waxed and waned. A few decades ago, there was a great push for Christian bookstores to carry more fiction books. Now it appears that Christian fiction may be on the waning phase for traditional publishing houses.

christian-fiction

Chip MacGregor, a Christian literary agent, recently wrote a few publishing predictions for 2017 on his blog. Here is what he had to say about Christian fiction:

“Christian fiction as we know it is going to almost completely go away. The days of people buying 100,000 copies of a new Amish romance are dead. The readership has aged, the readers have discovered there are quality issues with CBA mystery, suspense and thriller genres, so CBA fiction is going to morph into “clean romance” and “values fiction” and “apocalyptic biblical thrillers” aimed specifically at a shrinking group of hard-core conservative evangelical readers in their 50’s. There are only a handful of houses still acquiring Christian fiction these days.”

Sales of religious novels began to decline in 2014, after many years of robust growth. As a result, a number of publishers began pulling back from that market. However, statistics showed that traditional publishing houses were only releasing around 250 new fiction titles a year (not counting the various Harlequin Love Inspired and Heartsong lines which publish over 200 per year) compared to thousands of nonfiction titles released each year.

While the traditional Christian publishing houses may be reducing the number of clearly “Christian fiction” books they produce, the number of “Christian fiction” books produced by independent authors and small publishers is growing. Subscribe to any one of the many Christian discount ebook newsletters (i.e. Vessel Project, Faithful Reads, Inspired Reads, Christian Book Readers, etc.) and you will find plenty of Christian fiction books by independent authors.

In fact, I believe that “Christian fiction” is growing with independent authors and small publishers. Over the past few years, the number of Christian fiction titles that have been nominated for the Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award has grown each year. And, this year, for the first time, more General Fiction books were nominated than books in the Christian Living category (historically the largest category in the award).

If, indeed, the traditional Christian publishing houses are switching to more “clean fiction” to reach a crossover market and increase their sales, this leaves a gap that independent authors can fill. I believe there is still a strong market for good redemptive Christian fiction books, but the majority of sales for these will be digital. After all, one recent statistic showed that 70% of fiction book purchases are ebooks.

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Photo courtesy of Sarah Dorweiler

Bigger is Not Necessarily Better

The bigger the better. That’s our mindset.

Go to a fast food restaurant and you are frequently asked if you want to “supersize” your meal. We are usually looking to acquire bigger cars, bigger houses, and bigger paychecks.

slow-and-steady

Authors can easily fall into this mindset. We want to sell our books to the crowds. The bigger the audience the better. We can get so caught up in gathering a large audience, that we end up neglecting to convert the people in our audience to buyers.

Most people assume that larger audiences equate to more sales. This is the mindset of most traditional publishing houses today. The questions editors ask most aspiring authors are “How big is your audience?” and “What is your platform?”

A friend of mine blogs on virtues and skills of manliness. He has done a fantastic job of growing his audience through networking and cross-promotion with other bloggers speaking to men. As a result, a publishing house approached him about writing a book on ways to use pocket knives. The book was not his idea, it was the brainchild of the publishing house. They were simply looking for someone with an audience to write the book. That way, the publisher would be assured of sales because the author already had an audience to promote the book to.

Many people independently publish a book because—rather than having a large audience to sell the book to—they have a message or story they believe in. Yet, after the book is published, these same authors can get so caught up in seeking a large audience that they fail to really connect with their audience. As a result, their sales remain dismal.

Recently, thought leader Seth Godin did a short article on “How to be heard” on his blog. One of the statements he made was “Convert six people before you try to convert sixty.” This is excellent advice.

If you are struggling to be heard, if you are struggling to sell your books, follow this great advice. Focus on a few. Work on convincing the few people you already have in your circle to believe your message and buy your book before you try to persuade the masses.

In our immediate gratification culture, the concept of building your audience a little at a time seems counter intuitive. Yet, slow and steady usually gets that job done. Go for better, rather than bigger.

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Photo Courtesy of Providence Doucet

Social Media: An Integral Part of Life in America

Social media: Most authors either hate it or love it.

Two of the questions that I hear the most about social media are:

  • Is social media worth the time and effort?
  • Does the time invested in social media really pay off in book sales?

Whether you love or hate social media, whether you are convinced it drives sales or are skeptical, the facts is social media is extremely popular. Around seven in ten Americans use social media to connect with others, share information, find entertainment, and engage with news. In essence social media is where your target audience hangs out.

social-media-stat

Pew Research recently put out a report on patterns and trends in social media over the past decade. When Pew Research Center began tracking social media adoption in 2005, just 5% of American adults used at least one of the social networking platforms. By 2011 that share had risen to half of all Americans, and today 69% of the public uses some type of social media.

For many users, social media is part of their daily routine. Roughly three-quarters of Facebook users—and around half of Instagram users—visit these sites at least once a day. According to Pew Research, Facebook is by far, the most popular social media site. Here is the breakdown of Internet users for the main social media sites.

  • 79% have Facebook accounts
  • 32% use Instagram
  • 31% have accounts on Pinterest
  • 29% have LinkedIn profiles
  • 24% are on Twitter

I believe that social media can be a very powerful tool for authors. However, it is not a selling tool, it is a connecting tool. You can’t view social media as a sales channel. Rather, it is a means to building an audience—a channel for gaining people’s trust so that you can lead them to your books.

If you are an author who is averse to using social media, I suggest that you spend your time on one social media site. Create a profile, begin connecting with people, and learn how the site works. Even a presence on one social media site will begin to enlarge your reach and help you develop a larger audience for your books.

If you are unsure of what you should be doing on social media, I suggest that you watch my on-demand seminar Develop an Audience for Your Books. This seminar will give you ideas on what to post on social media and how to use it to connect with readers for your books.

As always, this seminar is free for Member of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA). Others can stream the seminar for just $20 at http://mcbuniveristy.selz.com.

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