Author #Hashtags and #Brand and #Content, Oh My!

author overwhelmed social media facebook-695108_640For several years now, I have struggled to learn what I need to know as an author in order to get my books under the eyes of those who might enjoy reading them. How do I find and use the advice of the experts and other authors to my best advantage? What can I devote more time to and what needs to fall by the wayside?

New methods of promotion come to us daily from an increasing variety of sources, all of them touted as the latest, greatest avenue for self-promotion and sales.

First I needed a website. That was absolutely imperative for every author. Okay, I did that, and I must say, with the help of someone who knew what she was doing (thank you Carolyn Steele), it’s pretty awesome. It did help me find some new followers.

I had to be on Facebook, they said, including an Author Page, and on Twitter. Pinterest followed, along with AboutMe and some other social media sites. I gained some followers on all of them, even made a few friends. The numbers climbed as I followed up on the new contacts. Yay, me. It’s all about relationships – build those relationships. Google+. Got that one, too. Then came the advice to set up an e-mail list. I’ll admit I balked at that one. It scared me: looked too complicated. Shame on me. It’s still on my to-do list. Oh, and that magic number on Twitter is 5000. Get there and you’ll see sales. Right. Got there, numbers are still growing – sales, not so much. (Actually, Indies Unlimited is my favourite site for connecting!)

Then came all the advice on how to make all these things work better: use hashtags, create a brand. Er, wasn’t I already doing that? Make sure your content is engineered to find and attract new followers – and buyers. What does that even mean?

At first there were only a few sites where one could promote books at no cost. Then the ones that were working well for some became too expensive or shouldered out Indies.  But wait, there are others – yes, many others, increasing daily. So many, in fact, that I lose track of their names, let alone have time to pursue anything with them.

Those hashtags worked – a bit – for a little while. Then they became so overused, by everyone, not only writers, that I saw them losing any impact. And therein lies part of the problem. Hashtags, branding and content have all been appropriated by anyone with anything to sell, including major corporations and businesses. Even writers are using them so indiscriminately that they have become clichéd, and actually annoying to those looking for their next good book to read. I have seen tweets, book blurbs and Facebook entries so littered with hashtags they lose all meaning and relevance.

Oh, the latest? An outbreak of How-To books, all promising we can get rich fast and easy by following their simple, easy, fast, strategies: write a non-fiction book in two weeks, a novel in a month, a college-level course in three easy steps, and on and on. I will lay odds the only ones making money from these scams are the ones writing those how-to’s.

We continue to be inundated with new sites, new hashtags, new how-to books, new – well, you get the picture – all promising to lead us to the Holy Grail of sales. They seem to be increasing exponentially.

Where does all this leave us as writers and authors? All I can speak to is where it leaves me, and that is with no time to write, discouraged and stressed. And those sales? Yeah, you guessed it. No Holy Grail.

So what am I doing about it? I’m going back to basics, sticking with writing good books. Yes, I will carry on with the connections I have made – those elusive “relationships”. I’ll continue to support those who have supported me. And I’ll likely still feel the lure of new avenues of promotion. But I hope I won’t feel so inadequate when I choose to ignore the majority of them because I am spending my time writing.

Author: Yvonne Hertzberger

Yvonne Hertzberger is a native of the Netherlands who immigrated to Canada in 1950. She is an alumna of The University of Waterloo, with degrees in psychology and Sociology. Her Fantasy trilogy, ‘Earth’s Pendulum’ has been well received. Learn more about Yvonne at her blog and her Amazon author page.

37 thoughts on “Author #Hashtags and #Brand and #Content, Oh My!”

  1. Well said Yvonne. Everything social will continue to change, and will drive anyone crazy. So, it’s important to put writing first.

  2. Thanks Yvonne, you’ve named the elephant in the room! These days I only do the social media things I enjoy. And writing. Hopefully one day we’ll all reach that elusive critical mass and find the readers we’ve been looking for. 🙂

  3. I agree; if I have time to check out a new avenue of promotion, I will, but if not, I doubt I’ll miss much. There are too many flash-in-the-pan sites coming and going with nano-second regularity. Writing, either on my WIP or for IU, is my first priority, and everything else gets what time I have left. Works for me.

  4. I agree Yvonne, I concentrate on my storyline to write to the best of my ability. I am an author. After all, I love to write. There are so many people giving so much advice on so many avenues to pursue, that it is mind-boggling. So goes reviews. I am my own person. I never judge a book by its cover. I never judge an author by reviews. I read the synopsis of the author’s book, or the first two or three chapters. If I’m not liking what I am reading then I move on to another author, one who writes in the genre which I love to read. I never read reviews from other readers. Everyone has and should have their own opinion. Myself; I have my own and stick to my own and don’t let others influence me. I had several people say to me, “Oh you have to read Fifty Shades.” I started to, but no thanks, not for me. Doesn’t mean it’s not a good read, but just not for me. Yet it got a load of reviews, but from people who like that sort of…bondage writing…let’s say. Again, not for me. Reviews tell me what certain people like. Reviews don’t tell me what the real story is like. That’s for me to judge, else I’m just another robotic human being led astray because I can’t think for myself, but rely on what others think for me. I say; write your best, love what you write, and keep on writing. If you’re looking to get rich, you had better write the next, To Kill A Mockingbird, or Peyton Place, or in our new world we now live in, Harry Potter, or Vampire Bitch meets the man of her dreams, or woman of her means…

  5. I totally agree. This is one reason I’m so grateful for Instagram – with two clicks, I’ve shared to 5 different social networks. If Instagram would just add LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest, I’d be in heaven!

  6. I have seen too many authors abandon their blogs in the past year. I have tried to post myself once a week, then once a month, then whenever I feel guilty about the extended silence… Then there’s all the other channels you list… Isn’t this writing thing supposed to be enjoyable rather than a series of tasks that erode writing time and creative energy?

    However, I have so far only had short stories published in anthologies. I hope that once my own novels start appearing, there will be something more substantial to hang my name onto, to focus the spotlight on, as opposed to sharing the limelight with many others. (Not that I am at all ungrateful for the opportunity to get my name out there through the anthology route.)

    I agree with your conclusion: put out good books. And as the list of publications grows, there will be greater footprint to catch the attention of potential readers. I hope. 😉

  7. Yes. You’ve said what I’ve been thinking for more than a year, Yvonne.

    I stopped chasing the ‘next’ social media buzz long ago because it ate up my time. I have a website and a Facebook page, but those are the only active things I do. I have a twitter account where I share posts, like this one, but I seldom go there. A click to share is quick and easy.

    I’ve been told I have to have Pinterest, but….blah! Nope. Not for me. Anyway, new venues are good for only the first year, then they get flooded out and washed up. As for hashtags, I’ve used about three in the past year. I’m not a big fan of them; all blaze and no glory. Or is that all hype and no return? Frankly, when I see a post with one tag, I usually read the post, but never click the tag. If I see a post with lots of hashtags, I ignore it completely. It’s all jargon. Nonsense.

    I think the only thing we can depend on is the basics: write a good book people want to read. Then write another one.

  8. You’ve heard the old joke: Those who made the most money during the gold rush were the people selling shovels.

    From hastags by the handful to the latest best-thing-since-the-wheel sites and methods, book promotion these days has a gold rush feeling about it.

    Malcolm

  9. Good post, Yvonne. With all the social media and advertising sites and other marketing things authors can do, it’s hard to find time to write. And writing is the most important thing. I wish I knew how to find the perfect balance. Markeing is part of the 21st century author’s job, but it’s so many outlets and new tricks, hashtags, etc, it can really dwarf other endeavors.

    1. That perfect balance always seems out of reach. I found myself leaning too far into the social and neglecting the writing. I’ve decided to tip it back the other way for a while. 🙂

  10. So very true, Yvonne! I totally agree and believe the social media industry exists to make money from everyone who buys into all of the hype. I don’t care how many social connections you have…there is always a gimmick on how to get a best seller. Once you figure our you spend more than you make to get that to happen…you start to fall back and regroup and start from what it is really all about…the writing you do.

  11. Great post! Thanks.

    It really hit a nerve with me. I too have been struggling lately to find ways to get “my books under the eyes of those who might enjoy reading them.”

    I agree with your assessment of new promotion tools, and how they come and go. Honesty, my feeling is that by the time we read about the latest and greatest promo-tool, too many have already exploited the effectiveness out of it. I envision the indie landscape as a vast herd of horses, always on the move and frantically stampeding to the next big, shiny promo thing. It has become counterproductive to run with this herd.

    So it’s back to basics, as you said. Write good books. Build an audience one reader at a time. I think that like any product, it’s ultimately word-of-mouth that sells.

  12. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Yvonne! I’m off to follow my own path and fiind my own way through the maze. I write because I love to, because I have to, and because I believe I have something to say–I hope, in an entertaining fashion. If I find an audience for my brand of fiction, great. In the meantime, I want to become the best writer I can. That’s what matters most to me–the quality of the books I publish, not the quantity.

    Oh…and IU is my favorite site for connecting, too. Everyone here is “real.”

  13. I’m a bit late with my comment, but I have to thank you, Yvonne, for echoing my own sentiments. I’m drowning in webinars, seminars, teleseminars, and mountains of too-long emails announcing, inviting, confirming, re-confirming, ad nauseum! And, no surprise, I’m not writing anything anymore! Your article has come at exactly the right moment, and I will stop the merry-go-round immediately and get on with nourishing my creative self before I lose her forever.

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