I’m going to put it right out there: I love Chris Syme’s book, SMART Social Media for Authors: The practical guide for anyone to sell more books.
I suspected I would like it because I’m familiar with the author’s work. I first connected with Chris Syme when she referenced one of my blog posts in an article she wrote for DigitalBookWorld.com. We began talking after that, and as a result, she wrote an excellent guest post for us here, “10 terrible social media myths authors should avoid.”
Still, I often find that books take too much of a high view of a topic — lots of what and why, but not enough how — so I managed my expectations as I sat down with this book over the weekend.
I was not disappointed in the least.
- The marketing basics recommended in the first part of the book mirror what I teach authors. I was glad to see that we share the same philosophy about how to attract more readers.
- The information and advice gets very, very specific, whether the topic is tools that will save you time or instruction on how to do something the “right” way.
- It has examples that help the reader understand the concepts. Those that accompany the section on the differences between goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics are particularly helpful, as is the list of sample book launch activities in the chapter on social media campaigns.
Still, will this book help you? Read on.
Who should read this book
Although this book will help the novice social media user — someone who has just opened a Twitter account or who has a Facebook profile, not a Page, and uses the site mostly to stay in touch with family and friends — much of it will overwhelm that individual, too. It (fairly) presumes a basic understanding of social networks already.
It’s also not a good fit for those of you who have decided that you don’t need social media or simply aren’t interested in using social networks to promote your books.
It’s better suited to someone who has already incorporated social media into the book marketing mix or has decided to do so and wants to know how to do it effectively. These authors will learn more about to make their social media activity SMART — sustainable (regardless of the ways networks change or come and go), manageable, audience-specific, relevant, and tactics last.
Chances are, you’ll be reassured by some of the author’s advice because it will tell you that you’re doing some things properly. For example, you might know already that how you present content should vary from network to network. Chris uses the infographic on InstaMom101, “Social media explained with wine,” to address this. But do you know the different roles of influencers and advocates and how they can support your efforts? Chapter 11 on how to build raving fans helps with that.
Content flows from basic to advanced level
What I found most valuable about this book was the methodical, logical, organized way the author presents information that will no doubt take your social media marketing up several levels if you follow her advice. It starts with the most basic information in Part 1, moves you through that to intermediate-level content in Parts 2 and 3, then helps you become an advanced social media user in Part 4.
If you haven’t been very thoughtful or strategic about what you share on social media or how you share it, that will change. The “content bucket” approach — one that I use informally but will now get more serious about embracing — presents an interesting way to think about what you share, where you share it, and how often you do it.
If you’ve been looking for guidance on how to use social media for book launches, you’ll get the knowledge you’ll need presented in a way that you understand.
I will caution you, though, that because this book does have a great deal of specific information, you can get overwhelmed quickly. Don’t try to read it in one sitting. Instead, read a few chapters and use the questions at the end of each to take action. Don’t move on to the next few chapters until you’ve acted on what you’ve just learned. That way, by the time you reach the how-to information on campaigns and paid advertising, you’ll have the foundation in place to support what you learn.
What to expect
SMART Social Media for Authors will not teach you how to set up social media accounts, create profiles, and so on. It presumes that you’ve got those in place or will use the readily available information found elsewhere to do this. If you’re looking for a book on “how to get started on Twitter” or “how to create a Pinterest board,” this isn’t for you.
Instead, it’s about the strategy you’ll use on the various sites and how you will employ specific tactics so your time spent on social networks makes a difference and isn’t wasted. It’s about the thought you put into what you share, not the mechanics of sharing.
A special word to fiction authors: While Chris handles social media campaign for both novelists and nonfiction writers through her social media agency and the book’s content applies to both, I think that novelists will struggle to understand how some of the concepts presented in Part 1 will relate to them. While there are fiction examples later in the book, I think it would have helped to have more of them early on. For example, Chris states that “Sustainable social media adds value.” In my experience working with authors, nonfiction writers can grasp how to provide free content that builds trust between an author and a reader more easily than fiction writers can.
But that’s a small point, and I have faith that the fiction writers who want to get smarter about social media will get what they need without getting too stuck on some of these points.
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