I am British and grew up in an age when telling people about your achievements was regarded as bragging and rather looked down on. Nowadays, attitudes have shifted. If you want to get on in the world, we are told you should adopt the American approach of making sure people know just how brilliant you are.
This doesn’t always work. Recently, I had a new follower on Twitter and, before I followed them back, I had a look at their feed. Basically, it consisted of adverts for their book. Literally. The same advert just repeated over and over again. That is not going to encourage anyone to buy the book.
On the other hand, last weekend I was at a party and my hostess thrust a microphone into my hand and asked me to read a paragraph or two from one of my books. It was a lovely gesture, particularly as many of the people there didn’t know me well and had no idea that I wrote. So I read my extract and everybody applauded and the party moved on. Only afterwards did I realise that I hadn’t mentioned the name of the book or where you could get it. It’s fair to say that when it comes to selling my work, I am not a marketing genius. It’s ironic, really, because my day job used to be in print marketing – and, in fairness, I was quite good at it.
I think it’s reasonable to suggest that I could promote my books quite a lot more before I move into the territory of Twitter bores who talk about nothing else. In fact I noticed when I last looked that I had managed more than twenty tweets and four days without mentioning my own books once, which is not good marketing.
So how do I promote my books?
My main vehicle for promoting my books is social media. Once upon a time, this used to mean Facebook. I have a Facebook author page (Tom Williams | Facebook) but Facebook have changed the way things work to the point where not that many people will see posts on your author page unless you cross Mr Zuckerberg’s palm with silver. If you want to use Facebook for promotion, you are really going to have to buy Facebook advertising. With the sort of budget I have available, I’ve not had any luck with Facebook adverts and I don’t think this is how I want to spend my money.
As Facebook became an increasingly ineffective way of talking to readers and potential readers, I moved to Twitter. (I’m @TomCW99.) It takes a long time to build up a useful presence on Twitter, but, once I had, I found Twitter a brilliant place to be. I was able to engage with other Twitter users and, whether coincidentally or not, sales of my books began to climb. Then came Elon Musk. Like most people I have seen a dramatic drop in engagement. Twitter has become vastly less useful as a way to promote my books.
As Twitter users increasingly abandon the platform, there has been a move to Mastodon. I’ve played with this myself. (I’m at @TCW@toot.community.) Mastodon doesn’t really seem to work as a place to promote your books, though.
Some authors are rushing off to TikTok, but I’ve never really believed that a 30 second video that will be viewed mostly by very young people is the best way to promote novels that will be read by people who are quite a lot older. Perhaps I should look harder at Instagram, but I’m getting to the limit of the number of social media I can learn.
What about just paying for ads on Amazon? I have tried this, with mixed results. It’s hard work, though. You need to be very careful how you set each campaign up and then monitor it to see if it is effective or if you have made a slip up. If you haven’t set it up quite correctly, you can find it costing much more than you had expected.
So where now? Well, if anyone asks me to read from my books in future, I’ll try to remember to mention the titles. And, until then, I’m going to be a bit more aggressive (or less ridiculously modest) in talking about my books in newsletters and on social media generally. And, when all else fails, I’m going to beg.
Buy my books. Please. Pretty please. You can find them all on my Amazon Author Page (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tom-Williams) or on my own website at My books | History and books and dance and stuff (tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk).