The Secret to Publishing Success in the Era of Social Media: Teaming with Your Fellow Authors

by Anne R. Allen

Jon Stewart said on the Daily Show on August 27, (with heavy irony, of course) "Everybody uses Social Media as a weapon; that's what it's for."

He was, as usual, uttering spot-on truth disguised as a joke. Lots of people DO seem to use social media as a weapon, whether it's to shame an ex, brag about themselves, gang up on a perceived miscreant, or bully people into action.

But that's not how to use social media if you want to succeed in publishing.

As I have said before, social media should be used for making friends, not direct marketing, bullying, or personal horn-tooting. (A little tooting is okay, but make sure it's sandwiched between lots of helpful stuff.)

I think writers should be making friends with other writers, not just the people they perceive to be their "target reader demographic" (although that is always wise as well.)

This may be the opposite of what you're hearing from some marketing gurus, but hear me out—

I'm not telling you to MARKET to other writers. That's pointless, annoying, and a great way to make enemies.

NOTE: NEVER market through a personal Direct Message or an @ message, ever. And anybody who spams my email with a newsletter I never subscribed to: I WILL remember you. And not in a good way. (I'm sure the spammers don't read this blog. They probably skim my info from FB groups or Goodreads. Do not do this.)

But writer friends can be helpful to you in a lot of more important ways than as one-time customers for a book. 

So get out and meet them. Especially authors in your own genre. Other writers aren't your rivals; they're your colleagues.

I see a lot of pre-published writers talking trash about the stars of their genre, giving them rotten reviews or making disparaging remarks on forums. Oddly, this seems especially true of literary writers, as Stephen Almond wrote recently in Poets and Writers , but I see it in all genres. This is old-school thinking that can backfire, big time.

When you trash superstars, you're also trashing all their fans. That's a whole lot of your potential readers you've just alienated.

Some authors even try to knock another writer off the spot ahead of them on the bestseller list, as if selling books were a contest or a "reality" TV show.

There was a huge scandal a few years ago when a bestselling trad-pubbed author was caught leaving sock-puppet one-star reviews on "rival" authors' books. He seemed to think that by bringing down other authors' books, he would get more readers of his own.

That either/or thinking is ridiculous. If somebody liked one military thriller, they're likely to buy another. They're not going to read one and say, "Okay, I'm done with thrillers. Now I'll go buy me some chick lit."

In response to a recent nasty bit of bullying of an established author by a vicious plagiarist using sock puppets, David Farland wrote a list of "Standards of Excellence for Writers" that's worth a read.

In the era of social media, other writers can contribute a lot to your own marketing, so play nice.

One caveat: There are ways authors should NOT team up for marketing purposes. Beware "author rings" that trade reviews! It's against Amazon's TOS and can get you kicked off the site for life. It is also unethical. As David Farland says, "many people are getting positive reviews by giving positive reviews. I’ve seen them swapping openly on Facebook. This is just as illegal as buying reviews any other way, and it’s just as bad."

But there are lots of ethical ways to team up for book promotion. Here are some:

1) Guest Blogging

I first met Ruth Harris when she made a comment on this blog and I recognized her as a favorite author. I immediately asked her to guest. When I saw she didn't have her own blog yet, I asked her to make her contribution permanent.

I know this blog wouldn't have the success it's enjoying now if I'd tried to do this all on my own. Partnering with a seasoned, bestselling author who also worked behind the scenes at several Big Five houses has made this blog what it is.

When I needed guest posters this summer, I looked for other bloggers who appeal to our readers. Those bloggers almost all have "how to write" and "how to blog" books: books that could be seen as competition for my book HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE.

So do I treat them as rivals? Nope. I invited the authors of HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL, BLOG IT, and PLANNING YOUR NOVEL, to guest for us.

That meant that fans of Janice Hardy, Nathan Bransford, and Molly Greene came over here and discovered this blog. And Janice, Nathan and Molly got introduced to this blog's audience.

We all grew our subscriber lists and increased our book sales.

2) Spotlights and Interviews

I will always be grateful to the many, many author-bloggers who have interviewed me and spotlighted my books. Not all of them are published yet, but they all have valuable blogs that are read by people I want to tell about my books.

And when they are published, you can be sure I'll remember them and do what I can to help their careers.

One interview came up in a Google search a year later and got my book NO PLACE LIKE HOME noticed by the features editor of More magazine, which led to an interview that has done a huge amount to raise my profile with my target readers who may NOT be on social media.

3) Tweeting and sharing book news and blogposts.

If I love another author's books and see they're on sale, I will spread the word on social media. I also always tweet a link to a good blogpost.

And smart authors do the same, no matter how high up they are on the food chain.

Superstar Anne Rice shared a link to this blog on her FB page last week. I haven't read one of her books since Interview with the Vampire. But now, I just may pick up her new LeStat book…

So many of you are wonderful about tweeting and sharing this blog. I know who you are. I stop by your blogs when I have time, and tweet and share them too. And when you get book deals or publish a book, I'll spread the word.

4) Forming a multi-author joint blog, collective or even your own publishing house.

Some of the highest profile writing blogs, like Writer Unboxed, began as joint-author blogs of just two or three aspiring authors. As their careers grow, so do their blogs. Sometimes authors in the same genre who blog together will also join up for an anthology or boxed set, like the Embracing Romance group, who plan a Valentine's historical anthology.

We ran a piece about the international publishing collective Triskele last year. Banding together for cover design, formatting and marketing has worked very well for this group of hardworking, successful authors.

Two veteran trad-pubbed authors who have gone indie made news last week by forming their own crime fiction publishing house, Brash Books

5) Joint Promotions

This is a biggie.

In his bestselling book on marketing, LET'S GET VISIBLE, David Gaughran says the best forms of ebook promotion are:

1. A sale promoted through a bargain newsletter like BookBub, ENT, KNT, EBUK, Fussy Librarian etc.

2. A guest post on a major blog

3. A joint promotion.

#1 can be a gamble—sometimes an expensive one—but #2 and #3 simply involve getting together with your friends you've met on social media. You can put together a joint promotion with dozens of other authors, or just two or three.

It can be an anthology, a multi-author sale, or a boxed set. 


Authors have discovered that if they band together with other authors in their genre, they can offer a sampler that expands readership exponentially.

The first joint promotion I was involved with was the super-successful INDIE CHICKS ANTHOLOGY. Twenty-five women writers contributed short essays about their publishing journeys, and we all included a sample from one of our books that linked to the buy page for the complete novel.

The anthology came out when I was going through my grueling launch-five-novels-in-three months marathon three years ago. I was a little out of my depth, but they were all so kind that many of the "Chicks" have become permanent friends. I know the anthology had a lot to do with my initial success when I re-started my career. 

Multi-Author Sales

My books first started to hit the bestseller lists when I did a joint promo with nine other Rom-Com authors I met in a Chick Lit Facebook group. We all chipped in for an ad and ran 99c sales on our books for a holiday weekend. We all brought in our own fans and they got to know the other writers' work.

We were very lucky to have a tech-savvy member who put up a landing page for us. It linked to our websites and buy pages. We all promoted it on our own social media pages and it was simple and very effective.

Boxed Sets

The joint promo that's having the most spectacular success right now is the limited edition multi-author boxed set.

A nice benefit of ebooks is they can be easily bundled so a set of multiple novels that is as easy to deliver to your ereader as one book. That means boxed sets of complete novels can be sold a give-away prices (they're usually only offered for a limited time.)

Some of the biggest names in indie publishing have collaborated in boxed sets that have made the NYT and USA Today bestseller lists, like the Deadly Dozen that featured some of the biggest names in indie publishing and made the NYT bestseller list. Now every one of those authors can put "NYT Bestseller' on their Web pages and they've all gained thousands of new readers.

For more on boxed sets, there's a great post by Jason Kong at The Book Designer blog, and another by James Moushon at the E-Book Author's Corner.

And I'm very honored to announce that I was invited to join five bestselling comic mystery authors in the SIX PACK OF SLEUTHS boxed set that debuted this month. I'm in awe of all these fantastic authors. Dani Amore/Dan Ames, who's a veteran of this kind of promo, is a big fan of the boxed set. He says they're great because "an author can receive a lot of exposure for little invested money."

More on our boxed set below.

So play nice with your fellow authors. Don't spam or trash-talk. Make friends. It's amazing how being helpful and friendly can have a great influence on your bottom line.

What about you, Scriveners? Have you ever collaborated with other authors on an anthology, joint sale, multi-author blog, or boxed set? Have you collaborated in some other way? What was your experience? Have you ever bought a multi-author boxed set? 



Six Award Winning Bestselling Authors bring you a Six Pack of Sleuths DEATH BY SARCASM by Dan Ames writing as Dani Amore MIAMI MUMMIES by Barbara Silkstone THE PERFECT WEDDING by Sibel Hodge, SADIE’S GUIDE TO CATCHING KILLERS by Zané Sachs (the demented alter-ego of author, Suzanne Tyrpak) BEING LIGHT by Helen Smith, FOOD OF LOVE, by Anne R. Allen

Six Pack of Sleuths is available from:

all the Amazons

Happy Reading!
This set is featured on Kindle Books and Tips


The Central Coast Writers Conference One of the best deals around in a weekend writer's conference. And it's held on the Cuesta College campus in beautiful San Luis Obispo, CA. Mystery writer legend Anne Perry is the keynote speaker. See you there! September 19th-20th

SCHNEIDER FAMILY BOOK AWARDS: NO ENTRY FEE. These awards honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. Three awards of $5000 each will be given annually in each of the following categories: birth through grade school (age 0-10), middle school (age 11-13) and teens (age 13-18). May be fiction, biography, or other form of nonfiction. Deadline December 1, 2014. 

For NEW WRITERS! THE FICTION DESK NEWCOMER'S PRIZE ENTRY FEE £8. First prize £500, second prize £250. Short fiction from 1,000 - 5,000 words. Writers should not have been previously published by The Fiction Desk, and should not have published a novel or collection of short stories in printed form. Deadline October 31st.

GLIMMER TRAIN VERY SHORT FICTION AWARD $15 fee. Maximum length: 3,000 words. 1st place wins $1,500, publication in Glimmer Train Stories, and 20 copies of that issue. 2nd place wins $500 (or, if accepted for publication, $700 and 10 copies). 3rd place wins $300 (or, if accepted for publication, $700 and 10 copies). Deadline October 31, 2014. 

CHICKEN SOUP - HEARTFELT STORIES BY MOMS Pays $200 for 1,200 words. Stories can deal with the pains and highlights of motherhood, the wonders of parenting grandchildren, special moments of raising a newborn, being a role model to a teenager, or anything that touches the heart of a mom. Deadline September 30th.

Steamy Romance Anthology. No Fee. Fast Foreword is open for submissions for their "Holiday Hot Romance Anthology" Holiday-themed steamy romance or erotica. 3,000-8,000 words long. If the work has been published elsewhere, you must include bibliographic information and hold all publication rights. Deadline September 20th.

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