Summer School – Self Publishing Edition: Social Media

Summer School Graphic 2019

You get to hear from me today! I’ve been asked a variety of questions about using social media as an author. Again, I’m no expert, but I do use social media a lot as an author, so hopefully some of the tips and tricks I’ve picked up on will help you in some way!

Using Social Media as an Author

First of all, if you are already on social media, that’s great! However, if you are only on there with personal accounts, my recommendation would be to create author versions of all of them. You want to keep your private life a bit separate from your personal life. This protects you in a couple of ways: it keeps you from being “on” or “at work” all the time, and it prevents you from losing all your friends who love YOU but don’t necessarily only want to hear about your books.

Now, do you have to use all the social medias?


(I can just hear some of you breathing a deep sigh of relief)

I recommend either:

Picking the ones you like best


Finding the ones with the highest concentration of YOUR target audience


A combination of those

I’d also recommend starting out by just focusing on one or two different social medias and growing as you feel able. My personal favorites are my blog, facebook, and instagram. However, personalities differ! Some people find twitter to be extremely useful. Others focus mainly on their newsletters. I know several who utilize pinterest to great effect (which I think probably involves practicing some sort of dark magic… I jest, I jest!) Others love goodreads (which I like as a reader, but I don’t use it much as an author, which I probably should, but I’m also slightly terrified to do so because of horror stories I’ve heard and so far Goodreads has always been a pleasant experience for me and I don’t wish to do anything that might tip the balance in a way that would make that change). As a side-note: I actually use all of the social medias I just mentioned, but I do focus mostly on my favorites. I’ve worked my way up to using the ones I don’t enjoy as much because I know it helps me reach a wider audience.

So where should you post?

A lot of that depends on what you write and who your target audience is. The teenagers are currently mostly hanging out on instagram, so if you write for MG or YA then I recommend an instagram account. (Their parents, however, are all over on facebook, and they are the ones with the money to buy books for their children, so that’s a good place to go as well). I still haven’t figured out WHO is on Twitter, I think it’s mostly 20-30 year olds. Blogs seem to be read by a variety of ages, which works nicely for me as I write for a variety of ages – my target audience being “families who read together.” Pinterest… I truly, honestly have no idea how to make Pinterest work for me as an author. I enjoy finding and pinning cool things, and I do have boards for my various books… and people seem to enjoy them when I share them… but gauging feedback/actual marketing from it… *shrugs*

But honestly, while it does matter WHERE you post… what matters more is WHAT you post!

So what should you post?

Jenelle, I’m an author… I should post about my books! But I’m also human, and can only release books so fast. So… I should just shout about whatever book I’ve most recently released until the next one comes out, right?

The number one rule for what you should post is actually more of a number one rule for what you should NOT post. And take it from me, who learned the hard way back in 2012… this one is a biggie:

Don’t post about your book all the time.

I know, I know. This seems so counter-intuitive. You’ve just written a book and published it… and you want to get the word out… and of COURSE you want to shout about it! It’s exciting! You want to share that excitement!

But it’s the quickest way to get people to ignore you… and that’s the best-case response scenario.

Figuring out what to post is probably going to take you some time. But I can help out with five ideas that have worked for me and other authors I watch:

1. A daily hashtag of some kind. I don’t personally use this one because I just can’t keep up, though I’ll join in on a few that I like from time to time… but I know several authors who have a daily hashtag and their followers enjoy waiting for it and get excited about sharing it. This often includes sharing a picture of some kind with the hashtag label. (For example: HL Burke posts a #DailyDragon and shares images of dragons she’s found or pictures of her own Theodore the dragon out and about and having adventures).

2. Snippets from your WIP. The people following you want to know what you’re working on. They like to feel like they’re part of the process and readers get excited about snippets. They don’t have to be long (and should not include spoilers!) but they can help build some excitement for projects you’ve got in the works.

3. Bits of your real life. Let your readers know you are human. Let them celebrate the good things “Today is my fifteenth wedding anniversary!” (no, seriously… it is! Here’s a picture from our wedding day… we were so LITTLE!!!!)


and commiserate with the tough things, “I have a headache and I should be writing but instead I’m going to sit on the couch watching (insert favorite show here) and eat way more than a single serving of ice cream.” Or if you get to meet YOUR favorite author, or you sat in a field of flowers and watched bunnies scamper by… let them know! If you’re excited about a movie coming out, or you read a great book… (Just make sure in these cases that you stay “on brand!” If you tend to write children’s picture books, I wouldn’t go telling your fans you’re excited about Scream 32 coming to theaters!) *grin*

4. Celebrate with your tribe. Let your readers know if an author you particularly like is having a sale (again, you’ll want to stay on-brand with this) but one of the great things about social media is the ability to find “your” people. With my clean fantasy brand, I love being a part of the Clean Indie Fantasy, Fellowship of Fantasy, Realm Makers Consortium, and Burning Embers groups on facebook. Not only does that mean I have a variety of other authors to reach out to for help when I’m needing advice or direction on something, but it also means that I’ve found some awesome new books to read that go nicely with my own, and I can shout about THEIR books without being obnoxious. I can’t tell you how many times I have sold a book to someone because I shouted my love for someone else’s book and a) they had already read it and loved it, or b) they tried it out and loved it and subsequently decided I had good taste in books and then decided to try one of mine!

5. Ask questions. Take a poll when you’re stuck on what to name a character or what to title your book. Ask your readers if they would notice certain anachronisms to determine if you should edit what you just wrote. Even if you don’t go with the results of the poll, it’s good to get feedback and readers like giving feedback!

6. (I know, I know, I said five… the reason will be clear in a moment) Post about your books. (But, Jenelle! You said NOT to post about my books! You’re confusing). Well, of course you want people to KNOW about your books. If you’re having a sale… let your readers know! If you’re releasing a new book… let your readers know! If you just got an awesome review… let ‘em know! I have been told a good rule-of-thumb ratio is 1:9. You want to write ONE “sales” post to every NINE “non-sales” posts like the five ideas I gave you above. Now, there may be days when your ratio is more than that because you’re having a free-day or a sale or something super exciting is happening, and that’s perfectly fine. But then maybe take that ratio down even lower on the following days so that your followers don’t get annoyed.

Now, different types of social media are going to be better for different types of posts, but before you go getting overwhelmed by the idea of doing this across multiple platforms, I’m going to let you in on a secret! Most of these platforms have a way for you to “push” posts from one social media to another! That means that when I post on this blog, I have it set to auto-post to facebook and twitter. When I post a picture on instagram, I can tell it to post to facebook and over to my little instagram widget on the sidebar of this blog, and so on and so forth. This means I can post across multiple platforms even though I’m only doing the work once!

If all else fails… follow a couple of your own favorite authors and watch what they post. What do they do well? How could you implement their ideas (without straight-up stealing their posts, stealing is wrong) into your own brand? What kinds of things do they post? What kinds of posts get the most comments? A lot of this is trial and error, so keep at it!

And now it’s your turn! What social media platforms do you like best? What are some things you’ve done that have worked well? Have you learned any lessons the hard way? Do you have any further questions on this subject? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments!


~ jenelle



I didn’t even know people could use Pinterest in that way–I mean, obviously it can be really helpful for someone with a very visual-type business like sewing or some kind of craft, but it didn’t occur to me it could be helpful for something like writing. I’m with you on dark magic, Jenelle.
I love all the tips on this post! I guess if you only post about your book, it doesn’t really present you as a person, but you still have to let people know you HAVE a book.

Btw, just wanted to let you know, I think Amazon must have bugged or something, because it looks like the blurb for King’s Warrior cuts off halfway through? Sorry if I’m telling you something you already knew! :-)


Ooh, thanks for the head’s up! I’m super frustrated with Amazon and that particular blurb!! I’ve tried multiple times to get them to adjust it so it matches the blurb I have on the kindle version and for some reason it never goes through! Looks like I’ll have to send them a note, though, because now it’s just awful.

Sarah Pennington

Question: is it possible to have a hybrid personal-author account? I’m experimenting with Instagram, and I kinda enjoy it, but I don’t really have the motivation to manage separate accounts for normal-me and author-me. Is it unreasonable to have that be primarily “behind the scenes” stuff and then have my FB page to be more professional, book-focused stuff? (So, IG would have occasional my-book posts, but would also have a lot about my non-writing projects, books I’m excited about, and general life stuff, whereas FB would primarily have posts about author life, my books — snippets, news, fun tidbits, etc. — and other books or media that I want to recommend or spread the word about.) Is that a reasonable system?


I think that is totally doable! My author IG kinda started as my ONLY IG account, but then I started to worry about posting pictures of my kids… so I made a personal/private IG account just for “people I know IRL” where I can post pictures for the grandparents and such, and my author account is public and more for my bookish stuff. I actually find IG to be the easier of the platforms to juggle between, but yeah, it’s totally doable to have just the one account.

Your system sounds very reasonable.

Sarah Pennington

Good to know! I generally don’t post pictures of anyone other than myself anywhere, so that shouldn’t be an issue. Why do you say IG is easier to juggle accounts on?


Just because switching back and forth on my phone is super easy and there’s more of a… “barrier” between the accounts than there is on FB. I dunno. I really like IG. I’m still learning a lot, but it’s probably my favorite social media after my blog…. even if it does take more work to set up pictures than it does to type up a status update :)


I love hearing from you, dear Reader!