How a Dorset author uses social media to sell books

If you want to know how to promote your product through Twitter, you can probably learn something from Di Castle of Swanage. In 18 months, she’s sold hundreds of copies of her ‘Grandma’s Poetry Book’. That’s some achievement, particularly for a volume of poetry, and she’s confident there’s potential to sell a lot more. Di kindly agreed to share with you the story of how Twitter helped her find and then grow her market. Whatever you sell, or promote, through social media, there’s something to learn from her experience.

Of course, not all of Di’s sales come as a result of using Twitter and other social media channels. She sells at fetes and fairs, and even sold from a Swanage beach hut in the run up to Christmas.

But Twitter has helped her sell further afield and, perhaps more significantly, build a network of valuable contacts.

Find the right publisher for the book

Having written for years, when Di became a grandmother she pulled her poems into a collection and began looking for a publisher. People were genuinely complimentary about her work, but poetry books don’t get a lot of space on retailers’ shelves.

Grandma's Poetry Book cover
Grandma's Poetry Book cover

She found an illustrator, Denise Horn, also from Swanage, and at the Winchester Writers’ Festival she connected with self-publishing specialists Matador.

When she signed up, Di agreed to pay Matador to promote her book on social media. But the publisher then spotted she already had a presence on Twitter and suggested that rather than pay them, she could take on the book’s promotion on social media.

Di then took the sensible step of getting some training. She attended some courses, including a workshop I ran with my wife, Rachel, at Purbeck Literary Festival in 2015.

Grasping the power of the hashtag

Di is very clear about what she learned from her training. This included:

  • The importance of having good quality content on your blog or website
  • Not being afraid to tweet links to your content more than once
  • Why and how to schedule tweets
  • The power of the hashtag

Like so many people, Di didn’t really understand how a hashtag worked. When it was explained, and she was encouraged to engage with hashtags popular with authors, such as #amwriting and #amreading, she found her tweets began to get attention.

Di started becoming strategic about who she followed on Twitter. Previously it had been a very mixed bag, so she unfollowed many of them and became more focused on following bloggers, particularly parent bloggers. She discovered them through the #mblogger and #pblogger hashtags (that’s mum bloggers and parent bloggers).

Di engaged with the bloggers, retweeting them and starting to build relationships. Then she asked if they’d like to review her book, which several did. The bloggers then shared links to the reviews with their audience.

Finding and focusing on the target audience

By now, Di knew that the people most likely to appreciate her book were grandparents. They’d either buy it for themselves or people would buy it for them as a gift.

Di Castle
Di Castle

Through Twitter she discovered Gransnet, an online community of grandparents, who reviewed her book. Then she tweeted to Saga, who agreed to run a competition for a signed copy of her book. The exposure she received brought in hundreds of new followers.

All the time, more and more people were getting to hear about ‘Grandma’s Poetry Book’ and many were buying. Perhaps more satisfying, for a writer, was the positive feedback about the book. Social media makes it really easy for authors, and anyone else with a ‘product’, to hear what people think of it.

One important lesson for Di has been that someone she’s sold to once often becomes a repeat customer. Because the book makes an ideal gift for a new grandparent, people come back for more copies for friends and family. This gives her confidence that the book will keep selling.

She is continuing for look for outlets frequented by her target readership. She’s approached the National Trust and the book should soon be appearing on the shelves of their gift shops.

The unexpected benefit of social media engagement

Through Twitter, Di has developed a strong network of contacts. Some of them have asked her to write for them, giving further opportunities to grow her profile in the online communities of which she’s become a part.

She’s even written about her experience of getting to grips with Twitter on the popular women’s website, Henpicked.

Today Di spends about half an hour a day on social media, covering both Twitter and Facebook. She’s now much more confident about using social networking to promote what she doea, although she admits that, like the rest of us, there’s still plenty to learn.

Click here to learn more about Di Castle and her 'Grandma's Poetry Book'.

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