Social networking is a reality for authors these days. If you want to get the word out about your book, you have to join some social networks and start talking with people. Facebook, Twitter, blogs and forums are pretty necessary for new authors. But remember, you're not only selling books, you're selling yourself. It's easy to forget this as we try to get noticed amongst the noise, but being professional is key in getting sales.
One of the big things I see that authors do to 'turn people off' is to spam everyone. There is a time and a place for talking about your book. The trick is to do your research first, and figure out where the places are that you can post ads about your book without coming off as a Sir Spam-a-Lot.
When someone mentions a forum they've successfully used to sell their book, don't rush in and post all kinds of messages about your book. Each forum has its own rules about this. Take some time to read all of the posted rules, and also read the forum messages to learn some of the 'unspoken' rules. For instance, on the Amazon Kindle forum, the stated rule is to not post any messages about a product you're selling, but there are some threads created specifically for posting about your kindle book. If you spend some time on the forum, you'll get to know what is socially acceptable there as far as self-promotion. You'll also get to see what happens to authors that overstep their bounds.
In some places you'll find there are no written 'rules' about posting ads. You'll have to either ask the people in the group or use common sense. For instance, on the Facebook Kindle page the people there will tell you that it is perfectly fine to post a message about your book as long as you're not doing it too often. I think once a week is fine. Any more than that and you run the risk of annoying the people there. And common sense should tell you that if you only show up once a week to post an 'ad,' you'll probably be ignored. Try posting other messages, really talking to people, or answering some questions. Then when you do post about your book you will get a much better response.
On Twitter, I have seen authors whose entire Twitter feed is posting ads for their books. (I've seen this on Facebook too.) Honestly, this is not going to get you anywhere. Sure, you can post every once in a while about your book, that's fine. But who is going to listen to you when all you do is shout an ad every hour? Turn it around and look at it from a different perspective. Imagine you're in a room full of people. As you near someone he starts giving you a sales pitch about his merchandise he's selling. He doesn't greet you, he doesn't ask your name, he just continues trying to sell you something. Later on you meet someone else. She says hello to you and asks you how you're doing. You strike up a conversation, and find out you have a lot in common. Who are you going to want to hang around with?
Social networks are like a large social gathering. Don't be that guy that just goes around trying to sell something to people. Be the kind of person you would want to hang out with, and you'll find yourself in a much better situation.
Okay, enough talk about ads. Now you know how not to be that annoying Sir Spam-a-Lot. That's good. But if you're not talking about your book... what are you supposed to talk about? The answer is simple. Talk about whatever everyone else wants to talk about. Be polite. Let everyone get to know your personality.
Sometimes on forums you will see a post that might get under your skin. Whatever you do, don't post a snarky response. On the internet you can't hear someone's inflection. Read over your posts to make sure you aren't coming across as rude. Use a smiley face if you want to tell people you're not being snarky. Don't participate in flame wars. And if someone really makes you upset, step away from the computer. Don't post a response when you're emotionally involved, you'll regret it later.
Remember, the internet is massive. Not only could your post be read by potential readers, it could be read by agents, editors, publishers, or your mother. Before you click that 'send' button, read over your post to make sure it wouldn't potentially offend anyone. Think about how professional you sound. Are you portraying yourself in a good light? Do you come across as a know-it-all? Could anyone take your post in the wrong way?
If you're new to a forum, make sure you're not jumping in and asking questions that have already been asked a million times. Most forums have a search option. Go ahead and do some searching to see if your question can be answered by checking old threads.
And of course, do not respond to bad reviews. That goes without saying, right?
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