How Russell Uses Social Media to Promote His Novels and Promote Readership

Interviewer’s Note:  One thing I’ve most enjoyed about writing this blog is meeting the whole range of what “entrepreneur” means in today’s world.  Most people likely think about people inventing new products or creating a new company, but what about the less obvious, yet no less relevant, variations out there?  A novelist surely fits the bill, and to learn more about how this unique brand of entrepreneur is using social media to promote his work, I spoke with Russell Blake, who was working hard on a deadline but still found time to speak with me. 

Hi Russell, welcome to the Pluggio Blog!  How do you describe your books?  What do you write about?

I write conspiracy-driven intrigue/thrillers that typically feature a flawed everyman protagonist battling insurmountable odds. They’re intelligently written for bright, demanding readers who expect something more from their books than formulaic grist. They’re gritty, realistic, sometimes uncomfortable to read, and are a throwback to the days when fiction novels were written above a second grade level.

Sounds like a satisfying read.  How did you get started as an author?

I read voraciously all my life, and that drove an interest in trying my hand at the writing game. Once I’d done a few books, I was hooked.

 What role does Twitter play in your business? 

A large part. It’s basically the only social media I use, except for a lackadaisical Facebook presence.

 I noticed on your website, you’ve been offering one of your books as a free download for a limited time.  How has the response been to that?  

Huge. I saw over 10,500 downloads in three days.

Whoa!  That’s incredible!

It has since gone to #31 and climbing on the Kindle action/adventure chart for that title, The Geronimo Breach. Which I view as a huge positive, as it’s a unique book, and one of my favorites. If readers only pick up one of my books, it would be that one, or King of Swords, that I would recommend.

 What impact or change have you seen due to Twitter/social marketing? 

All of my marketing has been Twitter, some interviews, and Facebook. I’m very present on Twitter, although when I’m writing a book, not so much. And lately, with my schedule being a new novel every four to six weeks, it’s been not so much. Alas.

That’s an incredible output!  Let’s talk about networking:  What social networking sites exist for authors?  Do you think giants like Amazon or Barnes & Noble.com will create some sort of network for readers/writers?

I hope so, but don’t expect much unless it contributes to their bottom lines. I think Amazon is the 800 pound gorilla, but their forums aren’t very writer friendly. I can understand why, given the number of self-promotional pitches that get posted, but it’s a shame. I think Goodreads is a valuable resource, as are social networks like the Women’s Literary Cafe – the WLC.

 Are there any of your accomplishments with social marketing that you are particularly proud of? 

Not really, other than my book sales, a few of my older blogs that generated over 100 comments, and my being nominated for a Shorty award. Which, speaking of shameless self-promotion, readers can support for me by clicking http://shortyawards.com/BlakeBooks and voting for me. For which I will be grateful, and will suck up in any way necessary.

 5,000 people following you- wow!  How did you build your following?  What kinds of people/businesses are they? 

Not to be pedantic, but 5200+.

I stand corrected :)

To build them, I took a different route. I viewed Twitter not so much as a pitch machine, but rather as a way to entertain others and connect, and to show my chops as a writer. My first three months of tweets, from May through Sept, were largely 140 character sarcasm/parody exercises, driven by boredom and fueled by tequila. They resonated with folks, and before I knew it, I had a big following, most of whom are very supporting in terms of retweeting. And I’ve made some genuine friends on Twitter, which I never expected. They’re largely writers, or folks in the arts, with a sprinkling of bloggers and readers thrown in.

 How will you choose who you will follow?  What do you look for in a follower? 

I look for other writers, or people who are excited about reading and writing – literacy. Same in the followers. I take it as a high compliment that so many other writers follow me.

 I see you’re also a prolific blogger and feature a lot of news- what advice would you give to other authors/writers who want to reach out to their audiences by using blogs? 

I’d say offer something unique – a voice that is memorable and distinctive. Most blogs bore the crap out of me, so I tend to try to shoot for high-impact, relatively short pieces that are amusing or topical. And folks? This is usually most people’s first contact with you, so take the time to proofread what you’re posting. Of course, I don’t, but you shouldn’t do as I do, only as I say.

 What strategies did you use for social marketing (either online or offline)? 

I have no strategy, unfortunately. I just tweet whatever comes to mind, as well as scheduling some promotion-related tweets.

What worked for you? 

Twitter.

What didn’t work for you? 

Google +, Facebook, and all the rest.

If you could go back to when you first began using social media, what is one thing you would have done differently? 

I would have read more before I started, and learned about what the whole thing was all about. As it was, I just jumped in and started swimming. Not the most effective use of anyone’s time.

What does Twitter do for you that nothing else can do? 

It enables me to craft larger than life, Bizarro-world stream-of-consciousness communiqués that are more short stories written in a series of 140 character real-time missives. I’ve been told I should do an anthology of the best of my tweets. I suppose I’ll eventually get to that. Maybe around 2020. And it allows me to alter my stats real time, when I’m updating where my sales are in a given promotion. People seem to like the countdown thing. I do, until the numbers go the wrong way. Then I just make them up. People rarely check, so WTF.
What lessons have you learned about Twitter and online marketing?

It’s like anything else. You have to apply yourself, and your product is really just you. So you have to keep it real, and hopefully folks will respond well to you. I know my sense of humor is twisted, so some hate me. That’s okay. I’ve always said my critics can suck it. Life’s too short to listen to what someone else thinks of you or your work. Unless they’re hot. Then I’m all ears. But that’s a rarity. Oh, and don’t tweet while under the influence. Seriously. Again, do as I say, not as I do. Wink.

Follow Russell on Twitter here.

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