Tuesday, February 11, 2020

5 Tips for Social Media from an Author Who Just Wants it to Work

by Cindy K. Sproles @CindyDevoted

I’m no good at social media. I’m just an author who wants it to work. I’ve laughed with my dear friend, and social media guru, Edie Melson, that she dragged me into social media kicking and screaming. We know, as authors, social media is vitally important.

In 2017 my first novel released—a novel of the hard life of Mercy Roller living in the backcountry of the Appalachian Mountains during the 1800s. The question was how to pull this book into social media without 1) waving a flag saying, “buy my book” or 2) without seeming self-promoting. 

I love the culture of the mountains and as time passes, I see the knowledge of those ways slipping past. Mountain folks are friendly, and they are very innovative—which is why their culture is so valuable. When I teach at conferences folks tease me about my mountain heritage, in particular, my accent. But I think they also see a genuineness in me that is purely a mountain girl. I couldn’t imagine how I could spread the word about an Appalachian historical novel, when so few knew anything about the culture. Then it came to me. Mountain Trivia. 

The first post on Facebook was simple: In the mountains, people gathered to make apple butter. What type of pot did they cook the apples in?  1) cast iron  2) copper  3) brass. That first post drew in a whopping 10 responses, but I tried again in a couple of days with a second question. Again, only about 10 responses. Was it worth it? However, I stuck with two posts a week for three weeks. None of them ranking more than 15 responses. I decided to stop. This wasn’t working on social media but to my surprise, when I stopped posting them I began to receive a flood of instant messages. “Where’s the trivia?” 

I was a bit bumfuzzled (yes, an Appalachian term meaning perplexed). Folks weren’t responding on the posts, but they were reading them and finding them both humorous and insightful. They were learning the Appalachian mountain heritage in a fun way. Those posts get 100-150 responses, but if I miss sending them, I get dinged by the readers. It goes to show, likes and responses really don’t rate a lot because they aren’t true barometers of who is actually reading the posts.

The question becomes, can I see any result in book sales. I would say yes. Both Appalachian historical novels are well into the thousands of sales. I don’t spend hours digging into the sales figures, but I can see success by the royalty checks and that tells me all I need to know about sales. All this to say, I found a unique way to draw readers into the Appalachian realm without screaming buy my books or posting a photo of me and my book every other day. For every 10 trivia posts I do, I mention my book in passing, maybe once. I spend a good part of my time on social media, engaging in social not pressing sales. Rather, I shared others’ works and bragged on them. Of course, I post my own book occasionally, but the focus of social media was to be social—to look at others and develop relationships.

Here’s the clincher. I recently REPOSTED a photo of a block of iron with a neat quote about finding your self-worth. The post went onto my author page (which is only a couple of months old. I had no need for one until recently, when I finally hit the FB limit for friends on a personal page.) I posted that little meme on December 29. Three days later, it had reached 1000 and my followers went from 200 to 700. (Remember, this is a new Facebook author page.) One week later, the reaches on that post were 2287 and my followers had grown to 900. Less than a month from the day I posted that inspiring meme, it had reached 2,329,710 and my followers are now 1500+. (I DID NOT pay Facebook to boost the post). Who woulda thunk it?

I can’t say I understand the ins and outs of social media. The good Lord knows my patience level with learning it, is less than adequate, but I can say this about the growth of my pages. It took consistency and a genuine desire to see it grow. I share my joys, my prayer needs, trivia, and the love and joy I find in life. People appreciate it.

Here are some things from an author who just wanted things to work.

Tips to Grow Your Social Media

1. Be yourself: 
Don’t be something you aren’t. People can smell fake a mile away. 

2. Befriend people:
Pick one or two folks a week who respond on your page, and genuinely respond to theirs. This lets folks know you care about them and not just what they can do for you.

3. Avoid controversy: 
We live in a world that crams the chaotic moments of political craziness constantly. Anyone with a phone or a television sees the most recent political weirdness. Leave it alone on social media. Allow your posts to be a getaway from the barrage of the world’s craziness. You’ve heard the expression, “You are who you spend your time with.” Well if you spend your time with chaos, then you can call yourself, chaos’ friend and readers will move away from you.

4. Be honest with your posts: 
Share your heart in genuineness. If you tell someone you are praying for them, then do it.

4. Laugh at yourself:
Some of my best posts are when I tell folks of my own mishaps. Readers laugh when I laugh. They learn from my adventures of what not to do in certain situations. I’ve learned to look at the joy of life and my own silliness and laugh.

Social media is a hard road, but it can be rewarding when you do it in the right way. Make the effort. You may actually change a life. Wouldn’t that be nifty?

5 Tips for #SocialMedia from an Author Who Just Wants it to Work - @CindyDevoted on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Cindy K. Sproles is an author, speaker, and conference teacher. She is the cofounder of ChristianDevotions.us and the executive editor of ChristianDevotions.us and InspireaFire.com. Cindy is the managing editor for Straight Street Books and SonRise Devotionals, both imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is an award-winning and best-selling author and the director of the Asheville Christian Writers Conference. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com. @cindydevoted


  1. Well said ma'am. Like you perhaps, I view it as a necessary tool in my writer's toolkit. The benefit I've found from it is helping me to develop relationships with people I may never meet, but I find them interesting and want to learn with them. God's blessings; and glad all y'all are home where you belong.

  2. Cindy, I can identify with your struggles in social media. Been there, done that.

  3. Cindy, thanks for the hopeful encouragement. :)

  4. I enjoy social media. The best relationships are formed in person, but I have made wonderful contacts and friendships with social media. Yes, social media has helped my book sales. :-)

  5. Really good post, Cindy. And I love what you write--on FB or in books. Keep up the good work!!

  6. Thank you for your post. I am also a writers who just wants it to work. Lately, I've been seriously questioning all the time and effort I've put into a platform over three years. You've given me some points to consider.

    1. It's a difficult line to walk. But it is valuable. Keep at it. You'll see it helps.

  7. Thanks for sharing, Cindy. I just want it to work, too, and when it doesn't - I'm not savvy enough to "fix it." But it can be a helpful tool to get the word out, and I love that you found a way to engage readers without screaming "buy my book." Love the tips!

  8. Thanks for sharing, Cindy. I just want it to work, too, and when it doesn't - I'm not savvy enough to "fix it." But it can be a helpful tool to get the word out, and I love that you found a way to engage readers without screaming "buy my book." Love the tips!