Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Social Media for Writers #4: Google+

When I first visited Google+, I felt as though I was wandering down empty hallways, bleating to myself. It was hard to work out who to follow, who to talk to, what the whole circle thing meant and how it worked.

In essence, why would a person bother with this?

But the more I read about it, the more it seemed to me that it's worth persisting with Google+ because... Google. If you want people to find your books, your blog, your...self, it makes sense to make friendly with the biggest search engine on earth.

Around about that time, I began discovering the Google+ communities and, after a few false starts, I wandered into the Writer's Discussion Group (current membership: 13,116) and suddenly Google+ began to make sense. As a place for sharing resources, information and ideas, Google+ communities are amazing.

But can a writer best use Google+?

Who better to answer that question than John Ward, manager of the Writer's Discussion Group, as well as a community devoted to the Urban Fantasy genre. John hosts two podcasts for his communities and is a frequent guest on a third podcast devoted to self-publishing.

Will Google+ help me to sell books? How?
JW: "There are thousands of books published every year. Regardless of your genre, you are facing a lot of competition. Forget about your blurb, your cover, and whether your book is written well or not. Ask yourself this question, "What are you going to do to get someone to even be aware that your book exists?"

I'm not talking about buying your book. I'm just talking about communicating that the book is available. You can hope and trust in Amazon's algorithms if you like. Perhaps you're going to spam Twitter every half hour with a "Buy My Book" tweet. Maybe you will have a launch party on Facebook. There have been authors who have succeeded by using all of those methods.

I believe that Google+ offers a better chance of success because of the way it allows you to identify the interests of different members. Are you writing a romance novel that is similar to a book or series written by Nora Roberts? Google+ allows you to do a search for Nora Roberts. Unlike other platforms that will restrict that search to the names of individuals, Google+ will also provide you with a list of results for people who have posted about Nora Roberts. In this hypothetical situation, they would be good candidates to circle.

I don't think that Google+ will help you sell books. I do believe that Google+ can allow you to connect with a target audience who will at least give your book a chance. If you use the platform well, I believe that you can at least get people to read your book description, look at your cover art and maybe try a sample of your book.

I believe Google+ can help you overcome the discoverability obstacle that faces every author."

How exactly do I set myself up to make the most of G+?
JW: "The most important thing to do is to fill out the About section of your profile. This is the area that people read when they are trying to determine if they want to follow your profile or not. The second most important thing is to decide on a few topics and post about those topics on a regular basis. The reason this is important is because after someone has read the About section of your profile, they will then look at the type of content that you are posting. If you limit the type of material to a few topics, it allows people to quickly identify your interests. After you have done that, look for people who interest you. Start participating in their posts and take an interest in what they have to say. Google+ is different from most social media platforms in that people really value engagement and conversation."

Do I need huge numbers of friends/followers for it to work?
JW: "A huge number of followers is good, but not necessary. If you are able to connect with someone who already has a large number of followers, then that person may plug your books. Obviously, they will have to enjoy your book. Sometimes, having a stranger sing your praises is much more effective than anything you could say about your own work."

Top three tips for making the most of G+
JW: "Follow at least 250 people. The big mistake that many people make on Google+ is that they will follow only a few people. Restricting the number of people you follow will make Google+ a boring place because it doesn't provide enough variety in your stream, it limits your reach, and it doesn't expose you to the people who are really using the platform well.

Connect with other people. Choose 5 people every month and read their streams on a regular basis. Comment on their posts and really take the time to get to know them.

Search for people based off of shared interest rather than their name. Google+ really clicked for me when I realised that I didn't have to know the name of individuals that I wanted to connect with. I could just do a search for "Writer" or "Author" or whatever term I wanted to query and if that word or phrase appeared in their About section, they would show up in the search results. This is extremely powerful because it allows you to target specific groups of people. You don't have to restrict it to occupation either. You can do a search for science fiction or romance or whatever term you feel would help you identify the demographic with which you are trying to connect."

Biggest mistakes authors can make on G+
JW: "The biggest mistake I see authors make over and over again is that they don't post their content on Google+. Instead, they will simply post a link to their blog and assume that people will just visit it. That doesn't work.

If you absolutely insist on holding your content hostage on your blog, then, at least take the time to write a lengthy (300- 500 words) introduction to that blog post. This introduction should be a teaser to tempt people to click on that link to read what you have to say.

The absolute best thing to do is to simply copy and paste your full blog post into Google+ and post it here. If you do that, people will comment on your thoughts and respond to your message. The question that authors fail to ask themselves is whether they are trying to get people to be a fan of their work or a fan of their blog.

If you post your content directly on Google+, it allows people to read it who would never visit your blog. Some of those people will enjoy your message and become a fan of YOU. Once they are your fan, they may very well become a fan of your blog as well, but it has to start with being sold on you and your message. That can't happen unless they see your message. The best way to get people to see that message is to post it on Google+."

Five authors you think are doing G+ well – and why
Lacerant Plainer is a science fiction author. He uses Google+ to connect with individuals who are thrilled by the latest in science news. He has developed an enormous following of people who share his passion. Is it any wonder that many of those same individuals may be intrigued by the stories he writes based on those scientific articles?

Ben Guilfoy loves film and episodic storytelling. He channeled his love for these areas into a ten part serial he wrote called The Weirdo Company. Each installment reads like a monster movie. He uses Google+ well because he frequently shares his thoughts on movies and books that strike his fancy. People who enjoy those type of movies or books will also enjoy his series.

Chris Reher is another science fiction author who uses Google+ to connect with like-minded individuals. However, she does so with a twist. Whereas, Lacerant shares articles and science-related news, Chris uses Google+ to connect with actual scientists and frequently taps into their collective knowledge to make her books stronger and to ensure that the ideas in her books are scientifically sound. What a great way to use this platform!

Mike Spinak is a photographer. He has self-published one book of his photographs and is working on several others. He uses Google+ well because he is very generous with his knowledge and experiences. Some people may argue that simply sharing your knowledge with others won't help you to sell books, but I believe that this attitude is short-sighted. When sharing his knowledge, Mike shares his experience. That allows him to talk about his successes and his failures. Making that knowledge available to others allows people like me to single him out as a resource for other authors. That helps him connect with people who would not otherwise find him. Once he has connected with them, he has a chance to turn that person into a fan of himself and his work.

Aaron Crocco uses G+ well because of the way he will crowdsource attention. He has an on-going series of posts devoted to the topic of Authors Helping Authors. By involving several authors in his posts about helping indies, he generates excitement and attention. This interest comes not only from the authors themselves but also from the public at large because he is able to get so many people talking about the event. This causes many people to take interest in his initiatives and as a result, it draws attention to his books.

Get to know John Ward at Google+, say hello on Twitter or check out his website.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy Social Media for Writers #1: Blogging; Social Media for Writers #2: Twitter and Social Media for Writers #3: Facebook.

Are you on Google+? How do you use it? (Say hello to me here!)


  1. THIS: "the more it seemed to me that it's worth persisting with Google+ because... Google"

    Such great tips - thank you John. Google + is has been on my 'to do' list for too long now!

    1. Join the Writer's Discussion Group Kel - it's a warm, friendly, supportive way to wade into G+.

  2. Thank you so much! I have avoided Google+ because I already feel like I'm on too many social media platforms. But you've sold it to me with the same line that caught Kelly's eye. Google. Yeah. Sigh. Here we go again.

    1. I think, as with all these things, the trick is to try a few different things and then go with the ones that a) you like and b) work for you. There'll be more about this later in the series!

  3. i there Allison, enjoyed the article ant your website, John Ward is a great mentor

  4. Thank you! I am avoiding Google+ because I have already too many social media platforms. But you have sold it to me with the same line that caught Kelly's eye. I prefer twitter and facebook.

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    1. I tend to agree Mark, but I have to say that the community aspect of G+ has really caught my interest.

  5. Thanks so much for this one. I also haven't been using it much because there's always so much to do elsewhere. Today I logged in again for the first time in months! Reading his suggestions I can see now why it hasn't worked for me in the past and I'll definitely apply his tips in future!

  6. Invaluable information. Google+ is probably my least favourite platform but only because I don't fully understand it's capabilities. Feel so much more confident to keep persisting now. I particularly like the idea of posting blog posts directly into Google+. It makes perfect sense, I'd rather people become a fan of my writing(and one day book!) than my blog. Light bulb!

    1. I know! I found that a very interesting insight as well, because it's so different to other social media platforms.

  7. I love Google+ it is so easy to use and so well designed. Love the communities on there too - they are easy to find and join, have real, meaningful conversations happening.


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