Social Media Guidelines for Newbie (& Experienced) Authors

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Social Media Guidelines by Frances CaballoI love Merriam-Webster’s definition of the word newbie,

newcomer; especially: a newcomer to cyberspace

There’s no shame in coming to the field of publishing and online marketing right now. It hasn’t been around that long.

The fact that I’m not an early adopter and have learned so much is proof that you can be where I am in little time.

So just because the neighbor’s kid seems to know all about Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, don’t worry.

You don’t want to follow her or his advice. Kids come to social media as a way to connect in expanded ways with their friends.

You’ll be using social media to establish your brand and market your books. See the difference?

Free Social Media Cheat Sheet by Frances Caballo

So what the kid next door knows will not apply to you.

With that in mind, I’ve put together these social media guidelines that anyone who is using social media could benefit from reading.

First: Think About Your Avatar

The definition of an avatar in cyberspace is this: a small picture that represents a social media user. So before you sign up for a social media network, either hire a professional photographer or ask a friend or a relative to take a decent headshot of you.

You’ll need this image for every social media network you use.

Don’t use a picture of your dog, cat, child or book cover as your avatar. It has to be you. Your readers want to connect with you, get to know you, and engage with you.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Don’t use a picture of your dog, cat or book cover as your avatar @CaballoFrances” quote=”Don’t use a picture of your dog, cat or book cover as your avatar @CaballoFrances”]

If you want readers and influencers to take you seriously, use a picture of yourself. Otherwise, your account will appear amateurish.

Here’s one more reason your avatar must be a picture of you. Your social media profiles are searchable on the web. I’m not sure a publisher would take you seriously if he or she Googled you and next to your name appeared a picture of a Bichon/Poodle or a Husky or a Labrador or a cat.

Now isn’t the time to be bashful. Take yourself seriously and others will too.

Keep Your Bio Short and Professional

You’ll also need a short bio for all of the social media networks you use. The networks don’t give you a lot of characters for this.

Twitter will limit you to 160 characters. Facebook will give you 155 characters. LinkedIn gives you 120 characters. Pinterest will limit your bio to 160 characters.

Here is Joel Friedlander’s Twitter bio. Note that he’s talking directly to the reader.

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Joanna Penn adds a couple of personal interests in hers.

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D’vorah Lansky’s is concise.

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I saw the Twitter profile of an author who used a kitten as her avatar and wrote this for her bio: #Fantasy‪ #Romance #Novelist #Author #Please #spay or #neuter your #pets! 🙂

And then there are those who write bios like this one: #Frappuccino #Cappuccino #Latte Fanatic. #Star #Wars FOREVER!

That’s not how you want to represent you — your author brand — online.

When someone searches for your name online, you want them to see a picture of you and information about your books, not the coffee drinks you prefer.

Let’s Talk Keywords

One last word: when you write your bio, think about your readers. In other words, sprinkle in some keywords.

I define keywords this way: the words or terms a reader would type into a search bar to find a writer like you and books like yours.

Keywords that are important to my brand are social media writers. That’s why I named my first book Social Media Just for Writers, and that’s why the web address for my website is

Maybe your keywords are “historical fiction readers” or “nonfiction” or “mystery novel.” Whatever they might be, use them in your social media bios.

You Only Have So Much Time

There are so many social media networks:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Google+
  • Goodreads (sort of)
  • Medium
  • RebelMouse
  • Tumblr
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • Snapchat
  • Periscope
  • And more!

You will invariably read blog posts admonishing you to have a Facebook author page and then other experts who will say that authors don’t need a page.

Or you’ll read one of my posts that says every author needs to be on Twitter. And you may find posts that tout the value of Medium as a venue for authors and readers.

The choices are overwhelming and if you try to do too much too quickly, well, you’ll feel overwhelmed at best and depressed at worst.

Then you might give up.

The solution is to be selective. With such an array of social media networks available, which ones should you select? I have an answer to that question.

Know Your Reader Demographics

I’m a huge proponent of a certain social media strategy: You don’t need to be everywhere; you need to be where your readers are.

[clickToTweet tweet=”You need to be where your readers are online via @CaballoFrances” quote=”You need to be where your readers are online via @CaballoFrances”]

How do you determine that? First, you need to know who your readers are. Are they primarily men or women? What age group are they?

For example, if you write Young Adult novels, you know that the majority of your readers are teens to adults in their early twenties. That means you need to be on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.

If you write romance and erotica, you need to be on Facebook and Pinterest.If you wrote a nonfiction book about finance or the law, you must include LinkedIn.

You’ll find complete information on this topic and the latest studies from Pew Research Center in this post I wrote: Authors: Use New Pew Center Results to Better Reach Your Readers.

Header and Banner Images Aren’t Optional

You’re going to need captivating images for your banner and header images. On Twitter, the large image at the top of your profile is called a header.

On Facebook, the large image at the top of your timeline is called a cover image.

The different terms don’t matter. What does matter is that you need one that is consistent across all social media networks.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Your bio & images must be consist across all social media @CaballoFrances” quote=”Your bio & images must be consist across all social media @CaballoFrances”]

Let’s look at a few.

Joanna Penn does a nice job of displaying all of her book covers. And she represents both of her brands: nonfiction author, blogger and podcaster; and her darker brand as a thriller author.

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 6.48.04 AM

Here is Isabel Allende’s appealing header.

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 6.50.25 AM

Now let’s look at the dimensions you need to know right now (all measurements are in pixels and are denoted as wide by high):


Facebook Profile Image: 180×180 pixels

Facebook Cover Image: It must be a minimum of 399 pixels wide by 150 pixels tall. Make sure it’s a JPEG or PNG.


Profile Photo: 200 by 200 pixels and 500 by 500 pixels in size.


Twitter Profile Photo: 400×400 pixels and displays at 200×200 pixels.

Twitter Header Photo: 1500 pixels wide by 500 pixels tall in size.


Profile Photo: 480 by 270

Cover Photo: 1080 by 608


Profile Photo: 165 x 165


Banner Image: 2650 x 1440


Post Images: 1936 x 1936

Listen to Your Readers and Your Niche Influencers

I always recommend my clients to listen before they jump in with their tweets and status updates.

Lurk, nicely. Check out how people write their tweets. Find your influencers. Look for readers, book bloggers and book reviewers.

Retweet information that your readers will enjoy.

Then get your game on. Write blog posts and tweet them and encourage people to read them.

Look for awesome images and create some of your own using Canva or PicMonkey.

Find meaningful quotes to share and create text-based images using your finest lines of writing. Also, share humorous memes and anything and everything related to reading, books, libraries, etc.

Don’t over promote any of your content. Instead, follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of the time promote other users, other writers, influencers, and your readers; 20% of the time post about your stuff.

Never say, “Buy my book” or “Please buy my book” or “Read my blog post.” Instead, attract readers to your website, your blog and Amazon by sharing the best content you can find in your niche.

Build It and They Will Come

Once you start, don’t stop.

The golden rule of success in marketing is consistency. If you start a blog, keep blogging. If you create a Facebook author page, don’t abandon it.

If you start a Twitter account, don’t send a few tweets and then stop.

Be the little engine that could. A few minutes a day can add up to a lot over time.

  • On Facebook, post a minimum of once a day and if you have an author page, occasionally invest in advertising.
  • On Twitter, post a minimum of three times daily and follow at least twenty other users a day.
  • On Google+, make sure you post at least once daily.
  • On Pinterest, try to spend 20 minutes a week. The time will fly by once you get started.
  • On LinkedIn, add your blog posts to this network’s publishing platform and add one post daily, Monday through Friday. Also, join at least one group and be active in it.

I’m not telling you to join all of these networks. Like I said earlier, start simply. If Facebook and Twitter are your two networks, start with one and learn it inside and out. After six months or longer, move on to the next one.

Don’t overdo it or you’ll burn out. Keep your marketing as simple as possible so that you can see and feel some progress.

Just know that you’ll get there.

Free Social Media Cheat Sheet by Frances Caballo

Engage with Your Readers and Always be Authentic

The beauty of social media is that it’s social. So allow plenty of time – say 15 minutes a day – to have fun and socialize virtually online.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Share your readers’ tweets, ask & answer questions, be social @CaballoFrances” quote=”Share your readers’ tweets, ask & answer questions, be social @CaballoFrances”]

One of the benefits of social media for introverted authors is that you can be social without ever having to leave your home.

Listen to what others say more often than you post. Reply to your readers’ social media posts – and those of influencers in your niche – and share their content.

Win hearts. Be cool. Always be authentic. Learn from others.

And have fun!

Sell More Books with These Tips by Frances CaballoAbout the Author: I’m Frances Caballo, an author, podcaster and social media strategist and manager for writers. I’m a regular speaker at the San Francisco Writers Conference and have written four books including, Twitter Just for Writers, which is available for free here on my website. My focus is on helping authors surmount the barriers that keep them from flourishing online, building their platform, finding new readers, and selling more books. My clients include authors of every genre and writer conferences. You’ll find me every day on Twitter.


Practical Tips for Marketing Your Books on the Social Web


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