Social Media for Authors: An Interview with Leili McKinley

Monday, December 13, 2010
Are you an author who wants to build your online following?

Or perhaps you're still working on your book and want to build a platform to attract an agent or publisher?

If so, you're in luck! We invited social media expert Leili McKinley to answer a few questions about social media marketing for authors. She also shares a special deal with WOW readers at the end of this interview that you'll want to check out. Enjoy!

Leili McKinley is an award winning entrepreneur, social media coach and branding architect for authors and writers. Utilizing her expertise in social media, branding, search engine optimization (SEO), and e-commerce, Leili empowers her clients to sell more books, get more speaking engagements, build platforms and increase their overall profitability. She is the branding expert for Bob Proctor and social media marketing expert for bestselling authors like 6 time award winning Auriela McCarthy. In her 15 year career she has been engaged by top companies Saks Fifth Avenue, Starwood Hotels and has a host of international clients.

You can find out more about Leili by visiting her website:

WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Leili! We're thrilled to be chatting with you today about social media for authors. Let's start at the beginning. How did you get started in social media training?

Leili: I have been involved in Internet marketing since 1997, when I built a website for my first company. To my great surprise, people ordered stuff off my site! I mean it looked like a child did it because it was my first try at selling anything online. But, after orders started coming in overnight, I realized I could make money in my sleep. I was totally hooked!

So I devoted myself to learn everything I could about Internet marketing. It was intrinsic to my success as an entrepreneur. After I built and sold two companies, I retired to Maui. Then I started focusing on teaching social media. I knew it was going to be a fundamental shift in the way we did things online and I wanted to help people get it right. So about two years ago I started to teach it to my favorite people--authors!

WOW: Wow...I love Maui! That's where my hubby and I went on our honeymoon, and I always thought it would be fantastic to retire there. So why is it important for authors to engage in social networking?

Leili: One of the things that I'm seeing in this hyper-competitive book market is that publishers are turning down (or hesitating on) books they would have jumped on in the past because, even if the author has something of a reach already, it's just not enough of a platform. By platform, I mean how many people they reach on the Internet and through traditional means like traditional media and speaking.

The value of a platform becomes the leverage it gives you to create new business for yourself. You know that you have an audience who is ready to buy it, whatever it is. While everyone can see this happen with celebrities, it happens for non-celebrities too.

My colleague, Paul Chaney, built a platform for the real estate industry through his blog. He amassed a loyal following, gaining credibility and celebrity. Then opportunity started knocking. He was asked to be the president of the International Blogging and New Media Association and was sought out by Wiley to write a book, which he did for a nice advance. Due to his blogging success, now he is a feature writer for Practical Ecommerce and 4 other top ranked blogs, which continues to grow his platform.

I know of another author with a hard-to-sell book. Her biggest challenge was to get the publishers past the idea that her market was unlikely to buy a book to help with their problem.

Fortunately this author has a very strong platform. She'd been on Good Morning America and featured on two popular reality TV shows. She'd gotten key influencers in her market to agree ahead of time to promote her book. She positioned herself with top national organizations to reach her audience.

With this strong platform, she got a top agent. Her agent recently returned from Book Expo America in NY with a long list of interested publishers--top publishers. I was blown away.

On the flip side. I have several clients who have written compelling memoirs, but several have been told, "I love your book. Work on your platform and get back to me when you've expanded it." That's a tough message, but it's the reality in traditional publishing today. Even self-published authors are going to have much more success when they have a platform from which to sell their books.

Sometimes a social media platform can turn you into a celebrity as well. Joel Comm wrote a book about using Twitter and then became a Twitter celebrity. Now he gets six figures to speak about the experience.

WOW: It's true...I've heard the story time and time again about platform. Can you provide an example of someone who created a powerful platform to launch a bestseller?

Leili: Yes. Tim Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Work Week was a first time, totally unknown author. He had a goal: to write a bestseller. So Tim set about figuring out the best way to do just that. He planned for it by interviewing bestselling authors. He found out that the traditional methods--like book tours, were worthless. He realized that the key to his success was to build a community of fans, a platform, which would buy his book and tell their friends about it. He knew that his platform had to be scalable, meaning it was not limited in reach, immediate, and had the ability to "go viral"--meaning that his message could be passed along, hopping from niche to niche, crossing over different demographics very quickly. And, he knew that he needed the Internet to do it. It was the only place where all of these special circumstances come together.

He did a lot of testing with his title by using Google Adwords and seeing which titles people clicked on. But even before that, he began to build a platform online. He used social media tools like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter to create relationships and engage the audience he knew would eventually become raving fans--people who wouldn't buy just one copy of his book, but 3, giving copies to family and friends.

And do you know what Tim got for all his efforts? His book was listed #1 on both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal business bestseller lists simultaneously! Even better, he stayed on both lists for months, making record sales.

This is why every aspiring author needs a platform.

I am sure that everyone is thinking, though, How can this work for me? How can I build my platform?

Well, this is the stuff I love to share. What Tim did was position himself, his brand, in the mind of his community. You can do this too. Branding your business online, whether you're after book sales or new customers, really begins with
1. Knowing your target market
2. Having your key messages align with what your target market believes
3. Delivering those messages everywhere they are, everywhere they hang out
And what you can do is hang out with them online using social networks.

Start by building your network, as Tim did, blogging and connecting with his audience on Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, Plaxo, Flikr, Friendfeed, Youtube or any of the other networking platforms that give you direct access to your audience. Once your network is established and your brand is solidly positioned in your community, then you have the means at your disposal to harness that big community of diehard fans to make a best seller, sell out events, or get new clients and do it over and over again.

WOW: Can you share a couple of your best tips for using Social Media?

Leili: First, I want to say that using social media is not a get rich quick scheme, or one of those fake Amazon bestseller campaigns that put you in the #1 spot for as long as it takes you to eat a hamburger and fries and then you crash down to nothing. This is not about being a flash in the pan. It is about success, the kind that doesn't come overnight. You can't buy it, or cheat your way into it. You have to build it, step by step. It takes work and it takes time and it is not complicated once you know how.

There are key steps to becoming a sought after trusted resource.

First, you need to understand what content to produce and how to produce it to appeal to your niche. That requires researching your niche and deciding what they want to hear and how they want to hear it. I teach specifically what research steps to take and give out my own research tools that help define that all-important niche. Second, we start out defining common values, keywords, and long-tail phrases that draw traffic and build your platform. You need a firm foundation. So the sooner you start that research the better.

Here is a tip: while paid keyword tools are better, you can use a free tool to start.

You should use social media to promote your work. Give people real examples of what makes you special and then make it so it can be passed on and "go viral." I teach tactics to promote what makes you special--like short videos that pass along your message. You can start by using

And like Tim Ferriss, you should give your community tools that help them continue to engage with your message and be involved with your brand. Most people know how to set up a Facebook page, but how many pages and what should they say? And how are you going to keep your fans engaged and active there? I teach authors how to use Facebook pages dynamically to sell their books. Try setting up a contest and include your FB page, twitter and your blog.

There are some dangers along the way. You need to know how to set yourself up on the networks to position your brand and get results. You need to establish which networks are right for you so you don't waste time. It's crucial not to make the mistakes that get you banned. But most of all, you need to establish your voice in your community as a leader. Lead your audience into a relationship with your brand. Position yourself to profit.

WOW: Those are some great tips! Leili, you have a fantastic limited time offer of a Social Media Training Video for 99 Cents (normally $29.97 per video course). What can authors expect to learn in this introductory course, and how long is it?

Leili: The course is a series of videos that build on each other to create a complete education on using Social Media to build your platform. Each video is about 20 minutes long. Purchase them individually right on the page via PayPal and then you can watch them whenever it fits into your schedule. But I recommend bunching them together, 2 or 3 at a time, for the best impact. I use the videos to demonstrate ideas and show you how to use a platform to build your brand, step by step.

To prevent you from making mistakes and help you build your platform the right way, I created the first six videos to educate you on the fundamentals of using social media. So, I mix in some information about the development of Internet Marketing, Marketing Psychology, Search Engine Optimization, the Effects of the Current Cultural Tribalization, and several other key factors that will influence your success.

The first six videos are in two groups: The Social Media Revolution and The Search For Truth. The first group helps you define your messages and the second group helps you define your market.

I am giving everyone the chance to see the first video for 99 cents. So you would proceed through the videos in this order to complete the foundation of the course:

Video 1 - The Social Media Revolution And The Marketing Paradigm Shift

Video 2 - The Social Media Revolution And The Marketing Paradigm Shift – Effective Branding In The New Paradigm
Video 3 - The Social Media Revolution And The Marketing Paradigm Shift – How To Categorize And Engage On Web 2.0 Sites
Video 4 - The Search For Truth: Why Your Tribe Will Come To You

Video 5 - The Search For Truth: Why Does Effective Social Media Marketing Depend On Understanding SEO

Video 6 - The Search For Truth: What Tools Will Bring Your Tribe To You?

Once you have watched the first six videos you will be prepared to position yourself and your brand in the mind of your community--just like Tim Ferriss. Now you are ready to use that knowledge on specific platforms.

WOW: Thank you for explaining how the videos should be viewed. So tell us a little more about the video series and the specific platforms.

Leili: The next part of the course focuses on specific platforms. For Twitter, I have 5 videos that walk you through how to set up and build a following that will buy your book. I know many people who have Twitter accounts, but have no idea how to use them! They can't seem to turn the online chatter into real life sales. This series explains how you do that.

Next, there are 4 videos on using Facebook for marketing. As an example, Facebook offers you so many options to market your book, including creating its own Page. In the series I show you 14 different steps to setting up your page--not only will it look like a pro did it, it will convert customers.

As you progress through the individual videos, you will notice that some of them have downloadable PDFs included on the page. These are checklists and serve as study guides to make sure you don't miss a step.

Coming out next year will be a series on Linked In, YouTube and several other key platforms for you to take advantage of.

WOW: I enjoyed the video on your site covering the Social Media Sales Funnel. Many of our readers/writers are unfamiliar with these terms. So tell us, what is a "social media sales funnel" and can you give us some tips on how to create one?

Leili: The idea of a social media sales funnel revolves around the fundamental need to convert online fans into offline customers. At some point you have to get your Facebook Fans to buy something. Otherwise, there is no ROI (return on investment) in your marketing plan. So the question is: How do you draw someone in and down a path that makes them into a buyer? That is called a "conversion process" and I use the idea of a sales funnel as a metaphor for it.

Picture a funnel, with a wide mouth at the top and narrowing towards the bottom. The wide top represents how wide you cast your net to find prospects--people who are in your target market. The narrow bottom represents the point at which someone takes action and becomes a customer.

The wide-open top is an invitation to those who might find your writing, your book, interesting. Those are the people who are going to be drawn into the top of your funnel. But, your funnel is not for everyone. After all, a horror fan is probably not the same target market as someone who likes pulp romance.

What is your first step in building a funnel? Find people interested in your subject matter. Social Media makes this easy. You can contact people who have similar interests and pull them into your funnel.

Then you need to qualify people as they move down through your funnel and build the desire for your product. This results in sales.

And book sales are the result of a well built sales funnel.

WOW: Got it! I need one of those, and I'm sure our readers/writers do as well. ;) Thank you, Leili, for taking the time to share your expert advice with us today. Do you have any parting words of wisdom to share with our authors?

Leili: Yes--always be engaging.

Okay, well, this is a little inside joke among social media people. You see in social media everyone always talks about how to "engage" your community. It's used so often it's almost overused. But, it's still relevant. So I just wanted to share some inside humor with you so now you can feel like a social media insider (wink).

I have a Special Report that may also be of use to your readers. I know the impact that testimonials have on book sales and even getting book proposals accepted--so I have an eBook called SPECIAL REPORT: How To Get Big Name Testimonials For Your Book.

Readers, Leili also has a fantastic FREE ebook you can take advantage of: 65 Ways To Use Social Media To Sell Your Book. You can sign up for for it on her site (scroll down to the form). Also, make sure you take advantage of her video course offer of Social Media for Authors Video Course for 99 Cents (normally $29.97 per video course) before it expires.


Trisha said...

I'm definitely interested in getting my 'platform' established, so this was a very useful read. will have to check out those videos. Cheers!

Lysa Saavedra said...

Wonderful interview. She gave some very useful tips.

Leili McKinley said...

@Trisha - yes please come take a look at the videos. If you want to skip directly to the ones about Facebook or Twitter you can! Jump around to what works for you ;-)

@Lysa I am glad that you found this helpful!

Aloha, Leili

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