In The Digital Age, we seem to find a lot of extremes. Either articles or blogs ranting how social media doesn’t sell books, it’s too hard, there are too many rules, whiiiiiiinnnnne. These folks might write books, maybe even great books, but I suppose they think readers will find them using telepathy.
Or, there are those who worship the Oracle of Automation and the Lord of Algorithms. Instead of writing MORE BOOKS, they tweet, FB, Instagram, buy flare, do blog tours, futz with the website, the cover, the algorithms…and then can later be witnessed crying in a corner with a pan of brownies and a half-finished bottle of rum.
Thus, I am here to bring some balance to The Force.
Social Media Was NEVER About Selling Books Directly—Who KNEW?
I’ve been saying this for about ten years, because the idea of using social circles for sales is NOT new. About ten years ago, I recognized that social media would soon be a vital tool for writers to be able to create a brand and a platform before the book was even finished. This would shift the power away from sole control of Big Publishing and give writers more freedom. But, I knew social media could not be used for direct sales successfully.
When I was in college, every multi-level-marketing company in the known world tried to recruit me. I delivered papers and worked nights most of my college career. Needless to say, I was always on the lookout for a more flexible job that didn’t require lugging fifty pounds of paper up and down three flights of apartment stairs at four in the morning.
I’d answer Want Ads in the paper thinking I was being interviewed for a good-paying job where I could make my own hours. Inevitably it would be some MLM company selling water filters, diet pills, vitamins, prepaid legal services, or soap.
And if I sat through the presentation, they fed me. This meant I sat through most of them.
What always creeped me out was how these types of companies did business. First, “target” family and friends to buy said product (and hopefully either sign them up to sell with you or at least “spread the word” and give business referrals). Hmmmm. Sound familiar?
The business model wasn’t really about meeting people, connecting and actually liking them just because they were good people. There was an endgame…SELL STUFF (or manipulate others into helping you sell stuff).
Hey, you go to the gym anyway. Strike up a conversation. Say nice things, then give the
sucker friend target a FREE SAMPLE. People who work out need vitamins. That isn’t ookey AT ALL!
The Battle of the Experts
I recall being part of a panel in NYC at Thrillerfest and the other experts were all excited about applications that could tweet for authors “saving time” or even certain tools that could measure what days and times Twitter was most active and when people would be most likely to see our tweets. All I could think was:
1) Are these people tweeting or ovulating?
2) If everyone uses this same tool, then all they will do is crowd the feed and no one will see anything. Left long enough, these “Golden Hours” will shift so people can avoid the barrage of ME, ME, ME! MY BOOK!
The panel’s moderator (ironically) worked for the CIA and was tickled silly that there were all kinds of algorithms that could “predict human behaviors.” Of course, I made myself WAY popular when I said, “The only way to accurately predict human behavior is if we all have a chip in our heads and someone else has a joystick.”
Yes, I can be blunt. My mom is from New York. I blame it on her.
My assertion was that, if this was true, and we could accurately predict human behavior, then we wouldn’t be worrying about crime, war or terrorism and that these algorithms were a mirage that gave a false sense of us “being in control” of the uncontrollable.
Also, how would she still have a job at the CIA?
Oooh, But We Can MEASURE…um, NO
In the 90s and early 21st century most people weren’t on-line. Computers were still cost-prohibitive and Internet service was mind-bendingly slow (dial-up?) and expensive. Social media was in its infancy and only early adopters trusted buying on-line.
Companies could launch ads and measure click-throughs. How long did a visitor stay on a web site’s page? Did the visitor click the ad on the page? Did that ad then translate into a sale? Companies still do this. I’m pretty sure authors can do this, but why would we want to?
Unlike Sephora, Gap or Walmart, most of us are a one-person operation. We don’t have a team of interns to do this stuff. We also don’t have a multi-million dollar corporate budget.
What IF an ad doesn’t work? How many of us have time and extra money to launch a new ad?
Also, there are SO many variables beyond our control. I’ve seen this with blogging. A holiday, time of year (kids getting out of school), a major world news event (like Paris being attacked by terrorist cells) can all affect traffic and click-throughs. To try and study our stats and juke them for advantage is a lot of time better used elsewhere (like writing more books).
Relationships are Key
Social media is social, meaning it’s about relationships. This means, 1) it will take time to build and 2) it cannot be outsourced 3) it cannot be automated.
Can you imagine trying to maintain relationships this way in the real world? Give your husband a call-in number:
For the location of clean socks, press 1. For a word of encouragement, press 2. For the item I need you to pick up from the store, press 3. For the real reason I haven’t talked to you since yesterday, please stay on the line and an operator will be with you shortly.
Your estimated call wait time is three days.
Social media and author brands will sell books, just not directly and not in ways that can be measured looking at clicks and stats. Social media is essentially word-of-mouth which has been selling
stuff books for centuries and no one can measure it.
The Bottom Line
Since I don’t have all the articles and blogs griping about social media, I am limited here. But I imagine that, aside from telling writers social media was a waste of time that doesn’t sell books, I assume not one of these complainers offered up some panacea replace social media.
See, it is a hell of a lot easier to complain than to offer a solution. Griping takes ZERO brainpower.
So, if social media doesn’t sell books, then what does? Ads don’t. Never have. Promotions (without an extant and vested platform) are time-consuming, expensive and have a dismal ROI (Return on Investment).
Also, if social media is so grossly ineffective, what explanation do we have for the MASSIVE power shift from BIG NYC publishing to indie and self-published authors now 1) making a reasonable second income 2) making a decent enough living to finally write full-time 3) nontraditional authors taking up an increasing portion of major bestseller lists like the New York Times and USA Today and 4) the major inflation of fiction writers now making six and seven figures?
All the ones I know of (and there are MANY) use social media to some extent. All of these authors would never have gained visibility, traction or sales without social media.How can we explain these trends without including social media as a variable?
Notice I said social media as a variable. There is NO magic formula. Hard work, more books, good books and generating word of mouth (in part with a brand and on-line platform) is fundamental. Social media has been mistakenly touted as a formula to wealth and riches, but it isn’t. Neither is buying real estate using a proven program from an infomercial.
Bookstores are closing. Barnes & Noble is evaporating. Indie stores are making a comeback, but they have limited space (and need to unless they want to go bankrupt like the megastores that tried to KILL them). THIS is the future of book sales. THIS is in the cosmetics section of my grocery store. Insert a debit card and get a sample before you buy…
Oh, and these are popping up…
These kiosks sound familiar. Reminds me of one of my posts from over three years ago. I wrote a lot of other blogs that said basically the same stuff, posts that are even older. But I’ve written over 800 blogs and I’m lazy and have to get back to writing books. And I am not alone in seeing this trend. I’m no great genius. Other people saw this coming.
Um, clearly since I can’t claim I invented any of these machines. Ok, I could, but I try to restrict lying to my fiction.
But, if THESE kiosks are down the pipeline, how can we reasonably come to the conclusion that social media is a total waste of time?
Relying totally on social media is a waste of time, but I’ve been saying that for years. As authors, we are wise to think in terms of our careers. Think like a business, as in short-term and long-term. Platforms and careers need a wide base, deep roots, a community of support, time and a heck of a lot of sweat equity.
Also, there are effective ways to do social media and ways that make others want to stab us in the face (which was why I wrote Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World).W.A.N.A. ways WORK. They’re responsible for selling millions of books. But they take time.
ROM has a simple step-by-step plan. Heck, don’t buy my book. Browse my blogs for free. I only care about your success.
The Future IS Bright for Writers
The future for authors is wonderful, but there is no Social Media Shake Weight. Sorry. I was bummed, too. But here’s the thing. The same articles/blogs that will discourage writers from social media because it doesn’t sell books aren’t also demanding we halt all book signings.
Book signings are fun, they are social, and they’ve historically been a way to connect authors to an audience in a personal way.
Until social media they were the only way.
But book signings were NEVER meant as a sole means to sell books. In fact, it was really never even the purpose of a signing. Rather it was connection with the author as a person.
Even if a writer has a line out the door, the most even a mega-author might sell is a thousand books. Let’s be generous. FIVE thousand books. A drop in the bucket if you’re Dan Brown. Is selling 5,000 books relevant when an author sells millions? When an author has to board a plane, stay in a hotel, sit in one spot signing for hours or even come up with a speech? And travel city to city to city for a month or more instead of writing?
Food for thought 😉 .
We live in a wonderful time to be a writer. Yes, it’s work, but there are a lot of reasons why this job isn’t for everyone. Success in anything is about staying power, passion, and effective action (solid social media, building relationships, and writing MORE books and GOOD books).
What are your thoughts? Are too many authors banking too much on social media? Do you feel social media has been sold to writers as a get-rich-quick-scheme? Do you see other authors approaching social media in a way you know is going to burn them out? Do you know of any nontraditional authors who sold zillions of books yet didn’t use social media at all? What did they do?
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of JANUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.
Thanks for the clarity you bring to the puzzling social media world. I read your blogs faithfully and will buy your book soon. Leaving comments on your blog has helped prep me to finally get started on Twitter – but not quite yet!
As always, great common sense advice. I share many of your blogs to my team at Three Worlds Press and encourage them to follow you.
Love your clever observations and sensible advice. How do I register to receive your blog via email?
I have written two novels, both sequels about a comedian who is lured into a eugenics cult because he has the “youth” gene.
There are a lot of authors out there who seem to rely on social media a little too much. Being an indie author myself, I want to support them, but it’s exhausting when I constantly see those buymybook!!! snippets littering social media. I don’t see how it could help sell books if all it does is annoy others. I would much rather get some insight about the authors writing process, their experiences, and their life. I read something that Hugh Howey said – he credits his success to connecting with one reader at a time, and that’s what I’m attempting to do in my career. Yes, I have a social media presence, but it’s not an in-your-face-one with hourly demands to check out my book. But I do have readers that will read whatever I put out there, and hearing from them is a success for me.
(FYI…I’m not well-known author yet, so I’m not sure if this is working! But hey, it’s a marathon, not a sprint!)
Social media posts have become white noise for me. Every day I get invited to “events” by folks I don’t know. Every tweet I see wants me to buy their book. Now I tend to skip over these posts. What I think works best is when folks tweet about somebody else’s books–like word of mouth, digital-style. I always try to talk about books I’ve read recently that touched me, grabbed me, or otherwise entertained me. I don’t want to talk about MY books–let somebody else do that. IF I’ve done my job as a writer, some of them will. And then, with each book, hopefully more of them will. I want to connect with the readers out there as a fellow story-lover. Some will like my stories, some won’t, and that’s the way it goes. the only exception to this is when I have something to offer my friends–a goodreads giveaway (as I do now), a free novella, you get the drift. Being a writer is about writing. Being a story lover is about connecting with other story lovers…. My take, anyway.
Thanks for your write up Kristen. I guess we’re not even in the same game really. If I were to sell 5,000 copies of SillyFace; period… let alone in one day….. That would mean $75,000 for me…..ok…minus the $15,000 I would pay to get those copies printed and shipped to me…..but the proft would be $60,000 which would keep me happy and doing what I do for two years. (I guess I don’t need much.) The reality is, I have in my sweet little hands 500 copies of SillyFace which I will sell over the next five months, which will earn me a nominal $7,500, half of which I will respend on reprinting my baby when it runs out. The good news? I will do it while doing something else that I love…. Face Painting. I will set up book readings/face painting events all over Chicago. (nano indie publishing). I will have copies of the book, will do a reading of both of my self published books, and will offer face painting. I will be seeking out spaces like indie shops and indie kids stores, also art fairs and festivals. I will be seeking out as many in person events as possible to share my book and sell copies. Social media? Yes, to have a link for people to go to to see where I will be next, also, to have a place for them to click on their smart phones when I come up in conversation at their next dinner party. Hashtags are pretty smart because they can find you easier on social media via their phone #annatodaro @annatodaro #msAnnaArt I still have much to learn……I know….. I work so hard. After reading your article, I think we’re all in the same boat trying to figure out what the hell happened. One point I can see in my super long paragraph that might be useful….. Every book I sell has been from word of mouth customers. People who have encountered my work in person and their friends and their friends of friends.
Thank you! It drives me crazy when I hear authors say they don’t want to befriend the people who read their books. Seriously? If someone loves what I write, I want to be friends with that person. Even if it’s only through Facebook or Twitter.
Now keep this quiet. You almost let the BIG news slip out. You have to be more careful in the future. I’m putting all of my flexible capital (the cup of change we’ve been saving for the spring cruise to the Caribbean) in Laz-y-Boy and I’m buying Reynolds Wrap by the case. It’s the wave coming. Remember your smart a$$ remark about those, quiet now, chips? Bookstores, Kindle, kiosks are all soon to be obsolete. The publishers and Hollywood have contributed millions to certain politicians and the legislation is almost ready to go. Those chips in the head will will soon be mandatory and along with any number of commercials, movies and political fundraiser adds they can stream books directly into the brain. No more trees killed and sent off to pulp mills or Kindle apps needed. Direct marketing. Hit SEND and Nora Roberts’ next goopy story will be running in the brains of readers everywhere!
So you see how right you were. Imagine the possibilities and I’m sure it would never be used by the government for untoward purposes. The government only has the best of intent for us, right?
Oh, why aluminum foil? Some may want to “filter” the streaming content. It probably will be made illegal so I’m stocking up for the black market. It seems to work well for keeping those nasty alien signals from getting through.
And I almost forgot. Soft comfy furniture is soon to be such a wise investment too. Several states have started a trend. All those hours of lounging about listening to music and watching silly sit coms on tv. They don’t have the patience or ambition to read very much so we might as well make money somehow once pot is legal everywhere.
For my purposes (books, real estate and promoting myself as a beer wench) social media is but a plank in a huge platform that includes being a human being in my world (going to networking events, going to church, going on walks, going to yoga class, going to my kid’s soccer games, going out for drinks with friends—i.e. NOT sitting at a computer 24/7) as well as writing the best books I can and paying for professional editing and cover art. As for signings—“opportunity to travel without family and have a nice time around people eager to meet me and I don’t have to pick their socks up off the hotel room floor.” Win-Win for Liz
As for “chipping” me like my dog so she doesn’t wander from Michigan to Montana without me being able to track her–If it keeps me from having to go to stores to shop because Amazon auto-detects the contents of my fridge and bathroom medicine cabinet, then orders AND delivers all the old lady skin creme and Nutella I need, I am game. But that’s just me, the shopping hater.
Thoughtful post. I know a ton of authors and realtors who say “get me a business page and a twitter feed and let the money machine start printing” which is sad but it is a phase many must past through in order to emerge on the other side realizing that first, the books must be written and secondly edited and thirdly you must be a person on the other end of your Facebook profile and twitter stream.
have a great weekend Kristen! Still wanna do that “Across the Beer Bar with Liz” no doubt hugely hilarious interview with ya!
Thanks for the reminder that it takes time to build an audience. Not that I’m sitting around watching my site stats, but it is discouragng to note that my fan base (followers) has been hovering just under 200 for nearly a year. Even when my page gets hit (yeah, i think 100 visits in a day is a BiG deal), I dont get new followers.
The truth: I don’t want to worry about that stuff. I have two novels with beta readers, my first published short story releases in an anthology next month and I’m halfway through writing another short story I hope to sell to another anthology. I love writing.
Do I want to be published? Yes. My big dream. But I want to be real – and worrying about building an email subscriber list just isn’t the real me.
Couldn’t agree more… I recently blogged about this same thing and added a link to this post for mr readers at https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/7431319-the-inconvenient-truth-about-twitter
Thank you! I’ve had to mute or unfollow so many people on social media that kept hawking their wares instead of being human or social.
Kristen, your post made me laugh–especially the “half-finished bottle of rum.” I keep wrestling with these time issues you discuss. Should I hang out on social media, blog, or write? Whichever choice I make, I feel guilty for neglecting the other options. Sheesh. Your words are starting to tip me over into writing more books, so thanks for that. Now if I can just detach self from keyboard and pull out my writing paper…
Finally, advice for self publishers that makes sense. I wish I would have found your blog a year ago. Better late than never. Thanks.
Great blog! I must point out one thing however. It is clear you are NOT a drinker. You mentioned the …”half-empty bottle of rum…, I saw it as “half-full” and was as excited as hell. 😉
Do I have a real point? oh, ya, sorry! My son is a web site builder, so he was kind enough to build mine; gave me a few instructions on how to use it, and then gave me the..”sure nice talkin’ to you, Dad, it’s been sure nice talkin’ to you.” So, the first think I noticed was the traffic. It went from 0 to sometimes twenty a day in no time. Problem was, it was mostly the same person. I inquired of my son, who informed me this was the new marketing. Folks sold “hits” to their clients, and then the auto-bot when off and whacked at my site twenty times, and reported back the wonderful results that already twenty potential customers (me alone) was interested in their product.
A word of caution to anyone who tried to sell us instant followings – it’s probably a farce.
Yes, I am aware i am a samp0le of one; but it ties in with what Ms Lamb had to say.
Loved the post. I especially enjoyed the graphics, they added quite a bit to the post. I have never seen the machines before, I have heard of them, but never seen them. Thanks for sharing.
Good down to earth post.
People start desperately flailing when they are new to marketing stuff. And could large publishers be encouraging that so they can limit their efforts/blame author failing to utilize avenue when things don’t go well.
The whole data driven mania – in all fields – is beginning to drive me nuts rather that just amuse – anyone in research will tell you data can be framed/manipulated to show or prove anything. It’s a skill.
Selling is complex because Humans are so fickle and complex. Don’t put your eggs in all baskets is pretty good advice.
Nice post. A whole banquet of food for thought
Not that it will stop writers from using social media. The tide has definitely turned.
Kristen Lamb, you are a cutie patootie! Quirky sense of humor and a hard workin’ gal are the cat’s pajamas in my book, which is about aliens (ha, ha). I think that social media is the ultimate corporate and NSA weapon to infect our brains with spill-it-all stupidity for profit and data respectively, and for free too. Kudos to you kutie.
“Are these people Tweeting or ovulating?” LOVE it!
I have always followed your teachings, though recently, I’ve been so crazy busy I’ve let Twitter, Facebook and blog visits fall by the wayside. I not only feel guilty for neglecting social media, but I fear it will affect my career as an author.
This post has plenty of food for thought.
Thank you sooo much for your wisdom!!!
Hope all is well with you 🙂
Have a great weekend,
I love your blog, Kristen. Your sense of humor tickles me! And makes what you have to say all that much more meaningful because I can relate! As an author struggling to find an audience AND a publisher, your insight is very valuable to me.
Since I no longer ovulate, guess I’d better start Tweeting…
Thank you. For both the insight, wake up call and reality. Social media may be a tool but if I’m really a writer most of that should come after I finish typing: The End.
Hi, Kristen. I like the variety of topics you touch on in your posts. Thanks!
I saw this post ( http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2015/social-media-is-overrated-seth-godin-tells-publishers-at-digital-book-world/ ) excerpted on TPV ( http://www.thepassivevoice.com/ ), and found that Godin says some of the same things you do, but seems to come to a different conclusion. I know, I know, that’s never happened before in recorded history! But I thought you might enjoy it, unless of course, you’ve already seen it, in which case, sorry.
Thanks for sharing.
Of course, I enjoyed your post. But, Kristen, brownies and rum????? Ewwwww.
So I am not crazy! Whew. Thanks. Just a fledgling author here with one tiny short story out there so far, but I spent months researching and came to one simple conclusion: For me, a hard working father of 5 who’s job constitutes 7 day weeks in the summer time, social media is almost a complete waste of what little time I have for writing.
Besides having the dream of being an author, my greatest motivation for becoming an author is to prove to my kids what I have beat into their heads for many years- You can do anything you put your mind to, if you dream it then do it.
That said, I started my blog to a) improve my writing skills, and b) to connect with like minded people who just might find my words interesting.
No twitter, Facebook (small lie, I have an author page but don’t spend much time on it), tumbler, etc. They are time sucking bandits that keep me from writing and (for me) kill creativity.
I will either earn top sales by good writing, or be in the middle of the pack and supplement my later years with something I enjoy. Full time Career, or just a hobby with a supplemental income,
either way I am having fun and proving to our kids that I do practice what I preach.
Well, the thing is social media is NOT THAT time-consuming unless you choose to blog (which is a great warmup and a fabulous way to cultivate future fans). That’s like saying, “I want to create the best culinary dishes ever, but I won’t put a sign on the restaurant or talk to people because it is a secret.” Just have a little fun. 10-15 minutes a day and then WRITE. Too many of the experts make this out to be UBER TIME CONSUMING because their goal is to convince authors they MUST outsource. Hey, they have to make a living too, but in this age, when there is SO much competition? I think the bigger time such is writing a great book that never sells because no one knows who you are. My POV anyway. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
I’ve never though social media would sell my books. It is so people can know what is going on. Get to know me on a different level. I actually have changed my posting habits for my blog and FB account for this reason. It used to be all about writing but now, it’s also about me and getting to know me.
Thanks for the great post, Kristen. You ALMOST made me feel okay about not obsessing over my Twitter account, which I have ignored for months. . . Almost.
Just want to pop by and say “LOVE THIS!” I’ve also shared with the Where Writers And Authors Meet group- need to get these people to stop filling everyone’s feeds with “buy my book now” type posts! Why? Because… no one CARES! You have to make them care first 😉
I’m using a platform development program out of a book called How to Blog a Book. The most reassuring idea that author keeps reinforcing is that content sells. That’s the hope I cling to every time I post. The book is written. All I’m looking for are readers enough to convince a publisher to take a chance on mer. Thanks for the advice, Kristen. http://www.julielwhiteheahd.wordpress.com
Kristen, For me, finding the balance between writing, social media and a personal life will always be a work in progress. The message I cling to when the topic of social media comes up is “Whatever you pick, do it well.” That is a stumbling block I’m working on because I’d always rather write or spend time with friends than be on twitter or facebook. I do blog – once a month on Romancing The Genres and once a week on Judith Ashley. Being consistent in these two places is my starting point. Fingers crossed!
Loved your brownies and rum comment, made me hungry and thirsty, but mostly I love your wit and valuable insights. Late last year I bought a Kindle copy of your book. Great stuff!
I have a twitter account I’ve ignored for some time now and 2 blogs. Currently I’m busy writing and have posted a first chapter draft for the WIP along with a couple of related short stories mostly to test the waters.
Loved the brownies and rum idea. I’m going to remember that. I don’t bank a lot on social media. I think the best thing about it is that I’ve met some wonderful authors and we’ve compared notes.
I think most authors are running around like mad trying to “make” social media work for them. Everybody wants a “quick fix” or an “easy way”. I think depending entirely on social media is a bad idea. I have a FB page. I tweet. Twitter does improve my sales, or it seems to, but there’s no way to measure that.
Most of the independent authors I know have no idea how to market. They don’t understand platform and brand. Many of these authors have good stories that are well written. They just have no idea how to get their books in front of readers who might enjoy them.
It’s entirely possible that there is more money being made from telling authors how to sell books than is being made by the actual selling of books. With a few exceptions, those few independents who have made millions off their book sales.
Bottom line, word of mouth is still the best advertising and money cannot buy that.
I think the main thing most independents need is marketing help. I get a LOT of blogs. I always, always read yours and I have encouraged other writers to read your blogs as well. You consistently offer great information to us. I appreciate that.
More savvy advice that makes me LOL! I think if I were a full-time author, I’d love social media. As it is, I teach middle school English all day, and then come home to more children. By the time I hop on social media, I’m sucked dry, but I still try to engage because I know it’s important. No matter what I do, it never seems to be enough, and finding time to write is hard so I only manage one book a year. I think I better buy your book 🙂
As a very new author, I’ve felt such pressure to be all over Facebook, Twitter, Tsu, etc., and all of the various author loops (local RWA chapter, online chapter, publisher loops, etc.) when all I really wanted to do was carve out time to go to workshops and keep writing “the next book.”
Needless to say, I love this post because it helps alleviate the stress I feel every time I tune out of social media. While I recognize that some social media presence is important, and am more than happy to connect with fans, the perspective this article offers validates my long-held belief that the only real way to establish a successful writing career/brand is to focus on making each book better than the last, publishing them in a relatively timely manner, and being PATIENT.
Very much appreciated the article. The following is a piece I wrote to myself after too many middle of the night cigarettes and scotch. So please forgive the slightly ranting tone of it all. But if you actually do read this, I’m sure at least some of you can relate:
As difficult and exhausting as writing can be, nothing compares to the challenges and sheer misery of self publishing. Just the huge numbers of electronic avenues makes this experience quite daunting. (I run into that word quite often). And as many of us have come to realize, it’s not just the sheer numbers of Internet sites, it’s the TIME you need to spend on them to make yourself credible. That’s the REAL killer. I’ll spend at minimum, an hour agonizing over THIS composition.
And so we Google: “How do I promote my new book?” Up comes millions of sites with easy sounding names, like “How to Sell a Million Books With One Click of a Button,” or “Make sure you become a member of the following 438 sites you can post on to make you book a bestseller,” and “Here’s a complete list of book bloggers that will review your book and make you wildly successful.”
Of course, The “One Click of a Button” leads you to websites that are impossible to navigate and probably useless, but for the sake of just one sale, for the next day or two, down the rabbit hole you go. The 438 sites? Let’s just politely say that it’s not that they are not interested in your life; they are just interested in theirs a little more. And then there’s the bloggers who will review your books – for only $29.99, but it will take about 3 months, and they have so many restrictions, and they always seem to be yelling at you, but that’s OK because most of them no longer exist or they inform you that they are not accepting new submissions until the fall of 2015.
So here you are, all excited and duly proud of yourself for having completed something that you devoted weeks, months, even years to and you can’t even get your sister to buy one and give it a five star rating on Amazon. You should be having this HUGE celebration with all your friends. Instead, you’re fumbling around like a teenager in the back seat of your old man’s Chevy, trying to add some kind of Pin to a Board on a site that you REALLY don’t care about, and then Googling one inactive “Will review your book for free” site after another. And it’s TWO O’CLOCK IN THE GODDAMN MORNING!
But you’ve checked your numbers and you’re 497,364 in Amazon’s Best Seller Rank. So you text and you tweet. You create a fan page. You blog. You Skype. You Pin, and you Tumble. You contact every “friend” you have, and have them contact every “friend” they have, and every “friend” they have, and so on down the line. “Yes,” they say, “I’ll get me a copy of that new book you just published. I’m gonna read it, review it, and give it a whole passel of stars.” Two days later and now you’re 798,621 in Amazon’s Best Seller Rank.
And so you text and tweet some more looking for support and ideas. But as much advice as you get; you write. I consider myself a writer. Maybe not a very lucid one at the moment, but a writer nonetheless. I have stories inside of me. Having them stay there while I attend to other business only makes them fester and this will ultimately lead to some really bad juju.
By nature I am not a tweeter or a texter, a Pinner, or Tumbler. I don’t try to StumbleOnto anything. Don’t much care for Skyping, and I secretly hate all of my “friends” on Facebook.
So here I sit, trying to promote my book on one more site, and it’s now 3 o’clock in the Goddamn morning. I just keep repeating to myself, “I’m a writer…, this will work…, I’m a writer, this will work…, I’m a writer…
Reblogged this on The Wandering Barefoot Editor and commented:
Social media is fickle. I believe whole-heatedly that the best promotion an author can do is meet people and connect personally. Social media can be a step in that direction but don’t solely rely on a blog, tweet, or post to market your book.
I think book signings are an integral piece in marketing books. I always buy a book from an author I’ve never heard about if I happen across a book signing because I’ve made a personal connection with the author. Whether it be listening to them read a piece of their work or speak about how they wrote their book, it’s a key personal connection.
Without that connection, you’re just another author pleading for a reader’s attention.
I loved this post! It is exactly what I needed to hear today. Thank you.
Hi, I find this very interesting as a newly self-published author. Everyone tells e to get more active on social media. Get a twitter account and connect with more people. I started a blog and try to post something three days a week. I am sending this from my blog account on WordPress. I feel like a shameless self-promoter when I ask people on my Facebook account. I started a readers’ group for my current project and posted several chapters. I felt bad when they asked for more and I had to say, Sorry that’s all folks. You’ll have to buy the book to see how it ends. I’ve done a few book signings without much success. I am handicapped and cannot stand behind the table for hours. I have to sit and people tend to just pass me by. I am trying to work out a better table display and hook. My current book is about a Voodoo woman in the pre-Civil War Louisiana. I am thinking about making little voodoo dolls and hex bags to give away if they buy a book. I have no idea what I’d have to offer with my next book about prostitutes in the Old West.
Do you think the word (in this sense) “platform” existed in the publishing world before social media?
I’ve always had issues with authors using social media like a used car salesman. The books I purchase are from authors who use social media to share themselves, not post ads. I tire quickly of seeing the same post constantly on my timeline. If I didn’t buy it the last 20 times you posted, I won’t buy it after the 21st.
I will support and re-post a friends release or special price deal–once. I will turn off notifications for any author who fills my in-box with the same ad and request to purchase their book or I won’t be a good friend.
I dislike Twitter because so many authors only use it to sell their book(s). 50 tweets that chop up the first chapter of their book into tweet-sized posts that clog my feed and keep me from seeing personal or informational tweets annoy me.
What makes me buy a book? The personal relationship with the author. I love going to events where the author speaks on a related topic or educates us in some way. I love to see the personality of the author, including the humor. And I want to see if he or she treats me with respect and as an equal. That same attitude can be shown on social media. I may be the odd bird, but that’s what sells books to me. I buy from my friends–even if they wrote a historical romance (not my genre at all).
Excellent post here, and oh, so true, too. If social media and book signings could sell our books life would be so easy. We do these things to engage our readers.
Thanks for sharing such valuable information!
Of course, one of the key things about building genuine relationships is not stretching yourself too far – and how far is too far varies from person to person. I’ve got about enough energy to do one thing well or several things perfunctorily. So I focus on my blog and leave Facebook and Twitter (etc etc) to those with the capacity.
Mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow, they say, and so far I’ve grown a couple of leaves I’m very pleased with 🙂
No disrespect meant, but is there a way I can read your wonderful blog without the truly awful graphics? Thanks.
Reblogged this on Claudette Melanson, Author of Dark Fantasy and commented:
Reblogging from Kristen Lamb
Interesting perspective. I had not considered social media as a way to sell books – I have been thinking of it was a way to build name recognition. Do you believe it has value in that way?
This goes along so well with what I’ve been feeling as I build up my Twitter. I love to meet other writers. When I get a follow, I go to that person’s page to see if I want to follow back. It’s such a let down to see a fun bio only to look over and find a feed full of nothing but Buy My Book tweets. It really does just become white noise skimmed past.
BUT I’ve also bought books from people I’ve found on Twitter who are legitimately engaging. They rarely mention their books. If someone seems fun on social media, I’m more likely to believe their books are entertaining.
I hate the ‘like me and I’ll like you’ aspect of social media. And exploiting friends is just the worst part of the dreaded author platform. i want my fiction books to be about them and not me! The whole social media thing is a turn-off, often promoting a person rather than a quality product! i see evidence of this every day.
Well said and I couldn’t agree more!
Thanks, just what I needed and wanted to hear. Write more books. Too easy to lose sight of that.
Reblogged this on Sophia Kimble.
So the message is build electronic relationships. Is that in place of real relationships with real people? No, real time counts too. How many people can one keep up with while running a business? I can friend thousands of invisible people at the cost of a few real friends. I’m sorry but I can’t see it. The more I look at social media the less human it appears. I see how this can help a celebrity but most writers are not that. Getting out in a real community and meeting real people may reach fewer people but at least it’s real connections in which real relationships and real interest in each other may develop. Social media reminds me of other trends. I liken it to five year old kids playing soccer, someone kicks the ball and everyone on both teams chase it. Of them, only a few really get to play the game.
“Bookstores are closing. Barnes & Noble is evaporating. Indie stores are making a comeback, but they have limited space (and need to unless they want to go bankrupt like the megastores that tried to KILL them). THIS is the future of book sales…”
I love this, right here. I have said for years now that the Indie bookstores WILL make a comeback. Like anything else, in my area anyway, the indie bookstores have either gone away or they adapted to the new Ereader/online publishing environment. Cincinnati has some beautiful little bookstores that are genre specific (children’s, romance, etc.) and they provide a place that is available not only for buying books but also for book signings, reading/writing groups and even a place for indie artists to sell small items (bookmarks, jewelry, etc.). In other words, the bookstores that survived evolved into something so much more than just a place to buy a book – this is something online book retailers can’t do.
My favorite indie author has unfortunately handed most of his social media over to PAs who update statuses for him – nothing wrong with this except most of what you get is simply announcement about giveaways and release dates, it’s just not personal anymore. Although I will say he still posts to his blog himself (at least I’m pretty sure that’s him), I’m hoping he doesn’t hand that over as well.
Thanks for the article, Kristen. So much to think about.
In Albuquerque we cherish our book stores. Our largest indie book store has had to scale down down down but they are still packed to the rafters on weekends and before holidays. And they support their local authors
Such excellent advice! So many people get sucked into social media as the do-all and end-all of the marketing/writing life and your blog is spot-on. I’ll be heading over to Amazon to check out your book! Thanks the clarity and advice you bring to this subject. 🙂
My agent suggested I read this and it has proved so helpful. I have been more on the writing books side of things, but am hoping to embrace the social media side. It is easier to think about using social media to form relationships, rather than simple, boring self-promotion. Thank you for the article. Great food for thought,
Thank your agent for me and great to meet you!
A balanced viewpoint, very nice. Encouraging.
Now I don’t feel so bad for not hopping every single social media train and fad. It’s such a shame to feel like you’re failing yourself because you don’t spend enough time on Facebook and loathe Twitter. Conversely, even if I did spend lots of time peddling books, I’m a terrible salesperson. I couldn’t sell a glass of ice water to a dying man in the desert. Or a joystick to an alien. Hmm…
Wonderful, insightful post Kristen.
1) Are these people tweeting or ovulating?
thanks for the morning giggle. I’ve given up arguing with people who “don’t have the time” to interact personally so their Tweets and pithy comments are automatically dispersed throughout the day. Sure gives me the warm fuzzies.
It’s nice to know that indie stores are beginning to come back. I used to love to go into those shops that were quaint and just browse. In actuality, my interests in the category of books grew in those stores because I wasn’t overwhelmed with so much to choose from. The stands for Kindle books is inevitable. This might even work well with the indie stores — having a small selection of paper-print books and have a couple of those stands right in the shop.
Kristen, wonderful article! I agree with everything you said. I know authors out there who must have super typing fingers because they’re on social media so much I can’t imagine how they write anything to sell. Thank you for sharing what you’ve learned and for your generosity.
THANK YOU, Kristen, for being a sane voice in a world gone mad. I love how you think, and I’ve greatly benefited from your book. MOST of my book sales are because people know me and (I hope) like me as a person, so… they want to read what I have to say. MOST of the money I’ve spent on promotions where an expert puts your name on a thousand sites and the sides of forty buses, was wasted. Now I spend my time writing and connecting, like you taught me. I’m so grateful.
Great article. So much is changing in the world, and in the writing world, that we have to get back to logical thinking–and traditional publishing’s demand for the use of social media is a place we need it most.
Kristen, thank you once again or proving that social media is -wait for it- SOCIAL. I’m working on building my platform by building FRIENDS. And you know what? It’s FUN! I’m making so many awesome new friends just because I’m interested in them and they’re interested in my book’s genre. I don’t even care if they buy my book or not when it comes out. I MADE AWESOME FRIENDS. I can’t wait to meet these people in person and really build a relationship. =D
That’s what happens when you see your audience as friends, not fodder. XD
A good post, straight to the point. I’ve seen a lot of people who think social media will solve their every problem, cheap and easy. Not just writers but companies and politicians too. The problem tends to be that these people join social media right before some big event, market it, and then let their accounts pretty much die out before coming back with another big marketing campaign.
I think social media can be effective and invaluable in getting to know people and building relationships, but I also think it can help you sell things this way. I doubt I would’ve sold half (or 75% or something) of what I did with my first book if I hadn’t been online, making it known. But I also haven’t been filling up people’s feeds with constant “buy my book!!!” messages, which I find really annoying. Announcements are okay and of course authors are proud of their work and want to let people know about it, but enough is enough.
I agree with you that trying too hard to figure out social media, like what times are best for advertising, is pointless. The time will change eventually and as you said, if everyone posted at the same time, nothing would really stand out.
Reblogged this on Tea Talks… home of Helen Treharne, author : I write, I review, I rant and commented:
As always, Kirsten Lamb makes me think….
As someone just about to publish their own novel, I’ve heard a LOT of different ways to ‘sell more books’. The only consistent one is to write good books on a regular basis.
I’m thankful to see this post. I’m a new writer working on my first middle grade novel, and have gotten so caught up in the importance of social media and trying to learn about it, read about it and follow it, in order to be ready for when that book gets published— that I have recently lost sight of the goal, which is writing the book and getting it published. Time to step back.
Even traditional advertising isn’t about the ad; it’s about creating a relationship and meaning something to the customer. But boy, creating that relationship is a whole lot easier to talk about than to do.
Thank you for this, it’s a much needed reminder of why we began the social media journey to begin with and how it is simply a stepping stone to the real journey. When we lose sight of the real reason, not even social media can save us.
Kristin, Great stuff as usual. It’s such a dance–don’t “sell” directly to people you know, yet do build relationships (and therefore sell to people you know). I would love to read a post on the difference between trying to force your book on friends and acquaintences versus trying to create a connection with someone who may then buy your book. In other words, what IS an online relationship? ~Mollie Player (author of spirituality-related memoirs)
Love your no nonsense, social media hints and tips Kristen! I have put you as one of my favourite bloggers on my blog this week and made reference to your books. ;-]
Thank you! I knew I was right to want to tuck you in my pocket and keep you. But “technically” they call it “kidnapping” *rolls eyes*
No, thank you! I’m a bit of a techno phobe, but I’m a persistant thing so I don’t give up easy, you’ve helped me to keep going in moments of stress lol
You always give such sensible advice. Thank you Kristen.
It is crazy how much it has changed for authors in the past ten years even. I remember the first time I read a book on my dad’s computer. Someone had uploaded it into a .pdf and I downloaded it. I thought, why would anyone want to read a book like this? LoL. I still like the good ol’ printed copy. It is my favorite. I hope they stay in style a little longer.
I’ve been saying this same thing! My first book comes out in a week. I have been relying on all the relationships I’ve been building for the last ten years. It is working already. Word-of-mouth. Real people passing on about me and that they want to try something I wrote.
Before my most recent book came out and before I started blogging, I read a lot of writers’ blogs and the only thing I was clear on was that I didn’t want to start a me-blog–the kind of I-me-me-me-mine blog that gave no one any reason to read it. I’ve ended up blogging not about my novel (The Divorce Diet, http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/author.aspx/31599, she said without the faintest trace of self-promotion), but about living as an American in the U.K. Having an actual topic meant I could have fun writing it and attract–well, not hordes of readers yet but enough to keep me from going into the closet and hanging myself from the clothes rail.
Has the strategy sold books? Some, but I don’t know if it’s enough to make an impact. I tell myself I’m building toward the next book. It keeps me from obsessing over it.
Very Savvy advice
Hey Kristin, loved the article! Larry Loftis