Social Media is a Waste of Time for Writers—Hmmm, Think Again
We’ve been talking a lot about social media lately and I am always grateful for your comments and thoughts. This kind of feedback not only helps me improve my blog, but my also books, because I get a glimpse of your worries, weaknesses, fears, loves, and strengths.
As a teacher/mentor/expert, it’s my job to address those fears and put you at ease or reinforce when you’re headed the right direction and give you tools and tips to take what you’re doing to another level.
There’ve been some comments that have piqued my attention lately. Namely this notion to give up on social media completely to write more books (out of vexation for the medium and the task).
Social Media is a TOTAL Waste of Time
Write more books instead of tweeting or blogging. Social media is a giant time-suck better spent writing great books.
I don’t know how to answer this besides, Er? *screeching breaks* Personally, I can think of no larger waste of time than researching and reading and spending countless hours crafting a wonderful book of 60,000-110,000 words and then?
No one knows the book exists so few people ever read it, enjoy it or are changed by the author’s story.
It’s like spending six months to a year on an oil painting to hang it in an attic.
These days, any agent worth their salt will not sign an author who doesn’t have a social media brand and presence. Rarely, they will take a book from an author who doesn’t…but usually it will come with the requirement the author get on-line and get to work.
I ADORE Dawn Frederick at Red Sofa Literary and once shared a panel with her. She told the story of a book she LOVED and took even though the author wasn’t on social media. She was so impressed with the book she signed the author but told her she needed to get on social media and start building a platform.
After six months, the author refused. Dawn gave an ultimatum. Get your tail on social media or we drop the book and cancel the contract.
It used to be that an author who wanted to completely avoid social media went traditional. Well, traditional publishing has now seen the value of social media and almost all of them require it. They require it even if they allot budgeting for marketing. Why? Because social media helps them gain a FAR greater ROI on the marketing dollars spent.
I’ll give an example. I once read a traditionally published craft book that changed my life. At the time, my platform had grown fairly large and I’ve worked very hard to create a solid reputation for recommending only the best resources. I tried to contact the author not only to promote the book, but to get this author to present our conference (which sells A LOT of books).
The web site was an outdated clumsy mess and the contact e-mail at the bottom was no longer any good. The author wasn’t on FB or Twitter and I think I finally located this writer—of all places—on LinkedIn. Four months later the author replied, but by then the window of opportunity had closed.
Additionally, since I’d had such a bear of a time connecting to the author, I wasn’t going to recommend this tedious experience to others.
Publishers have since recognized this problem and they want to remove as much friction from a potential sale as possible. Their goal is not only to sell a book but to captivate and cultivate a FAN who will buy that book, the next and the next. This is simply smart business.
Though I’m not a huge fan of ads, it makes sense that if a publisher (traditional or indie) is going to pay good money to create and launch one, that anyone interested should be able to easily connect with the author. Same with coveted AP reviews, interviews, or events. Even if we self-publish and pay for promotion, an existing platform will make the most of that investment.
A LOT of any sales is the follow up then the follow-through.
If social media is new, scary, overwhelming? Welcome to being NEW. Most of us start like this…
Social Media is for the CONSUMER
I come from a background in sales. Cardboard. Not glamourous but everyone uses it. Being the cheapest or mailing out flyers or calling non-stop was not what sold my product over other choices.
And trust me, we had BEAUTIFUL ads. I also had competition offering a far cheaper product. They also had products virtually IDENTICAL to ours. But ads and price and even selection weren’t the major driving factor in sales.
Rather, it was the customer’s ability to quickly and easily connect with ME.
Maybe the company didn’t need corner board the day they met me. But then, that purchaser I’d spoken to in the spring signed a contract with a client in the autumn who wanted to ship truckloads of water heaters STAT. Water heaters that needed protection during shipping.
Because that purchaser had my personal cell number (back in the days when most salespeople didn’t have one and I paid for my OWN), guess who closed the sale?
Most salespeople didn’t want to pay out of pocket for a cell phone. They liked the old ways, the way business had always been done. Call the office. Leave a message with the receptionist, and then they’d return the call when they got back in off the road (which could be DAYS).
Even if the salesperson got the message once they checked into their hotels, it would be late in the evening. The earliest a customer could get an answer would be the next day.
Me? They talked to the minute the idea flitted across their brains (or within the hour if I was in a meeting).
It cost me $400 a month of my own money to have a cell phone with enough minutes. Back then, 2000 minutes a month was the max one could buy in a package, but I had a nine-state territory and also all of northern Mexico and believed it was a wise investment.
Work smarter, not harder….
I put out my own effort and money to make it easier for a customer to find and connect with me instantly. I didn’t have to. But it sure made that $2.5 million a year quota a lot easier to meet. Of ALL the cardboard reps vying for the SAME SALE, I was the one who was Johnny on the Spot to solve a problem. I was the one they could dial and get an almost-instant response and solution.
Though cardboard and novels are different products, that tether of personal connection is powerful.
A large number of agents, especially those at the prestigious agencies, will not even consider a query if they can’t google our name and see we’ve been working to at least connect and begin cultivating a community that can become readers.
But now many authors are going indie or self-publishing. Indie houses I can guarantee will likely ignore anyone who doesn’t want to be on social media. Those who self-publish? WE ARE THE PUBLISHER. What responsible publisher with a hint of business acumen ignores any kind of interaction and follow-up with potential customers (readers)?
It reminds me of the cardboard salesmen who didn’t want a cell phone. They’d missed the point that their job was to serve the customer’s schedule and needs, not the other way around.
Golf is NOT Golf and Dinner is NOT Dinner
Hubby and I had an interesting debate a few days ago. He kinda turned his nose up about wining and dining and entertaining clients (we have two small businesses). But Hubby has spent most of his professional life as a procurement person and is a long-lost cousin of Mr. Spock.
But then I explained that those off-site relaxed endeavors were actually investments in relationships and even friendships. When I took customers to lunch, I never talked business. I wanted to know (genuinely) about their wives, kids, or hobbies and let them have some fun talking about the things they enjoyed. It was personal.
It’s far more important to be interested than interesting.
When I would call to follow up, I asked about how their son’s Little League game went or how the wife was and simply told them I’d be in the area during a certain time. Never asked for money or talked about cardboard.
I also never chastised them or was hurt if they bought from another source. I’d say, “Well, that was a smart business decision. Can’t blame you for being prudent. Just hope I am there to help you next time. You know how to reach me.”
Over time, because of the relaxed atmosphere, I found that customers gravitated to calling me because they knew me, could reach me, and rather enjoyed not being pitched to non-stop. They’d even pay more.
What was really cool was that certain customers eventually refused to deal with any other company but ours, no matter how cheap the competitor’s price. They would even recommend me (and my product) to other companies, because I ignored the ABCs (Always BE Closing) and trusted the power of relationships and consistency.
The same can be said for social media. Blasting spam and bargains and free stuff might work for a while and on a few people, but it doesn’t generate the long-term loyalty money can’t buy.
Sure, back in my cardboard days, it cost me time and money and effort. My hard work rarely paid off immediately and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t harshly criticized.
But, eventually, when customers had to choose between going to lunch with someone who jammed flyers and price lists in their faces, who never shut up talking about themselves and who insisted on a signature on the dotted line by the time the check came?
I was far less exhausting and annoying to deal with.
Social Media is NOT a Sales Pitch
Social media is like all those lunches or quick, relaxing trips to a driving range to just unwind and chat and become friends. People should know we have a book, just like all my cardboard customers had a fancy folder filled with all our products and a sample box.
But the product wasn’t my focus, people were.
To refuse to do social media would have been akin to me never traveling and sitting by the phone in my office hoping it would ring. That our cardboard would sell itself. I imagine I wouldn’t have lasted long.
To misuse social media is a formula for a customer (reader) to gravitate some place they don’t feel like prey. Social media used properly doesn’t take much time to do, but it will take time to grow roots.
Just like it only took five minutes for me to call a buyer, ask how his kids were and let him know I’d be in the area and ask if he and his receptionist would care to join me for a bite to eat. But, though it took minutes to make the invitation, it took months of care and authentic follow-up to build a foundation of trust that created a loyal customer.
Direct Sales is Almost Universally ANNOYING
How many of you have gone to having a cell phone because the only people who called the landline were selling something? How many times have any of you said, “Sure, I’ll pay for that cruise right now” after getting a random phone call. Or, “Yes, sign my up for that credit protection plan. TAKE MY MONEY!”
How many times have you found a flyer on your windshield or front door and immediately called for that product or service? Or answered the spam in your e-mail with credit card in hand?
Think of this when using social media 😉 . Relax, have fun and trust this is a process and a really fun one with the right attitude.
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.