I somehow missed this post the first time around, but Red Pen of Doom wrote a post at the end of last year that, while extremely complimentary of my physical appearance (blushing, RPofD!), pointed out that my social media following has not resulted in the same number book sales as, say, Snooki. Who, yes, has a book out.
The title of the blog post: The Twitter: it is NOT for selling books.
And you know what? I (mostly) agree with this post.
Social media is an imperfect sales tool. Even if you have a following of hundreds of thousands of people, a small percentage of those will see your posts about your work, a smaller percentage of those will click through, and a smaller percentage than those will actually buy.
Social media alone is not going to make a book a bestseller, which I hope is an eye-opener for publishers who are relying on an author’s social media efforts alone to sell books. The list of megabestsellers who haven’t so much as sniffed at Twitter are legion.
But that still doesn’t mean you should abandon social media. Here are three main reasons why:
1) It’s not perfect, but it works
Social media hasn’t made my novel Jacob Wonderbar a bestseller, but I do know I’ve sold way more books than I would have without it. How do I know? I recognize the names of a lot of the people who are reviewing my books on Amazon and Goodreads.
I wasn’t one of those authors who was the recipient of a major marketing campaign. Jacob Wonderbar was released relatively quietly. And I’m happy with the sales after a year, especially under those circumstances.
Social media sells books. It’s likely an overrated sales tool, but it does work.
2) Social media is one of the only free marketing tools available to authors
One of the conclusions RPofD reaches is that in order to sell thousands you have to reach millions. Mass media is the only way to really propel something into the stratosphere. This is absolutely true. But most authors don’t have access to mass media.
You do have access to social media. And what’s more: it’s free.
There’s a reason social media has become overrated – it’s the first time there has been an actual tool at authors’ disposal that can help sell books. Now authors can actually try and move the needle themselves, without access to a media platform. That’s very exciting, even if we need to keep expectations in line.
3) There are benefits to using social media beyond sales
If you’re only using social media to sell books you are absolutely using it wrong.
Yes, it can sell books. But the sales benefits are far down on the list of benefits that you will accrue using social media the right way.
More likely: You are making friends, you are learning about what else is out there, you are exchanging knowledge, you are discovering, you are communicating, and opportunities will come your way as a result.
So, yes. Social media does not a bestseller make. It’s never going to match the effectiveness of a national media campaign. It’s never going to match the efforts of a dedicated publisher’s marketing efforts.