I have a friend who constantly struggles with social media. She hates it, but not for the idea it’s a time-suck. For now we can all agree that with the JK Rowling stuff, the #publishingpaidme hashtag that’s gone crazy on Twitter, police brutality, COVID-19, and our president, things on social media are more than just a dumpster fire. It’s a raging, out-of-control forest fire. Think Australia. Really, let’s think about Australia since we haven’t heard anything about their fires in quite some time, but they’ll be dealing with damage control for years.
As a writer and author, we can agree that social media is a necessity. BUT as a writer and author, social media isn’t necessary in the way we’re told it is at the beginning of our careers. Namely, we need to be on social media to sell books. This is only partly true, and in the part of it that is true, it takes a lot of scrambling on our end to make it happen. In my 2020 predictions blog post from a few months back, I quoted Mark Coker (the founder of Smashwords) as saying that Amazon ads have stolen the writers’ platform. Why work for reach when you can buy it? Why work for reach when it’s EASIER to buy it? I know for the books I’ve sold in the past year, it’s due to buying ads on Amazon.
And yet. Is social media worthless?
Let’s take a look at social media from an author’s standpoint. Just a quick one, since I’ll start off by saying I’m not doing this but I know I should be. One of the only ways to use social media as an author is to set up a Facebook Author Page. (Ads aside since you need an author page if you want to run FB ads for your book.) The idea is having someplace for your readers to find you. Like your page. Interact with you. Some authors form groups instead of pages, but the downside to a group is that you’re constantly moderating and making sure posters are behaving. That doesn’t sound like fun (and a true time-suck), but an author page is doable. Especially since FB offers a scheduling option for your posts. A downside to this is you’re building your castle on someone else’s property. We know Zuckerberg changes his policies all the time and we’re told it’s better to send your readers to your website or newsletter. The problem with those two options is it’s harder to interact with you. So an FB author page is probably going to be the best thing you can do to use social media to help sell your books. Recommend books in the genre you write in. Host giveaways and post about your books. I’ve seen lots of robust FB author pages with lots of engagement. I don’t give my author page enough love but I should start.
Twitter is bad for selling books and I don’t promo on there. I follow a few industry leaders and retweet the articles I find useful to me. That’s about all I do.
Instagram can be a fun place to hang out, but when you’re a writer, you get sucked into the social circle of other writers. So you’re not going to be selling books on there unless you can crack out of the writer/author bubble and find readers. I don’t post on Instagram with the idea I’m going to sell books. You can run ads on Instagram, but besides paying for exposure, I’ve never sold books buying ad space on Instagram. If you wanna see pictures of my cats, look me up.
So, social media isn’t the best for authors. Unless you’re into content marketing and you’re constantly posting snippets of your books. That might not be a valid option if you’re a slow writer, because by the time you release your book, you’ll have posted every single line already. It’s good for non-fiction. But I’m not a non-fiction writer, and I’m not an authority on anything, nor do I want to be.
So, what is social media good for if you can’t sell books?
This is where my friend, I think, throws the baby out with the bathwater when she cuts herself off from social media.
As a PUBLISHER, there are a ton of benefits of being online. Facebook is where I learn 99.9% of marketing and keeping an ear to the ground when it comes to the industry. My friend says– and I’ve heard this from others too–is why would she need to know about marketing, publishing, or anything in-between if she doesn’t have books out? Isn’t writing the most important part of it?
Sure, you need to be writing to be a writer, to eventually be an author.
What are you gonna do when you’re done with that book? How are you going to learn ads? How are you going to know where to promo your book? You’ve cut yourself off from marketing and publishing groups and now you don’t know what the current trends are. Best practices?
If you cut yourself off from author groups on FB, when you’re done with your book and you start up your social media again, you think you you’re just going to join these groups, guns blazing, demand answers to all your questions because you needed the answers yesterday because your book launches tomorrow and you don’t know what you’re doing? I’ve seen people do that in some of these groups. Some of them are met with kindness and people will walk these authors through what they’re doing to sell books. Many others, though, are ignored because it’s evident that they expect other people to do their work for them. Networking and keeping apprised of industry news is a process. It’s an ongoing process. I’ve said before that being an author/publisher is no different than other professions. Would you want to go to a doctor that didn’t keep up with the newest (and maybe better) treatments? Do you want your children to go to school and be taught by a teacher who doesn’t keep her certification up to date? Do you want to be represented by an attorney who doesn’t keep up with changes to the law? Maybe you don’t feel your publishing company is that important, but suddenly you’ll feel like it is when you want to buy promotions for your book and don’t know where to buy them. And even suckier, don’t know who to ask because you’ve taken yourself out of the game.
I LIKE knowing what’s going on with the publishing industry. I like keeping up with Amazon changes, new aggregators, what IngramSpark is doing. Even if I don’t need the information, I’ve been able to help others, and that’s what networking is all about. My blog would be pretty useless if I didn’t keep my head in the game and pass along information to you.
What are some of the best groups I’ve joined on Facebook?
- Six Figure Authors. https://www.facebook.com/groups/504063143655523/ It’s moderated by Lindsay Buroker, Andrea Pearson, and Jo Lallo. It accompanies their podcast by the same name, but you don’t have to listen to the podcast to benefit from the group. Though the podcast is awesome and a lot of the discussions are based on a podcast topic.
- Mark Dawson’s SPF Community. https://www.facebook.com/groups/SPFsecretgroup/ I like this group because Mark Dawson is very protective of Amazon and won’t let anyone talk shit about them. Amazon did indie authors a great service with the Kindle, CreateSpace (back in the day) and KDP. I don’t know where indie publishing would be without them. I also just love the conversations on there about publishing and marketing.
- Level Up Romance Writers. https://www.facebook.com/groups/LevelUpRomanceWriters/ Moderated by Dylann Crush, this group is for marketing romance. There are so many generous writers in that group, and it’s a place where I have started to post more and get to know people there.
- 20Booksto50k. https://www.facebook.com/groups/20Booksto50k/ There are a lot of generous people here, too. They are more than happy to tell you how they are selling books. Craig Martelle is pretty strict with what is allowed and every post is moderated, but I mainly lurk and soak up information.
- Vellum Users. https://www.facebook.com/groups/VellumUsers/ I format my books (and sometimes for others) with Vellum. This group is for questions about the software if you run into an issue, or if you want to ask if something you want to do formatting-wise is available. Jody Skinner and Erica Alexander are in touch with Brad and Brad (the creators of Vellum) and they both know their stuff. I learn something new about software capability every day.
- Indie Cover Project. https://www.facebook.com/groups/20CoversTo50k/ I’ve gotten feedback about covers from here before. You can develop an eye just by looking at what other authors are doing with their covers and reading the suggestions and critiques. This is a great place for blurb help, too.
- Book Cover Design 101. https://www.facebook.com/groups/bookcoverdesign101/ This is a great group if you want to learn tips on how to do your own covers. I find a lot of my fonts here when people post deals. There are wonderful people part of this group and very happy to help you if you have a technical question. Both this group and the Indie Cover Project can point you in the right direction if you want to order a premade or custom cover instead of doing your own.
- Launching Indie. https://www.facebook.com/groups/launchingindie/ Cecilia Mecca is amazing. She’s so generous and loves to know the best way to do anything with marketing. I heard her speak at the Sell More Books Show Summit last year.
- And no list is going to be complete without Bryan Cohen. Everything I learned about Amazon ads I learned from him. For free. I’m a member of The Five Day Amazon Ad Profit Challenge and his other group, Selling for Authors.
There are other groups I’m a part of, about 40 if you want me to be honest, and not all of them have the same level of information as these do. I’m the most active in the ones listed above, when I’m on Facebook, at any rate.
My friend has told me she shies away from social media for mental health reasons. There’s not much I can say about that except I have told her in the past that if she’s having issues, to find help, like anyone should. I don’t spend a lot of time on social media because of my carpal tunnel. If I’m online I like to make my time worth it either by blogging or if I’m on the computer at all, writing and editing my books.
When it comes to social media and your business, they go hand in hand whether you want to admit it or not. The main trouble I see a lot of writers have these days is separating their writer self from their author/publisher self. Engaging with writers while at the same time hoping to find readers. It doesn’t work like that. We tend to join a clique and follow that clique from platform to platform, but that’s not going to sell books.
I take social media for what it is. A place where I can network and find resources for my business.
And I hope you can, too.
Do you have a Facebook group you benefit from? Let me know. Have a thriving Facebook Author Page? Link it in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
Lots of good info here.
As for the Rowling thing, I think that mob mentality is a really good argument against twitter.
Anybody who raises concerns about the current state of identity politics is “spreading hate.” Twitter makes people so stupid.
I loved her response though in her lengthy rebuttal. She said something like “I think this is the 5th time I’ve been canceled.”
Whatever your beliefs are, or where you stand, it makes for some rocky social media. And as a straight white woman writer, I feel that’s all I should say because I want everyone who visits my blog to feel welcome. 🙂
I credit Twitter with about 95% of my book sales over the past five years. Your opinion, however, seems to be universally shared by authors. I think this might be a case where literally every author but me is using Twitter wrong. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Maybe I should write a blog post about this…
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I disagree. You’re using Twitter in a way that works for you. Don’t let what looks like the majority of authors saying you shouldn’t be selling on Twitter guilt you into stopping what works for you. Just because they don’t like Twitter doesn’t mean you shouldn’t like it, too.
The first book I ever bought from a tweet was from Dr. Judy Melinek who wrote Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner which she co-wrote with T.J. Mitchell. I’ve bought many books I never would have discovered elsewhere since then and so I know tweeting about your books works. You should NOT feel guilty just because others say it’s wrong or desperate or whatever else they say. It’s not wrong. It’s social media and I’ve met many authors on Twitter via the books they’ve tweeted. You have to do what works for you. It’s not like you’re breaking the law to tweet about your books.
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Hmm. That’s not what I meant at all. I don’t feel guilty and I’d certainly not stop doing what works. I meant that the reason authors don’t like twitter is because they are all “doing it wrong.” Hence my thought that perhaps I should blog about how to do it right.
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My bad. I was basing it on your first 2 sentences but I’m glad I’m wrong in that regard. We all do what works for us and that’s what matters. If it works, great. If not, try something else.
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I’m just questioning the strength of Twitter. Of course I’ve purchased books from there. I have a lot of writer friends I support. But is my purchase going to do anything? Likely not much. But again, it comes down what you feel “success” is, and maybe to one writer selling a book on a #selfpromosaturday or whatever the hashtag is, is worth it to them. In that case, be happy you picked up a reader, and hope that your book is good enough that they tweet what a good read it was.
It’s not just a purchase. It’s a reader you’re picking up who will, if they like your books, will buy more books in your series or backlist and tell their friends. It’s one purchase to some but it’s a reader that can spread the word to others. And that’s what matters. Not that it’s a purchase. It’s never just a purchase.
I think you should do a blog post about it because I was referring to those of us who have fallen into the #amwriting or #writerscommunity group and I don’t feel like that is beneficial at all. I mean, we have to also define “sales” and “success.” One girl on Twitter said she sells lots of books on it, and when a friend asked her how many that was, she said 5 downloads and a handful of page reads, or something like that. She was happy with it, so why not? But to me, Twitter sales aren’t going to keep your career afloat.
Also, do I remember correctly that you said you joined Twitter before you had written a book? It could be you didn’t fall into the #writingcommunity trap like the rest of us.
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Yes, my Twitter experience is what led me to try writing novels in the first place. Rule #1: no hashtags. I’ll write the post…
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Indie writers have to bare in mind that they are the ones who will be writing, marketing, creating covers and promoting their outcome. A few lucky ones might have the means via their networks to get things then yet, the majority cannot and shouldn’t rely on outside sources. Be your own master and construct your empire yourself.
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Exactly. You have to do what works for you. And be open to new things because nothing stays the same. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!
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Facebook, ugh. I’ve never been able to stomach their pay to play BS. Why should people who have liked my page not be shown what I post without me having to boost that post???
Twitter has been fairly kind to me (not stellar by any means, but better than any other social media I’ve tried) and I have found several new readers there thanks to other authors sharing my stuff. Still, most social media to me feels like a huge time suck. My blog and newsletter are far more rewarding.
Good post, with plenty to think about, though :))
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That’s true too, and a good point. The two biggest things you own are your newsletter and website. But can you keep up an author career using only those two things? Not sure because all the successful indies I know are also on Facebook. I’m glad Twitter is working for you! Thanks for reading, Tammie!
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Thank you for sharing!