One of the biggest epiphanies I’ve had since I published my first book in 2015 is how to sell my books.
When we join social media and begin to build our platforms, we think that we’re building a base for readers to come together and talk about our books. The only problem with that is, we identify so strongly with being writers that we forget that we need to identify with being authors.
What do I mean by that?
When we’re writers, we’re writing, and we love to talk about writerly things. What tropes are trending, trading craft secrets, sharing blog posts and favorite craft books about showing vs. telling, how to build 3d characters, how to create conflict with stakes, goals, and consequences. And, of course, our wonderful notebook collection. We like to cheer each other on, beta read for each other, and support each other by retweeting snippets of our work. And most importantly, supporting each other on every platform. All that sounds really good, and it is.
It is until we want to sell books, and I mean, not to the handful of people we know on Twitter, or to the five writers we’ve gotten close to on Instagram. All of a sudden then, being a part of the writing community isn’t so great. We have thousands of followers but when we launch a book, no one cares. We might get a congratulations, or we might get a few compliments on our cover, but launch day comes and goes and the shine wears off rather quickly.
I don’t know how many books I launched before I realized all my followers on Twitter didn’t care. They were busy doing, or trying to do, the exact same thing I was.
And like a fish caught in a net, we struggle. How do we break out of our writer circles to sell books?
*Stop promoting your books to the writing community. Probably one of the very first things I did after realizing this is I stopped tweeting about my books. No one cared. Now I use my Twitter account for what I had been using it for before I published. I tweet about articles I find useful, congratulate authors on their finished WIPs, and point writers and authors to this blog. That’s it. I chit chat, but very very rarely I tweet about my books on there. My experience has improved, and I’ve gotten more hits on this website for my blog than I ever sold books.
I have a friend on Twitter who has almost 38,000 followers. I’m sure it hits her at times that if only 15% of her followers (5,700 readers) bought her book during launch week, she could make the USA Today bestseller list. When you have that many followers, it doesn’t seem so out of reach–until she tweets about her launch and not much happens.
As of this writing, I have 14.5k followers on Twitter. Lately, say in the past two years or so, I’ve been focusing more on writing books than networking, probably because of my realizations. I’m in KU and not eligible to reach the USA Today bestseller list, but it would take about 35% of my followers for me to reach 5,000 sales.
If you want to read more about making the USA Today bestseller list, read a really neat article by Nicholas Erik here.
Take a look at your accounts. Are most of your followers writers like mine are? That is not going to help you. You can start over, but if you don’t know how to connect with readers, you’ll fall into the same trap. I’ve been in the writing community bubble for so long, at this point, I have no idea how to use social media to find readers. Last month, I gave myself permission to stop posting on Instagram. I have 373 followers, and I would guess that at least 75% of them follow me on Twitter and or are actual friends with me on Facebook. I never knew what to post, and it was a weight off my shoulders when I stopped. My Facebook personal profile and my Instagram account are linked, so whatever photo I post on Facebook will post on Instagram, but what does it matter? I don’t post about my books on my personal Facebook page. I don’t want my friends and family reading my books. They aren’t my readers and spamming them is pointless.
*Use promos to reach reachers. Unfortunately, a lot of what I’m going to say now may require a little money. You won’t hear too many authors say that they can find readers for free. You have to learn an ad platform, or buy newsletter promos, pay for a Goodreads giveaway, join BookFunnel promotions, and/or start a newsletter. All of those will cost a little bit, depending on what you choose and what you have going on at the same time. As far as promos go, buying a spot in newsletters like Freebooksy or Robins Reads or E-reader News Today will bring in new readers and you won’t be bothering your writer followers with
unwanted promos about your book. For a great list of promos, David Gaughran created a list. I’m going to work on my own list because some of them have a review minimum, and I want the ones who don’t handy when I start releasing books next year. Not all of them are expensive. The one I used to promote my holiday boxed set of A Rocky Point Wedding was $25 dollars. It will be up to you and your prices and marketing strategy to choose the promos that will give you the most bang for your buck.
*Publish regularly and add a link to the next book in your back matter. This is probably the best way to keep readers engaged and reading your books. No spamming required.
Bookbub did a blog post about using back matter to sell more books, and you can read it here.
*Learn an ad platform. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on ads. Just because you set a five dollar a day budget on Amazon Ads doesn’t mean Amazon is going to spend your five dollars a day. Plus, even if you set your bid at .30/click, that doesn’t mean every time someone clicks you’ll actually pay .30. If you choose dynamic bids down, sometimes clicks can come in a lot cheaper. The only way I have ever seen authors spend more money than they had intended was when their book wasn’t ready for advertising. When your “look inside” has typos, your cover isn’t to market, your title is off, and your blurb needs feedback–that is the only time I have ever seen an author lose money. Now, you may think all that is great and say ads don’t work, but more often than not, it’s going to be your cover or your blurb that wastes your money. If you want a free way to learn Amazon Ads, Dave Chesson has a free course through his website Kindlepreneur.
*Create an FB author page, or group, but don’t tell anyone. Yeah, that’s right. Don’t tell anyone. Add a request into the back matter of your books asking them to like your page or join your group. Add a request to your newsletter…and that’s it. I didn’t realize until I was writing this blog post the whole reason I’m disinterested in my own FB author page is because most, if not all, of my likes are by other authors who don’t care if I publish another book. Why am I going to waste time updating my FB author page when I’m not going to get any engagement? We do this with all our social media: Twitter, TikTok, FB author pages/groups, Instagram, and our newsletters. Stop it. You may want to follow other authors who write in your genre on TikTok to see how they are promoting their books, but otherwise, don’t invite other writers/authors to like your stuff. It will get you nowhere fast. It may even cost you money. See newsletters.
*Start a newsletter, but only put the link in the backs of your books and use BookFunnel and StoryOrigin to promote your reader magnet and accumulate signups. When you reach your free limit with your newsletter aggregator (if you’re using MailChimp or MailerLite), you want the people on your list to be buying your books. Deadweight costs you money, and I’m sorry if you don’t want to hear that. Your friends aren’t deadweight, and okay, they aren’t. But if they don’t open your emails, if they sink your open rate, if they don’t click on the links, if they aren’t buying your books, why are they subscribed and why do you want them to be? They aren’t supporting you, and if you’re doing that to your friends, you aren’t supporting them. Stop it.
Breaking out your writer bubble on social media is hard, but if you’re happy with the results, then you don’t need to change. If you’re unhappy with sales, are disillusioned with social media and all the time you put into networking with “readers,” it’s time to try something different. I am a lot happier on Twitter now that I stopped trying to sell books on there. I get a lot of clicks to this blog if I have an interesting topic, but mostly I use it to connect with other writers so I don’t feel so alone in this endeavor.
Writers like to hide behind social media because writing/publishing/reaching out to readers is hard. Publishing consistently is hard. A lot of writers like to write in all genres and that makes finding readers difficult so they tweet into the void and hope for the best. This is fine if this is your business model and it meets your needs, but if you need more than what you’re getting out of your current situation, you need to change.
A new year is coming–how are you going to find readers in 2022?
Until next time!