Many of my author friends often debate the merits of social media for selling books. In this brave new world most publishers do little more than print hardcopies of your book, generate an ebook and put those on their “for sale” list. The actual work of marketing your creation becomes a second act of creation even more daunting than the first. How do you sell copies of a book nobody has heard of?
Enter Social Media, the last, best hope for driving word of mouth about anything. Agents and author-advice mills are forever touting the magic formula of “get a blog and a twitter account and a Facebook page”, the idea being that people will see you there and become interested in paying for what you have to say elsewhere.
And now comes the tricky part.
For too many authors who follow the letter of that advice, the whole plan is heavily backfiring.
A few months ago I received a Facebook friend request from an author we’ll call “Joey Jenkins”. I had never met Joey before, nor did I recall interacting with him on any of the fora or blogs where I tend to meet other people. I’m still not sure how he found me, but upon seeing that he was a writer and we had a mutual writer friend I figured “why not?”
For most of this Spring and Summer Joey Jenkins has been a regular on my newsfeed. He never “likes” anything I post, never comments on anything I post. His statuses, which have the dubious virtue of showing up once every two-three hours have been to promote his blog posts or to talk about his upcoming horror novel. Those posts have ranged from the innocuous “I’ve been up all night editing Blood From A Stone” to the downright irritatingly self-congratulatory (“My agent says Hollywood is interested in Blood From A Stone”).
Yesterday Joey Jenkins mentioned another book he was trying to sell. When I asked a question about it I was greeted with the response “You’ll have to get it and find out! :)”
That was the end of my “friendship” with Joey Jenkins. It has also ensured that I will never spend one thin dime on Blood From A Stone or any other title from the Joey Jenkins empire.
After I released Joey back into the wild he posted this:
“My social media feed is about promoting my books. If you’re interested in cute puppy pictures, then following me is not for you.”
Now that’s all well and good and it’s entirely Joey Jenkins’ right to see it that way. But here’s the problem. If the only thing you see social media as being good for is to hook you up with an audience of wallets, you have missed the point entirely and it is most likely going to shoot you in the foot.
Joey Jenkins is not an isolated incident. He’s far from one of a kind. He’s actually just the latest–and therefore freshest in my memory–author to think that posting relentless commercials is the same thing as social interaction.
Being on Facebook or Twitter* requires you to bring your personality with you. If you’re an author who wants people to buy your book, let me offer you this sterling tip.
If you decide to be on Facebook or Twitter, find two other things to talk about besides your book. Make sure that talking about your book is something you do no more than once every third post.
You don’t have to be completely transparent, and I know that many shy and introverted people steer clear of Social Media because they believe that they have to share every facet of their lives. That’s not true at all. Just pick two other things. It can be any two other things…your cat and your love for Doctor Who; your gardening and your daily dinner recipes. One interest makes you seem robotic and fixated whereas three interests at least give you the credibility of attempted authenticity.
For bonus points I’d suggest that you “like”, “favourite” or comment on at least one post of each of your friends in your newsfeed. You certainly don’t have to do that, but I promise you people remember. I’ve actually bought books from a woman I’m not even friends with, just because I saw her commenting nicely on the posts of a friend of mine.
You may think your social media feed is just about selling books, but you won’t sell any books at all if you aren’t on your social media feed to be, well, SOCIAL.
*Ironically my twitter account is now largely just a place where I announce my blog posts. I go through spurts of activity on Twitter, but I’ve decided to spend most of my energy on Facebook. Since my Twitter friends and my facebook friends largely overlap, that’s okay. In addition, my blog posts are just chock full of authenticity…to a fault.