If you are an author on social media today, you may have been led here by the notion that posting on social media is how you’re going to sell your books. If this is the case, then it likely follows that, at some point, you’ve realized social media is not exactly the siren call for sales you thought it would be.
I’m right, aren’t I? That’s not because I’m high-handed and holier-than-thou. It’s because… I’ve been there, too. Most of us have. We’ve flocked to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WordPress, TikTok, SnapChat, Pinterest and so many other platforms because we wanted to sell our books. And most of us have eventually realized with disappointment that our efforts didn’t generate the results we hoped they would.
You are not alone. We all know the feeling.
Recently, I posed a tweet that asked the question: Do you blog as an author? One response from a fellow writer was, “Yes, but it has not been very effective.” I have to admit, this response amused me (while I was, at the same time, disappointed for them, of course). I’m assuming that this individual judged blogging’s effectiveness by the number of sales it generated. What was amusing to me was the fact that I’d based this question off my last blog post, Why You Should Blog as an Author, in which I talked about how a blog is meant to be about loyalty, not selling.
So continues the misconception about what a blog is for, it would seem.
Because a blog is just one of many social media platforms, the concept extends to all social media activity. Social media as a whole is not about selling. Inundating other users with a barrage of sales pitches is not going to entice them to buy. After all, they are on social media to be social. That’s what it’s all about. We make digital acquaintances, have digital interactions and enjoy digital companionship… however ephemeral they may be. In one of her webinars that I was fortunate to attend, literary agent Carly Watters pointed out that, “Social media should be fun.” That’s very true. It’s also true that, on the flip-side, no one is having fun if all they’re seeing is pitches to buy your book.
And let’s be honest: Chances are that if that’s all you’re doing on social media, then you’re not having much fun either.
So, what do you do as an author to sell more books? Here’s a novel idea (pardon the pun, I couldn’t help myself, lol): write more books! You’re a writer, after all. So write. Build an arsenal. Build momentum. Get your work out there, because you know you have more than one story to tell.
Think about it like a general store. If you’ve only got one product on the shelf, what kind of sustainable business model do you have? For those first-time buyers, you’re competing with other general stores—practically on the same street as you—which have more of the same kind of product. Lots more. And for repeat customers, what do you have for them? Nothing. They’ve already bought the one thing you have to sell. Do you expect them to come back and buy again the product they already have?
The more books you have to your name, the more momentum you stand to build. This is where the algorithms of sellers and book sites come into play. Sites like Amazon, Goodreads, Kobo, Google Books, etc., know all about product placement, and they have the audience to take advantage of it… which benefits both them and you. If a reader bought your book, and you have another book, those seller sites are more likely to advertise to that reader with the very valuable, “You might also like…” Therefore, the more books you have in your repertoire, the more visible you are as an author. This means that it is more likely a repeat reader is going to buy another book of yours, and a new reader will discover you… and then buy more of your books when they decide they like you.
So, where does social media fit in? If you choose to be on social media in the first place, then think of it as part of a holistic approach. It is how you create and maintain your overall online platform. But keep in mind that you don’t have that platform in the first place for the sake of the platform. You have it for the sake of your career as an author. If you’re spending more time on social media trying to sell your books than you are actually writing your books, then you’re not going to do very well holistically.
To explain this statement further, I recently decided I was going to stop worrying about social media. I even wrote a post about it (as ironic as that is) called Why I Am Nixing Social Media. I was going to follow Carly Watters’ advice and find fun in social media, and I was going to approach my posting with a “set it and forget it” mindset, where I’m still using it, but I’m not worried about my stats or my sales. It’s been pretty amazing. I’ve passively noticed that my web traffic, my followers, my engagement, all of it is going up, but I have barely mentioned anything about my books. Instead, I just had fun and didn’t care where social media ended up. And because I’m not consumed with chasing engagement for the sake of engagement, I’ve gotten more written on my current work in progress in the past month than I have in a very long while, when I was spending so much of my time trying to actually sell on social media.
I recently heard a tip from entrepreneur Jenna Kutcher when she was a guest on The Mindset Mentor podcast. She pointed out that you don’t own anything on social media. Those Twitter followers aren’t yours. They’re Twitter’s. Those Instagram likes aren’t yours, they’re Instagram’s. You use these platforms, but you don’t own what you have there. What you do own is your books. So, make sure you focus on writing them, and use social media the way it was designed to be used: to be social.
The final takeaway? Social media is not about sales. Your books are about sales. You are a writer, and your books should be your priority.