If you scour the internet for articles about selling books through social media, you will find many lists about etiquette rules and assurances that social media does not sell books. It is not hard to imagine an aspiring or debut author searching the web, trying to figure out whether or not Twitter, Facebook or any of the other online platforms are worth their effort and time, then coming to the conclusion that there’s nothing to gain by venturing into the endeavor. And they might be right, but it will all depend on their approach and expectations.
Mind you, the articles are not wrong. By now, it is pretty much a well-known fact that screaming into the cyber tornado, urging people to buy your book DOES NOT work, and that, if this is all you do, you’ve adopted the quickest method to get unfollowed and to discourage others from joining. Same goes for re-shouting every bit of praise your book gets, it simply gets old.
Sure, authors and publisher want to sell their books, maybe sell enough to produce a bestseller, snatch a movie deal from a major studio, and become household names. Who hasn’t had those dreams? But clearly, shouting the same message over and over to the same handful of people won’t accomplish that. Even if every single one of your 100, 1000, 2000 followers clicks your link and buys your book, what difference would that make?
However, this does not mean that social media is not a viable forum for authors to gain readers and, eventually, produce sales. It’s just that getting a few dollars from each of your followers should not be your goal. If it is, you will fail. You will waste your time and effort. You will be highly disappointed and you will write angry blog posts as to why you have sworn off social media and you shall never use it again.
But does the failure of many authors mean that social media cannot be used to promote yourself and, in the process, gain readers?
That assumption couldn’t be further from the truth.
Even if bombarding followers with “buy” links is the wrong approach, it doesn’t mean you can’t promote your work in other ways. You are an author. You write books. You get them published. And your followers know that. You don’t have to make excuses for talking about your books, for pointing people to your website for a fun article, for posting those “buy” links every once in a while. It is natural, expected. You also don’t have to apologize for sharing:
These all count as promoting your work, except they are not pushy and, instead of annoying, they can be inspiring–a way to convey your enthusiasm for your project, your love for what you do. Your passion is a powerful fuel. Share it with others.
And what about a fresh concept? How about actually being social?! It is “social” media, after all.
Instead of re-shouting all the praise you receive from readers, how about thanking them? How about following them back? How about taking an interest in them as a person? They have just shared with all their followers how much they enjoyed your book. Those are people you may not have reached otherwise. How amazing is that?
And instead of talking only about your books, how about talking a bit about yourself? Become a real person to your followers, else they might think the account is managed by a robot. You don’t have to put your private life out there. Do what you feel comfortable with, but make an effort to be real and outgoing.
In short, make connections. Everyone can be a supporter, a friend, an inspiration. They might be a fellow author, a blogger, a reader who likes you and finds your books worth shouting about, so they will. While you’re at it, don’t be selfish. Don’t expect to get all the attention for yourself. Pay it back and pay it forward. It’s good karma and, more than anything, it is fun.
Gaining readers isn’t easy and fast for every author. For most, it takes years. Many expect social media to produce miraculous result because some of the viral stories we hear about, but those are the exception. In truth, jumping into Twitter or Facebook is like walking into a party room in full swing. You still have to interact, you still have to find those valuable connections. It’s just a little easier because you can do it in your pajamas.The best way is to taper your expectations, be slow and methodical about it, and do it from the heart.