Social media has become a powerful tool these days for virtually anyone, and this post could go on and on about a lot of things you probably already know, but this post is for authors.
As an author who wrote and self-published his first book six years ago, when I was seventeen, I know how it feels. That book was my baby. I was proud of it. My family was proud. I wanted everyone to read it, and when I put it up for sale, that smile soon faded.
Sure, I got some positive reviews from family and friends who wanted to support me–I even reached out and got responses and great reviews from one of Amazon’s former top reviewers; former because Amazon soon changed their policy about authors soliciting people for reviews, so review copies in exchange for Amazon posts are a thing of the past–and I got both good and critical feedback from distributing my book through giveaways on Goodreads and everything else.
But I didn’t know how to do all of that right away.
I first participated in author forums such as Amazons Voice of the Author and quickly discovered a number of echo-chambers with authors squawking about their own books. I think the term “hookers soliciting other hookers” was thrown about somewhere in there.
The short truth is, if you self-publish, you have to do more than write the book. You have to market it, and social media is an incredible train for doing so, assuming you can break through the saturation.
“But there are SO many social media channels. They’re all so different. How do I get sales?”
The first thing is: You don’t jump right into sales.
The human mind is not wired to understand probability. You think of a book launch getting a whole bunch of shares and becoming a bookseller right away because that’s the best book and it deserves to be read. No. That seldom just happens.
And if you’re an author, your initial thought is to point out one or ten or twenty books that you saw that happen to.
There are sometimes over three million books published in a given year.
Check out this Huffington Post article to see what I’m talking about.
But out of the whole pie, the books you’re thinking of are a small fraction that ate up a large percentage of total book sells. Most books don’t sell, and most self-published books are just published and not marketed or sold (and sometimes poorly designed or written, giving them a stigma). It makes sense, too. Back before Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble made it possible to just write a book and post it, published books went through a publisher, who acted like little elves in the background. With self-publishing, a lot of us missed that. When I first published, I missed that, too.
When most books are published, publishers go in the background and hype them up. They reach out to newspapers, submit press releases, hire hitmen to eliminate the competition, and more. Nowadays, even they use social media. No they especially use social media. They go out and find book bloggers, prominent reviewers on social media sites like Goodreads and Instagram, and even known reviewers on Amazon. They work hard to get the word out, because even most traditionally published books stagnate on the shelves.
Social media has made it easier to spread awareness of a book, but only if it’s done right. There are multitudes of authors spamming their book links everywhere, buying generic ads, and saturating book feeds with their “buy my book” cries of desperation. I get it. You could write the greatest book in the world and you would still have to get people to read it, but conversions (book sales) don’t come from just spamming your book. People tune that out. They come from word-of-mouth. They come from that domino effect of people reading your book and telling their friends about it. Eventually, after enough reviews and talk, people start to buy it, but to get that momentum going you need a few things.
Here’s the thing: most authors already know how social media can benefit them, but all they really do is spam. Here’s an article pointing out a lot of things that authors (myself previously included) do wrong with social media, but there are a lot of legitimate ways to market books.
Over the next three days, I’m going to discuss three powerful social media marketing tools for book distribution; ways that are NOT spam: The Bookstagram, The Goodreads Giveaway, & The ARC.