Monday, November 18, 2013

Today's Writing Tip Is: Do Authors Need a Social Media Presence?

Whether a writer self-publishes or publishes through a traditional company, much of the marketing nowadays falls on the writer's shoulders. For years publicists and advertising specialists have encouraged authors to develop a strong social media presence: Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, and now Instagram have been recommended as essential tools for writers to promote their material. But are these avenues essential? More importantly, are they effective and lucrative? It depends.

Personally, I have spent hundreds if not thousands of hours on Facebook and Twitter. Out of the 10,000 books I've sold, I probably sold about 30 through Facebook and I've received two or three clients at most for my editing services on LinkedIn and Twitter combined. I have also paid hundreds of dollars to consultants to optimize my Facebook page, to no avail in terms of selling books. I have, however, reconnected with numerous precious people from high school and college, so I would never say Facebook has been a complete waste. But it has not been effective for me in terms of book sales. Ditto for most of the dozens of authors I know.

Because I'm a scientist at heart, I know that my friends and I are just anecdotal evidence. Our experiences don't constitute proof that social media is irrelevant for authors, but if you want to devote hours to Facebook for the sole purpose of selling books, make sure to create a fan page for yourself and update it regularly, preferably every day. The fan page has to be separate from your regular page and you should attempt to build a wide base there. Post excerpts from your book, your book cover, info about book signings, and hold contests. Give away free electronic copies of your book and occasionally a print copy. Consider paying Facebook for advertising. And make yourself accessible. The worst thing to do is to create a fan page and then disappear and only update once a month. No one will read it in that case.

Twitter and LinkedIn are different stories. LinkedIn is much more business oriented and good for connections, but Twitter moves fast. If you follow other authors in your genre, they are likely to follow you back but will not necessarily buy your books. Set aside a certain amount of time per week for promoting your book on these venues – but by all means don't be aggressive. There is nothing people dislike more than people who ramble and obsess on a newsfeed begging them to buy their books. Then do an inventory after a few months to see if your presence there has made any difference in book sales. If not, reconsider the value of social media for book promotion and just use it for fun.

Sigrid Macdonald is an editor and the author of three books. Her last book, Be Your Own Editor, is available on Amazon:


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