Social Media, and Why I Kind of Hate It

So I have a problem. The problem is I’ve been getting the impression that I need an author platform. And I have no author platform. I don’t have . . . one of those. Things. That you need to have. In order to sell books.

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This is not an advice sort of post, but more a Raised Question to the Masses post. I fully submit that I don’t properly understand social media. My author platform is that I really, really like telling stories guys, and I sure do wish you’d read them and like them too.

But here’s my other problem with collecting hordes of followers. The only authors I follow on social media, I do so because FIRST AND FOREMOST, I wanted to. Nobody cajoled me into it with prizes or promised reviews, nor was it a group herd effort that moves through and likes everything in sight, regardless of content. Secondly, I wanted to follow those authors because I first liked THEIR BOOKS, THEIR WORK. The trajectory wasn’t Clever Tweet, then Follow. It was Content, then Follow, then Enjoy Clever Tweet.

And call me crazy, but I don’t want someone to sign up to hear what I have to say, unless they want to. If someone likes my Facebook page, I want them to actually  LIKE me or my books.

I’m not saying social media doesn’t help. Look at John Green or Neil Gaiman, who are social media wizards. But all these different platforms are just tools. We decide we need to use them to sell books then run around trying to figure out the best way to do it. This does nothing without first having something to sell, something worth selling.

Take a look at the top 100 people on Twitter by follower count. Now, how many of them are not independently famous outside of Twitter?

As Tim Grahl points out: Social media is not a way to grow your “fame”, it’s a reflection of your fame.

Secondly, a big enough following simply does not equal more book sales. 

Here are a few examples (taken from Grahl’s article):

  • In a book launch last year, a Twitter following of well into six figures resulted in a couple hundred book sales.
  • A few months ago, a friend had someone with well over 1 million Twitter followers promote his book at a great time of day and it resulted in no noticeable bump in book sales.
  • In multiple tests across many social media accounts, it’s a normal thing to get well under 1% – more like 0.25% – of your followers or fans to take action on a given update. This is just clicking on a link, much less converting to a sale.

And guys. Let’s be real here for a minute. Some of us, true introverts at heart, are not good at social media. Your reluctance, your plugging out posts as a chore, comes through. Not all of us are socially adept, even with the helpful cover of a screen. My opinion is either do it well, or don’t do it at all. Crappy, awkward Tweets, Posts, and Blogs don’t do any more for you than No Tweets, No Posts, and No Blogs.

But I don’t want to completely bash social media. I like it for a lot of reasons. Twitter I like not for promotional benefits, but for the making-friends aspect. Because you only have 140 characters and everyone is limited in the same way, people are much more likely to respond, and you can have quick fun conversations with people that really otherwise might not have answered. ONLINE FRIENDSHIP IS REAL. I really believe that. I don’t like the mass strategy of it all, but I certainly like the one-on-one strategies that come into play.

THE TOP REASON I LIKE SOCIAL MEDIA: It’s important to share the things we love. Yeah, there’s always that person clogging up your feed with useless crap, but I love, love that if I read a really swell book, or I find an awesome independent musician on YouTube, or just anything that makes my heart happy, I have a scarily effective way of sharing that with people I know and like. I also like having amazing things shared with me. It would be a bummer to miss out on something beautiful because I’m disengaged from the advantages of having such instantaneous communication.

That’s how it helps you sell books. But first, you have to write a good book. Something that people will want to share, whether or not you’re needling them to do it.

So, friends. I could use some followers. So my publisher will still think I’m worth publishing. But don’t do it . . . unless you want to. (;

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7 thoughts on “Social Media, and Why I Kind of Hate It

  1. Well, I have an author’s platform, however, like you, I’m not so sure it actually translates into book sales. If it did, then one would think I’d have sold a proportionate number of books to “likes” or “follows”. I don’t know, social media tends to give me a headache more often than not. I tweet about my books, or post about them on my Facebook, I get very few likes. Post a pic of one of my kids with underpants on their heads, and everyone and their cousin is liking and favoriting it left, right, and centre. First and foremost, I’m not a marketer. I’m a writer who has no clue how to reach readers.

  2. I was pushed back to June but for a different reason. No author platform? I’m not sure I have one either. I’m glad to help if I can -sharing, reblogging, whatever you need.

  3. I 100% agree with your thoughts on this- social media is such a catch 22 and I think we’re in the same boat… Sorry to hear your book was pushed back- mine was as well and for much the same reason. We need to figure out a way to work through this necessary evil. :)

    • Bummer, Steph. I’m sorry to hear that. And it’s crazy–because I think you write some of the best blog posts on our team. I just don’t think a huge following number is necessarily indicative of how good your book is or how well it will sell. Sigh. But we will figure it out!

  4. Excellent post that really sums up so many concerns. This makes me think about how recently one of my writing mentors was forced, by publisher, to create a social media presence (Facebook was mandatory). It’s not like an emerging author situation. She’s majorly award winning, as are many of her students. There was a NYT article years ago about someone who felt she wrote the best short story of the century (which later she converted into an incredible novel).

    For someone just starting out, I can see how having a social media presence of some quantity could make a publisher feel more at ease due to risk, especially for the very small, indie houses. But there’s sort of a point where I wonder if it’s distracting writers from their craft.

    On a different note–so sorry that your book was pushed back! That’s a bummer!

    • That’s crazy! That’s the first time I’ve heard of a well established author being forced into it if they didn’t want to do it. And I would guess it’s not affecting her sales all that much, since she already had a following and a reputation. Madness, I tell you. And thanks–it is kind of a bummer, but hopefully it will all be for the better in the end.

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