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Is Social Media Really THAT Effective in Author Marketing? A Response

I recently received my first royalty statement. There was a category for TRADE SALES, CONSUMER SALES, and FOREIGN SALES. There was not a category for SOCIAL MEDIA SALES. This should not be interpreted to mean that there were NO sales because of my online presence, just that those sales are rather hard to quantify.

My recent post The Number One Marketing Hurdle: YOU received a decent share of retweets and positive reaction. And then this…

I guess I have a problem with this whole friend=customer or blog-follower=fiction fan type of marketing thing and it’s probably why I’m not good at it. I don’t buy that way and I have trouble seeing it from the perspective of people that do, which in turns makes it very hard to supply whatever it is I’m supposed to supply in order to attract those people. What did authors do before social media and blogs? Must have been nice.

The comment was left by author Caprice Hokstad, and you can read it in its entirety HERE. Caprice and I have discussed this issue before (online) and she makes some relevant points. Her comment was followed up by C.L. Dyck:

…social media alone is pretty ineffective in author marketing.

It acts as a replacement or substitute for interaction, and so is best as a bolstering tool in a range of others. Nothing replaces our natural instinct for face-to-face. And its blunt democracy–accessible to one and all–renders it a lower status tool. Social authority is still carried through traditional media.

Cat (who is the C. in C.L.) and I have also talked before. She’s a wonderful thinker and blogger. So before I start I want to make sure you understand this is not a personal attack on either of these commenters, but levied in the spirit of conversation.

Is social media really that effective in author marketing?

A couple of quick responses.

Cat and Caprice are right to question the social media phenomenon. There is a “bandwagon effect” in relation to social marketing that cannot be denied. New authors are jumping on board for the wrong reasons, with bloated expectations, without having counted the cost, and without a philosophical foundation for continued success. It is not wrong to approach this question critically and more authors would be better off if they did so.

However, it cannot be disputed that the publishing industry is changing so, it would translate, that an author’s approach should change also. Sorry, but authors who hedge against blogging and social networking remind me of those who decried electricity, the combustion engine, and air travel — they are living in a bygone era.

Using big name authors or famous authors of the past as a reason to forgo social media is misguided. “Does JK Rowling have a Facebook account?” Caprice asked. “C.S. Lewis never Tweeted.” This, to me, is like comparing Babe Ruth to Barry Bonds — it’s two different eras. Almost everything about the game has changed. Besides, there’s a certain “critical mass” that an author reaches where social media becomes a wash. Why should Rowling or King or Grisham or Meyers worry about Tweeting? Problem is, I don’t personally know any author that has reached that status. And in today’s market, if they do, my guess is that some form of social media will have played a part.

Using “computer illiteracy” as an excuse to not blog or Tweet is a cop-out.

Just because some authors abuse their platform doesn’t mean authors don’t need a platform. As Cat put it, “I’ve seen some very uncool behaviour from writers, mostly on Facebook.” I have too, Cat. Which is why I usually unFreind authors who just bombard me with reminders about their books. But saying that social media is largely ineffective because some authors don’t do it well is like saying that auto mechanics are worthless because mine gouges me.

Perhaps the issue was better summarized by  Katherine Coble in her comment:

“My favourite authors of late are also the ones who have the most genuine-seeming web presence. Patrick Rothfuss’ blog reads like that of a buddy you could’ve had in college. George RR Martin’s is like the guy you want to hang out with at a party.

…I guess the short version is: don’t be pushy with sales and don’t be arrogant about your job. “

I know for a fact that some people have purchased my book because they stumbled upon my online presence. However, that “stumbling” was the result of a very intentional effort on my part to have an active online presence. Furthermore, both Cat and Caprice have only heard about Mike Duran because he has got himself out there and worked hard to do so. In fact, you are reading this because of that.

That wasn’t too pushy or too arrogant, was it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Is social media really THAT effective in author marketing?

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{ 41 comments… add one }
  • search marketing July 19, 2012, 6:25 AM

    There is definately a lot to find out about this issue.
    I like all the points you have made.

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