I have been reading a book this week about selling books on the Internet. It has led to today’s posting, but I sense that my comments could be misinterpreted so I want to preface them with a few “bullet points.” And they are…
- Today’s posting is directed to folks like me…upstart indie authors/publishers
- I really like social media and think it is a wonderful thing for so many people
- I really think social media is not all it’s cracked up to be when it comes to selling product.
- I am not sad, upset, distraught, sour-graped or otherwise disturbed about the challenge of selling my books…well, maybe a little.
- I am curious, always, how I can better use the Internet to become a successful author
Okay, all that being said, here are some observations…
Sometimes I sense this beast called “social media” will someday self-destruct or morph itself into some entirely new form as people tire of its triviality, its redundancy and its sometimes just plain stupidity. On the other hand, what do I know? Perhaps it is just in its infancy and it will grow in volume and impact beyond anything imaginable. For me, however, it remains a puzzlement much of which I…just…don’t…get.
True, there are many things about social media that I understand. I clearly see how it comes into play when there is some kind of crisis going on in the world and people use it as a serious means of communication to get information out and, hopefully, awareness and support in. I get that.
I know that many individuals enjoy sharing with friends and family things about their life and, likewise, hearing back same. I get that.
I realize social media is an outlet for emotions—all of them, good and bad—and it can be helpful for people to emote rather than pile all that stuff up inside of them. I get that.
I can see where teenagers spend an incredible amount of time texting each other, much like they used to tie up the family phone while they yakked away for hours about the latest goings-on at school or what boy did what with what girl. I get that.
I grasp that social media can be a creative outlet and many people who would otherwise have no venue for their performance, can count on access to the social media stage. I get that.
Okay, point made: I understand why so many people use and value social media. However, I use social media mostly for none of these reasons. Now that I have become a writer of books, the industry constantly dictates to me that I will never ever be successful unless I am active on social media. Hence, I must be on facebook, twitter, tumblr, linkedin, pinterest, google, instagram and whatever else is “hot.” It is almost incomprehensible how many subscribers these social media have. There is no doubt, if you post something on any of these sites you have the potential of exposing yourself—or at least your post—to hundreds of thousands of people. That is why people like me who have something to sell are advised to be ardent participants in these media. Oh yeah, I almost forgot…we are definitely supposed have a blog too. It’s a pretty full plate.
Okay, I am still in the “I-get-it” mode, but it is from this point forward that there comes the disconnect.” My question is “HOW?” HOW does all this help me as a writer of books. Few people know I exist on social media. Few people read what I post. Even fewer respond. And, this is the important point: just about no one makes the transition from seeing my presence on all these social media and then actually purchasing one of my books.
Fact is, there are simply too many people, too many books and too many other things for an unknown individual to compete with. You have to be some kind of well known entity—a celebrity—for it to work at all. Case in point: John Green. He’s the guy who wrote, among other books, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, a hugely successful best-seller, especially with the lucrative young adult female audience. The movie version was released over the summer and you can now buy the video wherever videos are sold. John Green is very successful. John Green is very well known. John Green is on tumblr. If he were to post a picture of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on tumblr and write underneath a caption that said, “this is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich” he would get thousands and thousands of responses. I, on the other hand, usually get zero response to anything I ever post on tumblr regardess of subject or “spectacularness.” That’s because I am not a known entity like John Green and even a real picture of Jesus eating a Big Mac that I was lucky enough to shoot with my own camera would draw zero response, assuming I had such a picture and I posted it on tumblr.
I just bought a book that offers advice on how to improve book sales on amazon.com’s Kindle site. A man named Michael Alvear wrote it. He is the first person I’ve come across who agrees with me (or I him) that social media won’t sell product unless the “pitch” is something very different from the norm, such as: there is a very popular person involved in the selling process. Celebrities are followed on social media by huge numbers of followers and, consequently, celebrities can draw huge response. It’s a numbers game and while you may be able to enhance some things about your social media presence, you will not sell books in any great number, especially fiction, until and if you become a celebrity.
Thank you Michael Alvear. I can now get on with my life and put away all the stress I’ve been experiencing trying to figure out why social media doesn’t sell my books. Now I won’t feel like such a bonehead if I set up a table on the street corner, display some posters and have a few copies of my books available. I bet I actually sell some. If so, I’ll share the news on facebook and twitter and maybe even put a picture on tumblr.
Afterthought: If you have a need to prove me wrong, that’s simple. All you have to do is buy one of the books showcased on the right side of this blog. Click on any and you will be gently transposed to amazon.com where you can learn more about the books and even purchase one. ABOUT A FARM won an internatonal award last fall and I recommend it for early schoolers. It’s higher priced than I prefer, but it’s in color so the printer charges more (I make about 2 cents a copy but I would be well compensated just to hear that children liked the book and maybe learned a little something from it). Meanwhile, if you are an adult and can imagine reading a novel without the “F’bomb” appearing on any page, I suggest DEAD LETTER. It’s a good mystery story with a mix of young love, World War II, parking in South Philly and a “holy crap!” surprise ending.