Now that I’m in publishing, I’m working with a lot of writers. A lot of these writers are publishing their first book, or their first stand-alone work, after having been in a number of anthologies over the years. One question I get a lot of times is “How do you sell books on social media?”
Well, there are a lot of disparate opinions on that. Some people, who sell a lot of books, think that you can’t actually sell anything on social media. They feel that it’s all about building your brand, and engagement, and getting people to like you and be interested enough in you to go buy your stuff. I tend to tell those people that they have very valid opinion, and it’s one way to approach social media. These folks frequently build a very rabid following for their blogs, or their twitter feeds, and are able to parlay those readerships into readerships for their books. Chuck Wendig and John Scalzi both built a lot of their fanbase off their blogs early in their careers, and still have very popular blogs today. They’ve done a great job of building engagement, and almost surreptitiously selling their fiction while building real engagement with other things they had to say. It’s very much a good way to work it, and can be very successful.
Some other folks think that social media is the devil, and they hate it, and just want to stay in their ivory towers and write. I usually tell those people that they are not going to make much money writing, and they should leave that J.D. Salinger/Emily Dickinson shit in previous centuries where it belongs.
My method is different, and it’s one that a lot of people don’t care for, but it results in actual sales for my books, so I’m not likely to change it anytime soon.
I promote the hell out of my stuff on social media.
Like, a LOT.
Every weekend, I spend an hour or so writing tweets or copying old tweets from a master list I keep on my desktop, and I paste them into Hootsuite to automate the cross-posting to Twitter, Facebook, and my author Facebook page. Every hour on the hour from 9AM – 5PM Eastern, I send out one tweet promoting one product. Sometimes, when a product is releasing that week, it will get two tweets per day, but usually just one.
Here are some samples of things I tweet –
You need more Sasquatch dick jokes in your life. Pick up Grits, Guns & Glory, Bubba Season 2 Today! http://amzn.to/1IZQSkO
Late to the Harker Party? Check out Harker Year One for the collected adventures of this badass magician! http://amzn.to/1TxBjVG
My Patrons get exclusive content like my writing advice blog posts, cool giveaways, and free stuff! https://www.patreon.com/johnhartness
Keep up to date with all my appearances, releases, podcasts, and get a #free #ebook! Sign up for my email list – http://eepurl.com/fV4In
Typically my breakdown will be – One post per day for my mailing list. One post per day for my Patreon. One post per day for the latest Harker release. One for the newest Bubba. One for the latest Black Knight. One for an older release. One for a recent audio release. One for a release that doesn’t sell as well and needs some love, and one flex slot. Some weeks the flex slot is pimping other writers, which engenders a lot of goodwill and retweets. Some weeks it’s pimping a con I’m going to, or other guests at that con. Some weeks it’s a podcast or an Audible subscription promo code. It just depends on what I’m thinking.
This is in direct opposition to what I and other people have said for years about social media. It’s using it as a billboard, and not as a conversation. It isn’t building real connections. It isn’t creating true fans. It’s very much a shotgun approach to marketing, with almost no way of knowing whether it has any effect or not.
Except on the weeks that I don’t do this promotion, I can see a noticeable dip in sales.
So it sells books.
That’s why I keep doing it. Because it sells books. And that’s my job. One of them, anyway. That’s what’s important to remember as a writer. You have many jobs, and one of those is to sell books. It doesn’t matter if you’ve written the next War and Peace if nobody reads it. So if you have to sell War and Peace as 50 Shades of Grey, so be it. Sell the book. If you want to be a professional writer, and pay your bills with your book sales, it’s on you to sell some damn books.
“But John, I only have three stories in anthologies and one book out. How am I supposed to make nine social media posts a day?”
You’re not. You should make five or six. Make one for each anthology you have a story in. The publishers will appreciate the fuck out of it, and are likely to invite you to be in more anthologies. Trust me, we notice who promotes a book and who doesn’t. Especially if it’s a Kickstarter anthology. We know who is working to promote the hell out a Kickstarter and who sends out one tweet in the 30-day funding period. You should make one post per day for the book that you have out. And one post per day about your mailing list.
Yes, I just said that you should be on social media EVERY SINGLE DAY telling people to buy your book. Yes, it is shameless. Yes, it is unseemly. Yes, it is brazen. Yes, some writers will consider you unprofessional for doing it. And yes, it will sell books. People cannot buy the book they have never heard of, so make sure they have heard of it.
I also said that you should have a mailing list, and be actively working to build it. You should have a website, and there should be a place on the website to sign up for the mailing list. Those are people who have already expressed an interest in your work, why wouldn’t you want to be able to reach out and touch them? Even if you only have one book out now, unless that’s the only book you ever plan on writing, you need to be building a mailing list. Right damn now.
If you want to promote other authors, great. It’s a great way to make friends and influence people. But you HAVE to be visible. I am at a place now where I have invited a bunch of authors to play in my Harker and Bubba sandboxes. Some of those authors were chosen because they are extremely talented. Some were chosen because they are some of my best friends, and extremely talented. And some were chosen because they are extremely active on social media, and extremely talented. Which ones do you think I expect to sell more books?
Get out there, get visible, get active. If you think you can “just write” and make a living, go lie in the dirt with Salinger, because that career path is as dead as old J.D.
This post is part of a book I’m working on about my methods for selling books and making a living. Pretty much everything that ends up in the book will be from either posts I make here or stuff I’ve written on Magical Words in the making Money Mondays posts. So you can get all the info for free. But if you like it and find what I’m writing useful, I’ hope you’ll buy the book when it comes out next year, or consider joining my Patreon.