Does Social Media Help Market Your Book?

In an interview for Indie Recon, the worldwide virtual conference for independent publishers acharacter treend authors, Mark Coker of Smashword suggested four approaches for the self publishing author in today’s market. His first advice was to “write a good, no, a great book”. I discussed that thought in my April 17 Post, “Five Best Marketing Approaches for Self Published Authors”.

In this column I will reflect on Coker’s second bit of advice, to forget about social media.

I am sure he could hear the intake of breath after he made that statement. We all cut our teeth on the idea that we need to maximize Twitter followers, blog followers, have a dynamic website, and live 24/7 on Facebook in order to sell books. Beyond that, one needs to be current with the new Social Media possibilities that seem to arise daily. One needs to establish a brand, a recognizable name, and launch it around the virtual world.

But that takes time, a lot of time; time that could be spent writing. That, I believe, is Mark’s point. Spend that time writing and publishing a lot of good, no, a lot of great books, distribute them widely, and sales will take care of themselves.

This advice has the ring of truth, yet I have to think Mark’s idea is a tad self-serving. Where can one publish one’s books and distribute them widely? Why, Smashword. And his advice has a built-in caveat: if your books don’t sell, they must not be good enough.

In another presentation at the same conference H.M. Ward, a self-published author of fiction who has experienced remarkable financial success tells us we can sell any book. It’s not the what, but the how. Using a formulaic process, Ward has a fine-tuned procedure, at least for Romance. Write your book using her cornerstones, the three legs of her stool, and you will succeed. Those legs? Have a great cover, write a smashing blurb, and write a sample the reader just can’t put down. That simple. Have this formula in mind as you begin your book. Incidentally, Ward did not promote social media, either.

I heard Penny Sansevieri speak at a conference in Camarillo. She is a dynamic speaker and , more important, a dynamic thinker. She is all about Social media. It is her stock in trade, as an on-line marketer/promoter. The publishing world is changing and Penny changes with it; her approach is to make the most of all those (free) Social Media services, bend them to your will, be prepared for the next great service to appear, and find a way to jump aboard. Social media? You betcha!

My stand on this point is squarely in the middle. I agree with Mark that an author will not find sales success with a sub par product, or even a good product. The book must be special in some way, whether unique or excellent. Widely distributing a sub par product will ultimately bring you a well-distributed sub par product, not increased sales. I agree with H.M. Ward that book cover art is one of the most important factors in book sales. The blurb and sample are the follow-ups––the clean-up batters, to use a baseball analogy. But in the new virtual world of book self-publishing I must agree with Penny that a strong, consistent virtual presence is essential for an author to sell books today. The author’s website must be the sun around which the planets Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Utube, and all those new sites that are emerging revolve.

How can an author manage all of this and still write books? The jury is still out on that question, but I think it important to remember this is a building process. Your brand, your Social Media presence, your reputation are not achieved overnight, but gradually, brick by brick. Each isolated effort, however small, is a step toward the eventual sales network you desire. The internet never forgets, for good or ill.

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