My goodness, that’s a keyword-laden title, isn’t it? It’s sure to bring indie authors like you clicking over, keen to find a quick way to replace Amazon KDP Select, book-matching advertising networks, acronym-heavy hashtag clubs, or whatever it is that used to work to sell books on social networks last month.
Good thing you got here first!
Well, now that you are here, dear author, it’s time for some tough truth regarding just how to sell books on social networks.
If you’re on social networks to sell books, you are, as the kids say, Doing It Wrong.
I know, I know… you feel a little betrayed right now.
I know it hurts.
After all, the headline led you to believe you were going to learn how to sell books on social networks, and right off the bat, here I am, following up the bait with the switch and telling you that’s just… silly.
But seriously… is this your first day on the Web? You didn’t see that coming? Have you never read Upworthy? Buzzfeed..?
Oh, come on. Be honest. You know you have.
Anyway, wipe your eyes. There really is a secret, of a kind, but frankly, I find it baffling that it seems to be a secret at all. But it really will change the way you sell book on social networks, assuming you’re one of those writers who tries to sell books on social networks.
At least, I sure hope it will.
The Big Secret
Social networks are not for selling books. Social networks are for being social.
Now, you’re probably a writer, so I’d like to think you’re pretty clever. I’d like to think we can both stop right here, because you get it. You’re shaking your head and laughing to yourself, looking at the screen and muttering, “Hah. Of course. Social networks are for being social!”
On the other hand, I’ve been on social networks for most of a decade. I’ve seen how writers are. Especially indie authors.
So… yeah, stick around for a few more paragraphs, would you?
Have you ever gone to a party or some other social gathering where you’re likely to meet new people, and some bozo hands you a business card right after (or, heaven help you, while) you’re introduced and shake hands?
Have you ever followed someone on Twitter, and the very next communication from that person is an automatically-sent direct message including a link to their book?
Do either of those situations leave you thinking, “Hey, what a neat person I’d like to get to know?”
Do either of those situations leave you thinking, “Hey, thanks! I can’t wait to do business with you!”
Probably not. When’s the last time you bought insurance from some stranger you met at a mixer? When’s the last time you bought a book as a result of first contact with a new social media connection?
Oh… wait… oh, this is a little awkward, isn’t it? Some of you reading this are that person… the one quick with the business card… the one with the automatic direct message set up to fire whenever someone follows you.
Okay, listen. Really listen:
Don’t be that person.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: No one shows up at a party wearing a sandwich board. If you do, you’ll be ignored at best; ridiculed at worst.
Social networks are not for selling.
But I Want To Sell Books On Social Networks
I understand. You’re on the damn social networks all day, after all, chatting it up with fellow writers, opining at the drop of a hat on things you known nothing about, complaining about some has-been, traditionally-published author’s Guardian opinion piece, sharing cat pictures and memes and videos and whatnot… hey, why not also make a buck?
Remember: social networks are for being social. So just be… social. Be human.
Watch What Happens When You Stop Trying to Sell Books On Social Networks
When your primary focus is on being social rather than looking for sales all the time, you’ll gradually notice something neat.
Some social network friends pop up more than others… or maybe you simply notice them more because you realize you like them… and they like you!
You share interests, sensibilities, a common background… where have they been all your life?
They may have always been there… but you were too busy showering the web with your hashtag firehose to see them.
Before you know it, those people are your actual friends. People you care about, who care about you. Just like in “real life!”
Some of them, while you weren’t looking, even without you asking, might have actually read your books. Especially if you’ve made friends in social networks that have something to do with the subject matter of your book (that’s a hint, dear reader / writer).
And because they care about you and your success, they want you to succeed. It’s not a matter of selling any more, not with these folks.
They’re the best kind of readers: they’re your tribe. They’re your people. Many of them will become unprompted evangelists for your work.
They’ll retweet you, and you won’t even have to ask!
I know. It’s weird! But it happens!
Change Your Perspective
Don’t expect social networks to make you any money. You can’t monetize a handshake. Please stop trying. You’re getting your snake oil all over your colleagues and peers.
Don’t try to build a platform. Don’t try to build an audience.
Use social networks to build a community. You know: A social. Network.
Your career will benefit from that. And no one will be reluctant to shake your hand for fear of what you’ll slip into their palm.
Whether you’re an author or a reader, or, like (gosh, I hope) most authors, an author who also reads, please leave a comment on what you’ve just read. Authors, it would be neat if you would share stories about your community of readers. Readers, I’d love to hear about a moment of true connection you’ve had with an author, and why (or why not) that inspires you to support their creative endeavors.
Image credit: “You Are Very Not Good At Handshake” by Drew at lefthandedtoons.com
H. J. Buell
Excellent post Matt. You once helped me stumble my way through finding a common ground on Twitter, and your shared experiences in this and other threads helped shape and change the way I viewed social media. Very much appreciated, and shared.
Matthew Wayne Selznick
Thanks, H.J.! I really appreciate your taking the time to comment, and to share. I’m pleased my little snarky rant struck a chord.
Well put, Matt! Always cringe when I follow back a fellow indie writer and get the dreaded Auto DM w/link. And then I un-follow… Great analogy of the business card at a party, too.
Matthew Wayne Selznick
Thanks, Mike — and thanks for the share on the big FB, too!
I do the same thing when it comes to auto-DMs with self-promotional links. I hate it when people send a proxy to the party.