Is social media dying as a book marketing option for authors?
During one of our final writers’ group meetings for 2022, we discussed book marketing with a focus on social media. Specifically, how the various networks had declined in usefulness.
Authors said they weren’t making the sales they made a year ago. One self-publishing author, who’s published three books, reported that she’d deleted her Instagram and Twitter accounts, and had given up on TikTok marketing.
Why? She said: “I suddenly realized I wasn’t writing. I spent too much time on my phone. Moreover, despite all my efforts, I wasn’t selling books.”
That’s the thing. Although social media is nominally free, it takes time, as well as energy.
Book marketing: is social media marketing “free”?
One of the big advantages of the various platforms for cash-poor authors is that these sites are “free”… Or they seem free. It can take a lot of time to build an audience, and you could be spending that time on other things.
Social media is transient. Posts have a short shelf-life. For Instagram, it’s around a day. Twitter? Very short. Up to an hour, depending on how many followers you have.
Despite the short shelf-life of social media posts, many of our group’s writers said they’d go on using their favorite platform. Several chose Twitter because it’s easy to like, retweet, and tweet in just a minute or two.
Here are some current statistics for Twitter:
Ranking in 15th place in terms of the number of users, Twitter falls behind platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and Pinterest.
Rather than focus on doom and gloom during our discussion, we discussed ideas for free book marketing alternatives.
Let’s look at them, starting with that old favorite, a blog.
1. Blog to build an audience for your books
It’s still possible to create a blog for free on platforms such as WordPress.com, however you need to be wary when searching for “free” platforms. Some aren’t free at all. Study a platform’s pricing page carefully before you commit.
But why bother with a blog? Well, talking about shelf-life: blogs are discoverable. People can find your blog posts years from now.
Blogs have fallen out of fashion, because blogging takes time. They’re coming back however, because a blog helps you to build your audience for your books:
Blogs were important for those getting ready to launch a new book. Authors used blogs to network with readers and book bloggers, and build a mailing list.
You can tweet half a dozen times a day, but tweets quickly vanish. Blog posts have longevity. It can take a couple of weeks for Google and the other search engines to index a post, but if you get traffic for a post, it tends to keep coming.
Got a blog? Why not sell your books directly, right from your blog or website? (BTW, a blog is a website… ) 🙂
2. Sell books directly on your website
This post, Self-Publishing And Selling Your Books From Your Website, gets you started with looking at delivery and payment processors. There are many of these.
That said, the simplest payment option is a PayPal Buy button. What could be simpler? Create a product page for your book, and add a button.
Of course, you’ll handle delivery manually — you’ll send the book’s file to purchasers via email. If you’re only selling a few copies a week, it doesn’t take much time. When you’re ready, you can move to a proper payment/ delivery solution.
3. Go old-school: get publicity
Excellent book marketing advice from Forbes:
Send your book to the traditional media outlets in your area: radio stations, television networks and even newspapers. Offer to go on their show or do an interview with them.
Basically, this is public relations (PR), it’s old-school and it still works. You can do PR digitally too: you’ll find many PR websites which will host your news releases. Don’t forget to publish your news releases on your website too.
Although press releases normally aren’t a magic bullet, they’ll get the word out about your books. There’s always a chance that you’ll hit the jackpot: a media journalist may do a story on you which reaches hundreds of thousands of readers. (For free.)
4. Easy and simple free promotion: use a book to promote a book
Discover the promotional opportunities in your books’ backmatter:
Writing your fiction in series makes promotion simpler. You get free promotion too: you can offer a preview to another book in the series in the backmatter of each book.
Each time you publish a book, use your book’s backmatter to promote your:
- Website/ blog;
- Mailing list;
- Other books.
Of course, backmatter promotion is useful for any kind of book, not just fiction.
Finally when you’re looking for strategies, remember longevity.
Book marketing: look for strategies with longevity
Want more? Here are two additional free book marketing ideas if you’re looking for alternatives to social media.
We all have limited time for promotions. Look for strategies which are long-lasting, such as blogging, and public relations.
Chat with your friends who are authors, too. A couple of members of our group who write in the same fiction genre decided to team up for promotions. They each have a small following. For them, cross promotions make sense.
Try the above ideas, and experiment.
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