Writers on Social Media: Does It Even Make a Difference?

Posting on social media can feel like you’re sending up hundreds of trial balloons. Which will return?

Today I want to share some thoughts with you about a writer’s role on social media. I’ll start with my experience and understanding of it, but I’m very curious to know what your thoughts and experiences are, so there are lots of questions for you at the end. Also, just to say, whatever you put on the internet, look into using something like a privacy tool to help reduce the risk of your data or any other form of work being stolen or invaded. It’s just about being safe online.

I’ve been very active in social media since 2006 and MySpace. I liked MySpace a lot. It was new and fun, and I dove right into it as soon as I signed my first book contract. Author book promotion was in its infancy, and I gained reader, writer, and social connections. Other emerging writers and I were all trying to figure out book promo/social networking together. I blogged there several times a week, usually writing long, long pieces that were very essay-like. Telling stories on myself. Talking about learning to write, and the publishing process. When MySpace began to wane, I—and many other folks—drifted to Crimespace and eventually Facebook. Group blogs like Jungle Red Writers and Murderati sprang up. (Forgive me if I don’t know when Kill Zone began, but I know someone here will be able to say.) I started my own Blogspot blog, where I added interviews and book reviews. Last year, I moved my blog to my (fourth) website.

That all sounds like ancient history doesn’t it? Maybe I’m just old, but the pace of change on the Internet sometimes feels inconceivably fast. The rules—especially the rules for author promotion–change constantly. But the biggest rule is that there are no rules because things move so quickly that there’s little time for non-professionals to figure out what works before things change again. You would think publishers would have entire departments full of professionals that have this stuff figured out, but you would be wrong.

There’s a genuine expectation—sometimes stated, sometimes just understood—for authors to be active on social media. For now, author social media outlets have stabilized: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Goodreads. I don’t know many authors who are very active on Google +, or Snapchat—well, I tried Snapchat and it made me crazy. Some Instagram authors can also use websites like Kenji to boost their content out to people that it would never reach before and may even one day become a key influencer because of it! If there are other very active platforms, please let us know. (Oh, and if someone could help me figure out Instagram Stories so I don’t end up just taking live video of my shoes until I freak out and turn it off, I’d be eternally grateful.)

While many people in the writing/publishing business strongly believe that social media doesn’t sell books, some folks disagree. I’ve put up a lot of links here, but if you want to save a few clicks, here’s the gist: Social media is there to build relationships. The aspect of building relationships is key, no matter on what industry you work within. Take a look at examples of Digital Transformation to see why this is important and how you can use it to your advantage.

People with whom you have relationships will like you. If they like you AND you spend at least 80% of your time giving them great “content” they will tolerate the 20% of time you spend promoting your work. But the conversion rate will be less than 2%, which means you’re selling yourself and your time very, very cheaply. But folks truly dislike a hard sell. Many of the people who say you can sell books through social media want you to pay them to tell you how to do it, and they won’t give you quantifiable forecasts.

(Traditionally published books still sell best through tried and true methods like word-of-mouth, tv, radio, magazine, and web ads, vertical marketing to influencers like librarians and booksellers, hand-selling, and peer reviews. But almost none of those methods is free, and it’s only rational that publishers would prefer free methods that rely on author execution to methods that cost money.)

What is content? Content is added value, often in the form of information: lists, quizzes, articles, expertise, audio or video entertainment, memes, blogs, observations. Given the 80/20 rule, if you do fifty posts in a week, the theory is that at least forty of them should be content and not mention your work at all. Ideally, the content should be at least tangentially related to your field of expertise or the lifestyles of your audience. But even if you automate those posts with Buffer or HootSuite or some other social media-scheduling program, it takes time to curate that content.

A brief cautionary tale: A self-published writer I know spends a lot of time posting on Instagram, but I’d say 80-90% of the writer’s posts are specifically about the book. They’re quotes formatted as memes, or pictures of the cover, or bits of dialogue taken out of context and framed with artistic graphics. The posts are careful and attractive, but I gloss over them, and even find myself a little angry at having to scroll past them every time I log onto Instagram. If the 80/20-percentage figure is at all valid, it’s completely upside down. And the writer uses a blue million hashtags, but only ever gets 10 or 11 likes. I can only imagine how much time the writer spends creating those posts (or perhaps the writer pays for them). Plus, even though it almost looks like content, it’s not, and is off-putting.

There are two big dangers for me when it comes to content. I spend a lot of time crafting my blog posts. This one (I’m adding this bit in editing) has taken me about 3.5 hours, and I’ll spend at least another 45 minutes editing and posting it. On my own daily blog, it’s a challenge to come up with fresh concepts. Then there’s finding the right photos, adding links, and pumping up the SEO. Unfortunately there’s no way to quantify the ROI on publishing blog posts. Another particular danger for me is rabbit holes. Ideally, I like to spend about thirty minutes online in the morning checking out news stories and resources for my own amusement and edification—but I often spend an hour or more. Usually, I’ll manage to bookmark only one or two links to pass on to social media. But which ones to choose?

I read a lot of crime news stories—many are too sensitive or explicit to share without grossing people out over their morning coffee. But I also read some politics (no, never post about that), bits of history and archeology, and stories about textiles or architecture. I’ll occasionally post about writing and books. Nearly everyone likes books. But I don’t think of my personal blog audience as being full of writers. I’m not selling books on writing, and few people who aren’t writers care about writing motivation, or how to build a character. So I save the writer-centric stuff for here or my own blogs about the writing life.

Making content choices is tough. And how much me should my audience have to bear? Where is the balance between plucking out articles that might interest the people who might be interested in my writing, and sharing bits of my life that might actually make me human and likeable? The whole thing feels a bit cynical to me.

I do like this quote from Amy Cuddy’s deservedly influential book, Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges. “When we are trying to manage the impression we’re making on others, we’re choreographing ourselves in an unnatural way. This is hard work, and we don’t have the cognitive and emotional bandwidth to do it well. The result is that we come across as fake.”

Coming off as fake is never, ever good.

Be an individual. Be yourself.

As someone born in the sixties at the tail end of the baby boom, I grew up reading books and newspapers, and watching television and films. No one knew anything about authors. They rarely showed up on television, and if they did, they were already super famous. It was a time when public images were carefully crafted by publicists, agencies, network people, and record labels. Image crafting now begins at birth. Children—and not just celebrity children—have their own Snapchat and Instagram accounts curated by their parents. Soon after, kids learn how to use phone cameras, and take selfies. And they’re not posting pictures of their dirty bedrooms. They’re curating their lives, using images for complaints (school lunches) or self-gratification (I’m wearing blue and puce eyeliner every day this week, and check out my #hairfail hahaha!). They learn early to make their lives appear as they want them to appear. Who knows what’s real?

An entire generation is learning to promote without actually having something to promote. We writers have a LOT of competition for time, interest, and dollars. (Because a lot of people on social media are selling something, or their sponsors are.)

Personally, I don’t remember ever purchasing a book after seeing it on the author’s social media, unless I had already planned to buy the book. Fiction writers seriously are not the best representatives of their own writing—and, of course, their ultimate goal is always to sell me their books. I’m more likely to buy books after reading reviews, associated news stories or essays, coming upon compelling covers, or listening to word-of-mouth from booksellers or friends (sometime even social media friends), or other people I respect.

I buy into the notion that maintaining an active social media presence—including one on one contact through newsletters—is part of a professional writer’s job. But how little is not enough, and how much is too much?

All right. I asked for your help, but I’ve done a whole lot of talking. Now it’s your turn. I have many discussion questions, so feel free to pick and choose. I can’t wait to read what you have to say.

How important is it for a writer to have a strong social media presence?

If you participate, are you programmatic about it?

Do you enjoy it?

How much time do you spend on it daily, and/or weekly?

Who are some writers that you see doing a great job at social media?

And the $64,000 question: Have you ever bought a book because of an author’s social media posts?

**Photos via GoDaddy Stock

This entry was posted in Writing and tagged , , , , , , by Laura Benedict. Bookmark the permalink.

About Laura Benedict

Laura Benedict is the Edgar- and ITW Thriller Award- nominated author of eight novels of suspense, including The Stranger Inside (Publishers Weekly starred review). Her Bliss House gothic trilogy includes The Abandoned Heart, Charlotte’s Story (Booklist starred review), and Bliss House. Her short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and in numerous anthologies like Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads, The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers, and St. Louis Noir. A native of Cincinnati, she lives in Southern Illinois with her family. Visit her at www.laurabenedict.com.

42 thoughts on “Writers on Social Media: Does It Even Make a Difference?

  1. Laura, having recently published a book on marketing (for writers who hate marketing), I find your post right on in all respects. I’ve even gone so far as to advocate a 90/10 “rule” for social media. And for your writing life: 90 for the quality and consistency of your output, because that’s the only real “marketing” that lasts–how good your books are and creating a fan base.

    Speaking of which, the most potent marketing tool is the author’s own email list of fans who have opted in because they loved one or more of your books. That’s where great care must also be taken, to nurture that list. I have a whole lot to say about that in my book, but it will suffice here to advise that contact should be regular and pleasant to read in and of itself, besides linking to a product.

    To put it simply, an author should do just the amount of social media he or she actually enjoys without taking away from quality writing time. I most enjoy my blogging here at TKZ, followed by Twitter (I also think specializing in one or two platforms is best for most authors.) But I make sure I meet my quota each day.

    As for the $64k question (and thank you for the correct pop culture amount), I can’t recall ever going from social media to a buy page and purchasing. I will take a quick look sometimes if I find a tweet intriguing. If it’s an author I already like, an alert to a new book will get my attention and put that book on my radar. But that’s really a subset of the fan base idea. That author has earned my trust through past performance.

    • Because of your recent book, Mr. Bell, I’ve drastically reduced my presence so I can focus on one of your rules: writing. I was spending too much time trying to connect that I failed to be productive. Now, I’m planning to prioritize my focus. Thanks for your words of wisdom.

    • Thanks so much for weighing in, JSB. 90/10 sounds good–especially the 90 dedicated to writing. Excellent work is truly the best thing we can offer both current and future fans.

      I’m glad you mentioned the newsletter. A solid list, along with regular communication is so key. Lists are slow to build, and it helps to offer a premium for sign-ups. Anyone who joins my list at my website receives a free short story.

      It’s always puzzling to me when I see mention of the $50K question or the $1k question. Funny how shared cultural references bind people together, but the references fade as time moves on.

  2. Gee, Laura, you’ve done a great job on capturing a lot of aspects here about social media. I use Facebook sometimes, but I get the highest result from my WordPress blog, which is part of my website for my novels. My blog supports my author platform, but it serves a far wider purpose. Because I write fiction, I write a Reading Fiction Blog, which offers free short stories by famous authors (mostly public domain fiction). The blog content is a short introduction about the story, some images, and the audio when possible. I get about 40 to 60 hits a day now. The key is that the blog has to serve me as well as my followers/readers. I love to read short stories of authors in my genre (mystery, crime, supernatural, ghost stories, etc.). I read two short stories a month and blog on them. This past week I featured Agatha Christie. I’ve been doing this blog for more than 4 years now and have over 200 short stories by some 100 master writers in my genre. I’ve learned that writers needs to blog about what we love to do or what we want to learn more about. And sharing that with others is the motivation and the reward.

    • Paula, what a great example of offering solid content. Well done, you! It sounds like you’ve hit on your perfect mix.

      Most of my blog traffic comes when I link that day’s blog on Facebook. Since I learned to fine tune my SEO, the organic hits have risen, but only added about 5 more hits a post.

      • Thanks, Laura. I’m just discovering your Gothic novels. Is Bliss House the first of the series? Or Abandoned Heart? They both look wonderful and perfect for my summer reading.

        • Thanks for asking, Paula! It’s a trilogy that moves backwards in time. Bliss House came first, but it’s contemporary. Charlotte’s Story is set in the 1950s. The Abandoned House is the house’s origin story. All contain Bliss family characters.

          The novels work as standalones, so you can start anywhere. BTW–If you want a free peek, you can sign up at my website and get Cold Alone: A Bliss House Short Story to get a taste. : )

  3. Thought-provoking post!

    Yes, I participate, but don’t have a regular schedule, but I’m on Facebook and Twitter almost daily. One rule of mine is not to overdo it. If I stop enjoying social media, I take a break. Forcing ourselves to participate might come across as fake. The point is to engage with other people.

    Yes, I have bought a few books as the result of social media posts, and a couple of them were quite good!

    • Not overdoing it is a good practice, Ann Marie. We need to pay attention to our limits–and taking a break is critical. I rarely take breaks because I worry that the readers will no longer be there. But they always are. Thanks for the advice!

  4. Yes, I’ve bought books on Twitter and Facebook. Usually they’re from authors I know or interact with, which piques my curiosity about what they write. I’ve also been immediately turned off when someone orders, “Buy my book!!!” But the absolute worst and most annoying way to sell books is via direct messages. I once had an author send me a DM on Twitter that read, “I want to be your favorite author!” I wrote back, “I want to be your favorite author, too!” That ended that. LOL 🙂

    • Ugh, Sue, that drives me nuts, too. What a good comeback story. I just immediately unfollow back and block so they can’t message me again. Grrrrr. ?

  5. This is a great article… and kind of scary, because I see I’m doing a lot of the things you do too, though I’ve started only thre years ago.
    I do like social media. I would have never said that, but when I started (because, you know, authors need to be on social media), I discovered it’s fun. I like reading intersting stuff, I like sharing it (I schedule it, by the way). I like chatting with authors and readers on my and their blogs. I think I’d already given up if I didn’t like it.
    Is it useful?
    I don’t know. I think promoting in person is a lot more effective, but here’s the gist: I’m Italian and I write in English, so I don’t have a lot of chances to promote in person. I need social media and I’d better make it work.

    Besides, I do think today authors need to be on social media. I do look up any author I find intersting. I do expect them to have a presence online, possibly active. It’s always a let down when I discover they don’t have a site or a blog. Some of them don’t have any kind of presence (I’m serious, some of the authors from big publishers don’t have an online presence… which I suppose is something to consider in itself). It makes it hard for me to decide whether I want to read them.

    And I do find books and authors through social media, if with this you also mean blogs and readers’ apps. In fact, most of my discoveries happen this way (but again keep in mind I don’t have much alternative, since I also mostly read in English).

    Bottom line, I don’t think social media are the gold mine we’d like (especially not today), but I also think that in the world of today an author would be mad not to be on social media.

    • JazzFeathers, I also find it startling when a writer has no social media presence–or even a website. In my experience it’s often older authors, older, established authors, or uber-literary folks who don’t have an interest. But the flip side seems to be that many of these writers are supported by publisher advertising or peer reviews. I agree that it does seem a little mad not to play along, though.

      It’s great that you find SM enjoyable. I do enjoy it too, if I’m not feeling overwhelmed. Sounds like you have terrific balance!

  6. The 80/20 rule is an excellent way to gauge and pace ourselves with book promotion. I’m not even sure I’m 90/10 since what I do on social media is more for enjoyment, education or connecting with people than promoting myself and my books. I’m also a publisher, so my number is probably 90/5 for my books and 90/5 for my company.

    I started blogging first, back in 2009 when I had a novel coming out then gradually branched out to Twitter, Facebook and now Instagram. Each site is linked to my author website and although it’s not really measurable, I do notice that when I post about one of my books it gets more attention/ sales.

    I’m sure social media does help sales but so do speaking engagements, writing articles, any kinds of interactions and activities the writer might do as writer. Social media is just one approach, and writers are often quite comfortable with utilizing it well. As a publisher, I like to encourage our authors to focus on what they enjoy most and feel the most affinity for, whether it’s blogging, Facebook, or other social media– or else just getting out and relating to people in their regular life.

    And being an author is part of who they are as a whole, it’s not the only thing, so why should it be the only topic we share with others? Another reason why the 80/20 rule is a good reminder!

    • You sounds like a dream publisher, Karen!

      Those other interactions you mention are so critical to the mix. It’s easy to get tunnel vision about online promo, since we sit here at our computers with easy access. And yes! We are more than just writers, so why shouldn’t we share our other interests? Excellent advice.

  7. Lauren, great analysis and so relevant. You’re right about the dizzying pace of new trends. If we try to keep up, we’d never have time to write a word.

    Jim’s book Marketing for Writers Who Hate Marketing was a great comfort to read and offers his usual sage advice: do only what works best for you and don’t get caught up in chasing each new butterfly of social media. Write more books that make readers happy. Wise Jim.

    My book Instrument of the Devil deals with the dark side of technology intruding into everyday life. Due to concerns about personal privacy, up to now, I’ve resisted the siren song of social media. But my Kindle Scout campaign stats show the majority of hits came from Facebook, which I’m not even on! That was an eye-opener for this Luddite.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Laura!

    • Hi, Debbie! Your book sounds very, very timely.

      I highly recommend getting on Facebook. As I said above, the largest chunk of my blog traffic comes from there, and I have a wonderful core group of fans who repost my book news when I put it up. That’s the sweet part of relationship building. They are folks who I know do it because they love my work. I’m so grateful and it feels extremely gratifying. You can adjust your audience and keep FB as private as you like. Though the first time you search for something online and see it show up in your Facebook ads minutes later, it will be a shock.

      Loved your post yesterday. Thanks for being here!

      • Thank you, Laura. So glad to be here!

        FB shares came from about 100 writing friends, critique buddies, and beta readers. I’m comfortable with your “core group” plan, like the 1000 True Fans Concept, and will work toward that goal instead of flitting hither-thither among platforms.

  8. I won’t mention names, but I have a writer whose work I enjoy, on my Facebook list. The author posts at least once per day, promoting his work or others. To be honest, it diminishes the author in my view. I am considering removing the author from my Facebook due to the endless stream of self-promotion.
    Maybe I’ve reached a point of overload from the barrage of advertising and social media information that bombards me from the internet; I don’t know.
    I certainly won’t buy a book based on a Facebook “ad”…which is what I consider the author’s posts.

  9. Scott, I make liberal use of the “unfollow” option on FB. That way the “friend” isn’t aware that you’re not seeing their posts unless they do some deep digging. I don’t follow everyone simply because the feed gets overwhelming (and too much politics), and we only see a small percentage of our real friends’ posts anyway.

    Daily posting that promotes one’s work–or others’–sounds very much like overkill. An unfollow seems very justified. A lot of independent writers get caught up in promo loops with other independent writers and they’re not doing anyone any favors because it’s obnoxious.

  10. I’ll stipulate that a social media presence is important for authors, if only because it’s a point on which everyone seems to agree. Where I see less agreement is what the end game of social media posting really is. Okay, obviously it’s to promote our “brand” and to thereby sell more books, but as others have already posted, it’s an indirect, subtle sales pitch. What I struggle with is content.

    As has been brought to high relief over the past week, my views of the writing craft are less user friendly than others’ (won’t touch that rail again), so I don’t really post much about craft. I’ll share examples of what works for me (the pinned tweet on my Twitter page is about the synopsis that sold my first novel), and I’ll share the occasional whine or high-five about my writing day, but mostly I’ll tweet about ordinary daily stuff. I’d be shocked if any of that has sold a single book.

    I’ve decided that for me, social media is really less about acquiring new readers, than about getting closer to existing ones. It will come as no surprise to fans of my books that I’m a gun guy and a family man. I love a good party, and a good party often consists of no more than two people, and more times than not, that person is my wife. I want to be known by my readers as that approachable author who genuinely appreciates readers. So, I share details on social media that have led several of my more security-conscious buddies to scold me.

    And sure, the content is curated to an extent. I am fully aware of the fact that not only am I living the dream I dreamed for my own life, but also that of many others. People read books to escape reality. We’ve all received letters or emails from suffering people and their relatives who thank us for writing stories that helped them cope with the relentless pressures of their lives. What an honor! So, yes, my Facebook page and Twitter account never share the bad stuff. Because let’s face it, the worst point of my average day is still far above the best point of many other peoples’ days.

    Which brings me to the hard decision I made a few months ago regarding my Facebook Timeline (the personal site, not to be confused with my professional page). Since late January, I have trimmed my timeline by over 1,000 “friends.” I explained to each of them that I’m trimming my friends list to include only those people whom I know in real life. And I encourage them to like my author page. More do than don’t. And a few of them get mad and swear that they’ll never buy a book from an author like me, who shows such disrespect for his readers.

    • I like your approach to the subject, John, and I think it’s a very good thing to be accessible to readers. There are times when I overshare, but I’m like that in real life, too. And if I share something awkward that resonates or makes people laugh, all the better.

      Like you, I don’t write much about craft. There’s no one way to teach writing. All methods are theoretical to the people they don’t work for. I don’t learn well through written instruction–more by reading examples and talking things through. When I first started here on TKZ I was really worried I’d have nothing to contribute because craft is not my milieu. But we all have different things to contribute. I’m glad you’re here!

      I highly recommend the “unfollow” button on Facebook. And you’ve reminded me to ask folks to follow my author page. : )

  11. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a book based on an author’s social media post, although I’ve read ABOUT a book online and then purchased it. I think authors’ posts about their own books is a bit off putting, and reeks of blatant self-promotion. It’s okay to post links and updates about new releases, but it’s counterproductive and a tad tacky to do flagrant marketing on one’s own behalf. I’m trying to think of the catalysts for my recent book purchases. I read mostly nonfiction, so I tend to look for well-reviewed (in traditional media, not Amazon reviews) books related to something that interests me. I’m a very fussy consumer when it comes to fiction: I tend to sample a Kindle excerpt before purchasing, and few samples result in a sale.

    • I LOVE Kindle excerpts, Kathryn. It’s so funny because I have book excerpts on my website, buy you can get huge chunks of books as Kindle samples.

      “Few samples result in a sale.” Amen to that.

      Thanks for answering!

  12. The thing that too many people don’t realize about social media is: Social media is only good for marketing in that it feeds into word of mouth. And word of mouth is unquantifiable, which businesses hate with a passion.

    I used to do social media for a non-profit. They wanted numbers – followers, reach, conversions. Social media is NOT a broadcast medium. There is no way to count the conversions that don’t follow a link on a Twitter or Facebook post. It doesn’t matter how many viewers or followers you have if they’re not really seeing what you post. You can buy thousands of followers – but are they really seeing your posts? Or do they even look at that Twitter feed? Do they interact? Do they click through? The answer is: probably not.

    Build followers organically. Make friends. Be professional. Be kind. Retweet others. Be a friend. Be social. Then you’ll have REAL followers, who will interact with you, who will like what you post, who will retweet you, and who will tell others about your books: “I know this person on Twitter. They’re funny and really nice, so I bought their book – and I loved it. You need to read it.”

    Numbers are meaningless in social media. Social media is SOCIAL in nature. You need to to gain the trust of the people who follow you by interacting with them, by giving them more than you take. If they trust you, they might decide the book you’re promoting is worth reading.

    The 80/20 rule is so important in gaining people’s trust. If they’re interested enough, they’ll click through your name to your information. There, in your information, you will have a link to your site, or your book, or maybe some promotional text. But not too much promotion there, either, or people will think that’s the only thing you post about, and won’t follow you.

    So remember: Social media is SOCIAL first. It’s not a broadcast medium. And its ability to sell is not quantifiable.

    Now (sorry for the essay), to answer your questions:

    1) It’s good for a writer to have a strong social media presence – especially for those writers who aren’t able to have that presence in person with their readers. But a strong social media presence is NOT a sales pitch. It’s networking.

    2) I used to be very programmatic about it – especially when I worked for the non-profit. I used Hootsuite to program posts so they would always go out at the best time for that particular post. Nowadays, I’m not working there, so I’m not quite as organized – but I hope to get more organized soon.

    3) I’ve made a lot of good friends on social media – Twitter, Facebook, forums, blogs. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t spend so much time doing it (see #4). 🙂

    4) I’m not working right now, so probably too much time. 🙂

    5) On Twitter, one of my favourite writers is @SamSykesswears. I’ve met Sam – he’s nice, and he writes humorous adventurous fantasy. He’s also made a very imaginative game out of ‘buy my book’. I think more people know about him simply by that humorous game, which will make people more likely to think of buying his book when they see it. As for authors who only tweet to promote themselves – I stop following them. Not only are their accounts boring, but I get irritated at their lack of social media understanding.

    6) I bought Sam’s book because of social media, though I originally started following him just because he was at a conference I attended. I also bought a few of JSB’s books simply because I followed him on Twitter (then was so pleased to meet him at a conference!)

    • Not an essay, BJ, but a very useful, complete reply. So many good points–especially about our having no idea who is seeing our posts, anyway. I’ve occasionally boosted posts on FB and the numbers are laughable.

      Yes, social media is social, and therefore unquantifiable! I hope everyone takes the time to read your responses. Thank you!

    • Hi BJ,
      I was looking for the “Thumbs Up” button for your post. So I’m guessing I’m on social media way too much.

      I like the way you’ve approached the subject and appreciate the new perspective.


  13. Gilstrap *I’ve decided that for me, social media is really less about acquiring new readers, than about getting closer to existing ones.*

    Exactly. This is a great post, Laura. It’s timely, too, because it’s the constant focus of our lives, now — how much is too much, how do we raise up those open rates, how many likes — it’s exactly the worst way to approach the craft.

    Because social media is a craft just like writing is.

    I think what Gilstrap said is spot on for me, and my approach. While I actively try to grow my newsletter, my existing social media footprint is decidedly in the favor of quality over quantity. We sometimes forget that every single person who follows, clicks, likes, is a person, a potential reader or current reader, and not a number, not a widget. Remember that, and your social media will be a success.

    • Hi, JT! So glad you’re here.

      Social media *is* a craft–yes. And we can construct it in both our own image and the image we want our work to reflect.

      Pleasing and reaching out to the people who already like us builds trust, and as BJ implied, true followers will help spread the message about you because they like you and want others to know you and your work, too.

      “We sometimes forget that every single person who follows, clicks, likes, is a person, a potential reader or current reader, and not a number, not a widget. Remember that, and your social media will be a success.” Amen.

  14. Good post, Laura, and I thoroughly agree with the 80/20 or even 90/10 rule. Constant reminders to BUY MY BOOK, BUY MY BOOK are turn offs. I use Facebook and Twitter, e-blasts 2 or 3 times a year, and that’s enough. I don’t want readers to cringe when they see my name and expect another ad.

  15. How important is it for a writer to have a strong social media presence?
    I should state upfront that I am a librarian and have unique access to materials touting new books that the general public does not have. That being said, I enjoy interacting with authors on social media. I agree that it helps you build a connection and makes you more enthusiastic about their books. You become more invested in their success and tend to want to help spread the word about new books and old favorites. Readers tend to like to share their love for books and want others to enjoy reading what they do. Maybe that’s why TBR piles are always so big. We overshare!

    My biggest pet peeve with writers on Twitter is the constant promo with no actual interaction with your followers. It’s like following a never ending infomercial. I understand writers are busy and cannot and should not be on social media all the time, but never replying to anyone and following thousands of accounts. Why? Maybe because librarian is in my bio I tend to get dozens of authors I have never heard of trying to follow me. If I see no interaction and high follower/following numbers and I have never heard of them, I refuse to follow. If they interact and seem to write things I might be interested in, great! Welcome aboard!

    If you participate, are you programmatic about it?
    I don’t have any set schedule for social media. I put some of my favorite authors on specific lists on Twitter and Facebook so I don’t miss their posts, but my interactions are more fluid.

    Do you enjoy it?
    I do enjoy interacting with writers. I jump at the chance to help them out when they have questions. I like spreading the word about their new books. Authors are my version of rock stars. Over the years, I have been lucky enough to meet several of them and now count them among my friends.

    How much time do you spend on it daily, and/or weekly?
    Social media is part of my job so I am rarely far from Twitter or Facebook or Instagram.

    Who are some writers that you see doing a great job at social media?
    I think you do a great job interacting and promoting without any hard sell. JT Ellison, Allison Brennan, Marcus Sakey, Erica Spindler, Luke Romyn, and Toni McGee Causey come quickly to mind. Alexandra Sokoloff, MJ Rose, Zoraida Cordova, Douglas Clegg, Eric Larson, Kiersten White, Kerri Maniscalco, Stephanie Garber, and Alys Arden are also faves.

    And the $64,000 question: Have you ever bought a book because of an author’s social media posts?
    Many times I have ordered or preordered books based on hearing about them from authors’ posts. If I don’t buy them right away, I at least add the to my Goodreads list!

    • Brandeeeeee! I’m so glad you came by. Your support has meant the world to me–and several other writers I know well–over the past few years. You know your stuff, and I really appreciate how you’ve added to this conversation. Plus, you are the Queen of Fun Content.

      I hear you about the Twitter promo junkies. It’s like they read somewhere that they can make a million dollars just by posting their book cover on Twitter over and over again. If I do make a mistake and follow someone like that, I mute them asap.

      Every time I read that you like a book, it makes me take note because I trust you. Your enthusiasm is infectious. Rock on, hon!

  16. Thank you Laura for such an interesting post. Lots of great discussion here and I’ve come away with new ideas and information. Which is always good.

    I found myself agreeing and disagreeing. I work as a social media manager for a real estate company that spans several states. I’ve taken what I’ve picked up in the real estate marketing sector and added to what I’ve learned for marketing as a writer. I’ve also added the things I’ve learned in writing conferences in “building my platform” and added to my real estate marketing training. I think I’ve found a nice balance the seems to be work well for me.

    One of the most important truths I have discovered is the relationship aspect of all communications. Whether it’s on social media channels, newsletters, paid copy ads or in person, people want to trust you. Building on that foundation is key to developing a future audience for whatever products or services you have to sell.

    How important is it for a writer to have a strong social media presence? I think it’s important to build relationships through social media or whatever channel you may have to do so. Social media works well for people like me that live in smaller communities with very limited interaction with other writers or readers. Connecting online has open the door for many wonderful relationships and I would have hated to miss those. In particular, Facebook groups specific to your interests has been the most influential in building new relationships that I value.

    If you participate, are you programmatic about it? Because I do this for a living, I have a very detailed schedule which makes life much easier for me. Organizing posts and scheduling, gives me the freedom I need to be productive in other areas as well.

    Do you enjoy it? Most of the time. (Election time, not so much)

    How much time do you spend on it daily, and/or weekly? Daily for each client 30 minuets to an hour, an hour or more for myself. I usually take off from Friday afternoon till Sunday afternoon. Most of my work is done in the afternoon between the hours of 1- 5.

    Who are some writers that you see doing a great job at social media? Jeff Goins, & K.M. Weiland.

    And the $64,000 question: Have you ever bought a book because of an author’s social media posts? Yes. Several books on writing and two writing courses. I’ve bought books from several people here on The Kill Zone after reading their posts or their comments. Laura, you are one of them, so is Sue, Larry and Jim. : )

    • I’m glad to have your professional insight, Cindy. I know lots of other folks will be, too. This discussion here today has been more than I could have hoped for.

      The idea of having a schedule for social media sounds like heaven–and taking Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon away? Brilliant. My agent doesn’t do email on the weekends, and I love seeing her family Instagram posts on Saturdays and Sundays.

      You’re the first to mention FB groups. They are definitely great relationship builders, and worth the time and effort.

      Thanks so much–and I’m tickled to be on your purchase list. : )

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  19. I ended up concurring and opposing this idea. I act as an online networking supervisor for a land organization that traverses a few states. I’ve taken what I’ve gotten in the land showcasing segment and added to what I’ve realized for promoting as an author.

  20. I suspect it’s rare to have personal, one-to-one conversations on social media, but those types of exchanges are more valuable than the standard twitter volleys, Facebook reveries, and one-way e-announcement. I spend a lot of time (too much) in social media forums, but I still get pleasantly surprised whenever I have an actual one-on-one conversation as a result. It always reminds me that most social media conversations are inherently shallow and limited in their nature, more “media ” than “social “.

  21. I’d like to speak in general terms coming from the music industry. It is my knowledge that social media has little impact on sales in music. Adele, arguably the biggest act in the music industry in the last 30 years had been off of social media for 4 or 5 years prior to the November 2015 release of her album “25”. This album has now gone on to be the biggest seller worldwide in the last 20 years selling tens of millions of copies. Largely without the help of social media, and solely because of the stunning organic talent of the artist.

    Alternatively, there are other acts in music with tens of millions of followers on social media, and are very active on it, who have had recent tours that barely broke even.

    I don’t know how this may translate to publishing but it is interesting to note. We are still selling a creative piece of artistic work to the public.

    Also worth noting are what Andy Weir and Hugh Howey did in context to what I said above from the music industry.

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