There’s a misconception among non-writers, that we writers simply make a book, put it up there on Amazon and watch the millions roll in. Now with the AuthorEarnings site up, there’s even more speculation over numbers. I’ve posted before about how there is no one path and that even if you write a great book, nobody may ever read it. That’s where social network marketing comes in, and there’s a lot of it.
So I decided after flailing a little on this one novel I am in the middle of, that I would bite, and check out some of these social media services, since I myself, am not nearly as gifted at gaining a following on Twitter as most people, and that seems to be the one thing all authors need to do these days. And don’t get me wrong, even if you are a traditionally published author, they still expect you to do this, promote yourself on the Twitters and Facebooks.
Now granted, I understand, and believe in the capitalist law that you have to spend money to make money. That being said, I tried two small experiments (now, keep in mind that with my lack of experience, I could have possibly done these better).
The first was a Twitter shotgunning site. These are where a twitter user has thousands of followers, who you can reach by paying them to tweet your book. In this case, it was a bargain for my shoestring budget. 500 tweats for somewhere in the neighborhood of $10, which for a starving, obscure author, seems like a deal and a half. So I signed up. It was pretty much as easy as a paypal signature and linking my book. They aggregated everything else from the link and my author profile alone. Easy!
Within a day I had an author page up on the site, linking to BLOOM, and I decided to try a second approach as well. I posted a link to the author page on Facebook, then decided to boost it using Facebook’s ad engine. Again, I went cheap, and maybe that’s part of my naivete here. I paid for a boost of about 10,000 views, which, to me seems like a lot. Again, this was all very tentative on my part. For the next 24 hours I watched my page views go from the tens to the tens of thousands. Yay me!
Meanwhile the twitter shotgun was firing every day, perhaps several times an hour, “Magnificent Fantasy Dystopia!” with my tag, and the link to the book. People retweeted, people tagged me, people posted this over and over… until I realized that they were all pretty much tweeting the same thing, all of them “Magnificent Fantasy Dystopia!” Every one of them. Word for word. It was, in essence, an echo chamber, all of the twitter accounts following one another, all of them giving the impression that they had thousands of followers, when in fact, they were the followers.
End result? One sale.
I gained maybe 5 twitter followers, but there’s no direct correlation there. Now, this isn’t really a cautionary tale, or a warning or any of that. Maybe with a wider net, it’s possible I could have sold as many as TWO copies of BLOOM. That’s almost a latte at Starbucks worth of profit!
All this being said, and all joking aside, the thing that sells books is word of mouth. If you love a book, you tell people about it. I buy books because people reference them on Reddit, or they tell me about them, or they buy me that book. For indie authors it’s the same thing. And this all goes back to the same old saying again and again: word of mouth is king. Because books are a commitment, and nobody wants to waste their time.
It also makes a good case for traditional publishing houses. Why? Because like it or not, they vet their books. You can argue till you’re blue in the face about “But TWilight!! BuT FIFttY SHADES OF GREAYYY!!!” all you want. Fact is, trad-publishing houses know how to market. Most of us don’t. It’s still by and far the one reason I will never stop sending queries to agents and publishers as my first choice.
I’m proud of my books. I treat them with all the professionalism I can. I invest in them, but nobody is going to read your book if they don’t know it exists.
Oh, and the shotgunning site is still tweeting me, by the way.