Writers need to understand this:
Social media – your blog, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, etc. – is playtime.
It does not significantly affect your sales.
Actually, it might affect your sales a little if you’re already established somewhere beyond the small/indie press. And getting listed on a popular book blog, for instance, will definitely affect your sales (at least temporarily).
But for the bulk of us, it’s playtime.
Yesterday, I hit 35,000 followers on Twitter.
I’m in awe at that number. That’s as many people as live in my smallish Indiana county!
So I tweeted these words in celebration: “Hey! 35,000 followers! Hi to 35,000 people! Here’s a test: How many of you will say ‘hi’ back?”
The first ten minutes generated exactly 28 responses.
Including exactly one guy who told me to “go fudge” myself.
There were only about a dozen more responses over the course of the next hour or two.
I love all my Twitter followers – seriously, even the ones who tell me to go fudge myself … because, hey, we all need to be humbled from time to time – and it was fun seeing the initial flood of responses (thank you, everyone who responded!) but let’s face it. If you’re thinking of using Twitter as effective advertising instead of just a fun means of communication, that’s a pathetic response percentage.
28/35,000 = .0008
That’s not even a real percentage in my book.
I don’t even want to comment on what that percentage might mean.
Okay, actually, I do:
What it basically means is that if I tweet about my thrilling new novel, DEATH SIGHT (due at the end of October), to 35,000 people, I can expect that only about 28, if that, might actually act on it and click the link and check it out.
Your guess is as good as mine as to how many of those who click would actually buy it.
This is out of 35,000 followers.
Translated to the non-electronic world: You put an ad in the newspaper about your book signing, and it goes out to every resident of your small Indiana county. Twenty-eight souls show up. And some number significantly less than that leave with your book in hand. (Twenty-eight people would probably be a decent number, in reality. I’ve seen less show up for instantly recognizable authors speaking at big city book festivals.)
Not to reduce people to mere numbers – I really do like the connectivity aspect of social media – but I’ve amassed this follower total in a little over a year (about 13 months). I have a feeling it would have taken Stephen King just a little less time to amass as many, would he care to directly join the Twitterverse firsthand.
But I also bet that, given the same number of followers, he would also have achieved a slightly better response percentage in the first ten minutes.
The point I take away from this: Keep writing.
Nothing else, no other self-promotion unconnected to a larger, established advertising-based network, really works.
Oh, I’ll keep doing the social media thing, sure. Of course.
Because I enjoy the hell out of it. Interacting with what few fans and active followers I do have is one of the daily joys of my waking life. I’ve had some wonderful experiences via Twitter. For instance, although I’ve solicited none of them in advance, all the five-star Amazon reviews for my first novel, GRAY LAKE – http://bit.ly/GrayLake – are from strangers whom I’ve come to know on Twitter after they’ve either read the book and posted their review or tweeted me, letting me know how much they enjoyed it.
I can’t deny that Twitter has certainly resulted in a few sales for me.
But only a few – probably not even the majority.
I still think only my writing itself – my writing, my constant labor, and whatever luck might erupt into my life – will be the only factors to give me anything approaching a break-out bestseller.
Thus, my focus remains on writing – on novels and stories and essays and the occasional poem – not social media.
If you see me here on my blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, you’re seeing me having fun.
One more time:
Social media is playtime – it’s a sparkly pastime, a great way to connect and interact – and I love you dearly for choosing to spend your time with me in this manner.
But it’s hardly the key to success, and should not be treated as such.