The path to self-publishing success is filled with minefields, any one of which—once detonated—can derail the sales of a well written novel. Bad editing, a lack of proofreading, forgettable cover art, no promotional plan, failure to understand reader expectation, the list goes on and on. But perhaps the biggest mistake self-published writers can make is being absent from all social media platforms.
I understand the issue here. I’ve talked to countless writers—both traditionally published and indie published—who have left social media altogether, and their reasons for doing so are certainly valid. It’s a time suck of blackhole proportions. You don’t want to waste hours a day on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram when you could be writing. That time spent on social media adds up quickly—how many days or weeks or months have you squandered mindlessly scrolling through Twitter in the last few years? Think of all the writing goals you could’ve accomplished by utilizing that time wisely.
Also, the vast majority of you have full-time jobs—there’s not enough time in the day to do everything you need to do to engage and retain potential readers through these platforms. It’s an undeniable energy suck—and does posting three or four times a day really equate to increased sales or exposure? Results most definitely vary.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is the social anxiety factor. Spending time on these platforms can increase anxiety and destroy creativity. Social media has its advantages but its increasingly turning into a dumpster fire full of hate, obstinance, ignorance, and conflict for conflict’s sake. I’ve got enough anxiety in my life as it is—I don’t need social media to ratchet up that stress and existential angst even more.
I get it—and, as I mentioned earlier, I know dozens of successful authors who, at some point in their careers, have deactivated all of their social media accounts. But I also know that many of those same authors eventually returned to social media in a much-decreased capacity. Instead of posting something every hour of every day, many simply reactivated their accounts to be present, to be available.
And here’s three reasons why having active social media accounts can be beneficial.
1. More Sales
While I don’t think spending hours a day posting on social media is an effective way to increase sales, I do firmly believe that at least having a Facebook page, a Twitter and/or Instagram account with an updated bio can be invaluable. Readers may not care all that much about what you had for lunch, where you vacationed last, or how cute your pet is, but they do want to know basic information. If you don’t have a website, this is particularly crucial. How many novels have you published? Are you a debut novelist? What kind of stories do you write? What area of the world do you live in?
If an author has no social media accounts and no website, it tells me clearly that this writer doesn’t care all that much about selling books. I search for books to read and review all the time and if I run across a book that looks good on Amazon but can’t find any additional information about the author, I inevitably pass every time.
2. More Exposure
My job for the last two decades has essentially been to promote noteworthy books. When I have written a review or blog for PW, Kirkus, The Chicago Tribune, BN.com, etc., I post the link on social media to shine a light on the release. These posts get liked and shared numerous times by people and organizations all over the world. It’s like dropping a pebble into a pond and watching the circular ripples increase in size as time passes. If I am trying to promote your novel and I can’t add your Twitter username to the tweet, that loss of exposure can lead to loss of sales.
Besides these blogs, I write reviews for BlueInk Review and one of my biggest disappointments is the number of authors who write towering storytelling tour de forces but have ZERO social media presence. No Facebook author page, no Twitter, no Instagram… It’s mind-boggling to me that a writer can spend years penning a masterful novel and then literally throw away so many potential sales and other opportunities by not even taking a few minutes to set up one or more social media accounts.
3. More Opportunities
This is a big one for me. I do a lot of interviews and I love finding authors with interesting stories. If I can’t find you on the Internet—and can’t find any way to contact you through a social media account—I’m going to move on to the next author. If you’re a debut novelist, an interview in BlueInk or PW or any comparable site can significantly impact your career. No social media presence means no chance of taking advantage of unforeseen opportunities.
In the last year alone, I’ve had numerous opportunities to highlight authors for various review sites and I can quickly name more than five indie writers I wanted to promote but ultimately didn’t because I couldn’t contact them.
Felicia Farber, debut novelist of Ice Queen—which recently garnered a starred reviewed by BlueInk—is a great example. She has a Twitter account (which she doesn’t use all that much) that has links to her book and her website. If I wanted to link her to a tweet promoting her novel or contact her for an interview, I could reach her within seconds. She may not spend hours on social media, but she is present.
I get it—social media can be toxic. But it can also be an easy way to gain sales, exposure, and take advantage of various promotional opportunities. I’m not telling you to spend hours a day posting on these platforms—but I can’t stress enough the importance of having one or more social media accounts active and relatively updated.
Paul Goat Allen has been reviewing books for more than 25 years. In addition to BlueInk Review, his work has appeared with BarnesandNoble.com, The Chicago Tribune, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and more. He also teaches in Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction graduate writing program. Readers of this blog are offered a $50 discount on a BlueInk review by using the “key code” Allen. (This in no way guarantees a review by Allen.)