I write books. A lot of my friends write books. Tons of people I vaguely know write books. Let's face it, everybody's bloody writing books by the look of my Twitter feed.
And it seems everyone is publicizing them on Twitter because that's what we've been told is a Good Idea, thanks to posts like this and many others.
Anyhow, I read this blog post this morning by this guy I'd never heard of before, The Red Pen of Doom (yeah, right) who reckons that 'The Twitter' is not for selling books. In fact, he insists, social media is not an effective marketing tool. End of. It's a long, long, looooong post and he goes in for a bit of a slathering lovefest over literary agent Nathan Bransford and then spends a lot of time comparing him with some woman called Snooki. And then he does a bit of maths which, let's be very honest, I skated over. But, the bottom line as he sees it (to save you trekking through it all) is this:
"You could spend three years building a popular writing blog and getting to 10,000 Twitter followers or 100,000 followers and it wouldn't be as useful as 10 minutes on a cable reality show with a weekly viewership of 3.5 million."
Well, okay. Put like that...
Then he goes on to say. "Social networking - it's not social media, kids - is for meeting people. For having a dialogue, not a monologue where you spew links to your blog and ask people to buy your book."
"If you want to reach a mass audience, you must use the mass media. Must. Not "should." Must. IT IS REQUIRED."
Oh Red Pen of Doom, you really are a bit of a pompous arse, aren’t you? J But some interesting points there. Anyhow, I posted the link up on The Twitter (I’m warming to The Twitter) and there was a bit of a flurry of despond and spluttering and naysaying. A lot of ‘what’s the point?’ and ‘but it can go viral’ and ‘well, it sure as hell ain’t working for me’.
And The Amazing Frankie pointed me to a blog post which had me in stitches and has some damn good points (read it! It’s far more entertaining than TRPOD).
But really, when authors become publishers, how do they market themselves? How do you market yourself? Do you market yourself at all? Should you?
If you’ve got a mainstream publisher, of course, they do it for you. Well, that’s the general idea and they do - to a point. It very much depends on who you are and how much money they’ve shelled out on your advance. I was reading the lament of a mid-list author in The Author the other day about how her books sank without making too much of a ripple because of lack of enthusiasm, shall we say.
It’s demoralising, innit? You've won the Holy Grail - a pukka deal with a mainstream player and, even then, you sink without trace? And then, just to add salt to the wound, even if you do get an enthusiastic publicist, very few are imaginative. Which is where, you'd think, social media should come in. Which is where authors (wildly creative, surely, by their very nature?) by and large should come up trumps. Yet they don’t. By and large, they just shove tweets out there, saying Buy My Book.
Do you buy books because of something you’ve read on Twitter? Honestly? I don’t. Or very very rarely. And only if the author or their publisher is saying stuff that engages me, that interests me, that makes me think or touches a chord. Not if they're just endlessly yelling Buy My Book!
So, where does that leave you/me/us as writers who would like to sell books? I don’t entirely agree with TRPOD. I think social media can be useful; I think it’s part of the package. When authors say they won’t use social media I think they’re being precious and, frankly, a bit daft. It’s a platform, it’s there, use it. There is always that blissful off-chance that your oevre will suddenly go viral and whizz around the globe like a speeding snowball gathering adoration and dosh as it rolls.
But mainly I think The Twitter and The Facebook and The YouTube and so on are primarily places to show readers that you’re human, to glimpse the real person behind the blurb and the photo-shopped author pic taken ten years ago. Unless, of course, your book requires you to be a Deep Person of Mystery. In which case, you need acolytes. *smile*
But is social media, however well executed, enough? I don’t think so. I think TRPOD has a point that, in the flurry to embrace what we used to call ‘new media’ we’re forgetting old media. So how do you do that if you haven’t got a press department with a hotline to the book editors?
Forget the book editors, I’d say. Sending your precious CreateSpace or Lulu copies to book editors on the nationals is a waste of time, energy and money (unless you have a REALLY strong hook to hang it on or it divulges the secret sex life of royals or namedrops pop stars, in which case I'd suggest you go first to Max Clifford and get a good lawyer). Honestly, I’ve worked on the papers and I’ve seen the book editors' offices – you need crampons and rope to climb over the parcels to get to their desks. Check ‘em out – they all have killer biceps!
Think, think, think. Think tangentially. Think features, rather than reviews. What is the theme of your book (yes, I'm talking fiction as well as non-fiction)? Does it tie in with any current news stories? If so, big that up. Think local. Start with local newspapers, magazines, local radio. Think precision. Tailor your pitch to the publication – why would their readers be interested? Think specialist. There are magazines catering for absolutely everything nowadays, every bizarre mouse-hole of human existence. Got a caravan in your book? Take your pick of caravan titles. Set in the country? Hellfire, you’re spoilt for choice. Parcels play a key role in your manuscript? Hey, Packaging News might love a break from discussing paper weight.
Thing is, you never know what gets picked up and taken to a wider, larger audience. Press breeds press. The big TV shows look to the nationals. The nationals look to the regionals and the regionals look to the locals.
What I’m saying comes down to this, I guess. Bottom line. If you want to sell books, don’t overlook any form of marketing. Think outside the box. Be creative.
Do I do it myself? Nah, course I don't. Mainly cos I’m rubbish at self-publicity and, hey, I never follow my own advice. *smile* And anyhow, my books are all in my past really. I put a bunch of them out on Kindle because people kept emailing me asking why they were out of print. So they’re there. If people buy ‘em, that’s great. If not, no big deal. I kept the price cheap cos, hey, they’ve already earned their keep.
Future projects? Hmm. That depends. But I promise you this: they won’t just involve whacking out links on Twitter, that’s for sure.