Last month a nonfiction author-in-progress told me she has over 20,000 Twitter followers, which she interpreted as a sales forecast. While she knows 20,000+ followers might not equal 20,000+ book sales, to her, 20,000+ followers do equal thousands of book sales.
I gave her my spiel about being careful to avoid equating social media numbers with sales, that followers often “like” and “tweet,” but don’t always take action. She replied that she might be the exception, as many of her Twitter followers are journalists who follow her work. In the sage words of Bart Simpson, “au contraire mon frère.” Those many journalists are actually a guarantee that she isn’t the exception, but the rule, as journalists are known for contacting publishers/authors to obtain free books.
However, while the journalists can’t be counted on to buy books, they can seed and feed conversations, which will help generate book sales.
While she’s writing her book, I suggested that she place an op-ed here and there, connect with different journalists about her work, establish herself as a source for a wider group of journalists. Get them digging and talking. Same can be done with her other followers. Give them something to talk about. Don’t wait for the book. Get them chatting now.
From her current mountaintop, the author-in-progress still expects the journalists to buy her future book. What she needs is for the journalists — and all others Twitter followers — to start conversations about her book.
You Need A Conversation
Conversations spark the success of products and ideas, helping them garner new fans and break into different markets.
After Jon Snow rejoined us for Sunday nights, social media exploded with comments about the character’s future. Similar, and earlier, conversations about Game of Thrones are what brought me to the show a few seasons late, and led me to purchase and listen to every audiobook in the series.
After my car battery died during rush-hour traffic, with two kids freaking out inside it, I found myself frazzled and a block down the road from two garages. I walked up to the one friends had shared stories about — conversations related to the garage’s quality service and reasonable prices. Later, when I looked the garage up online, I found its Twitter account with a small handful of followers. Low numbers, but high conversation.
Don’t ignore the numbers, but don’t make them your focus, either. Put your eggs in the conversation basket.
You Need To Connect
Last week, another author told me he’d heard that social media is important. First-time author, older demographic, not of the Social Media generation. Knows about it, doesn’t use it.
This author is in for the long-haul. He’s in the nonfiction world, interested in writing more books and related products, and in setting up his own site with a storefront.
He’s known within the sector in which he works, so I suggested starting there, with e-mails, personal letters and phone calls. The movers and shakers on his list are within his age group, and they aren’t hanging out on social media. Get them to create/share conversations about the book. Then, on social media, use it to find like-minded individuals. Instead of posting something and waiting to see if anyone will run across it, look for people who are posting/sharing similar work/ideas. Then get to know them, gain their trust.
For example, I “like” Neil Young’s Facebook page, but it was an e-mail from his website that alerted me to his new album “Earth.” I’m not on Facebook and Twitter and everything else enough to catch every share that hits my feeds – and that’s true of so many of us. Unless you’re counting on all followers being glued to all screens, social media will be a hit and miss game.
But, if you connect with a potential customer, and the customer then signs up for your e-mail (which many of us do check every day), you’re likely to up the hits and minimize the misses.
For Steve and Black Irish Books, we’ve used social media to connect with readers. While we share new posts and products on Facebook and Twitter, we know that our readers don’t live on those screens 24/7 (and we would be upset to find out if they did), that we won’t catch them that way, so most of our efforts are on the site, growing the e-mail list and creating value.
This is the approach I’d suggest to first-time authors in particular. Don’t hop on social media and start sending tweet and post after post out about your book, how to buy your book, a new discount about your book, etc.
You Need to Value Your Time
Last weekend I spent a birthday party watching my kids and listening to another parent talk about hacking rush-hour traffic. He used historical data from his GPS device to determine the best times to drive into and out of Washington, D.C., every day of the week, down to the exact minute. He knows that Tuesday is the worst day to commute in/out of D.C., and knows when that ten minute delay getting out the door in the morning will mean an hour delay once he hits 395. So, if he’s running late, he knows if he should wait another half hour before leaving, which would mean waiting out traffic in his home instead of his car, and then arriving at work at the same time.
While he spoke, and more so once he pulled the spreadsheet up on his phone, I alternated between thinking that he was crazy and that he was brilliant. I left the party thinking he was brilliant.
The spreadsheet he created is on the intense side — and the time he put into it is on the high side, but… He found traffic trends and reclaimed chunks of his time.
Similar to rush-hour traffic, social media will eat you alive. It will suck the time out of your life.
You don’t need to be on it all the time, so figure out what makes sense, what’s the greatest ROI, and then get in and get out.
An example: For Black Irish Books, we’ve found 9 AM ET to be a good time for sending out e-mails. We’ve tried different times, but with this one, we catch the international crowd, the East Coasters and the early-rising West Coasters, and we’re all awake and working by that time in case disaster accompanies an e-mail campaign. It’s like the rush-hour hacker knowing his ten-minute window. We know what times work well for others, but we know how we fit within those times and how they work for us, too.
The Social Media Skinny Roundup: Create something of value, give them something to talk about, gain trust and protect/reclaim your time.