The Art and Science of Selling Books With Social Media

When it comes to selling books with social media there are two pieces that need to fit together: art and science. If you neglect either one, you may sell books, but you’ll never reach your social media platform’s full sales potential.



Start With the Science

 Marketing is simply a game of numbers. If you want to succeed at selling anything, you need to know your data. Marketing is not a guessing game. Years of marketing research provides a good base of the how, why, and where people buy. Any personal stamp you put on your book marketing strategies should be based on that science. If you neglect the science, you are shooting at a dart board with a blindfold on. If you want to test marketing strategies, start with the science.

The Process of Buying

The process of buying consists of three distinct stages: discovery, sales, and loyalty. The traditional sales funnel breaks these down into more stages but for our purpose (which is basic nuts and bolts), these three are good.

The diagram below depicts the traditional sales funnel—the stages readers will move through to buy your books. There are two principles that you need to understand about the funnel:

  • A reader can move through the whole funnel in one interaction. They can discover your book, let’s say through a BookBub deal, read the description, and buy the book all in one sitting.
  • A reader can be aware of your books at the most elementary level—seeing them in discount newsletters, on Goodreads, or in an also bought section—and never buy. They can be stuck in discovery forever.

Notice the middle sections in the funnel: awareness, research, and word-of-mouth. These have asterisks because social media’s strength lies in these sections. All social media channels shine here. But not all social media channels are created equal when it comes to discovery and leading readers to the important purchase point.

 sales funnel

When marketing giant AOL Platforms set out to research which social media channels sell the best, two channels produced much stronger numbers in the important discovery and purchase point/conversion stages. YouTube and Facebook are the clear leaders and rest lag behind with Twitter showing weak numbers in both these categories.

Why is this important? If you spend your precious marketing hours developing a sales strategy on Twitter, your chances of success are lower than if you apply that same time developing a strategy on Facebook. That doesn’t mean you can’t sell books on Twitter. It just means that hour per hour of work, your chances of success are better on Facebook. And I believe that authors need to be discerning with the amount of time they spend on social media. It can be a huge time suck if you’re not careful.

I also believe that less is more on social media. I always recommend using science to make choices about which social media channel to use. Once you know where to go, then it’s time for art to take over.

Enter the Art 

There is a golden rule for selling on social media: you must connect where you want to sell. Broadcasting messages with no intention of connecting is a no-no. You can broadcast during a book launch, provided you’ve already earned the right to sell with valuable content, but broadcasting is not an engagement strategy.  An example of broadcasting would be just using your Facebook author page or Twitter account to say, in different forms, “please buy my book.”

The connection or engagement piece of social media is what earns you the right to sell. And much of engagement is an art form. You need to find your path. The kinds of content that work for one author might not work for another. Tactics may vary, but tactics should be driven by data.

You need three types of strategies in your social media marketing based on the three stages I listed earlier: discovery strategies, sales strategies, and loyalty strategies. Those strategies (science) produce the tactics (art) that are a product of your time, skill, budget, and personality. Do you like to meet people face-to-face? Work on developing a book signing schedule in your area. Do you love connecting with readers online? Get an author Facebook page up and running and look for fits your personality. Do you know authors in your genre? Try some networking strategies like online parties or newsletter sharing. You get the idea.

Art and science need to work together when trying to sell books on social media. Social media will never replace Amazon. But in this present culture readers want to connect with authors, not just receive messages that yell “buy my book.” Learn the science first, then apply the art.

If you’d like to learn more about how to set up a minimal but highly successful marketing plan for your author platform, grab a copy of my newest book, The Newbie’s Guide To Sell More Books With Less Marketing here.