Authors write books. Authors want people to buy their books. But authors are deathly afraid of being labeled as pushy, promotive salespeople. When it comes to using social media to sell more books, being pushy is one of the biggest anxieties I hear from writers.
And no wonder. There are so many out there using social media as a billboard that the proper use of social media for book marketing can get lost in the shuffle. Add to that the personal apprehension that many authors have about promoting themselves, and you have a perfect recipe for confusion and disappointment.
In this post, we’ll take a look at the culture of selling on social media, what to expect from social media as a sales channel, and how you can put together an editorial system that will guarantee that your followers do not perceive you as sales-y.
Selling Isn’t Bad…Bad Selling Is Bad
The above quote came from Chris Brogan, one of my favorite online marketing experts. His point is that selling is a necessity if you have a product to sell. The first hurdle for authors to get over is just that: you have to learn how to sell well. If you’re an indie author and you want to succeed you have no choice but to learn how to market your books. Now you can try and hire people to help or take a course from a reputable marketer to learn how to do it, but you have to wear the marketing hat if you want to survive today. There are just too many books out there. Unless you have a huge built-in following of automatic buyers, you need to sell. The good news is that you can learn how to do it and it won’t take up your whole day. There is hope.
Choose Your Channels Well
What can you expect when you use social media to sell your books? It depends on the quality and quantity of your following. Selling on social media is challenging. Social media will never be your main channel of income. In my book SMART Social Media For Authors, I talk about social media as a strategy, not as a tool. Marketing your book is much more than just buying a Twitter package of 500 tweets for $19 (which is a waste, by the way).
When you start out to market your book on social media, it’s imperative that you have a plan that fits your time, budget, resources, and skill. Your plan should be based on knowing who your audience is, where they buy, which channels (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are the best fit for your book, and which channels are the best at selling. Many people view social media as a waste of time but I suspect it is because they don’t understand how to use it for marketing.
You don’t need to be on every social media channel, just the right ones. The only one I recommend every author be on is Facebook, and it’s only because over 80% of people online are there. The next nearest platforms serve less than 30% of the adult online population. Facebook’s ad system also makes it a good candidate for supportive sales and email list building. Every author needs a website, a Facebook page, and an email list. Those are the Big Three. Beyond that, the other social media channels need to be run through a filter of genre, audience, marketing goals, and selling culture.
Selling culture may be an unfamiliar phrase, but it has to do with what audience expectations are on a particular channel. Facebook is the channel where people most frequently give recommendations about products they love. Hence, it is a decent selling channel if done well. Pinterest is another place where people share and recommend, but strictly in visual form. Twitter is where people talk about what is happening right now. Knowing which channels are good for selling is key.
A Word About Twitter
It’s not secret to those of you that follow me that I don’t believe Twitter is a good sales channel. I am outspoken about this because book marketing seems to be a sector where scammers hang out trying to sell their worthless Twitter packages to unsuspecting authors. If you believed all the ads you saw for Twitter packages, you’d think it was a prime sales channel. It is not. No other sector (retail, services) uses Twitter to scream “buy my widget” all day long because it doesn’t work well. My advice to authors is that Twitter can help you sell books if you have a loyal following, especially if you are a nonfiction writer or are linking to a blog. But Twitter is mainly a channel you just have to like to use. It’s a wonderful place to get good marketing tips if you follow the right people and a great place to network. It’s also a good place to chat with fellow authors or fans. But sales…not so much. Don’t be fooled by people who tell you they sell boatloads of books there. If they do, they are an outlier.
How to Use Social Media to Sell Without Being Sales-y
In my book, I teach a system for selling on social media that relies on two things:
- the Content Bucket editorial system
- the 80/20 rule
The content bucket system is built on a well-established best practice in online selling: the most engaging social media is content that your fans value, not necessarily something you think they should know. Jay Baer, in his book Youtility, says that good content is about help, not hype. In social media we build relationships with our fans based on giving them content that solves a problem, entertains them, enriches their lifestyle, makes them feel good, or asks for their input. If you’re interested in learning more about the science of emotions in relation to selling, this article from the Buffer blog outlines is well.
With content buckets, you curate information into several topical folders that you choose based on the intersection of what your fans like and what you like. In order for social media to work, you also need to have passion about what you post whether it’s recipes, natural history snippets, how-to articles, behind-the-scenes stories, or sports news. There are a few mandatory buckets in the system: you do need to have a thank-you bucket, a sales bucket, and a cross-promotion bucket, but the rest are up to you. Here’s an example of what one author’s content bucket system looks like. She writes historical romance and romantic suspense.
That brings us to the 80/20 rule.
How to Earn the Right To Sell
Baer, Brogan, and other marketing experts will tell you that you earn the right to sell by giving away more than you ask for. The 80/20 rule is a formula that is based on the principle that 80% of your posts are helpful and 20% are selling. When you consistently (80%) give fans information that helps, they will allow you to sell to them 20% of the time. They won’t always buy, but they will expect you to sell. They follow you because you give valuable content, but they also know you have books to sell so it doesn’t offend them when you do.
It’s also important to note that your fans know that when you have a book launch the ratio of helping to hype changes. They expect that. They will cut you some slack because they like you and because they know that the unbalanced ratio of help to hype is only temporary.
The 80/20 rule also creates a culture of reciprocity. When you give more than you take, people are drawn to do the same for you. If you enrich someone’s life, they want to pay you back. You’ll find that your loyal fans will buy all your books. Developing that keen loyalty is easiest using the 80/20 rule. You give people something of value, they give back. They see you as a friend.
And always, always remember that they are following you because they like your books and like your content. Don’t be afraid to ask them to buy your books. Just don’t do it 100% of the time, or even 50% percent of the time. The biggest challenge authors have on social media is just learning how to build relationships with fans as people, and not as customers.
If you’d like to learn more about how to market your books without being pushy,I have a new online course that will help. The course will be aimed at helping authors to use social media to sell more books and build raving fans. If you are interested in checking out the details you can click here for more info.