Once upon a time, writers thought that having a strong social media presence was good for their careers.
The writers thought that the more they engaged their readers, the more that would translate into sales. For a little while, that seemed to be the case, and everyone was happy. The writers were happy because they were selling their books, and the readers were happy because it gave them a chance to interact with their writers.
But then, something happened.
Other writers came along and started selling a lot of books — and without spending a lot of time engaging in social media. Suddenly, the first wave of writers grew confused.
“How can this be?” they asked. “What are the new writers doing that we’re not doing? Why are they selling more books than we are — and without having to spend hours each day on social media sites?”
The answer was simple — the new writers were experts in marketing, and they knew how to do what it takes to get books sold.
Let’s be honest here — there are a lot of writers out there. Each day, there are more writers than the previous day, and that means that it’s becoming harder and harder for writers to be noticed.
So, what’s the secret, then?
Easy — write.
“Gee, Tom — that’s pretty damned obvious.”
Oh, is it? While you’re engaged in social media, how much writing are you doing? While you’re trading quips with your online friends, there are writers out there who are writing. They’ll be publishing more books than you — and that means that they are going to be more successful than you.
“They might be crappy writers, Tom.”
True. They might be. But, the more they write, the better they’ll become (in most cases). That means that, sooner or later, they might be as good as you — or better. In order to reach that point, they’ll have written more books than you, which means they’ll have a larger catalogue than you.
The larger the catalogue, the more opportunities a writer has to be discovered.
Let’s say I write a book called “The Shedding Werewolf.” Obviously, it’s a book about werewolves, and the title implies that it’s humorous. So, my potential readers are going to be people who like werewolves or people who like humor or both. That’s a pretty broad paintbrush, so that’s not too bad.
But, let’s say that another writer comes along and writes “The Molting Phoenix” and “The Dancing Demon” and “The Vegetarian Vampire” and “The Tap-Dancing Mummy.” Now, all of a sudden, I’ve got some really strong competition. Why? Well, because in addition to people who like humor, that writer can also attract the notice of anyone looking for a novel about phoenixes or demons or vampires or mummies. Suddenly, that writer has a lot better chance of attracting attention than I do, if I’ve only written one novel.
So, let’s get back to social media, shall we?
Now, when we’re playing the social media game, we’re telling ourselves that the more we engage our readers, the stronger the bond that forms — and that means they’ll be more likely to buy our books.
Let’s say that you develop a following of a solid 200 people, based on the two or three books you’ve written. That’s terrific. Of those 200 people, most of them will buy your next book.
However, Jack NewWriter has written 15 books and developed a solid following of 50 people. So, you’ve got more loyal readers than Jack — but Jack is making more money than you. 200 loyal readers buying your 3 books means you’ve sold 600 books. On the other hand, Jack has sold 750 books, although he only has 50 loyal readers.
But, here’s the interesting thing — the more books that Jack writes, the more likely the chances that he’ll develop more and more loyal readers. So, if Jack only gets 10 more loyal readers when his next book comes out and those readers buy what’s in his catalogue, he’s going to sell 900 books.
The more books you write, the more chance you’ll have of being able to be a writer who supports his or her family by writing.
It’s as simple as that.
Does this mean you need to ignore social media? Of course not. All it means is that you need to make sure that you’re not spending so much time trying to build up a relationship with potential readers that you don’t wind up writing nearly enough.
You know what loyal readers really want from you?