Monday, July 18, 2011

The Social Media Advantage

In the post I left open for questions (found here), many of you asked about the importance of social media to an author’s career. Today, I will answer Suze’s question: If an author had zero social media presence, but had all her other ducks in a row, do you believe not having a presence in social networking would be the dealbreaker if she wanted to go the traditional publishing route?

One of the panel sessions I attended at a writers’ festival, Zoe Walton, publisher of children’s and YA books at Random House Australia, said that it wouldn’t be a dealbreaker. One of her authors isn’t comfortable with social media but he is great with answering the emails of his readers. The publishing house has also set up an author page for him. The point of social media is to have some kind of connection with your readers.

There is another point to throwing yourself into social media before you get published – it shows agents and publishers that you are active and willing to do a lot of the hard work. It shows them that you would be easier to market than an author with nothing. As my hubby says, ‘It’s like an ogre with many layers.’ An author has the choice to do a little and hope their stories speak for themselves, or do a lot and gain an advantage.

So, in short, while avoiding social networking will unlikely be a dealbreaker if you have an exceptional concept and story, it can only help.

I expect some may disagree with me on this one. Times are changing rapidly where it’s becoming almost essential to use social media to get anywhere. What is your opinion?

Note: I will tackle some of the more specific questions regarding social networking in another post.


  1. I don't think it's necessary to have a huge platform before publishing. Having thousands of followers isn't enough to sell the amount of copies a publishing company is going to hope for. I agree that the best thing it shows an agent is initiative, and perhaps some social savvy.

    I do think it helps...most of the time. I think writers may kick themselves later for:

    -posting too much manuscript online
    -a poorly kept blog/site with spelling errors or unprofessional photos
    -way too much personal information
    -political/religious posts (unless that's what their genre is).
    -negative rants about other authors/publishers/agents

    So while hot topics and casual posts may draw a platform, I think it's important to be cautious about making sure it's a platform we'll want to place our entire career on.

    And even though I don't think it's necessary to have beforehand, an author who shows no interest in self-marketing and socializing *after* publishing? I honestly think they won't get very far. Readers are getting "spoiled" and they like an interactive author.

  2. I can speak from experience - my publisher told me that if I didn't get my butt online, then they couldn't work with me.
    Fortunately, it's worked out!

  3. This is a great question and one I asked my publisher just last week.

    Their answer? Being savvy with social media is great, but it doesn't necessarily mean your book will sell better. What will help your career is writing another, better book.

    My opinion? Participate in social networking if you enjoy it. If you don't - if it really makes you uncomfortable - then focus on what you are comfortable with. For example, maybe you do well on conference panels and are great talking with readers at book signings. Those things can sell books, too.

  4. I agree it's not necessary, but it can't hurt either. I also agree that it's a good idea mostly if you enjoy it. It might seem kind of forced if you're really not that kind of person.

  5. I find social media great to feel connected - otherwise I could become a hermit when I'm in writing mode.

  6. I have to agree. It's like having a college degree. But it does take a lot of time to do the social network thing especially for those of us who work a full time job.

  7. 'An author has the choice to do a little and hope their stories speak for themselves, or do a lot and gain an advantage.

    So, in short, while avoiding social networking will unlikely be a dealbreaker if you have an exceptional concept and story, it can only help.'

    I knew I could count on you, girl.

  8. In the world today social media is king… I don’t use twitter, face book or any another social outlet, I do blog: but mostly to learn from others.

    It is very important to have a platform, if you can show thousands of friends or followers, that is huge compared to someone who doesn’t even use that sells stream.

    Anything we as writers can use to show an ability to inform readers about our work is a positive and sweetens the pot!!

  9. Christine, love your list of what not to do in social networking. Totally agree.

    Alex, hehe, I've heard many who don't start with social Media often end up in it because of a publisher's request.

    Jennifer, great examples of other things we can do.

    Trisha, exactly

    Michelle, haha excellent point!

    Shelly, it can be a massive time sink if we let it.

    Suze, hehe. Glad it helped.

    Jeff, yes indeed :)

  10. I still view blogging (cos that's the only social media I understand! LOL! Maybe email?) as an outlet - a diary for expression, opinions, links etc, rather than a single minded focused source to sell one's books. I may be wrong - I normally am!!! LOL!

    Take care

  11. Yeah, I think this is changing. When my agent and I had our first phone call, she wanted to know why I didn't have an online presence and wanted to discuss how I would develop one. I've read comments and interviews from editors about how they google an author as soon as they get a manuscript because they want to take a look at the author's website. It might not be a dealbreaker if the author doesn't have one, but I'm not sure it would be OK for the author to refuse to develop one.

  12. I think it only helps esp. with Barnes and Nobles carrying less books. I'd think online promotion would be huge!

  13. Wow. I would have said no, and the story will sell itself. But some of the commentators have proved me wrong.

    I wonder what number of followers talking about.

  14. At the end of the day, I think it's about being authentic and REALLY connecting with people. IMHO, using social media simply as a tool for selling more books is the quickest way to turn people off.

  15. As long as the author has some plan to connect with readers and promote, that's what matters. A large publisher with a big name can use its own presence and connections to promote a reclusive writer, but a small press trying to promote an unknown, debut author who refuses to do anything on his own behalf? Those author's books will not sell, period, beyond what sells to his friends and family. A writer may not be online, but if he is actively promoting face to face, schmoozing bookstores, setting up events at libraries, etc, then he will most likely do as well as the one online. And his plan will impress a prospective publisher just as much, I think.

  16. I'd like to think a story would sell itself, and if it is of the exceptional variety it probably will. But for the rest of us, I think a social media presence is vital in promoting your work.

    Ellie Garratt

  17. your hubs is such a wise man! His sentence shows his brilliant wit!

  18. I think too much social media can be a hindrance to one's productivity. Using the word of mouth paradigm I think it would be helpful to be in the good graces and interests of those who have an extremely active social media presence so they can keep you out there rather than spending all your time doing it yourself. But I do think it important to take advantage of every publicity opportunity availed be others that you can.

    Tossing It Out

  19. Social media is important nowadays for writers/authors to build a platform, connect with readers and other writers and get visibility. But, I personally feel we are overdoing it: joining every platform instead of just concentrating on few of them.

  20. Yup, social network is the wave of the future...and today! It seems that, like all new things, it's both an advantage and a lot of work too:)

  21. Thank you for another clear & wise voice on the topic.

  22. Great question. I don't think that a lack of social media presence is a deal breaker, but it definitely hinders and limits an author's readership. The power of networking has grown so much since the advent of social media, and it's only getting bigger, so you may aswell jump on the train while you can :)

  23. With epublishing growing the way it is, the smart author will get their butt online ... is my take. Why not take advantage of getting out there?

  24. The writing has to be there first, but it makes you wonder when agents ask for your platform as part of your query. I enjoy the connections made through Social Media.

  25. Old Kitty, you are absolutely right. We gain more of a true following if we make connections over promoting our books.

    Sarah, I hear this a lot. Usually if an author doesn't have an online presence then they will be asked to create one.

    Laura, exactly, but it's also about making that all important connection with our readers.

    Deborah, I don't think it's about numbers. I think it's about being active in the community and at least starting something.

  26. Sam, yes, that's exactly right. It's so important to step beyond self promotion and make those connections. It's way more fun anyway.

    Karen, yes, fantastic comment. There are other ways of self promotion--it doesn't have to be social media.

    Ellie, I think even those with an exceptional story can also benefit from social media.

    Dezzy, hehe, and that's why I married him :)

    Lee, ah, interesting take. It's true, though. Social media takes an AWFUL lot of time so it makes sense to get in good with those who have the time.

  27. Rachna, I will be covering this issue in a future post.

    Mark, hehe is indeed

    Robert, thanks

    Jamie, well said.

    M Pax, exactly! It's fun too.

    Stacy, the connection we make through social media are worth their weight in gold. I wouldn't trade them.

  28. I think an online presence is VERY important. If you send in your query/proposal, don't you think the agent and/or editor's gonna Google your name? Uh, ya! Hello! They wanna know if you've got a decent online personality, wanna make certain you're not bashing other agent/editors/authors, and that you're not a part of some crazed cult that'll keep you from producing good work.

    So, yeah. It's important. At least, in my opinion it is.

  29. Lynda - as usual your post hits it right on! Online social media is moving along so quickly. Besides the fact that it helps when you are published to help push your work, the connection you have with other writers is priceless. The feedback we receive from other writers, even if some of it is hard to hear, or pleasant to hear, keeps us motivated. Thanks for such a great post and giving us what we need and want to hear. - Maeve

  30. Super agent Kristin Nelson, somewhere on her blog, says she expects wannabe authors to have websites up before they're published. And at Norwescon, a major publisher said such aspiring authors should blog on a weekly basis.

    Is failure to do this before getting published a deal breaker? No. But as one author told me, suppose you're an agent or editor who can take only one more new author this month. You have a good impression of author A. You know nothing of author B. You know author C can be crabby. Which would you choose?

    So blog away. Post interesting comments and boldly go where no blog has gone before. And don't flame anyone.

  31. The more I learn about publishing these days, the more I believe the author has to work hard on social platforming in order to achieve success.

  32. Alyssia, it's the cults they check first ;)

    Maeve, totally agree. The benefits of social media go beyond just self-promotion. Way beyond.

    Mark, exactly!

    Jessie, it certainly helps.

  33. I think this is especially true for new authors. I think you do have to find balance, it's easy to get carried away and start blogging daily and building a huge following, but you need to finish those books too! The writers I've seen become successful through social media have also produced a good quantity of books to put online.
    Great post, look forward to the next :)
    Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

  34. When I see someone who has an agent or book coming out, and they have a low follower count, I see them promoting away but know it won't go the distance as if they'd done it two years before. I didn't start blogging to have a platform, but now I see the benefit of it.

  35. I think starting writers will need to have some presence in this age of social media. I think most publishers are coming to expect that. However, for some of the shy ones, as you become more and more popular, you are able to draw back from social media somewhat and your books will speak for themselves.

  36. If your product is good, all the other is: can't hurt, might help.
    So, that extra edge is another arrow in your quiver.

  37. This response is similar to the one given by a few editors during the national RWA conference. But, like Sarah mention, all editors commented that they google the writer when they receive the submission to see if it's someone they want to work with.

  38. Charmaine, I'd agree with it being especially true for new authors.

    Theresa, starting a platform early is definitely the way to go. Many benefits.

    Clarissa, I'd agree with that too. Also, as an author becomes more popular they no longer have as much time for social media.

    Anthony, exactly

    Stina, yep, google has a lot to answer for ;)

  39. I totally agree. Even with agents, it can be a deal breaker. And if it isn't with an agent, I think they'd likely make you jump in to the social networking waters before they'd be willing to go on sub with you.


I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.