I’m not aiming this at anyone in particular, so if it applies to you, and you’re offended, get off of it. I’m seeing this advice roll around the internet, and I recently got into a big blowout about it with a friend. What advice is that?
Advertising matters more than quality.
Let me make my views on this point as clear as possible. That advice is crap. End of story. Advertisers have been saying for years that their end of the product is the most important one, but it’s just not true. I’m not saying raising awareness of your book/movie/song isn’t really important, I’m just telling you that the quality of your work matters more, and that there are right and wrong ways to advertise. While quality is subjective, there are some standards. If you spend more energy selling books than making them, and you can’t figure out why you aren’t breaking into the book world like a hurricane, look no further. (And your expectations might be too high, but I can’t fault you for that. Shoot for the stars and all that.)
What does this have to do with social media? Well, it’s the writers. Lots of us indie writers are getting on Facebook or Twitter and doing nothing but screaming about our books. Not even, “Hey guys, X is selling really well, come check it out!” It’s, “BEST BOOK YOU’LL EVER READ! YOU’RE MISSING OUT!” Every hour on the hour. Stop. You don’t need to do that. People were selling books in numbers both large and small long before the internet was a thing. Have a little dignity.
Let me be clear. I despise the hard sell. I hate it. Few things get under my skin like a person waving their shit in my face telling me how much I NEED it. No, I don’t. If I needed your damn book/movies/burgers/cars/etc that bad I would have bought it already. What you do when you go on blast like that is alienate everyone who sees it. It lacks all tact. It’s the guy on the corner selling you a real honest to god Rolex by opening his coat and showing you forty of them.
I think a lot of this comes from people in the book industry saying that visibility is the most important thing in the world. I have a strong counter argument. Minecraft. For those that don’t know, Minecraft is a game in which you have colored blocks of varying strength that you can build into anything you want. (After you mine them from the ground. Hence ‘Minecraft’) It’s a lot more complex than that, but that’s the gist. That game has become a cultural hit over the last seven years. ZERO advertising dollars were spent on it. The whole thing was the brainchild of a game developer who goes by the handle Notch. So what you say? Who cares? Well Microsoft just bought it for 2.5 billion dollars.
Let me type that again so you get it. The video game with no advertising dollars spent went for 2.5 billion dollars.
I have no doubt that Notch, and later the team he assembled, advertised on their own, but I really doubt he spent more time screaming at players to pick up his game than he did making it. And they didn’t spend a penny doing it. Why would they need to? Word of mouth is the single best advertising you can get. Word of mouth doesn’t come from telling everyone how good it is, or posting pictures everywhere. It comes from making a quality product, getting that small snowball rolling, and letting it launch down the hill. If anything, sticking your audiences noses in something will make them less likely to buy your future products if it doesn’t live up to the hype you threw out.
To be clear, I’m not saying you should just release an amazing book on Kindle, or through the press you keep in the basement, and hope people buy it. You need to build a launch platform. (Like, say, a website.) You need to get on Twitter and Facebook and let people know you can be found there. Ideally you would have a presence somewhere else in your life to launch from. Maybe you’re a regular poster on Reddit? Perhaps you run a book club? Your best friend’s brother is a writer in the local section of a newspaper? All of that stuff is a way for you to get the word out there and let it go from there. People will spread the word for you if you make a quality product and put it on a shelf that’s at least somewhat visible. If you don’t have anyplace like that, then getting onto something like Goodreads is a fantastic idea, as long as you don’t just go there and only sell your book.
Connect. Get to know people. People want to know more than just what you write, they want to know why you are who you are. They want to know the story of what got you into writing, and how you learned to do it. When you only use social media to sell things you’re cutting the social aspect out of it entirely. Few fans are as loyal as fans that are treated like people. Above all, people want a quality product. Nobody ever said, “Oh man! This burger sucks but the commercials were sure great!”
Don’t just use social media as a soap box to yell from. Get out and connect with people. Talk to them. Make actual friends and give a hot damn what they have to say. If all you ever say is, ‘thanks for the comment,’ you aren’t a person, you’re a billboard.