5 Book Marketing Myths You Need To Forget

Anyone familiar with Joanna Penn’s blog – The Creative Penn – will know what an excellent resource it is for writers, particularly on marketing, where she regularly offers no-nonsense advice that actually works.

When I heard she was writing a book on marketing, I was eager to see what she would come up with, and managed to wangle an advance copy.

How To Market A Book is a comprehensive guide to book marketing, with a much wider scope than something like my own Let’s Get Visible. I can see it being particularly useful for those who are struggling to get to grips with marketing (or to fit it into their busy schedule), but I think everyone could get something from it (including traditionally published authors).

The book takes a holistic approach, covering short term marketing like book reviews and ad sites, as well as longer term marketing like author branding, platform building, mailing lists, and content marketing, before dealing with book launches (including how to relaunch a flagging title).

If you want to check out How To Market A Book, you can find it now on Amazon, Amazon UK, and Kobo (with other retailers and a paperback edition to follow). To give you a taste of what the book is like, here’s Joanna on marketing myths:

Guest Post by Joanna Penn

There are a number of marketing myths around publishing that lead to authors making bad decisions or spending money on ‘marketing packages’ that don’t make a difference to sales. Sure, there are some lightning strikes where an author can buck the trend, but in general, these myths are disempowering.

MYTH 1: If I get a traditional book deal, I won’t have to deal with marketing

Authors have always had to do some kind of marketing, but it generally involved physical appearances at bookstore signings, literary festivals or conventions, as well as media appearances.

Some authors had publicists within the publishing house or an external marketing firm organizing that for them, so they could just show up and do their thing. But I’m not sure how true that ever was for new authors or mid-list authors who sold reasonably well but weren’t superstars. Yes, some lucky few still get a publicist, but often only for the launch period, and that won’t pay the bills for very long.

From authors sharing their experience right now, it seems that:

a)  Publishers are interested in authors who already have a platform, people who have built an email list and a way to sell books to readers who know them. You will have to include your platform in your pitch to agents and they will include it in their pitch to the publisher, so marketing comes into the equation before you even get a deal. Publishing is a business, so of course they are looking for ways to mitigate risk.

b)  Publishers will do some marketing for you, but that will generally involve distribution and working with bookstore buyers, as well as potentially advising on what you can do to help them market the book. So even though you might have a team to advise over the launch period, you will still need to do a lot yourself. And after the initial launch phase, you will likely be left alone as the publicist moves onto the next author and book on the publishing schedule.

In April 2013, Pulitzer Prize winning author David Mamet announced his decision to self-publish “because publishing is like Hollywood – nobody ever does the marketing they promise.”

MYTH 2: Marketing is scammy, sucky and awful and I’m not the type of person who can do it anyway

pentecostIt’s time to reframe marketing.

Think of it this way instead. Marketing is sharing what you love with people who will appreciate hearing about it.

You’re writing a book about how you helped your kids escape from Type 2 diabetes. Don’t you think people want to hear about that?

You’ve written a kick-ass action-adventure thriller that will blow the socks off those miserable commuters you share a train carriage with and help them to escape the grind for a few hours. Don’t you think they want to know about it?

So you’ve got to find ways to connect with the people who would want your book – that’s marketing now. It is not scammy or sucky or awful (if you don’t want it to be). It’s about authenticity and the principles around ‘know, like and trust’ as well as technical things which you’ll find out about in this guide.

You also need to reframe marketing because it turns out that we are ALL salespeople these days. In Daniel Pink’s book ‘To Sell Is Human’ he explains how the world has changed and the job of ‘salesman’ really doesn’t exist anymore, but we’re all involved in selling every day. It might be ‘selling’ healthy food to your kids, or ‘selling’ yourself to get a career advancement, or as authors, its pitching our ideas to agents and publishers OR basically trying to get people to be interested in us and our books.

MYTH 3: A book publicist will be able to get me on <insert famous show here>

Let’s face it, authors are often introverts and one of the worst possible things for us is cold-calling anyone. I don’t take phone calls in general and I have to psych myself up for any that I HAVE to make. I really prefer writing …

So when it comes to things like media and press releases and getting onto TV, the process is generally about pitching and being repeatedly rejected, until someone says yes, generally when your book hooks nicely into a hot newsworthy topic.

A publicist can do these pitches for you but they can only work with what you provide, so you’ll still need to think about the ‘hooks’ that your book can be pitched around. The most important thing to remember about a publicist is that you generally pay them a specific amount as a retainer but they can’t guarantee you any media attention. And even if you get featured in mass media, it might not sell any books …

MYTH 4: Getting on national TV or national newspapers or radio will sell millions of books

Too many authors naively assume that paying a few thousand dollars for a publicist will pay off in terms of sales.

But traditional media is more about brand awareness and social proof than actual sales because of

a) the non-targeted, scattergun approach

b) the disconnect between where people are when they consume that media and the jump to actually buying a book.

When I first started learning about marketing, I focused entirely on traditional media and made it onto national TV, national radio and into national papers. After months of effort and excitement, I only sold around 15 books, because as a self-published author, my books weren’t in the stores. The mass-media effect only really works if the book is everywhere, like Dan Brown’s recent domination of supermarkets, bookstores and retail outlets at the launch of Inferno.

It’s worth pursuing for the social proof and kudos that can give the impression of sales, but it is unlikely to impact your bottom line.

MYTH 5: The launch is everything OR one big marketing push will rocket my book up the charts and I’ll be a multi-millionaire (yippee!)

The launch approach is something that comes from traditional publishing. Because of their business cycles, each book only gets a small window of opportunity to make an impact before everyone moves on to the next book, so the entire focus is to make the bulk of sales in the first month.

But the world of book buying has changed and it’s becoming more about the long tail, where there are very few blockbusters but lots of us making a decent living in the margins from people looking for different books.

So the launch doesn’t have to be everything for us.

In fact, launch sales are generally disappointing compared to what happens once the Amazon algorithms kick in and you get some traction around reviews and reputation. In my experience, sales can be better a few months after the book is initially available because of all the algorithm juice described in David’s brilliant book, Let’s Get Visible.

Once you understand some of these myths, you can become empowered as an author to get into marketing yourself and your books with knowledge on your side.

* * *

Joanna Penn’s How to Market A Book is out now and already an Amazon #1 bestseller in its category. You can buy the book on Amazon here and Kobo here, and if you want more writerly advice, Joanna’s website www.TheCreativePenn.com is a fantastic resource (voted one of the Top 10 Blogs for writers 3 years running and offers articles, audio and video on writing, publishing and book marketing).

Joanna also author of Career Change as well as the bestselling ARKANE thrillers under the name J.F. Penn. You can connect with Joanna on Twitter here.

* * *

My thanks to Joanna for that guest post. One final thing before I go:

As those that will have attended at the end of June will know, the live video Q&A had to be cancelled because of technical difficulties at my end – my sincere apologies for that.

The good news is that it’s rescheduled for Tuesday 9 July (tomorrow) at 4pm Eastern/9pm GMT. Admission is free as long as you RSVP here first to get your invite.

Please note: if you already registered for the event last month, you don’t need to register again. I’ll be answering your questions on self-publishing and marketing, and the session will run for an hour or so.

See you there!

David Gaughran

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

87 Replies to “5 Book Marketing Myths You Need To Forget”

  1. I train people in sales and marketing for a living and even I haven’t figured out the intricacies. The author of this post is essentially suggesting that published authors need to connect with people and that means social media, blogging, etc. The challenge is that most mainstream companies haven’t even figured out how to use social media as an effective selling tool and they have marketing budgets as well as marketing professionals working in house. If companies with resources haven’t figured it out, how can an author be expected to? Moreover, if publishers aren’t going to develop concise marketing strategies for all their books and are downloading that responsibility onto the author to peddle their product for them, then royalty rates should be reflected to compensate authors for their labours. People wonder why publishing is in big trouble and I answer the same every time: show me another industry where the industry doesn’t market its product in a concise, strategic way? I honestly can’t think of one. Perhaps it is because of the lack of real marketing on the part of traditional publishers that the existing business model is doomed to fail.

  2. I could not agree more, and smiled especially at #1. In the authors that I advise, this is one of the biggest hurdles. Authors HAVE to participate now, there’s no other way. Authors are the brand, not the publisher, anyway. Marketing doesn’t have to be icky though—the best marketers are your fans and advocates anyway. Empower them. Here’s a short piece about Advocacy Marketing that I wrote: http://michaelboezi.com/2013/08/what-is-advocacy-marketing

  3. Hi Joanna (and David). As Joanna said, “writers are often introverts” — what’s the alternative to the whole know-like-trust model when you, yourself, trust absolutely zero people in this whole world and are terrified of even saying hello to a complete stranger? Are there companies who will do this in the writer/author’s stead or would s/he have to just suck it up and get up the courage to at least try to build those relationships/make friends/be “personable”/etc.? What if the writer is so terribly and painfully shy that even thinking about social networking of any sort causes the DTs to erupt? I’m deathly afraid of the swarming mass of savage Coliseum attendees out there who I fear would feed me to the proverbial hungry lions if they got the chance. The advent of so-called cyber bullying episodes has caused me to lose faith in humanity altogether, not only those on social media websites but especially that audience. I don’t even have an email address besides the fake one I put on this comment. Is there any sort of agency or service or freelance contractor who can pretend they’re me and fake the whole networking process, or is this something I would have to get over my fear of doing and accept the consequences? Do I have to talk about my personal life or show a personal photograph on a website? Reveal personal details like date of birth, marital status, race/ethnicity/national origin? How much of “me” would have to go into this if there is no such agency that will fake-friend people in my stead?

    1. I’ve given you a more details answer up there somewhere ^^^ but I wanted to give you a non-blogging example of how you can build an audience without sharing any personal information or posting cat pictures which you have no interest in. One author I know writes Paranormal Romance. She has built a thriving author Facebook page purely by sharing books similar to hers. It’s so simple, yet so effective. Engagement is important in all social media, but that’s just talking to people, and she has a good conversation about each book posted with those who have liked her page. That’s social, but it’s not personal. I think you are laboring under the misconception that social = personal. It doesn’t.

      (And btw, hiring someone to “be” you is both expensive and ineffective.)

  4. Dear Joanna and David: Beatrice Monti has presented the case of Italy. I think that this article portrays also the case of Latin America.

  5. I am not good writing in English, I’m italian. But I agree with every word stated by Claudio Leonel Ordóñez Urrutia. I would like to add only one thing. It is my experience that here in Italy happens the same thing. Maybe it is a sign of globalization. What do you think? I hope you understood me. Congratulations Joanna and David.

    1. Thank you Beatrice, for your mention!!! I think everyone has to read every post or comment because the others can add something valuable to our understanding of the article. Truly yours, Claudio Leonel Ordóñez Urrutia

  6. Thanks Joanna and David for such a great post. I was reading the submission guidelines for a major publisher not long ago and was surprised to see that in addition to the standard synopsis etc, they wanted writers to outline their marketing strategy and social media profile (I thought, um, don’t publishers bring that expertise?). So I guess you just have to jump in and start. It’s a new world but an exciting one and after all, in the long run, isn’t it just as important to have an interesting life as a successful one?

  7. Thanks Joanna and David for this excellent article! Marketing is not about ingredients, it is not about recipes, it is about taste. In other words it is not about “techniques” or “myths” as you correctly stated, it is about strategies and momentum. Congratulations!!! I will be following you.

  8. This post provides encouragement for me for when I finally put together a book based on some of my blog posts, as has been suggested by my readers. I feel like that’s a long way away, though! How do you think marketing is different for ebooks, and is that a route you would suggest? Thanks Joanna! I’m going to follow you on Twitter.

  9. Excellent post, Joanna. My books are both traditionally and indie published and I was recently comparing the two routes for a newbie author. After we talked for an hour or so, she asked, “Is this all as difficult and time-consuming as it sounds?” I had to honestly answer “Yes,” because no matter why way an author goes, publishing and marketing is a lot of work and a huge learning curve, and things are changing at lightning speed these days. That said, you do learn what to reasonably expect and it all gets a bit easier as you continue to publish more books. But if you’re looking for quick riches and an easy career, being an author is definitely not the route to take. But I love to read, I am addicted to books, and I can’t stop writing.

  10. “each book only gets a small window of opportunity to make an impact ”
    Interesting comment Joanna. All my titles are traditionally published. My publisher told me that books only have a shelf life of about six weeks (no pun intended). The long tail you referred to is right, and in the days of hardback first, paperback to follow if you were lucky, to become an established writer you needed a readership; and that would require about five books in print..Now of course with eBooks and indie publishing, having five books in print (e-print) is easy, but to establish a readership is infinitely more difficult.

  11. Hi Joanna,

    I wanted to let others have a chance first but I have a marketing myth to ask you about. Or maybe it’s not a myth. I don’t know.

    Anyway, I often hear people saying something like “people need to see your cover five times before they click on it” or “readers need to hear about your book three times before they purchase.”

    I’ve heard something along those lines, with varying formulations and qualifications, for years now – not just in the field of writing and books, but I’ve heard it applied to lots of different products.

    I was chatting about this with Ed Robertson a while back because I’ve always been a little bit skeptical about this claim (particularly for online/digital products), and wondered if it had any basis in fact (i.e. some conclusion from some study way back when) or whether it was just something which had randomly mutated and inserted itself in our collective consciousness.

    Ed did a little digging and the only semi-formal article he could find was one querying where this “see something five times” idea came from.

    I think both of us were of the same view (but I’d love to hear your thoughts), namely, that even if something like that had applied to marketing physical goods through traditional media, it definitely doesn’t apply to marketing digital goods through online channels – where customers can act on your marketing message instantly.

    Do you know where this “see something five times” idea came from and if it has any basis in reality (or if it applies at all in the online/digital world)?

    Sorry for the rambling question (it’s early)!

    1. Sounds like something that might have been invented by a man who sold advertising…


      But it is a valid point. I worked a couple of years down at the Halifax waterfront as a sidewalk vendor – (and no – I did not sell sidewalks…) – with a big old hand-painted sign. And there were ALWAYS a certain amount of people would walk by, look at the sign, walk by two hours later, look at the sign – and then at the end of the day, right before the cruise ship sounded it’s horn they would decide to actually buy something.

      The entire world is browsing. We’ve got to do our best to catch their eye.

      Sometimes, repeatedly.

    2. Joanna Penn is having some difficulty accessing the comments and asked me to post this for here. (If anyone else is having trouble, please let me know either here or by email – david dot gaughran at gmail dot com)

      From Joanna:

      Hi David,
      I’ve definitely heard that one, and I think it could refer more to higher priced items. For a book under $5 with an amazing cover, even from an unknown author, I think just seeing it and the customer being the right target audience could make the difference. BUT, I do think that the ‘know, like, trust’ factor is important for ongoing sales, and that definitely depends on a higher number of touch points – although spending hours/days reading your words might just count as all 5-7 🙂

      At the Bookseller marketing conference today, Bowker shared figures that 23% of books are bought by people because they have bought from an author before – that’s significant! In fact, the highest % of all buying channels – that implies the reader has been ‘touched’ before, so the ‘rule’ applies.

      In short, no, haven’t got a clue where it comes from but although some impulse buys might come from social, I think we should still be looking at connection for longer term marketing.

  12. Thanks for the reminder to buy the book. Just snagged it for my Kindle. I meant to purchase it over the weekend… I will happily post a review as well once I am done reading. Good luck and thanks for all of the awesome stuff you provide to newbie writers – like me – on http://www.thecreativepenn.com. Cheersw.

  13. Excellent piece Joanna. I had a publisher & publicist for my last book which was distributed all over Ireland from Gill & McMillian, yet it was MY hard work which got the book in National tabloids (mainly from a few simple phone calls). My publicist got the book reviewed by well-known sports journalists but failed on a TV interview from a Specialist sports program – that I couldn’t understand. As for marketing, it was MY idea to launch the book in 6 different nationwide venues when my publisher was looking at just one traditional one. I knew my audience, knew it would connect on that scale and the book went to 2 reprints.
    After initial delight , my publisher aimed a bit to far with the 2nd reprint and it seemed his disappointment at not selling out those books overrided the ones he did sell ! And then he was urging me to try sell a few more of them!
    The truth is I made the publisher a nice bit of money but it left me scratching my head.So you are 100% spot on about the marketing. If anything you work twice as hard if you are lucky enough to get a publisher & publicist.
    What I will say is I got my way on cover, content & pictures without any fight , which gave me a lot of control. I’d like to think that was proved right with the success of the book.


  14. I love that you emphasize that marketing involves letting the reader know what *they* will get out of it. I’ve been seeing too many self-pub authors lately who just say “please support me, please buy my book.” I get DM’s that say things like “I want to quit my job, please buy my book and make my dreams come true :(“. Yikes. Begging plus a frowny face? O.o

    The truth is that very few readers (other than the author’s mom, perhaps?) care much about supporting an author financially. We want a great read! When I see promo that gives me an exciting tagline, a link to an amazing excerpt, or a quote from a 5 star review, I click. And I just bought your book, Joanna 🙂

  15. Fantastic post. Thanks Joanna! It’s a must-read for the newbie writer. It’s so hard for people to get their brains around this.

    But I knew about the disconnect even decades ago when I worked in a bookstore. I had so many customers who would come in and ask for “that book–the one that was on TV. I forget what show, but you know, everybody’s talking about it.” No title. No author and obviously I wasn’t watching daytime TV. I was working in a bookstore, so I didn’t have a clue what the book was. So even if the marketing made them want to buy, they didn’t know how to get hold of the book. But with online marketing, it’s one-click from pitch to buy.

  16. Thanks for this, Joanna (Publishers are interested in authors who already have a platform, people who have built an email list and a way to sell books to readers who know them). I was “odd chick out” in grad school because I was working on building my platform–even then–plus trying to find my voice All this time and several novels later, my voice and platform and books are finally merging. And I could not be happier to hear experts like you say marketing is not a dirty word.

  17. I did all the usual marketing/building a platform stuff when my ebook came out a year ago and after giving away thousands of copies with amazon I sort of lost heart with the whole marketing business and have sold only a few copies since.
    I am your archetypal writer, introspective and lurking, but this post really heartened me to try again … I just needed to realise that publicising one’s own book is just good business sense … it is not at all being ‘up’ oneself.
    Thank you Joanna, for the timely kick in the pants … and by extension, David.

    1. I do hope you can rejuvenate your enthusiasm Angela – try to find the thing that is fun for you – and there are plenty of options in the book. Maybe it’s sharing one image a day that relate to the topic of your book on Pinterest/Flickr/Facebook/G+ – that’s really easy to do and also can be great fun. I use images a lot as they are eminently shareable. Free isn’t so effective anymore, as David’s Visible book explains, but it can work with a series. Hang in there!

      1. With social media, do I have to talk about my personal life or reveal anything about myself biographically? One of the reasons I’ve avoided all social media entirely is because I hate people who talk about their bathroom habits or that they’re eating a sandwich, or get all Plath-confessional and go into huge details about their divorce, or family illness, or a suicide attempt/drug O.D. that landed them in the insane asylum (!)

        I also don’t trust people enough to reveal anything whatsoever, online or off. I don’t trust what they will say to me, or where it will go after I’ve told them, or how else they will react. I would rather not mention any personal data whatsoever, not even real name or date of birth. I don’t even have a real e-mail address and don’t want anyone to contact me, wish me happy holidays, etc. My phone number is unlisted and I do not give out my home address to anybody.

        Other than basic safety precautions as stated above, how much of “me,” if anything at all, would have to go into the social media end of things? Can I just talk primarily about my own book and not personal interests, not even favorite books that others have written (i.e. the classics or major names, since if I really liked a contemporary book I would freely let others know about it), and certainly not banal who-cares material like favorite food, television show, music, or “flame wars” material like political views. But other than all of that, or “I’m eating a sandwich” or “Watching Game of Thrones and buying latest title,” what do authors put on these Pentagram (?) websites anyway?

  18. Reblogged this on ROSALIND SMITH-NAZILLI – and commented:
    There is no one like Joanna Penn for constant, excellent advice.

  19. Based solely on this blog, I bought the book–just wanted to tell you so you know what marketing is working :). Also, the writeup on Amazon is really good and the price, $2.99, is right where I’m comfortable buying a book when I already have way too many books to read. Have an awesome week, and thank you.

  20. Wonderful pep talk and great info. I hate marketing myself but found that I could market my book because I believe in it. When I shifted my thinking from selling myself to getting my book into the hands and hearts of as many people as I could so maybe I could help them, it got easier. 🙂

    1. But doesn’t “getting the book into hands/hearts of people” involve forging some sort of “relationship” with them? I’m confused as to the whole social-media end of things, i.e. doesn’t “social” mean “friendship” and isn’t “friendship” a personal thing? So how does one avoid contributing details about oneself and remaining as much of a third-party impartial salesperson as possible while still not coming across as a faceless billboard? Or do I have to pretend like I care about readers’ cats or baby pictures and offer up some bit of useless biographical trivia about myself. Doesn’t this involve endearing oneself as a person (not necessarily selling oneself as a “product”)? I’m not really interested in making “friends” with people I’ll never meet in real life, but doesn’t “heart” involve at least making someone think you’re their “friend” somehow? Ala Manti Te’o?

  21. I love this in your post, Joanna, “Marketing is sharing what you love with people who will appreciate hearing about it.” You really summed it up nicely and this is something we all lose sight of because we get so focused on book sales. We s-p authors should make this our daily mantra! I think it’s a very good spring-board. Quick question for you. If I am trying to connect with people who have a special interest in Ralph Waldo Emerson (which reflects my novel), is it easier to reach people through a Page about RWE on Google+ or a page about RWE on FaceBook? I’m on Google+ but getting no responses. Thanks!

    1. Hi Paula – I would say that “normal” people aren’t on G+ yet – BUT/ the influencers are. So find the biggest blog on RWE and see if the blogger is on G+ and then share their stuff, get to know them there (it’s easier to get to know influencers on G+ or twitter) and then see if you can get a guest post on that blog. OR/ you could spend a long time as part of the community on FB and get into the group that way as “normal” readers are on FB, or Goodreads – have you checked for a group there?

      1. Thanks, Joanna. Most FB pages for RWE are no longer current with activity/posts over a year old or have maybe one post a month. Thanks for your help and advice!

  22. Brilliant, I’m off to buy the book right now! Myth number 5 makes me very happy. When I release my first book (eep!), I’m not expecting huge sales right away… or ever, until I get off my butt and get at least a few more titles out there. Actually, I wonder whether it’s even worth doing a big push on that first book; I’ll probably save my money and invest it when I have more to offer. This will be disappointing for my family, who still want me to aim for traditional publishing with a big release. Little do they know… But number five is very encouraging. Much less pressure on those first few months after release to make or break a title! 🙂

    1. I really think this is important Kate, but SO hard to do when it’s your first book and critically important for your self-validation to have sales on it. BUT/ I can tell you that I found sales increased so much more when I had 2 and then 3 novels available. My family were also disappointed at first and I have had my share of disparaging comments, but hang in there, the game is changing and soon it will be all the rage (like indie musicians and film-makers are cool!)

  23. As usual from Joanna, some excellent points made. I’m reminded of one of my favourite books on writing by Celia Brayfield (‘How to write a bestseller’). One of the myths she explodes is: ‘Somebody else will take care of this stuff’ (marketing). Not sure if the book has been updated for the eBook age but Celia’s advice is brilliant – worth checking out.

  24. Point 4 is very true – and extends to reviews in print media – I’m sure I remember seeing figures showing that even a rave review in a national paper had negligible effect.

    Point 2 is the one I’m not 100% sure I’d agree on – telling people about your kick-ass adventure that would brighten their commute always feels slightly underhand to me because unless you are sure that yours really does kick more ass than everyone else’s, if you care about the customer, surely you should be recommending them the best instead of yours? I struggled the same way when I worked in the private sector in sales – at one store I would regularly send people down the road to the place that would give them better qualityu for better price. That didn’t last long – it was only when I worked for somewhere that really did offer the best quality and value that I flourished. So I guess I’m agreeing with you about authenticity – I’d be happy saying “this will brighten your commute” but not “if you’re looking for the best book to brighten your commute, this is it”

    1. I was referring to fiction there, and readers tend to devour books on commutes. I would get through a book every 2 days when I commuted an hour each way, so I was ALWAYS looking for the next adventure. You have to believe your book is awesome to put it out there, and entertainment is exactly that. Don’t hide your light under a bushel, Dan!

  25. Great points. Thanks Joanna and David for the post on this beautiful Monday morning. Just what I needed to be reminded of, especially Myth 2 about not seeing marketing as scammy, sucky, and awful.

    1. On the contrary, I see it as creepy. Joanna isn’t my “friend” in real life and I have no reason to believe she ever would be. Not that she is a bad person or anything, but she and I travel in different circles, and will most likely never meet in real life. I differ from maybe most people in this day and age — maybe more people of a younger demographic than others — in that I don’t believe friendships or relationships built online are valid unless they have an offline component to them. The Notre Dame quarterback fiasco with the dating service rings a bell here. Therefore, I actually bristle at the notion of a mindset shift from sell-sell-sell to forging some sort of relationship with the readers. That sounds stalker-ish to me. I don’t know anything about Joanna’s or David’s respective families or real-life social circles, and out of respect for boundaries, am not going to try to insert myself into their respective social networks of any sort, no matter how much they may overlap Venn-style in the Kevin Bacon six-degrees digital realm.

      But social media seems to be exactly that: trying to worm one’s way into users’ personal lives (and they in turn into yours) primarily for the purpose of making a buck. Twitter and Facebook sound almost like digital prostitution in that manner, and for me, at least, it would seem more honorable (and psychologically sound) to avoid them for anything but business purposes and not “relationships.” This blurring of lines between professionals and “friends” is causing havoc in society. Just because someone might “like” our current U.S. president on Facebook or follow the Barack Obama account on Twitter doesn’t give them the right to show up randomly at the White House for tea. Politicians don’t care about their followers; they’re looking for votes. Actors don’t care about their followers; they want people to see their movie/watch their program. Musicians too — they are just looking for sales of their latest single or album. Why authors should have to be any different is beyond me; why should we pretend to be “friends” with random people online when, like musicians and actors, we’re really, first and foremost, looking for sales?

      1. I think you are looking at this the wrong way. Social media is simply a tool for connecting with people. How you choose to use it is up to you. Look at your relationships in the real world. Some are personal, some are business, some are very intimate, others are quite casual. Online, relationships can be forged all along the same spectrum.

        This blog here falls under the ambit of social media, and I use it to connect with all of you. I don’t share my personal life, what I had for dinner, and I’m not trying to disingenuously make friends with anyone. I do use it to connect with people on a professional level – sharing what I’ve learned, and what others have learned, and learning from my commenters/guest posters in turn.

        I take a similar approach to Twitter and Facebook. I’m seeking connections, not friendships – although that can and does happen organically, just as it would if you kept bumping into the same person with similar interests at a conference or trade fair in the physical world.

        On Facebook/Twitter I share interesting news stories/blog posts/magazine articles on writing and publishing. Often that kicks off a conversation which can go in any direction. I also share books I’ve enjoyed etc.

        That’s all part of building a platform, which Joanna covers in great detail her book, and I touch on in Let’s Get Digital. But that’s *my approach* to platform, which will be less useful to an author who doesn’t sell books in the category of writing/publishing. You should aim to build a platform which will attract the same readers/followers/likes as the target audience for your books. For example, if you write true crime, you could blog about famous trials and/or serial killers. If you write romance novels set in Italy, you could blog about Italian food and culture. These are very simplistic examples, but you can check Joanna’s book for more detailed info on platform building.

        Note that in neither example I suggest sharing personal information – so you have no need to feel compelled to divulge anything you don’t want to. If privacy is such a concern, you can also write under a pen-name. Many authors do and it doesn’t stop them selling tons of books.

        I want to deal with this in particular as it is very important:

        “Why authors should have to be any different is beyond me; why should we pretend to be “friends” with random people online when, like musicians and actors, we’re really, first and foremost, looking for sales?”

        If you approach platform building with the sole aim of selling something to someone, you will fail.

        The aim *must* be to connect with people. You should aim to share information of mutual interest to your target audience.

        If that information is not useful/interesting then they will click away and you will lose them. If it’s useful/interesting, then they will stay.

        Look at this blog. I have my books in a sidebar along the side of each page. People can click if they like, or not. There’s no hard sell. The existence of that sidebar doesn’t pollute the relationship I have with my blog readers, and I don’t bang them over the head telling them to buy my books, or that they “owe” me, or any crap like that (to be clear: they don’t).

        Most people that read this blog won’t buy a book. I’m totally fine with that. There’s no contract here that demands otherwise. All I’m hoping for is their attention on the blog post I present.

        In other words: if you blog for any reason other than the love of it, you will really struggle.

        I do get sales from this blog, and, more importantly, it really, really helps with launching books (which is the true value of a platform IMO). But to build a successful platform, sales can’t be the goal. It should be to provide interesting content for your readers.

        1. One last thing.

          If the idea of using social media/building a platform still gives you hives even after viewing it through the prism of the above comment, don’t sweat it. None of this is *necessary* to sell books. I know a whole bunch of authors who have sold tons and tons of books by doing *none* of the above. Platform helps. Facebook helps. Blogging helps. Twitter helps. Facebook helps. But none if it is *necessary*.

          It’s perfectly possible to build an audience and make a living from this just by releasing lots of books that people will enjoy and bringing attention to them through things like 99c sales, group promotions, ads on BookBub/ENT/Pixel of Ink/Free Kindle Books & Tips etc.

          One must have: a mailing list – a clickable link at the back of your books where readers can sign up to notifications about your next release. No sharing. No personal info needed. You simply send an email to your list announcing the launch of your latest book. That’s it. And it’s the most powerful tool at your disposal. More details here: https://davidgaughran.com/2013/02/07/the-author-with-the-biggest-mailing-list-wins/

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