Does Social Networking Sell Books: One Tally Mark for the YES Column

One of the big discussion topics around the net is whether or not social-networking actually sells books. For me, knowing that I’ve had discussions with writers, on Facebook & Twitter or blogs, who have then gone out and bought my book, the answer is a no-brainer…yes. The corollary question–perhaps the one that publishers care more about–is how many books?

I don’t know.

As far as I can tell, it’s still about word of mouth, about getting interested in a book someone is writing because I know them–whether in person or online–and then, yes, buying their book. Sure, yes, I guess in the old days, these people could have reached me with a mailer–a flyer or pamphlet, and I think they could, theoretically, have reached the same quantity of people in that way. The difference is, a flyer doesn’t mean KNOW that person. And, yes, on Facebook and Twitter, I do know them. Maybe not enough to bare my soul to (like they’d want that, anyway!), but definitely enough to be curious about their book.

I want to talk, today, about a specific case in point. Yesterday, I bought my first self-published novel.

I know. It’s 2011. Where have I been? Well, I’ve been where I think–if we’re being honest–a lot of us are. I am interested in the possibilities that online publishing is creating. I’m intrigued with looking at what’s happening now and with wondering where it’s going to take us in the next year, five years, decade. I’m watching friends and acquaintances experiment (aka letting them be the guinea pigs!) and hoping that the work they’re doing brings them at least a piece of dream-come-true.

I’ve also, I admit, been cautious/hesitant/reluctant to just grab a self-published novel off the shelf and dive into reading it. In this post, I talked about how we, as readers, can know that our work is ready to put out there. Flip the coin and, as a reader, I do wonder how the author decided their book was ready for me to fall in love with. Yes, as hard and challenging and painful as traditional publishing has been, some agent and/or editor has had their eyes and pencil on those books, has said…Go!

Anyway, yesterday I took the leap. I bought a copy of Anathema, written AND self-published by Megg Jensen.

Why? Because I know Megg from the blogosphere and from Facebook. We’ve talked back and forth, she’s been more than encouraging about my book, and I’ve followed her thoughts about her story and her decision to self-publish this book. I know it’s a YA fantasy, a genre I love, and I am seriously hooked by the cover. Because of these interactions, I know that Megg is smart and funny and thoughtful and creative. Yes, I do. Does that mean I know she can write a good book? Of course not. If I meet an author who has traditionally published their first book, do I know that THAT book is good? Of course not, again. But I make my buying decision on the same basis I made this one–my impression of the writer, as I get to know them. Unless you’ve read more books from an author, you take a risk with every book you buy. And even then, we all know there’s no guarantee that Book 5 will get us the same way Books 1-4 did.

Megg does not live in California. I could not have met her through a local writing club, in the YA section of a bookstore, or at a party. I could only have met her online. Through social networking. Which, yes, does sell books.

Will Megg (or I) ever get on the NYT bestseller list? Who knows. (Of course, if it ever DOES happen, you can bet YOU WILL ALL KNOW!) Will she sell more of her books by being “out there” on the Internet. Yeah. I really believe so.

Megg is running a contest through March 11 at her blog. You can win lots of cool things, including copies of Anathema AND an e-reader.  Megg has also offered to give away a copy of Anathema here (paperback OR e-book, your choice) to a commenter.

So…drop a thought into the comments.  Remember, this is not a post about self-publishing; this is a post about the sales effectiveness of social-networking. Any comment will enter you, but I’d love to hear about a book you bought because you knew the author online, or because you heard some online buzz. Also, if you’re published in any way, what do you think social networking has done for you and your books?

Megg’s contest is going until March 11, but I think I’ll wrap mine up sooner than that. Let’s make it a week–I’ll announce the winner Wednesday, March 2nd.

Enter away!


  1. I’ve bought several books by self-published authors and it kind of makes me mad when people look down on authors for self-publishing. In the music world and movie world, indie artists are respected. Why is it so different in publishing? Thanks for introducing me to a new indie artist. If I don’t win it here, I’ll go buy it on my own 🙂


  2. LK Hunsaker says:

    I think social networking sells books on a small scale, unless the author is very aggressive and unless you write non-fiction which sells better everywhere. I think it’s rare for it to sell books in large quantities. For that, we still need expensive ads in papers and reviews from big names or a LOT of marketing dollars.

    I’ve been marketing online (for my self pubbed books) for roughly six years. Although my reviews are great and I’m very socially active, my time involved does not come close to being equal to even minimum wage in resulting sales. Sure it sells books, here and there. But unless you enjoy being socially active, I can’t say it’s worth it.

    That said, I have bought several books from author acquaintances who are small press or indie published. I wouldn’t have found them if not for social networks. The possibility is always there.


    • beckylevine says:

      Yes, I think it’s the possibility. It doesn’t replace those big ads, but I wasn’t the person who was going to pay for those for my book, anyway. 🙂


  3. GP Ching says:

    First off, great post about Megg. I’ve read Anathema and it is fabulous.

    On social networking, I write flash fiction and several of my sales have been a direct result of social networking. My first novel comes out this spring and I am hoping the readership I’ve fostered will carry over. I think, even if you are traditionally published, you are missing out on valuable relationships if you are not on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and blogging.


    • beckylevine says:

      I’m really looking forward to reading Anathema. 🙂

      I think the whole SN thing is just a plus, no matter how you’re publishing. No idea how much of a PLUS, but I don’t think we can really ignore any avenue that reaches this many people and isn’t out of our reach financially.


  4. This is a topic I find very interesting. (In other words, I would have commented whether there was a Book Incentive or not.)
    And I found this blogpost by following your FB post. To tell the truth, I don’t always follow links posted on FB, but the topic intrigued me, so here I am. Right there, that might say something about the power of social networking.
    A lot of my FB friends are writers but I’m not sure I’d buy their books just by hearing about it on Facebook. I think I’d need more, a good review posted, a friend’s recommendation. I’m not a big book buyer anymore, but I certainly consider Facebook a good starting place to hear what’s about to come out, what’s getting good buzz, etc. So, yes, bottom line, it seems to be just one more way to get the message out. I can only hope it will influence sales. My book’s due out in a year. I’ll be listening to your commenters and crossing my fingers that all these connections help!


    • beckylevine says:

      Yeah, that’s the tricky part–I don’t know if it does “influence” sales, if you take that to mean help build the buzz exponentially. I think it adds to the specific number of sales, but I don’t know about any big way that it just makes a book take off. (If you hear of that, let me know!)

      And definitely post more about your book when it comes out!


  5. Nowadays (except for my research) almost all of my reading is the result of online buzz, networking with writers, etc.

    I know people around the country who have read my books because of social networking and they are helping to spread the word.

    And of course I know about you and your Survival Guide (which by the way, Carol and I will be sharing in an upcoming seminar) because of social media.

    And now there is Anathema which I would not have known about otherwise! Please enter me in the contest.


    • beckylevine says:

      Believe me, you’re entered! Thanks to you and Carol for all the buzzing you’ve done on my book. You guys are great. 🙂

      I wouldn’t have known about your books, either, if it weren’t for blogs. Thank goodness!


  6. Janet Fox says:

    This is such a thoughtful post. I’ve been having many of these very discussions on line and across several lists. Publishing is changing so fast that we can’t afford not to pay attention to the impact of social networking.

    Thanks for another excellent article!


    • beckylevine says:

      Glad you liked it. It’s just a lot to think about–and sometimes that means I have to write it out to try and get straight how I feel!


  7. Vonna says:

    Like Joyce above, almost everything I read these days I first heard about online through blogs, facebook and twitter. The remaining percentage are books by people I actually know through the several local writers’ groups I belong to.


    • beckylevine says:

      Right–book people talk about books. And I get to know more book people on line than I can locally. 🙂


  8. Terri Thayer says:

    My group blog, Killer Hobbies, is talking about this today, too. Seems from the comments that people do buy books because they feel like they “know” the author from blogging.


  9. Liana says:

    I bought the Latte Rebellion from reading a lot of reviews online. I wouldn’t have without that


  10. nrhatch says:

    I bought an e-book, Corona, from Amazon to read on my on-line Kindle. I haven’t read much of it.

    It’s well written, but I prefer reading books printed on paper.


  11. Jenn Hubbard says:

    Online is the primary way I hear about books nowadays–some from book blogs, some from networking sites.

    I know for a fact that some people have bought my book because they heard about it online. How many, vs. how many just found it by browsing at a store? I have no idea.


    • beckylevine says:

      Yeah, it is that magical unknown number. I love hearing that someone I know bought my book, but I also love imagining someone I’ve never heard of coming across it on a shelf somewhere and saying, “hmm…” 🙂


  12. I don’t know about social networking by itself, but I think blogging can definitely help build sales. I know about Beth Revis’ Across the Universe because I was following her blog before she even got her agent. And as soon as her book deal was announced, I knew I wanted to buy the book.

    I’m more of a blogger/reader than social networker, but for me, I think social networking can be an introduction to people, the initial small talk that leads to blog reading. But it’s in posts like yours that we really get to know people, I think, and that can help sell a book.

    So, I think social networking is one stepping stone.


    • beckylevine says:

      That’s how I found ACROSS THE UNIVERSE,too, although I can’t remember if I found Beth at her blog first or at Twitter. It’s a big loop!

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂


  13. I wrote a nonfiction book—a memoir—coming out on March 1st and I have been using networking, blogging, article, and video sites to post information about the book. Statistics say that today’s buyers are on the Internet checking all those sites. Millions of people are surfing on hyperspace daily, at all times, so it seems the right place now to post information hoping the right crowd will see it. Not everybody will be interested in my book, but I know there is a group out there that likes memoirs of women with extraordinary lives. People looking for an inspirational story. I think networking and posting on the Internet is an effective way to reach my crowd. I have learned of many good books via Internet and word of mouth from collegaues and friends. Online is the way to go!By the way my book’s title is THE IRON BUTTERFLY; MEMOIR OF A MARTIAL ARTS MASTER. But don’t be deceived by the title, it is not another martial arts book. Is a story of survival and personal acheivement in a martial arts setting.


  14. michelle valigursky says:

    Great discussion topic! Years ago, I self-published two books and sold more than five thousand copies the hard way – in person, through book signings and demonstrations, lectures and seminars. The internet wasn’t nearly as accessible. I can only imagine what my sales could have done had I been able to promote via Facebook, Twitter and the like.

    Now as a traditionally published non-fiction author (soon to be fiction), I’ve found social networking quite helpful for getting in touch with people all over the country and letting them know about my book projects. Thanks to Facebook, I’ve reconnected with hundreds of school friends, made professional connections and opened new opportunities.

    Can an increase in my book sales be monitored – by me? Not specifically. What I have noticed is a spike in Amazon rankings and website hits for a few days after one of my books get internet press.

    In this day and age, I don’t see how an author can exist without a web presence – website, blog or involvement in a social networking site. Book reviews in newspapers are dwindling, travel costs are rising and press junkets are a fantasy.
    The internet offers “free” marketing for authors. It’s up to us to tap into its potential and make it work for book promotion.

    I vote to keep reaching out to spread the word on the web and watch book sales climb!


    • beckylevine says:

      Sounds good to me! Thanks for stopping by & sharing your thoughts. And good luck with your projects AND sales. 🙂


  15. Megg Jensen says:

    Hi everyone! I was on Facebook long before I considered how it might be used for book promotion. I took years chatting and getting to know people – and I’ve made some amazing friends along the way (like Becky).

    I actually felt awkward marketing my book to friends/family and created a second FB page just for my writing. I don’t want to bombard people with notifications about my book – unless they want to be bombarded, in which case they can join my author page.

    Twitter, Facebook, and blogs have proved to be great tools. Word of my book has spread beyond my inner circle of family & friends – which is the goal of any writer, traditional or indie. People are now interested in my book because of the cover, the description, or the genre. After all, I want people to buy the book because they are interested in it, not because they feel like they have to because they know me. 🙂

    I appreciate those of you who’ve gone on to enter my contest. It’s very, very appreciated!!!

    Happy reading! 😀



    • beckylevine says:

      I love hearing from people who did Facebook before it was tied to their writing–I basically got on to talk to writers. Oh, yeah, and THEN I thought about adding my family. 🙂

      Can’t wait to get your book–my mailman may have to actually do the snow/sleet thing to get it to me!


  16. Ana Lucía Arroyave says:

    I found about Glimpse by Stacey Wallace and Hush Money by Susan Bischoff. Great books and self published


  17. Laura Best says:

    I recently bought Dave Ebright’s self-published book, “Bad Latitude.” Had I not *met* him online I know I wouldn’t have. I do like to support writers that I get to know online. That said, I know there are people out there who bought my book who likely would never have even heard of me had it not been through my blog.

    There are plenty of great self-published books out there. 🙂


    • beckylevine says:

      I’ve been feeling the book-buying world expanding it’s attutde lately, and the comments here are confirming that. It is an amazing time for publishing, even with all its complications and challenges.


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