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!
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.