“I Tried Facebook, It Didn’t Work” And Other Ways Authors Mistake Social Media For Publicity

There is no magic button to build your audience. No secret button in Twitter or Facebook or Pinterest that will suddenly get the word out about your book to 20,000 people, or increase your followers by 300% overnight.

An author said this to me recently:

“I tried Facebook, it didn’t work.”

This is common feedback I hear from writers – they tried a certain social media platform or a specific marketing tactic, it didn’t drive more book sales right away or didn’t result in significant audience grow right away, so they become jaded and stop using it.

What is missing here is something simple, and profound: RESPECT. Respect for the audience of readers that you hope to engage. Social media is amazing in how it has provided us new ways to connect with others. But don’t be mistaken that it has somehow changed the nature of how human beings establish trust and behave – it hasn’t.

The basics still matter, and those authors who leverage social media best are those who focus on the basics of understanding, caring about, and truly engaging with their audience.

Are you writing in a genre or topic that hundreds or thousands of others are too? Do you want to differentiate yourself from them? Well, first, obviously, is to write a great book – hone your skills. But beyond that, focus on understanding your audience better than anyone else. Become an expert on those people who buy books like those you write.

Why? Because most writers have only the vaguest idea of who their audience might be. And the truth is, they are scared to find out more, they want to idealize them and keep them at a distance.

If you aren’t talking to your ideal readers every week, you are keeping a distance. You are putting a barrier between you and the understanding of who buys these books, why they buy them, and so many other things that are critical to understanding the BUSINESS side of publishing.

Maybe you are an author who writes just to write. I love that, and support you 100%. But if you are someone who wants to have an effect – who wants to develop an audience for your work and actually sell books – make an effort to learn about your audience. Focus on the basics, not the buttons.

Too many authors mistake social media for publicity.

Developing your platform as an author is about focusing on the basics, not tricks. Simon & Garfunkel once used this line in one of their songs:

Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson?
Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away

The implication is a pining for the heroes we knew, the embodiment of a simpler time when we had role models we could look up to and emulate.

There are many writers who look at social media in the same regard. They bemoan the idea that “authors must be marketers” when really that isn’t the case at all. Joe DiMaggio famously responded to the song saying he hasn’t gone anywhere. And this is the case with marketing and authors too.

Nothing has changed. If you feel that you need to do “slimy” marketing things to publicize your books because the world of publishing has changed, you are wrong. You have a choice. You can focus on building meaningful relationships with your ideal readers.