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Can self-published authors sell books without social media?

A lot of self-published authors feel like they need to jump on board the social media train because it will help you sell your books.

There are a few things wrong with this thinking. The first is thinking that opening up a Facebook or Twitter account is all that’s preventing you from becoming a bestseller. While it can and usually will help if you’re using the platforms effectively, social media does not automatically equal increased book sales. Good social media can mean a lot of things: generally it raises your profile, establishes a community for you online, helps you grow your overall author platform, and builds a relationship with your readers. And, once you’ve got all those things down, it can help you sell books.

This brings up the obvious question: if you’re not already on social media and don’t really want to be (or you have a personal Facebook account that you really don’t want to devote to self-promotion), can’t you sell your books without having to use social media?

The short answer is yes.

The longer answer is:

Keep in mind that you’ll lose out on certain opportunities that you can’t get elsewhere: a global reach, a place where you can piggy-back off ongoing conversations, and the chance to participate in the communities that fit your target audience. But, if social media is a beast that you just don’t know how to tackle, there are other things you can devote your energies to that will help your sales.

These are the elements all self-published authors will need to take care of if they’re going to skip the social media world. (NB: these are actually good things for all authors to do, regardless if you’re online or not.)

One: Focus on your local network.

If you don’t have an online network then you need to double down on your physical/non-virtual network.

  • Make sure you spread the word to your close family and friends, who are your first guaranteed buys and will likely do a lot of the talking up and recommending of your book.

  • Take advantage of any local or in-person opportunities like conferences, readings, community organizations, or clubs. Don’t aggressively push your book (nobody wants a salesperson for a friend), but think about creative ways to spread the word to these networks once it's published. Can you hold a book club meeting for your book? A launch party? A fundraiser for a cause that the book is promoting? Giveaways for a local charity or auction?

Two: Let others do the talking.

If you’re not going to be online, that doesn’t mean that your book shouldn’t be. Take advantage of your friends, kids, or cousins that are active online and have them spread the word for you. A few experienced or popular friends will probably do a lot better recommending your book to their network then you would as a first-time Twitter user.

Three: Leverage your connections.

Don’t forget to take advantage of any and all important connections. If you’ve got a blogger friend, maybe you can do a guest post on their blog. If you have a relative that could endorse your book or get you a media interview, make sure you talk to them. When it comes to your book, you can’t afford to be shy. Just remember to be respectful and polite. Take no for an answer and try to find ways in which you can help your good friends/family members in return.

Four: Make sure you have a website.

Whether or not this takes the form of a blog, static website, or social media account, every author should have some place that allows readers to find out more about their work, connects them to a purchasing page, and gives them updates or information about other books in a series.

Five: Get reviewed like crazy.

These days, readers trust other readers most of all, so (whether you’re participating in social media or not) make sure you’re getting your book reviewed. This can mean signing up for review lists, sending personalized pitches to bloggers and book reviewers, and encouraging all your readers to review your books on Amazon.

In closing

At the end of the day, these are things that self-published authors should focus on whether they’re online or not. The truth is, even a well-run social media account is not going to sell your books for you. Social media does contribute to your sales numbers, but less significantly than you might expect. If you ask any successful indie publisher, they’ll tell you it’s the reviews, the recommendations, the wrangling of favours and friendships, the hard work spent on cover art and marketing material that did a lot of the work.

Disagree with our assessment? Let us know in the comments!