I love technology. I really do. Last year when I thought my book was going to be published (before the publishing company went pear-shaped) I set up a twitter account and happily set about building up a following, employing a combination of automated tweets (using Tweetadder), and personal engagement from the Twitter application on my smart phone. Twitter would form part of the platform we authors are supposed to build.
I fell out of tweeting and the twitter world when my publisher failed before my book was published and I have stayed dormant on social media whilst I awaited news of my book (which I have submitted to Storylines for the Tom Fitzgibbon award).
A couple of weeks ago I got chatting to an author friend who has moved from traditional publishing to self publishing. Julie has written a fabulous series for girls featuring a trio of baby griffins and a feisty but messy heroine. The books are well-written and fun to read, and bang on the subjects that young girls love. I can’t recommend them enough. Julie’s primary strategy for selling books is a personal one – she gets out and does school talks to promote herself and her books. She’s not much into social media although she has a beautiful website that would turn most children’s authors green with envy (check it out here). During our conversation she made an interesting comment – she doesn’t get many book orders from her website.
It got me wondering whether I could use my Twitter following of around 3000+ people to direct traffic to her site, and if that would help with her online sales. With her permission I set up an experiment – for one week I tweeted (up to 15 tweets a day) a combination of: links to her website (with a recommendation of her books or an intriguing comment), links to my own blog, and links to other interesting writer-focussed blog posts.
At the end of the week, I gave her a call to see what the results of this very unscientific study were, and if there were any conclusions to be extracted from it.
Here is what happened over that week:
- Some people retweeted the links to Julie’s site so the exposure to Twitter users was extended beyond my own followers
- Traffic to Julie’s site increased slightly, but nowhere near the ten-fold increase I noticed in traffic to my blog
- The increase in traffic to Julie’s site did not result in any additional book sales, nor did it result in any personal contact being made to Julie to book her for author talks etc.
Of course, the results are open to interpretation. Maybe I didn’t tweet enough. The question of how much to tweet is a judgement call. For those who follow only a few people, a large number of tweets originating from a single person is very annoying. But tweet too little and those who follow thousands will never see your tweets. Perhaps I didn’t use the right hashtags. I tried a combination but were they the right ones? I tend to connect with other authors on twitter – that might not be the right audience to try and sell books to.
Any of those factors could have affected the result, but here is what I think happened:
The marketing tweets were ignored – like billboards on the side of the road, followers learn to recognise marketing at a glance and to disregard it, as if it were never there. Twitterers are more likely to click on links that lead to articles of personal interest to them. My blog posts are focussed on writing and I think that explains why there was a higher increase in traffic to my blog than to Julie’s author website.
The logic behind my reasoning is simple. It’s because this is how I behave on Twitter. I almost never click on marketing links to other author’s books – at least not without having had some personalised contact with the author first. There are thousands of book marketing links being tweeted every second of every day. It would be difficult (impossible even) to write a 140-character tweet promoting a book that was so original and gripping, I would be compelled to click the link and then take the additional step of actually buying the book.
The one and only time I have purchased a book from a Twitter follower was when that author made personal contact with me after reading one of my blog posts. He had some really helpful advice to share. After that interaction I was willing to spend $1.99 to purchase his book, and curious to see what it was like.
Does Twitter sell books? I think relationships and personal interactions sell books. Twitter is simply a communication channel you can use to facilitate those interactions.
I’d love to hear about other authors’ experiences with social media. Has anyone found a method of using social media that translated into increased traffic and book sales? Was my approach wrong?
I’m also interested to hear if anyone has purchased a book from an author they didn’t previously know after a social media interaction.