Monday, September 29, 2014

Is Social Media Worth It?

Good Morning. Yes, this is another post about the dreaded question -- is social media worth our time and energy? Janice Hardy over on Fiction University had a guest last Thursday, Dario Ciriello, author, and owner of Panverse Press. His topic was social media presence for writers.

To paraphrase... (But you really should go read the article. And the comments.)

He said:
This core assumption is reinforced by agents, publishers, publicists, and other authors. Some agents won’t even take on a new client unless that writer has a Facebook following of at least 500 and a Twitter following in excess of 5,000. At minimum, you also need a website; but you should also blog, guest blog, and have a Pinterest page for your each of your books, right? 

He said:
"...there are two things—and just two—that will meet your readership’s core needs and leave you with far more time and energy to write: a website and an email list."

I agree. My website is my blog is my newsletter. I've been here nearly five years. People know where to find me. I stuck the email-this-blog-to-your-inbox-thingie on my sidebar. (I wish I knew how many people actually did it. I'm sure there's an analytics tab or something to find out.) However, if readers/fans want to know me better they can follow me if they want to. No pressure.

He said:
"Does your social media presence sell any books? What's the conversion rate, the ROI (Return on Investment), in terms of books sold? I'm not advocating others who enjoy social media abandon point is simply that I believe that in terms of actual marketing and book sales, the ROI is at the very least hard to measure; frankly, I think it's minimal... As far as I can tell, there's zero empirical evidence that the time writers spend on social media brings returns in terms of book sales.

And do any of us put a $ value on our time ? We should. Because if, as I suspect, one gets one sale for every dozens of hours spent blogging or on social media.... well, at that point we might be better off advertising or hiring a publicist. :)

Which is why I like Twitter. I'm on, I'm off. Quick. When I see friends or colleagues on Twitter, it's like running into them at the coffee shop. Sometimes 420 characters is all you need. My biggest regret of late has been neglecting to comment on other blogs. 

Unfortunately, I think that's the cruelest trick of them all. We start out on social media, build a friendship, a base, and then once we get "famous/comfortable/an agent/contract/publisher" we abandon them. We don't have time for them because we're working hard on the next book and the next and the next. 

He said:
Say you spend just an hour a day (I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt) on Facebook, Twitter, your writing blog, etc. In a year that amounts to around 350 hours, which is the equivalent of ten thirty-five-hour weeks. And this doesn’t even address the effect that regularly fragmenting one’s time and attention has on the creative mind. 

If we want our work to be seen and read, we must hawk our own wares sometime. Who else is going to do it? I'm not advocating 35 hours a week, but at least 10. Quality, not quantity.

I Tweet in spurts. When I have time and the laptop, I'm more apt to make an appearance. Yes, I do Tweet about my latest book releases. But so what. Everybody else does too. Even those people who tell us not to do it. But how else are readers supposed to hear of it? (I don't think I'm obnoxious about it.) And besides, we can't all do commercials on TV like James Patterson.

I blog on Sunday (Anne Gallagher) and Monday (Piedmont Writer). I write my posts on Friday nights. I gather my topics during the course of the week and spend the late afternoon getting it all together. 

I'm on Goodreads, LinkedIn, and yes, I do have Pinterest boards for all my books. I like them. But I don't frequent the these places, and for the most part they're just static.

He said:
My issue with writers blogging, spending time on writer sites, and all the rest, is that other writers are typically not our audience. Yes, there are things to be learned, but I think the writer's business is to write. There must come a time when one has a good command of one's craft, understands the basics of markets, formatting, etc., etc., and really, how informed does a writer need to be? 

I also agree "...that other writers are typically not our audience."

However, here's my caveat. 

I spend most of my time alone. In a room, in the basement, with spiders. Sometimes I just need some contact with the "outside" world to reassure myself

a) I'm not alone.
b) I'm a writer. 
c) Somewhere in the world, someone else is doing the exact same thing I am. 

Which is why I'm in the basement in the first place. My family just doesn't understand my need for solitude.

I love my "job". I cannot imagine going back into the restaurant business. (Not at my age. Unless the pay was phenomenal.) Writing is what I have always wanted to do, and now I'm doing it. 

I've tried to not be social. I've gone into my cave and not come out for months. It didn't make a dent one way or another in my sales. So whether I'm on it or off it, it doesn't make a difference to the ROI.

However, in not being social I missed some things (blogs, articles, book releases, news) that I probably wanted to hear. I guess you have to trade one for the other. 

These days, I'm with Mr. Ciriello. Less is actually more. And if there's no ROI, then why bother wasting your time. However, it's a good idea to be seen occasionally. Besides, you might meet a new friend.

Tell me -- What do you do for social media? If you're published, do you think it has a Return on Investment? 

Anne Gallagher (c) 2014


Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

your caveat is my roi...that's why I call myself the Hermit-Writer.

Maria Zannini said...

I scaled way back a year before my last book published. I don't know if it made a difference in my sales. (And how do you calculate a sale from social media anyway?)

For now, and for my sanity, I prefer to blog or go on FB only when I have something to share. One thing I deliberately changed is not to focus on other authors entirely.

My pet peeve has always been that writers stick with other writers and that simply doesn't expand your fan base. Good for moral support, but little else.

J.B. Chicoine said...

I'm still trying to figure out the ROI of social media. Overall, I agree with what Ciriello is saying. I also think we can't underestimate the fact that for some, it requires far more output mentally and emotionally to make one's self visible. At this point in my writing gig, networking is utterly exhausting with very little tangible return. I can think of a hundred more gratifying ways to spend my time!

...that said, I probably ought to post SOMETHING on my blog--it's been such a long time away (it seems to me)...

Bish Denham said...

I didn't self-publish for the money. If I make back the $$ I put into them, I'll be happy. I self-published because I'm getting too old to play the waiting game with agents and publishers. I self-published because I know my stories are just as good, if not better, than stuff that get's traditionally published. I self-published because I have friends and family who want to read my stuff and that's plenty good enough for me. What's been a nice surprise is the number of books that have been sold in the UK.

I like facebook because I have specific group pages where I can post about my books and the people who populate those pages are readers. I have yet to figure out what twitter is all about.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I spend a little time every day on social media and I admit to using it as a procrastination tool. My book sales do seem to climb when I'm more active even when I'm not promoting. I completely don't get how social media impacts sales.

Anne Gallagher said...

Mac -- Yeah, I can see that.

Maria -- That seems to be the hardest thing for me to find -- the readers, the fans if you will. I know plenty of writers, but have met only 2 readers.

Bridget -- I don't think social media has any impact on sales. I just think it's something we all do because someone else started it before us and told us that's why we do it.

Bish -- There's as many different reasons to publish as there are to use social media. To me, you've pretty much figured it all out.

Twitter is a blast if you can stand it. But it's a bear if you can't.

Susan -- LOL. Procrastination. Such a dirty word. We call it "thinking on the story" over here in the Piedmont.

It's not that social media impacts sales, but it does. When you're on it, people see you. They might remember they read you had a recent book release, they think, "Oh, yeah, I need to buy that book."

It's not so much that you're spamming, but being social that prompts sales.

Sarah Ahiers said...

I'm only on Social Media that i like. So my main one is FB because that's where all my friends and family are.

I dabble in twitter some, mostly for a few friends that are there pretty heavily. And i blog because at this point it's a habbit, and i'm at least keeping it going until the books come out

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Social Media is mostly a time-suck that feels like we are doing something about our writing when we are actually NOT WRITING.

It is a good way to burn out. I hope your sales are good!! :-)

Karen Jones Gowen said...

I blog to connect with other writers, because it's such a solitary job. It's a huge benefit to me in that way, sharing and learning and growing through my online interaction with others who are going through the same things. Also, it's a great way to make connections to get advance reviews from authors and book blog reviewers. But selling books? I don't blog to sell books. I do however have an author website where anyone who is interested in knowing more about me and my books can go for that information.

Anne R. Allen said...

Anne--I agree about needing social media for psychological reasons. Those spiders just don't provide all the social interaction we need. :-)

But it is an insane time-suck. It also gives our readers access to us that can be unnerving and creepy at times.

But I think it's necessary. My blog is how I got my publisher, my agent, my readers and now a regular gig with Writer's Digest. I wouldn't give it up, even though it meant more time to actually write, which is hard to come by these days. Great post!

Jay Sims said...

This is new to me...I will be approaching a publisher shortly (currently the book is undergoing a developmental edit) The publisher stipulated that I must be able to show a strong social media following for the writing. In your experience, is this becoming a common requirement with credible publishers?

Anne Gallagher said...

Jay -- Since the advent of e-publishing, about five years now, agents have been demanding a strong social media presence.

Truthfully, I don't understand why because it's been said time and again that social media does not sell books.

I believe it has more to do with your SEO (search engine optimization) than anything else. They like if your name comes up within the first two pages of results.

Don't sweat it. Pick one form of social media you think you can do, and do it. Slowly build a following. And keep writing. We can't all sell our first books.