The Snowball Effect of Social Media

Can a writer’s blog really help build a platform and sell more books?

Most of us probably started blogging because we heard somewhere in cyberland that any author serious about publication needs to have a blog in order to develop a platform (which is the process of rising up above the masses, gaining a voice, and being heard.) In the online world, platform is essentially one’s web presence.

In a recent post (Do Fiction Readers Really Read Author Blogs) there was a fairly large consensus (see the comments) that most (non-writing) readers aren’t flocking to author blogs. Yes, some do read blogs (I did get this confirmation from a couple readers on Twitter who read my post). But most readers who surf blogs are usually bloggers themselves.

If the average reader doesn’t have a blog, they probably won’t be out reading author blogs on a regular basis, and they’ll be commenting even less. As I mentioned, I’ve found myself connecting with those real genre readers primarily on facebook and through personal emails.

So, back to the question I raised above: Is blogging really worth the effort—particularly for a fiction writer?

 If readers aren’t swinging by, then what’s the point of blogging (especially if we started one to build a platform?) Can a blog really help a fiction author build a platform and sell more books? Or is it a waste of time—time that could be better spent on writing itself?

I can only share what’s worked for me, and obviously not everyone will have the same experience. But I truly do believe that my blogging efforts HAVE helped in the sales of my book, even though my blog is targeted to writers and has very few of my genre readers stopping by.

Here are just a few ways our blogs and other social media can help us.

1. Our blog readers get to know us and want to support us.

No, not everyone who follows us on our blogs, twitter, or facebook will want to buy our novels. We can’t expect it, especially since our blogs are nonfiction and comprise a different readership than our fiction.

However, I’ve been surprised at the numbers of followers/friends that have gone out and purchased my book simply because they’ve gotten to know me and want to support me. I’ve even had friends say that they don’t normally read historical romance, but bought and read my book anyway—and then ended up passing it along to others.

2. The connections open natural doors for other promotion.

When we go outside our writing/blogging cliques and develop a wide variety of friendships within the big writing community, we are setting the groundwork for later.

During the past months of my debut, I had over 40 blog interviews and close to 55 bloggers who reviewed my book. Out of the 90 or so different people who helped promote my book on their blogs, I didn’t have to beg, plead, or make a general nuisance of myself asking them to host me. Almost all of them emailed me with the offer, and I willingly and gratefully accepted.

I never once expected so many followers would go out of their way to help showcase my book, but when we develop a genuine, consistent, web presence, then our friends and even acquaintances want to draw us into their circle and introduce us to their sphere of influence.

3. The more our book is “talked” about in cyberland, the more important it becomes.

When I’m on Twitter and I see a particular book mentioned over and over by a number of people, it begins to perk my attention. I can’t help but think, “If so many people are reading that book, maybe I should too.”

When people chat about my book on their blogs and tweet about it, then their followers (who may not be connected to me yet) will begin to sit up and take notice of it.

4. Even if followers don’t read our book/genre, they’re often willing to share it with others.

As I said, not all my blog followers are fans of inspirational historical romance. But I know that many of those friends still promoted my book. They bought it for a spouse, gave it as a Christmas present to a mom, or recommended it to a book club. In other words they promoted my book to people they knew would be genuinely interested.

5. Writers are a supportive group.

Overall, writers go out of their way to help one another. We all know just how hard today’s market is for the modern writer (published or not). And because writers are also readers, so many of us want to do all we can to promote the industry and help each other succeed.

My Summary: Social media has a snowball effect on the sales of our books that isn’t easy to measure. As our books are rolled around cyberland, we never know where we'll pick up new readers and what will help our book gain momentum. Of course, it goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway), we have to give our friends a good book--one they can be proud to promote.

While I may not be able to quantify my sales as a result of social media, I'm realizing that my consistent efforts at blogging and developing a web presence have indeed influenced the sales of my books. I continue to hear from more and more blog, twitter, and facebook followers that they either purchased my book or bought it for someone else.

Whether social media contributes a little bit or a lot, I'm grateful for each person who's spread the word about The Preacher's Bride! Thank you!

What do you think? Have you ever been discouraged about blogging, wondering if it will really pay off in the long run? Has the social media snowball effect influenced you to buy a book? If so, do you think it can work to help in the promotion of your book someday?

P.S. Congratulations to my critique partner, Keli Gwyn, for getting her first book contract! Hard work and perseverance DO pay off! Keli is celebrating today on her blog!

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