Does Social Media Affect Book Sales?

27 May

Fuck if I know.  I haven’t done any exhaustive research.  I don’t have published books and a well-known web presence to check with.  I just have my own personal habits.

Like a lot of readers, I have a long TBR list full of great books I wish I had the time to get around to reading.  A surprising number of those books I learned about online.  Many in forums, but an equally large, or perhaps larger number from reading blogs.  I can’t say for sure how many I learned about directly from the author’s own web presence.  I’m sure a large number were recommended by other members of the online writing community.

I think that the majority of books I learn about through social media I learn of through the community as a whole, which includes writers pimping other writers’ books, but not a lot of writers pimping their own books.  So it becomes hard to say whether web presence by a specific author has an influence on the sale of their books.  Even in terms of my own buying experience.

What I can tell you is that I’ve bought a lot more books of recommendations or browsing the bookstore than I’ve bought books off my TBR list recommended by social media.  There are plenty of books I’ve decided I want to read, but once I’m away from the internet, I forget titles or just am not exposed to enough immediate incentive to buy them, even if I loved them when reading about them on a blog or twitter feed.

In my experience social media definitely generates interest, but I can’t say that it’s actually gotten books out of the store and into my hands.

It’s something I greatly regret, and I always plan to make a stronger effort next time, but it does seem to be the reality that a strong web presence is not enough to generate actual sales.


Posted by on May 27, 2012 in Blogging, Publishing, Social Media


Tags: ,

7 responses to “Does Social Media Affect Book Sales?

  1. Arlee Bird

    May 27, 2012 at 6:36 PM

    To answer the question in your title I would say emphatically that social media does affect book sales. It may not be the gateway to best selling sales, but a far-reaching blogger or someone who has a lot of contact through social media forum can and will probably sell a number of books because of that presence. Loyalty to the personality will generate sales, but the author must build that following.

    An example I will cite is Alex J Cavanaugh. He had a big build up to his first book through his blog. He built up his blog following with a congenial blog personality and participation in events such as the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge which he has co-hosted with me for the last 2 years. As I look at the reviews for his books on Amazon, I see many of the reviewers with “verified purchases” as bloggers who I recognize as being followers of Alex’s blog.

    I could cite several similar examples. The social media platform is part of a multifaceted campaign necessary to extend ones public awareness which is further extended by word of mouth. I think that most literary agents will recommend that an author start a blog and also establish a presence in other places as well. Generating interest is the first step to building the buzz.

    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out

  2. atsiko

    May 27, 2012 at 7:10 PM

    I do have some anecdotal examples of social media getting me to buy a book here and there. I won a copy of Rachel Aaaron’s book “The Spirit Thief” in a blog contest, and I liked it enough to buy the rest of the books in the series. I feel safe in attributing those sales directly to her web presence, because I don’t think I would have heard of her otherwise. Public awareness is very useful, and it’s something that social media can generate.

    I guess this somewhat contradicts the conclusion I came to in my actual post, but I think it’s a complicated enough issue that both conclusions can exist at the same time without resulting in some sort of matter/anti-matter explosion.

    • Arlee Bird

      May 27, 2012 at 7:42 PM

      I think the real problem arises from having a social media presence with no activity. I’ve seen so many author blogs where books are being promoted but there is no appearance of any followers, comments, or any sign that the author’s posts are even being read by anyone. Yet the authors continue to post about their books. Anyone beginning author, musician, artist, or whatever is going to have to get out there and socialize unless they are so fortunate to have people doing it for them. But I truly believe that 99% of the time that getting noticed has to start at the source.

      My guess is that often someone will write a book and then figure someone’s going to find it without them making an effort. Writing is a business and like any business it requires promotion–a lot of different approaches in different outlets, blogs and the like being part of it. The social media presence will eventually start building a hefty online presence which can be a big help.

      It’s like when I first started my blog and had no idea what I was doing. I figured I’d just start posting material and readers would visit and leave comments. After a few weeks I came to the realization that I needed to circulate among other blogs to let people know I was here. Now after a lot of online effort I’ve got a decent following. I feel pretty confident that if I were to publish a book now I could sell at least a couple hundred copies from my blog–no major deal but it’s a start and darn sight cheaper than buying an ad somewhere.

      It’s all gotta start somewhere and book promotion gets a good boost from a blog combined with a well planned social media campaign. Then hopefully some good word of mouth will start kicking in which includes retweeting and blog mentions by the author’s social media network community. Then maybe even enough money for a real advertising campaign.

      An A to Z Co-Host
      Tossing It Out

      • atsiko

        May 27, 2012 at 8:02 PM

        Yeah. The people who read the blog are more likely to be the type of people who rec books to their friends and in their own webspace. Social media have a very good chance at starting word of mouth, even if they only reach a few people directly.

  3. Randi Lee

    June 1, 2012 at 8:04 AM

    I guess it depends on the person. In most cases I’m not influenced enough by social media to buy a book, but I’m only one person.

    • atsiko

      June 1, 2012 at 7:01 PM

      It absolutely depends on the person. It also depends on how much they trust the author of whatever is talking up the book, whether it’s in the right genre, etc.

  4. ericksonpress

    July 6, 2012 at 10:00 AM

    I have to agree a bit with your posters – especially Arlee. There’s a good point out there – if the author is not a part of the web, I don’t think the social medium is going to help them that much. On the other hand, a good looking blog with good content and regular updates both to that blog as well as to the community will spread some hits and, most likely, some sales.


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