Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Honest Talk about Social Media, Publishing, and Amazon

This post might rub people the wrong way, and if it does, please remember that I am always open to a debate on anything expressed in the post. That being said, let's get started:

Nobody gives a shit about your social media platforms.

I know that is a big hypocritical statement to make, given the fact that I promote these posts with my social media platforms, but bear with me. This isn't as crotchety as it sounds.

The reason why nobody gives a shit about your social media is because, at this point, everyone else has a social media platform. The charm of these now-established technologies has worn off, been exploited by its creators, and is slowly marching to becoming a part of our lives we take for granted.

Question: how many people here actually click on all the links your friends post on Facebook during the day? For me, I click on a good number. Mostly articles and pieces of information I find interesting. I give out likes to my fellow authors when they post something about their journey or their work, but rarely do I actually click on links to things like Amazon. I do this knowing that this is done right back to me, as I will admit I am a bit addicted to posting articles, podcasts, and other eclectic stuff that I find cool enough to share. However, I don't click on every link, check out every friend, or like every post that is made. Truth be told, I don't know anyone who does.

And I bet money that this is happening to Twitter users as well. Google + is turning into a different sort of marketing platform, one we still don't quite understand (and neither does Google.) Of course, speculation is speculation, as we have evidence to contradict all of it. Please understand, I'm not going to point the finger and saying "this works, this doesn't work." I only worked in social media for so long before I left, and back then the information was even more skewed. Making your way to be effective with social media takes a lot of time, a lot of thought, and sometimes, enormous amounts of luck. I know NYT bestsellers that don't break a thousand on their Facebook Fan Pages, and probably never will. In fact, places like Facebook are so inundated with ads that a lot of people have turned away, turned off notifications, or completely ignore them.

Again, this issue isn't anyone's fault. Facebook is a generational thing, and like MySpace, nothing is meant to last forever. There is only so much information a person can take in during the day, and I don't get pissed when authors post about their stuff. That is part of The Business. However, I do think that there are authors out there, mostly of the self-publishing variety, that think a book and a platform are things you need and are things that are equal in importance.

Not so.

But we will get to that in a moment. Let's pull the camera to get a wider view. For authors, editors, and publishers alike, there is one bull out the field that nobody really wants to tame, but they are definitely a gigantic part of making a books successful in today's marketplace.

Yep, I'm talking about Amazon.

At this point it is hard to say that Amazon isn't the go-to place for the majority of book buyers, especially Kindle users, and most of the links to literary products I see hawked on social media are often linked to an Amazon page. This makes the industry very difficult to navigate for any author, let alone a self-published one, as we saw with the Hachette war where both sides came out taking damage. Authors lost money, Amazon lost the trust of a lot of people. I am still figuring out how I feel about the situation personally, but I think we can all agree that Amazon isn't moving for the time being as the sales leader of the publishing industry. With so many books available in multiple formats, it becomes harder for authors to get their work out there in the hands of readers, even the voracious ones who read at a pace that is sometimes stunning.

So let's get back to the authors who worry about both the social media platform and their book and putting them both on equal footing. Well, first off, you need to have work available to have a platform. I wouldn't be on this blog if I didn't have something I wanted you to check out. The problem I have with authors who state that the social platforms matter just as much as the book does miss as a plain and simple truth:

It doesn't matter how pretty your store front is, if there is cow shit on the shelves, there cow shit on the shelves. Beyond some rustic farmer, nobody wants to buy cow shit.

Social media does matter. It helps up communicate with each other, with authors, and with honest-to-goodness fans of the genres we all love, yet these platforms should never be equal or supersede the quality of your output.

Work on The Craft of Writing.

Work on your ability to tell a story.

These are the two things that guarantee that your work will do something positive when it finds its way onto the market, whatever way it makes it to the market. If you put out the best work possible the readers will make you. Not Facebook. Not Amazon, Not Twitter.

The readers matter the most.

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