I've mentioned Seth Godin on this blog several times. He's a bestselling author who made the jump from traditional publishing to self-publishing, redefining what it means to be a publisher with the Domino Project. Though he writes non-fiction about the business world, a lot of what he says is relevant to fiction writers.
In his July 17 on the Domino Project he highlights a couple of important issues:
"If you're going to make a business of your art, you need to be responsible for the monetization - you can't wait to be picked."
"On the other hand, if the lizard brain is happier having you tweet instead of write, you've got a serious creation problem, one that you need to address before you're going to be able to make more great work."
Seth doesn't provide an answer to this dilemma but he does shine a necessary light on it. Social media is an important tool for raising a profile, helping to establish a brand and generally creating awareness of an author and his/her books.
BUT IT WON'T SELL MANY BOOKS unless you get hit by some Amanda Hocking lightning and, like all random phenomena, that doesn't happen very often. Worse yet, when it does happen, it deludes many authors into believing that it will happen to them. All they have to do is upload their books to Amazon and leave the light on for the Brinks armored car when they drop off the first million bucks.
What will sell books? The same thing that sells every other product and service known to mankind - advertising. I'm using Google Adwords to promote my first ebook, Motion To Kill on Amazon. After the first month, I'm in the black, taking in more revenue than I've spent on advertising and averaging in the last week a 2:1 ratio of revenue to expense. Motion To Kill has made it to #29 on the Kindle top 100 bestseller list for legal thrillers and to #54 on the Amazon books top 100 bestseller list for legal thrillers.
I've limited my promotion of Motion To Kill on BN.com to social media and managed to sell 4 copies and achieved a sales rank of 177,452.
I can't prove that Adwords generated every sale on Amazon but I can't attribute this incredible disparity exclusively to Amazon's greater market share. All I can do is look at the numbers and be glad my Adwords campaign appears to be working so well, even if the sample size is limited to one month's data.
If these trends continue, I'll stick to Adwords as my primary sales and marketing tool. I won't abandon social media - as the blog demonstrates. But I won't let social media get in the way of my job - which is to write great books people will want to buy.
I'll keep you posted in the coming months and let you know how my grand experiment is going.