Does Social Media Really Sell Books?

In brief, yes and no.

Over at Writer Unboxed, I’ve written a post on social media marketing. It begins:

Most new authors, upon securing a book contract or planning a book launch, are advised they need to establish a Twitter account, a Facebook page, or [list social media channel here]. Why? To market their book, of course.

This presents an immediate dilemma: If the author is not already active on these channels, of her own interest and volition, she now has the mindset of using these tools to “market”—and the new author may have no idea what that means beyond telling people to like their page or follow them.

Go read the full post (with a wonderful discussion in the comments), A Key Marketing Principle That Authors Must Learn (or Not Forget).

And for those paying attention, I am once again a regular Writer Unboxed columnist. It’s good to be back, and my thanks to Therese and the WU family for so warmly welcoming my return.

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Jane Friedman has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. From 2001–2010 she worked at Writer's Digest, where she ultimately became publisher; more recently, she was an editor at the Virginia Quarterly Review, where she led digital strategy. Jane currently teaches writing and publishing at the University of Virginia and is a columnist for Publishers Weekly. The Great Courses just released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (2017). Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.
Posted in Marketing & Promotion, Social Media and tagged , .


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  5. The short answer… no, social media the tool does not sell books.

    YOU, as an author, are responsible for using these tools to sell books. That means you must build and respect a community of people who choose to read what you post on social media.

    If you don’t already have that community built, you can still use social media tools to help you market your books, but under the right context, the right mindset when doing so.

    The short version?

    Social media is not an advertising billboard, it’s a cocktail party at first, and then you’re inviting people over to your “house” on social media.

    When you invite people over to your house, you don’t start the conversation by shouting out “HEY, everyone, I’m selling books I wrote!” … do you?


    And, when you’re at a cocktail party, you don’t do that either.

    Social media is exactly what it says it is… social. And, most people (and larger companies, unfortunately) who are marketing on social media forget one important thing:

    Social media tools were created for people to connect first, NOT to have marketers interrupt people with their marketing messages.

    No one logs on to Facebook thinking “You know what? I’m going to look for the first person who’s marketing something today…”

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