Thursday, May 16, 2013

Why Social Media for Writers is Like House Flipping

Does this book actually exist?
Sure seems everyone here had a copy at one time!
Several years ago the housing market in Florida crashed. Well, it's kinda crashed everywhere, but I think we were hit particularly hard. I heard at one point the foreclosure rate was 70% in parts of the state here. I blame several things, including banks who are willing to loan people more money than they can pay back and financial advisers who tell people their mortgage payment "should" be like 25% of their income (or 30%, or 50%, or whatever), when everyone's budget is different and the cost of living and the need for saving simply doesn't allow it.

But that's not all I blame. I also blame the house-flipping fad. I saw it coming--I swear to you, I did. I predicted it to so many people and no one listened to me. I supposed that's because I'm essentially a nobody, but it seems like common sense. House prices start rising, people en masse start thinking they can make money off their homes. Then they think, "With the way those prices are going up, I can sell my house, buy another house, then turn around and sell that house and make even more money." And so on, and so forth. That's called house-flipping: buying a house and either fixing it up or leaving it as is and just raising the price to turn around and sell it for profit.

Here's the problem: If everyone is out to flip their houses, who are they going to sell to?

The Floridians not interested in flipping stayed where they were and weren't interested in buying new homes, or they sold their house to a potential house-flipper and got the bleep out of Dodge, moving to places like North Carolina where the house prices hadn't started rising. (Granted, they did eventually start rising in NC--we saw that first-hand a couple of years after the FL market crashed because we were considering moving there, and the market was well on its way to falling up there, too. Fortunately, we didn't move. Although, I still want out of FL. And for the record, since we stayed in the house we were in before the market upheaval here, we're almost paid off rather than upside-down in our mortgage like everyone else.)

 So what does this have to do with writing, and social media specifically?

Social media is a place writers go to promote their work. They want word spread so readers will read it. Just like house-flippers, they need potential buyers.

And just like the housing market here, which became overloaded with house-flippers, the social media arena has become overloaded with writers.

I have read so many blog articles about how easy it is to use Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and Pinterest to attract potential readers. The articles include so many dos and don'ts. They seem so well thought-out, so informative. They make so much sense.

Until I try to implement them. And what I get, instead of readers interested in reading my book are a slurry of authors trying to sell me theirs. Or, like real estate agents who were flourishing during the housing market rise, I get groups who want to "help market" my books. For money, of course.

But readers, just like honest-to-goodness potential homebuyers back during the peak of the crash, are hard to reach. They're hunkered down with their familiar ways of finding books, like Amazon and Goodreads newsletters or suggestions from friends, the way we were hunkered down and refused to go house-hunting when the housing prices were rising. Or, they've already cashed in and gotten involved in places like NetGalley, where they're getting a nice little supply of free review copies direct from publishers who can afford to pay the steep fees to list their books there. But social media?

The fact is, in my own personal experience, social media is the meeting place of writers with other writers, not writers with readers. Some of the tips I've followed include searching keywords for specific genres....and I get tons of writers. Or following everyone who follows you...and I get tons of writers. Or searching out specific authors or books and follow their followers (that's my latest)....and guess who's finding me and following because of that? More writers.

I don't really understand. Yes, I love the fellowship of other writers--I do! I really, really do. But I know that most of these writers aren't hoping for my Twitter follow so we can fellowship. They are wanting to sell books. And so am I. We are at an impasse. And the readers are off in their overpriced houses reading the books they love and completely oblivious to the struggling writers out there trying to reach them.

The difference is, I don't think social media is going to crash. Just like there actually were some people who made money during the Florida housing fiasco a few years ago, and some people actually did buy new homes and didn't end up in foreclosure, writers do, now and then, hit the mark while using social media. And that little bit of traction seems to be all we need to keep going.

Anyway, I'm not really writing this to resolve anything or offer any answers. I don't have any answers. Just the observance that social media for writers shares some commonality with the house-flipping fad. Pointless maybe for me to say so, but then again so was me telling everyone I thought the housing market would crash and it didn't stop me from saying that back then :P.


Krysti said...

Funny you should mention this, Kat. I'm about sick to death of social media--as both an artist and a writer, and I don't want to deal with it any more for either one. But I don't yet know what to replace it with.

RebeccaPMinor said...

A thousand amens to what you're saying here, Kat. I, too, am hugely grateful for the network of writers facebook has connected me with, but as for readers? Um...not sure where they are. And the sad fact is, we writers tend to be poor folk, so we don't really buy a ton of books. If I want to give my book away, I have a great network of people interested in it. But buyers? Notsomuch. No answers here, either. So I'll just use this moment to say, "You're right!"

Kat Heckenbach said...

Glad to see I'm not the only one feeling this frustration.

I really love Facebook and have a great time on there connecting to the writers I'm friends with there. It's a great way to stay motivated! But I just don't know how to find plain-old everyday readers. Well, without feeling like a stalker...but that's a-whole-nother post :P.

Krysti, not sure if there IS a replacement for social media.

Becky, so true about writers being oh-so-willing to read for free ;).

Mass.Maverick said...

Interesting input at a critical point in time Kat. Thanks for this tip.

I'm trying to get a posse of anthology authors together to market some anthologies to which we've all contributed. I was thinking social media, guess I'll have to re-evaluate.

Kat Heckenbach said...

I wouldn't write it off completely, though. Social media's not worthless for marketing--I just don't think it's all easy-peasy the way some articles make it sound, and it needs to be one of many marketing strategies. Plus, it works differently for different people. I'm going by personal experience and personal observation.

One thing I have noticed, for example, is that nonfiction writers do far better with social media than fiction writers. I think that has to do with the idea that a nonfiction writer is likely to post about things related to their book topic, and that's like giving out free samples at a restaurant. But it's a little different for fiction authors. Readers get burned so often, they need confidence that your *story-telling* doesn't suck, and clever tweets or great content about the how-tos of something don't give them that.

Anyway, the one benefit you have with an anthology is that having all those authors gives you a built-in team of marketers. I do wish you luck in whatever strategies you try!

Kristen Stieffel said...

It's not just on the writer-reader end. I don't get much benefit from social media in terms of promoting my editing business. I've gotten more business from LinkedIn (3 clients) than from Facebook (0). But most of my business comes from job postings at the national associations I belong to. I also get a bit from people I actually know in person. Social media is good for relationship building, but the only way it works for marketing is indirectly. In other words, I don't buy An Author's book because I've Liked the author on Facebook. I buy the book because A Reader I know and respect says "You'll like this book."

Something About the Joy said...

So true, Kat. Thanks for putting the frustration into words. I still use social media, but more to keep in touch with people I know than for book promotion. And you never know what status remark might turn into promotion. I think you just can't plan for it to. I've given up chasing the butterfly. I'm blogging more, and actually getting some notice that way, through blogs with large followings that I contribute to. It's not notice that leads directly to book sales, but that's okay. Some people are reading something I write at least.

But I have just sold a book (to a writer who also manages to read 2-5 books a week!) through a Twitter connection. So I think it's just serendepitous. Or better yet, under the watchful eye of the Creator, who does not despise the day of small things. Thankfully.

Kat Heckenbach said...

Yeah, Ginny, FB is where I stay connected to people and interact. More for fun than anything, and a place to hang out with friends and other writers. Any book sales come from real connections rather than marketing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kat! Great post and comments. I gave up on FB and am bored with Linkedin. People I know are using social media less than in the past couple of years. You know when seniors are a growing sector on FB that younger users have already moved on to the next best thing which will constantly change. My goal is eventually to have an agent and publisher but until then, I blog and network on a local level. I did go through FB withdrawl syndrome but got over it when I realized the Weather Channel didn't really miss me as much as I missed them. Rick Christensen

Kat Heckenbach said...

LOL, Rick--the weather channel...

And that's a good point about the fact that social media is always changing. The next new thing is around the corner at all times.

Anonymous said...

Today, Yahoo paid $1 Billion dollars for a company called Tumblr or something like that. $1 Billion dollars! Not sure how it is spelled or what it does or can do but I think it ties in to the next best thing...for this week anyhow. Rick Christensen

Kat Heckenbach said...

I know what Tumblr is, but I didn't know Yahoo bought them. Well...if they're owned by Yahoo now, they'll soon be royally screwed up and everyone will be moving on to something new....

Anonymous said...

Hi Kat! Good timing...artcile in the paper today that young people are leaving FB for Twitter due to too much information and too many parents. Rick C.

Lyn said...

Buy my book.

Kat Heckenbach said...

Oh, Lyn...

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Kat -

I popped over here from the ACFW loop.

One thing not taken into account here is the simple fact that writers are avid readers. I purchase and read lots of books. So reaching writers is not necessarily a bad thing.

I have encountered marketing problems from being with a small press. Bookstores turn their nose up at me, and people constantly ask if I'm self-published. Social Media has helped a great deal, but it should be looked at as one way to get the job done and not the be all end all.


Kat Heckenbach said...

Susan, yes, writers are avid readers :). But they can only read so many books and when you get on social media you are nearly drowned in solicitation for indie books. I tend to tune most of them out, and I'm pretty sure a lot of my posting gets tuned out as well.

That said, I'm not trying to discount them!

I know what you mean about bookstores, and the fact that small press is seen as the equivalent of self-published. Sometimes I think people consider it almost worse because they don't understand it.