Social media outlets have proven to be one of the best inventions in the history of the arts (writing, music, drama, art, etc) since the invention of the printing press and moveable type. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter have opened whole new audiences and an international market place for budding independent artists of all shapes, sizes, and genres. I have no doubt that my exposure on Twitter is a main driving force that has led to my first book, Officer of the Watch, to sell copies in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, India, Japan, and Denmark as well as here at home in the USA. For a first time, unknown author such as myself, I couldn’t ask for a better tool than these social media sites to spread the word about the works I have available for sale.
One of the great benefits that these social media sites offer that traditional advertising outlets don’t is a chance to interact directly with the customers. I get to talk to readers, receive messages from them, respond to concerns, and build a real relationship with these people. There is a level of connection there that is far deeper than could be achieved in the past by reading a truncated biography on the back flap of a book or spending thirty seconds talking to an author at a book signing. It’s an awesome feeling as a writer to be able to hear someone’s response to my work, and even answer questions or concerns they had about it. That shows me that the people consuming the words I’m putting on the page care about what they’re reading. They care enough to take out time to send a message, ask a question, or just simply push the “like” button and give ma thumbs up for something I’ve done.
Authors crave nothing so much as positive reinforcement for the work we are putting out there. Every time an author publishes a novel, a collection of stories or poems, or even a simple blog post such as this, we are exposing ourselves in a very intimate way. Every word, every sentence, every page has my own personal stamp on it, and there is really a piece of myself in everything I write. When you start getting into the realm of poetry or memoirs, the personal connection to the words on the page becomes even more intimate for the author. So when we receive that positive feedback it is very reassuring and comforting. It lets us know that there are people out there making that brief, ephemeral connection with us across the distance and time that separates us, and they are enjoying it.
But there’s another aspect to the social media interaction that is just as crucial, especially to independent artists and those who are just starting out on their journey as a writer, poet, sculptor, musician, etc. And that is the part that the recipient gets the opportunity to play in growing the audience. Independent authors typically don’t have huge advertising budgets, public relations departments, and press liaison connections. Those are some of the benefits and the trappings that go along with the big house publishers, producers, and galleries that have driven the arts industries in the past and are secretly the dream and desire of many indie artists out there today. For indie artists and authors, though, we are on our own, and we rely heavily on our audience to do some of the work for us.
While seeing likes pile up on a post or a picture is great, and it’s reassuring to the artist in question, hitting the share button or retweeting a post can have an even greater impact. Every time you see a post from an indie artist that you are a fan of and you share that post on Facebook or re-tweet it on Twitter, you are expanding that author’s reach. People who otherwise wouldn’t have seen or heard about that indie artist now have a chance to be introduced to their work. You might even be driving sales for that artist and allowing them to devote more time to the art that you love. That can have a real and immediate impact on an artist’s bottom line, which in turn benefits the audience as a whole by giving the artist the confidence and reassurance needed to continue their work, not to mention giving them the financial incentive to do so.
I’ve seen this effect at work with my own sales numbers. When people in my audience on Facebook and Twitter share my work instead of simply liking it, I’ve seen huge spikes in my sales. One tweet I put out a few weeks back was especially popular with my followers. It was shared seventeen times and racked up more than four thousand exposures on other peoples’ profiles. For that day, my book sales jumped almost 75%!! That’s an incredible boon for an independent author like me who really doesn’t have the money yet to shell out on big advertising campaigns. This same trend can be seen with musicians as well. I’ve started personally posting and sharing all of the Facebook and twitter for musicians I’m a fan of that are somewhat off the beaten path. I’ve talked with a few friends and a cousin of mine who don’t have record label contracts but have produced a few albums on their own and they agree that social network sharing is a huge element in driving their audience and sales expansion.
The great thing about this feedback loop that social media sites have created is that it gives the audience a direct hand in crafting the market. As readers, listeners, etc. share and retweet and grow the audience base of their favorite artists, those artists increase their market share. That additional revenue is what lets people spend more time focusing on their chosen genre of art and produce more “product” for the audience to consume. In a very real sense, the new trend in indie authors and artists of all kinds has created a very democratic marketplace that is no longer at the whim of giant publication and production companies.
So, from the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of all of the indie artists out there, I want to extend a big “THANK YOU!!!” to all of my readers. You guys are not only the reason I keep writing, but you’re also a very real and tangible reason that my first novel has been successful.
And remember…. When it comes to social media and artists you love, sharing really is caring.