Three keys to selling more books with social media

Our guest blogger today is Chris Syme, principal of the award-winning agency, CKSyme Media Group. She is a former university media relations professional, a frequent speaker, and the author of the popular SMART Marketing For Authors book series. She is also the co-host of Smart Pants Book Marketing podcast. Her new book, The Newbie’s Guide to Sell More Books With Less Marketing, is available for at a special pre-order price of $.99 until June 5. 

Three keys to selling more books with social media

selling more books 2

By Chris Syme

There are hundreds of social media networking sites on the Internet. Of those, there are 10 or so that most people can identify. Five years ago it was pretty easy to be found and followed on social media. Now the Internet is bulging with information.

This proliferation of bits and bytes has caused some authors to throw up their arms and declare that selling books on social media is not possible. But the keys to selling more books with social media are not about doing more, but doing less.

Key #1: Win the right to sell: Engage first, sell second

Social media content gives us an unprecedented opportunity to build loyalty, trust, and endearment like no other platform out there. And that loyalty translates into more sales. How do you do that? In the book Content Code, author Mark Schaefer concluded that, “Heroic brands, or businesses that people love, exceed customer expectations and stand for something other than selling stuff.”

Social media’s strength is connecting people. In my new book The Newbie’s Guide To Sell More Books With Less Marketing, I teach one golden rule of selling on social media: You must engage where you want to sell. These two are inextricably linked. You will not sell successfully without engaging first.

Here lies the conundrum. How can you do both?

The answer is to follow The 80-20 content rule.

The 80-20 content rule simply states: To sell books with online media, 80 percent of your posts must give something valuable to your fans and 20 percent should ask for a sale. The rule is based on a long-established marketing principle called the law of reciprocity. Show yourself to be a source of value and people will want to buy your books. Not only that, they will recommend them to their friends as well.

Jay Baer said it this way: “Smart marketing is based on help, not hype.”

Key #2: Go narrow for more engagement

Let’s start with a look at data.

selling more books 4According to Pew Internet Research, the majority of people on social media interact on more than one channel. The most common overlaps are Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Facebook users make up a whopping 72 percent of the adult online population. The other two have less than 30 percent. Facebook’s demographics are the best across the categories of age, gender, education, ethnicity, and location. Facebook is indeed king of the social media universe.

And the good news is, Facebook has the second highest ability to help new readers discover you and to sell products—surpassed only by YouTube (AOL Platforms).

Choose a primary channel for engagement

Three of the major social media channels now have engagement-restricting algorithms: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. That means they have a formula that chooses how many of your fans get to see your posts. As a percentage of your fans start to engage with your posts, they send the post out to more of your fans.

So instead of reaching a small portion of your fans on many channels, I encourage authors to spend time and money sticking to one channel that has the best overall ability to reach the majority of their fans. For 90 percent of authors, that venue is a Facebook business page. Some call it a Facebook author page.

Choosing one primary channel for fan engagement will boost your engagement rate. I’ve seen it happen time and again to students in my online classes. Instead of spreading themselves paper thin across several social media channels, they narrow their focus to one primary channel and build a strong engaging presence that creates the best sales environment.

The rest of the social media channels become outposts where you redirect fans to the channel where you are engaging with a holding message or graphic. You don’t engage on an outpost, just redirect.

Key #3: All social media channels are not created equal

According to marketing research done by AOL Platforms, there are only a couple of social media channels that are any good at selling anything. One is YouTube and the other is Facebook. Of the six main channels measured, Twitter was at the bottom when it came to aiding discovery and ability to sell.

Facebook is wired to help you sell. It has a number of tools to help:

  • Shop tab that operates as a one-click bookstore on your business page.
  • Advertising options from inexpensive boosted posts to full-blown campaigns.
  • Ability to embed email sign-up forms with direct integration to the most popular email providers.
  • Call-to-action buttons that host a variety of conversion actions.

According to Marketing Week, 26 percent of Facebook users say they are looking for something to buy there. The next channel in line, Instagram, only boasts 8 percent and Pinterest is at 6 percent.

I would be the first to admit you can sell books on any social media channel if you work at it hard enough. But if you’re looking to get the maximum ROTI (return on time investment) I would put my money on Facebook burying all the rest.

What’s working for you on social media? Tell us in a comment. 

Tip of the Month

selling more books 3I always share a “Tip of the Month,” a free resource or tool for authors, on the last Wednesday of the month.

Most of you who blog know by now that it’s important to use high-quality images in your posts. There are several reasons for this, but the primary one is that images make your posts more visually appealing.

My favorite source of paid images recently changes its terms, which sent me looking for an alternative source of images. While looking for paid image sources, I stumbled upon an excellent free source: LibreStock.

LibreStock is a search engine that scans and indexes stock photos from more than 40 websites. Type in your search term and get free. high-quality. stock photos.

All the photos indexed on LibreStock are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, which means you can use these pictures freely for any legal purpose.

Learn more at the LibreStock site.

Like what you’re reading? Get it delivered to your inbox every week by subscribing to the free Build Book Buzz newsletter. You’ll also get my free “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources” cheat sheet immediately!


  1. Thanks, Chris.

    I might add that when promoting via Facebook groups, it’s best to stick with closed rather than public groups. This keeps your timeline clean. No point in annoying your friends and fans with promotions.

  2. Has anyone used YouTube as a marketing tool/way to sell books, since it’s up there with Facebook? If so, what type of video did you do? A book trailer? A partial reading of your book? A funny video that had nothing to do with your book? Thanks!

  3. The problem is trying to make friends on Facebook, which for me is impossible. Unless they know you, they don’t want to even see your page. It’s easy to get followers on Twitter but nobody reads your tweets. What about a nice website to promote your books?

    1. Dennis, it does take steady effort to increase the number of “likes” on your Page, and the process can be frustrating. One of the keys is sharing content that will interest your target audience, and sometimes you have to experiment to figure out what works best. As for a website, that’s essential. Every author should have one. Thanks for stopping by!


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