Today’s post is by Carol Michel, an award-winning author of five humorous gardening essay books and one children’s book.
I gave up social media in July 2020.
I did what the computer scientist/author Cal Newport calls a 30-day digital detox. I signed out of Facebook (2,200 followers on my business page, 750+ friends), Instagram (1,100 followers) and Twitter (7,000+ followers). I removed the apps from my phone and other digital devices and stopped using them for 30 days.
Those accounts don’t have great numbers, but they aren’t trivial either. Some people thought I was crazy for doing it. Other people were envious and wanted to do it too. Another friend told me she would love to do a digital detox but thought her publisher would freak out since she was just getting ready to promote her new traditionally published book.
Fortunately, since I self-publish my books, no publisher was leaning over my shoulder telling me to get back on social media before I lost my followers.
Instead, after 30 days, I decided I liked my new digital-light world. My next brilliant marketing move was to winnow my Facebook friends down to a manageable 75 people, mostly relatives, and continue to ignore it and Instagram. Then I deleted my Twitter account.
It’s been over a year now, and I have no regrets about junking the big three—Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram—though I keep my accounts on Facebook and Instagram for occasional visits. I also kept LinkedIn, which technically falls under the umbrella of social media. (I never used TikTok and I have a Pinterest account I ignore.)
Social media has a shelf life
Recently I ran across some information about the shelf life of a social media post that has given me the courage to keep moving forward without social media, even though I now have a new book to publicize. Most sources credit an IT services company, Mamsys, for these stats. In ascending order, the shelf lives are:
- Twitter – 18 minutes
- Facebook – 5 hours
- Instagram – 21 hours
- LinkedIn – 24 hours
- Videos – 3 months
- Blog post – 2 years
How I’m promoting my book without social media
We all know that my smug feelings about being one of those people who broke their ties with social media (I refuse to say I was addicted) won’t get the word out about my books. But there are still many avenues on and off the Internet to help drive book sales. Here’s my first dozen.
- An author website. My books are featured on the main page of my author website. I’m searchable on the web and try to have everything anyone needs to know about me and my books on my website.
- A blog. I’ve had a blog since 2006, if you don’t count those three posts I attempted in 2004 and 2005. That blog, which I started on Blogger, now lives on my author website under WordPress. I try to update it at least once a week. I also set up MailChimp to send an email to those who subscribe to my blog.
- An email newsletter. Once I gave up social media, I found I finally had the time to write and publish monthly newsletters. I always include something about my books, plus other tidbits about gardening and life. My subscriber base is currently around 375 with a few new subscribers added each month.
- Guest posts. If you don’t have a blog, are just starting a blog, or want to see if you can reach an audience beyond your blog, offer to write guest posts for others. People all over the Internet are looking for good content to share with their readers. Ask them to include a link back to your website.
- A weekly podcast. I record and publish a weekly podcast with another garden writer. It brings in readers and book buyers who might not otherwise find me. What’s the shelf-life of a podcast episode? I’d guess around one week or longer. We get most of our listeners the first week after publishing the episode, and then the number of listeners per week for that episode tapers down quite a bit.
- A YouTube channel. From personal experience, I can tell you that you can waste as much time on YouTube as you can on any social media platform. I have a small (micro) channel with per video views measured in double-digits. Why bother? Shrug. I enjoy making the videos. A video might reach another dozen people.
- Professional organizations. Most writing genres have a professional group you can join which puts you in contact with like-minded writers. I belong to Garden Communicators International (GardenComm) which puts me in contact with hundreds of other writers and garden communicators who are looking for gardening related books to review on their own platforms, which include newspaper columns, magazines, radio shows, podcasts, etc. And when they publish something about my book, they are likely to promote it via their social media channels. I also belong to a local writing group which helps me keep track of local opportunities for promoting my books.
- Guest appearance on a podcast or radio show. Many podcasters rely on guests for content, and radio shows usually like to feature guests on their programs. Everyone is looking for someone interesting to feature. Be interesting. Ask to be a guest and tell them what great information you have to share.
- Review copies of my books. I freely send out review copies of my books to anyone who might have an opportunity to tell someone else about it. I just published a new book this month and have already sent out close to 80 copies, many to people I know through the professional organization, GardenComm. Right along with review copies I occasionally offer to provide copies as giveaway prizes on radio shows and podcast episodes when I’m a guest.
- Speaking. I sell copies of my books when I speak to groups about gardening. I include information on my author website about how to hire me to speak to a group, plus I am registered on a site called Great Garden Speakers where I’m found by people who otherwise might not know anything about me.
- A LinkedIn presence. I remain on LinkedIn and try to keep my professional information up to date. I’ll occasionally post information about my books or other achievements related to my writing.
- Local bookstores. I shop at a local bookstore and the owner is more than willing to purchase copies of my books via IngramSpark to sell in her shop. (I use IngramSpark as my book distributor instead of Amazon.) Another bookstore a bit further away takes a few books on consignment and has hosted me for a book signing, which they promoted. And don’t forget author fairs sponsored by libraries, historical societies, and others where you can set up a table and sell your books.
By now, you may have decided it would be easier to just keep posting and tweeting to get the word out about your next project rather than follow some of the suggestions I’ve listed above.
Or you may be doing many of the items I suggested, plus exhausting yourself by regularly posting and interacting on social media channels.
Regardless of what else you are doing to market your books, ask yourself if that time spent on social media is really getting the word out about those books.
Or would it be better to spend that time on activities that might have a longer shelf life? Only you, with your own stats and observations, can decide if it is.
Carol J. Michel is an award-winning author of several self-published books including five gardening humor books and one children’s book. As the holder of degrees in both horticulture and computer technology, she spent over three decades making a living in healthcare IT while making a life in her garden. She started writing about gardening on her blog called May Dreams Gardens which lead to numerous magazine articles, her books, and a podcast called The Gardenangelists. She was recently named a GardenComm Fellow by Garden Communicators International.