Or are they?

Okay, I’ll back up a little.

For the past couple years I’ve been reading a lot of advice for indie/self-published authors on the subject of marketing, and giving my fair share, too. Though it’s never been easier or cheaper to publish your own work, at least in e-book form, what continues to be a challenge for those of us who are at least partially doing this on our own, is actually selling those books to people.

One of the basic pieces of advice I hear every time is that at the very least you have to get out there in the social media sphere, at least if not especially Facebook and Twitter.

In the broadest possible terms, I agree. But what worries me is that there might be anyone out there who thinks that’s enough. That ghost in the movie Field of Dreams that whispered “If you build it, they will come,” was not talking about your Kindle Direct or Smashwords book. What would be more accurate?

“If you build it, it will go out into cyberspace with as many as a million just like it.”

Even if it’s a fantastic book, it will not sell if no one’s ever heard of it.

I know that’s pretty obvious, but what are we to do about it?

Okay, start with Facebook and Twitter. I have accounts at both, and have my Twitter feed linked to my Facebook page so that when I send a Tweet it copies there. I’ve been on Twitter for about four years or so, and currently have 1478 followers, which I guess is pretty good unless you’re a TV or rock star, in which case you can have millions.

What does that mean? Does that mean when I send out one of my little promo tweets pointing people in the direction of one of my books, I immediately (or even eventually) sell 1478 copies? I wish. The real number is more like 1/1000th of that many.

And what about Facebook? There are a billion people on Facebook, so you only have to sell to 1% of them to move ten million books. Awesome!

But that’s not actually how that works.

Being on Facebook doesn’t make you instantly famous, or get your message out to a billion people, it makes you one of the faceless masses, one of a billion accounts.

I refer you to Mr. Navin Johnson:



Here’s the good news, such as it is:

It’s not just being on Facebook and Twitter (and GoodReads and LinkedIn, etc.) its what you do with that that counts. And you have some measure of control over what you do with these tools.

Let’s start with Twitter:

At the beginning of every month I set up a bunch of scheduled tweets: a new one every day, all of which has some kind of marketing message. This can be as simple as [title of book] now available in [format] then the link to the Amazon page or wherever it might be available.

This is fairly unobtrusive. I haven’t heard any complaints, at least, and every once in a while someone tells me they’ve gone and bought that book, which is nice.

Using a free service called Tweriod I found out when most of my followers were looking at my tweets and scheduled them for those times.

This whole process takes about half an hour each month and I think of it as time well spent, even if I can’t attach a clear dollar value to what it might bring in, what our corporate friends would call an ROI (Return on Investment).

That having been done, the rest of the month I use Twitter to send out little bits of info about what I’m up to in a non-selly way. I forward interesting posts on publishing, science, science fiction and fantasy, and even (though rarely) politics and current events—whatever strikes my fancy. I liberally retweet stuff I find interesting, funny, etc.

I like Twitter. It’s fun, easy, to the point, and most of all, very easy to ignore. If you find yourself getting frustrated with someone on Twitter, click UNFOLLOW and that’s that.

Bt Facebook is a slightly different animal. I was one of the last Americans to start a Facebook account, holding off from what I used to call “The High School Reunion Time Sink.”

Turns out, I don’t have a lot of Facebook friends from high school, but I do spend a bit more time than I ought to “liking” stuff I see from other friends, relatives, and lots of former TSR/Wizards of the Coast coworkers.

But I also use it for actual work. I have groups set up for various consulting projects, for instance.

Most of the time, I guess, Facebook tends to be a way for me not to waste time so much as to be connected in some way with distant friends and family while cooped up in my secluded mansion on the outskirts of Seattle.

But does it sell books?


Then what does?

I wish I could give you a list of things that will guarantee your success, but I just can’t, though there will be posts aplenty to follow as we all try to figure this thing out as we go along.

In the meantime, here are a few bullet points to consider:

  • Be a part of a community.
  • Be friendly, positive, and inclusive.
  • Write well.
  • Engage the services of a professional editor and a professional cover artist and designer.
  • Fill a niche (genre, audience, subject matter, format) that’s either under-served or not being served at all.
  • Be patient.

That last one is tough, but only the first two are easy (or should be, anyway).


—Philip Athans




About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, ( is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
This entry was posted in Arron of the Black Forest, Books, creative team, Dungeons & Dragons, E-Books, horror novels, NaNoWriMo, Publishing Business, Science Fiction & Fantasy Novels, SF and Fantasy Authors, The Fathomless Abyss, transmedia, Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Jevon says:

    You should also include building a blog and practice different methods to attract traffic. The blog could be the device that fills the niche. When people see you being a professional at what you do, then they might be willing to buy your book.

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