Let’s begin with a pop quiz. Test your marketing acumen by correctly answering the following questions:
1. Social media is a better way to sell books than email. True or False?
2. Social media costs less than email. True or False?
3. More people see social media posts than read an email. True or False?
Like many authors, you many have answered all of the questions as “True.” Or, you might have answered “True” for one or two of the questions. Yet, the correct answer for all three questions is “False.”
Recent studies have shown that marketing books via email is superior to promoting books via social media. Email is less expensive, because authors who use social media typically have to spend hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars per month using “boosted” or “sponsored” posts to reach their own audience.
In addition, email usually provides open rates of 17% – 35%, whereas most social media posts only reach around 7% – 15% of followers.
Even as I present this convincing data, you still might wonder, “Isn’t email outdated? I thought social media, such as Instagram and TikTok, were the best way to promote books.”
I understand why this confusion occurs. Many authors think selling books to their own social media fans will be easy. Others hear about the #BookTok craze on TikTok and think it’s the future. Yet, recent data has shown that trend is already starting to wane.
Authors who fawn over social media typically forget these two key principles:
1. You can have thousands of social media followers. But, if you don’t have thousands of social media RECOMMENDERS, then you won’t sell many books.
2. Social media tends to create a short-lived sales cycle based on momentary hype. In contrast, email can create both short-term AND long-term sales success.
Social media was designed to be a “social” system that only works if you can get hundreds of recommenders to tell their friends about your book. Good luck getting that many people to become your online sales force on Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok.
Unless you are a superstar with a rabid following, you must borrow the social media platforms from a lot of other people who agree to market your book for you. That’s a tall order for any author to pull off. Worse, the promotional effect from using social media has shown to be unpredictable.
A recent report by The New York Times analyzed dozens of book campaigns based on social media and concluded, “Millions of followers? For book sales, it’s unreliable.”
My own research with clients reached the same conclusions. For example, I worked with a female author who had over 1,000,000 social media followers. Another client was a male author who had over 500,000 followers. When both authors launched their new books, we tracked the results and were shocked by the findings. In both cases, less than 1% of social media followers actually purchased a copy.
As you can imagine, these authors were disheartened by the pitiful response from social media, especially after all of the time and money they invested to cultivate those fans.
These disappointments explain the hidden truth about social media. You can have all the followers in the world. But, if you don’t have a lot of recommenders, then social media won’t generate many book sales. Therefore, how do you build a following that will buy a lot of books?
My experience coaching over 1,000 authors has found that email marketing regularly outperforms promoting books on social media. Here’s the proof.
I coached an author named Lysa TerKeurst who built an email list with over 1,000,000 subscribers. It took her several years to reach that amount, but she consistently stayed with the process. To date, Lysa’s huge email following has enabled her to hit The New York Times bestseller list six times in a row and sell millions of books.
In addition, the power of email marketing helped me revive interest in a 23-year-old backlist book called Boundaries and get it onto The New York Times bestseller list for two straight years. Even though the book had been in print for over two decades, it didn’t get on the bestseller list until we built an email list with over 50,000 subscribers.
Email marketing also works for self-published authors. Mark Dawson is one of the most successful indie novelists in the world who writes spy thriller novels. He makes over $1,000,000 per year in book sales and counts his email list as his most important marketing asset.
I could go on. Do you get my point? Authors who sell a lot of books directly to their fans use email marketing as their weapon of choice. But, how do you build a big email list, especially if you’re starting from scratch?
Fortunately, there is a way to supercharge your subscriber growth that works for any kind of author. My answer may sound hypocritical, but hear me out.
Instead of using social media to build a following, use social media to build your email list.
Notice the difference? Rather than spend time and money to accrue a bunch of followers on social media, buy advertising on Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok. Use those ads to giveaway free content, such as short stories or helpful e-books, that entice people to join your email list.
Think about it this way. If you don’t have a big audience of followers, then go to where people already gather by the millions and give them a compelling reason to join your email list.
This technique is the secret to turbocharging your growth. I know it works, because I use social media ads to build my email list and taught my author clients to do the same, which resulted in them securing six-figure book contracts and hitting bestseller lists.
For instance, I’ve been buying Facebook ads for several years and used those ads to target authors and get thousands to join my email list. Those authors receive my free weekly email newsletter, which generates new coaching clients and drives a lot of product sales. If you want to sell more books, I cannot stress this point enough:
Commit to supersizing your email list
When you buy ads on Facebook and Instagram that target the right audience, you can add hundreds of new subscribers per month at a cost of $1.00 – $4.00 per lead. That’s amazingly inexpensive and effective.
However, I’ll be honest. I don’t manage my own Facebook ads. I’m too busy and it’s very time-consuming to keep up with all of the constant policy changes made by Facebook. Instead, I outsource my social media ads to an expert named Kathy Loewenstern who I’ve worked with for the past 3 years. She gets great results for me.
Here’s the good news…
I’m going to offer a FREE webinar on Wednesday, January 24th at 8:00pm Eastern where I will introduce Kathy, explain the secrets of our success, and let you ask us questions about advertising on social media.
This might be the most helpful webinar I’ve ever run in the history of my consulting practice. You will get expert insights and answers to your questions – for FREE!
If you want to rapidly grow your email list and sell more books, don’t miss this opportunity to hear from an expert. Use the link below to reserve your webinar slot today: