Why authors should be grateful for social media

9 minutes to read
Column
Lola Vos
30/04/2019

Social media has a big influence on multiple aspects of our society, including the literary world. Author's careers are going through some big changes, and these developments will end up making their lives somewhat easier.

Globalization, social media and books

The current process of producing and consuming books is very different from how it was years ago. A few hundred years ago, the “regular” people were not even able to read or write. Today, everybody with a vision and an internet connection has the potential to become a New York Times bestselling author. Especially with the intensification and acceleration of globalization, the process of writing, buying, and reading books has changed a lot.

Due to this new form of globalization, global patterns of cultural and social behavior emerged (Appadurai, 1996), such as the worldwide use of social media, which has influenced our lives and behavior in more ways than one. Whether the influence of globalization and social media on reading and writing is beneficial for authors or not is heavily disputed online. Think, for example, of writers becoming celebrities via internet exposure vs the illegal downloading of e-books.

In this column I argue that authors should be grateful for social media because of financial matters. I look at social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr and incorporate author’s opinions and experiences. In my research I focused on the benefits based on financial matters, rather than the benefits based on, for example, new artistic opportunities for authors.

A Clockwork Reader's YouTube Channel

Promoting on social media

First of all, social media is profitable for authors because they play a big role in the promotion and marketing of books. If a novel is, for example, discussed on a famous talk show, it will get a lot of attention and increase its chance of becoming a bestseller. On top of that, book publishers are now also active on social media platforms and they regularly promote books to their thousands of followers. Penguin Random House, an American publisher, now has more than one million followers on Twitter alone and their tweets mostly consist of things such as “6 New Paperbacks You Should Read This November” and “5 Books that Bring Intersectional #Feminism to the Forefront”, which gives a lot of free promotion to the books that are mentioned.

But it is not only the big companies and tv show hosts that contribute to the marketing of books. “Regular” people also have a lot of impact on whether a book becomes a bestseller or a flop. For example, there now are social media platforms dedicated to reading, such as Goodreads, on which you can share the books you want to read and what you are reading right now with people from all over the world . On this platform you can also find new book recommendations, talk to authors, and find out about new book releases. If a newly released book gets a lot of attention from Goodreads users, it has a relatively good chance of becoming a bestseller.

Furthermore, users on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter also contribute to the promotion of books. For example, Twitter user @FirstDraftPod posted this tweet saying “Today is a truly incredible one for new YA releases. Prepare your wallets and your ears for this thread!”, which included a list of Young Adult Fiction books that were released that day. There are also entire YouTube channels and blogs dedicated to talking about, and thus indirectly promoting, books. YouTubers such as A Clockwork Reader, readbyzoe, Booksandlala, and many more solely talk about the books they bought, the books they are reading, the books they want to read, etc. and with this comes a lot of promotion for authors and their novels.

Sometimes book publishers or authors will even send copies of their books to a YouTuber or blogger for them to review and share with their followers. This also gives the writer a lot of attention and promotion, because their book will be discussed on multiple platforms on which a community of readers is active.

Interacting on social media

Social media users heavily contribute to the promotion of books, but it does not stop there. Many authors are now also very active on almost all social media platforms, on which they can share and promote their books, and interact with their readers.

By posting pictures, quotes, book trailers, and even gifs, authors can spread their work very easily with the book community.

This also helps with the promotion of their novels. By posting pictures, quotes, book trailers, and even gifs, authors can spread their work very easily within the book community. Microblogging website Tumblr is a favorite among authors. Many authors can be found here, including New York Times bestselling authors John Green, Cassandra Clare, Neil Gaiman, and many more. Not only can writers use their platforms to promote their own books, they can also very easily interact with their readers. This way they can build a strong group of loyal readers from all over the world, which gives the author a solid and stable group of people that will, most likely, always buy and read their books. In addition, by being active online, writers can easily get feedback on their writing from the people that will actually be reading their writing.

Movie poster for After (2019)

Publishing on social media

On top of that, being active on social media can particularly help self-published authors, who might not get the same publicity and promotion that bigger authors get. On Tumblr, for example, there is a blog dedicated to the publishing and promoting of books called “Discovering Indie Writers”. Writers who will not be published by the big publishing companies can submit their work and it will be published on this blog.

There are also a lot of people who write other type of stories, such as fanfiction or webcomics, and post it on on Tumblr or a platform like Wattpad, which is a community for readers and writers to publish new user-generated stories. These stories might start out as something small, something that only a certain niche on Wattpad will consume, but there is no saying how big these fanfictions might become. Due to its popularity, some fanfiction is now officially picked up by publishers.

For example, Anna Todd’s fanfiction After was originally posted on Wattpad, but was published in 2015 by American publishing company Simon & Schuster. The book is now even being made into a Hollywood movie. Another example is the webseries Nimona, a fantasy webcomic by Noelle Stevenson thatwas originally posted on Tumblr in 2012, but was picked up by English publishing company HarperCollins and got published in 2015. Social media platforms can thus allow self-published authors to get more publicity and eventually even get published by an official publisher.

Reading on social media

Another reason for the rise of social media's positive influence on authors is that social media platforms simply enable people to read more. Through the Internet, people can download ebooks for free or for a small price. People who, before the Internet, did not read due to the high prices of books are willing to pay the small fee for an ebook or are able to find the book for free. This leads to people having access to more books and therfore reading more.

On top of that, there are people who, before the rise of social media platforms, did not have access to certain books or any books at all. For example, in third world countries there simply are not a lot of bookstores and libraries available, which means people living in these areas simply cannot acquire books as easily as people living in first world countries can. Most of the time, people living in third world countries do have access to some kind of internet and can thus get access to books through the Internet.

Another reason why people cannot get access to books is that they live in a country where certain books are banned. These people can more easily acquire banned books through social media. Consequently, social media enable people to have more access to books and read more. This is a very positive development for authors, as more readers means more profit for the author.

Pirating on social media

Critics argue that the fact that people can now download books for free, also known as book piracy, can actually have a negative impact on the author, because the author will not make any money out of these downloads. Adam Silvera, a New York Times bestselling Young Adult Fiction author, ranted on Twitter in July of 2018 that downloading books for free online should not be condoned, whatever the reason is, because it financially hurts authors so much that they could lose their jobs. Hetweeted:

“There is no apology I will accept for supporting book piracy. Please trust authors when we tell you we are all losing at least tens of thousands of dollars because of book piracy. And these downloads DO NOT count as book sales and can risk our careers.”

However, several other authors have stated that book piracy does not bother them. They claim that they care more about people being able to read than whether they make a lot of money out of it or not. Laura Thalassa, a Young Adult and New Adult Fiction author, even encourages people to download free books and emphasises that she does not want her readers to worry about how much money she does or does not make. She posted in a Facebook group:

“I mean, I get pissed when someone else pirates my ebook then sells it for profit (because that’s just messed up for both the reader and the author), but not everyone can afford books, and in my opinion that should never ever be a limiting factor.”

Downloading free books online and getting books through the library in the 21st century are the same thing

She even claims that downloading free books online and getting books through the library in the 21st century are the same thing. This is because authors do not make any profit from either the library or book piracy, so it does not make any difference whether people go to the library or download books online. This is in contrast with authors who are protesting against book piracy, as they mostly cite going to the library as the best solution for making books more available for everybody. Victoria Aveyard, a Young Adult Fiction author, also sees contributing to book piracy as stealing from the authors, and she noted that people should just go to the library. She posted this tweet:

“If you beg for a free download of my book on Tumblr + I see it, I have no qualms dragging you. You are stealing from me. Libraries exist.”

Whether or not the fact that books are now very easily available online is a blessing or a curse to authors is very heavily debated by both readers and authors. The fact that authors are able to reach a bigger public due to social media, however, is a sure thing.

The way we write and read books

The intensification and acceleration of globalization has led to the creation of global patterns of cultural and social behavior, such as the use of social media, and to the reshaping of our society (Castells, 2010). Globalization and social media are affecting everything from our education to our labor relations and this also includes the way in which we write, buy, and read books. With the push of a button, authors can single-handedly publish their work on social media platforms such as Tumblr and Wattpad.

With the push of a button, authors can single-handedly publish their work on social media platforms such as Tumblr and Wattpad.

The whole process of writing, buying and reading has changed to the benefit of the author. Due to the influence of globalization and social media, our society is being reshaped in multiple ways and this is also reflected in the process of producing and consuming books.

References

Appadurai, A. (1996), Modernity at large. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Castells, M. (2010), The rise of the network society. Hoboken: Blackwell Publishers

Eagar, R. (2016), Does Social Media Marketing Actually Sell Books?

11 Powerful Book Promotion Ideas for Self-Published Authors (Editage, n.d.)

Erin, A. (2014), Tumblr 101 for Authors

Leibowitz, G. (2016), 10 Social Media Strategies Successful Authors Use To Sell More Books

LitFire Publishing (n.d.), Social Media Impact: Five Positive Effects That Authors Can Use In Book Marketing

Seales, J. (2016), 8 Author Tumblrs Every Reader Should Be Following