Submissions 101: Social Media Savvy, pt 1

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The question comes up repeatedly in author circles: do you need social media to land an agent or a book deal? How many followers/friends are enough? Where should you list your social media in a query? You’ve got questions; we’ve got answers. This month Sub It Club takes on social media and the querying process.

  • Do I need social media? If you write fiction, most agents will tell you it’s not a deal breaker if you refuse to be on social media. (Though that doesn’t excuse you from participating in other forms of promotion. You may prefer school visits or other speaking engagements, for example.) If an agent requires a minimum number of Twitter followers or says you must have a blog or Instagram, they are a bit of an outlier. And that’s something you need to explore.
  • But it’s good to be on social media, right? Sure. Any agent or publisher will tell you that, especially if you emphasize the “social” aspect of it. This means connecting with fellow writers, book lovers, teachers (for children’s writers), librarians, and booksellers, over shared interests vs. constantly hawking your book. But let’s be honest, so far the data doesn’t show that social media followers convert directly to actual book sales. Social media is more about raising awareness of your book, generating word-of-mouth, and author branding, much like many TV ads. These can lead to sales indirectly. Think of a Nike Superbowl commercial encouraging you to “Just Do It.” Do you run out and buy a pair of shoes after viewing the ad? Probably not, but in the long run, TV commercials help build a positive association with the brand that may lead to sales later on.
  • I have Twitter! Where do I put it in my query?  
    • If you are querying via email, you can include your social media handles in your email signature. That makes it easy for agents and publishers to check out your social media presence.
    • In a snail mail query, you could put your social media in your address block along with your physical and email addresses.
    • If there is something extraordinary about your social media, you can include that in your bio paragraph. And by extraordinary, I mean you have tens of thousands of Twitter followers. Or you pioneered a super active Twitter chat, Facebook community, or a popular blog series. If your social media presence is pretty average, no need to mention it, just include your handles as above.
  • What if I write nonfiction? For nonfiction authors, the situation is completely different. Platform is a must: in order to sell your book, you must prove you can reach readers and generate sales. So in most cases, you should be on whatever social media platforms your readers are. When querying, you will discuss your social media in the “about the author” and “marketing” portions of your nonfiction proposal. More about crafting your nonfiction proposal here.
  • What should my social media look like? That’s a question for another month — specifically, next month where we’ll cover some basic do’s and don’ts while querying.


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