I’m not related to any used car salesmen. I’ve never personally known any used car salesmen. What I’m about to say might be terribly prejudiced, but sadly, it works to convey my point because the common perception is that used car salesmen are irritating, selfish money grubbers without the capacity to shut up.
I don’t say this out of hatred. I say this because advertising on social media makes us all sound like used car salesmen.
Social media is supposed to be social. Like a backyard BBQ or Baby’s first slaughter-of-innocents party (which is just like a BBQ, but with more chanting.) You show up, you bring potato salad, you ask about everyone’s kids, and generally try not to fall over the kiddie pool full of ice and six packs of Natty Light. This is what social is; note that nowhere in the term is the word “business” encompassed in the word. And, yes, business certainly falls into social functions sometimes—your Aunt Petunia wants you to help with her bake sale, or Cousin Frederico needs you to help chant—but mostly people are just there to hang out.
When you’ve got that one guy, like Granpa Biff, who just won’t shut up about his pre-owned Volvo lot and he’s all like, hey, you need a Volvo! And for a limited time only, it’ll only cost $9999.99—well, that just ruins everyone’s time. Suddenly, friends and family aren’t friends and family anymore; they’re stacks of cash.
Of course, it’s possible to use social media more reasonably than Granpa Biff. I’m sure there are used car salesmen in the world who are good people. One or two mentions on Facebook or Twitter about our new books coming out—there’s nothing wrong with that. Obviously, people won’t buy our books if they don’t know about them, and what better way to start the viral wildfire than talking to our friends and family?
But then two mentions become three, and three becomes five, and before you know it, you’re selling Volvos.
Don’t worry; it’s not our fault we end up looking like jerks. All those lovely how-to-write-books advicey peoples are to blame. They always say “Use social media to market your book! It’s great to get the word out!” But they fail to mention the fact that people can know all day long you’ve written a book; that doesn’t mean they want to buy it.
Are you writing the kind of book that all your friends and family like to read or endorse? Is your book an ambitious socio-erotic polysci thriller farce? Do any of your people read socio-erotic polysci thriller farce? Have they ever even driven a Volvo? If the answer is no, then you’re not selling a lot of books to them.
What we need to sell books is an audience, a group of people who read the sorts of things similar to what we’re writing. Hence, their willingness to read us. Trying to hawk our wares to people who don’t normally buy such things just makes us look like jerks. If Aunt Petunia usually reads inspirational romance, she’s not going to want your splatterpunk horrorcore. If cousin Frederico just like traditional commercial narratives, he’s not going to buy your experimental fourth person poetry. And we all know Granpa Biff just reads Popular Mechanics. These people like us for reasons other than our writing, (or they like us because mom told them they had to) and to not respect that makes them feel like stacks of cash.
And, frankly, if they were stacks of cash, we’d be drinking something better than Natty Light at our slaughter BBQs. I mean, c’mon; Pabst Blue Ribbon, at least.
To be continued…