If Your Livelihood Depends on Readers...
I am telling you where they hangout.
Yesterday, I was doing research for the reading lists that I’m curating this month. I am starting my Baba Yaga Holiday with several books that I plan on reading November-December for cozy horror vibes (even if you don’t believe in cozy horror, cozy horror believes in you). I have embraced my Gothic Era, meaning I will likely only read Gothic horror books written by women for the foreseeable future, and it’s Native American Heritage Month—all of this had me visiting my regular haunts looking for books.
I got so excited, I created a book mock-up with the cover and edited an old photo of mine to look like I had the hardcover in my possession. Then I shared it on Instagram & Twitter (X).
The engagement on these two posts that were posted at the same time to the same number of followers are not even close. Let’s look.
These are the analytics for the X post. Terrible engagement, honestly. I don’t know why anyone still uses this platform. People can make all the excuses they want, pour over the numbers and question the time of day I posted it, the words, the photo, whatever but at the end of the day, I posted the exact same thing at the exact same time on a different social media platform where I have almost the same number of followers and the results are drastically different:
2.3K post interactions vs. 200 on Twitter (X). That is all the data anyone even needs for clarity. 223 people saved this post for later (as opposed to 5 on X) and 126 people shared it to their stories as opposed to 13 retweets on X (how funny is it that analytics still calls everything “tweets” LOL)
If you visit my post on Instagram now, it is continuing to gain traction so I’m not posting anything new, just letting it ride.
I always see authors complaining about being spread too thin over too many platforms. And that’s valid. But I believe there is some truth in the fact that people tend to hangout by the water cooler where they can shoot the shit with their peers and authors see other authors as their peers, not the readers. Makes sense, right? This is why I’m on #bookstagram. Because tagging authors on X is fun and I enjoy promoting books to generate some of that “word-of-mouth” buzz that authors cannot generate themselves, but I want to talk to other readers about books and any reader that engages with me on X is following me on Instagram.
But what about authors? Well, that remains to be seen. If an author has important news or an exciting update, I suppose they need to ask themselves who the intended audience for that is—I think if people really got honest with themselves, they will find that they want to share their big news with their friends & peers. But are friends & peers the ones buying/reading your books?
The definition of livelihood is, the means of securing the necessities of life. There are #bookstagram accounts sharing recommendations and photographing books every day, all day. This is where we are. This is the equivalent of a HUGE café where all the readers are hanging out sharing books, reviewing them, buying them, and if you’re an author who wants these readers to know about your new book or share your cover reveal or see the new edition…I would not waste my time on platforms where your friends & peers are making the most noise. I mean, yes. Do it. Let them celebrate all the things with you but if your livelihood depends on collecting a fanbase, you’re going to have to meet them where they’re at.
As for content, daily content—what to post, what not to post. Readers are not as interested in publishing hot takes and complaints as maybe you think they are. I see authors on TikTok and Instagram creating content focused solely on craft, industry news/complaints, etc and that’s not really going to grab your readers. Readers, read. Recommend the books you’re reading, the ones you just bought, the ones you’re writing, the ones you have out already…that’s what readers want. Visit bookstores (you should do that anyways right? If you want your books to live there) and give readers a tour. Photograph your library, visit a library, show us the research you’re doing. Let me show you an author account I love following on Insta. Erin shares her other hobbies besides writing, she engages on reader’s posts, she shows us the books she’s reading and recommends, she photographs her own books beautifully, she updates us on new material she’s writing—just check it out. Get some inspo.