Social Media Versus Traditional Book Marketing

Social media, it seems, is everywhere and part of everything. You can’t get away from it even if you try. It’s no different when it comes to book marketing; social media is all the buzz in the publicity trade. Experts will tell authors they must engage in a robust social media program to promote a book, and still others will say that social media is the only way to promote a book effectively.

But let’s slow down and take a brief look at the reality of book publicity and social media.

Social networking is a terrific way to spark grassroots buzz about a book and to establish an online presence that builds a fan base. A coordinated, planned cultivation of your presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and special interest social media platforms can indeed spread the word and spark book sales. As we’ve all heard, authors can even “go viral” and reach that magical tipping point at which it seems everyone knows about their book.

So does this mean “old school” traditional book marketing is a dying art?

To begin the answer to this question, I’ll tell you that: You can’t Tweet credibility, and 5,000 friends on Facebook might actually be worth nothing when it comes to your book. Like life, it depends on who these friends are and how much they really care about you.

Anyone can build a Facebook page and develop a presence on any social media site. There are no gatekeepers. It’s the Wild West where anything goes.

Traditional book publicity via media outreach, on the other hand, is very different. Publicity is all about getting others (media) to think enough of you and/or your book to write about it or put you on the air for an interview. When this happens, an author acquires credibility – the single most important element book promotion. Social media is about making as many people as possible know about your book. Publicity, on the other hand, is about getting people of influence – editors and producers – to take interest in you and your book.

Facebook “friends” are often superficial. We want to show that many people actually like us, and ostensibly really care about what we do, sometimes to the point of reporting the most mundane of activities. Social networking, ultimately, is a supremely narcissistic endeavor (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). Publicity is about getting the right people to actually take a true interest in you and your book, and then from their position of influence, tell others about it.

You can see, there’s quite a difference between the two.

But don’t think for a second that I believe social media isn’t a great tool as it relates to book marketing. It is. It can be powerful. It can be very, very effective.

Most importantly, in my view, social networking is the perfect compliment to a promotional campaign. I recommend every author establish a social media platform. Traditional publicity and social media can work amazingly well together. Publicity can get you credibility and provide you with the perfect material to populate your social media sites.

I personally don’t care to read that someone just saw a good movie, or to see mind-numbing motivational phrases posted on FaceBook. I do, however, love to see a link to a TV interview or newspaper article about a person/author in a Tweet or on FaceBook. It makes that person interesting. It makes me possibly want to buy their book.

Social media is certainly here to stay and traditional book publicity isn’t going anywhere – it will always be effective.

Instead of choosing one over the other, bring social media and traditional book publicity together, and you have a perfect promotional marriage.

Now I need to go and post a link to this article on Facebook and send a Tweet out about it …

Dan Smith is CEO and founder of Smith Publicity, one of the premier book publicity and book marketing firms in the industry. Smith Publicity has implemented over 900 book promotion campaigns and secured placements with virtually every major media outlet. The firm has serviced authors from over 25 countries and has offices in New Jersey, New York, Los Angeles, and London. Website:

Image Credit: Sofiaperesoa (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons