Social Media and Independent Publishing

Social Media and Independent Publishing
By Brandon Engel

Some readers are perfectly content to sit down with their Nook, while others still pine for the vanilla coloring and aged-paper smell of old books. Writers looking to break into either market —print or digital publishing— have many tools at their disposal now which, as recently as 15 years ago, were nonexistent.

Self-publishing, for instance, enables independent authors to release their work on their own terms. This informative article from CNET’s David Carnoy offers a thorough list of what things you’ll need to be mindful of if you decide to pursue self-publishing. Carnoy says that digital publishing is typically better than print for self-publishing authors, especially those who rely chiefly on text and not upon imagery. E-books, Carnoy said, are simpler to manage in terms of both the design of the cover and general formatting. Plus, because digital publishing reduces the overhead considerably, the e-books are cheaper and, therefore, more likely to sell.

Carnoy also cautions that the self-publishing market is largely oversaturated now, and there is no dearth of poorly written self-published material out there, which results in authors having to try that much harder to differentiate themselves in the market. Carnoy advises independent publishers to design strong covers, particularly images which look good at a small size, and to hire a professional copy editor to edit the book.

Once the book is published, independent publishers can make use of social media to promote their work. There is a lot of discussion now amongst publishers and readers about the real value of social media marketing for independent publishers. Some believe that Twitter itself can boost an author’s fame, while others state that it’s the inverse which should be expected —that a boost in an author’s fame will in turn increase his or her popularity on Twitter. Another contentious point is whether or not the size of an author’s Twitter following will have any remarkable correlation to the number of books an author sells.

There are still, however, some irrefutable points which can be raised in defense of Twitter as a viable promotional channel for independent authors. For instance, Twitter is an excellent way of connecting with individuals, and it enables fans and readers to communicate directly with their fanbase. Twitter is also useful for discovering “built in” fan groups for genres and more established authors who write similar material. Consulting the social media monitoring site, it’s clear that independent publishers, readers, and authors are all interacting through Twitter:

And while the social networks and digital media in general have made self-publishing simpler, self-publishing is hardly a new phenomenon. Self-publishing guru John Kremer, who you can follow on Twitter, hosts an online “Self-Publishing Hall of Fame,” which shows that even iconic figures in popular literature like Edgar Allan Poe and Frank L. Baum first achieved notoriety by self-publishing. Just imagine what they could have done had they had had access to Twitter…

The point is this: increased access to publishing means both a wealth of opportunities, and a glut of content. The tools are readily available, but the real trick now is having a strategy, so that you can use these tools in a way that advances your career.


Brandon Engel is a blogger who works in Chicago. His chief interest include: horror literature; vintage animation; environmental law; and film. Visit his blog at for more up-to-date information.