Yesterday I downloaded yet another “free” presentation about how to use social media to achieve higher sales. Although social media can be useful in increasing your online visibility, establishing a brand, and serving as a platform from which to promote yourself, I find it of limited utility in reaching editors and agents.
Most editors and agents already are bombarded with unsolicited queries from writers and don’t have time to browse social media looking for writers. If you have established contacts with editors and agents, then that might be useful for maintaining contact.
Everything I’ve read seems to be focused on provided “valuable information” as method of gaining access to potential customers while avoiding the traditional “hard sell” approach of advertising. As I see it, the problem is that most writers are not selling a product, unless you’re promoting your book. We are promoting our professional services in an era when those services have been devalued. That was caused first by the widespread layoffs and secondly by the rise of the “content mills,” where so-called writers will work for pennies simply to be published. It’s never clear where their articles may end up.
The common mantra from agents is that you must have a “platform,” i.e. a method of promoting yourself and your services. That can be done easier online than in person, unless you have a super publicity agent. But we’re not selling to the public per se; we’re trying to reach a highly selective audience.
That’s why I’ve found personal relationships to be the most effective, and that usually has been through meeting editors at writers’ conferences. They are paid as speakers, but they also only come if they’re looking for new writers. Most periodicals are simply too unstable today to be looking beyond their established cadre of writers.
The most successful promoters seem to be those who are selling social media advice to others. I’ve yet to meet anyone who has made that much money from their personal website, blog, or LinkedIn activity. Tell me if I’m wrong.