When authors talk about their ascent to greatness (or at least having a successful book) the conversation is usually the same: lots of edits, a great team, and loads of social media presence and fan interaction. Many authors will pay out of pocket to have preorder goodies created and run street gangs of influencers to push their book. Sometimes, their publishers will even run blog tours and include their book if they are strongly supporting it.
But authors can’t rely on that marketing push. It’s all social media presence.
As someone who far prefers to stay in the background of social media and observe, this has always intimidated me.
I’ll be the first to admit it – my marketing is awful. I wrote a whole post about how I’m rubbish at marketing my blog. I’m still working on getting over my fear of talking to someone about the stories I write, and the only reason I have the push to do that much is because I work with another aspiring fantasy author now and every once in a while we chat about our WIPs.
As far as social… anything… goes? I’m that girl with two really close friends and a bunch of super casual acquaintances. I don’t flourish in social media any more than I flourish in real life social interactions. And I’m okay with that – really, I am! But from all the advice I’ve ever seen, there was no WAY I would ever publish a successful book (if I published on at all).
With all that in mind, I was overjoyed and renewed to pop on to Twitter in late October and discover a thread written by author R.F. Kuang:
hi guys thread time: so i just received my royalty statement for the first six months of this year, and it’s official: THE POPPY WAR earned out its advance in year 1. full disclosure: my advance was not small. it was the swerve-on-the-highway kind of advance, and it TERRIFIED ME
— Rebecca F. Kuang (@kuangrf) October 23, 2019
While I highly recommend reading the whole thread, the TL;DR of it is this: Kuang has always had little to no social media presence. Her novel The Poppy War worked the old-fashioned way and became immensely popular through word-of-mouth and genuine influencer love (*raises hand* I loved it, too!). No pre-order campaigns, no street gangs, no subscription boxes. The Poppy War is a genuinely good book and is extremely successful.
This Twitter thread is one part appreciation to the people who loved her book, and one part reminding the community that there is more than one way to have a successful book.
As a social media shy (or, at least, hesitant) person, her thread meant a lot to me because I was genuinely beginning to believe there was no other way to have a novel earn out its advance and become popular. In fact, many popular YA authors such as Mackenzi Lee have spoken about advances and popularity before in less hopeful terms. Many comparisons have been made to the ueber successful J.K. Rowling and keeping expectations realistic.
So, while I’ll keep my expectations realistic, it is so nice to know that you don’t necessarily have to win a popularity contest on social media for people to love your book. Sure, it may take a little longer, and in a world so focused on instant gratification, that could feel like an eternity. But the best things don’t happen overnight! I wish R.F. Kuang all the best with her future novels, and I am super excited to read The Dragon Republic.
Do you think it’s possible for a book to be successful without a huge marketing push? My pessimistic side reminds me it’s possible Kuang’s success was a fluke in the system (though her book is excellent). I’d love to hear your thoughts on social media marketing in the comments!