I understand some agents will reject fiction because of an author’s lack of social media presence. I am not that agent. For nonfiction, absolutely, it’s one of the first things I look at, but personally I don’t think fiction authors need a platform. At all.
Social Media for Nonfiction Authors
Social media matters for nonfiction authors. When you enter a space with something to teach or even a personal story to tell, selling that book is heavily dependent on how big your audience is. Sure there are exceptions and breakouts, but if you’re the author of a finance book, competing with all of the other finance authors, readers need to know how they can trust you and who you are to trust. Publishers want to know who is the proven audience for your book. Because, at the end of the day, most of us seeking self-help gravitate toward someone whose name we’ve heard of.
I’ll add here that platform and social media matters for narrative nonfiction and memoir as well for the same reason. Publishers want you to bring a built-in audience.
Social Media for Fiction Authors
Fiction is more subjective and even the biggest social media platform doesn’t necessarily sell books. For example, I have a lot of Twitter followers, many of whom are seeking my advice and insights into publishing. If I wrote a book on publishing (nonfiction) they’d probably be buyers. That could sell a lot of books.
If instead, I wrote a thriller about a woman lost in Alaska with her dog Olive I might only sell to a few of my followers, maybe none. Only some of them have any interest in thrillers and some of those might be tired of dog stories or only read books set in urban settings. Fiction is personal.
What matters in fiction is the writing and the book itself. And of course the hook. That’s what sells the book, that’s what gets traction. That’s what gets people and readers talking. Once you’ve done that they’ll happily come back and buy more books because now you’ve built an author brand.
If you send me fiction I don’t even bother looking at your social media except as a way to get to know a little bit about who you are. If you write nonfiction, it’s the second place I look after the idea and just part of what I base my decision on.
I’ve had nonfiction clients rejected by editors and publishers for lack of a platform. I’ve never had a fiction client rejected for lack of social media presence.