Which Social Media Channel Sells The Most Books?


“Which one social media channel will net me the most book sales?” an author asked me recently during my new weekly #BookMarketingChat (join any Wednesday on Twitter, 6pm pst/9pm est simply by typing in the hashtag).

Well, it’s not that easy. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just go to say, Facebook, because that’s the EASY button, and violá! They will come, we will sell, and yacht-life, here we come. Alas, it just doesn’t work that way because well, a few reasons.

Let’s deconstruct.

Social Media: Influence by Network

Which Social Media Channel Sells The Most Books? via Badredhead Media, http://BadRedheadMedia.com

*Note: chart is not specific to book sales*


Across the board, YouTube has the highest conversions and the all-important measure, purchases. Yet, how many authors do you know (including myself) who utilize YouTube? And of those who do, how many are gaining the bulk of their sales from YouTube? Probably not a lot, with of course, the occasional notable exception like John Green.


No surprise here, given that 1.6 billion people use Facebook, worldwide. What this means for authors is that somewhere in that mix is your demographic. In fact, Facebook was the first social network to surpass 1 billion monthly active users (Source: Statista.com).

How do you find readers? That’s the tricky part, as we are not allowed to use our personal accounts for financial gain (yea, we all agreed to that when we signed up for our accounts), so we have to reach our readers via an author page — tricky, Facebook, tricky — and the only way to get people over to our page is to pay to boost posts, or promote our page — aka, advertising. Still, I love interacting with people on a personal level, which is what the personal account is for, not ‘selling,’ so there’s that.

Use your author page to sell and interact, your personal account to build relationships. Keep the two separate. If you don’t, you risk Facebook shutting down your account (and believe me, it happens ALL.THE.TIME.).


The next most effective site is, shockingly for many, Google+. Google+, you say, scratching your head. Are they even still around? Yes, not only is Google+ still around, it’s very effective for helping your SEO for one extremely simple reason: Google owns Google+. Whenever you post to G+, it shows up at the top of your Google profile.

Like Facebook, G+ has both personal (circle) accounts and professional brand pages. Be sure to set up your professional author page. *If you’re using Hootsuite, only the brand page integrates. Don’t worry too much about interacting, likes, follows, etc. The most important thing here is posting regularly (again, integrate with Hootsuite or Buffer — super easy) to increase your visibility on Google.


Look at Pinterest! I love Pinterest. It’s easy to use, but don’t be fooled, it’s a game changer for authors if you learn how to use it properly by optimizing your pins. Look at this: Pinterest was the fastest independently launched site to reach 10 million unique monthly visitors. (Source: Statista.com). Ever. Awareness level is high as well, so this is a good place for you to share your books, blog posts, and visual quotes.

For some great optimization tips, take a look at Pinterest’s Help section, this FAB, detailed article from CoSchedule Blog, or this article from AdWeek. Pin a lot, share a lot, join group boards. I recommend adding the Pinterest extension to your browser toolbar to make sharing easy.


Clearly, my favorite for many reasons, but the biggest one is this: look at that big blue awareness bar — that’s why Twitter is great for authors — to help with visibility, connection, and building relationships. It’s total sh*t for sales, which is why authors need to STOP already with the ‘buy my book!’ tweets and autoDMs.

Authors, look at the data! Nobody is buying your bloody books from Twitter! 

I will say this, though: Twitter is a fabulous channel for developing relationships, and relationships are key to selling books. Connect with readers by using ManageFlitter (totally worth getting the Pro plan for like, $12/month or something) to target readers, book bloggers, book reviewers, book clubs — aka readers and influencers). The biggest mistake I see authors make when they start on Twitter, and why they whine that it’s all ‘authors hawking books’ is because they’re only following other authors.

Start right now on changing your strategy, and if you don’t have one, get one.

Back To Our Original Question…Which Social Media Channel Is Best for Authors?

A Case Study.

Not so fast there, cowboy. That’s a demographics question. What is your genre? Who is your ideal reader? Have you done any research? Do you have any idea? 

I created a marketing plan recently for a client whose book is self-help. When I asked him who his demographic/ideal reader is he replied, “No f*cking clue,” which is so common. We write for a set of readers in our heads, but mostly we write for ourselves. There is data out there though; you just need to find it.

How did I find out who his demographic is? I started with Google (doh). Interestingly, I found that readers of self-help books tend to be female, middle-class, educated, younger, with 73% under the age of 45.

So, what does this tell me about where he should spent his time on social media?

From there, I went to the Pew Research Center, to find out more info, broken down by gender and social media channel. They found that “female internet users are roughly three times as likely as their male counterparts to use Pinterest (44% vs. 16%). In addition, online women are also more likely than online men to use Facebook and Instagram. Some 77% of online women are Facebook users, compared with two-thirds of online men. Instagram use follows a similar pattern, with online women being more inclined to use the picture-sharing site than men (31% vs. 24%).” *Twitter and LinkedIn skewed pretty evenly.

So, after all that Sherlocking, what conclusion did I reach? That this guy needs to be spending his social media time on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram (to his horror), with consistency on Twitter and LinkedIn.

This research took me maybe twenty minutes of clicking around and taking notes, something every one of you reading this can easily do to find out your own demographic information. 

Yes, that was a hint.

Will Social Media Channel Sells My Books?

No. Not by itself. And that’s assuming that by ‘social media,’ you understand that it’s about interaction, sharing interesting, curated articles, visual quotes, participating in chats, and other tactics that reveal you as a human being, not an automaton. Selling books is a combination of many factors, including:

  • Regular, consistent blogging
  • an SEO-optimized website
  • a newsletter
  • promotions
  • reviews
  • pricing geared toward your demographic
  • blog tours (great for visibility/terrible for book sales)
  • interaction with readers on many levels
  • advertising
  • and many other factors not listed here, but this is a start….

My suggestion for any author is to do the work: research, learn, study, and stop looking for the easy button. Being an author is being a business because you are selling a product. Be a professional, and learn all the ways possible to market and sell your work. And above all, write great books!







  1. Derek Haines on May 7, 2016 at 8:18 am

    Great post Rachel. I particularly like your ‘Easy Button’. So many hopeful authors seem to think that book marketing is only about looking for this non-existent magic button. Very few understand the concept of research and hard work.

    • Rachel Thompson on May 7, 2016 at 9:01 am

      HI Derek, my friend! So great to see you here on my blog.

      gosh, isn’t that the case. Even more unrealistic is that so many think that blasting ‘buy my book’ tweets will do it. or that any ONE social media channel is the answer to magical book sales. I’m just one tiny voice in the massive crowd who is trying to help them, but meh, they’ll learn at some point. Or they won’t — they’ll give up and say ‘my books just don’t sell, I don’t know why!’ and that’s that.

      Smart businesspeople (because that’s what authors must be) will spend that time and research. Otherwise, they’re in for a long, hard empty sales road.

      • Derek Haines on May 7, 2016 at 11:31 am

        You and I have been around the block, Rachel. But we still get surprised. I got a Tweet message yesterday on my publishing advice blog, asking if I could give the author advice on self-publishing. Um, like, sure, I can help you sell millions of copies in 140 characters. But really, obviously you can’t be f**ing bothered reading my over 300 publishing advice posts, can you? Yep. I only want the magic button. lol

  2. carol hedges (@carolJhedges) on May 9, 2016 at 12:56 am

    Absolutely. I read all these posts looking for the ‘easy button’. Just in case I missed it. But I haven’t. I think it also helps if you have a great ‘product’ and are a kinda extrovert personality. BUT despite everything you have written, there are still writers (I know penty) who shun social media, yet still have booming sales….weird isn’t it?

    • Rachel Thompson on May 15, 2016 at 2:54 pm

      We never know what will work, and it truly does depend on the quality of the writing when you come down to it. A horrible book will only sell on a ‘name’ for so long – until the 1-star review overtake it.

      As for extroverts vs. introverts: I’m an introvert at heart. Social media is great for introverts, because we can hide behind our screens LOL. I do like picking and choosing who I can interact with, and when. If I’m just not up for it, I shut it down and write (and work). I like having that option of not being ON all the time — it’s exhausting.

  3. Lloyd Lofthouse on May 9, 2016 at 8:22 am

    Thank you for the eye opening post. YouTube! I don’t have any clue how to use YouTube properly other than book trailers, but what about as a visual, talking head Blog?

    • Rachel Thompson on May 9, 2016 at 8:31 am

      I know, right? yes, that’s why I mention John Green, a talking head (who’s also very entertaining).

      Other entertaining talking heads I watch regularly are Mario Forlio, Jenna Moreci, and a few others (if you click around) you’ll find many who suit your own tastes. Again, this chart is not specific to AUTHORS, but the sales funnel overall by social network. Still, good info.

      • Lloyd Lofthouse on May 9, 2016 at 8:38 am

        Thank you. I’ll check them out. I’m thinking the best YouTube format would be a talking head who doesn’t talk just about his books but about topics linked to his books. For instance, my iLookChina.net blog focuses on everything about China and the Chinese because my first novel is historical fiction set in China about a real person, and I think that paid off. I launched that Blog in 2010 and ended that year with more than 1,000 posts and 2,375 sales for the novel. In 2009, only 341 copies sold without the blog. In 2011, sales leaped to 4,641 copies as long as I kept publishing at least one post a day. When I eventually cut back to 2 Blog posts a week, sales started to drop off along with Blog traffic.

  4. […] Thompson shares which social media channel sells the most books, while Jason Matthews suggests checking on Scribd for a pleasant […]

  5. Emily Bendler on May 23, 2016 at 11:31 am

    This is such a useful and informative post. I will definitely be bookmarking this for future use.

    • Rachel Thompson on May 23, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      thank you, Emily! appreciate the visit and kind comments xx

  6. Learn with KJ on May 23, 2016 at 11:38 am

    Great article!! What tips do you have for creating a sales funnel utilizing social media? In the future, I plan on launching a YouTube Channel which will hopefully lead to me selling a book eventually. I hear sales funnel all of the time and don’t know where to get started with that. Thanks again!

    • Rachel Thompson on May 23, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      Hi KJ! great question.

      It depends on the goal of your services or blog. If you want to bring people to your blog (or site) for the purposes of selling them something, then you need to gear your landing page and content for that purpose. Sign them up for your newsletter, or take them to an information page where they can then purchase services (and more info only available by purchase) — or consulting or services, etc…

      Here are some great examples of sales funnels from Petovera.com which I refer clients to frequently. Decide which model works best for you! Hope that helps 🙂

  7. Nicole Cleveland (@nicoleconline) on May 26, 2016 at 3:14 am

    Great article. Thanks for sharing information that others charge big $$$ for. Now we must apply what we learn and do the work.

  8. Carol Cameleon on September 13, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    I love your comment about the tweets about buy my books/DMs. Oh how they get on my nerves! Pinterest is still vastly underestimated in my opinion. #MondayBlogs

  9. […] social media is great for connecting and building relationships with readers and influencers, but not so great for sales. This is why I implore you not to have that automated direct message (autoDM) that says “Hey, […]

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  12. Mark D Swartz on May 24, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    Hi Rachel, I realize that I’m late to this party. However I couldn’t help but notice how GoodReads.com was not even considered as a social media channel for selling books.

    Please note that I have no connection to that site (other than being an author who is attempting to increase my audience there).

    It simply sparked my curiosity as to why GoodReads – with millions of monthly book reader visits, and direct-buying links to major online retailers on every book – would be any less germane than Twitter or YouTube vis-a-vis this article.

    Your thoughts?

    • Rachel Thompson on May 25, 2017 at 2:00 pm

      Hi Mark, and great question! Goodreads is not listed on the chart above, so I didn’t include it in my post. Additionally, I only went into the specifics of the data available via Pew Research, which doesn’t include Goodreads.

      However, Goodreads IS a great platform to connect with readers, book bloggers and book reviewers IF you don’t spam your book. Here’s a great article by Barb Drozdowich (reviewer, book blogger, and author) Goodreads for Authors | Self-Publishing Advice Center http://ow.ly/bdib30c3aSO by @sugarbeatbc which covers the top ways to interact with readers. Hope this helps!

      • Lloyd Lofthouse on May 25, 2017 at 2:13 pm

        Hope it’s okay if I jump in here too.

        Goodreads was a social media site for readers and where authors could connect with readers that might want to read what they write before Amazon bought the site back in 2013. Today you can buy advertising through Goodreads but from what I know about the advertising Amazon offers through Goodreads, it, like BookBub, isn’t cheap.


      • Mark D Swartz on May 26, 2017 at 1:38 pm

        Thank you Rachel for the fast and helpful reply. I appreciate the link to Barb Drozdowich’s Goodreads article. It contained several ideas that I hadn’t thought of yet.

        I am still debating whether to make GoodReads on of my three key social media properties, as part of my online marketing strategy. The intent would be to engage potential readers with discussions surrounding the primary themes I am tackling in my debut novel. Keeping the process organic and mutually interesting is paramount.

        By the way, I love how you freely share your experienced advice with us newbie indies! Keep up the great work. 🙂

  13. […] Rachel Thompson is a bestselling author, and a social media and author marketing/branding consultant (BadRedheadMedia). She writes for several sites, including Huffington Post, Medium, Mogul, Feminine Collective, Pronoun, Blue Ink Review and Indie Reader. This post was originally published on her blog.  […]

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  15. Alison Brodie on January 1, 2018 at 6:25 am

    Great, informative post, especially for indie authors. Thank you!

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