The New Role of Social Media in Publishing

Image Via The New York Times

Social media has encroached into nearly every sector of our lives, and publishing is no exception. Scoring a book deal may be easier for people with large followings on social media platforms. With this in mind, just because an individual has a large following on social media, doesn’t mean their book will fly off the shelves. In order for a book to sell, there needs to be a ‘perfect storm’ of sorts. Because many of the metrics to measure success can’t be quantified, publishers are turning to social media to try and make more informed guesses about what will hit. Follower counts can affect things like advances for the author, but they don’t solidify a good book. A person could have followers from a plethora of reasons. Someone may have followers because they were in office ten years ago or someone could have a following of million with low engagement and reach. History shoes that celebrity book deals often don’t perform as well as they’re initially projected. BookTok, or the ‘book side of Tik Tok’ has grabbed the attention of publishers in recent months. Creators who post book reviews and ideas to their vast followings have scored book deals in the last year from reputable publishing houses. The general consensus seems to be, although we can say definitely that social following means high book sales, it certainly helps.

Take Justin Timberlake. His book “Hindsight” was acquired for over $1 million, but when it came out in 2018, Mr. Timberlake had bruised vocal cords and was unable to promote it as planned. The 53 million Instagram followers he had at the time weren’t able to make up for it. “Hindsight” has sold about 100,000 printed copies since its publication three years ago, according to BookScan, not nearly the number his publisher was hoping for.


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