Every writer has heard this before: "Having followers on social media is essential for you to sell your book." But Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are also huge time sucks that can take valuable time away from your actual writing. So how important is it really to have thousands of followers on Twitter? Well, it really depends on what your goals are.
If you're hoping to be traditionally published, social media is something to consider but not absolutely essential. By traditionally published, I mean that you're looking to get an agent and have an agent help sell your book to a publisher. While having a large and active following on your social profiles can help boost your stats on your query letter, your agent, the publisher and the publisher's marketing team will handle most of your marketing so you don't have to rely on the audience you've already built up. Of course, this isn't true for everyone, some agents may require their authors to increase their social media presence, others may prefer to have clients/ that stay off those sites and focus on their writing instead. Make sure you research the agent's you're interested in querying to find out if you should be building up your followers.
If you're looking to publish with a small press, with or without an agent, you may be required to do your own marketing. In this case, your social media followers and any mailing lists you have built through it, will be a big help for you. If your followers are fellow writers and interested readers, keeping them informed of your book and promotions will certainly help. It may even be the make-or-break decision for some small publishers in deciding if they want to buy your book at all. If this is the path you want to go down, start posting now and posting often so you don't get burned later on.
If you're interested in self-publishing, being active on social media is absolutely a requirement for you. With no press, no agent and no marketing team behind you, you'll definitely get the best share of the money from your book sales, but you'll also have to do all your marketing work on your own. By networking and building a following on your favorite social media platforms, you can form friendships with other self-published authors that may help you with marketing and you can attract an audience for your book by sharing content your future readers may be interested in.
For anyone, no matter what path you choose, being active and engaging on social media can be a struggle. It's even more difficult when you know your income relies on you being a marketing expert, when you're obviously not. Instead of stressing yourself out, consider hiring a social media manager or consultant to help you out. These people are actually experts at what they do and can take the guess work out of your marketing and give you more time to work on your next book. Plus, many manages, like myself, will offer you a completely free consultation to look over your current strategies, set goals for your future and create a new plan to get you where you want to be.