A Year Of Book Buying in Review: Did Social Media Influence My Choices?

What does a year say? Today I was reading Janice Hardy's blog about having too many Twitter followers (and I agree, go read it. It's a great article.) But she linked to an older post by The Intern on author social media presence and if it makes a difference. Does all that tweeting/blogging/spinning plates in the air really effect book sales? 

I've talked about the topic before from my own perspective as an author. However, I thought it would be interesting to look at my own book buying habits as a READER over the past year to see if all that social media book buzz made me buy books. 

*Now, the caveat here is that since I am in this industry, I am dialed in to social media and the world of authors, book bloggers, editors, and such. Readers like me are probably a very small segment of the book buying population. But I still thought it'd be interesting to look at my personal stats.

So here's a look at my 2012:



Number of ebooks (not including free) bought this year: 80

Number of print (not including free) bought this year: 23

Thoughts: Wow, I've definitely become an ebook junkie. But this is probably less about a preference for ebook than it is the sale factor. All those ebook sales get me. Plus, I get LOTS of free print books from conferences so I only have so much room.


How'd I find out about the books I acquired?


On Sale (not including free): 35

Discovered Online through someone other than the author (book blogger, twitter rec, etc.): 22

Free ebooks: 17

Favorite Authors/Auto-buys: 16

Heard About Online Directly From Author: 14

Random purchases: 5

Free print books: A lot, probably at least 50.


-On sale is clearly an effective strategy for me BUT there were a lot more sales I passed up. Often those sales were paired with an online mention/rec by a book blogger or someone I know. So the sale alone is often not enough.

-Yes, I discover most of the books I buy from online soures, BUT it's rarely directly from the author. It's more word of mouth via other authors, readers, and book bloggers.

-The authors who I bought based on directly hearing about their book from them are almost 100% people I've already built relationships with online. So they are friends. These were not purchases from random authors who I've never chatted with who just happened to put out a "buy my book!" tweet. That absolutely is white noise to me. I don't pay attention at all unless I already know the person.


Now, those are the books I've bought, what about the books I've actually READ?


Books discovered via online recommendation by someone other than the author: 17

Books by Favorite/Trusted Authors: 13

Books bought on Sale: 10

Books I heard about directly from the author: 4

Random: 2

Free ebooks: 0

Free print books: 2


-So even though books on sale got the most buys, they didn't get the most reads. Why is this important? Because a sale gets an author their first buy, but a read gets an author their NEXT buy. And the only FREE books I've read this year are two print books that I got at a conference. I've read 0 of the free ebooks I've downloaded.

-Online recs from book bloggers and online friends I trust clearly are effective for both what I purchase and what I read.

-Favorite authors get moved to the top of the pile for reading. I bought 16 of these and read 13. And the three that are unread are only unread because I just got them. So this is stil the strongest bought to read conversion.


Overall: So it looks like YES, my book buying is highly influenced by my online connections. It's the thing that most gets me to buy books because even the sales are discovered via social media. BUT I discover new books and authors through other people not through the author herself. The only books I've bought directly from my connection with the author are people I'd already developed a friendly relationship with.

So what does this mean for authors on social media? 

In my opinion, it means that you should focus on building genuine friendships with people. Trying to sell your books directly to your followers is probably not going to be very effective. But if you build real relationships with people, entertain and help with your blog/tweets/etc., then maybe those people who have gotten to know you will be the people to spread the word on your behalf. And THAT buzz is what actually gets me, as a reader, to buy...and probably many other people as well. But also realize that many, many readers are never going to dial into the online book community, so it's still a small lake in a big ocean. So don't kill yourself trying to be the social media master. Do what you can and write more books.


What are your thoughts? Where do you find out about the books you buy? What's your biggest book buying influence?