Will Self-Publishing Survive the Impending Implosion of Social Media Marketing?

Did you happen to catch the Sunday Guardian? There’s an opinion column by Ewan Morrison which argues that self-publishing is going to implode upon itself once everyone realizes marketing yourself via social media doesn’t work to sell ebooks.

I’ll let him explain it:

I’m convinced that epublishing is another tech bubble, and that it will burst within the next 18 months. The reason is this: epublishing is inextricably tied to the structures of social media marketing and the myth that social media functions as a way of selling products. It doesn’t, and we’re just starting to get the true stats on that. When social media marketing collapses it will destroy the platform that the dream of a self-epublishing industry was based upon.

Before you start to worry about this, let me inject a little reality (later I’ll poke holes in his arguments). I have a question for you.:Will people still be buying ebooks 18 months from now?

You know and I know that the answer to that question is yes, so it makes little sense to argue that self-publishing will collapse. But that’s not my only issue with the column, and I’m at a loss to pick which part of the column is the most wrong-headed.

You’re welcome to read the column itself, but as for me I think Ewan is wrong in assuming that this one type of marketing is the only type of self-promotion authors can or will do, and I think he has erred in thinking that marketing of an ebook is the only important part of all the many steps involved in creating that ebook.

But most importantly, I think he’s wrong in predicting the death of social media marketing. It sounds to me like Ewan went looking for and found marketing gurus who specialize in this. He’s discovered the hype social media marketing and noticed the hollowness of many of the techniques and the shallowness of some of the so-called experts. He’s also noticed all the authors who are marketing themselves badly.

Okay, he’s not wrong on any of those points, but I think he missed the substance of the issue. Marketing works – if done right. At the moment there are authors engaging with fans to varying degrees and having varying levels of success. Some are doing well, others not. Some are making money, and others aren’t.

Ewan seems to have only encountered the self-published authors who are bad at marketing themselves, and he’s taking them as the whole of the group. He’s pointing to them and saying that social media marketing doesn’t work. I’m not convinced that’s true.

I suppose at this point I should make a  full-throated defense of social media marketing, but I’m not a marketing guru nor do I have all the answers (even though I sometimes act like I do).

All I know is that there are authors who promoted themselves by connecting with fans, and some have been doing that since before social media came along. I don’t see how they will fail to adapt to use a new tool. And if they can do it, so can everyone else.

Do you know the problem with focusing on any topic as a tech bubble? It ignores the fact that the activity was going on before the bubble and will go on after the bubble.

Startups were being launched even as the dotcom bubble collapsed, people still buy and own homes even though the housing bubble collapsed, and most importantly self-pubbed authors are still going to be promoting their ebooks after the social media marketing bubble pops.

image by xddorox

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Robert Nagle31 July, 2012

    I think the bigger problem is that it’s virtually impossible to reach new readers unless you blog or guest blog at various places. And let me tell you one pet peeve: Authors who continue to write and publish screeds about publishing as a way to market themselves. (But I have written my fair share of them, so I guess I can’t complain too loudly!)

  2. Richard Adin1 August, 2012

    I think Morrison has one valid point, which is the ineffectiveness — overall — of marketing via social media. Facebook stock continues to slide as it has been unable to make marketing work well. Increasingly businesses have been doing less social media marketing (GM has reduced its social media budget to near zero). (Just so it is clear, by social media I mean outlets like Facebook.)

    I still think the idea that 1 million authors can create enough “buzz” for their self-published ebooks as to make them financial successes just by mining the Internet is fool’s gold. Without a good product, which many of the self-published titles are not, success will remain illusory. With a good product, which some of the self-published ebooks most definitely are, it is not the author whose marketing efforts will ultimately be successful, but the readers’ efforts.

  3. […] Will self-publishing survive the impending implosion of social media marketing? – The Digital Reader […]


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