Author Platforms in 2024: What to Expect
2024 will be the year of "less is more" for author platforms.
In this edition of Publishing Confidential, we’ll discuss the state of author platforms as we head into 2024. But first, subscriber housekeeping:
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I’ve written a lot about the current state of social media concerning authors and book publishing. I had remained hopeful about some platforms. Now that 2023 is ending, it’s an excellent time to reassess what’s working and not worth the effort. The industry is now where agents and publishers can no longer pass on projects because an author lacks a substantial following on social media. It’s an easy out for them and unfair to writers.
Let’s dig in:
If I had to choose one platform to step away from, it would be Twitter. Someday, what happened to Twitter will be a business school case study of what not to do when you take over a social media platform. The algorithm favors users who have paid for verification, and the engagement level of those who don’t pay is abysmal. Further, it won’t be long before Elon Musk charges a fee for everyone to use features on the platform.
When considering where to spend time on a platform, you must consider the engagement and growth you’ll experience. Twitter is stagnant and hasn't been for some time. Even at its best, Twitter didn’t do much for book sales. Yes, it elevated authors' names and brought writing communities together, but it no longer serves a meaningful purpose in book publishing. Agents and publishers must stop seeking a magic number of followers on Twitter from potential authors. It will not make a difference now, and it won’t make a difference in 2024.
Facebook is a viable platform, but you must know what you want. Most, if not all, the action occurs in Facebook Groups. I belong to several, but my top three are Binders Building Platforms, PR & Marketing Czars, and Gee Thanks, Just Bought It! With Caroline Moss (if you are into shopping or need fashion advice, join it). The engagement in Facebook groups can be phenomenal, but you get what you put in from them. You can’t always promote your work, but you can comment on posts when it makes sense and build a community. After Hurricane Sandy, I created a Facebook group called New Jersey Needs, where people in Jersey Shore communities helped each other. It grew to over 3k members quickly. While I’m no longer active there, it proved to me that I knew how to reach an audience and that the “why” is essential.
What you should not do on Facebook is create a page with the title of your book. I don’t think making an author fan page on Facebook is necessary unless you have the time and energy to engage with people. An excellent Facebook group to join for fiction writers is Friends and Fiction, which has over 223K members. Allow enough time before your publication date to make inroads within Facebook groups. It takes time to build trust and relationships there.
Facebook advertising is hit-or-miss. The good news is you can spend as little as $50 to test it out. If you don’t see results, try different visuals and language. It is low risk, so why not? Meta has consistently improved the platform to remain an important marketing tool in 2024
I spend a lot of time on Instagram because I like how I can curate my feed. I also like that Instagram has various ways to showcase content: the grid, Stories, and Reels. Reels is Instagram’s answer to TikTok and is used heavily by influencers. Stories are a great way to share other people’s posts and are an easy way to support other authors. If you prefer using the grid, you can write lengthy captions (but don’t make them too long).
A few caveats about Instagram: It requires time and attention. You can’t build a following overnight, and you can’t simply post content without context. You are building a presence and must give followers a reason to stay. Allowing readers to get a peek into bits of your life is a way to connect with them, and you don’t have to overshare. If you want to experiment with Reels, write some talking points and use them on video. I’ve discovered that I am less awkward when I scribble notes to look at as I speak. When you post on your grid, create a carousel of visuals. The literary agent Carly Watters does a great job of this, so check out her account. You should also create an account on Canva and teach yourself how to create graphics. If I can do it at the ripe old age of 51, so can you.
Does Instagram sell books? Sometimes. It depends on the type of book and how the author uses the platform. I’ve seen romance and cookbooks sell well because the authors connect with their audience. Good examples to check out are Tarryn Fisher and Dan Pelosi.
It’s safe to say that TikTok is sticking around. It has experienced steady growth and keeps evolving. The newest feature is shopping, but its early success is debatable. Most demographics are watching TikTok clips of shows like The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Inventing Anna, and various movies. If you’re wondering what is hurting the streaming business, that’s it. Why pay for it when you can watch it for free?
BookTok is complicated. We already know how well Colleen Hoover used it to become successful, but the average author usually doesn’t want to create clever videos, and I don’t blame them. You don’t have to be creative, but you do have to be engaging and offer something to your audience. One of my TikToks received over 1K views because I unboxed a particular book paired with a good song. It was fun, simple, and low stakes. The best part was that I didn’t have to be on camera. Some authors go overboard with self-promotion on BookTok, which is not a long-term strategy.
Mostly, the books that go viral on TikTok do so organically. Some publishers have cultivated lists of BookTok accounts that they recruit to feature books, but I haven’t seen great results from those campaigns because the videos are boring and don’t receive a lot of views. Forget about follower count on TikTok—the power is in the number of views a video gets.
An issue I continue to see is that BookTok is becoming toxic. Both creators and commentators are starting to fall into a pattern of calling other people out, which is unhealthy. It fractures the book community on the platform and devalues other people’s hard work. For that reason, I suggest proceeding with caution in 2024. Lurk if you want, but don’t feel pressured to join in.
Oh, LinkedIn. We can’t live with it, but can we live without it? I don’t think so. The initial mission of LinkedIn was to connect professionals and help with job searches. Somehow, it has morphed into a story time session we never signed up for. Believe it or not, a cottage industry of writers creates content for executives to post on the platform. LinkedIn's current iteration problem is that it doesn’t know what it is.
Here’s what to know about LinkedIn as we head into 2024: It’s a great platform for “thought leaders” to build a following. A thought leader has a perspective on the business world you may not find elsewhere. They are at the top of their respective fields, and people trust them. The platform works well for business books, self-improvement books, and sometimes health-related books. It also works as a platform to show your expertise in a subject if you can write well about it. I always post this newsletter there with varying degrees of engagement. Still, my true purpose for doing so is to showcase that I am a publishing industry expert (If I’m being honest, I don’t like calling myself that).
LinkedIn can work for you if you’re writing in the spaces I mentioned above. It doesn’t work for fiction and various genres of nonfiction. Additionally, it would be best to never pitch your book in a message to people on LinkedIn. It’s a good way to get blocked. If you want to connect with someone in the industry, write them a message introducing yourself.
Threads is my new favorite platform. I only have slightly over 1,500 followers, but my engagement is 100x better there than anywhere else. You need an Instagram account to set up a Threads profile, which is simple.
What I like about it: The engagement is authentic, not performative. It’s a different vibe than Twitter for that reason. You can write longer posts and edit them without paying for a subscription like you do on Twitter. Threads is adding new features quickly—you can now post gifs, polls, and videos. You can also post photos. There is a large book community on Threads because bookstagramers have joined. It’s a friendlier place than Twitter, and the best part is that there is growth. Threads now has 100M active monthly users, which will increase substantially in 2024.
What I don’t like about it: The timeline refresh is still slow but improving. There are no trending topics, but I think that will change. People don’t use hashtags, but I’m not sure that is such a bad thing. When I was using Twitter regularly, I rarely used hashtags. Threads needs to improve their search mechanism because it is currently limited.
The bottom line is if you know how to build a following, you should try Threads. Having fewer followers is okay if your engagement levels are significant. Publishers shouldn’t discount the platform, nor should agents.
VII. Blue Sky
Blue Sky is an invitation-only platform, so it is still niche. That said, there is a solid literary contingency that migrated from Twitter. Still, with only 257 followers, I receive more engagement on the platform than on Twitter. The timeline refreshes quickly, but finding people you were following on other platforms is challenging. It’s an excellent place to experiment with posts because it is low stakes. All you need is an invitation code.
Blue Sky hasn’t released much information about new features or when they’ll open the platform to the masses, so it’s hard to predict its trajectory in 2024. I wouldn’t discount it, but I also wouldn’t put much stock into it yet.
I'd love to know if you understand how to use Mastodon productively. It’s not user-friendly. I tried it for a day and decided life was too short to figure out another platform. Sorry, I’m being honest. My advice is to skip it because it had its moment when Elon Musk took over Twitter, and that moment has passed.
Substack is terrific for several reasons. You own your audience, you can create a revenue stream from your writing, and you have a lot of creative freedom. While it is still young to book publishing, I have seen early signs of pre-order campaigns for books working well when an author has a substantial following. My website is almost done, but one of the services listed on it will be a 90-minute Substack consultation to help authors build their audience on the platform. You can’t lose by investing your time in Substack. The trick is knowing your audience (which, if you’re an author, you need to know anyway) and what they want. I know my audience wants information about the publishing industry, the process of being published, marketing, and publicity. Admittedly, I subscribe to many newsletters on the platform, but they are all so good! Here are some writers to check out:, , , , , , and .
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my absolute queen,, whose advice columns I have been reading since I was in college.
There is so much good content on Substack and great ways to share it. It’s the platform I am most excited about and where I spend the bulk of my time. The writing community on Substack is generous and kind.
Every publisher should be on Substack at this point, and if they’re not, they’re missing an opportunity to connect with readers in a different way. I can’t wait to see what happens next with the platform, so don’t skip it in 2024.
YouTube is powerful to reach the coveted 18-35 demographic. I don’t spend much time there, but my two teenagers do. This is a platform for everything, which makes it hard to browse. You'll find it if you know what you’re looking for (in my case, it is usually a video explaining spreadsheets or something to do with tech). My millennial nieces and nephews with young children rely on it to entertain the little ones.
BookTube is popular, but only for some. Videos are well-produced and edited, and while some of them garner thousands of views, they don’t often translate into book sales.
YouTube’s central focus is on streaming, and it spent a lot of money to acquire NFL rights. The people who are replacing cable with YouTube aren’t looking for videos about books. Instead, they are watching shows, movies, and sports. Netflix can’t even rival YouTube’s subscriber numbers. The bottom line is you don’t have to spend time trying to make the platform work for you as an author. You should, however, know what your audience is watching on the platform and how it relates to your book.
I saved the best/worst for last. Goodreads could be better. Hard stop. It isn't good for an author’s mental health, and publishers put far too much stock in promoting books there. It is owned by Amazon, which is a problem because the design is terrible, and there is no mechanism to stop review bombing (the coordinated act of giving a massive number of one-star reviews for a book). The platform needs an overhaul, and until that happens, authors and publishers should think about the cost-benefit of using it. As I’ve previously written, I’ve never been in a sales meeting where Goodreads was mentioned as the reason for a book’s success. There are people who will argue this point, but I’d ask them to show me sales conversion data for books they think were successful because of a Goodreads giveaway.
The toxicity of Goodreads has reached a point where there isn’t a sense of community on the platform, which is sad. It could be a great place, but it will never reach its full potential unless Amazon sells it to someone who knows how to manage it better. I’m not saying don’t create an author page there but do so at your peril. It will not make your book, but it can certainly break it if, for some reason, people decide to review bomb you. I don’t see much changing on Goodreads heading into 2024, so expect much of the same, which is not much at all.
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