If you’ve watched The Simpsons you’ll be familiar with the character Gil Gunderson, a down on his luck salesman who is always trying to get the Simpson family to buy his latest product. Normally by shoving it down their throats or desperately begging and pleading.

If you’re an author on social media, you don’t want to be Gil!

Sure, we all want to sell our books, and it would be lovely if we could post the Amazon purchase links a couple of times a week, and have all our followers check it out, but you have to ask yourself a very important question if you’re doing that:

Why would these people care about you and your book?

If a stranger came up to you on the street and said, “Buy this candy,” unless you really love candy, you’re probably not going to buy it. Why is that? Because you don’t know them, you don’t care about them, and therefore you don’t trust that the candy they’re selling isn’t dodgy.

The same is true with adverts in the media. We don’t buy every product we see on TV or in magazines. We have to care about the product, brand or company that’s selling it. In addition to that, there has to be a need for the production. A single man isn’t going to buy diapers, and likewise, a thirty-something male probably isn’t going to be interested in a YA fairy romance novel, for example. Therefore, it’s always important to keep your audience in mind.

One of the reasons adverts work is because of familiarity and name recognition. You hear a brand and you think ‘oh yeah, I’ve bought one of their products before, so this new one must be good.’ Or if you ask for product recommendations from a friend, you’re more likely to go with a name you’re already familiar with, and you are more likely to buy something a friend has recommended in general, so being interesting and significant goes a long way towards getting those referrals.

The same is true for an author on social media, only the product you’re selling on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and so on, isn’t your latest book, it’s YOU! You’re going to have much more success as an author, and your sales for not just one novel, but all your novels will improve, if people buy into your brand and care about you as a person. If someone sees a book you’ve written, and thinks to themselves ‘Oh, I follow this person on Twitter, they’re really funny,’ they’re more likely to buy your book.

If people see you interacting with others, and contributing to discussions, your name will become familiar, and then when you announce your book’s release, people will be more interested in what you have to say. They’ll trust that what you’re trying to sell them is going to be good, because you’ll have created brand recognition, or as we like to call it, relationships with people.

In the digital age, celebrities are becoming far more accessible. We can go on the Instagram of our favourite actor or singer and see what they ate for lunch. We can look up our favourite author on Twitter, and find out what music they’ve been listening to recently on Spotify. For this reason, no one wants to be part of a corporate ‘buy my books’ machine. We want a fellow human to relate to.

One of the main aims of fiction is to elicit an emotional reaction in the reader, and we do this via relatable life experiences. Even though none of us have gone to a magical boarding school, we can all remember our first day at high school, making new friends, getting used to the class schedule, working out where all the different classrooms are. In the same way, before a person can connect to our books, they want to connect with us as people.

Authors aren’t some mythical creature sitting in an ivory tower, generating novels. Authors are real people, with lives, families, likes and dislikes - the same as everyone else. If your best friend posted on Facebook that they’d been promoted in their job, you’d care, because you have a relationship with them, and you’re happy for their success. That applies to being an author too. If you become friends with your potential readers, and care about their lives, then they’ll care when you release a book. And hopefully care enough to buy it.

No one cares what Gil Gunderson is selling in The Simpsons because, tragically, no one cares about Gil Gunderson. He isn’t a valued member of Springfield, so when he starts shouting “How many can I put ya down for? A lot? Please say a lot. I need this…” it falls on deaf ears. And when you’re announcing a new book, or a revealing a cover, that’s the last thing you’ll want.