The 80/20 Rule: How to Promote Your Books Properly on Social Networking Sites

By Paula Margulies

Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, etc., have become an integral part of promoting books and building an author platform. However, authors must realize that there are right – and annoyingly wrong – ways to use these sites.

Used correctly, sites like Facebook and Twitter can help authors position themselves as valuable sources of information and entertainment. Use these sites incorrectly, and authors risk coming across as self-absorbed and inexperienced.

When posting on social networking sites, authors should remember the 80/20 rule. This rule dictates that you spend 80% of your time posting about things other than your book, and 20% selling. That’s right – 80% of what you post should not be a sales pitch. Why is this true? Remember that readers are human beings, who long to make connections with others. They join social networking sites not to receive non-stop reminders to buy, but to develop relationships and learn about topics that matter to them.

So, what should you post 80% of the time? Well, the most important reasons to network are to build relationships with your readers and position yourself as an expert. Therefore, 40% of your posts should be personal: readers want to know about you, your personal life, your thoughts about writing, etc.

The other 40% should be about your subject area, so provide information that your target audience will find interesting and useful. If you’re not an expert in your field or are uncertain about writing on a specific subject area, write about things you do know, such as how you became a writer, what you’ve learned about your subject area while writing, etc. Share whatever expertise you have that your followers might find useful themselves.

The other 20% of the time, you can remind readers that you have a book they might be interested in purchasing. But be judicious with these posts; remember, some of your followers and friends will have already seen posts about buying your book before. Do your best to make your sales posts relevant and interesting; i.e., only issue these kinds of posts when there is something new to announce, such as a price increase, a revised edition, or an interesting review of the book.

What happens when you ignore the 80/20 rule? Do so at your peril; authors who post nothing on their social networking sites but constant reminders to buy their books will usually be ignored, or worse, deleted by their followers.

For those who wish to make the most of social networking and sell books (rather than offend visitors), here is a list of important do’s and don’ts:


…set up profile and fan pages on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google+, etc.

…post often about what’s happening in your life, your thoughts about your writing and your book’s subject area, and about topics relevant to your audience.

…if you use Twitter, retweet relevant posts by your followers. And thank them when they retweet yours.

…if you share information on Facebook, be sure to acknowledge the original source.

…if friends sign up for your Facebook fan pages, be gracious and follow theirs. Likewise, if someone follows you on Twitter, be generous and follow him/her back.

…share news about interviews, awards, sales, plans for sequels, etc.

…be inquisitive. Ask friends and followers for information and advice, and end your posts with invitations for others to weigh in.

…be social. Respond to your friends and followers when they post, and they will respond to you.


...constantly post announcements reminding people to buy your book. One announcement every few weeks is okay, but daily reminders will only serve to alienate your followers.

...constantly announce pricing changes and giveaways. Once in a while is okay, but do this too often and your audience will begin to tune you out.

…hog up the airwaves by posting too often. Be judicious and thoughtful about what you’re putting out there for others to read.

…post inane or useless information; especially avoid constant updates about mundane chores, errands, and household tasks.

…incite others with inflammatory political and/or religious statements. Unless your book is about one of these topics, you stand to alienate 50% of your audience with political and religious posts. Keep your posts professional and relevant, and leave the controversial topics for private conversation at home.

…send out automatic responses to new followers urging them to “take a look” at your website, Amazon account, or segment of a book. Develop a relationship with your followers first, before you clobber them with a back-handed sales pitch.

…send automatic responses at all (they come across as perfunctory and meaningless).

….blow your own horn. Listing yourself as an amazing, bestselling, renowned, etc., author, especially if the book is your first, can be off-putting and make readers see you as pathetic and insecure.

…trash agents, editors, reviewers, or other writers (and if you’re a publishing professional, don’t bash or belittle potential or actual clients). Nothing alienates writers and readers more than someone who appears unkind or has a personal axe to grind.

Finally, as with all other areas in your life, do your best to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Follow the 80/20 rule, be a gracious, supportive, and conscientious social networker, and readers will look forward to reading your posts and buying your books.
Paula Margulies is a book publicity and promotions expert in San Diego, California. You can reach her at, or visit her at, on Twitter at @PaulaMargulies, or on Facebook at Paula Margulies Communications.


  1. Good advice, Paula. The percentages are a useful way for me to think about it. Thanks.

  2. wonderful article. It makes sense to treat your "reading audience" as a friend....I like the 80/20 rule.