the Little Red Reviewer

A Few Do’s and Don’t’s of Author Self Promotion

Posted on: May 24, 2016

 

There was a neat panel at this year’s PenguiCon about author self promotion. I didn’t make it to the panel, but I wanted to, and I bet a lot of what I bring up in this blog post was mentioned there. Or at least I hope it was.

 

As a blogger, I’m on the receiving end of all that author self promotion. What authors put out there tends to end up in my inbox and in my twitter feed, and allows me to make a snap decision on if I’m going to give them 5 seconds, or a week of my life to read and then write an in depth review of their novel.

 

I’ve been blogging since mid 2010, and on twitter for about five years. I’ve seen plenty of author promotion – some of it effective, and some of it terrible.   Us blogger types can be harsher than slush readers and professional editors and publishers. At least those folks are obligated to read your first few hundred or few thousand words before deciding to read on.  I’ll be making a decision to interact with you (or not) based on the first few sentences of your first interaction with me.

 

(tl;dr:  do: be authentic and friendly . Don’t: be pushy)

One of the most effective and easiest ways to interact with me and people like me (as in, people most likely to buy and then talk to their friends about your work) is

 

DO: Join a community, and join it as a fan.  Fantasy Faction, Goodreads, Tor.com, Reddit/r/fantasy, anywhere that invites discussion or a forum. Join it as a fan of the things you enjoy. When I say “join it as a fan”, I mean go there to talk about things you are a fan of.  There’s a thread about a movie you enjoy? Add a comment about your favorite scene or that you thought the directing was amazing. People are talking about a book you enjoyed? Interact with them and add to the conversation. Discuss your Game of Thrones fan theory on who Jon Snow’s parents are, share your pics of your knitted BB8, argue about which season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Battlestar Galactica were the best or weakest. Talk about your favorite Doctor. Be an active fan of the things you enjoy, and interact with other fans.

 

DON’T: Join a community for the sole purpose of promoting your book. Don’t start threads that are any variation of “my new book is pure awesomesauce, you should read it!”. This will be perceived as spam, and the only thing anyone will remember is the name of the person who wrote that spammy post.

 

DO: Tell me what what you’re passionate about.  But, I already know that you love the book you just wrote, and I know you’d love to be a New York Times Bestselling author. Tell me something else you love.  Your garden?  Carpentry? Knitting? Horse racing? Downton Abbey? Anime? Star Wars? Single malt whisky?  I wanna hear all about it! And I want to hear about it because I want to connect with you as a human being. Tell me about the things you love, and why you love them. Because I might be passionate or interested in even one or many of the same things.  If I’ve connected with you as a human being because we have something, even the smallest thing, in common, I am a thousand percent more likely to respond positively to your book promotion.

 

Which brings me to:

 

DO: Have a website. And update it from time to time. This is a no-brainer. There’s no crying in baseball, and there’s no whining in website creation. Do not say “I don’t need a website. I can’t afford one.” You do, and there are plenty of free ones that do 90% of what the expensive ones do. You are on a free website right now. If you can use Microsoft Office or gmail, you can figure out WordPress.  Use your website to showcase yourself: your book cover art, stuff you love, concept sketches, talk about your writing process, and to brag about events you will be at. Yep, this is where you do get to brag!  Will you be at a bookstore hosted book signing or a library workshop? Will you be at a convention? Will you be presenting a paper at a conference?  Let people know!   Do you have to do events? Of course not. But if you do, let people know about them. And be friendly and gracious at those events. Thank people for coming.  And if you’re on twitter, tumblr, facebook, or the other trendy social media sites, don’t forget to put a link on your website so people can jump over to social media to follow you there. Which leads to..

 

DO: Use twitter wisely.  I’m primarily a twitter user, so I can’t speak to tumblr, facebook, and whatever the cool kids are using these days, but I imagine similar rules will apply, no matter what social media you are using.  Follow people, organizations, publishers, and magazines that you enjoy and admire.  Don’t get in a tizzy if people don’t follow you back.  Help promote the works of others. The types of author tweets I’m most likely to respond positively to? Ones that promote other people, such as “I loved this story by @someauthorilike, it gave me #allthefeels.” and “Check out the amazing authors who will be presenting at @hometownlibrary next week! I’ll be there too!”.  Use twitter in a similar fashion that you’re already using community forums, to respond to tweets with things like “@redhead5318 I really liked that Parker novella too!”.  I’ve purchased many books solely on the fact that I have a positive twitter relationship with that author. The author never overtly asked me to buy their stuff, but they authentically interacted with me and over time built a relationship. Act like a person on twitter and be authentic, don’t act like an author whose only goal is to get me to read your books, which leads to…

 

DON’T: Use twitter to spam people. Please, please don’t do this. Every few weeks, I get a random tweet from someone I don’t know that is a variation of:

 

@redhead5318 check out my Amazon bestseller MY BOOK TITLE! I’d like you to review it.

 

I don’t click the link, because I don’t care. But I do click the person who tweeted me,only to see that the last 20 tweets they sent were identical to their tweet to me.  This isn’t book promotion, this is spam. If you are guilty of sending 20 identical book promo tweets to bloggers you found in someone’s followers list, that sound you just heard is me and 19 other bloggers blocking you. You just alienated the exact people who in better circumstances could have helped you.  As I said,  please don’t do this.

 

As a corollary,

 

DON’T: Spam a million bloggers with your review request.  By all means, e-mail bloggers and ask them to review your book, but make sure you are e-mailing the right bloggers.  And that means actually reading their review policies. Treat their review policies as you would a publisher’s submission guidelines. If a reviewer says they don’t review dinosaur erotica, it’s probably a waste of time for Chuck Tingle to send them a review request. If he did, that blogger would delete his e-mail, but not before forwarding it to their friends with the message of “if this idiot won’t read my review policy, why should I review their book?”

 

All of this boils down to:

 

DO: treat your prospective fans as if they were nice neighbors you’d like to befriend. Be authentic, be friendly, start conversations, and don’t be pushy. Let them get to know you as a human being before saying “read my book?”. Trust me, we know you are an author. Because you’ve got that neat and informative website, right?

 

Self promotion is sales of the product known as YOU. Sales 101 is relationship building by getting to know your customer.  If you’re in the market to buy some furniture, and you can afford either a sofa or a kitchen table but not both, which salesperson at the furniture store are you most likely to engage with?

 

Salesperson A: Let me show you this beautiful dining room table! It’s solid wood, is an Amazon bestseller, and it’s perfect for you! Follow me!

 

Salesperson B: Welcome to our furniture store. What types of furniture would you like to look at first today? Our store is pretty big, so I’m happy to point you in the right direction or simply let you explore. I’ll catch up with you in a little while.

 

As an author, you’re the salesperson. Are you promoting yourself in a way that others will want to engage in?

 

I once asked an author why their self promotion consisted of what I perceived as twitter spam. The author, of course, did not perceive what they were doing as spam, and when I told them their method of self promotion was alienating, they said they simply didn’t have time for anything better.

 

You had time to write a novel you’re proud of, right?

 

That means you have time for self promotion you’re proud of.

 

13 Responses to "A Few Do’s and Don’t’s of Author Self Promotion"

This is one of the best posts about self-promotion and 101 Ethics for Writers I’ve read in a long long time, Andrea! Looks like wise, sensible things to do, and yet, that’s not the case, especially for Twitter… (gosh).

Liked by 2 people

I want to write this on the sky. I’ve had review requests for books on self-help before – that came through the contact form on my blog. Right under my review policy. I mean, really?

Liked by 1 person

Excellent points!

Like

Yes to this!
Being low-key and authentic on social media is easier and more fun. So why not do that? Selling is exhausting. I’m on Twitter to hang out with cool people, period.

Like

Hello, Andrea

Excellent post! Thank you.

So sorry I’ve been so quiet for so long. Deeply engaged with this everlasting novel in progress. But pleased to actually get some progress made!

I will be back on-line soon!

Liked by 1 person

Novel progress is good!😀

Like

Fantastic post! It still surprises me these days when I come across an author whose website I want to link in my review, only to find he/she does not have one. It’s like, I want to get your name/site/twitter out there, but I can’t help you if you don’t help yourself. And when I read a book I like, I always go to the author’s site to check out what other books they have out, or releasing soon. It’s so easy, it’s so useful, it’s a must.

Liked by 1 person

Buffy: 3 (best), 6 (worst)
BSG (new): 1 (best), 5 (worst – or 4B or whatever it’s called) – wait, no, maybe 4 (4a?), because at least some things happened in the final run. With the exception of a few later good (beginning 2, Pegasus arc, beginning 3) and bad (that run in late 2) short stretches, BSG is one of the most perfect examples of diminishing returns in TV history… [I wouldn’t even argue against the idea that the Miniseries may be better than S1, on average]

Anyway, on the rest: I’d just note the difficulty of accounting for culture and personality. To me, for instance, the things you list as good things on Twitter come across as very bad things. I hate it when small authors on twitter do ‘free’ publicity for other authors – it feels in the best case like sycophancy, hoping for attention from bigger names, and in the worst case it can feel like conspiracy, mutual back-rubbing exercises to collaboratively put one over on the fans – you praise me, I praise you, quid pro quo. It all feels deeply inauthentic to me. For me, the exceptions are when another author organically comes up in conversation (‘oh, if you like X, have you tried Y? They’re very similar in tone…’, rather than ‘READ MY FRIENDS GREAT NEW BOOK PEOPLE!’), or when a very big author gives attention to a very small author, where they’re clearly not looking for anything in return.

I suppose more generally, I also get uncomfortable when an author tries to act like a human being and be ‘authentic’ and ‘friendly’ – same as I do with any salesman. I accept that people are going to try to manipulate me into buying things, but I prefer it when they’re upfront about it, and respect the social boundaries: our relationship is a commercial one, so don’t try acting like my friend to guilt me into buying your stuff. I don’t like having to worry about which ‘friends’ on the internet are really only authors trying to blend in with the herd as a marketing strategy. Too much advice about selling your book by fitting in and making friends reads like the how-to-be-a-psychopath manuals that they presumably give out to professional salesmen (or pipe into their brains as they’re developing in their stomach-coccoons, since it’s hard to imagine those people actually developing into those personalities organically…)

[I guess I also don’t particularly like having a sense of an author as a personality, as it clouds (usually for the worst) my enjoyment of the book and makes reading into a much more complicated social situation filled with guilts and awkwardnesses. In general, at least; there are a few authors for whom I’m willing to cross over from ‘person who likes their product’ to ‘fan’… but not many, and I don’t like being pushed and prodded into crossing that line. Regarding websites: I’ve only a handful of times even considered going to an author’s website, and find the idea that they’re all meant to have one kind of weird. I’d find knowing that an author had a website quite offputting, unless they were genuinely famous enough to need one – it would feel like promotion, to me.]

Conversely, while personally I’d find both those furniture salesmen obnoxious – your job is to stand silently and invisibly until I actually specifically ask you a question! – and have been known to walk out of shops if the staff get as intrusive as that… I know some people would actually prefer Salesperson A. They see her as confidant, proactive, knowledgeable, sincere, uncomplicated, decisive, and helpful. I suspect the same holds true of online marketing as well, for many.

[Perhaps the sort of personality who prefers Salesperson A is more likely to become a self-marketing author in the first place? And perhaps the sort of personality who prefers Salesperson B is more likely to become a review blogger? And perhaps the sort of personality who finds both of those salespeople intrusive and presumptious is more likely to just read and recommend privately, or (like me) have a blog but put no effort into maintaining or marketing it?]

Like

thank you for your indepth comments, this is great!

You’ve pointed out something really important – how does anyone know if an author is being authentic or not? They might say “Neil Gaiman’s new book is awesome!”, and how do you know if they’re just shilling for Gaiman, or being authentic? At first blush, you don’t. But if you’ve followed someone for a while on twitter, if you’ve interacted with them and observed how they interact with others, you’ll know if they are being authentic or not. For example, I’m terrible at knowing what the right voice inflection is, and in in-person conversations people who don’t know me think I’m being inauthentic because of the odd and inconsistent way the pitch of my voice changes. Once someone knows me for a few weeks, they know to pick up on other things to know if I’m authentically complimenting them or if I’m just kissing butt or trying to manipulate them.

In one of my previous careers, I sold furniture. My job was to inform customers about the options and help them choose something that fit their budget, fit their needs, and would ultimately bring joy into their lives. And the way for me to do that was to invite a conversation. The more information people gave me, the better I was able to serve their needs, interests, and concerns. Certainly some people curtly said “I’ll find you if I need you”, and I respected that and left them alone. But at the end of the day, those commissions paid my rent, and sales meant the store stayed in business.

Liked by 1 person

Reblogged this on Owen Banner and commented:
Excellent advice from a reviewer/blogger on how authors can avoid being “that guy” on the internet.

Like

It’s funny, when I read your dialogue of selling furniture, I just thought, “that’s a very well thought out allegory of how to go about selling books.” Then I read down further to find that you, in fact, sold furniture. I think that touches on the aspect of writing what you know. It goes the same for your online interactions. Get involved in groups you know something about and contribute value to the conversation. If you don’t know anything, then join groups you’d like to learn something about and ask questions, pose hypotheticals.

So many authors treat readers like they are stray cats desperate for a good meal. So they wander up and down the Interalleys pitching their book on blogs, Twitter feeds, and Goodreads forums like it was an open can of Fancy Feast. I thought that was how you did it when I first finished writing my novel. Just show up online when you’re not writing to slap a few choice morsels down in people’s faces and expect them to up and follow you back to your blog.

I got burned out pretty quick and hated feeling inauthentic. On top of that, it just doesn’t work. I decided to quit hawking the book, unless there was some special deal coming up that might be interesting and talk to people about what they were interested in. I don’t say much else about my blog or reviews either except for letting a new Twitter follower know they can get a free copy of my novel on my site.

Building relationships is fun. Helping people solve problems or find resources that they get excited about is fun. Selling people isn’t. Nobody likes being sold either.

Unfortunately, so many of my contacts on Twitter are only engaged in trying to shout their book over the storm. It makes me nauseous to actually sign in and read my stream because I have to dig through so much self-promotion to get to something resembling a point of conversation I can engage someone on, such as this post.

Like

“So many authors treat readers like they are stray cats desperate for a good meal.”

this is probably one of the best comparisons I’ve ever heard.

Liked by 1 person

join the conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow me on Twitter!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,674 other followers

Follow the Little Red Reviewer on WordPress.com

Categories

FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
%d bloggers like this: