A Few Do’s and Don’t’s of Author Self Promotion
Posted May 24, 2016on:
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.