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Most writers find book marketing and self-promotion difficult and/or discomforting. Given the choice, we’d much rather focus on other things, like cake actual writing, but with hundreds of thousands of new books published every year, we have little choice in the matter if we want to get ourselves and our work known.

Sadly, when it comes to making people aware of their work, or trying to get from peoples’ ‘Never heard of him/her’ list onto their ‘Name rings a bell’ list, some folks try a little too hard. This can alienate potential readers, rather than attract them.

With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of book-marketing ‘techniques’ which might leave potential readers with a less than positive impression of the person using them.

As always, these are just my opinions, but I suspect I’m not alone.

10 Book-Marketing/Self-Promotion Techniques Which Annoy Potential Readers

1: ‘What a terrible tragedy in the news today. I had a similar situation take place in the book what I wrote. Here’s a link to the purchase page, in case anyone's interested.’
You don't see this one often, but when you do, it leaves a particularly bad taste.


2: ‘Buy my book this week and help save an orphaned kitten!’
I'm not talking about donating stories for charity anthologies, donating books; time; merchandise for auction, or any number of generous things writers do to help a worthy cause. Those are simply good deeds and not marketing techniques at all. 

I'm talking specifically about when an author announces a special offer eg: 'For every book he/she sells this week, the author pledges to donate some money to [INSERT: name of worthy charity here*]. If you're doing it as part of a larger community effort, or to help out a local church, school etc. or if your personal story (or the one in your book) is somehow related to the cause in question, no reasonable person could have a problem.

However - and this is where I think writers need to take care - there's an invisible line between using your work to help a good cause, and using a good cause to sell more books. If you cross that line, or give the impression you crossed it, folks will notice, and not in a good way.

3: ‘Don’t mind me. You just carry on with your presentation while I give out my promotional info and/or pass this copy of my book around to folks in the audience.’
I know, I was surprised too, but I’ve seen this happen five times this year alone.

4: ‘Welcome to this writing presentation/panel/workshop, during which I’ll plug my books at every opportunity while ostensibly talking on the writing-related subject referred to in the title of this talk.’
It doesn’t happen often, but some presenters feel obliged to continually quote from, refer to, or otherwise promote their work during a writerly talk or panel. As an audience member, this never fails to disappoint (unless the presentation is called ‘All About Me and My Work’ or something similar, in which case, I withdraw my objection).

5: ‘In case you missed the other twelve I posted this morning, here’s another [insert relevant social media post] telling you where to buy my book.’
I imagine most folks have differing ideas about how much is too much, but some folks cross everyone's line. 

6: ‘What a delightful writing group. I thoroughly enjoyed my first meeting. Why yes, I did leave those promo postcards on every chair before we started.’
If the only reason you attend a writing group is to promote your own work, do everyone there a favor, and stay home.

7: ‘I’m trying to get myself better known, so I thought I’d add you to this Facebook group without bothering to ask you if you’d be interested. Oh, and you can also buy my book if you like.’
This one works, in the sense that it will get you better known, but not in the positive way you thought – at least insofar as the people who don’t like to be taken for granted are concerned.

8: ‘Dear friend (who isn’t worth the effort of preparing a separate, personalized, email so I’ve included you on this hidden mailing list of every address I’ve ever heard of, plus a few I’ve scavenged from other people’s lists), let me tell you about my new book.’
If you want to tell someone you know about your book in an email, make it a personal one (hiding the address list doesn’t count).

9: ‘Just thought I’d send this automated reply to thank you for following me back on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, or whatever it was. Now buy my book.’
Whether or not it’s the intention, I’m always left with the feeling that the only reason the person ‘friended’ me was so he/she could get a (not too subtle) plug in for his/her book.

10: ____________________________________



I left #10 blank. What would you add to the list?




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Comments

( 46 comments — Leave a comment )
msstacy13
Aug. 13th, 2012 03:07 pm (UTC)
I ~have~ noticed that people sometimes get annoyed if you offer to send them a free copy.
jongibbs
Aug. 13th, 2012 03:16 pm (UTC)
Lol, I think that would depend on how often, and how much time had passed between them :)
(Deleted comment)
jongibbs
Aug. 13th, 2012 03:42 pm (UTC)
Ah, the old 'review your own book under an assumed name' ploy. Sad, very sad :)
blood_of_winter
Aug. 13th, 2012 03:55 pm (UTC)
Here, let me join your critique session and let me hand out my book!

This happened at a recent session I did not attend. Apparently, the writer also wanted to teach the participants how to juggle scarves!
jongibbs
Aug. 13th, 2012 05:13 pm (UTC)
Lol, I'd have liked to have seen the scarf juggling :)
jakobdrud
Aug. 13th, 2012 03:56 pm (UTC)
"Oh, you're on Twitter. That means you're online for the sole purpose of reading about my self-published book, which, by the way, I link to 15 times a day, so just follow me back already."
jongibbs
Aug. 13th, 2012 05:13 pm (UTC)
Lol :)
maryjdal
Aug. 13th, 2012 04:24 pm (UTC)
#3 does seem hard to accept - That would distract me if I was in the audience, and as a presenter I think it would completely throw me off my presentation.
jongibbs
Aug. 13th, 2012 05:15 pm (UTC)
They usually wait for (what they think is) an appropriate moment like the Q&A session, but I've had it done during my actual talk too.
Shevi Arnold
Aug. 13th, 2012 04:26 pm (UTC)
This is good, but most of it is specific to those who go to conferences and workshops. Not every potential reader does. (In addition, I've been to several of both, and I've never experienced these issues. Maybe SCBWI conferences are better that way. Who knows?)

As for number 10, what about the good old standard, "Buy my book"? That applies to every potential reader, not just other writers.

I see that all over the place--on Twitter, in Facebook groups, everywhere--and I'm getting sick of it. I have TiVo, so I don't have to watch commercials on TV. What makes these writers think want to read ads for their books? Maybe they should check out the other posts in those groups or Twitter chats. Do the "Buy me" type posts get any response? No, and that's because they're just annoying. Do you want your posts to get responses? Then don't post "Buy me" type posts.

Some might say, "But I'm not telling people to buy my book. I'm just saying this is what my book is about with a link to where they can buy it" or "I'm just letting people know it's free or on sale."

Here's the thing: the only kind of marketing that works is the giving kind. There has to be something in it for the intended audience. If the post doesn't entertain, inspire, or give the reader some information the reader is looking for, it's a "buy me" ad, and it's a waste of everyone's time. Do it once too often, and you're likely to get unfollowed, unfriended, thrown out of a group, or reported to Twitter.

Sorry for the long comment. Maybe I should have offered to do a guest post. ;-)
jongibbs
Aug. 13th, 2012 05:19 pm (UTC)
Fortunately, most things on the list are the exception, rather than the rule. I'd say numbers 3 and 6 happen in some form or other about 10% of the time.

Long comments are always welcome :)
ladysaotome
Aug. 13th, 2012 05:10 pm (UTC)
#3 is gutsy - and so rude! The others are all obnoxious but that one goes beyond.
jongibbs
Aug. 13th, 2012 05:20 pm (UTC)
Lol, you know 'gutsy' isn't the word that springs to mind when I see it done :)
ladysaotome
Aug. 13th, 2012 05:21 pm (UTC)
Gutsy like, "the nerve!!" ;)
jongibbs
Aug. 13th, 2012 05:26 pm (UTC)
Now that I get :)
Destiny Fritz
Aug. 13th, 2012 05:13 pm (UTC)
Idea
So, here's my two cents. I haven't been to many seminars, but I have been to a lot of writer's groups. When a regular member of the group has published, everybody is happy for them and they enjoy getting that news during group time. They will probably even show up to a signing if the published writer asks them to or tells them about it. But when somebody who is at the group for the first time starts up about self promotion of a published work, it's annoying as hell. Mainly because they weren't showing up during the writing process of said book, and that's what the group is for... writing and critiquing.

As far as social media goes... If a writer is selling a book, then they need to be business minded and actually pay for advertising on social media networks. If they are going to post links to their electronically published works all the time (at least once every day or so), then they need to pump out new, original work at a rapid pace on a regular basis. Readers love freebies. Give them a short story or two for free while you're working on longer works. If they're so hell bent on squeezing every dime their readers have, then sell the stories for a dollar. Either way, a writer should have something new for their readers if they insist on bombing the potential readers with links.

Edit: Also, I like to use Pinterest as an inspiration board for whatever project I'm working on. My followers enjoy the pictures and small captions. It gets the ones who would buy my book interested. It gives them small little tastes of what I'm brewing up, and it also lets them in on the creative process. I get a lot of good feedback from that.

Edited at 2012-08-13 05:19 pm (UTC)
jongibbs
Aug. 13th, 2012 05:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Idea
I think most writers strike a decent balance. Unfortunately, the folks who do it badly tend to make a bigger impact ;)
Mieke Zamora-Mackay
Aug. 13th, 2012 05:19 pm (UTC)
Numbers 1 and 4, seriously drive me up the wall. No. 3, is just gauche.

As for my number 10: A play-by-play of the author's writing/editing/publication process under the guise of helping other writers learn from his/her mistakes.

Mind you, I don't take issue with an occasional "journey" post, or, if you've been invited to give a talk with a Q&A session. I'm talking about an entire blog series about the entire process.
jongibbs
Aug. 13th, 2012 05:26 pm (UTC)
Absolutely. In a book club talk, for example, folks would be upset if you didn't talk about your work a lot.
Marie Gilbert
Aug. 13th, 2012 05:37 pm (UTC)
I can't believe that people do this, but we are the selfish gene. Thank you for sharing:)
jongibbs
Aug. 13th, 2012 07:36 pm (UTC)
My pleasure, Marie :)
mutive
Aug. 13th, 2012 06:53 pm (UTC)
jongibbs
Aug. 13th, 2012 07:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks, but the pop-up advertisement put me off reading the actual post.
jongibbs
Aug. 14th, 2012 07:27 am (UTC)
I went back and tried again. No pop-up ads this time.

Good luck to her. She did well to get an agent and publishing contract so fast.

Thanks for sharing, Julia :)

PS: My mistake, there was a pop-up ad, I must have clicked on the main screen too fast for it to take center stage.

Edited at 2012-08-14 07:30 am (UTC)
slweippert
Aug. 13th, 2012 07:20 pm (UTC)
Had a question about whether this technique is annoying or not.
Post replies to other people's blog post as you normally do, just include a link to amazon/barns n noble/etc. To clarify, your response does NOT mention your book, the link is just there under your signature.
Annoying or not?
jongibbs
Aug. 13th, 2012 07:41 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't do it, though I'd have no problem if the comment were anonymous (ie: no automatic link back like we have here for LJ, Facebook and Twitter) and the link was to someone's website/blog.
writerjenn
Aug. 13th, 2012 11:24 pm (UTC)
What do you do when #3 happens? Do you ask them to sit down, or do you just let them hand out their stuff? How uncomfortable either way!


jongibbs
Aug. 14th, 2012 07:10 am (UTC)
It usually happens during the Q&A. The first few times, I just stood there, too surprised to say anything, but now I politely tell them to stop. It definitely makes for an uncomfortable few seconds :)
writerjenn
Aug. 13th, 2012 11:34 pm (UTC)
Also, I get tired when a person's blog or twitter stream is about nothing but every single book-related thing that happens: every review, every subrights sale, every list. Announcements of upcoming events are okay, as are big events: I really do want to know if your new book is out, or you won a Newbery, or you're appearing six blocks from me, or your book has been made into a movie, or you're appearing on the Today show. But I don't need to know every time a new Goodreads rating goes up. And eventually I'm going to want some more content besides "This is how my book is doing in the marketplace today."
jongibbs
Aug. 14th, 2012 07:16 am (UTC)
I know what you mean. There comes a point when a stream of marketing posts becomes counter-productive.
eilwatkins
Aug. 14th, 2012 12:32 pm (UTC)
Possible #10?
Many years ago, I went to a two-person signing at a bookstore for the express purpose of buying a friend's book and having him sign it. While waiting, I got into a brief conversation with the other author, whom I didn't know and who wrote in a genre that didn't interest me. After I bought my friend's book, the other writer smiled coyly up at me and asked, "Don't you want mine, too?" I really didn't, but being new to the game back then, I felt obligated. Her book was self-published, badly written and in a genre I don't care for, to boot, so it was a total waste of my money. I don't fall for that one any more!

I do think your #4 is a difficult call, though. If an author gives a solo talk or takes part in a panel and says nothing much about his/her work, the audience may enjoy the presentation but have no curiosity whatsoever about the author's own books. A writerscan put in a lot of time and effort on such a presentation--with no stipend--only to have the audience stream out at the end without even glancing at the book table. I agree that the author shouldn't refer constantly to his or her own work at the expense of discussing the stated topic, but you ARE there to promote your own books, and I think throwing out a teaser now and then is totally legit.
jongibbs
Aug. 14th, 2012 01:23 pm (UTC)
Re: Possible #10?
Thanks for sharing, Eileen :)

'...but you ARE there to promote your own books'

Yes, but unless it's a book talk or similar, that's probably not why the audience turned up.

The occasional mention in passing is fine. However, when I go to a writing talk, I want to hear about the subject of the talk, not how the author used this or that technique in his/her latest novel.

I'd much rather have the presenter do a brief 'book pitch' at the end of their talk, which is what I do. Aside from anything else, I think it's far more effective from a sales pov.
Oskari Ohman
Aug. 14th, 2012 03:24 pm (UTC)
I understand, but...
I'm full-time Internet Marketer and yes, I totally understand your point.

Advertising can be irritating, but the sad truth is that if you don't advertise your book, products, services or whatever you won't make a living.

There is a very fine line when marketing is "too pushy". Comoon, everybody markets themselves, their products and services.

Oskari
jongibbs
Aug. 14th, 2012 04:29 pm (UTC)
Re: I understand, but...
I'm all for marketing and promotion - I do a fair amount of it my own self.

That said, I don't believe the line between 'reasonable marketing' and 'too pushy' is particularly fine.
shalanna
Aug. 14th, 2012 10:52 pm (UTC)
I'm TRYING not to do these. My publisher has made it clear that my book needs to sell a certain number of copies to break even, and that I need to sell more copies, so I'm trying different things.

Would it be desperate to have a magnet made for the car door (not unlike the ones MERRY MAIDS and JOE'S PLUMBING--WE HUSTLE THE BUSTLE use) with my book cover on it and a buy link for the book? Should I stop wearing the necklace I made out of the book? It is too difficult to know when to stop.

I do have content on my LJ and blog aside from the promo--although I have had a lot of promo stuff up lately. By the way, while I'm here, my book is on Amazon and--URK***
jongibbs
Aug. 15th, 2012 01:30 am (UTC)
Maybe cut down the necklace a little. - six copies should do the trick, especially with those hardback earings you ordered ;)
William Haloupek
Aug. 14th, 2012 11:49 pm (UTC)
critic
Some critics say that my book has too much STEAMY SEX AND VIOLENCE, but I happen to like a lot of action and adventure. See if you find this inappropriate.
jongibbs
Aug. 15th, 2012 01:27 am (UTC)
Re: critic
Sorry, William. I must be tired. I don't see what your point is. What am I missing?
William Haloupek
Aug. 15th, 2012 01:53 am (UTC)
Re: critic
Wasn't your article about "Book-Marketing/Self-Promotion Techniques Which Annoy Potential Readers"? This is an example.
jongibbs
Aug. 15th, 2012 09:16 am (UTC)
Re: critic
Aha. now my befuddled brain gets it! I see what you mean. The old 'Catch the readers attention with an unrelated heading (or something shiny) technique.'

I imagine a lot of folks do that with search tags too.

Thanks for sharing, William, sorry about the confusion :)
raisinbottom
Aug. 18th, 2012 12:10 am (UTC)
If you have a blog which started out ad-free, don't begin relying upon advertising. Start the blog with advertising should revenue be that important to one's marketing scheme.

Write a full novel then break it into three separate books that are ~200 pages long, serialize it, then provide a sneak peek at a different book series by the same author which runs perpendicular to the original novel's content.
raisinbottom
Aug. 18th, 2012 12:15 am (UTC)
Ooh! Write horrid fanfiction, replace names and settings to something completely different because of copyright, include offensive descriptions of intimacy that would make a 12 year old boy blush.

Sorry, got off track there.
jongibbs
Aug. 18th, 2012 08:32 am (UTC)
Thanks, Adrian :)
SallyBosco
Aug. 20th, 2012 09:44 pm (UTC)
Display of your book during a panel discussion
At World Horror Conference in Brighton, I found that the people from the UK felt it was very offensive for an author who was on a panel to prop up a copy of their book next to them and have it on view while they were taking part in the panel discussion.

In the US this is more or less standard procedure to let the audience know what you've written in case they're interested in reading it. Do you think that's offensive?

Thanks!
Sally
jongibbs
Aug. 21st, 2012 10:51 am (UTC)
Re: Display of your book during a panel discussion
Hi Sally,

Interesting question! :)

If it's a conference, and the organizers haven't specifically invited every speaker to do the same, I think it can look a bit desparate - especially since the panel members are presumably getting paid for their time. Most speakers at these events have something less obtrusive on hand, like business cards, bookmarks or postcards etc. Also, they generally get the chance to sign/sell their work at some kind of sales event after the con.

When there's no speaking fee involved, or the opportunity for folks in the audience to buy books comes immediately after the presentation eg: isolated solo talks, or the panel/Q&As NJAN puts on at libraries, I think it's fine, so long as speakers leave the sales pitch till the end, and don't promote their work at every opportunity throughout the talk/panel - see #4 above.

How does that sound to you?


SallyBosco
Aug. 21st, 2012 10:03 pm (UTC)
Re: Display of your book during a panel discussion
I thinks that's reasonable. Thanks for the response!
( 46 comments — Leave a comment )

Things What I Wrote and Other Stuff

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there


No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there















 











THE MEAGER PUDDLE OF LIMELIGHT AWARDS


Books by my writer friends - compressed

NJ Writing groups - compressed

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