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When does promotion cross the line?

I'm very conscious about overdoing things when it comes to promoting my own book or events I'm attending.

I don't mean posting about promotions, dates etc, here on An Englishman in New Jersey (though I try not to do too much, since I firmly believe there's a point where it becomes counter-productive). I'm thinking more about direct contact with folks.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for Tweeting about upcoming events and I post on facebook and Twitter when I have news, or if I've written a blog post which I think folks might find interesting, but I wouldn't dream of sending out blanket facebook messages to everyone on my friend list about them. I also use the Yahoo boards to promote things, and I've sent many a personalized email, inviting someone to an event I'm taking part in, but I feel there's a line which promoters should not cross. The one between good self-promotion and plain bad manners. 

If you ask me, in their efforts to promote themselves and their work, far too many, otherwise sensible, people are crossing that line.

For example, about three or four times a day, I get an invitation to 'Like' somebody on facebook who I've never met, or attend an 'event' which, more often than not, is just a way of telling me that someone's book is coming out, or (my own personal peeve), someone posts a message on my facebook wall, telling me to 'Check out my book at...'

Then there are the junk e-mails, impersonal, one-size-fits-all announcements, which the sender clearly despatched to any and all email addresses he/she could lay a hand on. I got several over the weekend. Usually, I just write back requesting he/she removes me from their mailing list and hear no more, but yesterday, I got a reply from someone who'd junk-mailed me via the New Jersey Authors' Network, about a 'How to Write/get published etc' type of event, where they'd be promoting their non-fiction book. He informed me he was just 'reaching out to New Jersey writers' and wondered why I didn't want to help. I sent back a polite response this morning. Here's a snippet of his reply:

'Our mission is to help writers get well published. We have helped countless writers do this [I should point out he'd only helped dozens in his first response]. I thought this was also part of your mission. If I was wrong please forgive me.'

I feel so guilty. I thought this guy was junk mailing me in an effort to promote his book, but it turns out I was wrong. He's actually on a mission to help writers. To be fair, I should add that he also offered to have his publisher send me a copy of his book. I declined

Of course, some folks don't have a problem with this sort of thing. They just delete the messages and move on without a second thought, but not me. Nothing has me pulling on my cranky pants faster than getting a junk e-mail. It's like having someone stick a flyer beneath your windscreen wiper at the grocery store car park. It annoys me no end.

If I had my way, there's be a special hell for people who consistently spam folks. The same one used for child molesters and people who talk in theaters. Mind you, that's just my opinion.

How about you? 

Where would you draw the line between good self-promotion and bad manners?

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( 58 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jan. 31st, 2011 04:30 pm (UTC)
I hate the flyer under the windshield wiper thing! I've been lucky so far not to have received much in the way of junk mail. I'm sure that will change when I eventually get published.

I don't think it's a good idea to annoy people with self-promoting efforts. The goal is to get people interested in your work in hopes they'll make a purchase, not do the internet equivalent of fingernails on the chalkboard.
Jan. 31st, 2011 04:34 pm (UTC)
'...not do the internet equivalent of fingernails on the chalkboard.'

Ooh! Great image. I like it :)
(no subject) - wendigomountain - Jan. 31st, 2011 08:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 31st, 2011 04:33 pm (UTC)
In as much as I've been accused of crossing that line
I'll be listening quietly more than saying very much.
Jan. 31st, 2011 04:36 pm (UTC)
Lol, don't worry, Stacy, you've never sent me any kind of junk email :)
Jan. 31st, 2011 04:34 pm (UTC)
Well, first, you need something to draw it with, right? I like magic markers for most lines as they are fairly straight and even-looking (unless they've been used a bit much, and the tips are frayed): but pastel does a rather nice job, too. For stylized lines, watercolor pencils are remarkably versatile.
Jan. 31st, 2011 04:37 pm (UTC)
Hehehe, I bet you're great to have around when it comes to organizing something :P
(no subject) - snapes_angel - Jan. 31st, 2011 05:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snapes_angel - Jan. 31st, 2011 05:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Jan. 31st, 2011 04:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snapes_angel - Jan. 31st, 2011 05:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 31st, 2011 04:35 pm (UTC)
And while you're forgiving him for misapprehending your mission,
you should also forgive him for being unable to count beyond twelve.
Jan. 31st, 2011 04:38 pm (UTC)
I'm sure he's a perfectly nice fellow, but I confess, it's the first time I've ever had someone try to lay a guilt trip on me for asking them to take me of their address list :)
Jan. 31st, 2011 04:45 pm (UTC)
I try not to overdue it, though it seems very hard at times when a lot of stuff is going on. Unless things are time-sensitive, like a guest blog I try and make announcements once a week. There is a fine balance...with my luck my balance probably isn't as good as I'd like it to be.

Thanks for the thought-invoking post, Jon.

Jan. 31st, 2011 05:18 pm (UTC)
Blog/facebook/Yahoo/Twitter announcements are fine. It's when folks who don't know you from Adam send impersonal emails/invitations direct to your inbox, that I think it goes too far.

I blame the number crunchers who came up with the X% of people who hear about something will buy it, rubbish. I'm sure it's true in mass (as in tens of thousands) mailing for products which any average Joe might use, but I don't believe it's effective otherwise.
Jan. 31st, 2011 04:58 pm (UTC)
Not sure you're going to change the FB tide by swimming upstream here, Jon. I think YOU are the one that has to set the tone for your FB page. It is widely accepted that many writers use it as a business networking tool, and have a separate FB page for interpersonal messages with true friends and family. Where, of course, you need only accept "friends" who are actually friends and family! You might try that. (When you change out of your cranky pants, that is!) ;)
Jan. 31st, 2011 05:19 pm (UTC)
Luckily, my cranky pants are elasticated at the waist, so they come off easily :)
Jan. 31st, 2011 05:05 pm (UTC)
I just delete them and move on. But you are right, there is a line you should not cross when doing promotion. But that's true in everything in life, I guess.
Jan. 31st, 2011 05:20 pm (UTC)
I think I'm finding them more annoying than usual because there's been so much more spam on LJ lately :(
Jan. 31st, 2011 05:05 pm (UTC)
I'm with you, Jon. I've been following your promotional tips for a while now, and I've been comparing them to my reactions to the promotions I get from people or see on their sites or status updates. It just doesn't work. Flooding people doesn't work. Also, just posting without interacting doesn't work (unless you're already a big-time name or the person reading it is already a fan). I end up reading these things in the same way I read advertisements that are plastered all over our environment; in other words, I ignore.

I've been finding what works best is creating a blog that helps people (as yours does with promotional information and writing tips and links to other writing blogs), or as others do with grammar tips or agent search tips or whatever they have to offer. People go there for information, come to like the person, and get interested in their book.

Also, being friendly and responding seems to make a big difference. All this said, yes, when you have a fan base, everything changes. People search for your work and simply need updates on when it's available or when you'll be reading somewhere. But even then, if those fans are bombarded with "here's me! here's me! here's my book! promotion," they'll likely get turned off. Personality does count!

Jan. 31st, 2011 05:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Pat. I don't know why it bugs me so. Somehow, spam/junk emails just feels so much more intrusive.
Jan. 31st, 2011 05:20 pm (UTC)
The word I would have used is pushy. Some writers are just plain pushy. That's why I would always ask myself before doing any kind of on-the-web or in person promotion. Will this make me look pushy? If the answer is yes, or even maybe, then I need to find a way to do this differently.

I was once at a Balticon where a panelist on a panel called "Does self promotion work?" said, "It's OK to do it, but you don't want to become John Doe." except instead of John Doe he used the name of an actual writer. It got a snicker because that guy was indeed known as being over the line at self promotion (I would not have used the guys name, myself). Ironically, the whole point of the panel was, self promotion is not really seen as being effective on a large scale.
Jan. 31st, 2011 05:37 pm (UTC)
'... the whole point of the panel was, self promotion is not really seen as being effective on a large scale.'

I think that's because people think of it as something you do, with a specific (usually short term) purpose in mind, when in fact, I think it's more long term, as in years and years, and has more to do with connecting with people than advertising yourself as a product. Of course, I could be wrong, but I know which approach I prefer :)
(no subject) - snapes_angel - Jan. 31st, 2011 05:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jan. 31st, 2011 06:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snapes_angel - Jan. 31st, 2011 07:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 31st, 2011 05:51 pm (UTC)
That's like when I get the phone calls from such&such Veterans Assoc. wanting donations and upon being told no get a guilt trip about not caring about our veterans - when I come from a heavily military family and have a father-in-law dying a long, lingering death due to his combat injuries. Like the only way to make a difference is their way and no other. Direct him to your blog - I doubt his book's as effective...
Jan. 31st, 2011 06:47 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry to hear about your dad. Those VA phone calls must be really annoying.
Jan. 31st, 2011 05:58 pm (UTC)
Guilt tripping me into something. OR posting something in comments that is promotional...like links to your work...you that is NOT the purpose of the post or you have not asked me about it. It's like setting up a lemonade stand in my front yard and not asking me first.
Jan. 31st, 2011 06:47 pm (UTC)
Lol, good analogy :)
Jan. 31st, 2011 06:34 pm (UTC)
Did I tell you about the voice-over actor who appeared at my launch party, pitching why he should be the one to read Finder to the masses? Now THAT was highly inappropriate. It was during the open house period of the party, but--it was a party! He cleared what was left of the assembly. Better would have been to hand me his info, tell me congratulations, and have a piece of cake.

I had to give the guy balls-points. He tried to make it happen.

My daughter tells me I should have told him that was not the appropriate time, but I listened, I passed his information on as I said I would, and let it slide. I let most stuff slide. When I'm no longer doing so, you know you've crossed a line seldom ever do, and that most people would have punched you in the mouth by then.
Jan. 31st, 2011 06:48 pm (UTC)
had he at least read it?
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Jan. 31st, 2011 07:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - misha_mcg - Jan. 31st, 2011 07:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Jan. 31st, 2011 07:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jan. 31st, 2011 08:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - misha_mcg - Jan. 31st, 2011 08:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 31st, 2011 07:24 pm (UTC)
Let's take the board over at Amazon as an example.

Good Self-Promotion:
Somone asks for books about horses. You say: "I know X and Y and Z. The funny thing is: I have written a book abour horses myself, it's called ABC. Maybe that could be something for you, too."

Bad Self-Promotion:
Someone asks for a book about horses. You say: "Horses? Forget about them. Stupid animals. Read my latest, incredibly exciting bestseller about giant spiders. They do eat horses, too."
Jan. 31st, 2011 07:25 pm (UTC)
Aside from joking: It's okay and a good idea to use those boards to stay in contact and recommend one's book in a thread every now and then if the topic is ... appropriate. It's bad to mention your book in each and every thread, no matter how unrelated it is. That's the difference between good and bad self-promotion.

Wait. Those spiders DID eat horses, so it's not completely unrelated...
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jan. 31st, 2011 08:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 31st, 2011 07:43 pm (UTC)
I just want you to know, I'm in the process of crossing the line this very minute...
Jan. 31st, 2011 08:25 pm (UTC)
Why am I not surprised? :P
Jan. 31st, 2011 09:34 pm (UTC)
I would draw the line at anything the recepient sees as spam... Which means emails, popping in on the wrong bits of forums, etc.
Jan. 31st, 2011 10:30 pm (UTC)
That sounds reasonable.
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