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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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( 44 comments — Leave a comment )
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Aug. 13th, 2012 03:07 pm (UTC)
I ~have~ noticed that people sometimes get annoyed if you offer to send them a free copy.
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)
Aug. 13th, 2012 03:42 pm (UTC)
Ah, the old 'review your own book under an assumed name' ploy. Sad, very sad :)
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!
Aug. 13th, 2012 05:13 pm (UTC)
Lol, I'd have liked to have seen the scarf juggling :)
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."
Aug. 13th, 2012 05:13 pm (UTC)
Lol :)
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.
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. ;-)
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 :)
Aug. 13th, 2012 05:10 pm (UTC)
#3 is gutsy - and so rude! The others are all obnoxious but that one goes beyond.
Aug. 13th, 2012 05:20 pm (UTC)
Lol, you know 'gutsy' isn't the word that springs to mind when I see it done :)
(no subject) - ladysaotome - Aug. 13th, 2012 05:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Aug. 13th, 2012 05:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
Destiny Fritz
Aug. 13th, 2012 05:13 pm (UTC)
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)
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.
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:)
Aug. 13th, 2012 07:36 pm (UTC)
My pleasure, Marie :)
Aug. 13th, 2012 06:53 pm (UTC)
Aug. 13th, 2012 07:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks, but the pop-up advertisement put me off reading the actual post.
(no subject) - jongibbs - Aug. 14th, 2012 07:27 am (UTC) - Expand
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?
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.
(Deleted comment)
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 :)
(Deleted comment)
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.
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.
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.
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