Imagine you’ve a book or story coming out this week. Let’s look at some ways you might promote it offline.
You could go to your local library and stick a flyer beneath people’s windshield wipers. Better yet, you could glue them to the driver’s window, that way they see your name and the title of your book on the flyer for a good five minutes while they’re scraping the window clean.
You could go to the local diners, eavesdrop at each table until someone tells a joke then laugh extra loud and butt in to tell them where they can find or buy your work.
You could set up one of those automated messages to dial everyone in your address book. When they pick up the phone it’ll say “Hi it’s me. I’ve written a story. Go read it” or “My book’s out. Go buy it” Then hang up on them.
Maybe you could visit the house of everyone you’ve ever come into contact with. When they open the door you say “Hi, Remember me? Doesn’t matter. Buy my book! Read my story!”
Of course, you could always go for the personal approach and make a few hundred copies of a letter to send out:
Dear [insert generic term of affection here to save on having to write more than one],
I know you’ve not heard from me in many a long year, but I want you to know how much I miss you and that I think of you and your family often. Still, enough about you. I have a book/story out which I’m sure you’d enjoy. Here’s where to find it.
Do any of the above approaches sound like a good way to get readers? Would you be surprised if the people on the receiving end not only didn’t buy the book or read the story, but also vowed to never read anything by you in the future?
Of course not. Why then, do so many writers use the exact same approach online?
Have you ever had a ‘Dear friend’ junk email from someone you barely know (if at all), telling you about his/her latest publication or personal appearance? Did you go?
When you see a one-line blog entry or group message telling you to ‘Go read’ or ‘Go check it out’ do you obey or do you automatically want to ignore it?
If you’re in a discussion group or forum, are there members there who only ever post when they want to publicize themselves or their work? Do you notice?
I’m not saying those approaches don’t sometimes generate interest, but they’re far more likely to alienate potential readers than to interest them, and that’s never a good thing.
How about you?
What examples of bad self-publicity by writers have you seen?