This is a guest post by Jon Gibbs, which was promoted from the Forums. More info on Forum promotion here.
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.’
2: ‘Buy my book and help save an orphaned kitten!’
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 see 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.
I left #10 blank. What would you add to the list?
Born in England, Jon Gibbs now lives in New Jersey, where he’s ‘Author in Residence’ at Lakehurst Elementary School. A member of several writing groups, including SCBWI, he’s the founder of the New Jersey Authors Network and www.FindAWritingGroup.com. His blog, An Englishman in New Jersey, is read in over thirty countries.
Jon’s debut novel, Fur-Face (Echelon Press) a middle grade fantasy about a shy teenager who meets a talking cat only he can hear, was nominated for a Crystal Kite Award. Watch out for the sequel, Barnum’s Revenge, coming in February, 2013.
When he’s not chasing around after his children, Jon can usually be found hunched over the computer in his basement office. One day he hopes to figure out how to switch it on.
Art: Advertisement card for Philip Conway, Jr., Practical Shirt Maker by G.M. Hayes
An amazing list, esp. number 3. Dobby the house elf is shocked by this behavior. (He's in your picture at the top of the page–the fellow with the fishing rod.)
@anonymous 11/7 10:25 p.m. That seems OK to me. It's the equivalent of a publisher donating a percentage of sales to a charity. Just the self-pub version. What does anyone else think?
Nathan Bransford says
I don't think he's saying not to do it, just not to be unseemly as you do it. It's more about doing it right.
Helen Hollick says
No 10 – leaving an advert for your book on my Facebook page without asking first. Don't be surprised to find I've deleted your post…. (by the way, I do use an automated response to followers who follow me on Twitter, but I clearly state its automated & most people follow me first, not vice versa. I think as long as you are up-front about these things)
Christine M. Monson says
Wow! I've encountered numbers 2, 5,7,8, and 9. For # 10, I'll add: Using my twitter name to promote dance clubs and porn in other countries. Gross! I feel completely violated when this happens. Note for #2: I've seen teeth, dental records, and yes, sonograms and send them to you. (I'm shaking my head.)I've considered closing my facebook, twitter, and google+ accounts and hiding from the world. Just Kidding!
#5 really irks me. Before I follow anyone on Twitter, I make sure their stream isn't the same spammy link to their book over and over again interspersed with auto-generated robo Tweets of pithy quotes that somebody else wrote. If you can't write your own tweets, what makes you think you can write a book?
Great post. People need to understand desperation is never attractive.
These are so good! I do have patience for #7. It's hard to get to know people, so at least it's honest. And I actually have made a few good social media friends when people have done this to me (I've never done it, though).
#9 is marginal for me, too.
"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."
My guess would be they just think you're cute 🙂
I'd like to add something else that I see all the time and it makes me crazy.
When authors tell these contrived stories that sound so made up in facebook updates. Like this one, paraphrased:
"Jebus Crisp, one of my dedicated readers just e-mailed me and told me that my book saved his life. That's the only reason why I write, to help people and save lives."
That's a little over the top, unless you're writing self-help books. In this case it was schmaltzy romance. And, the author posts these things almost daily.
My apologies for not responding sooner. I live in Monmouth County, NJ, and lost power (again) yesterday.
We just got it back an hour or so ago. I'm looking forward toreading through everyone's comments 🙂
Regina Richards says
A parent I've seen often at scouts, dance, soccer, etc. but who's never spoken to me before, suddenly becomes flatteringly friendly. About 60 seconds into the conversation, they pull out a novel and ask me to buy it from them on the spot for $14.95. Decline and they instantly treat you again like the stranger you are. Or worse, they launch into a sob story about how they are getting a divorce and must to sell these books to feed the kids/prove their talent to the ex who never believed in them/etc.
It's weird being panhandled by a soccer mom.
Storm Grant says
Friending/following as blackmail. An author friends or follows me, then sends a DM telling me I owe them the same "favor." Uh, what?
And also? email signatures that go on forevah.
I'd say "buy my book" but sadly, it's not out yet. ;-D
Love this post and the comments. So true.
I have a book coming out in 2013 with a Big Five (is that what we call it now?) publisher, and one of the things we're planning to do to sell the book is basically #8. Apparently, a mass email (I think only one) to friends and family and potentially interested acquaintances is a very effective way to sell a debut novel. I plan to be moderately targeted with my list, but I have no qualms about doing this. It would take too long to email each person individually, and I don't think one announcement is commensurate to spam.
Selena Blake says
#3 takes the cake. I consider everything a writer posts via social media to be a marketing effort, therefore I don't understand authors who are intentionally (and consistently) rude, argumentative, and/or down in the dumps. That's not a good image for your business and since you're ultimately dealing with potential customers, that's not good customer service either.
G. B. Miller says
Very nice top 9 list of how to annoy potential readers.
For me, #10 would be "Have a link prominently (and permanently) displayed on small display where potential readers can purchase your book, only to find out much, much later that the link now doesn't work because the online store where it's being sold tidied/cleaned their website and gave your book a new purchase link."
Thanks, Nathan, for promoting my post from the forums, and thank you, everyone, for posting such great comments. I certainly found some new things to add to the list 🙂
I do believe some of the selling techniques I listed in the main post can be effective, providing we put a little thought into how we come across to the potential customer eg: mailing lists can prove effective, but it's probably best to ask people if they want to be on it in the first place.
I guess the secret of good marketing is like the secret to life – figure out what works best for you, then do that…a lot 😉
Thanks for reading 🙂
I am a self published author, and I follow some other writer's on facebook and twitter, but the only ones who's books I ever buy have to go beyond the constant promo to establishing a personal connection. I sell most of my books on forums and in person where the contact was long established and the fact that I write was only casually mentioned, and far less often than the fact that I teach and am a Mom and love cooking and backpacking and on and on. I review some of the indie books and some old books and some new traditional books but only when I really love them. If I can't say something good, I don't waste my time finishing a book so I never review those. Sometimes I review someone who has also reviewed my book, but almost never because I write for YA but read a variety of other genre's.
I agree that rudeness and overpromoting seems to be in bad taste and keeps me from even looking at a book. However there is a lot of competition and almost any place where you invest time in creating relationships can be an appropriate place to talk about your books and your writing as you also discuss the weather and the politics and their interests too. I think very few venues are completely unusable for book promotion if you don't use the people who frequent them.
Dixie Miller 8Goode
I agree 100%. Almost any social venue can be a good place to promote your work, providing you're actually socializing there, and not just doing a drive-by promo 🙂
Terry Shames says
The drive by promo is the one that I hate. People who never say anything social in social venues, but then when they have a new books out, they sudeenly become chatty–about their book.
My pet peeve is people who friend me on FB purely because they saw me on the friend list of some other FB whore. (Notice I say "some *other* FB whore.") There was a time when I friended everybody too. That was before FB stopped transmitting all my posts to all my friends.
Nowadays, my FB friends are only…my friends. They will actually beef if they see too much promo.
So nowadays, if I don't recognize that friend-requesting person's name or face, I check their "mutual friends" list. If the first twenty names are the same old FB whores… I delete the request.
Marian Edmunds says
I read this a few days ago and laughed. But then it made me want to read '10 Marketing Techniques That Win Over Potential Readers"
I have to say that since I started producing books I look a lot more kindly on people and their marketing efforts, even if misguided.
#7!!!! There are so many people from my undergraduate creative writing program that have added me to facebook groups, without asking, and it's SUCH a turn off! Some have been for writer's events, or readings, or signings, which I politely refuse the RSVP–though I totally respect the invitation and am happy to hear they're doing well and pursuing their writing. That's not so offensive, but when they start messaging you directly if you didn't RSVP, EVERY SINGLE DAY…then I unfriend you.
The worst, though, is when someone creates a facebook group not for events or even content discussion…but for BUYING the book, and then adds you to it. And then the author writes posts EVERY SINGLE DAY about "if you haven't bought it yet, you should. Go to Amazon. Do it. Do it right now." And then they get WORSE (if this is possible): something along the lines of, "Many of you have RSVPed to this event–i.e. buying my book–but only three copies have actually sold on Amazon and I know one of them was my mom. Please follow through and buy my book. Also, don't forget to leave a review of how much you love it when you're done. THAT MEANS YOU TOO MOM! Thanks."
Lets just say I'm not keeping in contact with as many of my undergraduate peers post-graduation as I thought I would.