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Shameless Self-Promotion vs. Shameful Self-Promotion

23 August 2012

From author Lindsay Buroker:

As an author today, you have to be willing to self-promote if you want to sell books. That’s just the way it is. And, as with most things, there are good ways to go about it and bad ways, or, as I’m calling them shameless ways and shameful ways. The former can earn you new readers and the respect of your peers. The latter…

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of shameful self-promotion going on these days, and these methods can not only hurt your prospects of selling books, but they can also leave bad tastes in people’s mouths. Self-published authors, in particular, seem to be big offenders.

Note: traditionally published authors can be just as guilty of shameful self-promotion, but I believe the real-time sales reporting we indies have access to through CreateSpace, Amazon, B&N, and others makes us a little crazier.

. . . .

Emailing people who didn’t opt into a newsletter signup on your site or who didn’t otherwise ask to be kept abreast of your releases.

. . . .

Leaving blatant plugs for your book in people’s blog comments. It ispossible to leave comments as a way of getting your name out there and, maybe, enticing people back to your site, but you need to add some value to the topic being discussed and find a subtle way to mention your book (if you mention it at all — leaving an awesome comment and simply working in the fact that you’re an author may entice folks to click).

. . . .

Asking other authors to read/review your book, especially if this is your first contact with that author. Your first contact with anybody shouldn’t be a request for a favor. If an author’s popular enough to have attracted your attention, assume that they receive quite a bit of email, including requests for favors from new authors. They’re also busy writing the next book to keep their fans happy. If you establish an online relationship with the author first, again doing favors for them before thinking of asking anything in return, he or she may be willing to help you down the line, but I still wouldn’t ask them to read your book. I know you think your book is brilliant, but chances are said author is just going to see it as a 10-hour (or however long it would take to read the book) burden on their precious time.

Link to the rest at Lindsay Buroker


23 Comments to “Shameless Self-Promotion vs. Shameful Self-Promotion”

  1. Excellent post. I am the MD for an online ministry and bookstore. My boss has written a book and it’s part of my job to help promote her work along with the other things. In the process, I am always having to weight the appropriate ways to let her follower’s know about her book and business without abusing the relationships. Thanks for the Netequitte on this one.

  2. “Self-published authors, in particular, seem to be big offenders.”

    Of course!

    But it was fine for tradpub authors to buy up copies of their books at bookstores known to send sales data to the NYT Bestsellers list.

  3. One reason I dislike Twitter is because I hate getting direct messages from people I just followed back and it’s a plug for their book. Tweet your plug if you want because I can choose to ignore that, but a direct message goes to my phone and I have to open it, see that it’s junk and then delete it. I don’t mind direct messages as long as they aren’t plugs.

  4. What is a small time author to do? Publishers increasingly do less and less PR, expecting their authors to do more and more. By the way did I mention my book?

  5. It’s nice to know that some people think promotion is not all shameful.

    I think it’s often a result of not knowing what is okay or how a system works that results in shameful promotion. Even though I think twice before plugging my books, I often get it wrong. That’s part of the learning process.

  6. You make some very good points. I have been careful in my marketing/self promoting, but will be even more watchful in how I put myself off. Thanks for sharing.

  7. The best promotion: write the next story.

    So far that bit of advice hasn’t gotten me into any trouble (either shameless or shameful) other than being accused of writing too much. 😛

  8. I always think when I hear this “Do whatever you want.” A lot of bloggers SAY that it’s bad/doesn’t work and, of course, authors agree – mostly. However, I have to wonder if anyone has any proof beyond “that sounds sensible” to prove the claim true. We, as people, tend to follow a lot or believe without too much thinking. Is it possible that the ‘wrong’ approach is actually right? Sure, we have reports of it not working, but maybe those people are the most vocal or noisy about there failure? Maybe there are people who it really does work for? Logically, considering the proposition, wouldn’t it be possible that there are some successes out there as well? Ones that know better to not talk about the how or are too quiet to be heard?

    • So, do what you want.

      • Also, I wonder if those that read this and end up agreeing then try to conform to the ideas set out are actually shooting off that 11th toe. For example, spam email works. The percentages are small and no one likes spam, but if done right the spammer can make reasonable money. The thing is that similar techniques could work for a author.

        Twitter spamming might actually be effective if done ‘right’ (whatever right is). It also doesn’t have to take on the negatives of true spam. I remember reading Copyblogger and him talking about hooking people in and building email lists and quality focused content that brings in relevant visitors and sells. I remember thinking that all of that could work for a writer too.

        Anyway, I haven’t got a horse in this race, but I just want to say that not all that seems right is right. The blog and news networks have incredible repetition levels. How many times have we heard the above points in a variety of forms? I can remember at least 2-3 since coming to PG’s blog. Because it is repeated a lot, does that make it true? Indie authors write trash – heard that a few times, right? Repitition does not make it true though. I write well and sell. That means what I write is not trash. I am not alone and, hence, that statement is probably not true. Therefore, we shouldn’t accept it. So, by extension, we should at least consider that just because it is repeated a lot doesn’t make it true as being true either, although it might be.

        (Sorry if that doesn’t make sense. I just finished a novel today and it has been a very long day.)

  9. The old advice to treat people the way you would like to be treated will keep you out of a lot of trouble and won’t cut you off from any effective techniques. The hard part of following that advice has always been putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.

  10. I have never purchased a single thing from somebody who annoys me. If you connect to me on Twitter (and I’m pretty choosy) and then all you do is tweet about your book (as in BUY MY BOOK!!), then not only do I unfollow you, I’ll report you as spam if I’m a a particularly cranky mood. I don’t mind stuff like “having a hard time with edits”, or “whew, glad to have this MS finished!” kind of stuff, but if you’re hard selling me, whether it’s a book, a consulting offer, or new windows, I will shut you out. And yes, sales pitches in comments make me crazy, too. I don’t care if you say the most intelligent, insightful thing I’ve read all day, if you end with “oh, and check out my AWESOME book”, it will just annoy me. See above for how I feel about being annoyed. Le sigh.

  11. Good article, and good topic. Being too direct can be a real turn-off.

    Which is why, personally, I’m a proponent of advertising. If you’re going to be direct, might as well offer a 10% discount.

  12. Having just spent the better part of the last two days shamelessly promoting myself (with more to come), I’m trying to walk a very fine line. I loathe spammers and have unfollowed many a person on Twitter who would literally put out 20 tweets a day saying “buy my book.” All they did was ensure that I would never, ever, ever buy their book, even if it did look interesting initially.

    I also dislike the idea of forming relationships with the sole purpose of exploiting them someday. Like, cozying up to a famous author or retweeting or pointing out a blog only with the idea of I’m using you to get a contact/make a sale by pretending to be your friend. I just can’t do that. Which probably means I won’t sell as many books as other people, but I’m okay with that.

    • Thought #1:
      Sounds like Amway.

      Thought #2:
      Do you know about ‘charisma guys’? It’s a way of saying a man who attracts women for sexual purposes (often wanted by both sides) on charisma alone. Most women hate that guy (later). Most men have a mild envy and, sometimes, hate for the guy. One thing though: He’s a winner. His game is to have sexual relationships and he does. From the perspective of a man or woman who wants a relationship, he’s an idiot, but that ignores the fact he is an overachiever.

      Why mention this? These guys are usually considered to be ‘bad people’. (I think yes and no myself – depends on the person and the approach.) However, an author could whoo their readers in a similar fashion. Just because he doesn’t call you back or is clear from the beginning about what he is up to (I think the second is a better stratergy, but I’m not a charisma guy), doesn’t mean a woman won’t go that meal again. It’s sort of like the ‘bad boy’ in a romance novel (chime in Romance Writers :)) The guy we love to hate, but can get his share of the opposite sex and often has customers lining the block for a shot at turning the badness out of him. Maybe we authors need to get over to the romance forums and get asking how we can be that bad boy or charisma guy in our promo? It certainly must be better than the nice guy who gets one #results may vary# sale and doesn’t know the gorgeous joy of flying high.

      Nice guy = 1 sale for life.
      Bad boy = dozens of sales.

      Steven King must be the ultimate bad boy and JK Rowling the ultimate super bad girl. She’s going to need a super hero level Anastasia (50 Shades) to turn her good again, lol.

      Note: This is just an example and doesn’t really express my personal feelings either way. For the sake of discussion, I add this because I think it’s worth considering. AND I figure this is a great opportunity for the romance writers among us (glance) to knock my a$$ out one shots style.

      • I agree with Sarah, being manipulative in order to form relationships and sell books feels bad, even though I think it can be tempting in the social media world.

        Also, I’m not sure every writer is like this, but, for me, I find that being manipulative interferes with my writing voice. So, it not only feels bad, it’s bad for my writing.

        Btw, I understand the allure of the fantasy, but having sexual relationships where you use and hurt people is not only bad for those people, it’s bad for you. Deliberately using and hurting someone, unless you are a psychopath, will hurt you and damage your self-esteem on a deep level, although you may not be aware that is happening.

        • 🙂 (Meh, edit: I wrote too much again…)

          “Btw, I understand the allure of the fantasy, but having sexual relationships where you use and hurt people is not only bad for those people, it’s bad for you. Deliberately using and hurting someone, unless you are a psychopath, will hurt you and damage your self-esteem on a deep level, although you may not be aware that is happening.l

          Hehe… I was sort of waiting for someone to say that. Anyway, I’m not going to go there because the outer coating of the onion is not the core that I’m trying to talk about.

          Back on topic, probably what I’m suggesting is that the idea that being charismatic and using it effectively (much like these men) is a tool. It is not necessarily wrong to be intentionally better than we are. We do it every time we dress up to go to church (like God cares about what we wear [eye roll]). If I normally wear combat boots and camo trousers, but when I enter the House of the Lord I wear a suit and tie, I’m trying to influence someone – manipulating their perspective of me for the better. This is not morally wrong at all.

          Let me give a social media example. I write a good book about dogs. I then join a dog owners forums and show myself to be the expert that I am. I put in my bio that I wrote a book about a dog. I link to my blog about dogs, which has a great following because I post informative articles about dogs with the occassional event thrown in. I also tweet links to other dog books using affiliate links and create business partnerships with other indies to do guest blogs a few times a month on a few decent blogs with high followings. I’m getting sales from people coming through my various channels and my guest bloggers are getting kick backs from link clicks on their sites for my books (looks to JA Konraith with a speculative gaze). What’s happening here?

          It’s a campaign. The author is using multiple social media outlets to show themselves to be qualified, interesting and an insider in the dog world. That’s controlling a perspective. That’s charisma manipulation and there is little difference from the men/women I talked about in the context of them being successful in their chosen desires (note: I don’t judge them as right or wrong here. I only measure their success by their win rate in regards to their goal.) None of this is wrong.

          Why think that? Because the author is providing the readers with her time and input. Sure, there’s manipulation, but big companies, churches, schools, your husband/wife, date, your children (surprise, surprise), and many others are trying to play the perspective manipulation game. It’s not wrong. It’s sometimes harmful (as you mentioned), but it’s a good idea.

          What remains is can fiction writers do it. This is what RD Meyer is hinting at below. The problem with the dog example is that it is easier to target a market when you are writing non-fiction. Who is the target of a “how to publish book”? That’s easy, but ask yourself who the target of a thriller is… not so easy. Because it is so hard, people get angry when we intrude into their lives with marketing that is hitting the wrong buttons. It’s a challenge to a writer who needs to pull in readers.

          Basically, you-me-everyone can agree we would like to get paid a lot of money for our books. I know that I’d love to settle down on an island and relax a bit. Working double jobs and writing six hours on top of that a day is sucky, right? If we don’t know our market and can’t speak to them in a way that they feel is valuable then we are going down the spam road. The best one can do is make people think we are great wonderful people that know about our topic and write well about it. (Look at James Patterson, for example. There is so much perspective manipulation going on around him and his work that it’s hard to figure out what the real man is like. However, it works. I have to give him that.)

          By the way, last comment, could I be manipulating your perspective right now? What if I’m an angry 60 year old retired woman with one arm and a mean itch where I can’t scratch it? What if my one-desire is to troll the Passive Guy with my outrageous opinions on stuff I have no idea about? Maybe, even worse, I’m not that but actually Steven King? It’s possible. I’m sitting in my cottage with my heavy rock on and typing this out while rewriting The Strand for the millionth time. The mind boggles.

          (You know, I should probably not be so antsy about this and the editing topic recently. It’s actually just the heat in my country, a boring job with too much free time on my hands and no air conditioning. I’m going to try to be less conflict orientated. I’ll become the charisma troll.)

  13. Targeted marketing is one thing; junk mail is another.

    Besides being rude, all the spamming stuff looks desperate.

    • I agree with this. I just think authors – mostly – suck at target marketing. Even businesses strike out on it often enough and they have professional marketers. I also think failed efforts at target marketing end up being called spam because they reach the wrong market/audience (ex. Jesus based gay erotica* marketed to strict hetrosexual Christians.) I think that it takes an incredible author to pull off an excellent book and market that work effectively to the right audience and get results (not: “This is spam. Die!”) That person has my respect.

      * This is probably too much detail, but I wrote a very similar series of erotic titles based around Christianity and Jesus (modified with different names). I seriously thought I was going to hell when I published that, but gay guys eat it up (The series sells a dozen or so copies a month on a normal month across Amazon US alone, which is not bad because it took me 13 days to write that and I’ve already made back 50% of my time cost on it.) [Vaguely considers being bold and doing a full on – names and all – version.]

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