Monday, November 16, 2009

Alicia being a crank about "self-promotion"

A friend (you know who you are :) and I were just discussing how pervasive this "market your book" trend has become, and how besieged we feel by the barrage of "buy my book" emails and Facebook posts and all that.

I do understand. I mean, it's not like most publishers do much for new authors these days, if they ever did. If you don't market your book yourself, it might not get noticed. And there's so much competition, yada yada. Been there, done that.

But let's talk about the annoying come-ons. After all, it doesn't do an author any good to alienate potential readers. As a reader, what is likely to turn you off, and what is likely then to make you consider buying a book?

What turns me off:
You know what I hate. Facebook. Well, I don't like Facebook much, actually, but what I really hate is this idea of "fan". I keep getting email solicitations from some new author to become her "fan". "Betsy Brilliant wants you to become her fan!" (This alone makes me want to delete my Facebook account-- which I never check, so if you've friended me, nothing personal, but I probably won't ever respond... I don't even remember my password. :)
I know "fan" ia just the term Facebook uses, but it's creepy. I don't even know this person, and I'm supposed to be "her fan"? Like she's the Beatles? It really resonates with that icky "I want to be a celebrity!" vibe that is such a feature of our reality TV era. Hey, if your book is good, I will hear about it--- and THEN maybe I'll be interested... but actually, you're going to need even more than one good book to make me a "fan".

What works with me: Alas, authors have no control over most of this:
Good reviews from reviewers I have reason to trust.
Recommendations from friends.
A free copy mailed to me or delivered right to my hands at a conference, and I know this doesn't SELL a book. But it might sell the next one.
Good back-copy. Hate to say it, but I'm a sucker for this. I'll often buy a book because of the back-copy, even though I know all too well how little connection it might have with the actual book. What can I say. I'm easy.
Excerpts (good prose, well-punctuated :) online, especially at the point of sale (Amazon or, for example, where I can immediately buy the book, or I'll probably forget).
Ease of purchase, like it's right in front of me at the bookstore, or there's a link to a purchase site at the review or excerpt. Also, Amazon's "One-click" has made impulse buying way too easy for me.

What Really Works (and the author does have control over this):
A really terrific book, because I'll talk about it and buy additional copies to give to friends.

So-- what annoys you, and what works for you, when it comes to soliciting you to buy a book?



Livia Blackburne said...

It's really too bad that facebook calls them "fan pages." At the moment, that's the only option if you don't want to open your personal account to people you don't know.

Edittorrent said...

How about having one personal account, and one professional account? Is that possible?

Ian said...

I think the big problem is that writers are not first and foremost marketers. We're writers! Duh! Given a choice between spending two hours trying to promote ourselves and our work when we could be cranking out the Next Big Bestseller is a pretty tough sell to any serious writer.

We use Facebook, blogs, Twitter, etc. to market ourselves because they're free, have potentially wide-ranging audiences, and are relativelt easy to use without being time-consuming. I've used all those things to promote my own work, and I don't apologize for that.

But as Writers Without Nets, as it might be called, just having a spectacular book isn't enough in modern society and culture where today's Hot New Thing is tomorrow's landfill plug. You have to have a platform, even for fiction, and that's why we self-market. Sure, we could pay someone to do it better, but I imagine most writers are broke-ass like me.

I guess my point is in the media and publication explosion of the past few years, you have to either get yourself on Oprah or kill somebody (or both) to get your book into the eye of the public.

The term "15 minutes of fame" has never been more applicable than it is today. If you as an author can't get that fifteen minutes, and can't exploit it for every second, you'll be consigned to mid-list hell along with all the other "also-rans."

Edittorrent said...

But if everyone is doing it, how do you benefit from doing all the same things? I just don't get it. I think "fanning" is going to alienate as many readers as it attracts. Hey, maybe I'm wrong-- I have always been hopeless at this stuff.

But what does work? What has worked for you all?

Jami Gold said...


I hate Facebook. Technically, I have an account (professional only, I will NEVER have a personal account), but I doubt I'll ever use it. I have a Twitter account too, but I haven't used it yet. I could see using that one in the future though.

What gets me interested in a book to buy are some of the same things you mentioned: reviews, excerpts, or personal connection to the author. But those things can be helped greatly by repetition - even through advertising. When I see something interesting, I might not get it right away and it falls out my head. But then if I see a banner ad for it, that reminds me about the book and to follow up on getting it before I forget about again.

I think the real problem is the publishers spending all their money on blockbusters and then complaining when they don't have any money for the other 99.9% of books as far as marketing or advertising. Have they decided that marketing and advertising don't help? But if a book is getting written up with good reviews, that additional exposure can be essential.

Jami G.

Maree Anderson said...

I'm not a fan of the "fan" thing on Facebook, either -- excuse the pun, LOL. I'm more than happy to support my fellow authors and I will try to buy a copy of their book -- finances permitting. But honestly, the number of times I haven't even read a book by a particular author and I'm invited to become their "fan" just because I'm their friend on Facebook....

I'm sorry, but it's just not something I'm interested in doing. Kinda like voting for a book that you've never read. It just seems dishonest, somehow. And surely that sort of thing lowers expectations -- if it becomes the norm to have fans and people voting for a book they've never read, then it's all just fluff and no substance. It doesn't mean anything, does it? It's just a numbers game with nothing real to back it up.

Totally different if I HAVE read the book and I love it, of course! Hey, I've just become a fan of the Smart Bitches, because I've read Beyond Heaving Bosoms and I love it to bits and beyond. These gals are also very funny and interesting to follow, so becoming their fan is a win-win for me. As a reader, I get something out of following them on Twitter and being their fan on Facebook.

So I guess I may not be using Facebook to my advantage when it comes to promoting myself as an author, but I would like to think that I'm being true to myself. Sure, I'll post the cover of my new book on my website, Facebook & Twitter and hope you love it as much as I do. Sure, I'll let you know the release date, maybe publicize a giveaway of my book, and hope that you might feel inclined to visit my website and click a Buy Now link. Or tell your friends about it.

And hey, if you've read my book and you love it, that's great! Please leave me a message on my website or comment on Facebook, or tell me on Twitter -- I'd be chuffed as all heck to hear from you!

But, and by all means call me naive or a marketing disaster, I won't be asking you to become my fan on Facebook -- or whatever the equivalent might be on Twitter. Nor will I be harvesting your emails from the contest I ran back in May and sending you out unsolicited newsletters. That's what my subscribe button is for, after all. I don't much like it when it's done to me, and the bottom line is that I wouldn't like to alienate you!

Livia Blackburne said...

So technically, facebook only allows one account per person (probably done by email address). it's probalby pretty easy to get around this, but it might get complicated because you'd have two accounts with the same name... but I've never tried it.

Shalanna said...

Recently I have despaired of the way so many authors have been making me feel like their "mark" at a carnival. All those blog entries that are thinly veiled promo with very little other reading content that'd appeal to someone who has already bought the book and is trying to "know" the author a bit . . . all the come-ons in newsletters and "vote for me" stuff . . . the LJ entries with "blog tours" that are obviously you-scratch-my-back, I'll-post-YOUR-"Interview" stuff. I mean, perhaps I'm just a genius, but has no one else figured out that if Ann puts a rave review and interview of Bob's book on HER blog, and then Bob puts a similar thing about hers on HIS blog, and then Jane re-runs both those pieces of content in a few days and THEN Jane's book and interview get cloned on Ann's and Bob's blogs . . . well, doesn't anyone else roll her eyes? Don't you feel used? As if the only use you could possibly be to these people is as a buyer, and then once you have bought the book, they'd shove you aside for the next customer? Whereas if I am curious enough to come to an author's blog, I would at least like a bit of insight into that person's public persona and perhaps something other than another hard sell. Maybe it IS just me. I *am* notoriously cynical. And I cannot abide cliques.

I'm not saying I need to hear all about your ingrown toenail and who you are sleeping with! What Alicia does in discussing writing on this blog is fascinating, and what Jennifer Crusie does in discussing writing and/or her home projects and her dogs or whatver is great . . . that's what I mean by giving me the feeling that I know something about the person. Once I know the person a little bit, it makes me "stick" on the books, and I will be so much more inclined to pick up the books and maybe give them MORE of a chance than those by someone I don't know. (What I mean is, I will read on past a doubtful opening or a few boring pages because I am sure she's about to get to the good stuff--and I am usually rewarded.)

But anyhow . . . the way that most authors work now, it seems to me, is they form a cabal with three to six other authors whose books have come out around the same time, and they all do this "post about Bob and then he posts about me" mess. It is SO transparent that it's almost pathetic. I know the agents must be in on this, as agents will often post about the books coming from their stable and even point you to these blog tours.

I do not know what the answer is. I just say that these tactics are pretty obvious, and if they irritate me to this extent, they MUST be turning off other readers with perfectly green money.

On the other hand, telemarketing and other irritating ploys must work, or else why would companies spend millions continuing to do cold calls to innocent phone owners just sitting down to dinner?!

So whatever . . . what I do respond to is a well-written and properly punctuated and FUNNY or informative blog. Then I figure, "This is a good writer, and maybe I'll like the books."
And sometimes Amazon reviews influence me to "look inside this book."

Edittorrent said...

Shalanna, I remember Spy magazine used to have a feature they called "Log-rolling," where they'd have a laudatory quote by Author A reviewing Author B's book, and then vice versa. The implication was that they'd agreed to puff each other's books, and so the reviews were unreliable. Anyway, your idea of a "cabal" sounds like logrolling, huh? It kind of makes it hard, I guess, to know what's really believable then?

I do like "see inside this book"-- I think that's made me buy a few. Of course, like I said, I'm easy. "Addicted to Books Anonymous."

JKB said...

I too lik ethe "Inside this book" aspect of Amazon. I like book reviews from good bloggers, too. I just bought a book because of that.

I do purely HATE those facebook things. It's enough to drive me mad. As well as the twitter accounts where you add them and it's just like, "My book. My book. My book." I can unfollow and guarantee I'll *never* buy YOUR BOOK.


Anonymous said...

I love bookstores. There is something about print that draws me in. So, a back cover is pretty important to me. And recommendations from friends.

Having said that, I did buy a book recently simply because I found the author's blog - a new Aussie fantasy author, Duncan Lay. I loved the book, although it was a slow start I liked the characters enough to keep going, and the pace from the midpoint was cracking. And he's has recently received reviews comparing him to the late David Gemmell. The second book is out in December and I'm hoping to find it under the Christmas tree :)

Julie Harrington said...

I have a facebook for personal use and one for more "professional" uses. I can see it as an easy way to keep readers updated quickly on events, compile a quick and easy contact list when I want to email/contact them. I like that you can easily link video, pictures, etc., to messages, and I bet a lot of people like that -- when they *do* post -- it pops up on all those fans' feeds, which means it pops up on all their friends and you never know you sees it or how much exposure that one post can really get.


That said, I think the best marketing of a book (and by extension maybe even the author) in recent memory is Gail Carriger. Carriger had, I believe, her first book published a few months back. It was a multi-genre urban fantasy, paranormal, romance, mystery, sci-fi, steam punk book with vampires and werewolves and preternaturals and humans set in Victoria-era London. Oh my!

By what I think was one of the most brilliant moves ever was her blog contest. Your entry into said contest? The book review you wrote for it and posted on sites like Barnes & Noble, Borders,, etc, etc, etc.

I'd already purchased the book and written my review, so I entered (happily) and won one of her giveaway packages. The reader in me was thrilled. The author in me thought, dang that's a nifty idea!

But yes. I agree. A lot of books and authors these days are pimping hard. A lot of it is just static that goes in one ear and out the other. The one idea that does intrigue me (because I'm such a visual media type of person) are book trailers. I love the concept! I don't see many that I consider "well done" but the idea? LOVE IT!


Anonymous said...

JT - now that really is a nifty idea! Well done on winning too :)

Edittorrent said...

Rachel, bookstores are dangerous for me. I always see books I suddenly NEED. I just stopped in a little bookstore the other day, just to look around, and spent $60 on books about a subject I didn't know I absolutely had to know about.

I think "impulse buy" was invented for me.