Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Enough Already! The Self-promotion madness

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday 

Guest Post by the Fabulous Roni Loren 
Enough Already! - The Self-Promotion Madness

Writers are a special breed of human. No, not all of us are the same. There is no one "type" that fits all (though if you're into Myers-Briggs, the INFJs--which is what I am--are seriously over-represented amongst writers, considering it's the most rare of the personality types.). But on the whole, many of us have a lot in common. And one of the things we often find ourselves agreeing on is that--self-promotion is no fun.

Having to promote yourself flies in the face of our natural tendencies. Most of us are the type who prefer to be behind the scenes, to help others, to build close relationships with a few instead of surface ones with the masses. We want it to be about the book, the story, not about us.

Writers typically want to be the anti-celebrity. Sure, give us the money that may come along with getting famous (I know I wouldn't turn that down, lol), but please don't make us talk about ourselves in front of people. Ack!

But alas, part of our job as a writer is getting the word out there, promoting our books and promoting ourselves. So we do it like good little worker bees. Unfortunately, it seems that many of us are doing it wrong.

Twitter has turned into advertisement central. There are so many self-promotional tweets that it sometimes feels like walking into the internet version of Times Square. And don't even get me started on people DMing me right after I follow them to tell me where to purchase their book.

It's a constant barrage of promotional white noise.  Buy!...Check out my book!...Free download!...On sale for 99 cents!...Look at this amazing review I received!...Like me on Facebook!...Visit my author page!...Follow my blog!

Ahh! *covers eyes* Make it stop!

Then you start seeing blog posts pop up talking about how to drive up your followers, how to bury SEO keywords in your titles so that you grab random people through google, how to ingratiate yourself on message boards to find readers. How to hunt people down like dogs and expose them to your book.

Dude, it's ridiculous. This is not who we are, people. We are not Ron Popeil selling food dehydrators. (See Kristen Lamb's blog for more on the difference between book marketing and traditional advertising.) I'm not trying to "trick" people into liking me. That's useless. It's disingenuous and people will see right through it. In the end, it will hurt you more than help you.

You want people to like you and buy your book?

Be genuinely likable and nice to others. Interact. Go into things with a generous spirit and a true desire to be helpful and friendly. Oh, and write damn fine books.

If 85% of your interaction online is interesting and genuine and you being a real person, people won't mind if 15% of the time you mention you have a book coming out or a blog post you'd like them to read. They'll "like" you or follow you without you *gasp* having to beg them or bait them into it.

And leave the truly blatant book advertisement for things like blog tours, reviews, conferences, and book signings where people are expecting it and are more open to being advertised to.

Believe me, your followers will thank you. (Hopefully by buying your books, lol!)

So what do you think? Are you ready to get pitchforks and take back Twitter? What makes you unfollow someone? What makes you want to support an author or buy their book?

Roni wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has. 

Her debut romance CRASH INTO YOU will be released January 2012 by Berkley Heat/Penguin. If you want to read more posts like this one or follow her journey to debut authorhood, you can visit her writing blog Fiction Groupie or her author blog. She also tweets way too much for her own good. 


Jenny Hansen said...

Oooh-oooh! Finally, a reward for staying up late...I get to be the first to comment on Roni's guest post!

I tell you, there's LinkedIn groups I've left and Twitterites I've unfollowed over this exact thing.

I don't really have a problem with people DMing me to thank me for my follow. I do have a major issue with my new "friend" in essence breaking down my front door to have their equivalent of a Mary Kay/Cookie Lee/Southern Living party. I'm just not that into yet that I'm going to spend a few hours in your presence.

I understand that the root of it all comes from the smothering fear that NO ONE will buy the book and it will molder away and all that time and genius will be for naught. But chat me up a little first, buy me a virtual cup of coffee, leave me a little blog love to remember you by.

THEN I might be more inclined to break out with the $2.99 to buy your book.

I'm just sayin...

Paul Anthony Shortt said...

Yup. I make a point of following people back on Twitter and Google+, but I have un-followed several for spamming advertisements or self-promotional posts. I want to talk to people, not trade "Check out my book!" comments.

I've greatly expanded my reading list since I got properly involved with blogging and Twitter. But I guarantee you, every book I've bought I've bought because both the book itself appealed to me and the author struck me as a decent, nice person who I'd happily share a pint or a coffee with, and therefore I wanted to support them.

Glen Strathy said...

Ahh, if only making a living as writers could be done without self-promotion, we could all be a lot nicer to each other, and our social interactions would have no Machiavellian agenda.

Unknown said...

Well said, unfortunately 99% of the people who are diving into social marketing are coming from a traditional marketing background. They're used to broadcast communications and treat it like that. While annoying that just means they're going to learn the hard way that no one will respond to messages like that on SM.

Amelia James said...

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I'm self-published so the only one promoting my book is me. If I don't advertise my books or my blog on Twitter, FB & G+, I don't sell any.

However, I understand the importance of social interaction and I spend a good amount of time talking to people with no strings attached. But the reason writers advertise on social media is because it works. If there's another alternative, I'd be happy to hear about it.

I wrote some damn fine books, but they don't sell themselves. Balance between advertising and socializing is the key. And then I gotta find time for writing.

Lisa Hall-Wilson said...

Well said! I can't count how many DM's I've gotten that said - thanks for the follow - here's a link to a free copy of my book yah de yah da. Yikes. It's like having the Walmart greeter jump you at the door - can I help you find something - anything - really, I'm here to help.
Yeesh - I'll let you know. Thx.

lol - thanks for sharing.

Scooter Carlyle said...

I have to agree. I also get spammed by authors. While I understand their intentions and needs, I sometimes feel like folks are missing the point of Twitter.

There's a balance between socializing and self-promotion. I do tweet whenever I have a new blog post, but I also tweet about other things and respond to others.

Laura Drake said...

Wow, I don't know how many times I've unfollowed people for this very thing...

Please people, how do you feel about a religious zealot preaching to you on your doorstep? Are you going to join that church?

I do understand that self-pub authors need to do their own publicity...but if it's not getting people buying/reading your books, you're alienating possible readers/customers!

I highly recommend Kristen Lamb's blogs on the subject.

This is hard - you have my sympathies, but if you do advertising this way - not my attention.

Julie Glover said...

The first three paragraphs totally describe me (except that I'm an INFP). I finally understood why writers are MY people.

I hate self-promotion. I force myself to say, "Hey, I wrote a blog post. Check it out!" I'm okay with people who link to their blogs where I can read something interesting or informative. I'm also okay with a published author letting people know where they are signing books or about a new cover, etc.

The rest of the time, I like chatting, challenging, and cheering each other on. That's why I like reaching out through Twitter - the people connection.

I have not once clicked on a "Buy Me!" link through Twitter. But (recent example) I bought Tawna Fenske's book because I linked to her blog and loved it.

Catherine Gayle said...

I try really, really hard to keep my social media self-promotional stuff to a minimum. Sometimes, I do much better at it than others. I'd say that, when I do have a new release, I'm far more likely to do promotional tweets than in those in between times. Sometimes, I'll go months and realize I haven't done any self-promo.

You've got a good point about there needing to be a balance. I have some friends who I care about deeply, but every tweet I see from them is "Buy My Book" "Like Me" "Sale!" "Free"...I'm sorry, but that's not the way to get anyone to do anything.

If you've built up the good relationships with people, if you tweet about interesting things on a regular basis, then most people don't mind when you do, occasionally, do some self promo. There's got to be a give and take.

(And yes, I'm an INFJ. LOL. Supposedly the most rare of all the Myers-Briggs types...)

Dawn Alexander said...

Very well stated comments.
I agree there must be a balance. Like someone else said, I have not once clicked on a BUY ME link through an auto DM on twitter, but I have bought several books because I connected with the author either on twitter or some other form of social media and liked him/her.

Chris Devlin said...

I'm just learning what all these terms mean and I have to say, I've had the same experience being new to twitter. I've approached jumping in the stream the way I do all things online--a big toe in the water here, a test there. And I've already found there are some people who behave in ways that don't make any sense at all. A writer I followed proceeded to blast the stream with autotweets every hour about his books and a single blog post. Why would anyone do that? Does that kind of overkill work on him? On anybody?
However, I am meeting lots of fun new people and I hope when I have a book to promote I don't alienate them. Balance and the golden rule seem to be the key.
Thanks for your thoughts.

Alana said...

This is a really interesting post.

I admit to being guilty of using Twitter for self-promotion, but really truthfully because I don't know what else to use it for. I know it's annoying - I'm annoyed - I try to limit to a couple of tweets a week (like max of five) because I have no idea what to do with the minute by minute tweeters.

I will occasionally write a "status update" type comment, but since there is no true interaction (or at least it seems to me as a relative newbie to twitter) I miss the comments that come back as on Facebook ... so I tweet websites, articles and blog challenges and leave my actual views into who I am on my blog and on Facebook.

Do you have suggestions on what to use Twitter for? I don't quite see the point yet, but I keep using it in the hopes that I will find the wider appeal.

Roni Loren said...

Jenny, LOL on the Mary Kay thing. That's exactly what it feels like.

Paul, I totally agree. I've bought a lot of books from people I've met online, but it's because I've gotten to know them AND their book interest me. Not because of some randomly tweeted buy me link.

Glen, Indeed, lol. Though I think self-promotion is fine--when done in an non-obnoxious way.

PW, Agreed. Traditional marketing techniques will be an epic fail in this social networking world.

Amelia, It definitely is a challenge. But I think the focusing on chatting and relationships will sell more books then just the advertising type tweets. Like I said about an 85/15 split is a good starting point. Also, if you're not already following Kristen Lamb, go check out her blog. She gives great tips week after week on marketing the right way. :)

Lisa, LOL, you just painted the best visual. Attack of the walmart greeter. Look out! Good analogy.

Roni Loren said...

Scooter, sounds like you're doing it exactly perfect. I try to do that too. I do tweet about my blog posts a few times a day, but mixed in is a lot of other things--tweeting other ppls links, sharing cool things i've found, and general randomness about my life. :)

Laura, Agreed. Kristen Lamb gives the best advice on this topic. And you're right, people are only hurting themselves in the long run.

Julie, we'd probably get along well. My hubs is INFP, lol. So he's sees the big picture and I make sure all the details are handled. :)

Catherine, *high five* to a fellow INFJ, lol. And yes, I hear you on the friend thing. I kind of want to send some ppl a message and be like psst, you're being annoying. But it's an awkward thing to approach.

Dawn, thanks for having me!

Roni Loren said...

Chris, I think a lot of the people blasting the stream are probably setting up autotweets and just walking away. Like some blinking billboard instead of real tweeting.

Alana, Getting started on Twitter can take a little while because when you first start out you're only following and being followed by a few people. But really, when done right, Twitter is like a giant cocktail party where you're milling around the room chatting with different people about all kinds of different topics. The best way to get conversation started is to comment on other's tweets. Twitter is a place where you are not "interrupting" or have to "know" someone to talk to them. And as for updates, you get the hang of it after a while. Follow people and see the kinds of things they retweet. It's amazing how funny or interesting 140 letters can be. Good luck!

Alana said...

Thanks for the feedback Roni! I'll keep dipping my toe in. :)

I did pop over here directly from reading your tweet!

Leah St. James said...

Yes, yes, yes!! It's really tough for indies, but even those with traditional pubs or (especially) small presses have to do the bulk of the promo. I'm particularly clueless with most of it. (Speaking of which, what's G+???) :-) Thanks for posting!

Katya said...

That's funny, I'm an INFJ, too. I didn't realize it was a writerly-type.

I haven't gone as far as to unfollow anyone yet (just getting started in Social Media) but there are certain people whose posts I skip past on my Twitterfeed because they mostly post ads for their books.

Jessica R. Patch said...

Loved this post! I am right there with you on getting a book promo after following someone. And I'm not a fan of seeing others tweet "I want more followers, please follow."

I don't know if I use Twitter correctly or not, but I do like meeting people and chatting and I do enjoy finding new blogs to read that way and tweeting ones I find particularly interesting.

Bridgette Booth said...

I don't even bother reading those DM or tweets. Unless it's from a name I've interacted with I ignore it.

What a waste of time and energy on the author's part. It makes me sad for them actually. But not so sad that I don't mind deleting, unfollowing, or ignoring them. lol.

Sonia G Medeiros said...

It can feel like there's enormous pressure to build an online presence and promote ourselves. But we have to remember that the online community is just that - a community. A community only thrives if people genuinely interact. I can definitely testify to the power of the online community in reaching new readers. I've been turned onto so many good books since coming online. Usually I end up buying the book not from a promo tweet but from a build up of interaction on twitter and blogs, etc. I buy the book because I've gotten to like the writer.

Reetta Raitanen said...

Great post, Roni. Me, me, me marketers are really annoying. You wouldn't start selling your book at a total stranger in a line at a store, so why do so many people do it in Twitter? Gah.

Kristen Lamb offers good advice on how to find a good balance between sharing good content, promoting others (ReTweeting rocks) and only then promoting yourself a little.

(Strangely enough, I'm INFJ too. That makes approaching new people in Twitter and everywhere something I have to consciously do.)

Madison Woods said...

Usually I'll unfollow someone that tweets only to promote their book. And I hate auto-Dms to sell me something as soon as I've followed someone. I've met wonderful blogger and twitter friends and made awesome business contacts but never through strong-arm tactics.