Tag: marketing

How NOT to Market Your Book

How NOT to Market Your Book

How many times have you been scrolling through Twitter and seen one of those people on your feed who tags a bunch of people individually, replies to tweets, and copy/pastes a poorly-written advertisement that’s more hashtag than text? Well, this week we’re talking about how not to market your book. And that? That’s definitely one way not to market your book.

A tweet repeated three times from the same author in the same minute shilling their book with poor grammar.
Don’t do this.

Marketing is a challenge for authors. We are, at heart, writers and artists, and most of us bristle at the notion of having to talk to people. Introverts unite… separately… at home. However, as per my previous blog, we aren’t able to ignore it and be successful. This, however, doesn’t mean that all marketing is equal. Bad marketing is, in some ways, almost worse than no marketing because bad marketing will let people know your book exists, but it sure as heck won’t engender goodwill toward you or your work!

With no further ado, let’s talk about what not to do.

  1. Spam links with no explanations.
    Sharing links to where your book is sold is part and parcel to marketing yourself, however, if you are flooding your various social media outlets with links to your book without further content, it’s just going to irritate people. Make sure if you’re sharing the link to your book, you at least say a little something about it. Also, I’d only share to certain hashtags or outlets once or twice a day. While I’m not a Twitter algorithem expert, I can tell you that as a Twitter user, scrolling through the same advertisement thirty times in an hour makes me want to scream. I always mute that person, and I am not alone in that.
  2. Try and hard-sell people your book.
    If you’re approaching strangers on social media (or other places) and trying to force your book on them, it’s not going to get you anywhere good. Cold sales aren’t really an effective sales strategy, and it won’t do much to get people interested in you or in your work. Nobody likes the social media equivilent of a telemarketer.
  3. Spam groups or hashtags.
    In writing groups, it’s an extremely common occurance to have somoene join, drop links to their book with some marketing pitch either once or repeatedly, and leave. They don’t engage in the community, they don’t talk to people, they don’t offer any value. They just drop and jet because they have fifty other writing groups on their list to do the same thing to. This isn’t the venue, they’re not your audience, and if you aren’t engaging with people, all you’re doing is looking like a jerk.
  4. Start petty fights on your author social media accounts.
    This is a delicate line to walk. I’m not talking about politics or big issues here where speaking out can get you in trouble, I’m talking about being mean or childish and being unkind to people who don’t deserve it.
  5. Develop a massive ego.
    Publishing a book is a huge success, and you have every right to be proud of yourself. Truly. A healthy amount of the “good feels” is necessary when selling your book because you have to fend off trolls and jerks and lettheir nonsense slide. However, this healthy amount of self-esteem sometimes turns into authors thinking they are, in fact, the next Tolkein. You aren’t probably. Does that mean you can’t be darn good? Absolutely not. But remember that you aren’t going to get more book sales by stepping on others.

How to market your book is a huge discussion for which I always feel under-qualified despite reading a lot of marketing books over the years and watching countless videos and so on. I never feel like I know what I’m doing, but from my understanding most folks feel like they have no idea what they’re doing behind closed doors. So I’m not that far behind the curve, I guess.

Regardless of that, ultimately, the things to avoid when marketing are things that add no value to the person encountering the post or marketing method. Give people value. give them something more, something to enjoy. If you’re just screaming into the void without targeting it appropriately or acting like that MLM friend who invites you to dinner but then tries to hard-sell you into joining their scheme, it’s not going to earn you favors.

Playing Nice With Others

Playing Nice With Others

A dear friend of mine recently had an experience at a bardic circle (a musical event where folks sit around a campfire and perform to each other) where a group of semi-professionals who didn’t care that it was someone else’s turn decided to shout her down and sing over her. Now, my friend is a wonderful singer (you can’t tell me  otherwise—I know you’re going to see this, too), and she is working to overcome dreadful stage fright. These people, on top of being unthinkably rude, could have damaged a less confident person’s sense of worthiness to perform. Luckily, my friend is as stalwart as they come and recognized these folks were just being horrid; it had nothing to do with her.

So how does this relate to writing? Well, I’ve seen authors do this exact thing. We live in an over-saturated market where, despite ourselves, we jockey for positions of dubious merit. We fight for review time, advertising space, interviews, and any other scrap of exposure we can collect. Unfortunately, that kind of pressure often brings out the worst in people. There is also, at times, an inherent egotism that comes with the status of “author” that leads others to think their opinion is somehow more valid just because they’ve been “published”.

Let me pop that bubble right now: at no point are you ever more valuable than someone else. Your opinion may be better-informed and worth more in that regard if you have experience and study, but that doesn’t mean you deserve to treat others like crap. In fact, it will only harm you to treat others like that. Could I walk up to a newbie author or editor and tapdance on them with my five years of experience and several publications? Sure. It wouldn’t make me any better than them, though. It also wouldn’t endear anyone to me because, frankly, who likes a bully? Instead, I’d rather encourage, mentor, and inspire other people. It’s similar to the difference between being a “boss” and being a “leader”.

I also want to note that, while I am technically in competition with other publishers and editors and writers… I’m not really. No matter how much I want to, I can’t publish all the books in the world. I can’t edit all the books in the world. I can’t write all the books in the world. I might be publishing science fiction right alongside other presses, but you know what? Good for them. I’d rather support their sales and develop a good rapport. Particularly in the indie game, that networking can be a huge help. The same goes with author-to-author relationships. There might be another fantasy author whose books are technically in direct competition with mine, but I’d much rather be friends with them than try and sabotage them.

We can all win this race. It’s not as though we’re competing to have someone purchase our car. After all, with cars you only really need one, and it’s a huge investment. Books? Well… if the number of books I own is any indication, I’m probably going to be buying and reading books for a long, long time. That also means that if I see an author I enjoy recommend a book (or a movie, or…) I’ll probably check it out. If I like that author I’ll read what they recommend and so on. You can see where I’m going with this.

Now, in addition to just being jerks, how many of you have seen (or, be honest, done) this: Join a group on social media, drop an advertisement for your book, and leave? That’s kind of like trying to sing over everyone else at the campfire. Particularly since, most of the time, the rules say differently. It’s disrespectful to the people who are there because, in essence, you’re saying: I don’t care what you have to say, just listen to me! You aren’t contributing anything; you’re not even really participating; you’re just throwing out your piece to the detriment of the group as a whole. Don’t be that guy (or gal).

The only way authors, publishers, and editors are going to succeed in this increasingly-hostile landscape where we have to fight for every shred of recognition we receive is to do it together. You can all sing at the campfire. We will all applaud and be happy you joined us. We’ll pass around the marshmallows and moonshine and have fun together. I’d rather eat s’mores with my friends than shout them down because if we’re all yelling no one is heard.

The Importance of Social Media

The Importance of Social Media

Social media has revolutionized how we relate to each other as a culture and a society. I can share my thoughts, impressions, feelings, and silly photos with the entire world if I want to. Not that the entire world cares, but I can, which is unprecedented. I’m thirty, so I’m old enough to remember the dawn of internet usage as a home application (and I have the stacks of old AOL disks to prove it), and I remember joining Facebook sometime during college. Now I think I talk more to my friends on Facebook than I do face-to-face. Now, I’m not here to complain about social media’s presence in our lives, but I want to talk about how writers and professionals need to view social media.

Most of us have heard people say, “I’ll post what I want. It’s my wall.” They are correct on that score. Far be it from me to censor folks, but there are certain things we need to be aware of before we pound away at our keyboards.

Your writing is being judged.
As writers, we know the importance of language. If you don’t, then perhaps you should think about that a little longer. Our first customers when we release a new book are often our friends and family who wish to encourage us and see us succeed. It’s not a dirty thing to think or say, either. However, if your usual posts on social media more closely resemble a teenager’s texting habits then you are going to put them off. They might buy the book because they love you, but they won’t be expecting good writing.

This also goes for posts in groups. I don’t care if you are writing from your phone, if you are posting with impossibly lazy grammar or, worse, using netspeak, it closes the door. I lose interest in what you have to say because that shows that you are not willing to put effort into communication which makes me think your writing will reflect that attitude.

Most people won’t care about a few misplaced commas or typos when communicating on social media. I know I sure don’t. My blogs have them, too, because I don’t hire a copyeditor to go over all of them before posting, and I usually am writing out my thoughts rather than trying to polish articles. However, I make an effort to write using good grammar and punctuation because it suggests that I put my money where my mouth is.

Your content is being judged.
As much as your social media pages are your place to express yourself, you need to consider how you are using them. If you are using a fan page to communicate with potential readers and clients, then what you post on your personal page (assuming you use proper privacy settings) isn’t as much of a concern. However, if you use your personal page to communicate with clients, other authors, and readers, you will want to take into account how much of your personal life you want to reveal, what type of content you want to share with your network.

For example, I don’t post a great deal about politics or religion on my page because I don’t want to invite argument, and I don’t want to upset my friends and network. Now, that is a personal choice and not a business requirement. I don’t hide my personal views, but at the same time I try to not bring up topics on Facebook that I wouldn’t at a cocktail party for the most part. I also try to avoid cursing on my page because, again, it’s poor manners in a business setting.

Different rules apply to different types of writers, too. If you write erotica and people are shocked that you write about sex on your Facebook page then they aren’t your target audience anyway. Unless it’s your Aunt Thelma and her little dog. In which case you should apologize before going to Christmas dinner. However, the general rule of thumb is that you should really consider what you post rather than just “like” and “share” whatever amuses you.

Your attitude and personality are being judged.
Even if your posts are mild in content and well written, if all you post about is how miserable or angry you are, or how jealous, or how biased you are, that will affect other people’s perceptions of you. Again, this is your decision, and if you are using your personal Facebook account for personal communication then it’s less of a concern. However, the more a public figure you become, the more of an issue this is.

If you look at recent scandals involving celebrities how many of them involve social media posts? Of course, it’s most often referring to Twitter, but the rest of social media matters as well. The days of authors being islands unto themselves and locking themselves in cabins to only deliver manuscripts to their editors and otherwise being hermits is pretty much over. In today’s world we have to connect with our readers. That means being viewed as likable or at the very least interesting and eclectic. While this puts a strain on us and our communication, it’s an aspect we need to consider when we post to our network.

So where does that leave us?
Well, with any luck, we know how to be polite to people. While being “interesting” is a difficult shoe to fill, we can find ways to do that, too. We need to post what our readers and network would find useful and entertaining. We need to think before we hit “share”. If this sounds daunting it’s only because it is. Most writers, in my experience, are introverts who prefer the company of their pets, Netflix, and perhaps significant others. Interacting with people is tough, and we often see it as cutting into our writing or daydreaming time.

While I’m not going to give a full lesson here on social media marketing, I will say that a good percentage of it is being authentic without being rude, being funny without being crass, and being relatable without being whiny. When in doubt, err on the side of caution.

How To Market Without Losing Your Mind

First I want to say happy New Year to all of you! I hope you’ve had a great holiday season. I’ll be glad to say goodbye to 2014, myself. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year with ups and downs all over the place. I think many people have had a stressful year, so let’s all take a big breath and hope next year is a little less hectic.

Now – in regards to marketing! I encountered someone from one of the many writing groups I’m part of who was talking about how trying to market their book on all the various platforms and trying to keep up with social media was destroying their writing time. Many people were telling the author to “just write and ignore the rest; it’ll fall into place”. Others were saying to automate their marketing using platforms like Hootsuite. They also suggested using cross-platform posts to just post the same thing on all their social media networks.

Unfortunately, none of those suggestions are going to work for a writer who wants to sell books.

I have said it before, and I will say it again: do not automate your marketing strategy. While, yes, this blog will automatically post to my Facebook page I do more than just that. You should not pre-write tweets and posts on social media because that robs it of the interactive feel which is what social media is about: interaction. While you don’t have to have long conversations on social media every day you should keep your commentary and interaction conversational. You aren’t writing advertisements there – you’re providing people with interesting, interactive things that they can enjoy.

That said, you don’t need to spend every minute of every day marketing and playing on social media.

Instead of stressing and drowning in social media to the detriment of your writing dedicate about twenty minutes a day to social media to make sure everything is caught up, and choose which platforms you really want to focus on. There are so many that you can’t possibly keep up with everything. You also want to make sure that your social media presence reflects you. Do you do a lot of photography? Then hang out on Instagram rather than Twitter, perhaps. Are you writing books that are more professional than fiction? Maybe LinkedIn is more your speed than Facebook. There are so many options out there that you need to evaluate which you think are most important.

To me I tend to focus on Facebook and Twitter. While I have an Instagram and post to it regularly I don’t view that as a large part of my platform. I also have LinkedIn which I use on a semi-regular basis for networking, but it isn’t my primary marketing channel. Of course, the change in Facebook’s policy regarding business may change how I use Facebook to some extent, but you will want to really consider what your plans and needs are and then use the channels that will best suit you.

Outside of social media marketing you have blogging which is something I strongly recommend for every author. Don’t tell me you don’t know what to write about – you are a writer. Find something. My blog is about writing and the craft (as you obviously know). Yours can be about whatever you want. Are you passionate about fantasy football? Write blogs about that. Are you passionate about gardening? Write about that! You aren’t limited to just writing about your writing. In fact you should talk more about other topics that will interest people than just your writing because you’re marketing to readers, not writers.

If you have your blog, author website, and social media squared away that will be a huge step in the right direction toward marketing your book. From there you can start talking to local radio stations, newspapers, bookstores, and arrange interviews and signings. You could even try to get on local access television (or bigger TV if you can!) to let people know about your book and what you do. That kind of thing, however, is another blog entirely.

These techniques should give you a strong basis to start marketing your book without losing your hair because your writing time is sacrosanct. But you can’t just use a ‘set it and forget it’ method of authorship if you want to make sales. You can do this, I promise. It’s not as hard or as scary as you think even if you’re an introvert like me.

Well? What are you waiting for? Share this post with folks, start writing posts of your own, and enjoy your New Year’s Eve!

How To Lose Followers In 120 Characters Or Less


So I have a Twitter account I use regularly to connect with other writers for both social and business reasons. Part of it has to do with platform building, part of it has to do with social interaction. We all know I never leave my desk, so Twitter is the closest thing I have to human interaction outside of Facebook. I have been on there a fair amount, and I follow a lot of folks, and have a number of people who follow me. I am receiving new follows daily, and giving as many if not more than I receive.

Most of what I post on Twitter is about writing or photos of my cats. I’m just not that interesting, but I try and make most of my posts funny or relatable somehow. That’s kind of what you’re supposed to be doing. To be talking to people and interacting with them. That’s what Twitter is for – it isn’t for endless spam of “buy my book!”

Now, beyond that, there is a special kind of spam I want to address in regards to Twitter. It’s huge and common, and it’s driving me absolutely batty: direct message spam. When I follow someone on Twitter it’s usually because they do something I like. They maybe said something I enjoyed, or I liked their blog or something like that. It’s a gesture of “hey, you’re kind of cool – I’d like to see more from you”.

Then it happens.

I receive an email or a notification on my phone saying “Hey – you’ve got a direct message from ‘x’!” Oh cool, I think, I’ve got someone to talk to! Then I open Twitter to discover it’s something like this image.

This makes me a very sad panda.

And from that I learn that the author is apparently desperate for sales and has crafted something they believe is witty in an attempt to entice me to purchase their book. I know that this is an automated message or a copy/paste because I received the exact same message on multiple separate accounts. I get dozens of these messages every day between the various Twitter accounts I manage, and every time I get one I have to clamp down on the instinct to instantly unfollow the person.

Why? Because it’s rude. If you have never spoken to me, commented to me, or otherwise interacted with me it’s presumptuous and forward to say something like this. Or something like “HEY BUY MY BOOK, JERKWAD!” because what it says to me – with these automated messages – is “OH GOD I AM SO DESPERATE I WILL ASK ANYONE”. They don’t know what kind of books I like or don’t like, they don’t know who I am, and they don’t know anything about me. All they know – and even then they don’t know this because it’s a computer program – is that I hit “follow” on Twitter.

I have received similar messages on Facebook and LinkedIn, but it’s not as frequent because most people don’t automate these types of messages to their friends. It is also more bothersome because I have to go out of my way to delete them. If they are flooding their Twitter stream with them I don’t have to see them. I don’t have to look. In fact, I can ignore it because I mostly look at a few people and some hashtags I follow rather than my home feed because my home feed is mostly crap book advertisements. A fact that depresses me, but it’s true nonetheless.

If you take anything away from this take away that THIS DOES NOT WORK. It is obtrusive, unpleasant, and rude. Even moreso because these folks do not even answer their direct messages when sent one. I’ve tried to reach out to folks who use this kind of marketing, and they don’t answer. Even if the message is “hey, we haven’t met – how are you?” or something equally personal and benign. Do not be this person.

Let me repeat that: DO NOT BE THAT PERSON. It will turn people off faster than you can blink.

Split Personalities: When To Have A Pen Name

I’ve answered this question a dozen times over the last few months. Frequently enough that I felt it warranted a blog post, anyway. I keep seeing folks who ask the question of whether or not they should have a separate pen name for every genre they write in, and every time I see it, it makes me want to put my head through my keyboard.

It’s not that I find the question infuriating – it’s a reasonable question for a new author – but I struggle not to grab them by the lapels and shake them while screaming, “Do you have any idea how much work that would be?!” Developing an author platform is hard enough for one identity let alone trying to create one for half a dozen. While some authors can do it (and most of them are bigwig authors with Big Six contracts), your average writer isn’t going to be able to maintain that. Let’s take a step backward, so I can explain what I mean.

Selling books means a number of things, but one of the primary goals is to have the author’s name sell books. If Stephen King puts out a book people have come to understand that name to mean a specific level of skill and a particular type of story. The name itself has become synonymous with his craft, and as such fans will likely buy a book with his name on it even if it isn’t something they’d normally read.

That sort of branding and recognition is something every writer should strive for. It requires a lot of work on the part of the author to build their platform and develop their marketing strategy. You will need social  media accounts, a blog, a websites, and so on. It takes a fair amount of time to set up and dedicate to. Blogging regularly often takes a few hours, at least, a week in order to formulate your thoughts and get them out there. Then you have the various social media accounts you should maintain (at least to some extent). And by maintain I don’t mean show up, splash around an advertisement for your book, and then go silent for six months. You should interact with people, post regularly, and share things that will be useful and enjoyable for your readers. That should be handled daily, and may not take more than maybe 15-20 minutes to manage, but if you have four identities you have just whittled away over an hour just on social media alone, not accounting for maintaining multiple blogs and… ugh. It’s just nightmarish to think about.

If you try and set yourself up with more than one name you’re going to be writing under you should be doing it with your eyes open. If you fail to maintain your identities your sales and platform will suffer. If you spread yourself too thin they will all tank. And you can’t just pop over to that identity when you release a book in that genre. Once you create a pen name you are going to need to dedicate time to it, and it will feel an awful lot like miserable work.

The only time I would ever suggest a writer create a pen name is if the are going to be writing erotica or bodice-ripper fiction and don’t want that to cross over with the rest of their writing. If you are writing children’s fiction and want to take a stab at a steamy romance you’re better off separating the two lest your young fans end up learning more than they needed to know about adult affairs. In that case there is nothing wrong with creating a separate name to publish under. You will still have to take on the work of all the extra marketing, but it is understandable and laudable that you don’t think the two genres should meet in the middle.

If you write in multiple genres there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no one saying authors have to be pigeon-holed into writing one, specific type of book. I saw a suggestion an author received from their agent that struck a note with me. Instead of trying to create separate identities for all your genres just make separate sections of your website. Or even maintain a separate blog if you feel so inclined. But you don’t really need to go through the rigmarole of creating so many personalities and identities if you aren’t going to be doing something that could cause massive waves. It isn’t worth it.

Why "More" Marketing Isn’t Necessarily Better

I’ve been being bad and hanging out on Twitter lately when I probably should be doing other things. I keep telling myself that it’s market research, but mostly it’s cat pictures and blogs about writing. Now that I’m blogging about it I can at least pretend it was time well spent.

Everywhere I turn on Twitter – and Facebook and LinkedIn – I see people throwing their cover ads everywhere. I also see them paying to put their cover in places all over the net. Having been a veteran of the internet since I was a young, I can safely say that I do not click on banner ads. They don’t sell to me. And if they don’t sell to me they don’t sell to most people. I don’t click on the ads of people who tweet about their books nonstop or FB posts about their books or…

You get the picture.

Now, I’m not claiming that having a cover advertisement won’t benefit you in any way. Some people do respond to that kind of marketing most of us won’t. What we are interested in is why your book should interest us. Most of the time I pick up a new book or a new series based on a friend’s recommendation. Either I borrow a book from them, or the library, to see if I like the series at all, and if I do like the series I buy the rest as they come out. Or I look for other things by that author.

That kind of thing is more typical to most books and authors than someone seeing your cover advertisement and immediately wanting it. I can think of one book that the cover drew me in and made me want to read it. The good part about that was that it was free, so I didn’t have to go out of my way. (It was “The Book of Deacon” by Joseph Lallo, if you’re curious.)

The most powerful type of marketing you are going to find is word of mouth marketing. Developing relationships, publishing something that gets people talking, and then putting out advertising is going to be your best bet. Think of it like a pyramid. Your well-written book is the base, the next layer is going to be word of mouth marketing, and the final layer (the top) is going to be the kind of marketing you pay for through various services.

Keep in mind that word of mouth marketing includes book reviews, author interviews, and social media among other things, so you aren’t just going to be sitting around waiting for other people to talk about your book. You have a lot of work to do! Just don’t get caught up in the spiral of thinking that you need to sling your book cover around all over the world and pay for a lot of advertising when the foundation of your marketing should be word of mouth.