How not to be a jerk when you promote

Hi, peeps!

Happy Friday n’ all a’ that. Oh, and don’t forget to turn your clocks forward this weekend, if you’re in a place that does that whole Daylight Savings Time thing. If you’re not, well, stay asleep.

ANYWAY. Let us discuss some promotional tips. Please start with this blog by fab spec fic author Delilah Dawson titled “Please shut up: Why self-promotion as an author doesn’t work.”

And then, after you get pissed at her, read the follow-up, “Wait, Keep Talking: Author Self-Promotion that Actually Works.”

Okay. The point of Dawson’s first post was to get you thinking about how you go about promoting your work. Everybody knows you have to do some kind of promotion. But there are good ways to do it and not-so-good ways. Dawson lays out the not-so-good ways in the first post. And then she lays out the better ways in the second.

I like to think of self-promotion as “not being a jerk” and I already subscribed to Dawson’s approach before I actually read her blogs. So here’s a list of 10 things I recommend, culled from my own experience and Dawson’s advice, with regard to self-promotion as an author.

Shall we?

1. REMEMBER YOUR MANNERS. Or, if you don’t have any, go get some. Seriously. I cannot stress this enough. Some of you may have been born in the time of the Interwebz, so you don’t know what it was to not have the web, and perhaps you don’t realize that when you don’t have the anonymity provided by the interwebz, it’s a lot harder to be a douchecanoe to someone in real life — to their face — than running around this brave new world posting whatever pops into your head whenever you think of it. And for that, young people who do this, I am sad for you, because boundaries are very good things. They allow you to maintain sanity in the face of TMI. Not to suggest older people can’t be douchecanoes — they can. This advice applies to them, too. Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 2.17.39 PM

Manners are not about sounding obsequious. They’re about genuinely engaging with the world around you in ways that INVITE people to want to talk to you, who see you as an interesting, fun, and kind person. Douchecanoeing in real life and all over social media guarantees nobody will want to play with you or, by extension, buy your book. Think about manners as a bridge to OPEN and INVITE. Re-read Dawson’s second post for more on that.

So. If you wouldn’t say something to someone’s face in real life or around the dinner table (yes, people still do that), then don’t say it online. Save yourselves, friends, to promote another day.

Oh, and PLEASE and THANK YOU go a very, very long way.

2. For the love of all that is holy, don’t hijack Twitter with incessant BUY MY BOOK Tweets. Think about it. There you are, looking at your Twitter timeline and all it is is a stream of BUY MY BOOK Tweets from a variety of authors. Often, that’s all they’re Tweeting. How often do you actually read those and click on the links in Tweets like that?

Uh-huh. I’m guessing none. It might work every once in a while, but read Dawson’s first post about how many people those Tweets actually reach. Wasted time and effort, friends. Not to mention, very few people (that I know) like a hard sell. Think about walking through a mall and some guy is chasing you waving his goofy sunglasses or whatever trying to get you to “try them” or “look at them” or “buy them.” Does that really work? Yeah, I thought not.

If you’re going to promote on Twitter, make it interesting. Make it genuine. And don’t do it 24/7. If you’ve got a book coming out soon, give people a heads-up. Say something like: “There I was, minding my own business, when I wrote another book.” Tweets like that are geared toward your established audience. To attract others, try Tweets like “Jane’s trapped in the Amazon. And only special forces op Raylene can find her.” Let your personality come through. “This will be the only book you’ll read today about Chippendale shapeshifters.”

Less, my friends, is more.

3. Please save yourself and others and stop the incessant posting of your book on Facebook pages. Dawson says it flat-out: Facebook hides your posts for blackmail purposes. That’s its business model. As she says, only 3-10 percent of your FB friends will actually see your posts. You could pay $20-$30 to bump that to 30 percent, but really? And if you’re posting incessantly on some “lesbian fiction luv-ahs unite” page or whatever that has 5,243 members, do you honestly believe all of those members are on that page every day? And if you look at many of those pages, it’s full of 5000 authors doing the exact same thing you are, so it ends up being one long BUY MY BOOK thread a jillion times over. No discussions about books or writing. Just one long promo thread. Ick.

Look, I get it. You have a book coming out soon and you want people to know about it. So do something FUN with your Facebook posts instead of the “BUY MY BOOK HERE’S THE SYNOPSIS.” Try: “Did you hear the one about the lesbian, the priest, and the biker dude who walk into a pub that caters to the paranormal underworld? That question and many more answered in my latest book. [insert publisher if applicable]” And “Try before you buy! Here’s an excerpt! [insert excerpt link here]” And/or do a giveaway right there on your Facebook page. “I’ll give an ebook of my new release to the first 10 people who post pictures of pubs in the comments for this post.” Or whatever.

Along those lines, do not ever follow someone on Twitter or friend them on Facebook and as soon as they friend or follow back, DM them with a link to buy your book. Yeah. That happens. And the message that conveys is that the only reason this person bothered to friend or follow you was to push a link at you. Nothing else. And when you do that, I guarantee you lose readers.

Point being, ENGAGE with your readers. PULL them in, as Dawson says, rather than PUSH them away. Incessant BUY MY BOOK posts just make people tune you out.

4. Engage, engage, engage on social media. What exactly does that mean? Well, it means rather than constantly posting links to buy your book, to actually post things that give readers and potential readers a glimpse of YOU. Post a funny anecdote about something that happened to you. Or something cool.

One of the most successful Facebook engagers currently, I think, was author Amanda Kyle Williams, who had interests outside writing and she posted about them. She was also hilarious, and her Facebook posts were filled with funny and sweet comments. In all that funny, she made sure to post the occasional serious information, and also events she was doing/interviews she was doing. It was not, however, an endless litany of promo. And that’s key. (Sadly, Amanda died in 2018 after a battle with endometrial cancer).

So whatever social media platforms you use, think about ENGAGING with people. Be GENUINE. Post about things unrelated to writing. Author Fiona Zedde just did a big trip abroad, and she posted photos on Facebook of the things she was seeing and doing, and she wrote brief anecdotes to accompany the photos. It was a wonderful travelogue, which made you interested in her travels but also her writing, because she gave you a taste of it in those posts.
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In other words, rather than spending 90 percent of your time posting BUY MY BOOK and links to your book, spend about 70 percent of your time engaging and the other 30 percent (or less) on promo. Because you know what? ENGAGING is also promotion. People are more likely to be interested in what you write if you ENGAGE than if you’re constantly bombarding them with BUY BUY BUY links.

5. Build relationships with your fellow writers. Offer helpful links. Offer to host a blog by a fellow author on your own site. Organize panels at writing conferences with fellow authors. Why? Because you’ll learn things from your fellow writers and they will host you on their blogs and work with you at conferences and on projects, thus exposing their readers to you. Luv all around, people. The more you engage, the more word-of-mouth you get and guess what? Word-of-mouth is still some of the best publicity you can get.

6. Don’t be a douchecanoe on social media. Watch your responses and comments. If you’re going to use humor, there are different types of humor. One of those comes from kindness, which makes it friendly and ENGAGING. Another type relies on snark, which can also be engaging, especially if it isn’t mean-spirited — that is, if it’s not tearing someone down. There’s a fine line between snark and being mean-spirited. Avoid the latter. Don’t be mean-spirited on social media, whether in terms of humor or not.

Dawson has a great example at the second link I supplied, above. I’ll do one, too. Say someone Tweets a photo of herself working on a laptop at a coffeehouse and says something along the lines of “my fave place to get some words in.” Don’t Retweet it with a comment about how she’s being totally rude to take up space like that or about how she’s stupid or something comparable for working in a public place. You don’t know her situation. She might be a regular there, and they love having her around when she works. Instead, what about Retweeting to your followers asking them what THEIR fave hang-out spots are?

Hell, for that matter, try not to be mean-spirited in general. You’ll feel better for it. Remember, you want to ENGAGE and PULL people toward you, not PUSH them away.

7. Use appropriate social media. So what does that mean? Well, different platforms work for different things. And there’s only one of you. So realistically assess the time you have, what you’re comfortable with in terms of platforms, and how you want to use that platform. Go and check out various platforms to see if they’re going to meet your needs. And don’t bite off more than you can chew.

I tried a bunch of different platforms and ended up sticking with my website, Twitter, and Facebook for the most part because I work a day job and I need time to write and do other writerly things not related to promo. So don’t join 42 different platforms, get on one of those site conglomeration tools, and bombard all the sites with BUY MY BOOK posts. Remember that whole “engage” discussion we just had? Yeah. Remember that. Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 3.07.15 PM

Pick social media platforms you actually enjoy using. That helps keep you inspired to engage.

Oh, and it’s SOCIAL media. Be SOCIAL. ENGAGE. (do you see a theme here yet?)

8. On book reviews. This one you’ll need to figure out on your own. I have my own philosophical take on book reviews. And I personally don’t hit up reviewers or review sites asking for reviews because it feels like I’m pushing. It’s not my thing. I also have a philosophy that once a book leaves my hands and is published, it’s part of a larger conversation that I should not be privy to unless someone asks me a question about method or writing or whatever. Remember that people are going to post reviews on buy sites, which actually ends up being kind of a word-of-mouth sort of thing. Basically, reviews can be helpful. But they can also hurt you if someone gives you a bad one and/or a mean-spirited one.

In terms of promo, don’t pressure a reader into reviewing your book. If a reader wants to and offers, let her. If she writes to you to tell her how much she enjoys your work, don’t then respond with “hey, I have a new book out! Would you post a review on Amazon?” Because guess what happens with that? You come across as a douchecanoe and the reader thinks you’re not interested in actually ENGAGING with her (that word again), but rather just in using her for a review.

Along those lines, I see a lot of people posting “Check out this 5-star review of my book!” Okay, fine. But after a while, that starts coming across as BUY MY BOOK, so be careful with those posts. I rarely post links to reviews of my work because I tend to be a bit shy in that regard. My attitude is, people will find the reviews and they’ll do what they do, whether I’m posting links or not. I’m more interested in engaging with people and sharing the luv than wallpapering my timelines with links to book reviews.

But that’s just me. So you’ll need to figure it out for yourself, whether that’s something that works for you. Which brings us to…

9. How are you coming across to others? This is your self-reflection time, friends. Go back through your social media and see what you’ve been posting. If over half of it is BUY MY BOOK and/or LOOK AT THIS AWESOME REVIEW, have a think about the message that’s sending. Does it say, “hey, engage with me. Talk with me. Tell me things.” or does it say, “I DON’T CARE WHO YOU ARE! JUST BUY MY BOOK!”

In this crazy world, which would you rather have? An author constantly posting BUY MY BOOK or someone who interacts with you on other levels? Who posts fun and interesting responses to you on your Timelines? Who offers links to things she thinks people might be interested in? Who shares writing tips and maybe funny stories about nutty situations she gets into?

If you want to self-promote, BE yourself. (Unless you’re a douchecanoe, in which case I recommend you work on that. See number 1, above.)

As Delilah Dawson says,

Social media is PUSHING.
And today’s reader doesn’t buy things because the author pushed them.
As a reader, I want a book to pull me.
When I see a book’s name pop up again and again among people I trust, I want to read it.
When the cover is beautiful and the hook is compelling, I want to read it.
When I meet the author and they are gracious and kind and insightful, I want to read it.
When I listen in on a panel and like what I hear, I want to read it.
When I chat with someone on Twitter, and they make me laugh and add value to my life, I start to think that their book might add value, too.

None of those things are pushy.

None of them happen *to* me, uninvited.

I don’t want to be the object that is acted upon. I want to be the subject that makes a conscious decision, that feels a twinge of curiosity and discovers something amazing. I want to be the person who acts, not the person who is acted upon. I don’t want to be badgered and nagged and wheedled and urged and threatened and cajoled and whined at.


So do some self-analysis, friends, if you’re an author using social media to promote your work.

And finally, one of the best things you can do to promote your work is


Dawson again:

Books and social media are both about making a genuine connection.

So if you’re a writer who worries as much as I do about online marketing, the best advice I can give you is to chill out and write the next book. To focus your energy on the one thing that’s in your control: writing the best book you possibly can. Focus on editing each sentence to make it sing. Focus on helping your publisher craft a great hook and fabulous cover copy.

Spend your energy and time being kind to your colleagues, thanking your publishing team, and making new friends with no expectation that you will eventually use them to claw your way to the top.

Be kind, friends. Be genuine. Be interested in what others have to say and engage them on myriad levels. Don’t condescend, and get to work on your next book. Those are probably the best things you can do in terms of self-promotion.

Have fun, stay sassy, and share the luv.

Hope you have a great weekend.

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2 thoughts on “How not to be a jerk when you promote

  1. Love this! It’s a HUGE turnoff to be bombarded with “buy my book” posts, when I know that’s all the authors want. I don’t even go to my FB page that I set up for lesfic anymore because that’s all that is on there, along with the drama. My favorite authors are the ones that do what you recommend, and I won’t even read books by authors who shamelessly self-promote. The books that I have enjoyed most tend to be those who combine the personal info with occasional notifications. If more authors follow these guidelines, I’m thinking they’d sell more books; at least they would to me. You have a good formula that more should follow.

  2. Thanks for stopping by. I’m not saying my way is the end-all, be-all, but boy, I get tired of being bombarded with BUY BUY BUY links in a way that is totally not engaging and seemingly constant. So if anybody gets any ideas from this and develops new and cool ways to engage, YAY!

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