Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How NOT to Promote Your Book (or Business)

Two years ago I bought a book called Marketing with Social Media for Nitwits or something similar. So did everybody else with a book, painting, CD, or any other business to promote. We all did everything we were told to do. We joined Twitter and followed a bazillion people who followed us back. We joined LinkedIn and created a network. We joined Facebook and set up fan pages and invited everybody in our address book to become our fan. We started a blog (well, I was way ahead on that one). We wrote press releases. We then proceeded to Tweet, Facebook, network, blog and otherwise pester everybody we knew to buy our stuff. It got ridiculous.

It is now two years later and many of us are suffering from accute marketing burn-out. Which is to say nothing of all the people who made the mistake of following/friending/liking/joining/etc. us. The spam flies so fast and furious it is impossible to keep up. If you are a writer with books – electronic or paper – to promote there are a gazillion and ten book promotion sites out there. It seems everybody has one and more pop up every day. “Get your book listed on my site!” has become a daily invitation from all the other indie authors trying to push their products. It's exhausting. I can't keep up.

For some people this has worked and there are a number of success stories of independently published authors who are selling thousands of books every month on sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. Some of these are former mid-list authors from traditional publishing companies who have gone out on their own. Some are authors who have found an appreciative niche, written a good book, and relentlessly marketed until their books took off and are now reaping the benefits. These are the minority but the inspiration for a lot of us.

But a lot of authors of indie books have made some bad decisions and stand as an example of what not to do. Their books are littering up book promotion sites with crappy, amateurish-looking covers and a bunch of 1 and 2 star reviews – or no reviews – which discourage potential readers from venturing into the murky swamp of indie book sites. A few things we, as writers, need to learn are:

NO MORE SPAMMING! Knock it off! Right now, today. Stop your daily reminders on Twitter and Facebook and everywhere else that you have a book for sale that you just know everybody would love. If you have news to report, that's different. By all means tell us about your great reviews when they come in or if your book is being featured on a book discussion site. That's news and it may intrigue some readers. But knock off the BuyMeBuyMeBuyMe spamming right now.

DON'T TALK BACK! Yes, it is discouraging to get a negative review and it seems so unfair that the person just didn't get the point of your story but let it go. If your book is good there will be plenty of good reviews to balance it. When it comes to reader reviews on sites like Goodreads and Amazon, just do not respond to reviews. If you must, just say “Thank you for reading my book” and leave it at that. Otherwise you may well get into a flame war and that never winds up looking good.

ALL TAKE AND NO GIVE MAKES JACK/JANE A DULL MARKETER. Bloggers, Twitterers, Facebookers, etc. all have the opportunity to help one another out with promotion but it has to be a fair exchange. If Jane blogs about how great Jack's book is, Jack can at least Tweet about how great Jane's book is. There are too many authors who take advantage of every opportunity to promote their books without giving a thought to promote for someone else. Be nice, if you want your fellow authors to promote you, promote them in return.

Recently Amazon cracked down on authors spamming their discussion forums with pleas to buy their books. This has made me happy and I have gone back to discussing books again. I am a writer because I LOVE books and I want to talk about them – mine and everybody else's. Join in conversations and have faith – if your book is a good one, it will find its way. If it's not good then maybe you're lucky that it quietly disappears into that great e-library in the sky.

Thanks for reading (both this blog and everything else!)

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