Monday, April 25, 2011

See Bob Shoot Himself in the Literary Foot.

This has been a hot topic for a couple of weeks now, but seeing as it hasn't necessarily become the blog-heard-round-the-world matter, I'm going to take my own crack at it.

Pimping Yourself Out or in better terms: What Not to Do.

There's been quite a bit of debate lately on how to market yourself without being obnoxious and pushy. The source of the problem lies in overzealous writers with no sense of personal (even virtual) space OR lack of know-how. I'm more than willing to admit I'm learning the marketing game myself, and I don't pretend to be the end-all of end-alls when it comes to promoting your work. It is pretty obvious, though. No one likes to feel used. Ever. Especially not the people writers look to for support: potential readers.

Here's the issue. The author, we'll call him Bob, befriends you or vice versa. You're excited to meet Bob. He's a fellow writer and he seems like a generally knowledgeable and responsible fellow.

But this is how it plays out in a private message between you and Bob:
Hi! I'm Bob. I want thank you for friending me on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, etc. I'm looking forward to getting to know you. Please stop by my blog, website, blah blah blah to find out more about me...because I'm awesome. (Okay, so I added that last part myself. Still, it's how it comes across, right?)

Now, why don't we see a problem here? Oh wait. You do? Does Bob sound like a total d-bag with an overinflated sense of self--like Bob thinks he's some unimaginable gift to the masses and the people who friend him are so incompetent that we don't see the link under his name leading to his site?

Bob, Bob, Bob, you're acting like a tool.

Does this sound harsh of me? Yeah, maybe a little. Bob probably doesn't mean to be pushy or sound like an arrogant jerk. Likely he doesn't know better, which is why, for the sake of all, I want to reiterate the problem with this.

It turns people off.

Bob, I friended you because I like you. You don't need to peddle your wares to the literary masses. When you do, they either A) un-friend you, or B) hide your feed so they don't have to see your incessant posts about yourself. Neither of these things are desirable, Bob. Now, because you've irked your new friends, they won't see what you have to say when it really is something cool. That great giveaway you're hosting, I have no idea because I hid your feed. (I'm the nice one who doesn't block you) You want to ask if anyone has a solution to the writerly problem you've been having? We may have the perfect solution, but you'll never know. Sorry, Bob.

This is where Bob *should* say: Well, Hope, I didn't mean to be a total wanker. How do I go about a thoughtful introduction that allows you and I to be well-informed friends? I can't pick up followers for that all-important marketing game if I don't introduce myself properly.

This is my answer: I'm glad you asked, Bob! I really thing we could learn from each other if you'd be willing to just step off for a minute. (Naturally, I'm smiling through this as not to make Bob feel bad)

Here's the solution in my humble opinion. Are you ready?

Show some interest, Bob. Go to my blog, website, or other venue. Pick out something specific to comment on, and introduce yourself. It also doesn't hurt to follow my blog or site so you can say so. Do you see what you've done differently? You've impressed me, Bob! You've stroked my own desire for recognition and appreciation. This leads to me returning the favor. Not only do you have a friend who listens now, you have a friend who cares because you're being considerate! Way to go, Bob!

I do want to add a couple of side notes here. Bob is my generic friend. If you happen to share the name, please don't be offended or think I'm talking about you :)

The second thing, if you litter your feed with tweet after tweet announcing the sale of your book, I stop looking or take you off my frequently-viewed list. I really don't like doing that either. You've made a list because you're cool. I'm not saying don't tweet about your sales, accomplishments, etc. But perhaps limit it to less than 20 times a day :) You can't learn from others when you're always talking. You know what you have to say--listen to them for a change. You might just grow!

As always, keep writing, guys!


  1. Great post! I'm super brand new to this whole industry, and I've seen a lot of people say they've been successful through "aggressive marketing on twitter and other social networks." At first, I thought, that what I have to do?

    In the past few weeks on Twitter, what I've found is that I enjoy conversing with other writers! They're so supportive and to be able to talk to people who 'get' it is priceless. I no longer think of Twitter as a way to market my stuff, but as a way to connect with people.

    Sure, I'll still post links to my book but infrequently. Much more often, I'm talking about the things I'm excited about for the next book, or a fellow writer's book that I've read or just general chatting.

    There should be a guide book for new authors!!

  2. Thanks, Sammie. I'm not opposed to marketing. I sincerely hope it didn't come across that way! Tweeting about your work is fine as well. There are those, however, that take it to an extreme mentioning 20+ times a day that you can download their stuff. I understand you get new followers, they haven't seen your tweets yet. No problem. Shout it out a couple times a day. Don't beat me over the head with it though.

    You should market on Twitter, FB, and the rest. Have it. Just use it all in moderation. That's my message here!

    I've so enjoyed getting to know you and others through Twitter. You're right about the supportive community. Don't wanna lose it by being *too* aggressive. ;)

  3. Yep. This happens to me all the time, especially on twitter. Far from making me more interested in the person, I'm often just pissed off that the person I wanted to be friends with just wants to pimp themselves or their book. Great post!

  4. Thanks so much, Sondrae! It's such a problem, too. There are so many writers who are probably great ppl, but no one will ever know. I hope with everyone trying to educate others, it'll become less frequent of an issue.

  5. So true! (And I love the voicing of the post, Izzie. Just enough snark to get your point across :-).

    Marketing is a necessary evil, and often I think half the problem is that writers aren't marketing to the right demographic. If you've written a book about writing, by all means ask me to read it ... because I'm a writer. If your book is a children's book about snuggles the purple dog, don't you think you'd be better off tweeting/friending/joining groups of moms and teachers, join literary children's groups. After all, these are the people you've written you book for. Don't you think it'd be better to make that personal connection with the biggest children's book blogger, the local librarian?

    My point is this: reach out to peers, market to demographics. Write YA, join a YA blog, group on Shelfari, GR etc. You'll have a better chance at enticing the right reader there, because, guess what? They read what you write.

  6. That's an excellent point, Chi! Audience is the biggest part of marketing. The drug companies aren't going to sell me a product that's catered to the male anatomy. This is why you don't see many Tampax commercials during a NASCAR race ;)

    Glad you appreciate my slight snark. It rattles the cage at times, barking to get out. I try and keep her on a short leash.

  7. Great post!

    This is one of my biggest fears as a new author because I don't want to be a Bob. I've also noticed that Bob's tend to constantly ask, "Did you read my *insert said readage here*?" Um, well, number one Bob, if I did I clearly wasn't moved enough to comment on it so thank you for making me feel awkward about having to lie to you and tell you I just haven't had the time to check out your latest greatest bit 'o knowledge because I don't want to make you feel bad.

  8. Bah! I just made it back here and saw your comment, Hope. No - you absolutely didn't come across that way at all. I totally get what you're saying, too! I have had better success at marketing when I'm paying more attention to other peoples books, though! lol

  9. Yea!!! Good post! I see d-bags often. :D

  10. Oh this is so true! I try to make sure only 1/3 of my tweets are promotional if not less. Plus I feel kind of awkward doing it...