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Monday, 19 September 2011

Heavy promoting is BLOODY annoying!

Learnt a new word the other day – shilling

It means ceaselessly promoting your book. Put it another way, do you get lots of spam from anonymous people trying to sell you Viagra? Escorts? Shilling is no different. In the end this “promotion” isn’t read, it’s just deleted or ignored.

I joined Amazon forums for one reason and that is to promote, promote and promote some more. I thought it was an excellent tool for authors to promote their books. I mean, where else are you going to meet so many readers? But do book lovers really read these threads? I don’t, so why would I expect others to? 

I soon learnt that it was against Amazon’s regulations, and that actually it was BLOODY annoying! 

So what makes me buy a book from an unknown author? What makes you? Of course an excellent blurb and an interesting cover helps, but how do you find books by unknown writers? And what are they supposed to do to help you find them?

I’ve learnt that social media isn’t there for you to promote your book. It’s to meet, and join in discussions with other people.

So in short if you claim that social media isn’t working then it’s probably because you’re doing it wrong.

Are you sending Facebook messages or updates pleading to Like My Page – when these land in my inbox or media stream I, like many I imagine, delete or ignore them.  When I’m bombarded with messages from Twitter to “check out my website” I, again like many others, completely ignore them. Tweeters who continually push their book or yell Follow Me! at every opportunity are also ignored.

But, if by chance one of these en masse promotions provokes a visit to a blog what are we likely to find? Pictures of a stranger's latest trip up the Eiffel Tower? Photos of someone's pet cat or dog? Very likely! Similarly, if the blog focuses ONLY on self-promotion people aren’t going to be enchanted.

Promotion on Amazon, bombarding people with emails, tweeting primarily to promote yourself on Twitter and begging people to buy your book on Facebook and Linkedin aren’t going to work. You may get a trickle of sales, and if a trickle is all you want then carry on.

But if you want to sell SHIT LOADS *read on: 

*Don't expect a magic jangle. Building an author platform takes time and work. Like writing a book really.

You will need (at least) a blog, Twitter account and Facebook and join Amazon forums and Goodreads. There are others but these are my favourite, and all will work together and reinforce one another. You can’t stick to one source. You WILL need several. And you will HAVE to be consistent and professional at all times. NEVER stray from this. Most importantly it has to be more than selling books - it has to be about YOU (not to be confused with you and your boring life - believe me your life IS boring to others) as a HUMAN not a spammer.

Your author platform begins with many social sites. They aren’t something you can dip in and out at will, they are something you MUST become part of and WORK AT. This requires time, and if you’re working as well as writing it’s hard, but it CAN be done.

And do it NOW. Don’t wait until your book is published. It’s NEVER too early to begin a platform. The days of marketing your novel after it is published is long gone.

On your blog write something that others will be interested in reading. No one wants to read something unless it means something to them. Think about what makes YOU open a link or read a begging email. Can’t think of anything to write on your blog? Offer authors free space to write something.

Link share, write an article, entertain and write flash fiction, ask to interview someone, the list is endless really.

On Amazon forums be a human, not a spammer. Talk about books. Join the MOA  (Meet Our Authors) forum. DON’T PROMOTE. Write interesting discussions and you’ll find yourself looked up.

Twitter is a place to share links and information, and make sure you use hashtags well. If you don’t know the important of hashtags then find out now rather than later. Again don’t over promote yourself because people will notice and you’ll end up unfollowed. Join in on chats, write something funny or meaningful and above all TALK to people. Some people believe it’s impossible to chat on Twitter with only 140 characters but you’ll be wrong. It’s amazing what CAN be said in a sentence or two.

Facebook is more relaxed than Twitter. I use my FB account to connect with family and friends so I’m more "me" there. But here you also have the opportunity to join groups. Search for literary groups/writing groups etc

Goodreads is another tool where you can connect to groups, again treat this as an opportunity to meet and connect with people.

With all social media take time to write your profile and add your links to create a chain between you and your media sites. And ALWAYS stick with ONE name – preferably your author name. The web is a small world and you WILL be recognised. It takes time and patience, but it DOES pay off.

Only don't expect it within a month - or even six months. Sorry if that's NOT what you want to hear. There is no magic formula. If there was I'd be selling it at fifty quid a bottle!

Patience and perseverance is the golden key.

But think of it this way: you'll meet loads of writers in the same position as yourself and you'll make lots of friends.


  1. It's okay for trads who have the backing of publishers and their expenses to afford marketing. Indies have no such help. We have to do what we can.
    I'm being anonymous because I'm having such a hard time on Amazon at the moment. There has to be give and take. If we sell books, Amazon wins. It makes no sense that we're not allowed to promote there.
    Sorry but your post annoyed me.

  2. I can sympathize with you because I too suffered on Amazon when I promoted. But I can see their point now.

    We are merely the shelf-stackers NOT Amazon's bread and butter (the readers are that. And it's also worthwhile to note that it isn't just Amazon becoming overloaded with promos, other places are too. Soon NOBODY will be reading anything because who wants to read adverts all the time?

    Marketing needn't be expensive. I admit Trads have an advantage, but we have more freedom to do what we like!

    Stick with it.

  3. Very good post! I get irritated with people who do the "buy my book" type things on twitter, facebook, linkedin, and blogs. As you say, it's boring. Which is one of the reasons I read this blog. It offers MORE than a sales pitch.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm an author. On my blog you will find updates on what I am writing, life in general and other writerly items like editing, character development and a host of other things.

    Do I tweet, FB, goodreads, yes you better believe it. As an indie it is promotion. I'll put things like blogger updates, new releases, but it's also about me. I love me. If someone "likes" me for my writing fabulous! There is definitely more to me than writing. And YOU, not your books is the product you are selling.

  4. Living up to your name again, Louise? A lot of sense in this post. It's tricky to find the right balance, but that is what we writers should strive to do.

  5. I think you need an even amount of tweets for fun and making friends and promo. My first book sold so little because I didn't want to annoy anyone. Funny thing I noticed the other writers were putting their books out at least 10 times a day. I hate to do auto tweets but I also want my blog and links to my book to be out.
    Yes, you have to talk to people. I love to visit with others on twitter. Its just a balance game. I love reading others blogs and books when I have time. Your book A Proper Charlie is great and tell others so. OK loudly I tell them. Cheers!

  6. Very helpful and true post. i took me almost a year to realize this but it is also less stressful to tune down on the promotion and be more yourself. Thanks for sharing.

  7. @JoAnn Seems like you've got the balance just right.

    @Col lol I can all but try!

    @Kitty thanks for the heads up on APC. You have to push yourself in the promotion business. Doing little promo is as bad as too much. Like the advert says, you're worth it!

    @Myne you're welcome, and thanks for dropping by.

  8. Thank you. Your message is well understood.There is however, an aspect of all this which you do not cover and which must present enormous difficulties for many: Writers, particularly novelists (although I have no statistics) are likely to be more than a little introverted and, almost by necessity, retiring and solitary. They shrink from the largely narcissistic, egocentric and often inconsequential babble of social networks. The more profound their writings, the more they are likely to be reticent. To change personality and become effective subtle promotors of their own works is next to impossible for them. Perhaps what is then needed are agencies to undertake this "light" promotional task.

  9. Oh, boy! Do I hear you and agree with all of your advice. Here's something else I recommend: create a Facebook fan page (instead of using your personal profile). Fan pages have so many more capabilities and then you don't have to worry about the whole "friend" vs. "fan" issue. :)

  10. Good shout, Robyn - I think that addresses Peter's issue too.

  11. I agree, Robyn. A FB fanpage is terrific source for writers. I’ve not included it here because it’s something I haven’t done yet.

    Peter, I do understand where you're coming from. But that's something writers MUST overcome. If they do get an agent/publisher that agent/publisher will want them to shoulder some of the promotion; go on radio or even TV. Give talks, signings. Shy writers can't afford to sit back and say they are introverted!

    The good thing about the Internet is that you can do it without leaving the house. They can hide behind the screen and adopt a strong persona to deal with the publicity side of authorship.

    With regard to agencies, they do exist, but cost. BK Walker is just one such agency, and reasonable too: http://bkwalkerbooksetc.blogspot.com/2010/11/book-promotion-and-marketing.html

  12. brinkka2011 says: How is it that just anyone can publish a blog and get as popular as this? Its not like youve said anything incredibly impressive more like youve painted a quite picture through an issue that you know nothing about! I dont want to sound mean, right here. But do you genuinely think that you can get away with adding some quite pictures and not truly say something?