Monday, 9 January 2012

It's all about the socialising


                                                                 
Once upon a time, when I lived in a big city and commuted and wore suits, I worked in marketing. It was one of those jobs where people used a lot of jargon to cover up that a lot of their work was, I thought, plain common sense. But recently I have seen so many people get their own marketing so very, very wrong that, for the first time, it has occurred to me that maybe I wasn’t being paid to do some 20th century version of the Emperor’s New Clothes but that maybe, just maybe, I was paid because I was good at my job!

Quietly reassesses career so far.

Now, in the olden days a lot of what I did was one-way traffic. I wrote information-based web copy, edited company magazines that I am pretty sure no customer ever read, instructed design companies to produce adverts and point of sale for people to look at. A lot of marketing just wasn’t that interactive. Then everything changed.

Social media. Didn’t exist when I worked in marketing so not my area of professional speciality but personally? I use it every single day. I interact with friends, many of whom I have never met in real life but know better than people I see every day, I interact with companies, writers, politicians, a very few celebrities, I mainly use Twitter, Blogger and Facebook whilst keeping an eye on Google + and Tumblr. I love social media.

When an author signs a contract nowadays there is an implicit understanding that they will do their own marketing; have a website, a blog, a FB page, tweet. Some publishers provide guidance and training on how to do this, some don’t. And of course, with the rise of the Kindle, there are many, many more self-pubbed authors than there used to be, all doing their own marketing.

Social Media. The clue, people, is in the name. Social – socialising, sharing. A quick google search finds the following definition ‘seeking or enjoying the companionship of others; friendly; sociable; gregarious’.  What it doesn’t say is ‘relentlessly bang on about my book until people want to beat me round the head with a Kindle’. It doesn’t say ‘random celebrity loved my book you will too…’ or ‘HERE IS ANOTHER REVIEW’ or ‘Better than Harry Potter/Da Vinci code/Time Travellers Wife (delete as applicable)’. It doesn’t say follow indiscriminately then unfollow if not followed back within 24hours. This, dear authors, is not marketing, it is spam. You are no better than a Viagra snake oil salesman.

Your potential readers are getting annoyed. This last week alone I have seen a lot of backlash against some of the most prolific of the self-advertisers, people commenting that they wouldn’t buy certain books if they had read every other book on earth, that they have unfollowed/blocked the worst offenders. They are lost readers. You can be Richard and Judy nominated, win the Booker and the Costa and they STILL won’t read you. Worse, they’ll tell all their many, many social media contacts why.
Don’t think of your twitter/blogger/FB accounts as inactive pages to push information out at people, remember they are interactive tools. Talk to people, be creative, be funny. Interact. Find examples of best practice and learn from them. I always really enjoy blog posts by Jessica Hart and Maisey Yates. Why? Both are funny, both post a lot of craft posts, both are relatable, both are very visual and use a lot of pictures, both are generous with giveaways. Both feel very personal. And I have bought books by both authors.

On Twitter I follow a lot of authors. It’s nice when they follow me back but I don’t expect that, it’s also nice when they take the time to respond to @ but again, some receive so many they would never write another word again if they responded to them all. So why do I follow them? I follow authors who give me a glimpse into their writing world, into what shapes them as authors. Why follow J K Rowling who never tweets? Follow Ian Rankin (@Beathhigh) who, as befits the creator of Rebus, tweets a great deal about beer, music and Edinburgh – and writing - always entertaining, down to earth and interesting. And he NEVER retweets reviews. Look at my follow list (@yrosered) and you’ll see a lot of writers, many friendly, encouraging, interesting – and if I hadn’t read them before I followed them on Twitter I certainly have now.

Just be yourself. Be interesting, be interested, tell funny stories, anecdotes, day to day frustrations. And yes, mention you have a book out every now and then – do the odd giveaway, maybe post an excerpt. But remember, when it comes to self promotion less is always, always more.

17 comments:

ros said...

Great - and much needed - blog post! I hope that the right people read it.

Alexandra said...

Excellent Blog post, Rose Red!! Constant self-promotion with little or no other interaction with your target audience becomes more than a little tedious. I very much like that the professional authors I follow give a glimpse of their lives as well as their writing highs and lows. It makes me want to buy their work and celebrate when the proposal they've worked so hard on has been given the go-ahead by their editor.

Cassam said...

Well said1 I've eben had DM from an author asking to have their book retweeted on twitter.

Doris O'connor said...

Oh, I agree completely! And *looks shifty eyed* I hope I do not fall into that category of annoying author. I try very hard not to bang on too much, unless it's release day. I get a tad excited, but even then I don't think I have ever done a buy me tweet. If I ever become annoying please beat me over the head with blunt, heavy object of your choice.

I'm a big girl, I can take it ;-)

*slinks off to try and think of something interesting to tweet*

Catherine Miller said...

Very well put.

Chris Stovell said...

I feel better now about culling a couple of completely shameless self-promoters on Twitter this week, now! (Especially did not welcome an onslaught of direct messages from one, inviting me to retweet favourable reviews of his book - you're right, I wouldn't buy it now if it was the funniest book on the planet as I'm so sick of it being shoved under my nose!).

Rebecca said...

Completely agree. I have been put off buying books by the constant drip, drip, drip of self-promotion. Very well said.

Susan Bergen said...

Couldn't agree more. I recently "monitored" (with growing disbelief)one who shamelessly promoted for 24hrs solid, over Xmas, but profile suggested they had a shedload of kids! Economical with the truth somewhere along the line. Hilarious!

Gwen Kirkwood said...

I enjoyed reading this - mainly because I know what a lot I have to learn about modern media and marketing, but apart from promotong anything of my own I like the glimpses of the people and personalities behind those who Twitter - not all of them authors by any means. I shall try following @rosered but in case I don't get it right I am @Kirkwoodgwen and hopefully I shall get there by that route.

Lesley Cookman said...

What an excellent post! I shall follow you immediately. I've blocked several relentless self-promoters over the last couple of years - some of whom are quite well respected authors. Those who are worth following on Twitter are people like @joannechocolat, whose tweets are witty and entertaining. She barely mentions her books.

RLA said...

Great post, and I am agreeing with you totally. I don't use facebook but on twitter I have unfollowed a few people who ONLY tweet about their work and where to buy it. It's one thing to be excited and proud about your work that you want to tell people, but when you are so blinkered that you only want to 'sell' your stuff it's a little cold. The whole point of social media is interaction with people not just self promo!

It's all about balance.

Raven McAllan said...

I totally agree. there are deifinitely one or two people I am so close to deleting. Do not demand I buy your book. ask me nicely suggest I might enjoy it, but do not TELL me I must. because that is guaranteed to make me disagree. I have a mind and I try to use it. yes i will make mistakes yes on publishing day I will go a bit OTT but otherwise, Shout at me if I do. i can take it. Rather that than be one who is muttered about! (Off to check my latest tweets!)

Liz Harris said...

An excellent post, and very true. Relentless promotion of one's own book is the biggest turn off.

Liz X

Emma Lee-Potter said...

This is such a good post - every writer should read it and take note. Asking anyone to retweet about their book or review is a big turn-off in my book!

EmmaK said...

Some very astute comments here. There is nothing so off putting as someone who contstantly self promotes!

literarykitty said...

Such helpful advice for authors trying to navigate the brave new media world.

No one listens to the viagra snake oil salesman and quite right too!

Evie McLaughlin said...

Brilliant. Even I, a writer not yet int the stream, find self promotion annoying when it's excessive. Twitter is its own little art form :-)