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.