We’ve all met them, the people who won’t take no for an answer, the ones who believe that the only thing stopping them from selling their book or manuscript to you is the number of times they can send you a link to it.
I get it, I really do – the excitement of having your product out there and the desire to make sure everyone knows about it. And it’s so easy to make a hyperbolic Facebook post or send a brace of tweets to everyone you’ve ever met. But I also think it’s worth taking a step back and considering what you gain or lose through aggressive social marketing. I hope the following five tips will help you to hold back the tide of future regret.
1 - Remember your audienceThis is a piece of advice that turns up again and again in blog posts like this. If I were to analyse why, my answers would be:
A) It’s really important
B) People obviously keep forgetting it
When marketing (as with writing or illustrating) you need to consider who the people you’re hoping to communicate with are, and why they’d be receptive to your message. Close friends and family already know about you and will probably buy whatever you’re selling anyway – you don’t need to promote yourself amongst them at all. Existing online friends already have some vague idea who you are, but may not know what you’ve been working on. And people you’ve never met will need a bit more context and will likely be the least receptive to your advances.
|Begone, foul-bearded Twitter fiend!|
If closeness of association is one dimension, another is suitability. If you’ve written a fiction book for adults, then don’t expect to get much traction when you barge onto a Facebook group for children’s authors. Equally, I don’t want to know about your wellness blog, your hilarious cat GIFs or your half price offer on Ray Ban sunglasses. But (for instance) an adult non-fiction book about writing, illustrating or the creative process would be very welcome.
2 - Keep it genuineTen years of Web 2.0 have gifted many of us with an honest-to-goodness superpower – the ability to spot a phony from right over the other side of the internet. Trying to be someone you’re not (outside the realms of carefully delineated fiction) isn’t a viable strategy on social media, unless you’re one of these obsessive catfish-type people who can juggle multiple online personas simultaneously. Embrace who you are, be proud of it and engage with people on that basis. When you get passionate about stuff, your genuine passion will come across and hopefully make other people passionate about it too.
|This may not be quite what I meant by "catfish," but at least it's not a GIF!|
3 - Give before you takeSteaming onto a new social platform or Facebook group, and instantly sending out “Look at me! Buy my book!” messages will endear you to precisely no-one. You need to spend time nurturing relationships and earning other people’s trust, exactly the same way you would in the offline world. Giving is a great way to achieve this, and what’s more, it’s fun and rewarding in its own right. Get involved in group discussions, review other people’s books, comment on blog posts and write some interesting blog posts yourself. Only when you’ve built up some karma in the bank can you expect others to return the favour.
4 - Your friends are not a marketing strategyI read a brilliant and honest blog interview recently, but it came very close to being spoilt by the actions of the interviewer. Here they were, hosting an interview with one of their close author friends, and yet they kept bringing the subject back to their own book, which they were clearly desperate to pedal at every opportunity. This was despite the post appearing on a site devoted to said book, with a large picture of the cover in the sidebar.
The book itself looked interesting and in normal circumstances I might have clicked through to Amazon to investigate it further. But quite frankly, the whole situation felt exploitative and left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
A similar example was when a famous and successful author sent me a friend request on Facebook. “Oh wow!” I thought, “How exciting that they’ve noticed little old me!” Naturally, I accepted immediately, imagining the hours of stimulating discussion ahead. Unfortunately, what I got was a bombardment of paid marketing messages about the author’s latest book. Yes, the book might have been brilliant and yes, I’m sure they felt passionate about it, but this was not the right way to go about selling it to me.
5 - You haven’t written To Kill a Mockingbird (but that’s OK)You may think that you’ve written an epoch-making work of transcendent literary genius, and owe it to the world to promote it as such. But you haven’t and you shouldn’t. Relax, have fun and remember that your next book (where the bulk of your energies should be focused) will probably be better. You’re building a career, so don’t burn your bridges now and lose your chance to give your future work the promotion it deserves.
The only caveat I’d offer to the above is if Harper Lee is reading this. You have written To Kill a Mockingbird. Well done, madam.
|This woman deserves an award. Oh wait, I think she's receiving one...|
So there you have it – some simple strategies to get you through the minefield that is self-promotion. We all make online faux pas, but stopping and thinking, or considering how you come across from others' perspectives can help you avoid the most damaging behaviour.
Be interesting and interested in other people, and you’ll soon start to amass a committed following. Practising good self-promotion not only ensures that you reach an engaged and appropriate target audience, it also makes sure you feel good about yourself afterwards. And that’s a feeling to treasure.
Nick Cross is a children's writer, Undiscovered Voices winner and Blog Network Editor for SCBWI Words & Pictures Magazine.
Nick's writing is published in Stew Magazine, and he's recently received the SCBWI Magazine Merit Award, for his short story The Last Typewriter.