Saturday, June 16, 2012

I Thought This Was Interesting

Five Things New Writers Do That Guarantee Readers Won't Give Them a Chance

I've been poking around the web, checking out various forums and venues for book promotion, and one thing I've noticed is how rude and crude and clumsy BSP (Blatant Self Promotion) has gotten again. It's like we've come full circle. When I first experimented with self-publishing (waaay back when iUniverse was the hottest game in town), aspiring writers frequently did things like spam everyone on their mailing list, bombard discussion lists with announcements of their releases, butt into every conversation with clumsy references to their own work...and so on and so forth.

And what happened, inevitably, was that readers and other writers got fed up and began to lash out at these hapless newbie boobies.  It was a brutal but effective learning curve. And in fairness, choosing to go it alone is such a scary, solitary road and it's understandable that these inexperienced scribes would grab desperately at every chance to keep their book afloat.

The problem is that while a single writer inserting himself and his book into every conversation might be overlooked as the gauche behavior of one member of a community, five hundred authors doing the same thing will be viewed as an assault. The barrage of spamming ensures that reader tolerance will reach its limit and snap. Often the unhappy recipient of all that pent up reader antagonism will be someone newly arrived on the scene with the sheer bad luck to open his mouth at the wrong moment.

Now with self-publishing reaching a whole new zenith, Author BSP is sinking to a new nadir, and once again it's getting ugly and hostile out there. No wonder. I've had several posts from authors in the past couple of weeks featuring subject headers that would do the purveyors of penis enhancers proud. I THOUGHT THIS WAS INTERESTING proclaimed an author who shall be nameless. The message?

Book Title X now available as ebook on Amazon, Google Books and Barnes and Noble.

Come on. Seriously?

Why would anyone think this stark, unvarnished spam from a stranger -- directed to another writer no less! -- would be anything but irritating? I didn't check Amazon, Google or B&N, I didn't even click on the author's profile. I hung onto the message so I could write this post. Period. Spam is spam, and unwelcome advertising, be it for learning to speak a language I have no desire to learn, "a life full of hot babes," or a book with the same generic titles as a dozen other books,  is not going to persuade me otherwise. Adopting the tactics of the worst email spammers -- people who rely on hitting that lucky idiot out of every thousand targets -- will not be successful for most people trying to sell literature.

1 - Don't resort to the shlocky tactics of sleazy offshore spammers.

2 - Don't bombard every list you belong to with repeat announcements about your book. At the very least, mix it up, trade off excerpts, personalize them, and above all don't post every day and don't post more than once per day unless you are actually engaged in conversation.

3 - Don't drag your book into every conversation. Let's say you wrote a mystery and you're hanging around the Amazon mystery forums desperately looking for an opening to mention your book. Someone asks for a recommendation of mysteries with strong middleaged protagonists and you wrote a mystery with a middleaged protagonist!!!  It's Fate! It's the perfect opening! No. It's not. DON'T jump into the conversation to recommend your own work -- unless you can also recommend several other titles by others (and personally I don't think you should mention your own work even then).

4 - Don't keep commenting on your own announcement posts in order to keep them high on a forum page. This is rude behavior -- and the fact that you acknowledge the rudeness by excusing it on the basis of "posts falling off the front page so quickly" doesn't make it any better. Everyone wants a turn on the front page. Get in line and don't take cuts.

5 - Don't make up an alternate ego to do any of the above on your behalf. First of all, we all know that no one -- not even the most devoted of readers -- spends all her time hitting lists on behalf of her favorite author. Besides, bad behavior on the part of someone representing you will reflect on you.

Readers, what are your biggest turn-offs when it comes to authors trying to promote themselves? What tips could you give them from the reader perspective?

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