Over the past few months, I’ve stumbled upon some brilliant marketing advice thanks to the talented and incomparable Kristen Lamb. If you are a writer (published or aspiring) you must subscribe to her blog. If you’re looking for marketing advice, Kristen’s blog is the place to go. But, if you’re looking for a list of loathsome marketing habits to avoid, well, I’ve got just what you’re looking for.
Before we go over the list, let me just remind you that I am not a marketing expert. I’ve never taken a single marketing class. But, I am a reader and a person who utilizes social media. I’ve seen some things – bad things. Things you should never, ever do unless your goal is to alienate potential readers. So, what are these bad, but easily avoidable marketing mistakes? Let take a look…
How To Alienate Potential Readers (and everyone else):
1. Blow Up My Facebook News Feed with Amazon Links: Facebook is an important part of any social media platform. It’s also a good place to find cute kitten pictures and useful links. Over the past two years, I’ve learned to update my status, comment on posts, and share links. Guess what else I learned to do? I’ve learned to avoid stuff I don’t want to see by unsubscribing. I’ve unsubscribed from friends, pages, and even groups. (Notice I didn’t say ‘unfriend’ or ‘unfollow.’ Unsubscribing is different because the person has no idea you’re no longer receiving their crap posts. It’s kinder than unfriending, but the end result is pretty much the same.)
Why the unsubscribing spree? Because sifting through the vast amount of spam I receive is exhausting. By the time I get to the good stuff, I’m ready for a nap. I’ll be honest. Compared to others I know, I don’t have a huge amount of Facebook friends. The number is well under three-hundred and only about half of those folks are authors. So, why am I receiving so much spam?
Here’s the scenario: You’re an author with a book (or several) to sell. You belong to about twenty-five indie-author groups, promo groups, or spamtastic link-blast groups thinly disguised as ‘book clubs.’ OMG, I belong to all those groups too! So, once a week, or once a day, or several times a day, you find it necessary to post your Amazon links to all twenty-five of these groups that we both belong to. Guess what? I just received twenty-five posts with your book links. Guess what else? I’m in a crabby mood, so I just hit the ‘unsubscribe’ button. Now I won’t have to endure the overwhelming deluge of links that keep blowing up my News Feed. The next time you publish a book, I’ll have no idea it even exists! It sucks, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take in order to de-clutter my News Feed.
Right now, you might be wondering: Is it me? Am I one of the author/friends she blocked? I have no idea. Because I’ve unsubscribed to so many people and pages lately, I have no clue who I’ve cut from my News Feed. But I can tell you this: my News Feed is way less overwhelming and I don’t have to wade through a filthy puddle of links in order to get to those beloved kitten pics. Which is great for me. Unfortunately, it’s not so great for you because you might know me as a fellow author, but I’m also a reader. A reader whom you have managed to alienate. And, if you’ve alienated me, you’ve probably alienated a lot of other people too. I’m not the only one who knows about the awesome power of the ‘unsubscribe’ button.
2. Post your buying links directly to my Facebook Timeline. This an offshoot of the previous rule, but definitely worth a mention. I’m happy to provide a platform for authors. That’s why I started the Authors to Watch site where I post interviews and guest posts. I also have an Authors to Watch Facebook group – you are free to post promotional material here. All you have to do is message me on Facebook or send me a friendly email, and I’ll interview you on my site. So, why must you post your Amazon buying links on my personal Facebook page? It isn’t appreciated, nor is it tolerated. Such posts are promptly deleted.
3. Spam Me on Twitter- Yuck. For me, Twitter is a landmine-dotted landscape of annoying links and ‘buy my book’ tweets. It’s okay to tweet links. We all do. I would even venture to say it’s okay to share links a few times a day. Twitter is different from Facebook, so you’ve got a bit more freedom. But, this does not give you permission to auto-spam (ever). It is never okay to automate your Tweets. And, it is never,ever, ever okay to send an automatic message to new followers telling them to buy your book, like your Facebook page, or follow your blog. Because I won’t buy, like, or follow – and neither will anyone else.
Twitter can often feel a bit more anonymous than Facebook. We tend to accumulate lots of followers, often without even trying. Anyone can follow you and you don’t have to follow them back. Twitter is really super cool for lots of reasons. Wanna guess what I like the most about Twitter? It’s easy to ignore. I don’t have to unsubscribe, or unfollow, or block annoying spammers. My eyes just skim right over my Twitter feed until I find someone or something interesting.
How do you avoid being skimmed over and ignored? Post something people want to read. Make friends, talk to people. Don’t treat all your followers as potential customers. No one likes to be treated that way.
Then there are these weird things called hashtags…I know I keep harping on Kristen Lamb, but seriously, she can explain the hashtag thing so much better than I can. To make a long and complicated story short, if you add five hashtags to your shameless pleas to buy your book, anyone who follows those same hashtags will receive the same shameless pleas five times in row. It’s kind of like the Facebook group problem. It’s annoying. And, it’s spam.
4. Substitute Engaging Blog Posts with Shameless Advertising: Blogging is fun. It’s a way to build your fan base without constantly shouting, “Buy my book” into cyberspace. It’s a good way to really connect with your readers by sharing funny stories, true-life embarrassing tales about your kids, recipes, movie reviews – you name it. So, why would you use your blog to spam? It’s okay to use your blog to advertise, but you need to do it in a subtle, less in-your-face way. Ideally, your blog should have buying links and other information about your books. You can add this information in the side column or even on a separate page tab. Some authors choose to add a buying link to the bottom of each post. Do what feels right to you. It’s smart to make sure the reader can easily access your book information if they should choose to do so.
Here’s what is NOT okay: Using your blog posts as advertising links. This blasts spam directly into your email subscribers’ in-boxes. It is only okay to do this under the following circumstances:
- Your book was just released (I mean today or this week – if your book released six months ago and you’re still sending new-release posts every week, you should be condemned to the sixth circle of cyber-hell.)
- Your book is available for free or at a special price for a limited period of time.
- You are having a giveaway
- You or your book have been featured in a special interview and you want to give a very public shout-out to the person who hosted your blog tour or reviewed your book.
5. Don’t Proofread Anything: Put your best foot forward on Facebook, Twitter, your website/blog, and anywhere else readers might have an opportunity to sample your command of the written word. If your Facebook updates are riddled with spelling errors, your Tweets are unintelligible, or your blog posts would make an English teacher jump to her death, I probably won’t want to invest my time or money in your book. I’m not going to have confidence in your ability to tell a good story if you can’t manage to write a three paragraph blog post.
Note to smartphone owners: I don’t have a smartphone. I refuse to replace my craptastic phone that is being held together with duct tape. But, it seems that nearly every day, I encounter some poor Facebook friend who has just posted a rather unfortunate update because their smartphone likes to autocorrect as they write. If you’re my friend, I know you can write. I know you didn’t mean to replace the word “feature” with “feces.” But, what about the potential reader who recently subscribed to your author page? How well do they know you? Will they want to continue to get to know you if you’re unwilling to take the time to double-check that status update before you hit ‘Post?’
Note to Website Owners: The other day, I stumbled across a link to an interesting article on Facebook. It claimed to offer marketing tips. I clicked on it and only read the first paragraph before my eyes traveled to the top of the screen and noticed the name of a page was misspelled. Not a word in the body of the post, but the actual page tab! As a reader, I’m willing to overlook an occasional missing word or misused semicolon in a post. Everyone is human. Heck, I make errors. I probably made some here in this very post. But, if you have a serious spelling error in your STATIC CONTENT, what message are you sending to your readers? That you’re too important to double-check your content for errors? Or, that your readers aren’t important enough for you offer them the best product possible?
6. Don’t take no for an answer. It’s fair to expect that some of our friends and family members will buy our newly released books. But, some won’t. I wish I could buy every book that appears on my Facebook News Feed, but I can’t. Sometimes it’s because I can’t afford to shop for books. Sometimes I’m afraid my husband will kill me if I purchase anything else from Amazon. Sometimes, your book just doesn’t appeal to me. Sorry. It isn’t because I don’t like you or because I don’t think you have amazing talent. But, there aren’t enough hours in the day to sleep, eat, take care of kids, work, write, and find time to read all the great new books available.
Not everyone will buy your book. That’s just how it is. No matter how many times a day you post a link to your book, some people still won’t be interested. Eventually, your links become annoying. Everyone knows you wrote a book. They know where to buy it. Now, it’s time to let it go.
Let’s look at our face-to-face behavior. Do you turn family reunions into sales opportunities? Have you ever asked a friend, “So, what did you think of my book? Did you buy it yet?” Please, please, please tell me you’ve never done these things. Despite my utter lack of marketing savvy, I’ve never pressured someone to buy my book. It’s tacky, it’s inappropriate, and it’s a good way to guarantee you’ll be blocked, unfollowed, unfriended, and eventually uninvited to family events.
I understand how frustrating it can be when you see everyone else spamming and link-blasting all over various social media platforms. You might begin to wonder if you should do the same. I’ve succumbed to the urge to post multiple links – we all have. I’ve tortured my Twitter followers with agonizing streams of short links. I’m not proud of this, but plan to do better.
Unless I have monumental news about my book, I’m going to keep posts about my book where they belong: on my Book’s Facebook page. I’d like to keep my personal Facebook page, well…personal. I want to have no-strings-attached friendships. I don’t want my friends and family to unsubscribe to my posts in an effort to avoid a non-stop advertising campaign.
As for a proactive marketing plan? Well, that’s a work in progress. My book is in the hands of reviewers. I’m going on a blog tour in January. And, most importantly, I’m writing each day, adding to my work count, honing my skills, and creating something I can be proud of.
Anyone care to join me on my quest to eliminate the plague of indie-author spam? If so, post your comments, suggestions, marketing tips, or crazy rants below.