Tone Deaf

October 27, 2020 § 4 Comments


I’m not writing this for you. You already know better. I’m writing this so you can forward it to that friend of yours. You know. The one who keeps tagging you in social media posts about her book? The author who, every time you mention you’re looking for something new to read, offers an Amazon link? Who responds to every question even remotely related to her topic with “I wrote a book about that!” blatting away like a lone trumpet in the middle of a string quartet.

Yes, marketing statistics show that people have to hear about your book seven times, in seven different places, before they decide to buy it. But tone-deaf self-promotion does not create a pleasant memory of Oh I should purchase this book. Repeated advertising in social settings creates resentment and irritation, and as I wrote here a while ago, irritation doesn’t sell anything.

Yes, we should be proactive. Yes we should be unafraid to share the news—the wonderful news!—that we have published a book and wouldn’t our friends love to support us? Our friends do want to support us. They just don’t want to do it every day.

Here is how much marketing support you can reasonably expect from your friends:

One retweet.

Two mentions to their real-life friends that you have written a book and it is nifty.

From your extra-best awesome writer-friends: one retweet, one Instagram post, one book review written to Amazon and copy-pasted to Goodreads. More than that is doing God’s work.

From close relatives, and from people who would like to have sex with you: physically walking into a bookstore and ordering one, even two copies of your book.

From your local newspaper: a brief mention of your reading at a local bookstore. Because “Hey, I wrote a book” just isn’t all that newsworthy.

For the press, consider writing PR (or having your insanely expensive publicist write PR) that expresses how your book ties into popular culture right now. Or the problem many people have that your book solves or addresses. Maybe even your unique story about writing the book, if you triumphed over adversity or accomplished a life goal. Not just about your book.

But you can’t send a press release to all your friends. Not even an advertisement disguised as a Facebook comment.

The two best ways to get people interested in your recently published book are to make yourself look like an expert, and show them how your topic is directly relevant to their lives. You do this by offering assistance. For example, if your Facebook friend has a problem that you know how to solve and that is also related to your book, answer their question. Solve their problem. Direct them to another resource that is not your book for more information. At the end of all that assistance, note somewhat self-effacingly, I also wrote a book about this, and here’s the link in case you want to look it up. The product is an afterthought in your service to your friend.

Author Karen DeBonis has a great technique for talking about your topic without talking about your book every time. She has set a Google alert for one of the topics of her book, “people-pleasing.” When she sees a quality article related to people-pleasing, she can tweet or post the link, with a quote from the article and some commentary from Karen about why this information is useful, or how she identifies with it. (Here’s how to set up a Google Alert)

This is double literary citizenship! You’re promoting the writer of the article you’re linking to, and increasing interest in your own topic. You’re helping establish your own expertise, or that you are at least a clearinghouse for this information. When someone has a people-pleasing-related question, they’ll remember, Gosh, I bet Karen knows the answer, and come to her. Then she can answer their immediate question, and gently direct them towards her book. If her book is not out yet, she has incurred gratitude. She has made a deposit in the Bank of Goodwill, which can be redeemed when the time comes to purchase, review or post about her book.

None of this is “being clever on Twitter,” though that can help. It’s not “have a million Insta followers,” though that can help, too. This is doing service you already know how to do, to genuinely connect with people affected by a topic about which you care deeply enough to have written a book.

Self promotion is not self service. Yes, fanfare the news of your new book from the rooftops. But also gently play the symphony of support, solutions, and expertise for your grateful listeners.

______________________________________

Allison K Williams is Brevity‘s Social Media Editor. Join her and Ashleigh Renard for The Writers Bridge Platform Q&A on Zoom. This Thursday at 1PM Eastern is the Ask Us Anything Halloween Party—costumes optional, bring your burning questions about platform, promotion and social media. If you’re on the list, you’ll get the link, or sign up here!

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§ 4 Responses to Tone Deaf

  • Amy says:

    Thank you for this great advice! Building community seems to be the best way to promote one’s work. Not that it’s easy, but certainly more rewarding. 🙂

  • richonhealth says:

    Love this advice!

  • Talk about good literary citizenship, Allison…you get a gold star. Thanks for the shout-out!

  • […] “Yes, marketing statistics show that people have to hear about your book seven times, in seven different places, before they decide to buy it. But tone-deaf self-promotion does not create a pleasant memory of Oh I should purchase this book. Repeated advertising in social settings creates resentment and irritation, and as I wrote here a while ago, irritation doesn’t sell anything.” A warning—and an alternative approach—from Allison K. Williams. […]

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