When I wrote Promotional Musings (part one), it had been my intention to write about a variety of promotional experiences, as I tried them myself, so that fellow authors can learn from my trial and error attempts to promote my work. I realize, now, that I started in the wrong place. Let’s take a step back and address a concept that covers every promotional technique, plus some. Attitude.
If you want to get paid (or already are) for your writing, you are a professional and should be conducting yourself as such. When a writer behaves badly it doesn’t become a special edition DVD, but it does get around.
(Names changed to protect the not-so-innocent. Situations blended from multiple examples, also to protect the not-so-innocent.)
Writer 1: Darlene. Slaughter of Reviewers.
Darlene is a published writer and, as a published writer, obsessively reads review sites. She reads everything from Reviews by Jessewave to Mrs. Giggles to each and every review of her work on Goodreads. When she spots a one-star review, instead of doing what most of us would do — break into tears and vow to never, ever write again until a brave beta reader, spouse, neighborhood cat reminds us that it is just one opinion of many and we can’t not write — Darlene leaves a scalding comment on the review vehemently proclaiming that the reviewer doesn’t understand her, her story, and how to review in general.
Yes, dear writers, a one-star review stings. Heck, anything less than five can make an author question their lifetime goals, but when push comes to shove, there should be no pushing or shoving. In Darlene’s situation, the reviewer explained why the book wasn’t liked, and they were valid reasons. Even if they were bogus reasons, when Darlene went on the offensive, she was the one that looked bad. Not the reviewer.
Sure, there may be a few people who like to buy books buy authors that make a scene but most readers are turned off by this behavior, and with the average reader allowed to voice their opinions through stars and reviews on sites like GoodReads and Amazon, they’re going to shy away from authors who go on the offensive if you fail to stroke their fragile egos.
As a side note, a one-star review is still publicity. I read those reviews before I read five-star reviews, and I’m not the only one who does so. Just because one person hated the story, does not mean I will. In fact, my latest download was a book that one of my most prolific Goodreads reviewers gave a one-star. It made me curious. The blurb is good and some of the things that reviewer didn’t like, I probably won’t like either, but the story itself still sounds interesting.
Second aside: Some review sites refuse to post negative reviews because of behavior like Darlene’s. This is a tragedy! These reviewers are doing writers and readers a great favor to share their thoughts on books every week.
Example 2: Abigail. The Attention Whore.
Social networking sites have done serious damage to that part of the human mind that catches the flow of thought from mind to mouth (or rather, fingers). We’ve stopped censoring ourselves, feeling the need to announce everything from the color of our snot during a cold to telling off the guy who just cut us off on the highway. If you’re constantly depressed or belligerent or boring, and that’s all you show to the world, you’re going to push away potential fans. I lost count of how many Twitter or Facebook feeds I’ve unfollowed/unfriended because all the user would do is 1) rant or pout about the unfairness of the life, 2) beg for followers/clicks/retweets, and other attention, 3) passive aggressively (or even aggressively) shoot down anyone else that isn’t as miserable as they are, and/or 4) post a constant stream of nonsense.
I know I’m not perfect at this, and no one is, but the writers that take this to extremes are alienating their audience. If you spend three days complaining about how unfair your significant other is on Facebook, detailing the fight you had and how he or she is so very wrong and you could never be, I’m going to walk away. So are others. If your Twitter feed is nothing but links to your stuff and retweets of other writers’ stuff, without any personal (and/or intelligent) thoughts in between, I’m not going to start following, and I’m certainly not going to remember you when I have money for ebook downloads.
To promote ourselves, we need balance. No one wants to be sold to through a barrage of links to your book, your blog, your anything. Don’t worry, we don’t need to be every reader’s best friend either. What we do need to do is have a platform that suits our professional work, and maintain that platform with a balance of writing-related information and other interesting tidbits.
(Oh, how I hate buzz words, but ‘platform’ is important…ah, another topic for a future blog post.)
What is your online attitude? No need to answer here, but be honest with yourself.
Click your Twitter profile and read your tweets from the last week. Do you talk to others? Do you share too much? Are most of your tweets links and retweets? Complaining?
Go to your Facebook account. Have you liked anyone else’s pages lately? Do you respond when people comment on your wall? Do you have a balance of writing updates and life updates? Are your life updates things you’d want to know from complete strangers that YOU follow?
It’s too easy to run off at the mouth online, and yes, we’re all entitled to our opinions, good or bad, nice or nasty, but you are the face of your writing career. If you bitch-slapped your boss at the Evil Day Job would you still have a job? Would he give you the best account? Probably not. So don’t bitch slap your readers, unless you don’t care about your sales.
Darlene and Abigail are extreme examples (Abigail is a little of several people even) but just because we are not as extreme as they are, doesn’t mean we’re doing it right. I’d love to see everyone think about what they post online before typing it, but that’s not likely. Professionals promoting their work, however, really should consider each and every word before clicking that submit button.