Monday, May 2, 2016

When is Self-Promotion TOO MUCH?

I once heard a wonderful speaker (and if I could remember who she was, I’d give her a shout-out here … but I am so sorry to admit that I don’t) on the topic of self-promotion. She said something that made me laugh. And because the visual tickled me, it stuck with me. It went something like this:

“Do you love to go fishing? Me too. But do you think fishing would be any fun at all if the fish jumped out of the lake on their own and smacked you in the face? Uh-uh. I don’t think so.”

It’s a really good analogy, I think, regarding author self-promotion. While I know my many writer friends who’ve tossed their hands in the air at traditional publishing and started putting out books on their own don’t enjoy hearing this from me, I’ve heard readers express their irritation at being “smacked in the face” more times than I could count. One tweet after another begins to feel like more of an assault than an invitation to read someone’s book. Five or six Facebook posts each and every day about your book, its reviews, how crazy readers are if they don’t click on something, access something, enter something … None of it negates the importance of making a simple and genuine connection between author, reader, and book. In the bigger picture, it doesn’t do all that much to sell copies anyway. And wasn’t that the purpose of all that effort?

If I haven’t offended you or turned you off completely yet:  Good on you! I hope you’ll continue to read. Why? Because self-promotion – although imperative in today’s publishing culture, especially for those opting out of traditional contracts – is a delicate balance that has to be learned through experience and focus. And also because if you do it wrong, you risk alienating the very readers you want to attract.

Ask any best-selling author how he/she became so successful, and I can guarantee you their answer will not involve canned-text tweets and twelve posts a day containing links to buy their books. Instead, the answer you’ll likely get will revolve around tenacity, consistency, commitment, and a true and authentic connection with potential readers.

I’ve put together a few helpful tips for those navigating these waters:

  1. Do NOT make every tweet, post, and blog about buying your book. Instead, share a little bit of yourself and your life with readers. Connect with them, entertain them a little, and give them the chance to think you might have something to say in your books that will do the same.
  2. The typical launch cycle for a book is a window of about two months: a month before and a month after the release date of the book. Limit the “big pushes” to those two months. Send more tweets, post more links to buy, and tout your great reviews during that period. But use the time in between for some authenticity, some human interaction that doesn’t involve asking for anything. If readers get to know and like you, they’ll want the chance to know your characters too.
  3. While I’m no proponent of calculating out your interactions, I do really love what Michael Hyatt has to say about a Social Media Formula he's developed:  “This phenomenon is what I have come to call the 20-to-1 rule. It represents a ratio. It means that you have to make 20 relational deposits for every marketing withdrawal.” Relational deposits are so important to avoiding the pitfalls of the Me, Me, Me Show that self-promotion can become.

The bottom line of what I’m sharing with you is that you became a writer in order to ultimately engage readers. So engage them. Get to know them. Let them get to know you. Throwing sales copy at them 100% of the time will absolutely not engage them. In fact, you’ll find that it’s done the opposite when you realize how many are “unfriending” and “unfollowing” a rat-a-tat-tat barrage of promotional social media bullets.

Does the delicate balance of engaging with readers and promoting your books give you nervous flutters?

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Author/Editor Sandra D. Bricker
SANDRA D. BRICKER was an entertainment publicist in Los Angeles for 15+ years where she attended school to learn screenwriting and eventually taught the craft for several semesters. When she put Hollywood in the rear view mirror and headed across the country to take care of her mom until she passed away, she traded her scripts for books, and a best-selling, award-winning author of Live-Out-Loud fiction for the inspirational market was born. Sandie is best known for her Another Emma Rae Creation and Jessie Stanton series for Abingdon Press, and she was also named ACFW’s 2015 Editor of the Year for her work as managing editor of Bling! Romance, an edgy romance imprint for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. As an ovarian cancer survivor, Sandie also gears time and effort toward raising awareness and funds for research, diagnostics and a cure.