Response to the RWR Article on Online Promotion
Dear Authors Who Belong to RWA and Read RWR:
Romance Writer’s Report is the magazine you get as part of the $100 membership to RWA. Various individuals contribute to the magazine and you don’t need any particular expertise, just an idea that editors of the RWR believe will appeal to the RWA membership.
In the August issue, there is an article by an author (primarily YA) on the issue of online promotion. She gives two examples of great online marketing:
1. Get your friends and family members to give positive reviews of your books.
“Got friends? Got an e-mail list from your last high school reunion? Then, ask them to go onto sites such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads and SHelfari and post reviews of your book. And please reciprocate by doing this for everyone you know who has published a book. It’s a great way to spread the love and promote great writing.”
Can you imagine how you would feel getting a random email from someone you went to high school with suggesting that you take the time to go post reviews of your books. The author’s suggestion here isn’t even based on a book read and enjoyed, just based on bare acquaintance. Talk about misleading the audience over at Amazon. This is exactly the reason I don’t get excited about one star reviews that might be totally baseless. Someone’s got to counteract all the false reviews that authors are drumming out of their friends, family, and old high school classmates.
Of course, this is the worst kept secret in the industry. Agents recommend this practice to authors and authors recommend it to other authors but authors who elicit false positive reviews have no moral ground to complain about those meaningless one star reviews.
2. Suggest your books to everyone on your goodread’s list.
“Want more readers and reader reviews as well? Join sites like Goodreads and Shelfari. Create an author’s account and page, and then find people who listed your title on their reading shelves. Friend them, and send them a personal note with the friend request. You will have loyal fans! Then, go one step further, and find readers of books that are similar to yours. Friend them, and say in your friend note something like, “I see you have TITLE on your shelf. Perhaps you might want to check out my novel TITLE, which is also set in Ireland during this time period.” Always type in the new friend-to-be’s name at the start of the note. You aren’t a spammer, and you want that personal connection to resonate. I’ve gained so many wonderful readers with this approach.”
I don’t think readers enjoy this kind of spam and it is spam. Just because it is personalized doesn’t remove the spam aspect of it.
This isn’t how social networking works. Social networking is all about engagement. If you just want to talk at people, do it from your blog but at places like Goodreads or on Twitter, it’s all about engaging others. Readers who become your friends look at your bookshelves and think, hey, this reader is like me and when they realize you are an author and you have similar tastes, they can try your work.
Remember that Old Spice librarian youtube video? That was all a part of a social media campaign launched by Old Spice. The marketing team for Old Spice posted 30 second videos in which the Old Spice guy, Isaiah Mustafa, RESPONDED to at least a hundred tweets and blog posts.
The result of this campaign has been an doubling of sales of Old Spice.
It was the engagement, the idea that the Old Spice guy might respond directly to you, that created some of the virality of the messaging. I don’t think it would have been half as successful if it had just been one Old Spice youtube video after another promoting the product again and again. Some of the videos (I didn’t watch all of them) didn’t even mention Old Spice in them but Mustafa is instantly recognizable now as the Old Spice guy.
The point is that social media is about engagement and friending someone and then recommending your book after they’ve accepted your friend invitation isn’t the way to promote yourself online unless the concept you are promoting is that you are just another one of those goodread authors who won’t stop spamming people.
Why not recommend someone else’s book instead of your own, a genuine recommendation to build a long term relationship with that reader, that “friend” of yours on goodreads? Online promotion is tough and time consuming but don’t think that by taking shortcuts like the ones recommended in this article is going to work to your advantage.