Friday, May 10, 2013

How NOT to promote

Every time I go on Twitter (which is every night) I see multiple tweets about promoting, self-publishing, blog tours, etc, etc, etc. I usually click on the links, read the blog and think: "Okay, you said the same thing so-and-so said. This isn't anything ground-breaking." I sometimes think: "Hm, book promo. Hm, cheap book promo *bookmark* I'll check it out later." I can't begin to tell you the amount of sites I have book-marked for cheap promotions or editing.

Do I use them? If I did I wouldn't be working a 9AM-5PM job still. I'd be sitting at home writing all day with a following and loyal readers. I know you're wondering why I don't use these sites if I have so many.

There are lots of reasons but the main reason is: I'm not a promoter. I'm not an editor. I don't have money to afford quality of either.

What this means is that I'm a writer through and through. The best thing for me to do is sit in front of my computer and whack out stories. I've spent countless hours (that I could have been writing) on trying to figure out how to promote but for some reason I just don't get it.

I've read John Locke's book, Russell Blake's book, hard copy books on marketing and probably every blog out there about promoting. I'm not good at it. Unfortunately, I'm one of those writers that would benefit from big box printing houses so they could do their marketing magic and I can sit at home and write.

So, why this blog? Well, because in trying to promote I've learned a lot of things you SHOULD NOT do when attempting to get your name out there. And because I enjoy talking about these things I've complied them into a list:

1) Don't pay someone to make your social media sites. Seriously: don't. I'm with a self-publishing company (that's being sued right now) and when they said they would get me on social media I figured they'd show me what it was about. They didn't. They made up my usernames, emails and passwords, all of which I've changed and half of which I don't even use. Then they told me to have fun. This cost I believe $500. Anyway, if you want to be on Facebook or Twitter as an author, go to both sites, put in your info and go for it. Giving someone money for ten minutes of your time isn't worth it.

2) Don't sign up for EVERY social media site out there. This breaks up your focus and will confuse the heck out of you. All you really need is Twitter, Facebook and maybe Goodreads. There might be a forum or two you can join (I suggest the National Novel Writing Month forums just cuz) but you don't need an account with MySpace, Reddit, Instagram, DiggIt, and every other social media outlit under the sun. Focus on the three above because 1) they're the most popular and 2) Why do you need a second reason?

3) Don't take long breaks from social media. I'm HORRIBLE for this. I can't remember the last time I logged into Facebook and I should really sync my tweets to my Facebook statuses. Seriously, if you take breaks, you lose fans, friends and people who might be that one really good connection.

4) Don't forget to thank people for mentioning you. I kind of suck at this too but I'm getting better. It's just common courtesy to say "Thanks" after someone does something nice.

5) Don't think you're going to be popular overnight. That doesn't happen no matter what anyone tells you. I've been working at this off and on since March 2010 (more off than on but hey) and I haven't made much from it.

6) Don't worry or take it personally if you lose followers. Yeah it bites when people decide not to follow you anymore. It's like knowing the complete stranger at the table beside you isn't interested in what you have to say. See what I did there? I hope so. So what if someone stops listening to you? Big whoop. You're guaranteed to lose a few people because everyone does.

7) Don't spend EVERY update promoting. I absolutely HATE seeing people promoting their blog, their book and everything else in EVERY SINGLE TWEET. It's why I like my "screw promotion I'm just going to say what I want to say" approach. If you want to promote, keep it at a minimum that works for the people following you. Constant promotion is what will get you unfollowed in a hurry. I'm pretty sure I read that somewhere.

8) Don't make every tweet a repeat of the last. There's this account I follow (I don't know why actually) that repeats the same 10-15 tweets every day. Are they interesting? The first time yes. Will they keep being interesting the next ten times I read them? Nope. I'm not sure how this person has the amount of followers they have because their entire stream is the same few tweets.

9) Don't make an online persona for yourself. Be you, be the REAL you and don't worry what others think. I tried to come across as sane but it doesn't work so well. I'm not normal, I'm not a promoter and I'm not going to force myself to be something I'm not to make a few sales. If people don't like me for me, they won't like my books for being my books.

10) Don't worry about bad reviews. I nearly died when I got my first review back from a reputable reviewing company. The first half was great and the last half made me depressed for a week. I still cringe when I see some reviews on Have a Bloody Christmas. It helps to read the reviews and comments from beta readers that loved it though. You have to remember: you're an author. You're putting your work out there and people will criticize it. Not everyone will love it or you. Read it, decide whether it's constructive (most of mine are a matter of opinion I think, it's been a while), and go from there. Ignore the "this sucks" and pay attention to "this could have had more of this." If that last one is repeated constantly, fix it. Look at a bad review as helping not hindering.

11) Don't go with a self-publishing firm. Or any firm that expects YOU to shell out exuberant amounts of money to get your book out there. You don't need it. A good cover can cost $500, a good edit depends on a editor and self-publishing companies will only ask for more money to bring you to an event that in the end won't help you. Trust me, I know from experience. Putting out almost $10,000 on Tale of the Twins has gotten me nothing in return. Yeah, it's because I don't promote but I don't know how and figured out I'm virtually incapable of finding that secret. If you're going to spend money, spend it on someone else promoting your work. Heck, My Sweet Valentine and Have a Bloody Christmas have had more exposure Tale of the Twins and neither of them are through a self-publishing firm. I don't even like the cover of Twins.

12) Don't publish something you hate or aren't comfortable with. If you don't like it, you're not going to promote it, people won't see it, you won't make money off it and you'll hate yourself. Then you'll stop writing because of self-doubt and you'll question why you thought you were an author in the first place. It's a whole big downward spiral that's tough to come out of.

13) Don't worry. That's right, I said it: Hakuna Matata (shush, I'm showing my age ;) ). Don't worry that people aren't responding to you right away. Don't worry that even though you're promoting people aren't listening (for this try something new). Don't worry about bad reviews (go back and read number 10). Don't worry that you're not an over night (or even a four month) success that some of those other people have promised you'll be if you follow their steps. Trust me, they're NOT telling you all their secrets. If they did, I'd be up there with them. Proper promotion is all about timing and word of mouth. It takes time to get people to talk about your work and it takes time for people to begin to like you. The best thing you can do is keep plugging along and write.

I hope this list finds a happy little home in the cyber world. In the end, that's all we have: Hope. So good night, good day (or whatever it is where you are at the time of your reading) and Hakuna Matata.

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