Promoting in a social media world

Leading horses to water

Promoting a novel can be extremely challenging, and in ways that are different from promoting a website or a toy or a machine that goes *ping* at regular intervals.  Novels are subjectively enjoyable, frequently disappointing, and an unavoidable commitment. Nobody wants to get stuck reading a bad one, or worse, having to tell the person who wrote it that they thought it was bad.

Despite that, if I know you, I will continue to expect you to buy my novel and read it.  Why?

  • From my perspective: it’s very good; you will be sharing something that came from me and is important to me; you will tell other people.
  • From your perspective: the odds that you know a novelist that is actually very good at novel-writing are small, while the odds that the person you know is overstating the quality because of an unavoidable bias are rather high; in buying it you’re being nice, but you’re not expecting much.

Here, then, is the Catch-22: I know what your perspective is because it’s my perspective with most of the people I know who are also writers, yet I have to continue to promote the book to you and to everyone else I know, because it’s all I have. Yet the more I promote it, the more I confirm your concerns, even if unconsciously: he’s selling it to his friends because nobody else is buying it. Because it isn’t good.

Creative ways to keep it in front of you

Since Immortal debuted I have spent a lot of time posting links to: my blog; the Amazon sales page; the Smashwords sales page; and various press releases and reviews, and I have been doing this on what I would call a highly regular basis.  These links go up on Twitter and are cross-posted to Facebook (when I don’t post them directly to Facebook) and are not without their detractors.  “Stop spamming me, your links are taking up my whole page,” I have heard.  And that was from my wife.

At first, I just posted straightforward tweets, like “Read Immortal” which is dull, but essentially informative.  The problem is you post enough of those and you may as well be a spambot offering a thicker penis.  (Incidentally, if you read Immortal you will have a thicker penis.)  So I write creative tweets, or funny tweets, or odd tweets.  I have touted the book as a potential murder weapon; I have declared that not buying it means the terrorists win; I have implored buyers to get it because it simply doesn’t suck.  I wrote a hostage letter tweet once announcing that you had to buy it “or the kitten dies.”

You get the idea.  I am mindful that the people following my twitter feed and my facebook page are not just there to hear me repeatedly beg them to spend money on me all day, every day.  But I have to continue to promote the book, so I try to keep the promotional tweets as entertaining as I can.

Sometimes, I ask other people to help me promote, and their approach is much the same.  Which is how I ended up fielding an interesting complaint this morning about the scurrilous nature of some of the promotional tweets.  Because to catch someone’s eye and get a sales tweet re-tweeted, you have to write something interesting and retweet-able.  (Read comment and replies here.)

But why keep doing it?

You may argue that yes, you are aware of the book, and yes, you intend to buy it at some time but no, you really don’t want to keep hearing about it.  I understand.  But appreciate that to sell something effectively, the name of that something has to be introduced to someone more than once.  Especially with novels, where the “I’ve heard of that book; how was it?” factor is incredibly significant.

The buzz has to start somewhere.  I have to convince people I know to read something so that they can convince people I don’t know to read it.  And the only way I have to make sure the people I know get themselves a copy is to put it in front of their eyes on a semi-regular basis.  Both Twitter and Facebook have scrolling status/update screens, so sometimes making sure Immortal is in front of everyone means a new tweet/post a few times a day.

Is it annoying?  It can be.  That’s why the tweets are usually different, and usually tongue-in-cheek.

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No Comments

  1. Jane on December 7, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    I have to say that I do believe what you are doing is too much and have personally thought about removing you from my twitter stream.

    I started tweeting long before I started writing, then I started reading a lot of blogs on what seems to work in self promotion and trying to often put the book in the stream so often doesn’t work. People can see through you. You’re using twitter to promote. Twitter should be used to connect first and foremost and then when you have built genuine links can you drop in something about your book.

    Most of your tweets throughout the day should be very normal day activity type tweets. Reply to those who follow you, after all why should they buy your book when all you want out the twitter relationship is for the other person to buy a book. Whe did you last converse with people over things unrelated and not worry when you were going to mention your book

    Community needs to come before book. A genuine desire to build real links with people who will when connected with you, be interested I your work id you’re a little more subtle. But the sentence about always putting it in timelines is off putting and I’m more likely to run.

    Build your platform properly before you try to use it to help you sell. You may find it helps you. I follow a few really great writers blogs who give great advice on having a platform. Worth looking at.

    Hard sell won’t work. Making connections will. Good luck

    • genedoucette on December 7, 2010 at 3:33 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Jane. Valid concerns. My only counter-point has to do with this comment:

      “Most of your tweets throughout the day should be very normal day activity type tweets. Reply to those who follow you, after all why should they buy your book when all you want out the twitter relationship is for the other person to buy a book. Whe did you last converse with people over things unrelated and not worry when you were going to mention your book”

      The answer is, about two minutes ago, and regularly through the course of every day. Since most conversations begin with @, if you’re not following who I’m talking to, you’re not going to see the conversations, but they are certainly out there. I also participate routinely in writer chats and blog frequently about writing and other topics unrelated to writing.

  2. Daisy Harris on December 7, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Huh, I missed the brouhaha that led to this. Probably because I was too busy spamming people on Twitter. 🙂

    It’s an interesting issue. I used to think that certain people promoted themselves too much, but then I noticed that I tended to remember those people and their books. The thing is, most of the people I know on Twitter are writers, not necessarily readers. So the networking aspect is better than the selling aspect.

    But I have met some publishing people and reviewers on Twitter that have been helpful. And of course I’ve made friends.

    I don’t think you self-promote too much. You’re a real person and don’t come off as a spammer or a bot. I do know a few people who hard sell, but I’ll keep following if they are interesting in other ways.

    Oh, and sorry if I’m promoting too much lately. I think promoting things you’re excited about is fine.

    By the way- I’ve had times when I felt I was promoting too much, and then a follower would @ me to say “is your book out yet?” or “I didn’t know your book was out, where can I buy it?”

    The only people who notice the constant tweets are people who are on Twitter all the time. 🙂 (Not that I know anyone like that.)

  3. Jane on December 7, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    Your response just causes another issue. “most of your replies begin with @ and I won’t see them” me and anyone else you aren’t conversing with. So all we get are the promotional tweets. Maybe some none promotional tweets not aimed to someone specifically in a @ reply that the rest of us can’t see would break up the sellers tweets. I follow tweeters and bloggers of other published writers who make it seem less hard sell. That’s all I’m saying. Your tweets don’t make me want to go out and buy your book, but if you were a more chatty tweeter and I got a feel for you the person I might have been interested in seeing the work you’d done. I’m just saying put more you in it and less sell and people then interested in you will be interested when you say you’ve written something.

    This week I watched an author whose book was published in e format first, get herself in amazon top 20 in the first day because she’d built a good platform first. People were behind HER as a person.

    • genedoucette on December 7, 2010 at 4:06 pm

      Well, I guess I’m not sure what to say to that. I’ve built plenty of friendships through Twitter, I’m promoting a book that print-launched first and have gotten numerous readers and interest from bloggers and reviewers through twitter, and I post straight comments all the time. I have to be honest; I don’t agree with your assessment of my approach. On certain days when i can’t talk much during the day I’ll schedule promo tweets, because I work and am AT work, and can’t do anything else. But when I have time to tweet, I tweet.

    • WotV on December 7, 2010 at 4:20 pm

      Are you sure you follow Gene? I met him through Twitter. I don’t remember if it was a RT or a #FF, but somehow I ended up following him. If all he had done was self-promote, I’d have dropped him. Heck, I wouldn’t have followed him in the first place. I always look at people’s Twitter streams before I decide to follow them. If they are all promotion and links, count me out.

      I see Gene interact with followers on a daily basis. We share some followers so I get to see those @ tweets and they are funny and non-promotional. Just Gene being Gene. He also tweets everyday things, but to be honest, I don’t really want to read about the Patriots or whatever football game he’s watching. Those aren’t the tweets that keep me reading. I have heard about turkey confit, and biking, and even his intermittent Internet connection issues. And I’ve learned a little about Gene as an author and a person.

      Some Twitter users only use it to market, that’s true. And some only chat and relay their everyday lives and insanity (Kanye). Gene balances both. And he does it well, in my opinion.

  4. Rima on December 7, 2010 at 5:01 pm


    We’ve just (e)met, and I loved the tenor of your post. I grapple with whether I tweet about my work too much as well; but honestly, if people don’t like it, block me. Big deal. Just based on this post, you’re reaching out to your readers and making connections.

  5. Angela Perry on December 7, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    I first met Gene through a writer chat (I forget which one…probably #bookmarket, because it’s my favorite).

    I didn’t immediately follow him, but he kept popping up in my timeline. I started following him when made me fall off my chair laughing during the Worst Children’s Book Ever contest. I kept following him because he made me smile and/or think and he’s a real person.

    I bought his book because of a promotional tweet. I’d meant to buy it anyway, but I follow a lot of writers. He tweeted saying Amazon was almost sold out. I went “hey, I want to be the person who orders the last one” and bought it.

    To people who complain that writers they follow on Twitter don’t interact enough, I have to ask “have you tried interacting with them?” If not, you really don’t have a leg to stand on.

  6. Madison Woods on December 7, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    Gene, I haven’t noticed you promo-Tweeting too much, and when you do they *are* usually entertaining. Plus, I see you interacting all the time on chats…or did. I don’t get to do the chats often anymore because of my own work constraints.

  7. Spencer Seidel on December 7, 2010 at 10:05 pm


    You come through to me loud and clear as a cool dude. Don’t worry, just be yourself. I can’t wait to read your book. Rock on!


  8. Jane on December 8, 2010 at 2:17 am

    Maybe it’s just that my time line is busy that I miss tweets. I concede that and apologise if any offence was caused. Good luck with the book. I hope to be in your position one day.

  9. annikkawoods on December 8, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Hi Gene.

    I get tired of all the promotional tweets from everyone, if that’s the majority of what I see. With you, and with a few other writers in my stream, that’s NOT what I see. You’re always talking about something and only every now and then insert your promotional tweets.

    Also, I didn’t buy IMMORTAL because of a tweet that told me to. I bought it because I was fascinated by the author and his personality. I wanted to see if the book was as interesting. Granted, I DID jump on the bandwagon when you did the signed copies. *grin* But how often can a lady say she knows an author personally and has a signed copy of his book?

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