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.