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The Dilemma of Self-Promotion

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips.”

Proverbs 27:2

I’m not sure how most Christian authors reconcile this verse with the demands of marketing. It used to be that the publisher would trumpet their author’s praise. But now, if a writer plans to sell books they’ve got to do more than toot their own horn. They’ve got to rent  a high-wattage PA system and hire an orchestra to boot. Frankly, waiting for someone else to praise you (as the above Scripture recommends) can be a career disaster.

Yet there’s nothing worse than watching an author go from a humble, struggling wannabe to a living breathing Spam advertisement. Kristen Lamb in The Most Effective Author Marketing Tool, sadly chronicles what many desperate writers (and their internet presence) become:

This past week on Facebook I approved a friend request for another writer. Within MINUTES, I had four other e-mails. “Here is my website! Go to my blog! Look at my book! Here is a discount! Pass on to all of your friends and let me show them how to blah blah blah!” It made me regret I’d ever befriended this person. Rather than it being like Starbucks, “Here is a coupon for a free Frappuccino” (awesome), it sounded more like, “Me, me, me, me, me! Look at meeeeee!”

While most of us blanch at such brash PR, the question remains: How does an author sell her book without becoming an obnoxious bore? Surely the answer cannot be NO PR. And in lieu of publishers really putting some money into promoting an author, who else but the author is supposed to do that? Nevertheless, there is a fine line between marketing oneself and becoming “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (I Cor. 13:1).

Agent Jessica at BookEnds recently asked How Does Social Networking Work for You? She wrote, “What about an author’s Internet presence grabs your attention and impresses you, what turns you off?” The opinions inevitably clustered, including what turned most readers off about an author’s website. Here’s some samples:

Steve: “On Twitter and Facebook, it’s important for authors to do more than merely self-promote. It’s not that the promotion is inappropriate, but if that’s all an author does with social media, she comes across as tin-eared and self-important.”

Shawn: “…what doesn’t work for me is when the author continues talking about the subject of their latest book, ad infinitum, in every post, tweet and status update. Especially after I’ve read the book. I want to feel some evolution to their thinking or it all begins to feel like one long advertisement.”

RJones: “All day I see promotions on twitter, facebook, etc., like “My newest book is out May 25! So excited.” or “Enter to win the contest! You could win book XY.” Neither of those gave me any urge to read the book.”

fivecats: “there’s a fine line for me between an author’s web site as a sales tool and an information point. i don’t want a hard sell and i really don’t want much of a sales job on the site at all.”

Anonymous: “Some of the most obnoxious writer friends I have are forever and a day selling, selling, selling. You want to bash them over the head but of course you don’t ever say a word because they are so sure this is the right thing to do…”

I find these comments instructive in two ways. First, most readers seem to recognize that authors need to promote themselves. No one begrudges a writer who pitches their stuff. In fact, if I go to an author’s website and there is nothing about their books and where to buy them, I question that author’s professionalism. Not only do readers tolerate a certain degree of marketing, we expect it.

But while most authors recognize the need to market oneself, there is also a point of diminishing returns, a point where self-promotion actually turns away potential buyers. I reached that point recently with another author. I was following their social networking stream until I began to see it was devoted, almost entirely, to plugging their own book. I finally un-friended them. Somewhere along the way, I had went from a reader to a unit-mover and the author went from a storyteller to a glorified car salesman.

Somewhere along the way a line was crossed.

The dilemma of self-promotion is where you draw the line. Where’s the line between engaging your readers and selling your books? Or must an author always engage readers with ulterior motives? Where’s the line between saying too much about our books and not saying enough? Where’s the line between effective promotion and over-saturation?

Frankly, I’m not sure of the answers. Maybe the answers are different for everyone. Nevertheless, I am resolved about this: There must be more to my life than selling my book. And there must be more to yours than buying it.

* * *

So I’m interested: Have you ever stopped following an author because of their aggressive marketing tactics? And how can authors effectively promote themselves without slipping into crass PR?

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{ 31 comments… add one }
  • Mark H. July 1, 2010, 7:11 AM

    It’s a great question. I do get annoyed when it seems like the only thing coming out of an author’s mouth is self-promotion. And it’s a shame publishers seem to have drawn back from promoting their authors, especially non-established names. My feeling is it would be beneficial for an author to spend time promoting the works of others. It comes across more as genuine interest–“Hey, I just read this book and thought it was great–check it out!”–because you’re not pushing your own product. You’re promoting something you genuinely enjoyed, as word-of-mouth. This could help establish a network where other authors feel like they can reciprocate by promoting your work. I’d also talk to my friends privately, saying, “Hey, if you get a chance, can you put in a good word for me?” The more than can be done by others, the better. And as a rule, self-deprecation and a sense of humor help quite a bit when you absolutely, positively have to promote yourself.

    • Mike Duran July 1, 2010, 8:18 AM

      Great points, Mark. I do tend to gravitate toward authors who talk a lot about other things, whether it’s other authors, genre-related discussion, networking strategies, personal info, etc. In other words, I have no problem with self-promotion when it’s mixed in with a larger conversation. And, like you, I appreciate when an author doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously (which reminds me, I need to lighten up more often!). Thanks for the comments, Mark!

  • Terri Tffany July 1, 2010, 7:17 AM

    Thanks so much for posting about this. Yes, I have been so turned off by writers who only self-promote themselves using any tool possible. But then I know wonderful writers who will answer questions and comment no matter how successful they become–I will read their books. They are still responding as I would toward someone.
    I know as writers we will need to self-promote but not every Tweet or Facebook comment etc. It doesn’t work.

    • Tim Ward July 1, 2010, 9:58 AM

      Good point Tiffany. The authors that took time to help me out are the ones that I continue to follow.

      • Tim July 1, 2010, 10:01 AM

        Sorry, Terri. Getting a person’s name right is also pretty important 😉

  • Melody July 1, 2010, 7:43 AM

    I mainly follow authors via blogs (though some facebook). I am more inclined to read their books if they come across as real people. If they post real statuses, write about real things (the books they’ve read, the writing process in general), answer comments, answer emails…just general good communication skills. If they give of themselves to serve others. (Simple Dale Carnegie haha – How to Win Friends and Influence People).

    • Mike Duran July 1, 2010, 8:27 AM

      Hi Melody! That is the exact point of Kristen Lamb’s article (quoted above) that kindness is the best marketing tool. You should check that out if you haven’t already. Thanks for commenting!

  • Nicole July 1, 2010, 8:59 AM

    When you find the answers to these stickler questions, let me know, Mike. It’s distasteful for me to “harass” people about my novel(s). Occasionally I’ll use a blog post to do it, but it can’t be frequently. The scripture you quoted says it all.

    I love promoting other authors when I love their work. It’s fun and I want others to partake. I believe in my work, but a blanket promotion to readers who would never like my stuff is not only annoying to others but will ultimately find more critics because my novels aren’t written for “them”.

    Too much promotion of anyone’s new or not-so-new novels drives me away. I find it embarrassing, annoying, and unpleasant. I really do wish there were some iron-clad ways to market without making it a self-absorbed fest of gaffes.

  • Tim Ward July 1, 2010, 9:49 AM

    Good conversation folks, and thanks Mike for all your pertinent posts. (I came looking for a differnt post to comment on, but couldn’t browse past this one without reading.)

    Thankfully, I’m too new to blogging as PR for my writing to have many stories like these above, but I did question a comment I made the other day when someone asked me why I was building a website. My answer was, “To promote my self…my writings.” This was the first time I met the guy (we were in church), and after he walked away without much interest, I questioned when I did anything to promote myself above Christ. Of course, as a Christian author, my writing will promote Christ, but my statement alerted my conscience a bit.

    I’ve since calmed down about that. It’s ok to promote what you do, even as a Christian, as long as what you do promotes Christ.

    Now, regarding the over-promoters, I’m thankful for the heads up so that I never become that. Part of our sin nature involves putting us over others. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” If we give people what they want, which in the case of writers is attention, then we will receive the joy of giving. In many cases, this will lead to a relationship where they end up giving us attention back, but as living sacrifices (Rom. 12) our main duty is to serving others for Christ’s glory. God will reward us, for sure, but our motivation must be from the heart of a servant.

    For example, instead of posting about your book all the time, post something that will be a gift to others (such as commenting on their blog, or a link or article of common interest), and they will want to know more about you. If you have the information available for them to buy your stuff, they’ll find it if they’re first interested in you. I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything from someone that didn’t interest me, and conceited people don’t interest me.

  • Mark July 1, 2010, 10:47 AM

    I think Mark said it best in the first post. Yes, announce when a book is up for pre-order or you get the cover (especially if you love it) and remind us when it comes out. Share a few reviews you absolutely love. Let us know about book signings. Odds are we are interested in all that if we are following you already.

    However, talk about other authors. Share about your life, the struggles you are having with your next book (that actually makes me look forward to it as well).

    One author I love does this well. She talks alot about her writing, mainly the book in progress and how it’s going. I find it fascinating. And she’ll talk about her cats and other stuff she’s got going on. She mentions a TV show or book she enjoyed or what her cats just did. But when a book is coming out, she does reminds us. Frankly, I feel like I’m getting to know her better as a result and seeing that reflected in her books.

  • A. J. Walker July 1, 2010, 11:02 AM

    Another point I wanted to bring up Mike is we (Christians) have a tendency to try and do things ourselves, we figure we can promote ourselves better than leaving it in the hands of God to make a way out of no way. It takes a great deal of faith to live by Proverbs 27:2 especially when you are just starting out in your writing career but it is what we are called to do.

    It makes me think of David, before he was king: he was minding his own business seeking God when Samuel shows up and anoints him king of Israel. It wasn’t until David starting believing his own PR that led to Bathsheeba.

    Makes you wonder about Saul and how much the cry for “We want a king like all the other nations” was ‘organic’ or the result of a really good behind the scene public relations/marketing campaign?

    Okay, okay, I know I’m speculating but it makes me wonder sometime….

  • Jill July 1, 2010, 1:14 PM

    This is really tough. I’ve been thinking a lot about the marketing side of things, and I’m very uncomfortable with promoting myself. Because of that, I tend to reach out to people I’ve met online that have been kind to me first, but I think it needs to go the other direction, too.

  • Julie Weathers July 1, 2010, 1:17 PM

    I participate in an online chat about writing. Let me correct that. I used to until EVERY SINGLE SOLITARY BLOOMING chat turned into a promotion for one woman who tells everyone they MUST have their work professionally edited and did she mention in the last five seconds she edits? She knows everything there is to know about publishing and have you read her lasted blog yet. Here’s the link. Oh, have you ordered her self pubbed books yet? Oh, you people with jobs and families just don’t want to be successful like her, do you? Have you ordered this book of hers yet?

    Yeah, thank you super writer for ruining what was an interesting chat with your endless spam.

    I’m much more attracted to people who are pleasant, witty, helpful and fun to be around. Heck, I might even buy your book even though it isn’t normally what I read simply because I LIKE you.

  • Cyndi Tefft July 1, 2010, 1:19 PM

    Great post. I like the way that Jody Hedlund writes her blog to address thoughts and topics she has in common with her readers. It gives me a sense of the way she thinks and where she’s coming from, and that alone makes me want to read the book.

    I think sometimes if a follower identifies with you or likes you as a person, that will make them want to read your book more than a lot of promotion specific to the book itself.

    Cyndi Tefft
    ctefft.blogspot.com

    • Mike Duran July 1, 2010, 1:31 PM

      Cyndi, I’ve only recently started following Jody Hedlund’s blog and, though we write in two very different genres, I really like her approach. Very personal and informative. Here the link to Jody Hedlund’s blog. Thanks for visiting, Cyndi!

  • katdish July 1, 2010, 1:22 PM

    Ugh! I hate seeing authors overpromoting themselves. It’s like watching a slow, annoying train wreck. If you put in the time to build relationships and people like your writing, many will promote you. And if you’ve taken the time to build an audience online, don’t destroy your credibility or your relationships by asking every person that’s ever left a comment on your blog to help you promote your book.

    Of course, the most effective way to self-promote is to create a link on your website to purchase your book, announce the release date, and have someone (or someones) promote the book for you whose opinions are respected. That’s been my observation, anyway.

  • Jessie Mac July 1, 2010, 1:30 PM

    I agree with what Tim Ward said that you’ve got to see yourself as giving more than receiving. Before blogging was to me quite solipsistic and we writers can get like that because it’s easy since we are in our own heads most of the time and on our own. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or at the other end; you can always give. The key it seems is to try and keep a balance between giving information – via blog, website, Twitter or Facebook – on your books or on you and sounded like a rounded person with other interests.

    Thanks for the post and examples, Mike.

  • Gene July 1, 2010, 1:46 PM

    Thank you for saying this: “…most readers seem to recognize that authors need to promote themselves. No one begrudges a writer who pitches their stuff. In fact, if I go to an author’s website and there is nothing about their books and where to buy them, I question that author’s professionalism. Not only do readers tolerate a certain degree of marketing, we expect it.”

    Too often these discussion become a rant against ALL marketing. thanks for stating the obvious: It’s not a matter of IF writers should promote their books, but HOW and HOW MUCH.

  • Samantha Grace July 1, 2010, 1:54 PM

    Great post. I’ve felt uncomfortable with the promotion aspects of writing, partly because I don’t want to be seen as an endless advertisment. I think the thing that turns me off most with authors who promote are the ones who find a way to slip in something about their book or books with every twitter, facebook message or email. The topic may be completely unrelated, but they find a way to talk about their work. I’m more likely to read someone new who comes across as interesting or funny.

  • Krista Davis July 1, 2010, 2:34 PM

    This is such a great topic, Mike. I’m one of those authors who needs to promote myself. However, in recent weeks at Facebook, I’ve been bombarded by messages from authors. Some feel they must remind me about their novels every day. Some collected my email address and sent me weekly newsletters. Weekly! In my last newsletter, I promised my readers I wouldn’t send it more than four times a year. No one needs a boring weekly update from me.

    And, yes, I’m very sorry to say that I un-friended and un-liked the authors who bombarded me.

    I do tweet about other authors. I try to spread the word about their books, reviews, and awards. It’s difficult, though, to ask others to tweet about me. After all, they don’t usually know my news, so I’m often left to tweet about myself anyway. It’s not my favorite thing to do, but it has become part of the job. Somehow tweeting seems less intrusive, but if I become obnoxious, I certainly hope someone will smack me with a wet noodle to wake me up.

  • Rebecca LuElla Miller July 1, 2010, 4:59 PM

    In answer to your question, Mike, I’ve chosen not to read such an author’s book. I’ve avoided their blog or group blog posts and skim past their Facebook comments—after all, I already know what they’ll say, at least in part.

    At Mount Hermon, Rebeca Seitz of Glass Road Inc., her PR firm, led a series of marketing/promotion workshops. The first thing she did was answer this question about Christians and promotion. In a nutshell, she said, like it or not, God has placed us in a time and culture that reveres “celebrity.” Yet God has called us to be humble servants—of Him and of our fellowman. So her belief is, authors should be humble celebrities. In every “promotion” encounter, the author should be asking, How can I serve this interviewer. Or reviewer, radio personality, blogger, book store manager, or whoever.

    How can I serve? is a far cry from Me, Me, Me.

    Rebeca has the right perspective, I think.

    Becky

  • David James July 1, 2010, 11:35 PM

    Just got back from a conference this week and I was unable to get online during that time except for one brief moment, so this is an interesting way to start things off after I’ve checked Facebook and a few of the plethora of e-mails I’ve received (most I won’t read as it’s just junk). I followed a link to this from a post in a group I’m with so that was interesting as I was already planning on checking on Mike’s blog anyway.

    I’m really finding it fascinating the general way this conversation is going. If I can be the one to take things from a different perspective, may I suggest to you that successfully marketing your book on your own is NOT going against Proverbs 27:2 that Mike initially quoted at the beginning, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips.”

    You may ask “How can this be?”

    First of all, there’s a difference between marketing yourself and actually giving yourself praise. You can e-mail everyone on your list five times a day with links to where they can buy your book and have never praised your own work once. You will probably lose the majority of your e-mail list because of the amount of times you’ve contacted them, or they’ll just flag your e-mail address and rarely check you any more when you do send an e-mail, but you won’t have given yourself any praise unless you say, “this is the best book I’ve ever written” (and that’s for every book you promote mind you, not just the current one if you truly think that about this one particular book that is current and have not said it before many times about others), or “the prose is unlike anything I’ve written before”, or “these characters will draw you in unlike any you’ve read about before”, or “I’ve written many books and just keep getting better and better, but this one really blew me away while writing it”, or any other thing you can come up with that others have said well about an author’s book, but turning it into obvious self-praise.

    If you are not actually giving yourself or the book you’ve written any real “praise”, then you are very safe from the “self-praise” thing even IF you market the Hell out of the book so much that you have no one left that gives a rat’s tootie about you and your book.

    So, what about the marketing itself? At what point do we draw the line and at what point do we press forward?

    Let me say this: One of the things the Bible makes abundantly clear is that we should always be faithful to the task at hand. For most authors, that’s writing the actual novel. That’s the way it’s been done, that’s the way some still do it, and by God, it’s really great!

    But today you don’t have that option any more of just simply writing the novel.

    You HAVE to learn how to market yourself, and do it well and not in some way that aggravates everyone you come into contact with.

    Personally, I’m still learning this marketing thing as I’m working hard on a few online projects as well as writing the novel I’m working on. But the thing I’ve learned is that, like it or lump it, if you want your work to sell well – well you have to sell your work. 😉

    And not timidly either.

    One person on here mentioned something that may have been an extreme depending on the content of the regular newsletter and that’s that it was weekly. A weekly newsletter isn’t a bad thing. Heck, I’m even subscribed to a daily one. We go to the newspaper all the time and read the same reporters each day, why not read a newsletter more often? So a weekly newsletter isn’t a problem unless the content is too repetitive or is just a constant ad all the time for the same thing.

    But then that same person that mentioned the weekly one went to a different extreme and suggested they’d only send one out about four times a year.

    Perhaps this person doesn’t have a lot of info to share, but if you want someone thinking about you and your work and for them to buy it when it comes out, you really need that anticipation factor that comes with a much more regular newsletter than just once every three months. You may get fifty sales with only four times a year, but create a buzz with more newsletters with relevant material and you might increase that by doubling or tripling it.

    And of course, I suppose if one works better with only four times a year, then a weekly one (no matter how relevant), may seem overwhelming.

    So, you have to sell your work, and not timidly, but you have to make sure that however you market it, you do it in a relevant way.

    It’s a known fact that people usually have to have someone’s name pass in front of their eyes a certain number of times before they feel they know the person (no matter how their actual “feelings” about them may be), and it’s also a known fact that people have to be presented with the option to purchase something a certain number of times before they will generally buy it.

    It’s the same reason why you grab that candy bar you’ve never tried before when in the grocer’s checkout line. You’ve seen the ad on TV a gazillion times and had time in your mind to process the thought of getting one over the last week or so since you first saw the ad (which may seem like months ago as it’s diluted with so many other ads out there). Now you’re in the grocer’s aisle and see the bar, and even though you haven’t ever tasted it, you want it so bad that you don’t give a second thought and just say to yourself, “hey, there’s that candy bar I’ve been wanting to try.”

    The most effective internet marketers are using these very tactics whether they are selling a novel, a financial marketing book, or the latest herbal cleaning tonic for your wood floor.

    And they’re making money with it. Gobs.

    And speaking of money, let me say something to give you some balance about newsletters, Facebook, etc.

    I look at various financial “gurus” out there along with the various authors (both “Christian” and mainstream) that I follow. When I sign on to a financial guru’s newsletter or go to their blog, I expect to hear about how to make money, not how his dogs and kids are doing, but when he throws that into his newsletters – on occasion, not every newsletter – it adds flavor, yet usually doesn’t become the main attraction with “how to make money” being pushed to the side of things.

    The same goes with a writer: tell me about the novel you’re working on, the dilemmas you’re facing, what stage it’s at – is it in first draft, second, fourth, eleventh, has the publisher seen it, what does your co-author think, etc., but if you tell me about the cute things your dog is doing one more time I’ll unsubscribe to your newsletter even if I remain Friends with you on Facebook where I EXPECT to hear about those things along with all the stages your novel(s) are going through – but NOT on the “Fan Page” you’ve created to promote your work, ONLY on your personal page if we’re “Friends” on there.

    I say that because there are some authors that HAVE hit at the very least the New York Times (with a few of them even going to #1) and that’s their general practice, so why not learn from those that have succeeded before and still are? Chances are you’ll sell a lot more books if you keep that in mind and therefore have a lot more money coming your way even if you never hit the New York Times #1.

    So this brings us to another issue with most Christians: How much money is “too much”? Are we out to make money? What happens if our book sells so well we become a millionaire? Are we seeking that? Do we even want it? Etc., etc., etc….

    Not to get all “prosperity gospel” on you, but God really doesn’t have a problem with you having a lot of money. There’s ample evidence in the Bible for that right along with all the suffering His servants went through recorded in there. I’m not here to start a debate over suffering versus wealth because both as I’ve just said are clear in the Word. And just as you have to choose to do the right things in life to stay out of sin, you also have to choose to do the right things in life to stay out of poverty or a mediocre income that usually has a lot of debt attached to it. Neither poverty or debt is usually a good thing in the Bible as well as generally. The first Apostles hated poverty so much that they had a mandate that everyone with extra property to sell that property so that the poor among the brethren could have money for their needs. Ananias and Sapphira tried to trick God by not giving all of the amount they sold their property for and God hated the poverty of the people in need so much he struck them dead over it.

    And as in all things we do, we seek the Lord’s blessing on our endeavors. Without His blessing, we can never succeed.

    We have to put food on the table. We have to have a table for the food to go on. We have to have a place to put that table and a roof that doesn’t leak on it. We have to have clothes. We have to have good transportation. We have to provide for our children, or in the case of those without any kids we have to prepare for the day when we will have children. Just the basic needs, and I’m not even talking about the convenience of buying a computer, getting it hooked up to the Internet, paying the phone or cable bill that allows for the Internet hookup, buying whatever goodies you want on your computer, not to mention having separate laptops and I-pods for the kids to listen to their music, and whatever other extravagances we didn’t need just a few years to a decade ago. Things that weren’t “needed” back then, but are practically “essential” nowadays.

    So, if we HAVE to have those basic needs (even basic to our modern society), and for some people in certain other countries, having just the true basic needs would seem like they were millionaires, why shouldn’t we have more money if we have the heart to turn around and help those both in this country and abroad that are in desperate need and have no other resource to them to get out of the bondage they live in?

    Christ is the one that delivers those in bondage, aren’t we supposed to be Christ-like?

    So, the issues I see aren’t so much about whether we’re doing any “self praise” through our successful marketing, or even if we’re aggravating people about it, but whether we’re doing our job to then go and do THE JOB He commissioned us for in the first place.

    In this day and age, if you’re a writer then you need to write, once you finish and start seeking publication, then you market yourself that way, once you’re published, market yourself to those you want to buy your book. And just as you would go to writing seminars to learn about writing, you should go to marketing seminars to learn how to properly market yourself. Doesn’t matter if the person doing the seminar doesn’t know a thing about writing a novel and illustrates their naivete by quoting a passage from a novel you know so well and then misuses it clearly having missed the point of the book they quoted from. They know about marketing, and that’s what you need to learn there. The Dos and Don’ts of marketing. So write a great story, and market it well, and use the money that comes in to the glory of God! That’s your job in today’s society. Do your task unto the Lord and He will surely bless you, but if you insist on doubting what your task nowadays is, then you won’t be successful and you’ll keep wondering why others are even if you’ve deleted them from your Friends list.

    Sorry that this took up some significant space on here, Mike, but it’s what churned in me as I was reading your entry and the comments that followed.

    • David James July 9, 2010, 4:56 AM

      Something I just thought of while reading further comments off of the post in that group I’m in that had a link for this blog entry:

      A furthering on the idea of what should be in a newsletter, what should be on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc., and what should be elsewhere:

      For all intents and purposes, when you’re on a social network like the three mentioned above, then unless the account is geared specifically toward a certain aspect of yourself, then people generally expect to get to know the person and the various things going on in that person’s life. That will range from inspirational quotes, to the music being listened to, to an update on the pets, to updates on work (whether that’s a “real” job or the WIP or some other business endeavor or anything else), to even what the spouse did this morning that was so silly it required a firetruck, two police cars and an ambulence and then they just all sat around and waited for the electrician to arrive to solve the problem.

      The thing is, that if you go overboard with promoting yourself on these social network sites with a constant bombardment of e-mails promoting YOU, and hitting every new person with a blatant unrepentant attempt at promoting YOU, then people won’t be as social with YOU on these networks as they will others.

      Now, I do think that when you need to update information on occasion, a general Wall post or e-mail blast within the social network can be appropriate, but in it just talk regular and don’t try to be a salesman. In my experience, the best salesmen are the ones where it seems they aren’t even trying. So send an update, and don’t bother mentioning prices and where to get things and whatnot. Leave that for your newsletter. In fact, I do think that if you have something going on (such as a novel or something else), that contacting the people when they first connect with you on the social networks can be a good thing, but again, talk regular and don’t try to sell. If you have a website, post it, but don’t give links on where to buy your product as that probably won’t fly too well with the person you just became “Friends” with. It screams to them that it’s all about YOU.

      But by all means tell them how to get your newsletter. And make your newsletter specific. So specific, that if you have more than one thing going on that you have as many newsletters as you need in order to please the people that are subscribed to you. It’s important to have that separation even if they are related. If you’re a writer, then have a newsletter about that, and when you tell someone how to get on your newsletter list make sure they know what kind of newsletter they’ll be getting. That way they can’t go saying, “Well all this person talks about in the newsletter is their books and how they’re a writer, if I wanted that I’d have signed onto Stephen King’s newsletter!” They can’t say that because you spelled it out for them when you were telling them how to receive the newsletter. If they sign up, then they are getting what you told them they would get.

      How often you send the newsletter is up to you, but I’d suggest that if you have enough information for a daily (as I’m subscribed to a good daily one), then limit yourself to no more than one a day. Anything you think of later in the day can wait to be sent tomorrow along with anything else you’d be sending. I’d also suggest to not sending it any less than at least once a month. A great example of this is Jeff Gerke’s newsletters for Where The Map Ends (http://www.wherethemapends.com) and Marcher Lord Press (http://www.marcherlordpress.com) – and notice that those are two SEPARATE newsletters put out by the same person for two SEPARATE, yet related, endeavors he is doing – these newsletters come out once a month and work out for him just fine. Let’s take a look at Where The Map Ends for a moment:

      In this newsletter you get a brief devotional/inpirational message, a summary of what to expect in the newsletter, a description and link to the featured interview of the month, a taste of the news for Marcher Lord Press with the suggestion to subscribe to that newsletter if you haven’t, and a brief note near the end about what’s going on personally with Jeff, and depending on what else is going on there will also be one or two other items in between. The Marcher Lord Press newsletter is different in content, but similar in style.

      So, if you notice, a lot about this newsletter is portraying just what Where The Map Ends is all about, and then near the end is a part about Jeff, and it’s brief, to the point, and doesn’t (rarely) take over the newsletter.

      And nowadays, he isn’t even the one doing the newsletters, he has two other people who have volunteered to help him out, but that little section about him is still at the end.

      So, you see two newsletters from the same person for two separate things, and for each one the primary focus is promoting EXACTLY what the newsletter is about and not personal stuff – even if it’s briefly touched on – and they are both being sent to people who knew just what they were going to get when they subscribed to them, and because the timing works out for them, they are only done once a month with the occasional blurb in between as needed.

      Besides social networking and newsletters, you have blogs like this one. On these things, you expect to get to know the person doing the blog, but not in the “update” way of social networks but because they have something to say and they want to share their opinion about it. In the process, you get to see other opinions (such as myself here) related to particular entries in the comments section. On here, you get to find out about the way someone thinks, and when you have a blog, that’s what you should be doing yourself – sharing what you think. You can talk about your cute dog if you want, as long as it is either opinionated (what kind of dog food and why) or informative (I went for a bike ride for X # of miles and ol’ Rex joined me the whole way). You can even promote your book or product or service, but again, do it in a way that’s normal. Unless it’s the day before release. Then cut loose. You should then, it only makes sense.

      It also only makes sense that these areas have these distinct characteristics because if you try to do EVERYTHING in each one, you can easily overload yourself with things.

      I’ll close with a quote which is even stricter on what someone should put on social networks than I’ve mentioned from well published author Dean Wesley Smith who said on his website’s blog – http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=398 – the following near the end of last year:

      “Facebook and Twitter accounts. I seldom post at the moment on either, but will change that starting this month, now that I have everything moved and the master class is finished. Again, be professional and not too personal. No one really cares what you had for lunch unless you had that lunch with Dean Koontz.”

      So, it’s a balance for sure. When you’re on a social network site, you will first be talking with true friends, then you’ll be making your other “Friends” on there, then you’ll attract people you don’t even know where they’ve come from. If you’re talking about every dinner you cooked, or the silly faces of your baby, and you’re NOT talking that much about your current project, then there’s a probem and you need to solve it. The importance of professionalism is so important that some people have two pages: One for “business” and one for “Friends”. A lot of times the “business” one is a “Fan” page and on there you can have an unlimited number of “Fans” on Facebook whereas the personal one you can only have up to 5,000 “Friends”. With the non restrictiveness of MySpace and Twitter, some people have multiple accounts there just to keep the business and personal separate.

      So, although I EXPECT to see more personal items on the Social Networks, at the same time, don’t get so personal that you actually think we all care about how the lettuce got stuck to your molar tooth.

      I’m thinking that this reply I’m making to my own comment on here is about as long as my original, so I’ll cut it short now. Hope I gave some clarification to what I had said earlier and that it makes halfway sense.

  • RJB July 2, 2010, 1:03 PM

    A small company I used to work for decided to put an add in the local paper selling our services, the first 40 calls we received were from people wanting to sell something to us. Then we suddenly started receiving piles of junk mail every day. We did not get a single new customer from the add. So in effect we paid money to be marketed to. Not exactly what we set out to do.

    Marketing is a tricky business, even the pros get it wrong most of the time. I question the effectiveness a single author can really have in marketing herself. Once you go through friends and family how many more people can you effectively reach.

    How much money can you afford to throw at it? Knowing that half of everything you spend on advertising will be a waist. And even more important if you are spending all your time on marketing and selling, when are you writing?

    Seems to me a writer has three choices, 1) Be an author. Write constantly an publish frequently. Let God and inertia take your published works where they will eventually go, where ever that may so be it, 2) Be a self promoter. Write a good “product” and devote your life to making it profitable. If it eventually makes you money, then you can pay back all the that you borrowed from you friends and start that second great product I mean book. Or 3) Give up the dream of being the next great novelist. Write stories for you kids and your family. And be content with that.

  • Kristen Lamb July 6, 2010, 5:01 AM

    Thanks for referencing my blog. Actually, I think that we often underestimate the power of relationships. Social media is supposed to be social, so those who break the rules and bring SPAM into our sacred space will actually stir more resentment than support. I have a book coming out this month called, “WeAre Not alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media” (sorry for the self-promo, there) and the entire book is founded upon the Christian principle of having the heart of the servant.

    Other people love to help if we will trust them and give them a chance. I know so many people who preordered my book simply because they knew ME. I have read their blogs, helped when they were stuck in their writing, or even just been kind in general. I believe many people are looking for opportunities to be kind and to serve, and we deny them that when we SPAM. When all we get on Twitter to do is talk about ourselves and our book, we rapidly become that person at a party who can only talk about themself.

    So I say focus on genuinely serving others and don’t worry about you. The promotion will come. It seems counterintuitive, but it works.

    Thanks for a wonderful blog and what an awesome scripture to support how we really should be acting on social media. What a chance to be a light to a very dark world.

    • Mike Duran July 6, 2010, 4:18 PM

      Kristen, I really enjoyed your article, both its content and spirit. I totally agree about the SPAM dynamic — authors jeopardize relationships every time they send it. Thank you for commenting!

  • Svs September 24, 2010, 7:46 PM

    You raise great questions! Feel free to contact my email-when a marketing guru successfully figures it out-with his/her suggestions! It seems quite relevant-when the technical digital age has made the immediacy of satisfying customers’s needs/wants pronto-and the old ways of creative promotion is instantaneously changing in an environment challenging the ways one may try to earn a living from their craft. Writers, artists, muscicians, etc are caught in the same trap.

  • Stephen Graff August 28, 2011, 11:25 AM

    Here I am promoting my website (above), but I’m getting tired of myself promoting myself. Unfortunately, self-promotion has become such a standard thing these days with the plethora of writers out there and the difficulty involved in getting an agent and/or publisher. But I recently had my twitter account suspended and was rejected by nookboards. I certainly didn’t think that I went overboard–I’ve tried not to be obnoxious–but I know how tired I get of all the traffic I’m now getting from other indie writers promoting their books. Is that me as well? I think so. So I need to take a step back and give it a rest for awhile. Thanks for bringing up this topic.

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