Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Shonky Self Promotion

Hi guys,



Just finished the first draft of Samual and sent it off to the editor, which gives me a little time to post something here.

And this time it’s a topic I haven’t dealt with before. One that is prompted by a number of events that have happened recently in my online life – not that I really have much of one of those. The shonky practices engaged in by some aspiring authors as they try to sell their books.

As many of you may know, I tend to stay away from the entire world of promotion of my work. My thought is that if I produce good books that people enjoy, then the work will sell itself. The golden rule for me is produce a good book, well edited, with a good cover and a good blurb, get it out there and then start writing the next one. And while last year I may have revised that view slightly, deciding that cover design should be outsourced to people who actually know what they're doing, I'm still mostly happy with that position. So you won't find me running advertising campaigns across Twitter or bombarding Facebook with promotions. I won't be at writer conventions flogging my books. I won't be sending off endless emails to book bloggers getting them to review my books etc.

It may be dewy-eyed and foolish, and I may be missing a trick in making money, but I'd rather get to work writing my next book than wasting my time with all of that stuff. That's not to say I decry others who go down that road. My thought is each to their own. If that's what they want to do, good luck to them.

But recently I've been annoyed by a number of self promotion tactics by other writers – I won't mention names – that have intruded on my writerly life style. (I'm not actually sure that I make enough money to have a life style but the concept still applies!) And in this blog I'm going to go through them and say why I think they're things we shouldn't do as writers.

Okay so my month began with the usual annoyances, but one started bugging me more than the rest. Writers trying to hawk their works through writer fora. It happens. Moderators do their best but still some of this dross still gets through. We've all seen it. But it is annoying. Usually what happens is that an author joins a particular group whatever it happens to be. And then they completely spam the forum with thinly disguised – sometimes undisguised – posts trying to sell their books. You know the ones. Every post contains endless links back to their own book under some sort of irrelevant pretext. “Yes I agree, you shouldn't use the passive voice which is why in my new book – link, link, link – I didn't do it!”

Here's why I think those who do this, absolutely shouldn't.

First it pisses me off! Yeah, I know – that goes without saying. But I wanted to say it anyway! And it is actually an important point. Because if it pisses me off, then it probably does the same for most other contributors to the forum. And if I'm not going to be inspired to buy your book, then they aren't likely to be either. And some of them – not me because I am too damn lilly livered to do something like this – are going to get angry. So if you do this, expect scathing reviews on your book page. Expect complaints. Expect a backlash. And for goodness sake – don't imagine that you're being clever. Writers are clever people too – and they know what you're doing!

Look writing fora are for writers to get together and discuss writing issues. Some fora provide places where you can advertise your latest work. Use them by all means. I do sometimes. But don't upset everyone else.

And if that isn't enough for those who still want to do it, think on this. We aren't your audience! You sell books to readers. If you're going to insist on spamming some forum with your oh so cleverly disguised post that no one will ever guess is really an add, spam a reader's forum!

There's also one other reason for anyone who wants to be a writer not to do this. And it goes under that lovely old saying - “even a seagull doesn't shit in its own nest”! If you want to become a good writer you are going to need the help of other members of the writing community. That's going to be a problem for you down the track if you've already been banned from all the writing fora out there.

Okay – I'm calm now. But that is one thing that gets me a little wound up from time to time. Here's another which is somewhat less annoying to me personally, but which will land a lot of fools in very hot water.

This one cropped up last week on a Facebook group I frequent. The use of name dropping. You've all seen it. The use of tag lines etc that compare your book to someone else's. “If you loved – insert best seller title – you'll love this.” Or; “What if – insert best seller title – was only the beginning.” Or that perennial favourite; “It's – insert best seller title – meets – insert best seller title”.

Why shouldn't you do this? Well first it is shonky. It's cheap and parasitic. It's desperate. And it looks all of those things. In fact it looks like what it is, some wannabe author trying to hitch his book to a successful one and ride his coat tails.

And yeah I've heard the excuses too. The typical “I was just trying to tell readers what the book was about.” Yeah right! As if they can't read the damned blurb! Or that mantra of teen criminals everywhere – “other people do it!” Yes and other people steal too – what's your point?!

Look bottom line from me – your work should be strong enough to stand on its own. If it isn't no amount of riding the successes of others in a desperate attempt to sell it is going to help you.

But hey, it's your morality and not my place to judge. I'll simply see the line, realise that your book is probably poor, and not buy it. But if that doesn't convince you that you don't want to go down this shonky road, here's something that might. The dreaded word – Trademarked!

Yes I know, you can't copyright a title. That's true. But I'm not talking about copyright. I'm talking about trademarks. Things that identify one product from another in customers' minds. And many if not most of the highly successful works that end up as best sellers and movies end up with their titles trademarked. That means the use of those titles is restricted.

So what does that mean for you if you use that title in your marketing? Well first it means asking yourself all sorts of questions. Did you have permission from the trademark holder to use the title? Does your use of the title in any way allow your product to be confused with the other in the minds of readers? Does your use disparage the original work? Is what you said in any way untrue? And if any of the answers to that are not good, then it means lawyers at a dozen paces!

You may be lucky. The trademark holder's lawyers may just issue a take down notice. I.e. get this thing off the shelves! Or you may not be and they may sue for damages. And here's a heads up for you – the more successful your book is the worse it's going to be. You sell a dozen copies to your mum and a few friends, the chances are you'll just get a notice. You sell a million copies, and the chances are you'll be in court losing not just every cent you made from the book but also your house, your left kidney and your first born child!

So bottom line here for authors is don't do it. You're playing with fire as well as making used car salesmen look good!

But here's the third shonky self promotion strategy that impacted on me this month, and the one that really set my blood pressure to boil. And again it's a Facebook one.

This month I received a number of “friends” requests, and unlike my usual cautious self, I didn't think to check out the people who wanted to be my friends. Okay, that was my mistake, and so perhaps I had a right to be annoyed but not one to be surprised when some of my new “friends” started posting dating posts on my page. Needless to say they got unfriended fast, blocked and reported as spam merchants. And from here on out I will remember the golden rule of Facebook – I hate everybody!

However what really caught me by surprise was when one other of my new “friends” was actually an author trying to flog his book on my Facebook page! Now that hasn't happened before. Not to me at least.

Again he's been unfriended, blocked and reported as a spam merchant. But in his case my wrath is unabated! (Hence this entire rant!) He is a fellow author, defacing my Facebook page with his shonky self promotions of his book. So just who the hell does he think he is?!


So if I, a mild mannered writer am utterly pissed off by this sort of behaviour, imagine what others who aren't quite so lilly livered are going to be! Imagine what they might do!

And so readers and would be authors I can only come back to this one point after my entire, foaming at the mouth, rant. Don't ever do any of these things. They will surely come back to bite you!

Cheers, Greg.