After publishing Symbiosis, I’ve come into contact with a lot of other authors – some traditionally published, some indie – who have created some really great fiction. However, I have noticed a few disturbing trends in regard to how some authors present themselves on social media. So, this week’s writing school is going to be about how not to promote your book. Yeah, I know I promised an article on pacing. It’s in the works; don’t worry. In the mean time, here are the things that indie authors need to stop doing.
1) Stop tweeting about your books everyday.
Let’s do a little thought experiment, shall we? I don’t know what most people’s Twitter experience is like, but I gain followers at a rate of about fifteen per week. Sometimes, when I’m particularly active, that number jumps up to thirty. The vast majority of my followers already know about my book, and if they were inclined to check it out, they would have done so already. They don’t need to be reminded each and every day that I am an author with a book for sale. Much less three, four or five times a day.
I find that making book-related tweets once or twice a week is more than enough to keep new followers up to speed on what’s going on in. Other than that, I use Twitter to connect with other people and build relationships. I tweet about things that I find relevant: current events, social issues and new scientific discoveries. I also join the conversation when other people tweet so they can get to know me. Does it lead to higher book sales? Sometimes – I’ve had a few people tell me they decided to read Symbiosis after realizing that I can carry on an intelligent conversation – but selling books isn’t the point. Building friendships is the point. Being part of a community is the point. I’ve met some great people who have kept me entertained, intellectually stimulated and morally grounded by sharing their ideas. I’d even call some of them friends despite the fact that we’re thousands of miles apart. In the end, I don’t really care if they buy my book. What matters is that I’ve become part of a community.
2) Stop putting the word “author” in your screen names.
You wrote a book, and that book is now in print. Congratulations; you’re an author. You have every right to the title, and no one is disputing that. But constantly reminding everyone of your status as a person who writes books just wreaks of desperation. Tell me something: does Neil Gaimon call himself “Author Neil Gaimon?” Does John Scalzi call himself “Author John Scalzi?” No, they don’t. And why? Because they don’t have to prove themselves to anyone, and neither do you.
Yes, I’m aware that that there is an unfortunate stigma attached to self-published authors. I’m also aware that, in many cases, the stigma is undeserved. I personally chose to self-publish after receiving a predatory contract from a traditional publisher. Predatory contracts are quite real, and I became convinced that even if I could go through all the hoops a second time and convince someone else to look at my book, I might just end up with another predatory contract, and that would put me right back at square one.
I tell you this because I am well aware of the fact that many people who go into self-publishing do so not because they lack the skills to tell a good story but because they’ve become fed up with the system. I’m also aware that living with the stigma is difficult. However, even with that in mind, it all comes down to one simple rule. If you want to be taken seriously when you sit down at the adults’ table, act like you belong there.
You don’t have to justify yourself to anybody.
If you come off as too desperate to prove yourself, people will assume that your work is unworthy of attention. People who are self-assured – who know they’ve done a good job – don’t feel the need seek out the validation of a title.
3) Stop thanking everyone who follows you.
Seriously, this one is infuriating; so knock it off. My Twitter inbox is full of dozens of PMs that all say the same thing. “Thanks for following me! You can check out my book at (insert link here).” Guys, there is nothing more impersonal than a form letter. Maybe some marketing guru told you that you should thank all your followers, but as one of your followers, I’m here to tell you that it’s not thoughtful; it’s annoying. You’re clearly just doing it by rote. In fact, you probably have Twitter-bot that sends the messages for you. Now if you want to personally research every Twitter user who follows you and craft a unique message for each and every person, I think that would be brilliant networking. Again, it’s all about building relationships. However, let’s be realistic for a moment. I think we all know that creating a personalized message for every one of our several hundred (or thousand) followers is impractical. Time is a finite commodity, after all. So just don’t do it. You don’t have to tell me where to find your book. Why do you think I’m following you? On the off chance that I don’t know where to find it, I’ll just look at your Twitter bio.
Basically what it comes down to is this: indie authors have a tendency to spam people with too many tweets about their books, too many impersonal messages and too many reminders that they happen to be authors. Knock it off. Doing that will not advance your literary career. If you want to make it as a writer, start building relationships.
Hey, looking for some great fiction? Check out Symbiosis, the book reviewers have called the illegitimate love child of Star Trek and Buffy.
Now available on Kindle
And Kobo http://bit.ly/1Jb7NAo
It’s had some great reviews!