Spam is Spam (Writerly Type Post)

I’ve said it before but I’ll repeat – I’m not an expert, I just know what works for me and what doesn’t. I’ve watched a lot of authors promote their work over the years and you know the one thing that always stands out as a huge fail is overly aggressive, in your face, spam promotion.

I’ve spoken about this before but you know, judging by the volume of author spam I get at Facebook, myspace and in my inbox here at home, it needs to be said again.

There is a difference between effective promotion and standing an inch away from someone yelling at them to buy your book. Effective promotion is often subtle. Author spam is not subtle, nor is it effective.

Here are some examples: At goodreads I frequently get books recommended to me. Most of the time it’s stuff I’d never read, but whatever, people like to share their preferences and I’m not bothered by that. What I am bothered by are authors who recommend their own books to me. Authors who recommend their own books to me REPEATEDLY, while using phrases like, “my book is a thrilling mix of eroticism and mystery!” or whatever.

I find authors who recommend their own books to me to not only be sort of sad, but also annoying. This is not effective promotion. Oh I know, there’s always one woman in your local chapter or on your loop who says how she sold eleventy million books that way. And you know what? I’ve never heard of them. If this was an effective way to conduct yourself, don’t you think Nora Roberts would do it?

The problem is manifold. First it makes everyone wary of having authors in their groups or on their pages because one dbag gets in there and pimps the ever loving crap out of their book in every single conversation. We all suffer for that because now I feel hesitant to enter any group with big, capitalized warnings about author promotions being banned. Not because I’d do that, but because I’ve got to prove that I’m not that jerk instead of getting to know the group and being a regular member.

This spills outward, especially with ebooks. It’s difficult enough to educate people that digital books are real books and they are good, well edited and worth reading. But when you’ve got all these spammers out there, it paints us all with that brush and that pisses me off.

I started out ignoring the various invites and book recs until I began to drown in them. Then I started unfollowing and unfriending and then the same people would simply invite me to be their friend two days later. Over and over again until I had to block or ban them.

Lots of people like to use professionalism in sentences to look good. I wish more people would simply ACT professionally. Things that come to your house or email that you didn’t ask for when they’re advertising a product are called what? Spam. That’s right. And whether it’s some sort of drug to make your penis bigger or an announcement of part 14 of your werecow series from poodlebutt press, it’s all the same. SPAM.

Successful authors do not act this way.

I know it seems insurmountable, this promotion deal. It seems mysterious and expensive and totally beyond a mere mortal’s ability – but it’s part of the gig. So you can decide at the outset to do everything you do with professionalism or at the very least, not invoking the fury of eight hundred people a day via facebook or myspace. You can watch what other authors you admire do, see how they conduct themselves. Are there things they do that you could give your own spin to and try a few times? When you begin to do something at myspace or facebook, you can pause and ask yourself if by saying, “well it would take me a lot longer if I actually chose who I invited carefully” if you’re really trying to build a career, which involves the goodwill of readers and others, or if you’re just punking out and taking the lazy way. If you are doing the latter, be prepared for authors and readers to be pissed at you, be prepared to be that author readers talk about having to block, or that author other authors roll their eyes over because you invited them to your facebook fan page YET AGAIN.

Here’s a basic tip: If I wanted to join your fan page, I would do that. I would seek it out myself. You inviting me to your fan page a dozen times in two months will not make me want to join your fan page on the 13th invite. No, it will make me block you and not ever feel much inclined to buy your books or rec them to another human being. Now, I could be alone in this attitude, but I don’t think so. I think many in our community are sick and tired of this in your face promotion. We’re not selling used cars on television in 1974.

We’re creative people and I am completely confident that we can come up with new and interesting ways to promote without making everyone cringe when they see our names.

8 comments to “Spam is Spam (Writerly Type Post)”

  1. Karen Erickson
    May 8th, 2009 at 7:41 pm · Link

    Amen. I really hate those join my fan page invites on Facebook. If I haven’t joined it the first time, I’m not gonna join it the 30th time. And they’re mostly for authors I’ve never even heard of. Sigh…

    There’s such a fine line. But man when it’s over the line, it’s just so obvious. I wish people would take a step back and realize they’re being sooo annoying.

    Hey congrats on the RT award! You rock.

  2. AC Katt
    May 8th, 2009 at 8:00 pm · Link

    Dear Lauren,

    I sincerely hope that I wasn’t the one who “spammed” you. I sent a note around earlier on Notes about a chat I will be running on Thursday evenings. I sent out the notice to invite anyone who was interested in a discussion of themes in erotica to join us.

    I also wanted to ask if any authors wanted to come as my guest. I sent it via notes because I didn’t want to leave anyone out. Also, since I have joint and muscle problems, it is easier to type once.

    I didn’t think that sending a message through the notes page could pull someone’s chain. Obviously, it can. Again, I apologize; even if it wasn’t my note that offended. I should have thought about to whom I wanted to send the notes before I hit the send button rather than taking the easy way out and sending to “all.” 🙁

  3. Lillie A
    May 8th, 2009 at 8:24 pm · Link

    Thank you, thank you, thank you Lauren!
    I get at least 6 recommendations from authors for their books every week on Goodreads. The same authors over and over until I block them. Usually in genres that I don’t read. I don’t have that problem on Facebook, though. Groodreads taught me a lesson. I don’t accept friend requests from authors unless I’m already a fan. And it sucks to have to do that because I love finding new-to-me authors.

  4. Juliana Stone
    May 9th, 2009 at 6:11 am · Link

    I’ll have to find out what goodreads is. And yeah Lauren, I get those things on my facebook all the time. Over and over. I’m just starting out in this crazy business but it sure doesn’t take long to find out what irritates the crap out of ya!
    kudos on your latest sale btw!

  5. Brandy W
    May 9th, 2009 at 10:11 am · Link

    As a reader really the only time I want an author to recommend their book is if I ask what they think I should read.

  6. laurendane
    May 9th, 2009 at 10:18 am · Link

    Karen – aw, thanks! I think the line, while fine, is still pretty clear for most folks who just take a sec to think about it.

    AC Katt – This is an ongoing problem at all the social networking sites so I wasn’t speaking about you directly and I’m not sure what you mean about notes, which are usually just something that goes on wall feeds. Emails sent to a group via facebook will have everyone in the CC section and each time someone replies, it will go to everyone else. Over and over until I ban the person who sent it.

    Lillie – yours is exactly the kind of response I referred to above when I said this sort of thing hurts all authors. A few rude people have made you wary about everyone and that totally sucks. I get why you are and it’s valid, but as an author who doesn’t do that, it makes me really mad at those who do.

    Juliana – goodreads is a wonderful site, despite that. You should check it out, catalog your books, etc. It’s fun and thanks!

  7. laurendane
    May 9th, 2009 at 10:18 am · Link

    Brandy – yes

  8. Joy Roach
    May 11th, 2009 at 5:51 am · Link

    Well said. I agree totally. 🙂