Saturday, May 8, 2010

Promotion Styles

Among most writers, especially with the smaller and independent publishing houses, the hot topic always seems to be promotion. And as many different ways as there are to promote a book, there are just as many promotion styles.

I've seen writers who join social networking sites and make everything they do about their current work. Someone posts congratulations to a mutual friend about their new grandchild, these aggressive promoters will post back, "Congrats! Oh, I just had a baby of my own, my new novel, blah blah blah. You can buy it from my website or at Amazon."

Now I'm not against blatant self-promotion. Often, you need to promote yourself or you won't sell books. I guess my objection is to that handful of individuals who feel that EVERYTHING is about their novel. Maybe to them it is, but to the rest of the world, not so much.

It would help if those types of promoters would occasionally post about something different. For instance, if they posted a status update on Facebook about something else interesting they were doing, maybe I would also become interested enough in them to think about checking out their book. If every post they do, however, just talks about the latest novel, it's not going to entice me to buy it.

The second type of promoters are my favorite. They'll post when they're working on a chapter, or even ask for an opinion on something. They'll post when their book first comes out, when there's a promotion, sale, contest, signing, etc., in other words, when there is a reason for posting, but the rest of the time they post about parts of their lives that are interesting and that fans might actually want to read about. For example, when they've gotten a new pet. Or visited some place exotic. Or even planted a garden. Posts that tell us something about the writer are a lot more likely to make me want to buy their book than posts that constantly tell me about their book.

The third type of book promoters are the overly humble and meek, the type who are afraid to mention they even have a book, listing it in their information section, posting about normal life things, but never posting when they do book signings, promotions, contests, or blogs. While this may make them feel better about using social networks to promote their work, it also doesn't do very much to promote. I completely understand not wanting to appear like a showoff or braggart, but there's little point in using social networks or even writer sites for promotion if you're too shy to promote.

Social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, even Linked in, are good sites to post information about your works, and to give your potential audience a chance to know those things you want them to know about you, and maybe get a few more people interested in your work. It's a tedious process, and I'm guilty about not staying as on top of things as I should in this area, but in the end it can make a big difference to book sales.

That's not to say that on writer's/reader sites it isn't acceptable to post mostly about what you're working on, because the people who visit these sites tend to do so looking for information about books to read, or looking for others' perspectives on issues related to writing. I still think it's important to allow a small glimpse into your personal life if your goal is to get people interested in you as a writer.

In my opinion, a happy balance among the promotion types yields the best results. While the public doesn't need to know every time the writer uses the bathroom, the public may be interested in knowing the writer's favorite food, vacation spot, or television show, and revealing little tidbits of information may help increase sales, as long as the information is limited to those things that won't become a safety concern.


Lua said...

Very interesting debate on promoting… I often think about how writers should promote themselves and their work and like you, the second kind of promoters are my favorite.
It’s nice if we get to learn interesting and different things about the author whose book we enjoy but we definitely don't need to know everything they do on a daily bases...

Yvonne Perry said...

Great advice for social networking. I'll share this on Twitter to help us all get your message.


wizardofwords said...

I'm with you Holli. I think it's necessary and important for writers to promote their work. but not to the point of driving everyone away from them!

We need to maintain our humanness, and be transparent to the readers while maintaining our integrity.

Enjoyed "meeting" you on BJD. Hope you'll drop by and visit me.

Holli said...

Thanks for visiting this morning, hope you're enjoying Jog Blog Day!
I've already bookmarked some new sites to visit again.

Holli Castillo

Ashley Ladd said...

I prefer to follow people on Twitter who also mention some fun info and actually chat, not only promote all the time.

However, I was trying to do that and someone said they were not inclined to buy my book as I had mentioned that my beloved cat had to have a really serious surgery. That she thought authors should stick to writing/promotion subjects. After that, I was afraid to mention what I was doing and what was going on with me.

I guess it's impossible to please all the people all the time. So what do we do?

Holli said...

Ashley, I think a reader who has no compassion for your cat or the fact that you might want to mention that your cat needs surgery is a reader you can do without. If someone would begrudge me posting something I think is important enough to share, I don't want them getting enjoyment out of my book anyway.

Follow your heart and you won't go wrong.

LauraR said...

Hi, Holli. I just added your blog to follow. I'm acting as a promotions/manager to my friend Dan Silver who just got published on Kindle format through OTP.

So far we've emailed everyone and their brothers that we know, and added links to all our other sites (he has a comedy site and a serious writing site) and our networking sites ( is a great one for writers) and created a fan page on Facebook that I'm managing.

Our sales seemed pretty good at the outset (about 2 weeks ago) but have fallen off. Since adding the facebook fan page we've gathered fans but no way to knowing if they've purchased the book.

I'm planning on posting on the amazon commmunity pages as well. Have you done that with your book. How are your sales going. Do you know how many copies you've sold and have you seen any spikes with different methods you listed?

Holli said...

Laura, I've noticed my Amazon rank tends to go up when I post on other sites, such as Redroom, but not when I post to my blog. I think it's because so far I've not advertised my blog a whole lot, but I'll put on Twitter and Facebook when I post on the other sites. I also find sales increase when I'm featured on another blog, such as for an interview or a book review, especially if I post to my sites as well. No magic formula, but the best advice I can give is to stay active on as many sites as you can, try to be creative and original so you're not just always trying to sell, and be organized so you hit every site.

My problem lies primarily in the organizational field, as I have no routine or schedule so I'm not optimizing my exposure. I am trying to work on it, but it seems life always ends up getting in the way, doesn't it?

Let me know if you run into any magic tricks or secret formulas- I could certainly use some as well!

LauraR said...

Thanks, Holli. So far the followers of the Facebook seem to be either my friends or Dan's friends but we just put the links on his public sites (redroom, and He has an interview coming up in SF weekly which hopefully will boost sales.

I'll let you know how that affects the ranking. :)