Book Promotion: a Reader’s Perspective

buried-under-books

In a timely fashion I was linked to the following blog where a self-published author discussed various promotion techniques for their recent novella, simultaneously I had been considering a short (hopefully) rant about what book promotion works for me as a reader.

Disclaimer: I am not a marketing guru, or qualified in this area, nor am I self-published or experienced in the area myself, BUT I am a avid reader and I do see a lot of fiction marketing in my online travels so at the very least I feel qualified to explain what works on me, and what truly, truly does not. It is possible that I am a freakish outlier, but in general I like to think I’m an ideal target for book promotion, I like to read, I review and I’m online a lot (alright probably a more ideal target would be a bit less cynical, heck its 2017 good luck finding non cynical readers these days).

In general marketing books is a unique task. For starters, readers are generally pretty intelligent (if I don’t say so myself) and thusly not exactly prime candidates for  cheesy marketing strategies, (like for say movies which are very focused on hyping people up to go en-mass to opening weekends) and also books as a product don’t really lend themselves to shallow advertising either; when someone grabs a book its not just about purchasing the product but also committing time and energy to reading the thing. This is why I typically disagree with anyone who has a sell or perish approach to their books because I suspect 99% of authors are looking for fans gained not units sold as a measure of success.

So without further ado, (is that the right use of that phrase, GOOGLE, yes it is anyway…)

here are my reactions to various forms of marketing and promotion regarding self-published fiction:

SPAMMY EMAILS/MESSAGES

Hell no.

If you’re ever considering sending someone an unsolicited email asking that they buy your book, please take five minutes to reflect on the choices you have made in your life to get you to this point and consider this opportunity to be a better person. If you are considering hiring someone to mass send out spammy messages on your behalf asking people to buy your book you might want to consider studying which religions are most forgiving.

Sorry, too much?

This is supposed to be about my reactions, but I confident that very few people respond well to unsolicited emails asking them to spend money on your product. There is a reason spam filters are popular and this is one of them.

If you do decide to sell your soul and fire away some messages remember a touch of personalisation and flattery goes a long way for example:

‘Hi T, I see you read a lot of books. I’ve read your reviews, you’re a funny guy! If you have a moment check-out my books ‘link inserted’ as a fantasy fan you might like _____

Please do not send this lovely hack-job ‘Hi T, I see you read “THE WALKING DEAD VOL. 4” you will love ZOMBIE PARTY ORGY by never-heard-of who is REALLY GREAT’

And please for the love of Mike, link to a professional author page, bio, blurb of some kind with a bit of passion behind it. The one thing about a spammy message is I am very likely to click a link to better remember what asshat sent me book spam but if I stumble into an amazing looking professional page I might reconsider.

As a teeny caveat, requests for reviews and a free book copy are much more approps this way as the request is a two way street, its an offer for an exchange of mutual benefit NOT a request for a purchase fully benefiting the author.

GENERAL SELF-PROMOTION

Humans are funny creatures. We are generally attracted to confidence, yet are also generally turned off by obvious marketing, its actually preferable to be nudged into buying something than to be outright marketed to.

Suffice to say I rarely follow or am persuaded by any tweet, post or whatever that is simply book promotion. It’s probably saturation in part but possibly also what I mentioned above. For some reason if someone just talks about their book in a blog or online conversation, I’m like ‘pass us a link bro’ yet the second anyone includes said link originally I’m like ‘no thanks’. While this sounds like a preference for being duped, I think its more I prefer making up my own mind on the matter, even if a wise marketer has just put together a chummy post to make people think they want to buy their book.

I have to add my overly specific bug-bear at this point, which is having a book promo stickied at the bottom of blog posts. Much of this has to do with presentation but nothing turns me off faster than reading a good article and then getting hit with the equivalent of a spam email at the bottom about the author’s latest book. Firstly it cheapens the enjoyable read I just had because I realize they only wanted me to buy their book and second it leaves a sour end note to the topic.

My advice is to have book blurbs/cover art on a side bar or somewhere easily accessible, again so a reader can make their own mind up.

SUCCESS POSTS (most viral, front page etc)

I’m in two minds about this. If you don’t know what I’m talking about don’t worry. On sites on Reddit and IMGUR you might sometimes find people sharing their successful book publishing with a cute meme or something, which might get them some good fake internet points which in turn might get some more book sales etc. I’m OK with it for the most part, if I see such a post I’ll usually follow it up but there are some turn-offs:

  • Repeated posts – yeah it worked well once, stop pushing it
  • Exaggerated success – one guy posted over and over again on IMGUR about how their book outsold Stephen King, which was sort of true as in for one day their viral marketing worked and on that day outsold the latest Stephen King book on e-book Amazon sales. Talking up sales is a good way to sound successful (and ironically boost sales) but as I said earlier, books are tricky products to market, people will see the latest blockbuster movie and pretend to like it if they think everyone else does but you don’t gain a reading fan if you over-promise a book and it stinks.

Finally last but not least:

FREE BOOKS

I have to say this is probably just going to make me seems cheap, but probably the best promotional activity that sucks me in every time is free books. Now I realize any commerce student reading this (but really are there any) will be biting their fist until bloody, for the third time remember that authors want fans, not unit sales (well both but probably fans more). The best strategies for getting me hooked into a book is to offer it free for a limited time. An astute marketer will make earlier books of theirs free just before the release of their latest, increasing the possibility of future purchases.

Other sneaky strategies include asking for emails or follows and such for a free book which is surprisingly less spammy than it seems because when you receive emails from someone you signed up to, your brain makes you think ‘I asked for this it can’t be spam’

Anyways – my main point of the post was to raise awareness of just how annoying, and just how successful certain techniques can be. Reminder I’m not an advertising expert, and possibly as a reader I’m some kind of aberrant monster who doesn’t like spam emails BUT I have a feeling that most readers have similar opinions on marketing judging by the number of profiles with DON’T SPAM ME ABOUT YOUR BOOKS included.

I haven’t exhaustively included all marketing techniques either, just the ones I tend to get exposed to, it would be to cool to hear of any other off the wall techniques I’ve never heard of – comment below

+ I don’t have a self-published book so you know my ranting is authentic not just an attempt to sell anything 😀

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