It’s exciting to have a finished project, and it’s hard to get noticed.

Alone, those are just the facts. But throw in someone who has just finished their first project, and witness the gory, inadvertent self-mutilation resulting from the LOOK AT ME! explosion.

For many who are just beginning to market their first work, wrong moves will be made. There’s no way around it. It’s part of the process. But this short What Not to Do list should save you some time, reduce the number of ways you will horribly embarrass yourself (if you’re not immediately embarrassed, you will be looking back – I once tried to get a blurb from someone who had been dead a while and still haven’t quite recovered), and nudge you in a more productive direction.

And while the blog title says the advice is for writers, these tips can probably apply to anyone trying to sell or market just about anything. (I’m talking to you, fad diet pusher.)

1. Do not send email blasts like this, which I received last week:

Have I got the book for you. I JUST completed ten minutes ago. You will be the first to read it. It’s entitled, [redacted]. Women are beating down my door to read this & if marketed correctly, we could make millions, literally millions. Enough talk. Attached is the manuscript and preliminary cover.

A. If the book was just completed ten minutes ago, is it really ready for public consumption? Maybe take a few minutes to look it over, check for typos, at least.

This email gives me the impression that the book was thrown together as quickly as possible in a frantic moment of “Oh my god i have the best idea ever it’s going to be HUGE I gotta get this done and out into the world NOW!!!!” And that’s a feeling pretty much any writer can identify with, but you don’t necessarily want to reveal your process if there was very little process in your process, you know what I’m sayin’? Even if the creation was easy, part of your job as a writer is to make it seem like it took a very long time and that it was given serious professional attention.

B. If women are beating down your door to read it, do you really need my (or anyone’s) help and the “right” marketing to make millions? It sounds like it’s already well on its way, which is great! I DREAM of having people beating down my door to read my work, so I should probably be asking you for help.

C. Include the word “it.”

2. Do not send email blasts promoting your writing (or fad diet creation) to other writers (or fad diet creators).

Approaching a writer about marketing your writing can be dangerous if it’s the wrong day and we’re feeling a little “F— you and your f—ing book. I’m not giving you MY f—ing readers (assuming I had readers to give), and if your f—ing book ends up doing better than mine I’m going to f—ing kill myself. Now f— off.”

It’s rare that we think with such vulgarity, but it does happen.

Writers will usually do what they can to help other writers – link sharing, interviews, “Check out my friend’s new book!”, book reviews on a blog, etc. But we probably aren’t going to want to throw ourselves into marketing your work, because we’re pretty busy trying to market our own.

Try to find readers. Visit the Kindle forums, virtual coffee shops, book clubs (real and virtual), book discussion blogs, street corners, book review blogs, etc. Get your work in front of people who will want to read it for fun.

3. Do not use Twitter or Facebook to repeatedly scream your book title at people.

I used to follow a writer on Twitter whose only tweets were about his book. No fewer than twenty times a day, he would write, “Check out my book, [title]!” or “Get [title] now on Amazon!” Nothing else.

Social media should be used to promote your work, but only some of the time. The rest of the time should be you being you and making people interested in YOU. Do you think anyone would follow Stephen Colbert if every single tweet were “I Am America and So Can You!”? (Probably, but that’s because they already like him thanks to his show. And they’d only follow him for about a day before they got bored and moved on to Neil Gaiman, who at least offers helpful tips.)

gaiman tweet

4. Think twice before posting anything on a social network. In fact, think three times.

The internet can be an incendiary place and it’s easy to get riled up. It’s easy, even for a thoughtful, intelligent person, to lose their temper, forget themselves, and post something inflammatory or offensive that they later regret.

The thing is, nothing ever really goes away online–even a deleted tweet–and your words could really come back to haunt you. If you feel your temper getting away from you online, step away from the keyboard. Or turn off your internet connection and write it into your book instead. (#4 courtesy of author R.J. Keller.)

5. Don’t be a pain.

What I mean is, don’t be a hit-and-run “Help me! Kthxbye!” kind of person.

A. If you ask for advice and someone gives it, respond with a thoughtful “thank you” that includes signs you read and considered the advice. If someone took the time to help you, a stranger, you can take the time to show your appreciation.

B. Consider any and all networking interactions designed to benefit you a cross-promotion opportunity that will also allow you to benefit them. You get help, you give help. “But I’m new!” you wail. “What can I offer?” Word-of-mouth sells books. Talk to your friends about the person who helped you. Drag them to the store and make them buy h–

Wait a minute. No bookstores, anymore. Edit: Sit behind your friends while they’re on the computer and make them order your helper’s book.

C. Maintain your networking relationships. They’re rewarding even when they’re not actively helping you and may even turn into friendships and fun video-making partnerships.

D. Speaking of relationships, don’t sully yours with potential readers by responding to negative reviews. (This tip recommended by Ian T. Healy.) Complain to your friends – call that silly fool who didn’t even read your book before posting a bad review all the names you can think of – but don’t do it online. You just end up looking like a whiner who can’t take criticism, and one of the things about writing for the general public is that you’re kind of saying, “Do it. Punch me in the face. I can take it.”

Uh… The End.


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