Thursday, September 06, 2007

Promo in and Sheep's Clothing

Okay, so this is a Ranty McRant. Feel free to disagree ;)

As writers what we want most is readers. Ebooks are about 1% of the market and a lot of people are writing them, therefore the wolf-to-sheep ratio is not all that favorable. Not that I am comparing readers to prey. Not, not at all—readers are loving, beauteous, plump people… who go well with onions. Writers on the other hand are tough, stringy and taste of creosote. Why then, do so many writers seem intent on eating wolf? I think it is a strange combination of facts that mean not only are wolves currently easier to catch than sheep, but a lot of wolves are gamboling around in the paddocks with fleeces stapled to their backs under the impression that all the *others* are real sheep.

1) Don’t hunt sheep in the forest
In my humble opinion of your promotional efforts are catching more than 50% wolves you need to change them. Chats that are full of other writers are not promotional events, they are social mixers—that fine for fun but less than optimal if you have a profit motive. If you Google the name of your prize winners how many are authors? Yes, you might suggest authors are readers too—wolves are animals too but they make a very lean and chewy casserole. If you keep catching the wrong animal, hunt elsewhere. i.e. find out where the sheep go and try and get in there. It may be harder, but it will be worth it.

2) Stop hunting wolves
So I emailed an author, about something, maybe. We’ve probably both forgotten what it was. I don’t want to hear about their book, or join Quechup, or ever receive any mass mailing whatsoever from them. Thank you. This mail-everyone-everything approach is a good way to get your email listed as a spam address meaning your next submission to a press goes straight into their spam filter if it arrives at all. I send people my email to use for the specific purpose of that communication only. Do not harvest it, do not send it to other people. If you want to use it to get in touch with me because you remember who I am and have something specific to say that you really think would interest me, please do. Do not subscribe me to your newsletter without asking or send me generic promo because, strangely enough, your emails with no longer get through to me after that.

3) Don’t act like a sheep
One of the reason people don’t realize how few sheep are on lists is because the wolves are bleating. I know I already sound like a total grinch, so I may as well go all the way. I would suggest that writers other than the ones being featured at an event for readers keep quiet, at least for a while (say, the first half hour of a chat?). Sure, if you go to the event and there are less than three readers actually there you might do what you can to avoid your fellow writer being horribly humiliated. But not too much. Writers tend to have clique-y and somewhat different discussions from readers who are not writers—too much writer discussion may actual impede the development of reader participation. Also, if the sheep are simply not there, that reality needs to get through not only to writers but to the publishers and webmasters who perpetuate the culture of hunting for sheep in the forest. Nothing will do that quicker than a little well-placed silence. I would also suggest not entering contests unless you are a genuine money-paying potential customer for that author. And if someone spams you and you don’t appreciate it just reply and asked to be removed from their mailing list, immediately. This is a polite and appropriate response that is actually helping the author target their message to the right people. Yes, you will get a few nasty replies but there are worse fates and it is fairer than just spam blocking them without warning.

The bottom line: We need to foster a culture of promotion as communication--where people send tailored messages to specific people and groups for stated reasons of interest to them. We need to realize when the message is going to the wrong group, and failing to go to the right group, and pissing off a lot of people. (And yes, I have been there. I have spammed, I have made some pretty gi-normous mistakes. And I thank the people who told me about it). We need to improve the content and targeting of the messages we send. Promotional communications can be like a sniper rifle or like a shot gun, but please, please don’t point that thing at me.


Anonymous said...

As a reader, I've always wondered how helpful chats are for the writers & their sales.

It seems like it's mostly authors talking to other authors. And the readers that are there are the same few readers you see everywhere. I know a lot of people lurk, but still...

veinglory said...

That's kind of why I don't do chats anymore except if my publisher or co-author specifically wants me to. Maybe it works for some people but all I could see was authors and those people who come specifically to get all the prizes.

Lynne Simpson said...

Amen, Emily! For years, I've seen RWA chapter loops used as promo dumping grounds. I have yet to buy a book from someone as a result of promo on an author loop. It tends to have the opposite effect on me, and given what I've heard from fellow writers, I doubt I'm the only one who feels this way.

And subbing me to a newsletter without asking my permission? Gah. I hate that. An author in my local RWA chapter did that once when I sent her an email to thank her for something she'd done at a meeting. There was no unsub link, either!

veinglory said...

Phew, at least I wasn't the only one thinking that.

Anonymous said...

As a company owner, I have to agree, chats really arent working. They dont increase sales by enough to even make a blip on the radar, so its alot of work for very little payoff.

Now, chats with a very large member group such as Coffee Time Romance? Maybe, not sure yet. But as we have one in October scheduled with them, I will let you know afterwards Em.

Maybe its just the company's group chats, or website chats that dont work.

Dark Eden Press

Gwen Hayes said...

Emily...I couldn't agree with you more. It seems like authors build up their chat by asking other authors to stop by....but then I never see any readers there. And, truthfully, even if I were not a writer but just a fan of an author...I just want to read their book--I am not interested in a loop chat.
I am going to follow this thread though....maybe someone will answer that they have had great success because of an author loop.

Jennifer McKenzie said...

I'm going to disagree....and agree (so I can have my cake and eat it too).
I've had contests where several people entered who hadn't posted on the loop during an all day chat. Yet the minute the contest was announced, I got email.
AND I think authors that team up together and keep the banter light and fun attract more readers.
If all a chat ends up being is BUY BUY BUY then it's no fun.
I like having a group that keeps the crickets at bay. I don't like crickets.

veinglory said...

Re: badly targetted promo also see: