Promo overkill makes you a bad writer

And if a blog post title like that doesn’t suck people in, I don’t know what will.

What inspired it? Witnessing behaviour from authors in recent months that strikes me as a) futile, b) irritating or c) both.

I let off steam to Penny Watson by email, and like any right-thinking person would, she agreed with everything I said. Mainly because I’m great. And I swear a lot. Or it could well be that she knows her shit, and what I said ticked all her boxes. Sometimes grown-ups agree with me. Shut up! It happens!

* * * * *

First up? That old chestnut tweetstream-flooding.

If all of someone’s tweets are promo, or all of their blog posts are promo, it’s overkill.

Imagine yourself as a reader who’s new to Author X. You go to his or her tweetstream and see their tweets are all “Buy my book! Buy my book! Buy my book!” would you think there was any chance of them engaging with you? Would you see any point in following them? I wouldn’t.

If someone is a favourite author, there are ways and means of finding out about their new releases without following them on Twitter or reading their blog. Publishing websites. Third-party sellers.

I have unfollowed certain authors because of their constant promo on Twitter. Straight off, I can think of two who have made me vow never to buy any of their books again because their “promo” was that bad.

One author who turned me away from her work (which I wasn’t that much of a fan of anyway; no emotion, no conflict, cardboard characters; more on this later in this blog post) schedules tweets. Buy links and a brief quote or tagline every hour on the hour, or so it seems. This interspersed with retweeted links to other authors’ WordPress blogs. The promo was overkill and the linking to other authors’ blogs seemed lazy to me. Like she had little to say for herself and therefore had to piggyback on other people’s words. No opinions to express. Just “Buy my book! Buy my book! Buy my book!”

Actually, come to think of it, another name just popped into my head. Yep; there are definitely more out there who think this sort of wank is a smart move.

I am bored with authors who think the best way to get me to buy their books is to talk about them all the time. Yes, I’m a writer but I’m a reader too. If promofail turns me off, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that other readers are of the same opinion.

I’m not stupid. I’m not five-years-old. And I’m not a goldfish. If you put your book in my view (or that of other potential readers), I won’t forget after three seconds. You have given me the option of buying it or not, and I won’t be persuaded to by constant noise. Because that’s all constant promo is. Noise that blends into one boring drone, with all the other promo-noise clogging up Twitter.

* * * * *

Blogs are prone to the same brainkilling repetitiveness. I recently had a peek at another author’s blog (not the same author mentioned above, although part of the same promofail overkill school of thought) and every post was about her latest release. Not “Hey, I’ve got a book out soon, and in other news, I bought a doughnut today and a small, ceramic spaniel.” Oh shut up; those were the first things to come to mind.

This blog was a screed of posts about  “I’m writing a book…I’ve finished the book…I’ve subbed the book…I’ve contracted the book.” And it didn’t stop there. No; it got worse. “Here’s cover art! Here’s an extract! Here’s the same extract again! Here’s the cover art again! Here’s a repeat of the previous extract in case you missed it! One month until release, with the same extract! One week ’til release, and here’s…” You guessed it. The same old extract again.

Why the fuck would I buy your book when I’m already sick of it before it’s released?

It looked to me as if this author had nothing to say for herself. No opinions. Possibly scared to express an opinion in case she annoys ‘the wrong person’, whoever that might be?

Authors who tweet and blog about nothing other than their book, their book, their book, make me think they have nothing else to talk about. They have empty heads. They’re scared to express an opinion, or even have one.

Something else struck me as I was resisting the urge to Hulksmash the entire internet in response to the above tweetstream and blog. If an author has nothing to talk about but their book(s), that in turn makes me think they’re a bad writer. Why? They obviously have no insight into human nature.

They don’t realise they’re pissing people off, and not selling as many books as they could do, had they just dialled it back a few notches. They don’t realise the effect their behaviour has on other people, no idea that they’re doing the exact opposite of what they think they’re doing: driving readers away instead of pulling them in.

That being the case, how can they ever have insight into their characters and make them seem three-dimensional? It’s been my experience that authors who spew promovomit online write boring books. I don’t trust such authors to have personalities, opinions, or insight into human nature, and such authors are just throwing words at a page, rather than crafting a story. Just as they throw links at Twitter, rather than holding a conversation.

No insight into human nature and the effect your behaviour has on others = no ability to write realistic characters.

Maybe there are readers out there who don’t care about this sort of thing. Perhaps they can switch off and just ‘tune in’ to the authors they follow online when said authors mention a new book or say something of interest. If they ever do.

But noise-tweeting and vomit-blogging, while they don’t put everyone off, are not necessary.

I’ll say that again very clearly.

Flooding your tweetstream with promo, or doing the same on your blog, are not necessary.

I don’t care who your publisher is or what they tell you – such behaviour is not necessary to sell your books.

Consider how many people you’re actually putting off. There’s a fine line between “I have to let people know my book is out there!” and actively beating people over the head with the same information to the point where you’re actually driving them away.

I’ll say one more thing before I go put the kettle on for a cuppa. I need caffeine to calm me down.

The Law of Diminishing (Promo) Returns states that each time they see the same link/tweet/extract after what I call the Vomit Horizon or Puke Point, the less of a desire to buy your book the reader will have.

This entry was posted in blogging, everything you ever thought you knew about promo is wrong, Penny Watson, promo overkill, promofail, twitter. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Promo overkill makes you a bad writer

  1. JillianBoyd says:

    Nodding so hard right now.
    I once got a tweet from a writer who made it his business to go through the ranks of people who write erotic fiction and ask each of them individually for a follow-back. The kicker? He asked through the medium of rhyme.

    I had a look at his blog, and apparently he was instigating it as a social experiment, because he thought that’s how you get people to follow you on Twitter.

    • And I bet it never occurred to him that he should treat online conversations exactly as he does real life ones. Politely excuse oneself and contribute a point – POLITELY. I mean, you wouldn’t go up to a complete stranger and start reciting poetry to get them to buy whatever you’re selling, would you?

      (I bet some nutter out there would.) :D

      • JillianBoyd says:

        I live in London – I’m sure there is some nutter around here, biding his time until he can walk up to random people at Oxford Circus and recite some ee. cummings at them as promo for his self-published book of shite poetry that he’s selling out of the back of his van for 5 quid too many.

  2. pennywatson says:

    Are authors really that self-absorbed? I guess some of us are. We have no other interests than our own writing, are obsessed with our characters and books, we love to talk about ourselves incessantly, and we feel entitled to spam folks without batting an eyelash. Holy carumba!

    When I find authors on social media who are intelligent, thoughtful, have diverse interests, do not spam and harass readers with repetitive, scheduled promo, and like to discuss topics other than books and/or themselves, I practically do a flip in the air with a twist and backflip. It’s a happy day!

    • Scheduled promo – I mean, who the hell thinks that’s a good idea? Don’t these people realise it’s called SOCIAL media for a reason? Oh, sure, it’s okay to mention you have a new book out. Essential, even. But the fact some authors schedule tweets (and TOO DAMN MANY of them) shows they’re not interested in dialogue. They want to talk AT us, not WITH us.

      (Actually that’s a good point. Must remember that for a follow-up blog post. It must be something about speaking to you that brings out what I’m trying to say in an articulate way.)

      Tweet-and-run authors are the worst. Actually, those who schedule tweets are. They don’t ‘run’ after tweetng because they’re not there to run away in the first place. They’re off doing something else, while their twitter account is speaking to us in a pre-programmed robotic way, and you can’t interact with a robot.

  3. Becky Black says:

    Some writers have a super irritating promo thing they do on Pinterest. Pinterest, for those who don’t use it, lets you “pin” pictures from elsewhere on the web, which you arrange in galleries called boards. The viewer can click through on most pins to either where is came from online, or to another link the pinner sets.

    Most of the writers I know on there have a board of their book covers. But some writers do something annoying. Any time they have a new reseller link or even a review they make a pin of it – with the book cover. The same book cover over and over again.This is annoying enough over the course of a few weeks to have the same picture keep on popping up again and again, but over a couple of days it’s maddening!

    For me that feels like hammering a square peg in a round hole. Pinterest is for posting pictures, not for links as such. That’s better done on Twitter or Facebook, and put onto your website of course. I have a board with all my book covers on – but I’ve pinned them once. They all link back to the book’s page on my website where the potential reader will find the reseller links all in one place. I think one important aspect of getting promo right is using the right site for the right kind of promo. You put the wrong type of content on there and you’ll simply annoy people.

    • I’ve just read a book which is prescriptive in its advice (and wrong) when it says you MUST be on Facebook, Goodreads, etc. It mentions Pinterest and from what you say, I’m glad I’m not on it. I’d be interested to see how many sales result from sites like that, and how much time authors spend on it trying to promote their works.

  4. I tweeted about THIS VERY SAME THING yesterday. Thank you for posting it, it really really really makes me want to unfollow someone when they do that, and buying that stupid book is suddenly out of the question! Great post!

    • It’s sad to know so many people are getting annoyed by this kind of thing, but good that we agree on this. The more people agree with me, the more I realise I’m not being a bad-tempered cow. I mean, I am, but not particularly about this issue – I’m not the only person annoyed by this sort of author behaviour! :)

  5. Couldn’t agree more on over-promo. I think that some authors just need to realise they are not good salespeople, and if they’re traditionally published, their agents etc would do the world a service by preventing their authors from sabotaging their own work.

    If I see even 2 or 3 tweets in a row – you know the ones – all symbols, links and capital letters, meaningless drivel – then that author will never appear on any of my lists and hence never get read, ever. The sad thing is that it’s only 1 author in 50 where I go to follow them and see tweets that are actually interesting.

    On the blog side too, blogs are not advertising. They are advertorial at worst. If there’s no hook to reel readers in – and your new, unheard of book is not a hook – then you won’t get read. I don’t understand how people can’t see that. There’s always an angle to take, even if it’s your passion for ugly vegetables or something, and if you can’t find an angle, maybe you shouldn’t be a writer.

    • I take it as a compliment you now follow me then. :D

      So many blogs do nothing other than advertise the fact the author is a bland opinion-vacuum. I am much less pissed off at someone with whom I disagree, than with anyone who’s too scared to say anything at all. I reckon it comes from the (wrong, in my opinion) belief that we have to be nice or no-one will ever want to publish us.

      Hell, I wouldn’t want to be published by anyone who had a ‘personality bleaching’ clause written into the contract anyway!

  6. Pingback: Promo overkill makes you a bad writer | mharvey816

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