Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Ugly Side of Marketing

Over the weekend I read a very thought provoking blog post by the brilliant author, Mary DeMuth. She wrote a guest post on Michael Hyatt's blog some time ago titled Do Authors Really Need to Promote Their Own Books?

Did any of you writers out there read this? It's really got me thinking.

Let me back up.

For those of you that didn't read it, (you can click on the link above) I'll do my best to summarize.

Mary was actively promoting her newly released book on her Facebook page when she received a critical email, basically saying that they were tired of her always talking about herself, her books, etc. "Let the writing speak for itself" is what I believe they wrote.


Of course, Mary very eloquently explained that in today's publishing climate, it is not only appreciated but expected that authors promote and market their own books to help drive sales. She wrote a very kind response to what I thought was a very hurtful and scarring email. (If that had happened to me, I would be beyond self conscious every time thereafter that I posted something about my writing. It would be forever branded into my memory...that I'm annoying people. That they don't care.)

I brought up this topic with my husband, just to feel him out. To get an outsiders perspective. To see who's "side" he fell on. And I was somewhat irritated to hear that he more clearly resonated with the "stop-tooting-your-own-horn" side.

While he enthusiastically said he'd champion my book (if I ever get that far) for me on Facebook, I shouldn't be constantly trying to "sell my friends".

I understand that statement. Having just come off of Girl Scout cookie season, I am soo tired of saying "no thanks" in front of every grocery store I go into. (Seriously! Every store!!)

I also receive email after email from my Mary Kay consultant-friends making me aware of their sales and specials.

So as a consumer, I understand. Sometimes enough is enough.

But when is it enough?

Share with me: How can writers promote and talk about their books without annoying the public? How can we get rid of this negative reaction to our best marketing strategies? Writers, do you worry that you'll receive an email similar to Mary's? Non-writers, what causes you to become annoyed by "self-promotion"? Phrasing? Number of times mentioned? Etc.? 


  1. This is a really interesting post! I think about this a lot because I struggle when it comes to marketing myself. I work in marketing in my day job, but when it comes to marketing myself and my books, it's tough. As an introvert, I cringe every time I send out a Facebook message or a tweet that is specifically promoting my book, but honestly, I owe it to my publisher to hold up my end of the marketing. It's a tough line to walk, and it's awesome to have people like Michael Hyatt and Mary DeMuth who we can learn from.

  2. Great post, Lacie. Sure to cause stirring conversation.

    Man, I don't know because I see some authors that all they tweet or talk about is their book. And it becomes like the dust on my end tables. Ignored. I get tired of seeing it all the time.

    I think there's some kind of balance. Jody Hedlund comes to mind. She promotes but she isn't obnoxious about it and from what I've read, her books are popular.

    I think we have to get it out there, but offering contests--engaging the reader, offering them more than just a book even??? Then let those who've we've become friends with help influence our books.

    And then never forget that it's about give and take. We need to remember to help each other out. Show it's not all about us. Because, really, it's not. Then trust God to do the rest.

    That's my two cents. :)

  3. I've never received an email like Mary got, thankfully.

    I think the marketing we should be striving for is finding the common ground we have with readers. We write the genre we right because we love it, and readers read that genre because they love it too.

    Do you write historicals? Post about museums or historical factoids or costumes or tv shows and movies that are similar to what you love.

    Find the common ground between you and your reader and make a connection, then you don't get the "Quit trying to sell me stuff" feeling, and you create a "hey, wanna talk about something we both love?" warm fuzzies. :D

  4. Hey Lacie, I'm so glad I found your blog...first of all, um, yeah, not so nice of the person who sent Mary that letter. But I do think perhaps non-writers don't realize the pressure authors are under to sell their books, market themselves and thus, grow their career. Sure, the letter writer said to let the writing speak for itself, but if no one sees the writing, how's that going to happen?

    I like what other commenters said about finding balance, common ground and helping others as much as your promote yourself/your book.

    I also think if we look at it as building relationships rather than "salespersoning," we AND our friends/readers/etc will benefit.

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  6. Sorry typo above...

    This is a great post that gets the thinking going.

    Sometimes, when an author follows me on twitter and I follow back, I get a direct message commercial for their book. There is no introductions - no "hi there" or "great to connect" - just a "here is my book - buy it!" That does bother me some.

    I know authors are under pressure to market and sell, but it's about being a person first.

    I like going with finding balance, and give and take.

  7. Since my debut novel will be released in just a few months, this is a question I've had to wrestle with. I used to cringe at the thought of self-promotion. And then I realized that getting out the word about my book is part of my job. Businesses are rarely criticized for running ads. Well, I'm in business, too. My book is my product. I have a right and a responsibility to help promote it. In fact my publisher expects it, and rightfully so.

    I noticed that you said Mary received that comment on her FB page. A page set up for promotion. One where those who've "liked" the page can expect to see her post information about her book. To my way of thinking, the person making the comment was out of line. If the person didn't want to see Mary's posts, the "unlike" option is easy to exercise.

    While I believe authors have a responsibility to promote their books, I think it's important to balance that with genuine interaction, as others have mentioned. I want to be known as a person who's interested in others and not just interested in getting others to buy my book. People are more important than sales any day.

  8. Such great insight from all of you this morning! I'm nodding my head as I read all your comments.

    Here's what I think we all agree on:

    1. Marketing is not our favorite but necessary and expected.

    2. Relationships will ultimately drive sales. (Along with a great book, of course.)

    3. Common ground with readers/friends and balance between marketing ourselves/marketing others breaks up the screaming beacon that reads "BUY MY BOOK".

    Loree, I've also received those types of messages when following someone on Twitter. It left a bad taste in my mouth as well.

    Keli, I agree with your assessment about that email to Mary. It felt like too much to me. Past helpful to hurtful. "Unlike" is a better option any day. "Slow to speak..." :)

  9. Wow, what an awesome discussion starter, Lacie!

    The first thought that came to mind was to separate the "promotion" piece...i.e., set up an author page to focus more of the overt promotion. (But I also agree it's important to be personal there too.) And then I realized that Mary's conflict came from the author page. Oy vey...

    I'm so paranoid, I feel bad even posting a link to my blog. I definitely don't want to be "that person" that everybody's blocking from their Facebook feed. :) A tough balance, for sure.


I'd love to hear your thoughts too!