Monday 5 December 2011

How hard do you push?

I've seen a few writer friends on Facebook recently promoting their own books as potential Christmas presents. This makes me feel uneasy, though I'm not really sure why. It's quite likely that some of these books would indeed make very good Christmas presents, and are probably very good books, and I wouldn't have thought of buying them otherwise. So why not? But I won't be buying any of them, nor will I be plugging my own books at Christmas.

People use Facebook in different ways, of course. And I don't mean people plugging their books on their professional Facebook pages - that's what those pages are for - but on their personal profiles, the pages for their friends and family. I have unfriended people in the past for using our 'friendship' as a means to try to sell me things (not books). It's not the occasional 'I have a new book out' - that's fine, it's news, it's an event to share with friends. It's the hardsell or the advertising with no news hook I don't like.

I have lots and lots of friends who are writers. I can't possibly read all their books and I certainly can't buy all their books. Perhaps that's the problem. If I didn't know lots of writers and weren't a writer myself, I might think 'Oh yes, I can buy X's book for Y for Christmas!' and get a buzz out of knowing the author. So maybe I'm just not approaching it in the right way.

Do you - or would you - use your personal Facebook profile to try to sell your books to your friends in a bit of blatant, shameless advertising? If so, please tell me off. But while doing so, please tell me how it's different from a friend who is - say -  a plumber advertising his plumbing skills to me, or a friend who is a lawyer trying to get me to use his legal services on the back of our online/real friendship. Or perhaps it isn't different and you think it's OK. Isn't flagrant commercialism what LinkedIn is for, not Facebook? If I met a friend in the street and (s)he said 'why don't you buy my book? it makes a great Christmas present,' would that be OK? I don't think it would. Or am I just being an old fogey?


  1. But: if you met a friend in the street and they said "How are you?" and you said "Good. just got another book out." And they said "Oh, would it be a good for a Christmas present for somone?" surely it might be all right to say yes? And of course have the manners to ask how friend is.
    But I think you're right: keep the promotion for your profressional pages and yes, Linkedin is all right as long as you're not pushy. I have the great delight of also having to list mine on a couple of uni sites ... then FB page, ALCS. PLR, CV, SoA, SCBWI etc. and it's quite boring. Have to play great music while I do it.

  2. I think there's a fine line between irritating self-promotion and someone being proud of the work they have done. Sometimes it can even depend on the mood I'm in - one day I'll rage against people advertising their book every day, and another day I can let it wash over me. In the absence of a clear code of conduct I'll drop in the occasional reminder that I've a book out on kindle and hope that doesn't get up anyone's nose. (I'll a 'professional' writer page when the paper book comes out in the new year - it will be interesting to see fi I feel differently about it then.)

  3. I save my personal Facebook profile for personal announcements. I have a website and a separate Facebook 'author' page that I invited my friends to like. Then I can advertise on that as much as I want (though mostly use it for news-related announcements).

    My Twitter feed is entirely business/self-selling, but Twitter is much easier to ignore so no one seems to mind.

  4. I could not advertise my own books (if I had any) in this way. It bothers me how writers are expected to not only write but market their own books. By "market" I mean more than attend a launch and put in occasional appearances as a visiting author. I suspect that some of this behaviour is due to what the publisher expects - or even demands. Some of it is undoubtedly the author's own personality. I cannot imagine doing "blog tours", being interviewed and the like. But it might just be me and, in part, my day job which involves NOT talking more often than not! I do put a link to my blog posts on Twitter (but that was because several people asked me to do it) and that, I think, is as far as I would be prepared to go.