Tuesday 7 February 2012

All hyped out - the push-me-pull-you of book promotion

A fine book I didn't write
This is a bit of a grumble, so if you came here for something uplifting, you might want to go and look at funny videos on YouTube instead. Maybe you can find some nice book trailers.

A few years ago, writers needed a lot of bullying even to get a website. The thought of promoting themselves online was anathema to most of them. Even those who were happy to go into schools, go to festivals, and do readings (ie not hermits) didn't like the idea of engaging with the online world. I've had a website since, I think, 1998. I got a Facebook page in the first weeks that it opened up outside universities, and a twitter account in 2007. I'm not against anything digital. Perhaps because I had these things long before anyone I might want to promote my work to had them, I've never been big on online promotion. I have a presence; I don't (in Nicola Morgan's words) bug the pants off people.

But plenty do.

There's been an explosion of writers, publishers, agents - and readers - on twitter, Facebook and blogging. This is lovely - we're a community and we can finally get to talk to each other, even though we live far apart. This is what I was waiting for when I joined up in 2007 and it was wall-to-wall geeks discussing Gnu and the arguments you could use with various HTML tags. But some writers have taken their publishers' injunctions to promote themselves online rather too seriously. They promote their books to death. [I am NOT suggesting any of the books pictured here were/are overpromoted - I just chose books I like so I could promote something I didn't write!]

Another I didn't write...
In the last couple of days, I've unfollowed two people on twitter because I am *so* sick of those authors tweeting nothing but promotional lines about their latest books. Fine, you've got a book out - that's nice. Now you've told me about it. If I want to buy it, I will. If you keep bugging me, I won't buy it even if I had previously intended to do so. And now I've unfollowed you, so I won't even know if you have another book out.

What is the right amount of promotion? I send a few tweets if I have a book out (if I remember), and I tell my Facebook friends once (ditto). I very, very rarely mention it in any of the online groups I'm part of. I know I do too little promotion, and my publishers probably grumble. I don't like it. I don't do school visits, either, or readings. At the other end of the spectrum are the couple of (male) writers I unfollowed the other day. They send several tweets a day about their latest book. And at least one of these books has been out for *weeks*. Get over it, guys! Write another book - that will take your mind off it and keep your fingers busy.

...and another
I have a series coming out in March. I've not arranged a blog tour, and I'm really not at all sure I want to. I don't imagine a blog tour will generate many sales, and I don't want to bore people. Indeed, you only need to say 'vampires' to see eyes glaze over, so perhaps I won't mention it at all. Or perhaps I'll do an anti-blog tour - I can do guest posts on lots of blogs and I *won't mention the war*, I mean, the books. Anyone want to host a vampire-free blog post in March? No, I don't know the publication date. No, I don't expect you to buy the books - they're for kids, for goodness sake, and you're not kids, are you? 

A really good book - I didn't write it
Now, I'm not against blog tours, and there are some wonderful book trailers, and of course promotion has to be done. But I don't like to be on the receiving end of someone banging on about the same book so relentlessly.

In the end, it comes down to the difference between push and pull media. Twitter is a 'push' medium - that means it forces stuff at you. A trailer on YouTube is a 'pull' medium - you choose to go to YouTube and watch it. Blogs are a pull medium - you choose to go to a blog and read what it has to say. Facebook is a push medium. I suppose the guideline I'm moving towards is - do as much promotion on pull media as you like, as no one will get annoyed (they don't have to go there), but limit what you do on push media or you'll push people away.

The very fine books featured here are Bog Child, by Siobhan Dowd; My Sword Hand is Singing, by Marcus Sedgwick (but it has vampires in); David, by Mary Hoffman; and Egg Drop by Mini Grey - buy them, they're good!


  1. Oh my yes, I'm seeing it everywhere: Facebook, Twitter, blog posts, Goodreads....I stopped by the Kindle forum once and quickly got off for the same reason-- nonstop promotion and book-pushing. Authors have become the new spammers.

  2. Oh how I agree with you. I find I'm just flicking through Facebook and Twitter now, in the hope that someone is talking about the cricket, or the weather, or cake - anything but the fact that they have a bloody book out!

  3. I agree with you completely but I'm a fine one to talk today. I've been tweeting Dickens's birthday party ALL DAY LONG and people must be completely sick of the whole thing. Will shut up forthwith.

  4. How true. Perhaps the next big trend in social networking will be towards groups that enable you to block out the rest of the world. Joining will mean that you don't won't to hear anything from anyone else, and that you doggedly refuse to tell us what you're up to at the moment: whether you're having a cup of coffee, playing an online game or selling something. I'm afraid the nature of the thing will mean that it doesn't have a polite name: instead of Facebook, I suggest B*mbook. Anyone like to join me?

  5. I reach a point where I do not actually "see" the repeat tweets - and yes, I have unfollowed irritants.
    I hate trying to sell myself - or get people to part with money. If I ever reach the giddy heights of publication then I am more likely to want to prowl off and curl up for a catnap until any fuss made by others is over and done with!

  6. You are so right. I have also unfollowed and unsubsribed several people due to constant book plugging. It is such a bore. Especially when they only ever go online for that and never otherwise interact or reciprocate interest. Wishing online friends all the best on publication day and sharing their excitement is quite a different matter. As is getting an advance glimpse of a new book cover etc.

  7. I have some sympathy with repeat book plugging ***within limits***. Twitter is a real-time medium, and it would be arrogant in the extreme to think that everyone who follows you is hanging on your every tweet, desperate to hear your latest. So some repetition, I believe, is acceptable.

    Yet doing NOTHING but book plugging - definitely not on. The people who have clearly only joined at the urging of a publicist in order to RT their own compliments, or repeat identical announcements, drive me as nuts as the next person.

  8. Flossie - you are quite correct. I advocate the 90/10 rule: if you spend 90% of your time giving (on any specific platform, eg Twitter), you gain the right to spend 10% on yourself.

  9. how wonderful, someone besides me who doesn't want to spend hours a day looping, twittering, and facebooking. I don't know how anyone can get any work done for all the promos and socializing.

  10. I think it's a very fine line. I've seen authors become completely swallowed up by the promo machine and lose many followers because of it! I don't mind a few tweets here and there, but if it's 100 per cent of your timeline...

  11. I had a friend request from a writer I don't know personally on Facebook the other day. As a rule, I don't friend people I don't know in the real world unless we have a long-standing online relationship, but I took a look at her page. Every item was about her book. Why would I friend someone I don't know to see their advertising? I can't imagine who she thinks will do that!