Home > Random Musings, Writing, Writing Advice > Beware the Lightning Sand of Bad Marketing and Bad Manners

Beware the Lightning Sand of Bad Marketing and Bad Manners


I have a background in marketing. I also have my MA in English Literature. And I’m a writer. As such, let me explain. No, too much. Let me sum up.

I’ve been mostly dead all day. Er, no. Sorry. I merely need more coffee. Let’s try this again. Ready?

I know words. Not all of them. Never all of them. But I know that placing them in a certain order achieves certain things. If you’re selling a product, you want to grab your audience in an intriguing, non-annoying way. (I feel like that’s an important bit, mostly directed at the makers of Head-on – apply directly to the forehead. Head-on, apply directly to the forehead.)

Time and again, I see people employing marketing tactics that don’t work. Not only that, they ANNOY. Why would you want to annoy anyone who a) is your friend or acquaintance and b) who could possibly help you? It bothers me, because it’s rude – and it doesn’t make any sense.

These are three things you just shouldn’t do in regard to your writing. EVER.

1)      Send a passing acquaintance anything that resembles the following message, which is a slightly fictionalized account of something I actually received:

Dear Everyone I’ve Ever Met:

I promise that I will not annoy you by sending out these emails. (Too late. I’m already annoyed. Moving on. Let’s see what wares you are attempting to hawk.) My new website is listed below, along with three billion other links about ME. (New website for what? You’ve already lost me.) I would like you all to subscribe to my newsletter and tell everyone you’ve ever met about ME. Thank you. (Wait, why are you thanking me? Just because you ask, doesn’t me I’m going to do it. And what am I supposed to tell everyone, exactly? That you once wrote me a mass email?) This email is the beginning of my writing “platform.” (Why is platform in quotations? Is it really something else? Are you doing your Nixon impersonation? What’s going on here?!?) You see, in order to succeed in this business, I need minions followers. When I finish my book, in approximately 14 months, I will need readers. That is why I hope to make friends with everyone on the Internet. (You know, Pinky and the Brain had similar plans to take over the world; look how that worked out. Also, your book isn’t DONE yet. You cannot promote something that isn’t completed. Promote your blog, promote your half-baked poetry. Promote YOURSELF. Not a project that doesn’t have The End written on it.) In the Publishing World, no one helps you do anything anymore. Basically, everything is up to the Author, and promotion is really difficult. That’s why I’m starting this “platform.” Writers who are “in the know” are beginning to promote their own books, so I’m going to do it too. (How lovely for you. Clearly, you have excellent people skills. This should go well.)

If you are a writer, and you have already published a book, I will most certainly be happy to help you promote it, as long as you aren’t a tool or a jackass. You know, someday, I’ll help you do that. (Well, thank you–I think–for not not considering me to be a tool or a jackass – and for the offer of helping ME someday. Presumably, you’d like me to help YOU now, I suppose? Wimpy, is that you? Would you like a hamburger today, and you can pay me on some mythical Tuesday?)

That tactic will fail every time. First of all, you’ve annoyed and insulted me. You are presumptuous. And you’ve just thrown vinegar where there should be honey. Also, as most agents will lament, you’ve told me NOTHING about your book or your writing. You did some strange things with your grammar, too – like adding quotations where there really shouldn’t be any. You “feel” me, man?

2)      The second example of poor behavior/marketing comes from a blog entry written by the wonderful Deanna Raybourn. In one of her entries, she talks about some bad self-promoting moves, including one super-creepy tactic: tracking down her home address when she isn’t listed. Please don’t stalk the writers. It’s disturbing. Another offense is self-promoting your work on an author’s facebook page. That’s just bad form. You don’t walk into a Hollywood actor’s home bellowing, “I am an actress! Want to hear my monologue?” And if you do, you get arrested. So, it’s a bad idea all around. The address-snatching thing, though – that goes beyond all decent behavior and it’s very squicky. People remain unlisted for a reason. In the words of Aretha, R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Mmmkay?

3)      Lastly, there is the Ninja Promoter. The slightly sneaky, let me act like I’m talking about your issue, but I’m really lulling you into a false sense of security. (I am aware that should be populated with hyphens, but my coffee fuel is waning.) A Ninja Promoter will visit your blog or your Facebook page. He/she will read your entry or status, carefully. Then, the Comment appears. It starts off totally banal and innocuous. “I completely get this. It’s really an awesome thing that you’re doing.” Then, NINJA – “By the way, would you review my book? I think if anyone can help me, it’s YOU.” *blinks* What now? First, you don’t ambush publically. That’s just silly. Second, unless you have enough of a relationship with that person (ie you correspond somehow), you NEVER ask that kind of question. In fact, personally speaking, I’m pretty sure I’d feel dirty asking like that. Third, that compliment in there? That’s low. That’s appealing to the ego that every writer has, or at least occasionally has. It also won’t get you anywhere short of ignored. I saw a comment much like that one on a friend’s blog yesterday, which made me Tweet something slightly out-of-context. Whoops. I just found it very inappropriate to read that type of comment on a blog entry of importance.

So, there you have it – my (unsolicited) marketing and manners advice. Until next time, chickadees, remember that Adam West IS Batman, that you shouldn’t eat the yellow snow, and that there is no reasonable explanation for why the RUM is GONE. (Except it is a vile drink.)

  1. March 22, 2011 at 9:04 am

    This is really funny, though slightly worrisome. I know almost nothing about self-marketing but I would never even think of doing any of those three things. I feel that people who are prone to do so this lack common sense, or maybe they are so desperate that they don’t care how their efforts are perceived.

    Great post, I love all the pop culture references!

    • Ali
      March 22, 2011 at 9:50 am

      I’m glad it amused you! If it makes you feel better, I find things llike this worrisome, too. It’s as if people are devoid of any kind of good sense. It amazes me and not in a good way. *grin*

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting! 🙂

  2. March 22, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Okay, I might have done the first one WITH THE EXCEPTION that my book was already complete and published and I was just letting everyone (that I knew well enough to have an email address for) know I had a book published and for sale and they could buy it if they were into mysteries or humor but they didn’t have to. Which is why I’m not a salesperson.

    It’s depressing to have someone friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter with a kind of “Wow, you have books out, how cool” only to find out they want me to promote their book or help them write the damn thing. Will they unfriend me if I don’t? Will I care?

    Oh, and while we’re talking about advertising, please don’t use this sentence with anything you’ve written: “It’s a story that must be told.” You’re just asking for mockery.

    • Ali
      March 22, 2011 at 6:49 pm

      You so didn’t do the first one. Trust me — you couldn’t even BE as annoying as that guy. The email was only barely made into fiction. What you did sounds totally fine to me. That’s just sharing something cool with people you know.

      I hate it when people expect things like that. If you like something, and what to talk about it, that’s one thing. But when that’s all someone wants? It’s wrong on many, many levels. I’ve unfriended a few folks like that.

      A story that MUST be told — haha. That just makes me laugh. As opposed to all those other stories, that really didnt’ need to be told, but were anyway? HEHE

  3. March 23, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    Can you please explain to me, why it is a problem to promote a book on Facebook? I do post links to my books as they become available via various channels, and so do many of my writer friends. It’s not as if I hold a gun to anyone’s head to click on the link.

    Do people really do the thing with looking up someone’s address? Yikes! Creepy.

    • Ali
      March 23, 2011 at 9:50 pm

      It’s not that promotion is bad. It’s ambush promotion that’s not exactly tactful. Let’s say a friend of yours posts a status update about a great pair of shoes. Instead of saying, “What kind?” or “Picture?” — you say, “That’s so great! Btw, buy my book! It’s available at….” Now that kind of thing? It’s annoying. If you write a blog about your book (or even fb notes), fine. That’s totally cool. It’s random, sporadic, non-applicable things that I think turn people off.

      So, I wasn’t saying, “Don’t promote yourself on Facebook.” I was talking about a specific type of promotion.

      • March 25, 2011 at 8:51 am

        Ah, ok, I see what you mean.

        By the way, I just read your blog “blurb” – and I do get the 24601 reference. Lifted any carts or adopted any miserable little girls lately? 😉

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