Tuesday Truths: Overpromotion

Disclaimer:  This blog post is written to make a point.  Resemblance to any writer, living or dead, is not intentional.  Things are elaborated and boiled down to make a point. Resemblance to any events that have taken place, or actions committed, is accidental.  This blog post is not calling you out, you are not being targeted, and I don’t secretly hate you.  Promise.

As writers, we get told that if we have a book coming out, we’re responsible for as much promotion as we can wrap our little heads around.  More books are coming out each year, and there’s less time for Publicity and Marketing to spend on your title.  Success, or failure, is totally up to you.  No pressure.

Enter the age of overpromotion.

Overpromotion is annoying.  Remember how no one wants to invite Negative Nancy to the prom?  Well, no one’s going to vote for Billy Braggart, and in some ways publishing is an eternal Student Council election.  Everyone wants to be President, but to do that, you need support, not scorn.

Everyone can think of someone who just goes too far.  Their book doesn’t come out for a year.  Their Twitter is 50 posts a day reminding you that they have a book coming out.  They blog five times a week, and 4 of those posts are about their book.  They set up a Facebook fan page for themselves, and invite you to join it on a daily basis.

Don’t do this.

It’s annoying.  It’s overkill.  And it may not hurt you in the short term, but I think it’s safe to say that in the long run, you’re going to gain a reputation you’re not going to want.  Just like last time, remember that people talk.  And people LOVE to gossip.

I think a big part of the problem comes from writers confusing followers for popularity.  “If I have to get X number of Facebook fans,” or “I need X number of Twitter followers.”  They start using their social media to tease and brag to their fans and nothing else.  Honestly?   Build a fan base by being interesting – you’ll sell more books that way.  Otherwise, you’re just trolling for bodies – and bodies don’t buy books.

There’s an author – let’s call him Billy – who focuses on these things.  But even with all those fans, the only people he interacts with on Twitter are the authors more famous and renowned than he is.  On the flip side, you have tons of authors  who go out of their way to interact with their fans, to thank them, and acknowledge them.  That’s huge to someone who may not be a writer or in the business.

Promotion can be fun, and it can be done without going overboard.  If you don’t follow Kiersten White, you should.  PARANORMALCY comes out soon, and her #everytimeyoupreorderparanormalcy hashtag is usually followed by hilarity.  It’s also NOT the majority of her Twitter account.  It’s not overwhelming, and she doesn’t do it 24/7.  Promotion, versus overpromotion.

The best piece of advice on this topic is simple: just keep asking yourself if you’re going overboard.  Think about what you’re doing.


68 thoughts on “Tuesday Truths: Overpromotion

  1. Kiersten White is the BEST example of a writer who has perfected the art of non-promotion. Obviously, all of the work she does on-line is technically promotional, but it never feels that way. Her blog/twitter/etc is so entertaining that you just automatically want to read her book.

    Another soon-to-be-pubbed author who does a great job of non-promotion is Elana Johnson. So much of what she does on-line is geared toward giving back to the writing community and again it makes me want to read her book without her having to tell me to buy it every five seconds.

    Great post, Scott!

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  3. So true! The real danger of over-promotion is that you risk numbing the very people you’re trying to reach. If all I every read from an author in my tweet stream is “Buy me! Buy me!” I start to tune them out. Frankly, it’s boring, and “boring” is not something you want associated with your book.

    • Absolutely true! There is one author whose books I’ve read (three books), but with the fourth coming, all I see from her is over-promotion and it’s getting tedious. Especially since she doesn’t blog about anything else.

      The three books were fun to read, but not so good that I’ve decided not to buy the fourth book (might grab it when it hits the libraries).

      Some authors begin by blogging a lot and are nice and fun, until they become successful. To be honest, though, she has been very busy, and I can imagine that it’s hard to maintain a good blog after you’re a big name, but still… If I ever become like that, poke me and remind me of these words.

  4. This is a great point, especially about the followers. Followers for followers sake is pointless. If they’re just trying to get you to follow back and never read your blog or tweets then what’s the point?

    Also LiLa probably wouldn’t give themselves as another good example because they’re humble like that – but I’ll go ahead and say it for them.

    • I think it also says a lot because those authors that engage with their fans are the ones who seem to thrive more on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

      Lisa and Laura are another great example. They’re always promoting other authors, linking to blog posts to help promote them, and spreading the love.

  5. Dude, you are the king of blogs today. This is the perfect post — and I’m probably going to link to it tomorrow, if you’re down with that.

    And thanks LiLa–I nominate you guys too! You do an amazing job of talking about writing and books without talking about your book. And you’re always interviewing people and paying it forward.

  6. Great post! And thanks LiLa (assuming this is a nickname for Lisa and Laura? How am I just learning this, lol) for mentioning Kiersten White’s blog. I’m adding hers and Scott’s to my RSS feeder. 🙂

  7. Great post. Found you through Elana J. I don’t know she manages to keep her hand on the blogging pulse oh so well. It would take me every hour of the day. But I’m thankful she does. I agree that I’m more apt to buy someone’s book who has interesting blog posts, interacts with the blogging community with comments and such and is supportive of fellow writers and authors. I think self promotion, although necessary, is a delicate thing to tactfully master. Kiersten White, E.J. and L&L are great examples of how its best done.

  8. Great post, Scott! It’s really amazing, w/twitter and blogs, to have such instant access to so many wonderful people (writers, teachers, readers). And those personal connections, whether they are funny or serious, are what’s most meaningful.

    • I was mentioning to someone the other day how weird it is to be a reader nowadays. You can just log onto Twitter and interact with the author of your new favorite book. I think that’s such a fantastic thing.

  9. Great post! And so, so true. Overpromotion reminds me of annoying pop-up ads. If they can’t get you to click on the link in the side bar, they’re going to splash it up on your screen over and over again.

    I think effective promotion=time. Giving interviews, making real connections with readers and other writers, giving back to the community a bit, or heck, even just making me laugh. The people listed in the comments and your post are prime examples of that.

    • I think the best form of promotion you can do before your book comes out is just participate in your community. I’ve met SO many fantastic writers through Twitter, the blog, and everything else. It’s really just a great community to get involved in.

  10. Great post. I’ve blocked or unfriended many because of overpromotion. And besides, I’ve found that there seems to be a correlation and the “overpromoters” tend to have the weakest books. Maybe it’s because they spend more time on promoting than actually writing.

    • That could be. Then again, I have the secret hope that all my new writer friends will end up loving me so much they’ll do all my promotion for me and I can hide in my cave and keep writing. 😉

      Okay, so maybe that’s not the BEST idea. But it would be neat.

  11. Wait, wait, wait. Are you knocking my Tristi mugs, my Tristi T-shirts, my Tristi pens, my Tristi flying monkeys, my Tristi fingernail decals, my Tristi water bottle covers, my Tristi shoelace decorations, my Tristi nose rings, my Tristi pro sports team (the Tristis) *and* the wing of the hospital named after me?


    I definitely agree – you can kill off your potential audience before your book even hits the shelves. Or when it does hit the shelves, you can cause a gag reaction in the potential audience member if he walks into the store, sees your book, and remembers your “guess how many pieces of paper it took to print my manuscript” contest.

    • Knocking? Never. In fact, put me down for ANOTHER case of Tristi fingernail decals. Those 5,000 ones I’ve already got won’t last forever!

      And PLEASE let me know if you host a “how many pieces of paper it took to print my manuscript” contest. Because I will GLADLY overpromote the heck out of that. 😉

  12. One word of encouragement for those who have fallen into the over-promotion trap before… You can fix it. Just be yourself. Talk to your tweeps/friends. Auto-posting a blog mention in twitter or FB each day doesn’t hurt, just don’t over do it.

    Early on, I promoted my own stuff a LOT. But then when I learned a little bit more about social media, and discovered that the promotion wasn’t helping me, I stopped. I then wondered: What do I talk about? Most of the time I couldn’t think of anything intelligent to say, so I started to just talk to people… including several of the people who have commented on this post. 🙂

    Then I discovered something cool: I found it was far more fun to promote other authors and bloggers than doing so for myself. There are some great blogging authors out there! As I figure out how to better manage my time (a never ending quest) I plan to do more for them. And I can honestly say I don’t care whether they reciprocate or not. I’m having fun. Consequently, some of the best blog posts I have on my site were guest posts from people I know, or met online.

    Until today, I had no idea who Scott Tracey was, but I saw Robison Wells post something in a mail list I follow. And he is a master at social media of the social kind. He shares things which he thinks is cool, so naturally I was curious. Nice to virtually meet you Scott.


    A recovering over-promoter

    • I think it’s just like AA. The first step is admitting you have a problem. And honestly, all I think it’ll take for MOST people is to stop and wonder “am I going overboard?” Our internal editor should do the rest.

      I love promoting other authors, so I’m right there with you. I love retweeting other people’s contests, or linking to blogs (or people) I really like.

  13. Great post!

    But I have a question for those who are skilled at finding a balance between good promotion and over-promotion: how do you know when you’ve gone too far? Is there some secret magic FB/Twitter/Blog-o-meter that tells you when you’ve hit your promotion limit? Sometimes I worry so much about not overdoing it that I think I end up going to the other extreme and I don’t promote enough.

    How do we know if we’re promoting enough, but not over-promoting?

    • Well, I’m definitely not an expert, but I think it depends on the thing. On Twitter, make sure that no more than half (or maybe even a third) of your tweets are promoting contests you’re doing, guest posts you did, etc. Guest posting loses it’s shine if you’re doing 3 a week, plus 5 posts on your own blog.

      The goal is stay fresh in people’s minds, and be interesting, without cramming anything down their throat. So sometimes less is more, I would think.

  14. Pingback: Confusing “followers” for Popularity « For the Love of the Written Word

  15. Great post! I’m following some authors who do exactly what you write about, and I admit, I’m very tempted to stop following them. Luckily, they don’t tweet that much or I would! Overpromotion isn’t what Twitter or FB are all about. I’ll be keeping your post in mind for (ahem) the day I’ll be needing it 🙂

    • I think it’s a good topic to keep in mind, no matter what stage of the process you’re at. It gives you a leg up for when YOU are the one who might slip into a pattern of overpromotion.

  16. Thank you for this. I’m a major introvert and have a fear of marketing. It’s nice to know that I can do marketing and not over market, and that’s ok! (I’ve spent my lunch hour reading your older posts, and I’m now officially a fan.)

    • Aww, thank you. I think about this topic ALL the time since I still have so long until my book comes out. And it’s something that people don’t really talk about, because it can hurt someone’s feelings.

      But I’m glad you enjoyed the posts. Thank you so much. 🙂

  17. Oh, yes, I’ve seen the overpromotion too many times on Twitter. Not only does the writer tweet about book that is coming out a year later but a few minutes later, someone else retweets the author’s original tweet. THEN, the author retweets the retweet…ugh.

    The other thing that puzzles is when a writer says something along the lines of: “If I get to 1,000 followers, I’ll give away a copy of my book!” Which, of course, won’t be out until next year. 🙂

    Tweets don’t have to be targeted all the time. They can be fun, silly, conversational, creative.

    Thanks for your post!

    • That’s my feeling. I’m all for promoting yourself, but if you have a Twitter, I don’t want that to be the only thing I ever hear about from you. I follow you because you’re interesting, not because you have a book I want to read.

  18. Great post! And timely, as so many seem to be sliding into the “look at me! Look at me!” camp lately.

    And I have to say, what is getting really old, really fast for me are the hostage contests – if I get x I’ll do Y. If you want to do Y, do it, and then let people be thrilled you did Y and like you for it and maybe have the entry for Y contest be a blog comment or something.

    But when I see a requirement of a certain number of followers before you’ll do Y? It makes me do the opposite of what you want. 😉

    And I wonder how many of the those followers end up doing the authors any good in the longrun. Followers who follow because they find you interesting are much, much more likely to be longterm followers and maybe even longterm fans, than those who clicked to maybe have a chance to win a book…

  19. Great post. Followed a link by @txvoodoo on Twitter. It’s a shame you had to write that disclaimer at the beginning. Some writers are so sensitive 😉

  20. Great post! I’ve unfollowed a number of people who over-promote. One person I was originally following on Twitter suggested their own book Every Single Time someone asked for a book recommendation, regardless of what the person was looking for. I got sick of that pretty quick. And people who either command or beg me to “like” them on Facebook are ignored. The ones I do wind up “liking” are the ones I either find on my own *or* who simply mention “Hey, I have a fan page now!”

    IMO, not many people like to be told what to do, what to buy, who to like (at least, in such an obvious way!), so why try to force yourself/your book on people? Just be friendly, promote others stuff along with your own, and people will find you. Golden rule and all that…

  21. dahling, brilliant as always.

    And one of the wonderful things I’ve seen about authors who sincerely invest in their fans and online community, is that those people often do promotion FOR THEM because they’re so passionate about the author’s work and feel valued.

  22. I dislike pushy and inappropriate blog comments, FB requests, emails, direct messages, etc. Authors will garner more interest in their work if they’re natural, rather than having the salesperson persona on all the time. I don’t want random people asking me if I’ll buy their book and telling me they’ll give me a promotional coupon that I didn’t ask for in the first place. Even in real life, I avoid authors who try to lead me to the trunks of their cars to sell me a book–it’s happened. I’ve discovered the most amazing authors and books since using social media, and none of it was through hard selling. The hard sell alienates people, and it also makes me question the quality of the book.

  23. Good post, this sort of honesty regarding painful overpromotion is long overdue. I like the cut of your hypothetical jib. Mind if I add you to my blogroll?

  24. Awesome post, Scott.

    I quit reading blogs of authors pimping their words. The shameless self-promotion drives me crazy. Give me something to connect with and I’m yours for life. Try to sell me your soul and I’ll steer clear of you every time.

    Which is why I’ll be back here~ cat

    • Aww, thank you. I try not to shamelessly self-promote, but sometime’s it’s a fine line between “this has been my experience” and “okay, that guy’s mentioning his book again.” 😉

      Glad you found something you could connect with, though! 🙂

  25. awesome post, Scott 😀 Very well said. You certainly don’t want to turn people off to your or your book, and besides, if you start promoting (and over-promoting) so far in advance, people will have either forgotten about your book long before it comes out, or will cringe every time they hear your title and never buy it. My publisher advises saving the big promoting push (interviews, etc) for when your book comes out and the three months following. Otherwise, people who may be interested in your book might go looking for it and when they don’t find it, they’ll buy someone elses’s instead (though this may apply more to non-fiction).

    In any case, excellent points all around – may have to link to this post as well 😀

    • That is definitely true for fiction as well. You want to save your biggest push for the months surrounding your release, not the YEARS surrounding your release. 🙂

      And thank you so much. 🙂

  26. ooh, shiny post! and yes, I found you through kiersten, haha! As a writer who will eventually need to start thinking seriously about all this, the thought of promotion/marketing can be so terrifying to me–posts like this are a great help. I love my twitter connections, the way I can actually “speak” to authors who amaze me, the way I can get to know people in a personal way. The authors I like the most online are the ones, like you said, who talk to their fans and to each other, who promote others even more than themselves, and whose online personality feels like someone I’d like to spend time with, not like an infomercial!

  27. Scott, what a great article! I came here because Elana said to, lol. And YES she does come up with the best ideas. But you know? I’ve noticed she promotes others as much (read MORE) than herself and she never steers me wrong. Like coming here today. It makes me trust her.

    And I think that has so much to do with online promotion as anything else. Trust. Can your fans trust you to provide something worth having? Or do you promise knowledge/fun while only managing to deliver yet another example of your awesomeness? I want to trust the writers I read and in turn, I hope my readers will trust me.

  28. Pingback: Aug 3rd, 2010 5:26pm « Mike Cane's Tumblr Evac

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