Tuesday, May 24, 2022

When is Promotion Too Blatant?

Here on the Blood-Red Pencil blog we've looked at marketing from a lot of different angles. There are professionals whom we can hire to help us promote our books, and that's probably the easiest way if we have the budget for that. Or, if we're published with a major publishing house, and they simply adore our books, they'll often have a marketing plan for it.

For the rest of us who are published by smaller houses, or totally self-published, the challenges are greater, and we have to find creative ways to market without becoming a pain in someone's inbox. We also have to balance writing time with marketing time. Something that's not always easy to do.

Having been in this publishing game for more years than I'd like to publicly admit, I've seen trends in promoting wax and wane. When my first books were published by a small press, I read advice from some romance writers that said we should do anything possible to promote. It was referred to as Blatant Self Promotion, BSP, a term that is still around, but the advice has been tempered a lot. 

In those earlier years, some of the authors seemed to be so desperate they would stumble all over themselves to get the attention of readers. This was apparent at writers' conferences and group book signings, and I'll admit that sometimes I was one of those authors. We were encouraged to: "Put ourselves out there any way we could." "Don't miss an opportunity to get a book into a reader's hands."

At the time, there were few resources for writers to learn more about navigating this great river of self promotion without tipping the canoes of readers and dumping them in the drink. Now there are sites like The Write Way by Katie Sullivan, and she has an excellent article The Business of Blatant Self Promotion. I found the site when I was looking for more information on the in-your-face approach to the topic and was delighted to find that comprehensive article that lays out a whole plan for marketing. As an added bonus, there's little that is blatant in her advice.

At a certain point way back when I was first starting to play this promoting game, I began pulling back from acting on that philosophy of BSP while at group book signings or social events at conferences. That was partly because I'm a stand-in-the-back-of-the-room kind of person, but also because the whole thing just made me uncomfortable. Did I lose out on sales? Maybe. But when those events started feeling like someone had tossed handfuls of dollars in the air, and people were scrambling for them, I was ready to grab a few nearby bills and exit the fray.

Fast forward to today, when we have the internet and all the social media outlets for getting our messages out there, and it's all being used with varying degrees of professionalism and success. There is also an underlying sense of desperation apparent in some Tweets from new Indie authors. There was one recent post from a writer that was something like this, "I haven't sold any books today can you help a poor author out?"


Is that simply a bold way to market, and I'm just a curmudgeon who needs to go to her rocking chair and throw things at the TV like my grandfather did when he thought something was absurd?

There is a strong #writingcommunity on Twitter, and many of the folks there have mastered the use of Twitter for marketing, without being strident or desperate or begging. They promote other authors by inviting them to share their book covers and book links. They read a lot and post reviews that create a bit of buzz for a book by another author. 

A perfect example of that is a recent Tweet by Scottish author, Marion Todd:  I am beyond doing anything today so sitting in the garden reading an ARC of @AndrewJamesGre3’s next novel, throwing the occasional ball for the dog and admiring the view. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon. 

The Tweet was so engaging, as was the photo of the garden and her dog, that I checked out the author she mentioned, as well as her books. And I'm guessing I wasn't the only one.

Think of Twitter as a large, online cocktail party. Friends gather and chat and share jokes and pictures. They're really not up for a person walking in with an armload of books and asking them to purchase them. What your friends on Twitter want is to get to know you as a person, and if they find you as engaging as I found Marion Todd, they might take a look at your books.

For more tips on using social media for promoting, check out this conversation I had about social sites and marketing with our founder, Dani Greer, who has helped me sort out the maze of what can work and what does not. 

Author Cara Lopez Lee has an excellent post here at BRP, Amazon and Oranges, in which she compares marketing to tending to an ageing, ailing tree. She has some great tips, including this one I'd missed before. "When my Amazon rank goes down, meaning the number goes up, I tend to avoid pointing people to my direct Amazon link. Like my orange tree, my memoir has been around a while, and I don’t want my marketing efforts dragged down by Amazon numbers past their peak. During down times, I send people to Goodreads."

There are a lot of other good articles on marketing and promotion here at BRP, as well as at The Writer Unboxed website. If you have a new book about to come out, you might find the posts helpful. They're also good resources no matter what stage of your career you are at. 

As always, we welcome comments, and I hope you'll share any pointers on promoting, marketing, and selling you might have. 
Maryann Miller is a novelist, editor, and sometimes an actress. She has written a number of mysteries, including the critically-acclaimed Seasons Mystery Series that debuted with Open Season. Information about her books and her editing rates is available on her website. When not writing, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk, work jigsaw puzzles, color, and quilt.


  1. What a fabulous post, Maryann! It's especially helpful for semi-reclusive types like me, who either stand at the back of the room or just peek in the door. Fortunately, I have someone else who now will be handling my marketing; however, I will also be doing a bit on my own. This is why I so appreciate your post. Each link will be carefully perused, and I look forward to embracing new ideas for promoting sales. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this much needed nudge toward strengthening my weakest link.

  2. I used to do a lot more promos for my books, but it's a slippery slope to know when you've gone too far. I've had sales, given books away, promoted on social media sites, and I've concluded after a certain point, nothing much helps, especially if your book has been around for a long time. Those who will buy/read it already have. I also find writers who do nothing but push their books annoying. I'm sure I'm annoying enough without doing that.

  3. Social media is a lot about relationship building so that when you do have news to share, people are more receptive. If all one ever does on SM is say "buy my book" they get ignored pretty fast. But selling is a necessary skill no matter how you are published these days. I have never been a good salesperson.

    1. Let's not forget how much money it takes to advertise.


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