The Pitfalls of Promotion. . .

or “How to Find Yourself Banished to the Hinterlands”.

by Amanda S. Green

Promotion is the bane of all writers.  I don’t know a writer who wouldn’t rather be writing than trying to figure out a new and better way to promote our books.  But it is a way of life these days and something we have to be aware of.  One of the easiest ways of promotion has been to take part on different discussion boards.  That not only gives name recognition but allows the opportunity to add a link to our book, Amazon Central page, etc.  It’s free and it also gives us the chance to interact with people who might just become fans.

However, this path is filled with pitfalls.  We’ve all seen it.  The author who jumps into a discussion and makes a complete ass out of himself.  It can be over politics, e-books v. hard copy books, does the sun rise in the east. . . you get my meaning.  It is so easy to rip off a response to something and hit send before we actually think about what we’ve just typed.  Then there’s that set of authors who never show up until someone says something they perceive as negative about their “baby” and then the author feels the need to defend, often with vulgarity, what they wrote.  All that does is hurt the author, even if does give a short term boost to whatever title they are dewfending.

Then there’s the drive-by posting.  This is where an author who hasn’t been part of an online community joins simply to be able to post a promo announcement or two and then disappears, never to be seen until their next book is about to be published.

Those examples can be annoying — and often entertaining, especially if you like flame wars — they pale in contrast to the fallout that can happen when enough authors hijack threads to promote their own work.  This is what happened this past week over on the Amazon kindle boards.

A little background:  When Amazon started the kindle boards, the terms of service (TOS) included a prohibition against self-promotion.  But, no one really worried about it as long as the authors used some common sense.  The community self-policed itself and, for the most part, authors kept their promotions to a single thread a week — if that often — and to adding the link to their book or their Amazon Central page under their name as part of the signature.  Then Amazon started the KDP program and publishing was suddenly opened to everyone.  The result was a sudden influx of self-published and small press published authors coming to the kindle community and using it to promote their books.

Mind you, most of them followed the “rules”.  But the few who didn’t soon turned threads into frequent areas of contention.  They’d post their promotions in the middle of threads that had nothing to do with their book, or books in general.  They’d start new threads with deceptive headers, quickly ticking off the regulars on the forum.  It got to the point where the frustration with these few boiled over to taint all indies (small press and self-published).  That’s when Amazon started hearing a number of complaints and finally took action.

This action impacts all authors, not just those who couldn’t be bothered to follow the “rules”.  As of now, there is no self-promotion allowed on the Amazon kindle board.  Instead, they’ve created a new community for just that purpose.  There are a couple of problems with this, imo.  The first is that it means we can no longer “sign” our posts with links to our books or our Amazon Central page.  That’s promotion, you see, so not allowed.  I’m hopeful Amazon will change that or, as in the past, simply turn a blind eye to it.  However, that isn’t guaranteed and it does remove one of the most effective ways of promotion on any of the Amazon boards from out arsenal.

The second issue is that the new community, like most of the other Amazon communities, isn’t easy to find.  Heck, it’s like trying to find the B&N communities.  If you don’t know where to find then, you won’t. And that hurts readers and authors alike.

This sort of behavior — and consequences — isn’t unique to the Amazon kindle boards.  I’ve seen it time and time again.  It’s just that the kindle community is one of the largest communities devoted to e-books and e-readers around.  To have that removed from our arsenal of free promotion tools is like shooting us in the leg and then telling us to run a marathon.  It can be done, but it will hurt like hell and be a whole lot harder.

So now we have to look for some other way to promote, one that will not cost us an arm or a leg and that won’t take even more time away from writing.  And this is where my questions to each of you come in.  What sort of promotion best gets your attention?  What makes you want to find out more about an author or a new book or short story, especially if it is an author you’ve never heard of before?



  1. I’ll hunt down and read stuff from authors who have expressed interesting POVs in discussions of just about anything. Philosophy, the Singularity, How to kill Alien Invaders, or grow potatoes in a garbage bag.

    So, with this new rule of Amazon’s, how is one to know the person one has been chatting with is an author? Do we all have to attach a secret code word to our names?

  2. I’ve started to really enjoy the book trailers which occasionally pop-up on the internet. I’m assuming they’re relatively unused because of the time and effort it takes to make them (time away from writing) but in a society where film and cinema is such a popular activity is seems like a great opportunity to target those reluctant readers.

    1. Martin,

      I enjoy a good book trailer. Unfortunately, I’ve seen more bad ones than good. My opinion is we will see more and more of them, especially as more enhanced e-books start hitting the shelves. But you are right, you either need to have the ability to make the trailers — which does, then, take time away from writing — or hire someone to do it for you. You would be surprised some of the prices I’ve seen for putting together trailers.

  3. Pam, that’s the problem. You can say you’re an author, but you can’t link to your work or your Author Central page. Nor can you offer giveaways, talk about your book or anything else that is “shameless self-promotion”. I know there have been some authors who have been long-term contributors to the forums who have asked for at least the tags as part of signatures to be okayed. Whether they will change the policy to allow this is anyone’s guess.

  4. Nice post, I’m afraid I’m possibly the worst person in the world to try and sell something to. If i;m interested I buy, if I’m not, no chance.

    That said, subtle stuff like listing books from other authors or even a sample chapter of another writer or two in a an ebook would be greatly appealing to me. For be, as someone who reads fantasy of all stripes, mil sf, space opera, and whatever it wouldn’t even matter if say I found a chapter each of Impaler and the Calvanni in the back of Nocturnal Origins. But in terms of true active promotion, I’m probably completely oblivious to it.

    1. Mike, isn’t being a hard sell part of your job description ;-p

      We’ve started putting chapters of other books by the same author in our offerings from NRP. I think I like your idea of putting offerings from similar authors/books in our stable as well. I’ll have to talk to the powers that be about it. Thanks for the suggestion.

      1. Ha, ha! Goin back to the old days where there would the blurbs of other books for the last few pages. You might even be able to go another step back into the past, while forging ahead by having a page of titles, prices and a link to the checkout once you have selected the new titles you want.

        1. Brendan,

          That is also something we are starting to do, sort of. In some of our later e-books, you will find a list of titles by that author that will link back to the product page in our webstore. From there, you can choose to purchase the book and check-out.

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