I was accused the other day on FB of having a scarcity mentality, while the other person proudly proclaimed they had an abundance mentality. After I got through face-palming over the ridiculousness of it, I decided it was a good point to bring up here. You see, this person was reacting to my having asked a question after they seemingly randomly shared links to their books on someone else’s wall. Getting huffy and saying that the person had been looking for books to read… fine, I really didn’t care. But the snarky comment, when this person is known for their book spamming?
As marketing goes, in general it is considered really bad manners to be constantly pushing your books. Doing it on your own FB wall, twitter feed, or what have you is one thing. If you do it too often people will tune you out or unfollow you. But promoting your books in groups, semi-private events, other’s personal timelines… those are really bad manners and justifiably will get you tossed on your ear from most places. I know that some groups allow promotion on certain days, but even then it’s questionable.
So why is this? When we’re pushing our own work, there’s a fine line between “look at my beautiful baby!” and “hey, meester, wanna meet my seester? She’s cheep!” Desperation never looks good on anyone. But you want to, need to, sell your book and get it in front of other eyes…
You know what looks a million times better than pushing your own book? Pushing someone else’s book. Look, this isn’t a competition. One author cannot possibly write enough to keep an avid reader ‘fed’ with enough material. Personally, for me as a reader, a dozen authors couldn’t do it. So why not keep that abundance mentality – only not just toward your own book – be generous, share others. By networking, we can get fresh eyes on our work.
I do this by reviewing books weekly on my blog. Sometimes I cheat a little and review shorter works, like the novelette I just did, because I don’t always have time to read a full-length novel. I will also share purchases, finds, and new releases by friends on FB, twitter, and G+ (which I’m still not sure how effective that one is, but that’s a different conversation). I’m fairly careful about this, as I don’t want to promote anything I’m not sure of. So if it’s a brand new release I haven’t already had a chance to read, I’ll share if it’s a trusted author. Otherwise, I wait until I’ve had a chance to at least start reading it.
I am always, and I encourage you to be as well, honest in my reviews without being harsh. Would you review a book differently if you knew the author was indie vs trad? How, and why would you? Ask yourself, and if you’re being harsher on Indie, reconsider it. I also suggest you be selective. If the book isn’t the best product, don’t recommend it, or you will lose the trust of your readers and friends (well, at least in that department). Story is king, and if it’s a good story, well, tell everybody about it!
I do share books often, perhaps sometimes too often, but I know that like me, many of my friends and family read a lot. I also know that finding a new book or author is hard. None of us have the time to waste, nor the money, in exploring the wilderness of Amazon for a good read. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard ‘I rely on recommendations to find new books’ in the last year or two.
I’m branching out a little, to see if running an ad will help. But I’m in no hurry, my plan for my writing is very long-term. I don’t need to be spammy, and I certainly don’t need to try to suppress other writers, because in the long run, the more readers there are, the better for all of us. Word of mouth is slow, but it’s the gold standard for a reason. When you have readers talking about your books, and doing it spontaneously, that’s better than money can buy.
Books these days aren’t scarce. But wading through the abundance can be intimidating for the reader, and sticking out can be hard for the author. You don’t want to stick out in all the wrong ways. Readers can help their favorite authors out by sharing, reviewing, and talking about books. Authors can help one another out by putting on their reader hats (what, you don’t have one? Mine is all wide-brimmed and 40’s movie starlet!) and doing the same. By coming together, we can help one another. Just don’t be spammy, and don’t go around accusing others of wanting to suppress you, or you will get an honest review, and that might not suit you!
I almost thought this was going to turn into an r/K discussion….
r/K? Not familiar with that acronym.
It’s a reference to evolutionary theory and Plenty vs. Scarcity. Bill Whittle discusses it very well in one of his Stratosphere Lounge shows. I know WordPress will mangle the link with a time-offset in it. If it does, go to the 58 minute mark (He really gets going at about 1:02). Basically r is reproductive rate, while K is related to the carrying capacity of an environment. The r strategy is based on plenty, allowing high reproduction. The K strategy is based on scarcity, and the emphasis is on fitness for survival. The vogue in conservative circles is to apply this theory to political motivations, and in certain respects, it works (although I can think of some areas where it doesn’t).
And this is most likely what the comment was meant to apply to, or some sort of half-baked economic theory… anyway, I rolled my eyes and kept going. I keep saying writers aren’t in a competition. Whatever else there is, there will always be readers.
If writers were in competition with one another, why on Earth would so many blog about how to write well, or form writer’s groups, or anything else that allows us to learn from one another.
I know if I’m in competition with someone, I’m damn sure not going to offer up information that might let them beat me.
However, writers aren’t competition. If anything, our relationships are more symbiotic than anything. After all, one of YOU readers might become one of my readers and vice versa.
That’s the beauty of being a writer. 😀
Heh, that would make writing an r strategy, where you write as much as possible, because there is an over-abundance of “food” out there (readers), and so rather than spending your entire life honing and perfecting one novel, write as much as you possibly can instead.
You might have a point there. 😉
But if I wear a hat, nobody can see it…. 🙂
But there used to be more readers, until they fled the grey goo of downer message fiction and fled to other ecosystems. Now we need to lure them back with tasty fun reading that inspires without preaching. And not scare them off with constant advertising.
And that last part is the trick.
On one hand, I want my Facebook friends to all buy my book. On the other, I don’t want to be “that guy” who’s constantly spamming their timelines with his latest thing.
It’s not as easy as it seems when you’re outside looking in.
Are you starting a collection or something?
Or some combination of:
1. No matter who you are, you are not a competent judge of the quality of your own work. Not even if you’re a genuinely masterful judge of the quality of others. Without feedback from people outside your own head, you will never know where you need to improve, let alone how to do so.
2. Beyond a certain very limited point, “honing” a novel does not move it toward perfection, but rather toward over-edited goo. You aren’t qualified to know on your own where that point is, either.
3. The most frequently effective way to improve the level of one’s general skill at writing (as it is with just about every other skill) is to get lots of practice. Honing your one novel doesn’t give you more practice as a writer…it just trains your inner editor to be more effective at eating his own tail, Oruboros-like. You get more practice at writing novels by writing more novels.
(In other words, the optimal strategy is not choosing either p or K, but exploiting the synergy that exists between the two in any field more skill-defined than spamming one’s environment with copies of oneself. 🙂 )
Reproductive strategies from evolutionary theory aren’t as useful in other areas as analogies, I fear…at least not until some biologist makes a credible case that younger siblings are per se more fit for survival than older ones.
I’ve had stuff that I wasn’t crazy about be read, only to have people say, “That’s awesome!” Really? Are you tripping on LSD? No? Then what the…?
What it means is that I’m apparently my own harshest critic. I suck at knowing how my own stuff will play with readers. Yet another reason to use betas 🙂
Oh, great, you’re giving me flashbacks to that ecosystem biology course from h-ll. I’m going to be running Lotka-Volterra equations in my nightmares thanks to you. *glares in a general northwestern direction*
No matter how you run it or what sort of fudge factors you build in (and there are so many constantly fluctuating factors that you can never run a very precise Lotka-Volterra equation) you always come up with the same answer: reintroducing wolves=Bad Idea.
Those who get warm fuzzies from the thought of vicious predators being “out there”, aren’t the ones who have to live near them.
We replaced them, that’s why I think hunting is a part of responsible land management.
I do this by reviewing books weekly on my blog. Sometimes I cheat a little and review shorter works, like the novelette I just did, because I don’t always have time to read a full-length novel.
I, for one, am extremely thankful you cheated a little this week. For purely selfish reasons. 😀
But as you will see in the comments, we want you to make it longer. Are you writing yet? 😀
Yes I am. I’m trying to figure out what to subject Jason and his family to…I mean, I’m trying to figure out…aw, hell, who am I kidding?
I’m figure out how to bludgeon the character into new and exciting adventures. Hopefully to full novel length 😀
Cedar, I would advise against ad’s. It “works” for publishing houses, because they can offer a range of books in an ad. Getting reviews, and helping others works far better. If you must, get together worth one or two other writers of similar books, and do 150 samples on flyers at con’s. You can get up to 4 samples on both sides of a 8 1/2X11 sheet for about $0.05-0.10 per sheet, in lots of ~200. Make sure you have an address to buy from Amazon, etc., for each sample. Per Mad Mike, adding autographs to physical copies at dealer booths helps sales.
Walter, in this case it’s an ad in an online SF magazine (so, targeted to my audience), I’m running a nice book-cover ad for 6 months for a mere $40. I can risk that… and it’s not just about selling that book, it’s about brand awareness. The more people see a name, the more likely they are to pick it up when they run across it for the third, or fourth, or… nth time.
I would certainly not run a non-targeted ad. I hear people have had good results with Project Wonderful, and I may try that as well. As for flyers at cons, well, maybe. I think most of those get picked up, then dumped. I did buy postcards, and will be using those as signing cards for fans who buy ebooks. They’re pretty, and ran me about $0.30 each. I used Gotprint, where I order my business cards from.
I ran an entertainment business for over a decade, and I still do that. The writing is not terribly different in some ways. I’ve never been one to ‘sell’ I prefer permission marketing, content marketing, and word-of-mouth. It’s a slow burn, but worth the effort, I have found.
On my FB page I have to remind myself to occasionally push my own books, which I do (maybe once a month or so) by a simple “Hey, I’ve got stuff for sale” with a link to my “my titles for sale” web page. Beyond that, I’ll post when I’ve got something new coming out.
I’ll share friends links (when I remember to; I’m not as good about that as perhaps I should be. Mea culpa). But I also try to keep enough else going on–humor posts, political posts, things going on in my life, what have you–to give people reason to read my page. And I can hope that I provide enough reason that people might tolerate the blatant marketing posts.
I only came across you because http://accordingtohoyt.com/ had a blog post promoting a list of books including Pixie Noir, and it looked interesting. Since then I’ve wondered if writer sites having “books I like” sections (including covers, abstract, and links to snippets, purchase, and the author site) could lead to a network of recommendations, and if that would improve the ability for authors to build a set of readers.
I know I’ve bought some real drek from Amazon, and having people I respect liking a book does help separate the joys from the bleh. An author who suggested mediocre (or worse) would fall off the respect list quickly.
If Amazon was still letting people sign up for new Author Alerts, I’d be more willing to look down on writers who post announcements about their stuff for sale. But they don’t seem to be. And annoyingly, some of my favorite writers are among the set who are so militantly humble that it’s quite possible for me to go _months_ without even realizing they’ve put out something new, that I not merely _might_ want to read, but _actively_ want to read. But that’s purely about posting announcements in your own space…not cluttering up other people’s.
Frankly, I’ve got a pretty strict trust hierarchy, when it comes to buying decisions:
1. (From authors or in some cases series that I already know and love, or third parties speaking on their behalf) “Hey all, I’ve got a new thing coming out!”
2. (From individual reviewers I trust implicitly to have tastes compatible with mine…a set currently composed of 3 people, one of whom is my wife) “Hey, this thing I just read is really great, and you’d like it too!”
3. (From Baen) “Hey, this new book we’ve got coming out is big on X and Y” (for values of X and Y corresponding to any of my many happy-triggers)
4. (From Amazon’s database magic) “These books here were enjoyed by many of the people who also bought those books you already bought”
5. [Same as #2, but from reviewers I trust to be good judges of quality, but not necessarily to have tastes compatible with mine…a set that includes every human being I call a friend except for those 3 in the #2 group, plus everyone in the post rotation here at MGC and a significant fraction of the regular commenters at ATH.]
6. Reviews from people I don’t know either personally or at least through having spent a year or more reading their contributions to the blogosphere
(#1 through #3 are “instant buy” signals. #4 and #5 are enough to get me to click through and read the blurb that’s on the book’s Amazon page, and maybe some Amazon reviews if I’m still on the fence after that. #6 and #7 have never, in and of themselves, convinced me to buy a book.)
I’ve actually talked with friends about the subject, and while some don’t have my level of special trust in Baen (and hence omit #3), the general ranking is otherwise pretty uniform. So the natural writer’s response, it seems to me, is to shoot mainly for #4 and #5, while not neglecting to occasionally inform your hardcore fans that you’re still releasing new material. 🙂