Friday, 13 January 2012

How much promotion is too much?

I was asked this on Twitter the other day. The reason the conversation arose is that a successful writer has been bugging the pants off people on Twitter. (Please, if you know who I mean, do NOT identify him on my blog. I have no desire at all to embarrass the poor chap. Besides, I hear there are more than one bug... Erm, person who bugs.)

Poor chap? Hang on! His book has done fantabulously well, so surely his bugging-people-on-Twitter strategy worked? Why should he feel any embarrassment?

Let me tackle this, before I move on to talk about how much promotion is too much.
First, we have no idea at all whether the bugging strategy worked. We have no idea if it was even a strategy. For all I know, he was just being over-excited. Importantly, we also have no idea whether he'd have sold as many or even more if he hadn't bugged pants off people.

BUT he has sold stacks and stacks of copies, so he really shouldn't care if he's annoyed anyone, should he?

Well, here I come to my second point: it depends whether he (or any writer who crosses invisible lines) minds what people think. And that is entirely up to the individual; everyone's skin is of a different thickness. So, I will not say he or anyone "shouldn't" have crossed the lines he crossed. I will not say he should be embarrassed.

But I would be.

And this is at least part of my main point, moving on to the wider question. "How much promotion is too much" depends both on you, the writer, and on you, the reader.

Everything is a judgement call. Every blog post, every tweet, every Facebook status update, every email to a festival organiser pitching an event. Every time you tell a personal friend about your latest short-listing, every time you say "me" or "my book", every video trailer, every pile of postcards you order from Vistaprint. Every quote you add to your email signature; every new review you put on your website. All of it, every single time, is a judgement call.

But how do we make that judgement? Are there any objective measures? What things turn people off? Well, probably not exactly objective but there seem to be some general lines that a decent number of people would agree on. Let me tell you what my own guidelines are. They are the lines which I try not to cross and the crossing of which by others bugs the pants off me, to the extent that I'm highly unlikely to buy their books or want to help them in any way. (Like anyone, I may occasionally get over-excited and accidentally put my toe over a line - I would then try to pull it back immediately.) They are the guidelines which I sense many others follow and approve. You don't have to follow these guidelines  - you have to find what's comfortable for you.

So, here are my guidelines:

DO
  1. Give far more than you ask for. In other words, if your blog/FB timeline/Twitter feed is mostly giving people information, support, or entertainment without asking anything, it is fine if you sometimes plug your own work or ask your readers, colleagues and friends or "followers" to consider doing something for you. (Bearing in mind other points below.)
  2. I've heard a 90% rule given - 90% of your online activity should be giving, and then you can use the other 10% for blagging. (Bearing in mind the points below.) I've also heard a 60/40 rule from marketing professionals, but I definitely prefer the 90/10 one, which is for mere humans.
  3. Be generous in your praise of others. Be nice. And if you can't be nice, be silent.
  4. When you ask people to do something (such as read a blog post or click a link or buy your book) do so generally and openly, not individually or privately. (See below.) If you make it general and don't address your message to anyone specific, you make it easy for people to ignore it, which is as it should be.
DON'T
  1. Ask a stranger or slight acquaintance to do ANYTHING for you. (This is where complaints came in.) Not even the smallest thing. Not even to retweet your tweet. So, on Twitter, never send a DM (private message) to someone who is not genuinely a good friend to ask them to do even the smallest thing. Even to do something you think is fun. (Someone said, "But surely you wouldn't mind if I DM'd you to ask you to do something you'd enjoy?" Only I can be the judge of what I would enjoy. You don't know me, so don't assume.)
  2. (Don't) Forget that no one loves your book as much as you do.
  3. (Don't) Forget that there are eleventy million other books for people to buy.
  4. (Don't) Assume that all your friends will buy your book. They can't all afford to and they can't afford to buy all their friends' books, especially if they are writers, because writers have many friends who are writers.
  5. (Don't) Ask people to review your book, except as a very general and light request. I'm cautious about doing this at all, as I think it can sound needy, but I will occasionally in a very careful and tentative way. Also, again very occasionally, if someone privately tells me they absolutely loved one of my books, I might cautiously ask if they might possibly have time to write a quick recommendation on Amazon (or something) but I would also make it very clear that I absolutely wouldn't mind if they didn't. I will make it easy for them not to.
I think it all boils down to three things:
  1. Don't do what you don't like others to do.
  2. Give far more than you expect to receive.
  3. Never ask even a tiny favour of someone who you don't feel is actually your friend. Especially if that person is busy.
As I say, these are my guidelines, which I recommend to you. I admit that I might sell more books if I crossed more lines, but I would be uncomfortable. I'd rather have my modest sales but feel reasonably comfortable that most people are not being totally bugged by me. I hope! (NB I'm sure, logically, that I've pissed some people off: it would be pretty hard never to cross anyone's lines. But I carefully watch out for what annoys me in others - and I do have a fairly low tolerance - and actively try to avoid doing the same. It's all any of us can do.)

What about Facebook (your Author page, not your personal FB profile) and your own website?
Ah, now this is where you can do much more. People come to your FB page or your website to find out about you. They expect to find links to reviews, newspaper articles, videos of you, or news of awards and short listings. So, putting those items as prominently as you like in those places is absolutely fine, though I would never advocate cockiness or boasting. Saying, "I've been shortlisted for such-and-such" is not the same as saying, "I'm a totally fabulous famous author. Kiss my feet, losers." The point that makes your FB author page or your website a place where you can play by different rules is the element of choice that the visitor has in coming there and why they came: to see you and find out what you've done.

I stressed that I'm talking about the FB Author Page, not your personal page. This is a matter of opinion, but I know that I and many writers and readers who I respect don't like their social space overwhelmed by promotional updates. So, my advice is to keep your "normal" FB page social, soft, supportive, and to do your promotional stuff on your Author page. It doesn't matter if it sometimes overlaps, but I really think the 90/10 rule is best applied to social networks. I think it's fine to post links to your blog sometimes though, as long as that's not all you do. Just don't do the "Ooh, look how freaking successful I am!" thing. Apart from anything else, there are a lots more writers amongst your friends who are feeling very vulnerable and you just trod all over them. They won't thank you.

Back to Twitter, where this began: personally, I think the writer who was being discussed has used Twitter very successfully. Good on him. But I don't like using Twitter. I like enjoying it. Therefore, I can't in all honesty recommend the bugging-the-pants-off-people approach. Even if it works for him. 

What do you think? Do those guidelines make sense? What else bugs you? Or what doesn't?

PS I can't tell you what I'm doing today, because that would be blatant self-promotion. I may casually drop it into conversation on Twitter and hope people will notice. Mind you, if I actually WIN the thing... No, shhh, woman. You just crossed a line. Or did I? What do you think?

49 comments:

MikeH said...

I have a love/hate relationship with Twitter and, not knowing where to set the line, I simply don't Tweet a lot. I'm sure there is a better solution.

But back to Tweet-bugs: One writer I follow in Twitter has--over the past six months--sent (I counted) an average of 1 Tweet every 13 and a half minutes, day and night, 7 days a week; the vast majority of them are self-promotional. I don't know if this strategy is working for him, but it is something I would never consider: there simply are not enough hours in the day.

catdownunder said...

Mmm...this is something I have been wondering about. Someone else suggested I should my blog posts up on Twitter. They said it would be good if I made the effort to get more people to read it. I have been putting up the link in the middle of the afternoon here (early morning hours in the UK) and I suspect most people do not even notice it. I am not sure I even want them to. My blog is just there. If people find it and want to read it fine. I do not want to push it in their faces.
I am not, for all my "prowling" around, very good at bouncing up and down and saying "Look at me". I could not do what you do.
Twitter is fun - and I would rather leave it at that - but I am not much good at Facebook either.
It is - very difficult.

Pippa Jay said...

I read plenty of blogs on marketing that advocate using places like Twitter, but I have to admit probably 90% or more of my time on there is spent socializing (or sometimes I can classify it as research). I have too much fun to want to mess it up by promoting, although it wouldn't hurt to push myself forward a little more in that department. I'd rather under promote than over.

Ebony McKenna. said...

Twitter is like a big party and loads of fun. I like chatting to people and joining a conversation.

It's not a conversation when the only thing the other person says is 'my book is 99c on Amazon'.

Twitter is full of people who have written a book, but I'm pretty sure it's not full of people who are desperately looking for a book.

Kate said...

I do love your posts on this sort of thing. Well I love your posts in general, but I find the subject of self promotion fascinating because, if I ever get that far, I suspect it will be something I'm not very good at :-)

Marguerite Kaye said...

I'm still quite new to Twitter and enjoying it much more than I thought, but I see it as a place to make connections and have fun with a bit of promo thrown in. I have already 'unfollowed' a favourite author because he/she posts only and frequently on how fabulous their books are. I do post book releases and giveaways but they by and large follow your 10% rule. I do talk about my work, but that's because it gets me tea and sympathy and laughs and that makes me feel that I'm not alone, the big problem for writers.

Fair play to whoever it is you're talking about, it's passed me by, but it won't be the first or last author who's overdone it. It wouldn't stop my buying their book if I was a fan, but on the other hand it would probably put me off if I was just looking for something new to read. So in those terms, I guess I think they have failed.

As ever, thought-provoking post. And BTW, I landed here via Twitter this morning!

Nicola Morgan said...

Cat, the idea that you can't mention your blog posts on a twitter is extraordinary! Obviously it's not right to mention them over and over but I've never heard anyone say you shouldn't mention that you've blogged, with a link. I would never know about your posts if you didn't!

Heather Mitchell said...

Well said and well-timed. As a relatively newbie, and returnee to Twitter, I have had enough confusion getting to grips with it again - though helped greatly by 'Tweet Right' - and couldn't help noticing (ha!) a few cases of apparently endless self-promotion with Not Much Else!

Some of these I have unfollowed. Others I probably will unfollow. Which probably defeats their intended object. It takes a period of time, a month or so I've found, to realise which Tweeps are only ever going to be promoting themselves/blog/book without any other engagement. And then I switch off - in the same way as I glaze over during ad breaks.

That's it. I don't want a continual stream of ads on my Twitter Feed any more than I would want a tv channel or magazine packed with nothing but ads - or to stand and stare at a revolving ad hoarding all day!

To that end, I will play my part as follows: guide new (or overkilling current) Tweeps to this blog, also to 'Tweet Right' and to unfollow those who are ONLY "using" the Twitter platform, stamping in giant hobnail boots waving placards saying "Buy!". Self-promotion in moderation is not a bad motto here. I tend to buy because I like what you have to say, not, as I have seen, I "must/should read it". As you say, let me be the judge of that!

One ad, I might check the link. Endless ads and no other engagement, I unfollow. My prerogative.

alisonwells said...

For me, your first point really is the key. If you are generally on Twitter (or the blog) in a supportive, helpful and social way then I think a bit of self-promotion is fine. I love to highlight the achievements of others and retweet worthy promotions of others work (as long as they don't go too far!)

As for linking to your blog posts, I am delighted to see links to the posts of others, especially from fellow writers (I also like space stuff) as what they say will be encouraging or helpful. If I think that I've done a blog post that people will enjoy or that contains helpful info for them then I will post it. Sometimes I do feel a bit embarrassed though, if I've not had much time to be social on twitter but have a post to link to that might be helpful, I do wonder if people will think I'm going on too much about my own stuff.

Dan Holloway said...

Given that we're in the middle of Shorty season on twitter this is very apt.

Your list of don'ts struck many chords - especially the reviewing one. Even amongst people who are quite good firneds when they're not talking about their writing, there is an assumption that "if you're a friend you will..." and the most annoying of those is reviewing, for all kinds of reasons. First and foremost among which is that what matters to many of us is building a long-term reputation for integrity. Whcih means giving a truthful opinion when we do things in our writerly capacity. But I've found very little correlation between people's likeableness and their writing skills. So when you ask someone to review your book you're putting them in an impossible position - if they love it, it will *look* like they're being croneyish, if they don't love it they either have to lie or offend you. And they feel rude if they say no to your request. Yes, maybe we should be more assertive or less sensitive, but putting somneone in a position where they have to be more assertive or less sensitive isn't really something we do to friends, is it?

I do find Facebook a particular problem. I agree about the personal vs author page distinction. The problem is a lot of writers want to "friend" everyone else they know who's a writer, and when you get those requests it puts you in another awkward position - sometimes you just know they'll spam you endlessly. Or it may be that whilst you're happy discussing editing on #writechat with them you know from their tweets you share very different politics - I've had several writers leap into discussions amongst my friends and really offend people. But if you ignore or refuse the request they cut you out of their writerly activities (I try to err on the "better off without them in my life at all" side). Like many I use Facebook to keep in touch with friends from college and work, and to carry on last night's conversations from the pub/gig. And while many of those will be writing-related, very few of those writing-related things are "buy x's book" type things, and lots of conversations have nothing to do with writing. I don't want my family bombarded with goodness knows what every time they go to my wall, and I don't want someone spewing their political or religious views at my friends when we're having a civilised conversation.

The problem is, over-promoting on social media can be a very passive aggressive thing. It's easy to spot the over-excitably "me, me, me" people, which is one reason it doesn't bother me - you can rown them out and everyone agrees they're the problem. The ever so reasonable DMs @s and friend requests are much more insidious because, like all the worst pieces of passive-aggression, to many on the outside they end up making you look like the unreasonable one.

Helen said...

Great post as usual Nicola. I'm fairly new to using social media so all advice is welcome as I always feel a bit self-conscious about anything I post. As an unpublished writer, I've nothing to promote or brag about but I do post a link to my latest blog post a couple of times over the period of a week on Twitter. I've not got many followers so it doesn't really add to my blog stats but I'm like Cat in that I don't mind. My blog is a personal account of my experience of being a mature student on a MLitt creative writing course so I also post a link on my personal FB page and this generates most of the traffic(small though it is) as my friends are genuinely interested in how I'm getting on.

Penny Dolan said...

Nicola, this really made such sense. Must add that I now feel quite venomous about a certain person because of an unrelenting bombardment about his book and would hate that approach to be seen as the one to follow by new authors.

Vee said...

Interesting blog post Nicola and definitely food for thought, especially as I'm fairly new to Twitter and don't tweet a huge amount. Sometimes find it a bit intimidating, but I think this is because I'm more of a person who likes one to one conversations or with a couple of people rather than a 'large party' person, and I see Twitter as a worldwide party.

However, I don't like repeated self promotion tweets e.g. buy my book, I do find them irritating, but I do like to know that someone's book has just come out, or they have a course on, but once is enough! I'm also aware that I only have a small amount of followers and people I follow so I'm not going to get the massive amount of tweets that some of you, who have thousands of followers will do. Still irritating is irritating no matter how few followers.

I like the 90:10 rule and will add this to my ever growing list of Twitter do's and don'ts.

JO said...

Thank you for this - it's really useful to have my own thoughts written succinctly like this.

And - good luck with the prize. No, that isn't over the line. It's fine to feel that proud of yourself, and we all know prizes don't happen every day. Besides, you haven't DM'd us suggesting we tweet about it.

Joanna Canon said...

Wonderful post, Nicola, as always. Thank you so much for writing about the subject.

I think 90/10 is the perfect ratio. As for promoting blog posts, I only ever tweet once. After that, it's out there on its own in the ether and it either catches or it doesn't!

Isabel Rogers said...

Sensible advice (as always). Yes, I got here via Twitter, but I wanted to follow the link. I've only unfollowed one person and suspect it's the author talked about here ...

Lari Don said...

This is exceptionally good advice, especially the idea that we all have our own lines, our own comfort zones, and that we shouldn't do what we're uncomfortable about. You can indeed USE Twitter - I got very excited on my first day, and subtly (I thought!) linked to several of my book pages. But that way of USING Twitter isn't very friendly, and isn't the best way to enjoy it, or to benefit from it as a person rather than marketing strategy. Once I realised that the people I liked spending time with on Twitter were the ones who chatted about writing, not the ones who shouted about their books, I calmed down a bit. I hope. I'm sure I do still annoy some people, but that's ok, they can just unfollow me. That's what I do with the shouty ones! So, thanks Nicola, excellent post, and good rules for us all to measure against our own personal guidelines.

Carol said...

The biggest problem with Twitter is, in my experience, the 'lost in translation' factor due to the 140 character limitation. It can take a while to understand the nuances. A general *suggestion* that others read your blog can easily be interpreted as a direct request.

I would never ask anyone, outright, to read me, review me or otherwise engage with me. It is up to me to make people *want* to read me. To exercise enough humility to keep me mindful & enough self-awareness to know when I've written/blogged about something worthwhile.

The real trick with Twitter is to develop reciprocal relationships. In the end, we're all looking for approval. That is the human condition & it's good for us to be generous to one another. It's self-aggrandizing & endless promotion that turns me off.

And meanness. Like you say, if we can't say something nice, we ought to keep silent. Play nicely, be generous & our followers will be happy with a little self-promotion.

The 90/10 ratio sounds like a sensible balance.

Thanks for another interesting post.

LilianHarry said...

A very sensible and excellent guide to how to behave on Twitter. I was one of those targeted by an author who behaved in this way and involved in discussion about him, and I contacted him by DM to suggest that he tone it down a bit and engage in conversation about other matters than his book. We had a friendly chat and since then he does seem to be doing this. I've even retweeted one or two of his tweets to show no hard feelings.

I enjoy Twitter for the fun and the information so many people offer via links, and I also mention my books when (a) someone asks and (b) when a publication is due. Or if something starling happens (not a frequent occurrence!)But that's about it. I hope I am not overdoing it.

Probably most of those who self-promote too much will eventually get the message, but it's rather sad if they only get it because everyone is blocking them, which is what was starting to happen to this chap. Maybe a polite DM requesting such a person to stop would be a better first step..

Annalisa Crawford said...

Oops. I've just read this after scheduling a post for tomorrow. I've now deleted said post, and will be thinking of a different subject. As I am stupidly excited at the moment, I may have gone a little overboard on something that no else is that bothered by.

Thanks for the timing of this post!

Nicola Morgan said...

Lots of great points in these comments.

Lilian, I'm really impressed by how you handled the over-excited DMer. It makes me wonder why I just get grumpy and turn my back - maybe it would be kinder actually to be more open and honest when I'm annoyed. The fact that the person did calm down shows you did the right thing.

Annalisa - don't be too quick to take your post down. Its your blog and no one has to go to it so if they do they shouldn't mind about reading about your success. Again, it's the balance thing. If you only brag, people won't come. If you usually give other reasons for coming, and generate friendship, it's ok to boast occasionally. I also ink, in any case, there are ways of boasting that are not boasty! A boast tempered by an apology, for example. As for being "stupidly excited" about something "no be else is bothered by": actually, I think a) we have to realise that no one will ever be as excited as we are about our successes and b) it's ok to be stupidly excited! It can even be endearing. Briefly...

Dan - the passive-aggressive thing and feeling uncomfortable/guilty: very very well put. See you next week!

Thanks, everyone. Great comments, all.

Barry Walsh said...

Well said Nicola Morgan,

The 90/10 rule makes abundant sense. One clue that over-promoters' might note is that ads on tele are around 10% of programme time – and even those can drive us nuts (Go Compare?)

chillcat said...

Very useful for me too as I am worried about getting up people's noses while trying to use social media to vigorously promote my debut novel. I abhor the thought of appearing smug or anything near smug, and yet there has to be a gracious way to say 'I'm out there, and I'd like to do well.' I'm truly working on it.

All very time-consuming and I wonder if you have written a post about how it all pans out, or do you think it changes in each case? I haven't even mastered Twitter yet so I am way behind!

Ciao Catherine

Sally Zigmond said...

I, too, believe in the 90/10 'rule' with Twitter. (Don't do or get Facebook.) I live in the middle of nowhere where other writers are as rare as hen's teeth so I go on Twitter to relax, for a chat and a laugh, tea and sympathy. There are days when I don;'t feel at all sociable so stay away. I do link to my blog posts but I do it once only. However, one of the reasons I go on Twitter is to follow links to blogs, news, debates etc I might have missed.

As for the annoying DM-er, I think I know the guy you mean. After weeks of ignoring them. (I'll RT what I want when I want and not when someone begs me to, thank you very much)I finally lost my rag and blocked him. His book looks good but I refuse to buy or read it on principle. He's got enough celebrity endorsements and sales. Why the hell does he need mine?

david said...

I mercilessly unfollow people who over self promote on Twitter. It's particularly annoying if they're real life friends who you also connect with on facebook, and they post the same endless promotion there too. But at least you can hide all of their updates on facebook...

Derek said...

A great post to ponder over the weekend. While not the wildly successful author you mention (unless no one's told me), I did put a shout-out to request votes in a poll. But I did ask nicely!

womagwriter said...

One thing's for sure, on this blog, Nicola, you can never be accused of too much self-promotion. You're more 99/1 than 90/10 percent giving, here. What might you win? Tell us!

Katalin Havasi said...

Well said, Nicola.

I think etiquette on Twitter is essentially the same as etiquette elsewhere. Common sense, good taste and respect for others are the key ingredients here.

Many people feel embarrassed if they have to say no to a request from someone they like. So we shouldn't put pressure on anyone. But giving information is OK.

KarenG said...

I am so glad for this post. It put into words what I've been thinking the past year about my own comfort levels regarding self-promotion. I'm very aware when I approach my own line because the discomfort level rises the closer I get to it. I like your advice to "pull back"-- it's much better to feel positive about one's online promotional activities than to feel embarrassed. And as for Twitter DM's, I ignore them all.

Janet O'Kane said...

I'm afraid I'm with the intolerant group here: I've unfollowed a few writers (one a particularly well-known one) for tweeting incessantly about their books. I'm cautious who I follow so was shocked to get the 'please RT my tweets' DM the other day. I unfollowed, told him why I had, and tweeted a general comment on this bad behaviour. My attitude is that if someone is so thick-skinned as to make these approaches in the first place, only a firm response will get through to him.
All that being said, such people are few and far between. I'm so pleased I took *someone's* advice and went on to Twitter. I'm constantly astounded at how funny, witty, kind and supportive people can be. And I've made friends I'm looking forward to meeting in the flesh during 2012.

isabelcostello said...

Very interesting post and debate, thanks for this. It is quite extraordinary given the general disapproval expressed on Twitter of people constantly promoting their books, that so many continue to do it regardless. I'd be amazed if it really helps their sales or reputation. Like one of your other commenters I am not a published author and as such I have nothing to promote. I do however tweet links to my new blogposts a couple of times a day during the week they are current and there are a few reasons for this. They are mostly book reviews which have taken me hours and hours to produce and although honest, I am offering recommendations in the sense that I wouldn't waste time reviewing a book I really didn't rate. I'm very aware that those who read the reviews would not all see the link if I only posted it once or twice, especially with different time zone issues. Also with blogposts, at least it is something different each week and not the same old thing for 99p on Kindle. In general I love Twitter for chatting to other writers and swapping book tips. It's made me feel a lot less lonely stuck at my desk all day!

Nicola Morgan said...

Derek - asking for votes is always a tricky one. I think it's comes down to a combination of nuance, quantity, charm, and the reason for the poll in the first place. I'm sure you did fine! Even worrying about it is more than a start.

Womag - aww, thank you! Well, I might have won the Southern Schools Book Award, but I didn't! I never expected to, honestly, but i did have fun, and all the shortlistees won a lovely glass trophy and a dinner :)

Janet - now, whose advice was that, then? ;)

Isabel - I think the number of times you can get away with posting something comes down to how much else you do. If someone looked at your timeline and saw mostly links to your posts, that might be too much, but if you were doing lots of other stuff as well it would be no problem. I also think that if someone doesn't see a post first or second time, it's kind of tough. As someone else said, it's had its time to fly. (But, as I said, it's completely personal judgement and I'm not criticising at all.)

AliB said...

Hi Nicola - great - and timely - post. I see Twitter as a conversation. With friends you wouldn't stand up and shout about your book/story/success, but just mention it at teh right moment. However I admit I do post links to blog posts more than once on the basis that people come and go and many will miss it first time around. I'm comfortable with this - hope I haven't annoyed anyone.
And well done for oouting those people who bug, esp by DM.
AliB

Whirlochre said...

Sadly, along with all of the good stuff, Twitter provides yet another opportunity for "getting your willy out".

I've not been sold to via a DM yet, but I'm sure it's coming.

Marcus Speh said...

Inspiring read, thank you. Your guidelines are sound and I think I follow them naturally. When I noticed I couldn't keep up with all the chat, I exchanged my personal for a fan page on facebook. Personally, I think blogging is the most effective way to get not just your name and numbers, but also your needs (to chat, to get feedback, to write, to read etc) across. My own story, so far as an online presence has largely been spent away from the printed page so I may not be a typical user/writer. But I harbor infinite tenderness for the hand-held book. As for twitter, I use it to boast relentlessly whenever I come across anything worth sharing and that has worked for me, including the use of twitter as a medium to let people know that I've published something new. -- In your post, you forgot the power of comments: this post contained four examples of self-promotion while still staying away from spam...

Lee McAulay said...

Hi Nicola, these are great guidelines. I've linked to this post over on my blog (the post is scheduled so won't show up for a week or so).
I don't like Twitter. I avoid it as much as I can. I'd rather be writing, or blogging, or reading. And I'd rather add to my blog content than fill Twitter with trivia that drives traffic to them instead of my site.
That said, when I have a new ebook out or a new blog post I tweet about it. Once. It makes my Twitter feed look like the shortest Spam sandwich in the world...

Jane Steen said...

DMs!! Every day I get several from people I've just followed back asking me to check out their book, like their Facebook page, RT their tweets... Why on earth would I do any of these things? I generally follow people on Twitter (a bit randomly) to find out what they're like, and those promotional (usually automated) DMs leave a bad impression, quite apart from the fact that links in DMs are sometimes spam so I never click on them anyway. Please use DMs only to have private chats by mutual consent.

The other thing that's annoying is using helper apps to flood your timeline (and consequently mine) with #FF mentions and the like. Spread them out! Don't you think this technique is a form of self-promotion? It says "look at me, I promote other people."

"Please RT" on tweets is ridiculous. If you want to retweet it you will anyway; if you don't, being asked to RT is just annoying.

catdownunder, tweeting your blog posts once or twice is fine.

Telling us your book just made a bestseller list or got an award is fine as long as you don't do it constantly. Book giveaways...OK but only once a day, please. Nicola, I agree that your Facebook page is a better forum for most writer news.

Rebecca Bradley said...

I like these rules and tend to follow them myself - not that I have anything to brag about at the moment! When I put up a blog post though, it automatically gets tweeted. I'm not a consistent blogger yet so it's once maybe twice a week.

I did reply to said authors dm with the phrase that dm-ing people that way usually gets an unfollow and it's not good twitter etiquette. That was ages ago and it looks like he's not paying attention to anyone who tells him the same thing.

Cathy said...

Nicola this is a great post. My two pence are:

1) All the log rolling on twitter makes me nervous. There seems to be a lot of pressure to 'like' things reciprocally rather than strictly genuinely. It's all too tempting but it makes looking for guidance and quality cues next to impossible.

2)It's very disheartening to read blog posts which purport to help others - 'how to publish' or 'psychology of writing' and the like - but which are actually a very thinly disguised puffs for their work all of which is detailed and linked for your buying convenience. These writers appear to think their readers are stupid. What's more, for anyone looking for help, these posts can have the reverse effect.

Thanks Nicola. Brilliant post.
Cathy x

Peter Domican said...

Great post. Perfectly judged in my view. I think it’s quite acceptable for authors to promote their work regularly or blog with (several) mentions on Twitter but within the context of contributing to a wider community.
To just self promote constantly is tedious and a turnoff. I have two specific pet hates.
If someone RTs your tweet about your book, just thank them. Don’t RT it again, thanks.
99p on a Kindle is no reason to buy your book whatsoever. Unless i know something about you and your book, it’s just another 99p book on Kindle just as value bake beans are 34p on a shelf in Tesco.

Kelly McClymer said...

Good post! I'm not sure there is a right or wrong answer, just a right answer for oneself. The great thing about Twitter is that you only have to follow the Tweets of those you like (and there's no responsibility to follow anyone who follows you, either).

I see a lot of people trying to set "rules" for others, which is about as pointless (and thankless) as correcting the grammar of perfect strangers. If someone annoys me, I unfollow them (but it is hard to annoy me as I find human beings and their many behaviors quite fascinating).

The truth is that promotion is meant for readers, not fellow writers, or fellow sports-team enthusiasts, for that matter. I just ignore them, figuring they aren't meant for me. And I assume my fellow writers do the same for my promotional Tweets (or my parenting, or educational Tweets, for that matter).

Google+ seems to have dealt with this in some way, by allowing circles, where you can simply make sure that only your intended audience gets any particular notification. But it remains to be seen if that will take off.

I still love Twitter because of all the great information I find on it, and the free-stream feeling of the information flow, too.

Martha said...

Hellooo, that was an interesting post. I enjoy Twitter, and see it as something like a buffet party or post office queue -- people chatting, making friends. I am happy to waffle away to folk, share advice, seek advice etc, and if someone bounces in screaming, "Wahayyyy, my book's out today!", I'd expect their friends to start squealing and popping corks -- and I love that. It's a party. If you don't know them, you can always ignore them (I use Hootsuite which is great for selective lists). On blog posts... as a busy mum, I use Twitter to keep up on news -- it's great, and I actively want to hear about people's writing news and new blog posts. I don't mind people linking to a post a couple of times -- the Twitter streams fly by.
Annoying things? Well... the "Please RT me" DMs from New Author were a bit rubbish considering we'd never communicated before (or since) and there wasn't any reciprocity, but it IS just Twitter, you can delete a DM and then, you know, it's gone. I don't get annoyed very easily.
I have just realised what my Facebook profile looks like, though... I was very interactive on Fb a year ago, and set it up to publish my blog posts automatically in between talking to other people. Then I stopped using it, and now it's just an autofeed to my blog -- including test posts and broken links. Nice. (Blushes, scuttles away...)

Maureen Crisp said...

A very timely post Nicola,
This week I posted three thank you tweets to three people whose advice I followed when preparing my first ebook. I then had an attack of the guilts thinking I had spammed them. I need to stop over analyzing I was told ...LOL
1 tweet saying thank you with a link to my project is not spam...3 tweets saying thank you is not spam...
Thank you for reiterating the the 90/10 rule. I guess with over 800 tweets and retweets of writing links and tips up on twitter...I have 73 more tweets about this mid grade ebook project to go....and as I'm such a coward about self promotion...it will take me the rest of the year to use them...
Mike H's comment of one person tweeting every 13 and half minutes really floored me...
I'll link to your article in my weekly roundup of the best publishing tips I've discovered...pretty much all of them through twitter (twitter= brilliant for research) on my blog.
Kia Kaha (stay strong, more power to you)
Maureen
New Zealand
@craicer

Wendy Ogden said...

I really enjoyed the original post and discussions.

The 90/10 is a useful guideline and looks simple to implement. I don't have a book to sell (yet) but do post links to my blog on twitter and have been worrying about how often to do this.

There is an enormous difference though, for me, between people promoting their products for sale and showing you links to what you can read for free. When I first came online, years ago, writers were mostly looking for feedback on their work and most struggled to get it. Now writers want you to buy their writing while others, like me, still struggle to give it away. This seems mysterious to me.

I like reading blog posts (catdownunder) so am glad to see links to follow. I rarely visit my blogger dashboard because so many blogs I like are on different blog networks. Twitter links give me much more choice.

Although I write and love reading I find it helpful to increase contacts in other fields. Some days I find the amount of writing advice out there a bit overwhelming so it's refreshing to follow people who are excited about gardening, or photography, or whatever. I just re-tweeted a fantastic seascapenpicture because I think it would be nice for other people to see.

I enjoy seeing the creativity and enthusiasm that's out there. Hopefully what goes around ...

Jane Steen said...

Wendy, I like your distinction between tweeting the link to a blog post ("please read this free essay if you feel like it") and telling people to buy your book.

Especially if the only argument for buying the book is that it's 99 cents.

I have followed you on Twitter because I liked your comment so much...

Frances Bevan said...

I don't have anything to sell - although I hope to one day - I just have an historical blog or two. And I'd like people to read them, because otherwise there's not much point in writing them.

So where do I stand?

Nicola Morgan said...

France's, actually, you do have something to sell. Just that you are asking people to pay "only" in time. And this is really what we are mostly talking about. When writers (including bloggers) tell people that they wrote a blog post, they are actually asking for an investment of time from someone and most people find their time precious. So, if a blogger (whether you or me) posts a link on Twitter to their post, they are saying a) I wrote this post - you might like it and b) I'd really like it if someone read it. If they do that once, or twice, it's not such a big deal. But if they keep doing it or, even worse, if they ask an individual directly, they are asking a lot. So that's all you need (in my opinion) to be careful about. If you happened to know that for someone reason person X really would like your post (eg if they are mentioned in it), it's probably ok. But what I'm suggesting is that people be aware of just what they are asking when they tweet about anything of their own. Does that make sense?

Cameron Writes said...

You've been reading my mind - or my minor rant recently about "Please RT." This is completely self-defeating, whether for charities, self-publicity or the amorphous "raising awareness of" tweets.

Antipathy sets in very quickly and I've unfollowed a few people whose only raison d'ĂȘtre seems to be RTing good causes. My entire TL was filled with the same messages.

Couldn't agree more - Twitter is for social interaction and those who use it exclusively for pushing their work will find themselves excluded.

I tweet my blog (no that isn't a euphemism) twice a day to coincide with people being available either in the USA or UK. After that, it's down to anyone who enjoyed it to RT. People who write dreaful, badly-written, boring blogs and then publicise them non-stop are asking for a comment, even if "be nice or be silent" rule is golden.

Excellent article. Thanks. I feel less alone and less grumpy now.

Gemma Wilford said...

Hi Nicola I am still getting to grips with the twitter and blogging world and trying to get my bearings so having read this post I have found these guidelines extremely useful. Thanks :-)