Could self-promotion through social media be a bad thing?

Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and promoting your book on the Internet

Could self-promotion through social media be a bad thing?

Postby paravil » 17 Mar 2011, 13:51

I'm going to admit some confusion about the push for authors to self-promote via social media. I understand that this is the way things are trending, and I understand what a powerful tool it can be. However, in our culture people no longer become famous for doing something. They become famous for being famous. They become famous because of their personality, their lifestyle, not because of real contributions to the culture. Does it serve a writer to spend years (at least three, as Nathan's post suggested) building a fan base around their personality when what they really want is for people to read their book? Won't the writing become secondary at that point? It seems to me that you run the risk of being the blogger who wrote a book rather than the author who has a blog. The risk of compromising your work seems too high. Not to mention all of the time that you waste tweeting and blogging and commenting when you should be working.

I have a very cynical personal opinion about why social media is being thrust upon authors, but I'll keep it to my self for now. I'd like to hear from some people who feel positively about this.
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Re: Could self-promotion through social media be a bad thing?

Postby longknife » 17 Mar 2011, 17:09

As Nathan can tell you, "traditional publishers" spend large amounts of $$$ in promoting books. Publicity is what, in many cases, sells books.
A secondary form is having a solid fan base and word of mouth. Once the original books becomes a smash hit, those who read it will look for more by that author on the shelves.

However, as more and more use ipods and ipads and Blackberrys and all the rest, to include laptops and old-fashioned desktops, they are also spending time on "social sites" where word-of-mouth is very important. So, if you take a small group of twenty or thirty and each spreads the word to their circle of friends - and those spread the word - and so on, you can see just how quickly a specific product can reach an amazing level of publicity.

So, Nathan - what's your thoughts on this?
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Re: Could self-promotion through social media be a bad thing?

Postby Nathan Bransford » 17 Mar 2011, 20:29

lvcabbie wrote:As Nathan can tell you, "traditional publishers" spend large amounts of $$$ in promoting books. Publicity is what, in many cases, sells books.
A secondary form is having a solid fan base and word of mouth. Once the original books becomes a smash hit, those who read it will look for more by that author on the shelves.

However, as more and more use ipods and ipads and Blackberrys and all the rest, to include laptops and old-fashioned desktops, they are also spending time on "social sites" where word-of-mouth is very important. So, if you take a small group of twenty or thirty and each spreads the word to their circle of friends - and those spread the word - and so on, you can see just how quickly a specific product can reach an amazing level of publicity.

So, Nathan - what's your thoughts on this?


The part italicized is basically what I think. I actually don't know that I would say that traditional publishers spend large amounts of money promoting books. Maybe for a few, but these days those budgets are tight. There's no such thing as a social media silver bullet, but what social media can give you is that base of twenty or thirty virtual friends spread out around the country or world.

From there, they're either going to recommend it to their friends or not. Word of mouth is still everything. But social media can give you a base, same as any other type of promotion.
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Re: Could self-promotion through social media be a bad thing?

Postby Claudie » 17 Mar 2011, 21:23

[quote=paravil]Does it serve a writer to spend years (at least three, as Nathan's post suggested) building a fan base around their personality when what they really want is for people to read their book?[/quote]

I have to say, my understanding of a writer's use of social media is different than what you express here. I'm not using my blog or twitter to sell books. I'm using it to reach to my readers (or I will, if I ever get published). Yes, it's a wonderful tool to promote but if that's all you do, you won't get anywhere. I think of social media as an opportunity to discuss with those who love your work. It seems too good a chance to pass.
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Re: Could self-promotion through social media be a bad thing?

Postby Sommer Leigh » 18 Mar 2011, 08:25

The thing that makes social media special has nothing to do directly with promoting an author or their book. Social media (in this sense) is about the connection made between authors and authors, between authors and readers, and between readers and readers. An author whose online social presence becomes a powerful promotional tool did so because their connection between these different groups is strong and important to the author. Authors who have blogs or Twitter accounts or Facebook accounts for the one and only purpose to promote their book don't really succeed, or at least, won't succeed in the way they want to.

The thing is, you have to love connecting with your audience for social media to work. And you shouldn't try to do everything. Who has the time? Pick what you enjoy doing - blogging, Tweeting, Tumblring, Facebooking, whatever, and do that very well .

I suspect it depends on the genre and audience, but what it comes down to is this- readers love getting more about the authors and books they love and the blooming of social media has facilitated this. Readers can find interviews, extra content, insights into the story creation, into the characters, and into the world building. It has created a way for book readers to review and recommend, for authors to recommend, and for special events like live talks and interviews that would otherwise be impossible for readers to see if the author never comes to their city.

For a marketing aspect, social media allows people to keep talking about you and your book. If you stay active, then so does your name. You post good material, people continue to talk about you.

What I believe about every person involved in social media, whether they are a writer or a would be writer or a book blogger, a person who really loves their garden or posting pictures of their cats, is this - you have to love doing it for its own value. You cannot look down your nose or find what you are doing to be a waste of time because your audience will know and they won't appreciate it. You cannot expect a certain promotional outcome from everything you blog about or everything you tweet about. The promotion and marketing happen as a result of you being engaging, interesting, and valuable to your readers.

If you're not going to love connecting with your readers, whether you have 10 or 100 or 1000 followers, then I think you shouldn't try. As a reader, when I find an author's blog who is clearly only selling at me and not actually invested in their blog presence, it negatively impacts the way I see them. Granted, part of that is because I am so invested in social media, but I think most people don't like being sold at.

Take, for example, author Jackson Pearce. She has a great blog anyway, but last year she posted this video she made: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZUA7-y2tUQ It's called Writer's Blok and is a parody of a more popular song but it is such a great, funny video and everyone was posting about it when it came out. A year later and I still see it referenced on blogs and Tweets (and see, I'm referencing it here!) The word of mouth value on that video was ridiculous. And while it no doubt helped her when her book, Sisters Red, released last year, you can tell she didn't do it specifically for promotional reasons. She makes lots of fun videos and she blogs regularly. She does weekly live shows with her fans. She loves the connection social media provides and it shows.
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Re: Could self-promotion through social media be a bad thing?

Postby paravil » 18 Mar 2011, 09:22

Thanks for the replies.

Re lvcabbie's and Nathan's points, I don't doubt that at all. Social media can be highly effective at getting word of mouth out about a product. I don't think you can deny that a a good viral campaign these days can be priceless.

Re Claudie and Sommer Leigh, you both make good points, and you've helped me clarify the question. Sommer said, "The thing that makes social media special has nothing to do directly with promoting an author or their book. Social media (in this sense) is about the connection made between authors and authors, between authors and readers, and between readers and readers."

I think connection with readers is a good thing, and should be sought. But shouldn't the connetion between an author and a reader be through/because of a book? Otherwise, what's the point? If I can create a popular blog and connect with a few dozen, hundred, or thousand readers, but this connection has nothing to do with my work--which is ostensibly the reason I got into blogging in the first place--then why did I ever bother writing a novel (the possibility of money aside)? If I am going to be an author, I don't want people to know me for my hobbies, or my family, or my pictures of my cat, or my clever tweets--I want them to know me through my novel that I spent hours and days and years working on. Doesn't social media popularity diminish the focus on and value of your work? It does to me, but that may be totally subjective.

Again, I think promotion through social media is valid and a good idea, but I'd just be concerned about what I was promoting--me and my personality, or my work.
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Re: Could self-promotion through social media be a bad thing?

Postby Sommer Leigh » 18 Mar 2011, 10:41

paravil wrote:I think connection with readers is a good thing, and should be sought. But shouldn't the connetion between an author and a reader be through/because of a book? Otherwise, what's the point? If I can create a popular blog and connect with a few dozen, hundred, or thousand readers, but this connection has nothing to do with my work--which is ostensibly the reason I got into blogging in the first place--then why did I ever bother writing a novel (the possibility of money aside)? If I am going to be an author, I don't want people to know me for my hobbies, or my family, or my pictures of my cat, or my clever tweets--I want them to know me through my novel that I spent hours and days and years working on. Doesn't social media popularity diminish the focus on and value of your work? It does to me, but that may be totally subjective.

Again, I think promotion through social media is valid and a good idea, but I'd just be concerned about what I was promoting--me and my personality, or my work.


I think you should try to separate the two things - your book from your blog - when thinking about this. Personally I believe social media enhances the value of an author and their whole body of work. When you read a book, you get to the end, you love it, but you're done. If the author has other books you can read them, but then what? A year or more might go by before the next book and by then others have come and gone in a reader's life and that author and their books might be forgotten. Social media gives the next layer to the reader after the book is done. It creates a pathway from one book to the next, to the next. It creates a link for readers who love a book/author to find each other and discuss the book together and with the author.

Instead of just the six-12 hours a reader spends with a book, they get a lifetime experience with the author for as long as they make themselves available to the public.

For every blogger there is a different way to blog. Some authors might like posting about their real life, connecting with readers by sharing stories about their kids, juggling writing and their family, moving across the country or through their real life job. It doesn't directly have anything to do with their book, it's about the author as a person and the reader as a person coming together to talk in comments, share links, and likes, and dislikes, and experiences. Some authors might run with something that links to their book. Say you write a about a haunted ghost ship that sank in the 1860s. Your blog might be dedicated to missing ships, ocean lore, sailor stories, and history that can be brought back to your book and enhance the experience of readin git. This becomes another layer on top of your book. Something extra for your readers. Or maybe you write paranormal so your blog is about your love of mythology. Still other authors write about writing, about craft and industry and other authors. How you design your blog dictates how you connect your readers to you and your book(s). So how much value your social presence has is up to how you decide to manage it.
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Re: Could self-promotion through social media be a bad thing?

Postby Polenth » 18 Mar 2011, 22:07

paravil wrote:Again, I think promotion through social media is valid and a good idea, but I'd just be concerned about what I was promoting--me and my personality, or my work.


Your worry seems to be that people will follow you because you're fun to be with, whilst ignoring your work. That hasn't been my experience.

I started blogging before I'd sold any short stories, but I did have some on my website. People read those stories because they'd met me online somewhere. Otherwise, they wouldn't have given yet another unpublished writer a chance. Roll on a couple of years and I sold a story to a pro market. Someone else realised it was out before I did - I found out from their blog post.

Knowing me as a person hasn't harmed people's interest in my work as a writer. All it's done is given them that initial push to take a chance and read my work. (And the other way around, I often read work by writers I've met online... it makes me notice their name and want to see what they're writing)
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Re: Could self-promotion through social media be a bad thing?

Postby paravil » 21 Mar 2011, 07:19

Thanks for giving me some different perspectives on this. Sommer, you make good points, and you've confirmed my suspicion that this may be a totally subjective thing. So while you, and I'm assuming a lot of other readers, might like that extra peak into a writer's world, I generally prefer to only know their writing; or if I know anything else about them, I prefer that it be related to their craft and not their personal life.

And Polenth, that's a good testimony. Encouraging. Looks like the professional and personal worlds intersected smoothly.
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Re: Could self-promotion through social media be a bad thing?

Postby mnaylor3 » 23 Mar 2011, 10:20

I've heard a lot of talk about branding. Personality, work, blogging, can all seem to contribute to a brand. I'm not sure exactly how social media hooks into branding, but it looks like it does.

Also, I'd imagine an author that works hard to make people read his work for his reasons is going to wind up disappointed a lot.
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