Thursday, April 16, 2015

Social media, authenticity & marketing: Getting the balance right

Rock tower by the Yellowstone River

I got a private message on G+ this morning.

Not *that* kind of private message! The really awesome, validating kind. It truly made my day and the take home message for me was this:

 ". . .  thank you for being an Author who puts herself out there as a person who has more interest in being real than in spamming her followers with advertisements continuously."

And this is (nearly verbatim) the reply I wrote, additional commentary in italics: 

Thank you for this. Every single time I post anything about my own work, I have a tiny panic moment, wondering if this will be the post that tips my stream into obnoxious-land.

 I actually got several comments over the years from G+ folks that I made it too hard for people to actually know I was an author with books published because of my reticence to 'spam'. That's when I created a more complete Google profile and a pinned post with my book and purchase links.
I can't tell you how many times I've dumped my twitter feed and started over again because it became an endless stream of 'buy my/support my/fund my' messages. Same for FB, etc.
Promotion fatigue is a very real thing. When I see yet another pitch for someone's kickstarter/indiegogo campaign, I experience a moment of acute annoyance. This wasn't the case a few years ago. I wonder how widespread this experience is.
It's a real struggle to find that right balance and authenticity means everything to me. So thank you for the feedback that I'm getting it right more often then getting it wrong. :)
A few times a year, and when I have a new release, I make a recap post with the quick 'elevator pitch' of each of my novels and where to buy them. I still worry that it's too much.
As far as what works? Lord, I wish I knew. After Derelict took off last summer, I thought I had the 'magic formula' which I tried to replicate with Time and Tithe. But lightning didn't strike twice. I could analyze a bunch of reasons why, but at the end of the day, there is an element of luck and serendipity to this business of being an artist that no marketing expert or advertisement exec can explain.
Ultimately, I'm much more comfortable sharing my excitement about someone else's work than my own. Hell, I'm more comfortable talking about my hobby (ceramics) than about my writing work.
It would be easy to get bitter about that, lose your mind to envy of someone else's success, or double down on what everyone tells you works (even though you know it doesn't). Or you can take that negative energy and keep working.
Just keep swimming. . . AKA channel your inner Dory from "Finding Nemo". And I try not to beat myself up for the twinges of envy. As long as I don't wallow in it, or let myself slide into bitterness, I think I'm doing okay. And I really do celebrate the successes of my writing friends. I guess what I'm trying to say is that having mixed feelings is very human.
Do I hope lightning strikes for Derelict's sequel? Hell yeah. And I have all the things in place that I had for Derelict: my newsletter subscriptions are growing slowly and steadily, I'll be offering a pre-order discount, I'm in process to have an audiobook of Derelict soon which I'm hopeful will support the sequel, etc.

But there's too much I don't have control over. What I do have total control over is how I present myself, online and off, and in what and how I choose to write. Other than that? Not up to me.
How I wish this were otherwise. How I wish there was a secret sauce for success. (Hey, look, alliteration!) But there isn't. Save yourself from all the clickbait articles about "Five ways to sell a gazillion books." Read this series of posts by Delilah S. Dawson instead. They are filled with authenticity and truth.
And I read those posts [she linked me to Dawson's posts mentioned above] - they are pure gold. Should be required reading for every creative person putting there work into the world. Thank you for reaching out to me - first of all because you made my day and second because you have prompted my next blog post. :)

And as much as I appreciate hearing that I have gotten the balance right, I also want to be called on it when I don't. What tips your personal 'spam' scales in social media? 



  1. Since I'm so much out of the loop with social media my opinion is restricted to just what I see come through blog comments and e-mail. I get regular SPAM from indie authors who don't know me and send along their manuscripts or e-books for review without even asking; those get deleted immediately. I get a lot more publicity requests from whatever company or entity they've hired to promote their books, and those are really and truly annoying. They either try to impress me with how important it is to my life to read such-and-such, or pretend to be chatty and personal, when I'm someone they obviously don't know at all. They also follow up at least twice with slightly dismayed, even more annoying e-mails because I didn't respond to the first.

    Everyone is pretty well-behaved on the blog, and I hardly ever have to delete inappropriate comments anymore, but that's because I mostly get the same visitors all the time and they know I'm not a promo whore. Or PBW and I are not as popular as we used to be, and the 24/7 promoters are leaving us alone now.

    I see a lot of authors complain about authors who promote their releases on Twitter or Goodreads, but these seem to be the abrasive, barge-in types who crash conversations or discussions merely to promote. Not seeing you ever doing any of that, LJ -- you're too classy. :)

    1. Thank you, Lynn. You do know that you have long been my model for creating a respectful relationship between writer and readers. :)