The Hard Sell

Barbara Vey -- June 23rd, 2011

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of social media.  I enjoy following people on Facebook and Tweeter.  There’s something special about getting to know them through 140 characters at a time.  A person’s creativity can come shining through.  When someone includes pictures or links, it usually gets me to discover something new, have a laugh or maybe even cringe.  Facebook has given people the opportunity to tell little stories about their lives.

Sharon Sala

Sharon Sala


One of my favorite people to follow on Facebook is Sharon Sala.  Everyday is a new adventure as she copes lovingly with an aging mother, Oklahoma weather, children, grandchildren, cooking and favorite tv shows.  While it may sound mundane, Sharon’s voice is anything but.  I can almost hear her accent come through as she takes me through her day...”Hmmm, remember yesterday the light went out in my bathroom. So I now have a NEW light fixture with 6 (count them) 6 bright bulbs to shine the way. WTH was I thinking? That bright…and me…straight out of the shower…OMG. sigh. I hope God doesn’t strike me blind.” What a visual!


The thing about the way Sharon approaches social media is that I get to know her and when the time comes for her book to be released, I’ll want to read it because I feel like I have a bond with her.  It will be like buying a book from a friend.


Then there’s the hard sell.  The person who doesn’t get the “social” part.  This is the author who only comes on line with one purpose…to sell their book.  If you look at their Twitter page it looks something like this:

“Buy my book, The Wrong Way, only $1.99 at Amazon”

“Buy my book, The Wrong Way, only $1.99 at Amazon”

“Buy my book, The Wrong Way, only $1.99 at Amazon”

And so on…

Not only is it boring, it’s embarrassing.  It kind of reminds me of State Fair when you go into the buildings with the all the stuff for sale and people are yelling for you to come over and buy their products.  You don’t even want to make eye contact.  And these authors don’t even limit it to their pages.  They post it on other Facebook pages and blogs.  No niceties like “How is everyone one today?” just “Buy, buy, buy!”

And it’s not just Facebook and Twitter.  I get sent a lot of books that I’m sure many other reviewers do.  One of my pet peeves is getting an email from someone that says, “I don’t read your blog, but would you like a copy of my book?”  Why on earth would someone want me to read their book and write about it when they don’t even know what goes on at my site?  I could have views that are totally offensive to them or their prospective readers.  Their book may not even apply to my blog.  It’s like sending an inspirational book to a horror site or an erotica to a YA site.  Again, I’m embarrassed for the author.

Do your homework.  It took a long time to write the book, edit it, get it published.  Why take shortcuts to getting the word out about it?  An author should be getting their name out well before their book is published.  With self publishing and e-books along with traditional publishing, there’s a ton of books to choose from.  The idea is to get the reader to pick you out of the pack.  And you don’t want them to remember you because you spammed them with BUY MY BOOK NOW! messages.

If you’re having trouble figuring out how to approach marketing your book, get help.  Ask other authors and listen for what will work for you.  There’s a ton of books about the subject out there and my mentor Dan Blank even offers an online class called Build Your Author Platform.

Don’t get me wrong, you want to let people know you have a book out and it’s perfectly fine to put it on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, blogs, etc.  But you don’t want to be pushy and annoying about it.  Have a consistent presence even when you don’t have a book out.  Talk about other things and it doesn’t have to be personal if you don’t want it to be, but even sharing a book that you enjoyed or a movie you saw can give a reader a glimpse of the person you are.  Visit other blogs occasionally and leave a quick comment to show them you’re around.  People do notice. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time.  Set a timer for 10 minutes and do some quick marketing…in a smart way.

Yes, I know writing the book should be enough, but that’s not the way it works anymore.  An author needs to get noticed, but in a way that makes a reader want to buy their book.

What tips can you offer authors who are struggling with the marketing/social aspect?  What works for you?  What doesn’t?

Bottom Line: Having a book published is a joy…spamming others about it, not so good.

Giveaways This Week

From Susan Hanniford Crowley: On Saturday, June 25th, romance author and advertising expert Jennifer Fusco will be on Nights of Passion blog talking about the author’s brand.  She will be giving away to one lucky commenter a free website analysis.  See the blog for entering details

From Dianna Love: NYT best sellers Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love will be signing on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at the RWA Literacy signing in New York (Marriott Marquis Broadway hotel) along with 500 other authors.  But Sherrilyn and Dianna are giving away 100 Tshirts (from different series, including the full color Belador shirts) to the first 100 in their line and color posters to the next 100 in line.

149 thoughts on “The Hard Sell

  1. Kayelle Allen

    What an engaging read! I noticed the picture of Sharon Sala (I follow her too) and had to see what was up. Your analogy of state fair hawkers was cringeworthy – and I mean that in the best possible way. ^_^

    Thank you for an excellent article.

  2. Jillian

    great post, Barbara- I love twitter as well and I know what you’re saying. I’ve unfollowed a lot of people for this very reason. It’s annoying to have that bombardment. I’ve also unfollowed for someone that retweets everything in their own twitter stream with no real human interaction.

    The sad thing is that the people who need to see this probably won’t.

  3. Ramona Richards

    Thank you, Barbara! I’m going to refer some folks to this post. I think readers love reading about writers and their lives, even if they just post how they came to write a certain piece. As a reader, writer, and editor, I’m in a position to push a lot of stuff, but try to keep it to a minimum.

  4. Glynis Whiting

    Thanks for the sage guidance. Etiquette, in any situation, is essential to survival. I’m dipping my toe into long-form prose for the first time and sometimes feel as though I’ve landed in an unknown swamp. You can bet that I will use your words as water wings.

  5. Trinity Faegen

    I couldn’t agree more about Sharon Sala. Also, she makes me hungry because she posts about what she cooked and it sounds delicious! I vote we all move in with Sharon.

    I’m with you 100% on the all-promo-all-the-time. I feel like they think I’m a road-tripper looking at billboards, and I’d so much rather they got in the car and told me stories about family vacays from when they were a kid.

  6. Holly Jacobs

    Great post, Barbara! Of course, I hope my FB and Twitter friends will buy my books, but mainly I think of them as my watercooler. People in offices get to have breaks and chat with friends, and that’s what social media is for me…a chance to take a break and talk to friends. My watercooler! So far, no one’s seemed to mind my talking about my basketweaving or wood splitting talk! And the conversations go further than cooking and my odd love of Mondays! Today, I was chatting with Samantha Hunter and Tricia Fields about our love of Trixie Belden and the fact we’re bothered that she and Jim never got official! LOL (We did talk about writing their HEA ourselves!)

    Up until recently, I’ve simply had a personal page, but FB cuts it off at 5,000, so I’ve had to start a public page, but I don’t want that to become a giant promo thing. I put the same geeky posts on both! LOL

    Holly…basketweaver, log splitter, family cook/baker, reader…and writer! LOL

      1. Holly Jacobs

        Oh my goodness, Barbara! LOL And this is why I adore social media as my watercooler…I’m busting a gut laughing! And I’m really glad I posted today (I read almost every day but don’t always post) because I got to set the not-stripper thing straight.

      2. Tricia Fields

        That’s part of what makes social media such fun, Twitter in particular–coming in on the middle of a conversation and trying to figure out what they’re talking about. And once you figure it out you just jump in with your own comments. And people welcome you jumping in. It’s great. Though if I had a published book I would mention it from time to time, I can’t imagine that being all I ever used social media for.

  7. MaryChris Bradley

    Great article and good advice. It’s a tough world out there for authors these days and finding their way can be fraught with hazards. You’ve given them some good directions! And thanks so much for directing us to Sharon Sala.

  8. Isis Nocturne

    So true, Barbara! It’s hard to even contemplate continuing to respect authors who only post “Buy my book” spam on all their social media outlets. As a reader, I’m MUCH more likely to buy a book from someone who actually chats with their fans and actually shares a little about their life and what they’re going through. Authors are people, not just selling machines.

  9. Tracey Lyons

    Very nicely put. I agree the hard sell is hard to take and sometimes it does seem a little desperate. You’ve got me thinking now about pre-marketing a book I’m working on right now!

  10. Debbie Kaufman

    You can usually parse out the newbies who are just so excited about the newness of their sale–I can handle their temporary dip into the “MY BOOK,MY BOOK” pool–from the ones who post nothing but this and never get a clue. Those I eventually unfollow. It’s gotten so that I go look at their last series of posts before I follow anyone because this is so rampant.

    My other hot button on twitter, etc. Constant profanity. Please note I said constant, not the momentary outburst. I want to ask if they kiss their mother with that mouth, instead I just unfollow. Professional, people, please.

    1. Dianna Love

      I agree with you, Debbie. I spent many years working in what was considered a man’s field so foul language was the norm and not a big deal. But that was a specific environment as opposed to being in a mixed crowd or out in public. When profanity is used continually in a public post it’s wearing. You’re right, just disconnect those.

    2. Nomad

      I agree one hundred percent. As the Circulation manager for a multi-branch library, I get a LOT of “buy me” spam. Like Debbie Kaufman said above, you can offer a little forgiveness for the first timers, but after a while, the “veterans” are spam folder fodder.

      I follow authors (and others) who embrace their humanity. Not the spam-bots with no personality. There’s something refreshing about an author who invites you to share a nook or cranny of their own little world…

  11. Reggie Ridgway

    Good post. I have bought a lot of books while following the exploits of twitter writers and FB writers. My kindle is bloated and I must read everyday or never catch up. Cuts into my writing but at the same time inspires me to write more. I regret that I am guilty of shamelessly self promoting but it is a means to an end. I buy their books. They buy mine. Trade off is good. So loved the post but still wil yell out my books for sale to who ever will listen. Maybe not so obnoxiously now though.
    Reggie Ridgway
    Free ebook short story on my smashword page. Oops.

    1. Barbara Vey Post author

      Reggie, there’s nothing wrong with shouting out about your book as long as you mix in a little of something else. It’s the constant buy, buy, buy that’s annoying. Now I’m off to check out your Twitter and see what you’ve been up to.

  12. Aden

    I wish everyone I know on Twitter would read this, and some of the people I have dealt with would take it to heart. I love the State Fair analogy so much, it’s perfect! This is also great advice for anyone (like me) who is just starting out in this whole crazy chaos.

  13. Delaney Diamond

    I think some people do it the “wrong” way because they feel as if they don’t have much time and the only way to sell is to shove the book down readers’ throats all the time. I agree with you, though. You have to develop a relationship.

    In lieu of sharing personal info about myself, I find it easier to discuss movies and books with readers. I find that with authors it’s easier to swap promotion ideas and tips. Whatever path is chosen, I agree that the worst thing to do is the “buy my book” mantra all the time.

  14. SL Schildan

    Very good information. It is interesting how I have stumbled upon so much information that is helping me “get it together” when things are tough. Currently it is painful to watch my mother deteriorate before my eyes, and hoping for a miracle that may not come; working a full time job; juggling family and grandchildren; and struggling to find my write time. I really needed a boost when some divine hand guided me to click on your link. A sweet reminder to keep on with my work, even if the pace has slowed. Thank you.

  15. Lexi George

    Very wise words, Barbara, and I agree with Debbie about professionalism. Social media is fabulous but scary at the same time. What you send into cyber space stays there. I have had the good fortune to be invited on several author blogs and I have found it a great way to get to know people in the writing community, especially readers. I’m still a relative newbie on Twitter, but I’m learning and I also enjoy Facebook.

  16. Nancy Naigle

    I do love Sharon Sala. That lady can tell a story and you’re right, her facebook entries are like visiting your fav daytime soap.

    As for social media tips…I think folks just need to relax. Don’t try so hard. Be yourself and make a friend and just share. The rest will happen along the way.

    Hugs and happy reading,

  17. Kathy Crouch

    I love reading Sharon Sala’s FB!! She is so funny! I completely agree with your blog Barbara. Thank you for sharing it. It’s nice to get to know an author before they have a book coming out. We can connect to them on a more personal level that makes us want to see them succeed.

  18. Katy Lee

    I go to a conference every year (I don’t want to say which one) But the speakers are wonderful people, and I love listening to them and feel connected with them, but the sales pitches are over the top. To the point it gets in the way of hearing their wonderful messages. You want to tune them out instead. If I could say one thing to them, it would be, quit pimping the book. I’ll be more apt to buy it if you do.

  19. Kelly McClymer

    Good advice. I’ve just begun dipping my toe in social media. Facebook was just for family before, and Twitter was (and still is) frightening to me. I try not to oversell, but I think I might be a little hashtag crazy at the moment :-)

    I have some hopes that I can be slightly less awkward in social media than I am in face-to-face interactions (no one can see me hesitate, squint and think when I’m…frequently…taken off guard).

  20. Jacqui Lyonelle aka Jacs

    ITA with everything you wrote, Barbara. And while I’ve been a fan of Sharon Sala’s book for years I didn’t think about friending her on FB. You just convinced me :)

  21. Elena Michele

    Barbara, great post and so insightful. What I’ve loved about your blog especially is how “connected” you are to people (on an airplane, your colleagues, Chapters you visit…) and then you blog about it and that’s what I love reading…the connections you make with these people in your daily life. Keep up the great work, you’re an inspiration and role model to all of us on social media!

  22. Eliza Knight

    Excellent post, Barbara!!! I am in complete agreement! I taught a class last week to my local chapter about promoting yourself through social media, and I said much of the same. People really do want to have that connection, that bond. Its very important. I’m so glad you posted about it! I remember the first response I got from my fav author years and years ago, she personalized it and I was so psyched! Anyways, thanks for writing such an informative post!

  23. Dianna Love

    You never fail to come up with a way to present the most basic common sense situation in a new way.

    The great thing I have found about things like FB and Twitter is that it’s easier for me than blogging. I only guest blog because I would never be good about blogging every week. But I find that I really enjoy FB because I get to just hang out with my friends and reading buddies. I’m still a reader and will always be no matter how many books I write. I love sharing with other readers and hearing what’s going on in their lives. I know we need to promote our books, but to be honest – I get a lift out of interacting with everyone on every day topics that take me away from the business side of this.

    I agree with what you’re saying, Barbara, and find the constant book promo turns me off much like the car salesman on tv shouting at me. However, many times, I’ve bought a book from someone I met who I enjoyed talking to and had no idea if I’d like their writing then found out I did like their books.

    And, I highly recommend Dan Blank’s program, too. He’s very sharp.

  24. Pam Asberry

    Great post, Barbara. Just like some people have no manners when they get behind the wheels of their cars. others have no manners when they’re online. It’s probably best to treat social media like the workplace and one’s friends and followers like business associates. With courtesy and respect.

  25. Christina

    I tend to agree with what you have said Barbara. I like knowing my authors and how they are before buying their books. Its nice knowing the authors how they write n and are personally before getting their books. It makes me feel like “I know this author, and i’m proud to be getting her book.”

  26. Anju Gattani

    Hi Barbara,
    What a great post and so true. The moment anyone storms after you with a ‘buy’ placard you’re tempted to run away. As a voracious reader I always love to know more about the authors and their interests. Their opinions and perspectives also have a huge impact because that will inevitably tie in with their work anyway. Professionalism is key anywhere in the world and moreso today where there are ample opportunities to abuse the social media at hand.

  27. Linsey Lanier

    Thanks, Barbara, for some terrific advice and a wonderful discussion. Social media is an odd phenomenon to me. Once upon a time, I was just alone at home. Now, I have tons of friends waiting on my computer anytime I want to talk to them.

    Actually, I haven’t seen too many “buy my bookers,” or people using profanity. But I do get bewildered by the number of blog links on Twitter. They are all so good, I tend to go off and read them and stop Twittering, LOL. I prefer Facebook for a “real” conversation.

    I didn’t realize you had a mentor. I’ll have to check out Dan Blank’s book. It sounds good. Oh, that’s a good example of something writers can do – plug someone else’s book as well as your own. :)

  28. Laurel Mayer

    You are so spot on, Barbara. I can understand how newbies to marketing are susceptible to bad selling. I think that often they are so eager to sell that it clouds their better judgment. Marketing is tricky, but it’s so important to establish a brand that will engage readers and certainly doesn’t alienate the audience. Genuine interaction with people goes a long way. Nice job articulating the message!

  29. Cathy

    I follow Sharon Sala on facebook and laugh at her daily entries quite regularly.

    The focus of this blog entry struck close to home with me because I was talking with a friend of mine only yesterday about promoting books. We’d both come to the conclusion that it wasn’t just getting your book out there that was needed, but the personal touch as well. Making a connection, showing your readers that you care, and letting them into your life with odd (in some cases very odd) glimpses of your day to day life. I’m happy to see our not so earth-shattering discovery is valid.

    Thanks for the post.

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