Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam!
I love SPAM. In fact, there are few things that can make me feel more special than spam. Okay, form-letters, pop-ups and auto-tweets, but that’s all. I love it when someone takes the time to program their computer to send me a “personalized” message—Dear Valued Follower, go to my link. That almost makes my day as much as telemarketers. Hey, I said “almost.” Let’s not get crazy.
No, I haven’t gone crazy, but it seems that many writers do the second they realize they must market themselves in order to survive the shifting paradigm in publishing. We go from nice, sweet, fun writers to morphing into that weird third cousin we stopped talking to after she joined Amway.
One of the reasons I decided to write a social media book for writers is that I see these mistakes all the time. What is worse is that I see well-meaning writers who are just trying to be professional, PAYING people for software and books and techniques that make them about as appealing as a pop-up ad.
Now, do not misunderstand me. I am not saying these other social media folk are wrong. Frequently, they aren’t. But many of them are trying to lay a standard business marketing template over a writer’s career, and it just doesn’t fit. Why? For a number of reasons, but the largest is that, despite what TV commercials tell us, we really do NOT expect a personal relationship with our insurance company. Seriously. I do not call up USAA when my mother has me ready to pull out my hair or when I feel insecure about my thighs or when the dog throws up on my new book and eats my glasses.
Okay, I did, but they threatened to raise my rates to include therapy.
Many benevolent social media folk know how to rock it hard when it comes to the regular business world. In the regular business world mailers, form-letters, unsolicited coupons and promotionals work. I used to be in sales. When writers use them? They usually are just annoying tactics that will actually have the opposite results more often than not.
This past week on Facebook I approved a friend request for another writer. Within MINUTES, I had four other e-mails. “Here is my website! Go to my blog! Look at my book! Here is a discount! Pass on to all of your friends and let me show them how to blah blah blah!” It made me regret I’d ever befriended this person. Rather than it being like Starbucks, “Here is a coupon for a free Frappuccino” (awesome), it sounded more like, “Me, me, me, me, me! Look at meeeeee! I have vested nothing in this relationship other than clicking add as a friend and then cutting and pasting, but now I want something from you. Time! Attention! Promotion! Money!”
In my book, We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media I talk about the heart of the servant. Be genuinely interested in other people and the promotion will come. Genuine promotion that really will speak to others. Most people will feel the need to reciprocate if we do something authentically kind. Our motive should always be pure—do something authentically kind—because people can smell manipulation from a mile away, and who likes being manipulated? No one.
I know it seems counterintuitive when you have marketing folk shouting about “top of mind” and “numbers” and “exposure.” Those things matter, but writers would be wise to approach marketing differently than Crocs Sandals or Domino’s Pizza. On social media, relationships are key to building a platform and a readership. They see our name and see our face and we need to work to earn the reader’s trust.
Yes, but no more work than the time it takes to go SPAM a hundred people. And this method will bear a better harvest and create a platform that will stand the tests of time because it is founded on relationship. If you want something from others, then freely give from the start.
But Kristen! I AM giving. I just sent them the past ten issues of my “Romance Times” newsletter for free where I give them excerpts of my unpublished novel and a bookmark they can print off on their home computer.
Nooooo. That is taking. Giving is when you take your time to read their blog, to repost their story and to congratulate their writing goal on Twitter. Giving is when you write a nice review of someone else’s book unsolicited and expecting nothing in return.
Sow kindness and generosity of your own spirit and you will be shocked at the harvest. Authentic kindness is so inspiring to others that it frequently moves them to do the same thing.
As an example. I was up early one morning on Twitter. On my TweetDeck I saw this woman Donna who lived in London, England post her first chapters of her book on her blog on writegoal#. I wasn’t even following Donna, and didn’t know her from a hole in the ground. But, I was once a new writer so I took time to read her chapter and comment, even though it put me almost an hour behind my schedule. Donna immediately followed me, and I offered her my e-mail so I could help her. One-on-one. No money. No asking her to buy my book. I didn’t even tell her about my book. I just remembered how hard it was being new and how much difference my mentor made in me. I paid it forward.
All I wanted from her was that she be teachable and that she work hard, and Donna has done both (no money and no stipulations of buying stuff). I put her through Warrior Writer Boot Camp to teach her how to construct her novel, since one of the problems I noticed was that although she showed talent, she didn’t understand how to plot and was drifting all over the place.
Running Donna through my workshop on-line put me even MORE behind, in that now I had to read and edit the assignments I gave her. With a book due and a day job I could barely squeeze the time, but I saw something promising in Donna, so I made it work…even though I had to do so at the expense of my free time.
But you know what happened?
I now have a writer who is light-years ahead of where she would have been had I not taken the time to intervene. She reposts every blog I post, comments on my blogs, and was giddy to make all of her friends follow me. Donna even signed up for the DFW Writers Conference in 2011 where I am teaching. She also recruited one of her girlfriends to attend the conference. They are flying from ENGLAND! Two $400 conference seats sold, and I wasn’t even selling. I am also fairly sure that Donna and all of her friends will now buy my book. And if they don’t, that is okay too. It wasn’t my intention. My intent was to build a relationship, and THAT has been successful. I now am friends with Donna and all of her network, and it means something.
I think most of us writer-folk aren’t fond of “selling,” but we do like reading and giving our opinions, feedback and support. That is the best kind of marketing. Focus on acts of kindness—one per day. They don’t have to be big or massively time-consuming kindnesses. Spend the same time you would spend trolling for people to send form-letters and find a way to encourage or help them instead.
So let’s leave all the gadgets and promos to Chili’s and I-Pod. We have real friends to make. You will be glad you did.
Until next time….
If you just loved this blog and want more, my new book “We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media” is now available. I want to change your habits, not your personality. Harness that same creativity you use for writing and use it to build your platform.
For great ways to grow from writer to published author, I recommend Bob Mayers Warrior Writer Workshops. He even offers on-line classes, so sign up today at www.bobmayer.org
You can also connect with me on my web site www.kristenlamb.org.
Plot books–not relationships.
I like that. Can I use it?
Is it weird that I would love a coupon for a free book? 🙂
That aside, this is so very very true. Thanks for sharing!
Two things I really get annoyed at are the Social Media fad and people who start their blog comments with “What a great post”.
But this was actually a really great post, and the concepts you present go a long way toward making the idea of social media tolerable.
Awwww…thank you Steve. I think being genuine is just so powerful, especially at it seems the worls around us is losing its genuineness. Nothing is real. Movies have special effects, beautiful people have plastic surgery, artificial flavors and artificial coloring. To really see something REAL speaks deep into our souls and we feel strangely “home.” Sorry, I got teary-eyed there.
Thanks for taking the time to comment. It means a lot and was an awesome way to begin the day.
Kristin, I have to say how heartening it is to find someone who is not only authentic, but will stand up for that as a principle – loud and proud.
You might me interested in a question that recently appeared on Rachelle Gardner’s blog:
She begins her post as follows:
“As the last two posts illustrate, there’s a never-ending list of contradictory messages writers receive. The one I want to talk about today applies both to writing and to life. It is the constant tension between following your own heart and vision… and trying to fit into the trends”
And she invites her readers to comment on how they manage this tension in their own writing life.
I responded af follows:
I am an aspiring YA novelist who began my WIP with the conviction that I had a story that needed to be told. Commercial considerations have been and remain a distant second priority.
The theme of this novel is becoming an individual in the face of the pressures of mindless conformity on the part of adult authority and one’s own peers.
As such, I’m very deliberately writing for a niche market – those who not only decline to be influenced by current trends, but who find the whole “trend” process somewhat offensive – not to say disgusting.
For every trend there is a minority reaction “this stinks” – often used as a euphimism for a somewhat stronger expression. I’m writing for the audience that thinks trends “stink”. I’m writing to the counter-trend.
P.S. (added to the comment here on Kristin’s blog)
I haven’t previously been aware of the term “counter-trend” in writing or marketing. For whatever it’s worth, I encourage anyone who thinks it’s a neat concept to use it “early and often”
I’m usually very nervous about reading this sort of thing, because I end up feeling inadequate and at a loss but I did enjoy this because it made me feel I have been on the right track already. There is so much conflicting advice out there and so much of it conflicts with my personal ideas of integrity, and makes me uncomfortable.
I like to think of my readers as friends, and this(unlike many articles) tells me that’s the right thing to do.
So a big thank you.
I’ve been having a roughish day and that has cheered me up. I think it was Aldous Huxley who said that the one quality the world needs more of is kindness, but I don’t recall the actual quote but I do remember one of those “motivational” thingies that are sold on paperweights:
“No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.”
amen to that.
I think the marketing folk mean well, but their tactics often try to change us into something we are not. Writers, if anything, are genuine. We don’t mind wearing bustiers and collecting pet dragons. We don’t care if people laugh at us because we cry at movies or love Harlequin novels or attend Trekkie conventions. Writers, if anything are genuine. Anything that makes us other than that feels like an allergic reaction in our souls.
I hope these blogs and my book can give writers a way to spread the word about them and their books, but do it in a way that is authentic.
Thanks Viv for the comment.
That’s so kind.
It feels as if I have been given permission to stay me and not become some sort of monster(other than the one I already am…!)
I’ve been finding Twitter a source of anoyance and upset, with all the ME Me Me stuff, and been looking for a way to just get on with being(not me-ing) that doesn’t make me feel as if I am deviating from my real self.
I’d disagree about writers being automatically genuine but having real an earlier article here, maybe the genuine ones are the ones who aren’t pretending or in love with the IDEA of being a writer.
ps. No bustier but I have long had my eye on a set of leather body armour like Xena warrior princess. It might give a whole new slant to the day job…or a P45.
Great post, and so true! I get so annoyed with those auto-DM’s pimping someone’s blog after I follow them. Really? You needed to clutter up my already crazy inbox with that? Yes, kindness pays off in spades, and it’s way more fun to be kind than to spam, anyway.
Two of the nicest people I’ve met are authors, Vicki Lewis Thompson and Candace Havens. Because of their kindness and openness they’ve both gained a fan for life. I’ve made many bookstore trips stocking up on their books both their old and new books.
Thank you. I agree completely. A true servant-heart, with no expectation in return, is the proper way to go. We forget that there are real people, with real lives and real families behind those Facebook pages, Tweets, emails and blog entries/comments. There are many things you have to purchase in life to survive, food, clothing, coffee (not in that particular order), but novels are normally not on that list. They are for enjoyment.
I’ll be honest, I want to be a published author someday, but I need to keep in perspective who my future ‘clientèle’ are: young people who want to set back, escape their current world and get lost in someone else’s.
I have bought books from authors writing in genres I rarely read…just because they were kind and that makes them the good guys. Thanks for taking time to comment. Candy Havens happens to be a real model for a lot of what I teach. She is genuine and thoughtful to everyone and any success she has it is because she is talented (sure), but mostly because she is much-loved.
Excellent post! You hit it right on the head. With today’ unsure economy, people are buying relationships.
What an excellent post, thank you!
So true, most authors seem to feel they have to push push when really they just need to relax and be personable. A genuine kindness pays off a million times. Well, maybe not a million, but quite a few *grin*
And please please, tell them to stop with the Twitter DM when I follow, it’s so not necessary! Just a peeve.
See you next year at DFW Writers Conference btw.
LOL…I actually put that in my book. I HATE auto-follows. Seriously? Are that many people following you daily that you can’t take 3 seconds to type a real message? I would rather someone say nothing then send an automatically generated message.
Thank you so much for a message I knew intuitively – but I was afraid it was going to be drummed out of me by all the “experts.” I hate spam. Why would I want to send it? I’ve vowed to send my author newsletter no more than once a quarter, to connect with all my new Facebook friends and Twitter followers, and to respond to all my reader mail. Buzz is created by good old-fashioned word of mouth – not by me talking up my book, but by others talking up my book. They’ll only do that if they truly like my book – and if they like me. One FB friend I’ve connected with who chats up my book to all her buddies is worth more than 1000 purchased Twitter followers.
Totally agree. I don’t like auto respond DMs when I follow someone. No matter what they’re putting in them, I know it’s not real.
A key to social media, like twitter, is getting information. I click on probably ten links at least a day off twitter and get so much good stuff. I just clicked on the link to this blog on twitter. I also just found one that led to a post on why publishers get rid of inventory and backlist because of taxes that taught me something I’d wondered about for 20 years.
Great post (ha ha – see comment above) … but seriously, i see people making these mistakes ALL the time. Sure, FB, Twitter, etc. *are* opportunities for you to talk about your writing and get your work in front of people, but it’s even more critical from a relationships perpective. People sending out links with no explanation, sending auto dm’s and THEN (which irritates me more than the auto dm itself) not responding when you reply to their spammy dm. This is crazy behavior and if it turns me off, it will certainly turn off other potential readers. Twitter is such a fantastic tool – just be yourself. Add value to your peeps by sharing info that you find interesting and try to minimize pimping yourself. In other words, don’t annoy your peeps – you’d think that is a pretty simple rule 😉
Wise words — well written. Glad I’m following you on Twitter.
Great post!! I love the idea of paying it forward and giving freely without expecting anything in return! Love it!
Amen, a million times AMEN!
In the five months I’ve been blogging (and the four months since I announced my 3-book deal) I’ve had tons of people ask me what the trick is to building a blog following or a potential readership. My answer is always the same: ask yourself every single day what you are GIVING other people.
Not only do you need a couple good answers to that question, but you need to do it EVERY SINGLE TIME without thinking about what you will get in return.
Love this post!
What a great post!
I found your blog through a “blug” (blog plug) tweeted by @tawnafenske, and boy am I glad! Thank you for expressing so well exactly how I feel. I love the “pay it forward” attitude that seems so prevalent in the online writing community.
Excellent post, and so true. Thank you.
Kristen, thanks for such a high-quality post. I’m subscribing to your blog and your tweets, and I really look forward to reading what you have to say in the future.
Wow! Made my day! I hope to continue earning your respect and trust for quality content, 😀
Actually, back in the 80’s in the big romance “boom” that’s exactly what writers did. People like Sandra Brown and LaVyrle Spencer (and many others who if I listed would take up my whole post! LOL) gave workshops, attended conferences and were very active RWA chapters.
I firmly believe that was the basis for the boom.
This was also before the days of the Internet, so they did all of their work live. It was impressive.
So I decided to follow suit and I give a lot of live (at conferences and RWA chapter meetings workshops) and online workshops.
I was once so green I could have been blue! But many, many people helped me. I love the opportunity to help new authors. We would be nothing were it not for each other!
I love the introductory image — it had me giggling! These kind of posts always make me smile and it gives me hope that there are other genuine writers out there. Too many times have I had the Facebook scenario happen to me — or worse, have an author recommend his own book to me on Goodreads. Nothing could leave a worse taste in my mouth!
Great post. All promotion all the time is not social interaction… it’s advertising.
Very good article with a very good moral! But this skirts that dangerous line between altruism and manipulation. I abhor the “add a friends” who just want to spam me with promotion, but fear just as much becoming the sort of person who engages other writers just so they’ll promote me. From a distance it’s impossible to tell the difference between a nice writer and a writer investing in you so you’ll invest in them. I try to keep friends from feeling used – what a terrible thing to do to one.
I totally agree. In my book I strongly encourage people to always check motives. Genuinely support and encourage because it is the right thing to do and not to get something in return. You make an excellent point, but I think we always have to check motives for all the nice things we do. This is good practice being one of the good guys, LOL.
Let me start off by saying I love the edible form of spam, but I desperately loathe electronic spam. I wish it would die a horrible death. I always try to think of how much I despise spam emails and pop-ups, etc. before I send an unwarranted form of desperation. That’s why I started my blog, too, so that people could see the person behind the writing; see what makes me tick. I write substance there with writing goals and ways to connect with people. I don’t want to be a sellout and I completely agree with you about paying it forward. This beautiful concept should be practiced with everything in life to better the lives of others. If you give goodnes, you’ll receive a wealth of blessings. That can be literal and metaphorical. I’m really glad you wrote this blog post because it’s an excellent thing to address because I’d hate to see the day where writers are the modern day vacuum sales people who go door-to-door trying to give you a carpet cleaning demo. (Ironically enough, I once did this when I worked for Kirby vacuums) Writers are passionate and look at the world differently…at least I do anyways, and yes-even though we do need to have a great sales pitch, we should think about our fellow writers as well. It’s awesome to hear about you helping Donna, by the way. I’d really like to commend you for that; you didn’t have to do what you did, but you helped anyway. That is what being a human is all about…about being a writer. Very beautiful. I’ve been blabbing. Thanks again, hun!
Thanks Ava. The funny thing is that, in the beginning, we feel like it “costs” us–time, effort, energy. If we get in the habit of giving, though, we soon realize we are not “giving away” but rather, we are “investing.” Yes, helping Donna “cost” me time, but what I really did was “invest” in a future friendship that actually has paid tremendous dividends. I am so happy to have blessed you with the blog. And, yes, it is my mission to rid the world of as much spam as possible. I don’t think writers sit up all night thinking of ways to spam people and be annoying. I truly believe writers just default to that kind of marketing because it is all they know. With my new book, they have a template for a very different approach and one that I think is more genuine and meaningful.
Modern life has stripped away a lot of the human companionship we used to enjoy all the time. He are desperate and hungry for people to care. We long for community. Social media has the power to alienate or congregate. I am so happy that you are now a part of my community! Thanks for taking the time to leave such an amazing and thoughful comment. What a tremendous start to the day, 😀