Should Authors Have to "Market Themselves"?

"Crap. Revisions tore my hose. But I need to sell more books and 'market myself'…"

“Crap. Revisions tore my hose. But I need to sell more books and get out and ‘market myself’…”
Image via Darwin Bell, Flickr Creative Commons.

All right, don’t stone me, but I feel some of the marketing “buzz words” range from terrifying to annoying to outright offensive. For instance, every time I read “target your demographic” or “target your readers” I wonder if this comes with a Predator Drone or at least a laser sight.

I don’t know about you guys, but I get creeped out being “targeted.” It makes it seem we (seller and consumer) are opponents—one the cunning victor and the other the hapless dupe who landed in the marketing crosshairs.

But the one that’s gotten my hackles up over the past week or so is when writers are beating themselves up. They write things in my comments like, “I know need to try harder to market myself” or “It’s no longer about marketing my books, I have to market ME.”


If I’ve in any way contributed to this feeling, my deepest apologies. I hope this post will clear things up.

The Difference Between Market Norms and Social Norms

Two norms guide all commerce. Market norms are cold, driven by data. We pay the price on the tag. There’s no emotion, and no relationship. All purchases and exchange of goods and services is simple. We don’t go to buy a computer then are hurt because we thought Best Buy was our BFF and could have made us a sweeter deal.

Social norms guide relationships. If I open the door for you, I don’t hold out my hand expecting a tip. When I make dinner for Hubby, I don’t bring him a check with 20% gratuity factored in because I have to clean the kitchen, too. If Hubby paid me after fooling around, he might suddenly go mysteriously missing.


In the 1990s, as the TV-Industrial complex began to crumble, we saw more and more businesses blending market and social norms.

Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

For corporations, using social norms can be beneficial. If we (consumers) like a company, we are willing to pay higher prices and can have greater loyalty. BUT, this company has a much steeper obligation. Don’t call us family then exploit us. Not only will we complain, we will raze your brand to the ground on-line. Companies can’t have the benefits that go with harnessing social norms, then forget the greater responsibility.

Evolution of Commerce

In the olden days, we didn’t have a lot of choices. When I was a kid, if you wanted to buy a new TV, there were about three brands to choose from. There were also three kinds of spaghetti sauce. Most household cleansers were manufactured by the same company. Ma Bell issued a phone when you activated a line in your home. If my parents wanted a different phone or a newer phone or a phone repaired? They called the phone company.

Image courtesy of Clemson via Flickr Creative Commons.

Image courtesy of Clemson via Flickr Creative Commons.

And had THREE colors to choose from 😀 .

Yet, as markets opened up bringing increased competition, this presented a problem to The Big Guys who’d enjoyed gouging consumers who had no other place to go. Cheaper and even better options came along and the pseudo-monopolies began to crumble.

For instance, my husband has this COOL remote control car that can do speeds in excess of 55 mph and is extraordinarily maneuverable. When I was growing up, if you wanted a remote control car, you went to Radio Shack and took out a second mortgage on your house to buy one…and generally it worked once then died.

Remote control cars were The Great Class Divider—those who could afford one and then the rest of us.

Image courtesy of Gazanfarulla Khan via Flickr Creative Commons.

Image courtesy of Gazanfarulla Khan via Flickr Creative Commons.

Now? In 2014? I can’t believe Radio Shack is still around. Sometimes I think it’s only because we still have a population over age 70 who still shops there. My grandfather, who is almost 90, still goes there to buy batteries, proving old habits die hard.

Yet, as the years passed, emerging markets offered newer, better and cheaper options. We could have all colors of phones. CORDLESS phones. Eventually phones with an answering machine built in and then Caller ID. More and more features and bells and whistles for less and less money.

When the Internet arrived, this only exacerbated the problem. And, as computers became more affordable, Internet service did too. E-Commerce arrived. Consumers no longer wanted to browse the window of an electronics store when they could purchase on-line cheaper and get free shipping.

Thus, with the explosion of options, market norms became highly problematic. To rely completely on market norms is a race to the bottom of who can give away the most stuff and the best stuff for free. How can companies mitigate this?

Let Me Introduce “Social Norms”

When we had only a handful of choices for coffee, we bought the one mom did. We chose between caffeinated, decaf, and instant. Fast-forward 20 years.

In an endless sea of coffee choices, manufacturers didn’t want to compete on price if they didn’t have to. Thus we now pay more than double if a coffee is “Rainforest Friendly” or “Organic.” Our purchases have come to reflect our values. Case in point, the new Follow the Frog campaign:


Is it non-GMO? Gluten-free? Environmentally friendly? Recycled? Does the manufacturer donate a portion of profits to charities we support?

Even large companies are realizing Facebook can be an asset and that people don’t want endless spam and promotion. We want a company that includes us and represents our values. We are willing to pay more to those kinds of companies. We want to like who we buy from.

We gravitate to companies with a real person behind the tweets and posts. Smart companies are recognizing they need to keep a finger on the pulse of their social platforms.

When I was ready to throw the first Mac I bought through the closest Apple Store window, I tweeted about my frustration. Guess who replied? Guess who worked tirelessly to make sure I was happy?

Guess who now uses Apple almost exclusively and has become a VERY good customer?

Kristen Lamb, writing teacher, WANA

Yes, Hubby even downloaded a game for the CAT.

I was willing to pay more for a company that not only solved my problem, but actually seemed to care about it. When the HP I owned had issues (and I’d had several HPs over the course of a decade), HP ran me through and endless maze of chasing my own @$$ with confusing and impersonal on-line forms that went unanswered. They used the information to spam me instead of solving my problem.

In the end? I knew I’d pay more with Apple (and wouldn’t have any new clothes for at least five years), but I chose the company that made me feel they were on my side, that I was more than a number.

Back to the Eternal Question—Do Authors Have to Market Themselves?

We have to remember the distinction between a business and a human being. When humans start “marketing themselves” it drifts into Creepy Land. Bluntly, it makes me feel like I need fishnets, heels and a red light that hides my smile lines. Or maybe I need to take up juggling fire while wearing a costume and swallowing swords.

We strongly suspected Earl had a book for sale… Image courtesy of Rafael-Castillio via Flickr Creative Commons.

We strongly suspected Earl had a book for sale…
Image courtesy of Rafael-Castillio via Flickr Creative Commons.

Granted, all of us on some level “market ourselves.” When we apply for a corporate job, we know that we have to wear the right suit, the right smile and have the right answers in an interview if we want to land the job or promotion.

But what if we had a plan for “marketing ourselves” to make friends? A bullet-point reference to make others like us. Worse still, how ookie does it get when we actively put together a plan for people to like us so they will buy something from us?

Hey, Baby, you wanna date book?

Writers are not Geiko. We are not AFLAC or P&G or Apple. We are people. A company is a non-living thing striving to connect and be personable. Companies have always been in the goods and services business filling needs. Companies have always been driven by market norms and that’s never been a question of ethics.

When human interactions are driven by market norms? That’s called slavery and prostitution.

Writers are people. A person is a person. When I actively make a plan for people to like me so they will buy my book? I need a shower and counseling.

All Humans Have a Brand

My brand. Spongebob, Green Lantern and NERF---oh, and I write books, too.

My brand. Spongebob, Green Lantern and NERF—oh, and I write books, too.

Brand is merely what comes to mind when we think of a name. When I think of AT&T, I see red. It brings to mind hours of runaround with customer service and the half zillion times they have screwed up our bill (where we live we have no other option).

When it comes to people? They also have a brand. They could be our vegan friend who competes in triathlons or our zany friend who collects action figures and goes to ComicCon.

I don’t call Such-and-Such in an emergency because he’s a notorious flake. If I have a bad day, I call Thus-And-Such, because I know she is kind and will set down everything to let me cry.

I avoid Uncle Burney because all he talks about is baseball and is utterly oblivious to the fact that I am chewing my leg off to escape the conversation. On the other hand, I love Uncle Olaf, because he invites me to play video games with him. He laughs a lot and asks me about my writing…and cares about my answer.

We unfriend people on social media because they might be rude bullies who rant or complain non-stop. We gravitate to others because they make us laugh or are always positive. These people may or may not have a good or service for sale, but they DO have a brand.

When it comes to creating a “marketable author brand” I have zero interest in changing you beyond what would need to change in any normal social situation. Name-calling, negativity, bragging, self-centeredness, putting others down are not great habits for us to have in LIFE. Thus, we all need to ixnay them with social media or it WILL create a negative brand.

I understand some writers will have to press beyond being shy. But, being shy in our personal lives limits how much we can connect as well. I know. I used to have such bad social anxiety, the thought of talking to someone I didn’t know was enough to make me throw up in my shoes.

I attended five years of high school and five years of college and had no friends. If I didn’t want to be a loner all my life, I had to press past my profound fear of people to grow as a human being.


We don’t like people who promote themselves in person. Why would we like them on-line? Granted, writers do have to strike a balance. I find we generally end up gravitating to extremes. Either writers blast non-stop deals, specials, contests and tours to tout their latest book or, the fact they have a book for sale is a Top Secret.

We need to find that balance. I was in Rotary for almost seven years. I knew who was a dentist, a surgeon, an accountant, or a veterinarian. I did business with them first because I knew them as people. They didn’t need to show up to our weekly meetings with flyers and coupons. They didn’t need to sit at lunch an pitch me how they were the best surgeon for removing suspicious moles.

The Two Basic Differences in a Regular Person Brand and an Author Brand

All this said, I will admit our brand is slightly different and I am going to use the word marketable extremely carefully. WANA isn’t here to slap your on-line personality in a short dress and digital body glitter.

Don’t come back until you’ve sold some books.

Yes, regular people have a brand, but most regular people don’t want to use that brand to sell books. Aside from being a nice human being, the crucial differences in a regular person’s “brand” and our “author brand” are:

Community is Part of Our Job

If a regular person disappears off Facebook for six months, it doesn’t matter. We as writers should have a goal of creating an authentic community, of creating relationships with those in our circles. Then, we are tasked with maintaining that community and hopefully growing it. If we only appear out of the ether when we have a book for sale, we become about as appealing as that cousin who never calls unless he needs bail money.

Authentic relationships will help us personally and professionally. We need a system of support. We also can be that support for others. Service is good for the soul and sound relationships are a two-way street. Book sales may or may not directly evolve from this, but it’s a better use of time than spamming victims from a purchased e-mail list.

Clarity is KEY

If a regular person wants to tweet using @I_LuvPandas, @LovelyKisses99 or @CarolinaChik, that’s fine. No one needs to know their name. Writers? If we are tweeting, blogging, whatever under a cutesy moniker? We’re wasting time. People cannot find our book if they don’t have OUR NAME.

The more layers of friction we add for others trying to find us/our books, the less likely we are to eventually make a sale. If I blog as Unicorn Fairy Hugs, tweet under @FairyGurl, am on Facebook under two or three different pen names, who can keep up with that?

People (readers) are pressed for time and will gravitate to those who don’t waste it.

When we use social media properly, our names become tied to our “brand.” In my case—social media for writers, craft, blogging, Star Wars, green juice, yoga, Gluten-Free, Lord of the Rings, The Spawn, zombies (notice my “author brand” is who I AM as a person as well).

But I’m not sitting around thinking, “Wow, I need a marketing strategy to market ME. I have to promote ME.” I’m simply doing what’s necessary to create genuine relationships. Beyond that? As a writer I have only two more necessities that distinguish my brand a) attendance b) coherence.

Same with you guys. Be present, be vested and be you. There will never be another 😉 .

What are your thoughts? Does this notion of “marketing yourself” make you feel ookie, too? Does self-promotion give you hives? The creeps? Am I making too big a deal out of it? Have you bought books simply because you liked the author? Maybe it was even a book in a genre you never read? On the other side, have you avoided buying books from an author because you didn’t like them as a person? Have you ever had a business make you feel so good you were ever-loyal? Have you have a company you were loyal to take advantage of you and now you’re their best-worst advertising?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less)

For a LONG-TERM plan for a fit, healthy platform, please check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World


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  1. You are absolutely right! I just had a conversation over at Scribophile about the difference between advertising and making friends, and one of the two leads to failure and frustration where the other brings you happiness and support. I’m guilty of playing to demographics every now and then, but I think I’m going to reconsider how I go about connecting to my audience. Great advice!

    1. Well, we have to gravitate to groups we think will like our work, but often they are a lot like us. I write books with guns and action, but I have a military family and background and friends. This is different than TARGETING *shivers*

      1. From someone who had never used social media until only recently, I can honestly say I was surprised when I discovered that my interests could connect me to other people (I mean, duh). Instead of pushing my molten lava ideas onto random unsuspecting people, I can actually start conversations that build real-world relationships. You were right. Social media makes you more human, not less.

  2. This is a great post, thank you. This is something I’ve been trying to wrap my head around. Fantastic explanation.

  3. Thank heavens… Sanity!

  4. Reblogged this on Keith Channing's re-blog and commented:
    This lady’s advice always seems to resonate with me. I think I may be addicted to her blog!

  5. Reblogged this on aarondavisauthor.

  6. In for a penny! I remember 12 years ago – my agent who was trying to flog my first book to publishers, commenting that I at least had a surname that was at the beginning of the alphabet and about eye-level on library and bookshop shelves. Then we all went digital! It is a tough one and I believe that there is almost a workable formula if you can crack it. Genre + Subject + Title + Cover + impact of well crafted excerpt + excellent 2nd book = increased sales. The fact that well known authors can write under a pseudonym and still sell books successfully puts more weight to the crafting rather than the author. This crafting extends to the blurb we choose to share with the world as writers – I have seen some really raunchy bios for romance novels and I have to wonder if they are really lovely retired ladies who listen to Mantovani while they write steamy scenes. So whilst you may not need to market ‘yourself’, I do think that you need to market the writer the reader expects for the book you have written where feasible.

    1. But that’s marketing the book, not “you.” There is a difference. One is a product, the other a person. I talk about all kinds of stuff that has nothing to do with social media. But when writers need help, they know who to go to. In a sea of infinite choices, the blurb and description don’t matter if no one reads them. But then I have writers panicking because “they need to be marketable.” No, our book does. WE need to be NICE, FUN, INTERESTED, and VESTED 😉 . We create the relationship that leads people to want to know more, THEN offer something packaged/branded properly.

      1. Got it – thanks for taking the time.

    2. I absolutely adore your screen name!!! still ROFL-ing! 😀 … also loved the Mantovani reference

      1. Thank you – a working title which started out as a wry smile but ended up on the cover of my men’s health book – because pfizer lost their patent for Viagra in 19 countries two weeks before I published. Must never waste an open door! And yay – another Mantovani lover!

  7. I’ve experienced those who relentlessly market themselves and it makes my skin crawl a little (sometimes a lot). That’s part of the reason I turned my back on my business degree. Instead, I share. Readers know I’m working on my book because I talk about my efforts and relate it to their efforts to achieve that which interests them. The only work I market is that which I’m giving away for free, and I give A LOT away for free. I always keep in mind how manipulative I find advertising (unless there are clydesdales and then I give them a pass).

    By the way, I made the HP to Apple move also in 2008. After 4 PCs in just over 10 years I’d had enough. The result? I still have that ’08 iMac (using it now) and I also have a Macbook, iPod, and an iPhone. Take that HP! 😀

  8. Sure, I’ve bought books by a particular writer just because I’d previously enjoyed that person’s work. That ‘brand loyalty’ probably mattered when a writer launched a new series or worked in more than one genre. And yes, I’ve also bypassed books by writers who disappointed me, suspecting that their new title would do so as well.

    Hopefully, fire juggling and fishnets won’t be needed to help promote a book. Hopefully, few of us let ‘brand identity’ or market perceptions shape what we decide to create. But, once the work is done, and to our personal satisfaction, then some awareness of how it can be presented to potential readers in context of our evolving author ‘brand’ is worth thinking about, and perhaps should shape some of our blogging, social media and other marketing outreach and communications. I wouldn’t want my brand (if I had one, and I don’t) to dictate that I have to write yet another cozy pastry shop mystery if I wanted to start a gritty neo-noir instead. But if I did just finish another cozy pastry shop mystery, I’d better promote it in a way that’s in keeping with the ‘brand’.

    1. But topic no longer dictates the author brand. That’s Old Paradigm. Personality, voice, interests, etc. drive perception. I’ve written books on social media and also written Noir. I have a trilogy of mysteries to come. Also, with a BAZILLION food allergies, I don’t think anyone’s brain would short-circuit if I wrote and Allergy-Friendly Cookbook. Why? Because ALL of those are part of me, “my brand.”

      We no longer need a “food blog” a “crime blog” a “craft blog” because people will get confused.

        • Stephanie Scott on March 10, 2014 at 3:02 pm
        • Reply

        I’ve been seeing this a lot lately; romance writers branching off into YA; paranormal series writers starting a historical line. I think whatever stigma there used to be for that is fading fast; the only exception I might note is someone who writes kidlit and erotica, that they would probably want a pen name and some separation there.

  9. I’ve always had trouble “marketing” or “selling” myself… first as a personal trainer, and nutritionist then as a photographer, because I was approaching it mentally as “sales” which always gives me the hives. What I offered people was valuable, but I still felt “ookie.”

    What you say makes sense about just being me, letting all the things that make up Kelly be my brand and that will speak for itself. Inevitably, people who are interested in what I have to say will gravitate to my “brand” because of certain feelings brought up when they think of me. Seems true for everyone. Work in progress, as with everything, of course. Thanks, Kristen.

  10. First of all, SWEET AXE! The last time I walked by one of those in the store, I didn’t have enough money to get it or else I totally would have.

    On the whole self-marketing thing, I really feel where you’re coming from. As a writer, I feel it so much that it HURTS. I’ve often said, “If you would know me, read my words.”

    Though I genuinely mean it, all it takes is that ONE blog rant article that someone takes offense to (often “on behalf” of someone else, who didn’t find it offensive in the FIRST place) before people decide to stop reading entirely.

    It’s crazy, but I think it behooves artists (really bloggy authors, in particular) to be as UN-self-promoted as possible. If someone judges you just on your WORK, then that’s fair. When they dislike you as a PERSON and pass that ALONG to your work (sight unseen), then you have problems.

    Imagine that you didn’t know Mel Gibson was a crazy anti-Semite IRL. You’d probably enjoy “Braveheart” and “The Patriot” guilt-free, wouldn’t you? And you SHOULD – they’re awesome movies!

    I generally decry the dehumanizing effects of modern society, but with today’s zeitgeist of “offense at the drop of a hat”, it pays for readers to know as little about authors as possible. It’s just our failings as humans – we can’t seem to separate the art from the artist.

    1. That would be lovely if readers could judge us solely on our work, but it isn’t reality. Discoverability is a growing nightmare. Social media is our lifeline. And artists have always been judged by social standards of the time. It’s why females wrote under male names for centuries. It wasn’t “proper” for women to be writers.

      June Carter Cash was a popular C&W singer who nearly lost her career after divorcing Johnny Cash (despite he was a drunk and an addict). Divorce was too scandalous. Jerry Lee Lewis was a rival for Elvis until he married his 13 year-old cousin. And on and on and on.

      And people will always remember the negative. Yes, Mel Gibson showed his @$$, but he’s also the only reason Robert Downey Jr. has a career. Gibson paid the sky-high insurance for him to be in movies after Downey’s heroin and law troubles. When Brittany Spears had a meltdown and shaved her head, Mel flew her to one of his private estates for counseling and a place to get her head and emotions together.

      We will always face some kind of PC perception. It goes with the territory.

      1. True.

        I just wish it didn’t HAVE to be.

        1. You and me both. Would be lovely to just write books. Le sigh 🙂

          1. I guess we’ll just have to keep writing and then just swing our foam weaponry around to get out the frustrations. ^_^

  11. I love this post! I bought loads of books off friends last year that I wouldn’t normally have read. They were all outstandingly written. Not necessarily hooked me into that genre though. So many friends with books not yet out too in genres I love.

  12. I have trouble ‘marketing’ myself as an author. But I come by it honestly (or so I think). First, though I am by nature shy, I have learned to force myself into stuff that I know will be good for me both personally and professionally. Second, my profession actually bars us from marketing ourselves. Architects have to rely on reputation, Requests for Proposals and our fee, and then our ability to complete a project and get decent references, which then translates into our portfolio of work. We are banned from taking out ads, talking smack about another professional or anything else that would harm our professional governing bodies’ reputations. But, I think I can translate that eventually into an author brand as well. Professional, but a human behind the creativity. And hopefully, by building up my portfolio (aka blog) they might take a chance on my longer works, and I can earn that reputation as an author people would be loyal to. That’s my strategy, here’s hoping it works.

  13. I agree with much of what you say. The whole “promote yourself” can be very creepy, and when I see other authors doing it, selling themselves like the latest brand of “something” – I think it is deprecating to them and their work. Anyone who takes the time to write a book which they value, should simply tell the world just that and as you say, they will eventually find a niche, a place or platform from which they can speak. For instance, I wrote a book, quite different from any other I had written, a literary fiction about an eight year-old girl sold into sexual slavery. It was intended to be an ambassador against human trafficking. I had no idea when I launched it that people would be interested in hearing from me in talks and forums, as if I was an expert in the field (I am not), but with that particular book it has carved out a niche for me, whether I like it or not, and when I speak, people buy the book. But all this twittering with catch-phrases and “read my free eBook” is too desperate. Authors are better than that and they should just talk from the heart and not try to sound like another commercial.

    • Sarah Brentyn on March 10, 2014 at 12:42 pm
    • Reply

    “Ookie”. Good word for it. Loving your stance on not having to “market” myself. I am a person and, as Horton the elephant says, “A person’s a person, no matter how small” or, you know, new or whatever.

    I am a loner, too, though and will have to get out of my comfort zone.

      • Sarah Brentyn on March 10, 2014 at 12:45 pm
      • Reply

      Obvious newbie here. I don’t know why my name isn’t clickable. Whatever. Comment stands. Comfort zone, Dr. Seuss…all of it. Cheers.

      1. I dig it and Horton is my FAVE. Love the Seuss!!!

          • Sarah Brentyn on March 10, 2014 at 12:59 pm
          • Reply

          Well, seriously, who doesn’t love an elephant who stands up for tiny people on a dust speck?

  14. Thank you! That explanation was very needed. It seems like a small difference, but it really feels big.

  15. Although I always love your blogs, Kristen, I have to admit that I remain confused about what works in social media for FICTION writers. I agree that it works wonderfully to blog all about yourself when you are a nonfiction self-help or how-to writer; of course we want to know that the teacher practices what she preaches. But a fiction writer? I’m not so sure. Personally, I have rarely bought fiction books because I met or liked the author; it’s usually because I fall in love with the premise or setting or characters of the book.

    When an author like me (who writes two different mystery series, romantic suspense, and a little nonfiction, too) wants to write about her life, what the heck does she write about? I have blogged about writing, about being a PI, about my love of animals and nature and hiking and kayaking, and about what inspires me to write various stories. This is all me, but none of that seems to help much in finding or growing an audience for fiction. Like I said, I remain confused…

    1. My book spells out specifically how to do this, but in a nutshell, we connect on like interests/struggles/issues and create a dialogue. And I do the same for NF. Yes, I write posts on craft and social media, but I also wrote about my deadbeat cats who refuse to catch mice and about leaving my Christmas tree up so long it started shooting in the air and playing banjo.

      I talk about all kinds of things that have NOTHING to do with my NF topic. If you go through my posts, I have inspirational posts (but am not the author of any inspirational books), body dysmorphia and age discrimination (though I am not the author of any Pop Culture books). But the people BUYING my books care about bullying, the pressure to be a Size 0, fear of failure. They leave their Christmas trees up far too long and feel guilty for getting a haircut. They like a good laugh (even though I have no humor books for sale).

      I am a person who talks about things that interest other people and get them sharing. For a novelist, a blog needs to be high concept–emotional, universal, allow the reader to contribute or take something away. Connect as a person. Often the people we want to eventually buy our books are a lot like us.

      And you’ve blogged about you, now extend the conversation. If I blog about hiking, I need to involve the audience and get them to share. A few extra steps can transform the content from a lecture to a conversation. We have to make a dialogue, meaning content needs to flow both directions.

      I don’t just blog about being insecure about my thighs, I then ask others about THEM. Do they feel pressure? Do they struggle? Have they been bullied? Etc. Etc. Now the post is less about ME and becomes a conversation starter. I hope that helps.

      1. Yes, that helps a bit. I have your book and (obviously) need to go back and read it again. Thanks!

    • Tamara LeBlanc on March 10, 2014 at 1:06 pm
    • Reply

    Yes, the idea of “marketing” myself is pretty darn ookie! I wish there were a way for everyone to be mindlessly driven to buy my book, but that’s not an option and would end up being even ookier than targeting people. It’s a very fine line and hard to balance without pissing people off and turning them away.
    There have been many times I’ve bought books because I like the author…a bunch of those books I’ve never read or ended up disliking them for one reason or another. There are also authors I WON’T read because I don’t like them personally.
    I don’t want to be in either category, really. I’d prefer someone pick up my book, read the blurb and then the first couple of pages and realize, THIS IS WHAT I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR!! Not because of me, my avatar or my marketing strategy, but because I’m a damn good writer.
    That’s my goal.

    Thanks for your wisdom!!
    Have a great afternoon 🙂

  16. Interesting post. Thanks for writing it. I do buy books written by the friends in my writer’s group. I love having their books in my house as inspiration. But I won’t buy a hardcover book from another person I know simply because I know them. I can’t afford to have an expensive book I won’t read on my shelf.
    My blog,

  17. “Marketing”….. well I would say yes and no to this… please let me explain, an author should not market themselves as they are not someone who has the experience, connections and downright knowledge in this area to do so…. however, yes without question they need marketing as I am a publicist and I market projects, people, products ….all day long everyday…. so I know exactly how to market you and your book…yes you both need marketing… I am not trying to sell you my services as there are many companies who can do this for you. Here is what you need to do: You need to first gather your list of companies and or individual names then “google” them…. put the word scam next to them or complaint…then once you weed out the ones who don’t have complaints or negative impressions… then put their names and press release. You do this to see if that publicist has ever done a press release…especially with an author, book… this is a unique market as not every person in the world reads books. I hope those on this post read this as this is truly an important post….P.S. for those of you who are also looking for a publisher… do this same thing “Google” them and if they try and sell you a “marketing package” see if that company/publisher has ever had one of their press releases accepted by any media/news… Sincerely, Rod L. Harrell

    1. I think we can make a book marketable but a person? I disagree. That’s no longer the realm of a marketing business these days. It was in a world of gatekeepers. Not everyone could get in a magazine, on TV, on radio, etc. Image could be crafted because information was controlled and interactions were limited.

      This is still the same when it comes to traditional media outlets. People (potential readers) expect an author on radio to talk about their book. We aren’t put off by a magazine article about an author talking about her novel. But press releases, magazines, feature articles and television are finite and limited. They don’t happen daily or multiple times a week. Social media does.

      I feel social media is NOT in the realms of what a marketing company should handle and “create.” It’s governed too much by social norms, and “making ourselves marketable” leaves artists feeling weird, fake and dirty. It also creeps out followers. Now, if an author creates a thriving social media community, this gives something for promotion/marketing companies to work with. Ads, articles, interviews in a vacuum no longer work.

      But we can’t hand money to a company to do our part. Marketing companies can help with the product, but we are responsible for the “person” side of that equation.

      For instance, Anne Rice is a legend. She has plenty of traditional marketing. But, to her credit, she is personally active on her fan page. It is not uncommon for her to step in and chat, debate or talk to her following. Few things can make a reader’s day like an author they love personally responding. As bookstores close, the Big Five lose traction, newspapers go under and magazines go on-line and more people look to Facebook than Oprah for reading suggestions, authors who make this transition will thrive.

      Can a marketing company help? YES. They are VERY valuable. But there are some things that, at the end of the day, we writers can’t outsource. Not only is it a waste of our money/time, but it’s unfair to ask of promotion companies. You guys are marketers not Harry Potter.

      We can’t hand money for someone to BE us. Not in an age of authenticity.

  18. I’m kind of get what Pamela Beason is saying. I write fantasy fiction. However, unlike Pamela, outside of my writing and my digital art, I’m pretty boring. Maybe that means I need a hobby. lol.

    Oh! That actually sparked an idea. I could learn how to read runes. I’m working on a fantasy that’s based around Norse Mythology and runes are a part of Nordic Spirituality, so it might be fun to share that with people as I learn them.

  19. I’ve definitely avoided buying books from an author I didn’t like as a person. That and the amount of “BUY THIS!” they cluttered my newsfeed with.

  20. Reblogged this on Charlotte Gerber.

  21. Very interesting post, especially for someone who is just starting to build their platform (like me). I especially liked the picture describing your brand 🙂 Made me laugh.

  22. Reblogged this on Hemmingplay.

  23. Reblogged at

  24. Love this post, Kristen! I haven’t had a book to sell in months, but I’m on social media because I love the interaction and engagement with people I’ve come to know and regard as friends. I figure, if they like my blog ( maybe they’ll check out my books when they debut, or maybe they won’t–and that’s okay, too. For me, it’s the engagement with people that matters first. Really enjoyed this conversation.Rock on, Kristen!

  25. Kristin, I am loving your blog! You speak so much to the issues that I am wrestling with. Personally, I think the whole concept of authors marketing themselves is a waste of time. That’s my truest feeling about it, though I am sure that I will play along with it when the time comes. And I’m not sure my opinion about “growing a community” is far behind that. My feeling is that people read books because the book is entertaining, and that is what the publishing industry should be focused on, rather than finding/creating author “cults of personality”. As a reader, I do not care at all about the personal life, views, or opinions of whoever has written the book, and I don’t feel compelled to be a part of their “community” either. I just want something good to read and I wish the publishing industry would just back off so talented authors could focus on providing me with that!

    1. But that isn’t going to happen. It’s like trying to be successful in a world governed by the wristwatch using a sun dial. Marketing books never worked that great. In the new paradigm? Without a social platform to back it up? Just pile money on the floor and toss a match in it.

      And we have to be really careful we aren’t projecting our preferences. Sure, as an older generation, I love paper books and bookstores and I do give more scrutiny to self-published books than traditional. That’s been bred into me for decades. BUT, the smart/savvy author isn’t thinking about the readers of just today. We also have to appreciate future readers. We also have to appreciate the changes in consumer buying patterns.

      The Over 55 demographic is the fastest growing on Facebook. They are gravitating to e-readers because of the ability to change font. Also, my 90 year-old grandfather doesn’t have to drive anywhere (a library or a bookstore) to get new books. He can do this from the comfort of his recliner.

      With gas closing in at almost $4 a gallon, I am not motivated to drive the 30 minutes to the closest Barnes & Noble, find parking, tote a 4 year-old when I can buy on-line and hit a button and POOF it appears on my Kindle and doesn’t take two hours and a fifth of a tank of gas.

      We have new generations cutting their teeth on digital devices. They are growing up on social media. You might not want to be a part of an author’s community, but readers have always wanted to connect with authors. And if you’re a writer (which I am assuming) I would hope you’d want to connect and create a community of your potential readers. Because if we want to part people from hard-earned cash and precious time, the very least we can do is talk to them 😉 .

      And just because we “create a community” doesn’t mean we spend hours and hours and put social media ahead of the writing. It merely means being real, present and vested. I don’t think that should be that tall of an order. And writers who are willing to reach out to those who butter their bread will do better. But that has always been the case with entertainers. Athletes, musicians, comedians, actors, etc. have all experiences meteoric career crashes in popularity by failing to remember who paid their wages.

      1. This is all true, and believe me I am not one who longs for the return of the manual sifting-through-books-at-the-bookstore days! I’m Amazon Prime all the way! But I will say I get a better idea of whether or not I want to read something from the “search inside” feature than I do from reading author blogs.

        Maybe I’m weird, but it sort of takes away from my enjoyment of a book if I know too much about the author before reading it. I start imagining what in their real life motivated them to write certain things, rather than just experiencing the work as it is written. I never look into an author’s personal life BEFORE I read their work. I feel like I owe them that much.

        I guess, for me, I conceive of authors as being more like “the man behind the curtain”. I don’t necessarily want the curtain pulled back. I would venture to guess that some portion of the populace feels this same way. What if people get tired of hearing authors constantly squawking about this and that? There is a such thing as overexposure.

          • Jason Gallagher on March 10, 2014 at 4:52 pm
          • Reply

          Anne, I don’t think you’re weird. I know others who do the same as you. I’m not sure how I feel exactly, but I think you raise an excellent point. Does it distract from the art, to know too much about the artist? Can a bad person do good art, and can good people do bad art?

          I’m thinking good art will stand alone as good art regardless. But it may not always get noticed. So for those people who aren’t seeking out good art, then maybe they’ll give a good person a try, because they trust the person. I don’t think it hurts to be “real” and let people know who you are, flaws and all. Many people want to know there money is going to someone(s) who care. It’s probably better than the alternative, not doing anything, and letting people wonder. But I do think you bring up a really good point. Thanks.

          1. I think that can happen. I know super nice people whose writing? Eh. And some pretty awful people who write great books. I think I’m on the fence there. I won’t buy from writers I don’t like. If I spot a writer belittling another, bragging, being hateful? Done. Too many other books written by people I’ll feel better supporting.

            I know of actors who are in good movies and I refuse to watch. Or, if I do watch, I’ll only watch used copies because I despise the actors as human beings so much I refuse to help them profit. Some people don’t care if Mel Gibson acts like an anti-Semitic jerk, but a LOT have. Many people haven’t cared how many Academy Awards he’s been up for. They don’t want to see Gibson in any other movies.

            I don’t know what the future will hold. We likely will see an emergence of new gatekeepers and social media will hold less influence. For the moment, though, it is our lifeline until we figure out what the Digital Age will look like. I don’t see it ever going away. I think it will be like the bubble, though. People who dig in and create something solid will survive and become the new brands. Those using it as a get-rich-quick are paper tigers.

        1. And there will be a level each writer has to find. But I don’t know if the world ever has too much kindness or is ever overexposed to genuine interest. A social media platform can be as simple as scrolling down the Facebook feed, liking pictures, encouraging others, congratulating new babies. It has little to do with us being interesting. It’s more about creating a habit to be “interested.”

          There are writers who post very little, but I see their NAMES over and over. They like a pic, share a meme, comment a word of encouragement. THAT is a community and they are building a platform. EVERY time I see their name, it is tethered to a positive emotion…which is branding. Trust me, if I see their book? I’ll probably buy. Have done it many times before. I had a writer be super nice to me in THREE tweets. Just talked to me, responded to something the group was discussing.

          As fortune would have it, I happened to be at a bookstore later that month to buy technology books for research. What name LEAPT off the shelf? The one I recognized and had a POSITIVE experience with. I bought all four of her books.

    • Stephanie Scott on March 10, 2014 at 3:07 pm
    • Reply

    A few years ago I started writing TV feature articles for an upstart blog. I networked with other writers, I followed a ton of pop culture sites, and got a bit more savvy about the shows I watched (no more channel surfing for “what’s on” since I had lists of series to DVR or watch on Netflix). I found a huge crosser over with book fans because people who like good stories like good stories in books AND on TV. It was that time I stumbled on this blog and read one of those posts about just being yourself and sharing that over social media. My love for TV has connected me with more writers, and just maybe someday, some potential readers. And I don’t even feel like it’s work.

  26. I stopped having different Twitter accounts for my two different series of novels. The target audience is a bit different but I found it sucked all my time and I spent so long trying to figure out if this was something the scifi/fantasy folks would want to know about or something that would be more for the YA folks *head/desk* Now I just post things that I find interesting and nerdy and make me go SQUEEEEEE and hopefully that will help me make real connections with real people.

    Now to get rid of the two separate Facebook fanpages 😉

    1. #drshaywest…. most celebs hire a publicist like me for this exact reason… %90 of celebs are not posting…as when they do ..they get in trouble.. the publicist handles this so you don’t have tooooo… sorry always wanted a chance to say it that way stealing from the shining bubbles commercial

      1. LOL I can see why a publicist would come in handy. I’ll have to sell a lot more books to be able to afford one of those 😉

  27. Reblogged this on Dr. Shay West and commented:
    As always, Kristen Lamb nails it 😀

    • Jason Gallagher on March 10, 2014 at 3:19 pm
    • Reply

    Kristen, another GREAT post! I really felt I connected with this post. It relates very much to my life. So I hope you don’t mind me sharing my experience, as I think it further illustrates the distinction.

    I have a physical disability and I hire my own personal assistants (PAs, also known as caregivers, personal care assistants, and helpers.) I like the term personal assistant because it best describes what they do for me – assist me with everything related to me as a person. That’s not just personal hygiene related “care” or nursing related “care” but everything, from organizing papers, to swiping my debit card at the store, to making baked goods for a friend (and then delivering them.) They are a true “sidekick.” They also work with me very intimately, as they are with me during life’s greatest moments (that date went really well and she kissed me!) to life’s worst moments (I totally bombed that date and I think she thinks I’m the dullest person alive.) So when I hire an assistant, I’m not looking for a robot with a set of skills, I’m looking for a PERSON. I want a person that I am compatible with. In my ad, I don’t spend much time on technical aspects or qualifications. I give a summary and then I give a bio of myself. Throughout the ad I sprinkle in humour to give it genuine touches of my personality. The ad does two things – it lets you know 1) Who I am as a person and 2) What I am looking for in a person. At the end of the ad I say to call or e-mail and tell me why you’d be great for the job and specifically say “e-mails with resumes only will not be accepted.” Why? Resumes tell me almost nothing about the person. So they worked at X, Y, and Z, and they think they have skills A, B, and C, but does that tell me about the person whose name is in the upper right hand corner? NO. It feels like marketing to me.

    When people respond, they either seem to “get it” or don’t. People who think they need to market themselves only send resumes, or spend way too much time talking about what jobs they’ve done or certifications they’ve had. I don’t want to know that. I want to know who you are as a person, what makes you tick, how you express yourself and communicate, and why you want to work with me. The people who get it respond in kind talking about themselves in a natural way, as if my ad is the first part of a greater conversations. The people who don’t get it, think I’ll hire them because they have said experiences (which is actually usually a compensation for not actually having done good job at all those jobs.)

    To boil it down, I’m looking for a real person. I want them to be who they are genuinely, and not someone who they think I (or society) thinks they should be.

  28. Most excellent info!

    I had to un-follow a bunch of folks on Twitter. All their Tweets were book elevator pitches or lists of “really cool writers I should go check out!” …. 7 or 8 times a day. Same ones. Every. Day.

    I would rather interact with a person, not a scheduling program.

  29. Wonderful post, thanks. This makes such good sense that I changed my gravatar from a picture of an interspecies rapprochement to my photo.

    • Melinda Primrose on March 10, 2014 at 3:37 pm
    • Reply

    The idea of marketing my book is a hard enough concept for me. Marketing ME? There’s just no way I could do that. Thanks for letting us know it’s ok not to market ourselves!

  30. I enjoyed reading this. Down to earth and mindful of the fact that authors are people not objects to be sold.

  31. I’ll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one….
    Even worse than “you have to market yourself” is when people say “you have to sell yourself”. Fishnets wouldn’t be warm enough for that Cold Day In Hell!

    1. Well, I think companies are trying to be personal not people. They have to in order to earn/attract business. In a world of infinite choices a company needs to answer, “WHY YOU?” “WHY your service/product?” We have to answer the same questions but the approach has to be different. I am not a can of coffee or an auto policy. And I agree, fishnet are NOT my thing, either 😀 .

      1. Personal not people – a good point.
        Of course, some companies are a bit too personal when asking for information “so we can provide you with a better service”. Ha!

  32. What if you’re not an interesting person? LOL. No, seriously. This is a real concern of mine. O_O

    1. Then you probably won’t be a very good writer. Good writers are passionate and interested in the world around them (and I suspect you are as well). We don’t need to be interesting, just interested 😉 .

  33. Wonderful post as usual. I think for me the main thing I need to do is just take a deep breath and stop trying so hard to be in so many places. You are right about people being attracted to folks who are not just focused on selling, so I have been trying to decide where to spend my time building these friendships and relationships. I have met so many neat people on the Internet and read hundreds of blogs that I would like to follow, but there is just not enough time. I used to visit here a lot more often, but it gets harder and harder to squeeze in just a few more minutes to visit one more place. The day is slipping away already.

  34. Kristen,
    As usual, you say just the right thing at the right time. I’m moving and feeling that I can’t fit everything in. I plan to keep Tweeting and Facebooking and blogging when I can. Even if it’s about moving.

    Thanks for being you. You are amazing. 🙂

  35. I’ve had to just accept that I can’t be perfect at this part, but I will get better and better as I go. My life is complicated and busy so doing what I can is better than giving up. Persevering will be the only way I succeed. I wouldn’t be doing this well without having learned so much from you! My book will be published in a matter of weeks and then I will have a minimum of three in person promoting events where I am already known. People want to see me with the book and I know that will help. Then I can keep going on my goal of 3 blogs a week. Thank you for all the advice and pep talks!

  36. I find, as a newly contracted-but-yet-to-have-novel-available-author, that I am not hugely comfortable self-promoting on my social media. I feel like I’m annoying my friends by telling them about my book – they’re not literary friends, in the main.
    At the same time, I like the idea you put forward that we are a complex brand: I am not just the writer of a werewolf novel, but a teacher, a deer biologist, a poet, and a writer of very different genres of book. I want to be able to publish my young adult’s and children’s book’s and everything else under the same name and not have to use a pen name just to keep the simple branding I’ve been reading is needed to succeed…. But as Pamela says above, will this work for fiction? I mostly blog about ecology, and my novels contain a lot of ecology, but they’re not real science… I can’t see someone buying my novel because they like my poetry or think my views on wolf reintroduction are coherent (or not!) I never really found myself interested in an author until I’d read a quantity of his or her books and found them engrossing. Then again, when an author is nice, it does make me more likely to try another novel. I was never very interested in Anne Rice’s vampire books, but when I read one and found an error, I emailed her and she replied within a day (her maiden name is O’Brien, though…) to thank me for pointing it out and blamed her copy editor for missing it! I’ll now recommend her books over the twilight books every time;-)

  37. I think it can be challenging to find out what is interesting that people want to read. Sometimes it isn’t necessarily what we find interesting. I’ve spent the last five years reinventing myself with a variety of blog posts, and pretty much felt like I was spinning my wheels. It was a post because of a news article that announced the military was going to be changing the uniforms to fit women better. It turns out a lot of people are really fascinated by military life — not the wars, but things like food, uniforms, life in the barracks. But I also had to keep trying new things before I discovered that this is something that is me and that people want to read.

    1. I have that challenge every day and with every book, LOL. Some things I think PEOPLE ARE GOING TO LOVE THIS! Eh, no. Other stuff? I cringe publishing a blog and it goes viral. WTH???? We can’t predict very accurately. All we can do is attend, contribute and hope for the best 😀 .

  38. Interesting. Very, very interesting.
    I think a lot about marketing and figured out how to market ‘me’ but it still feels icky. The idea of pushing ‘myself’ at people is just gross. I’m not like that. But you and so many others I have found recently, talk about relationships and that is so much cleaner. I don’t need to wash my hands, scrub my face and burn my clothes afterwards.
    And what you describe is a hell of a lot more fun too!

    Thanks again, Kristen. Thanks for helping all of us.

  39. Thanks for the very savvy observations, and for the new word: ookie. 🙂

  40. I’ll admit that it feels a little strange to think about what my “author brand” is–and sometimes, it feels even stranger still to put myself out there. So, yeah, I guess it feels a little weird at times, especially because I am such an introverted, private person.

    On the other hand, what feels even better is connecting with people–fellow writers, fellow bookworms, fellow fans of Stargate, fellow gardeners, fellow geeks. I sometimes still struggle with feeling comfortable in my own virtual skin, but it’s getting easier. What helps the most is realizing that the world isn’t going to explode if I write a blog post about three-act structure and no one responds.

    I also have to say that if the only time someone’s name pops up in my Twitter feed is to sell me their book or direct me to their blog/website, that’s a huge turnoff. Not that I mind fellow authors tweeting about their books; I’ve purchased books because someone I interacted with regularly on Twitter or a blog wrote or recommended one. I just want to buy books that are written by people, not marketed to me by some automated process. 🙂

  41. Spot on. There’s adverts and interviews and stuff but the basic heart of my social networking marketing strategy is be yourself, enjoy yourself and if you sell any books, it’s gravy! Come July, when I finally have a complete story arc in the public domain, I’ll tell you if it’s worked.



  42. ‘WANA isn’t here to slap your on-line personality in a short dress and digital body glitter.’ – not even a *little* body glitter?!

    Yes I have bought books because of liking the author! Before I got involved in all this crazy world, I usually chose to buy books recommended by friends or my magic Kindle, who know what I like (bit creepy actually). But through social media, I’ve found people to like that I wouldn’t otherwise have heard of. Case study – Myndi Shafer – once I found the wonderful world of WANA and ventured into the #, Myndi responded to something I posted on Twitter, super nice words of encouragement as I remember. So I looked her up. And I liked her blog. And her books sounded intriguing. And I love them. But I only found out about them and only took that leap of faith and pressed ‘purchase’ on the first one because she’d ‘spoken’ to me and I liked her! I now eagerly await her new releases! This has happened with a couple of authors I’ve found through being connected in social media, but I think this case *proves* that genuine connection, presence and personality – they count. I obviously don’t know Myndi that well, but on Facebook she posts pics about her kids and her dog and just uber happy, genuine posts about her books and how happy she is to be publishing them – and that just makes me want to read them, even before I knew they were awesome!

    1. You can add the body glitter if it fits, LOL. Myndi is AWESOME. I have been so blessed with social media. Some of the most amazing people in my life are people I have yet to meet in person.

      1. Lol WANA is glitter personified. Ditto Myndi. Ditto you 😀

  43. Yes. I’ve bought numerous books simply because I liked the author, and I have discovered some great new writers as a result. And yes, I have avoided buying books from others. That’s human nature, I think. I thought Follow the Frog was clever and fun. I watched it twice. I’m 3/4 of the way through Rise of the Machines, Kristen. H E L P F U L and funny!

  44. You may have an alternative to AT&T. Ooma lets you call all over the US using the internet for less than $4 a month. International calls are cheap, too.

    1. It isn’t the phone. It’s TV and Internet :/ . We use cell phones and Skype.

  45. The biggest problem with promotion for me is just time – I still work full time and if I did everything that’s recommended with social networking, I’d never get any writing done! I believe in picking a platform or two that you’re comfortable with and then using it to get to know your followers, rather than constantly promoting yourself. It’s about making connections rather than creating a place to sell your book, because nobody likes to be bombarded with BUY ME links!

    1. Ergo, WANA. We don’t have to be everywhere. Small meaningful investments in OTHERS reap exponential returns 😉 .

  46. I’ve read Rise of the Machines at least 3 times so far, and yes, I like it…but. It’s a bit scary to put myself out there. Even things you recommend, like having our own site as opposed to a Blogger blog or blog managed to create a problem for me (I’m a wuss, btw). I had a few posts on blogger, then set up my own site and I’m still trying to figure out how to properly do things, including write on it and have the spacing work properly around the pics. I’m not giving up, though. I figure it’ll take the time it has to take to learn it. Oh, and as for using the MyWana hashtag for Twitter, I’m worried because you’ve several times tweeted something about it being overused when people retweet. Lots to learn, and although I’m scared to dip my toes in, I do enjoy learning and as you recommend, being myself and reaching out to people with like interests.

    Hmm…now if I can just figure out how that ‘reblog’ thing is supposed to work.

    Still, thanks for both this post, and your book.

    1. It has to do with REtweeting. If people don’t delete or change the #MyWANA then we see the same article over and over and over. Just jump in. You might skin some digital knees but you learn by doing. And you will thank me later about having ownership of your own content 😉 .

      And three times? WOW. I am honored!

  47. Yes, I’ve bought books from authors just because I like them, and I’ve also passed on buying a book by an author I didn’t like.

    Self-promotion is awkward for me. I find borrowing a cup of sugar from a neighbor awkward, too, unless we’re very close friends. When my kids were young, every time we signed them up for a sport or an activity, I dreaded the fundraisers and having my kids peddle overpriced junk to my neighbors and family. It got to the point, I considered not signing them up for some things because I didn’t want to deal with another fundraiser and bothering all the people I knew AGAIN. When the public schools started doing fundraisers, I wondered what the heck? It got to the point I’d just buy the stuff myself and turn in a minimum order expected. My mom has lots of grandkids and they’d all hit her up to buy something for their team or school, throughout the year, and it got to the point where she told us not to bother her with fundraisers anymore! Ha! Good for my mom!

    One time I had a neighbor girl, a teen, come to the door asking me to sponsor her for some activity she was involved with at school, and it was a good chunk of money she expected me to sponsor her for. When I told her no, I couldn’t afford that, she got all huffy and stormed away, and I was glad I told her no. What kind of mentality is it that a kid would expect all their neighbors (that didn’t even know her as anything other than a neighbor kid down the street) to fork over their hard earned money just because she needed sponsors?

    Seems like we’re solicited for dis, dat, and de udder thing ad nauseum, and it gets old. Fast.

    So point well taken.

    I love those photos, especially the clown juggling the fire! Hahaha! I make a great clown but I can’t juggle. I wonder if performing a cheap magic trick with the clown outfit would work…hmm.

  48. I just started my blog on here a few days ago. All I did was state in my first real post that I wanted to make sure I had fun with the blog. If people want to read it, they will. I won’t force them to read any of my stuff.
    I unfollowed someone on Twitter last week because this particular author was spewing tweets like crazy, all automated, I’m certain. This particular author even had an advertisement for something that had take place back in December of 2013! Over 120,000 tweets! Those tweets got in the way of the actual tweets I wanted to see. I know some people use these services (I think they’re services, I wouldn’t even know for sure, LOL) but this pesron’s tweeting was beyond excessive!
    I think keeping all your “advertisement” honest and real is best.

    1. Yes, someone one time commented that I had over 100,000 tweets. And I was, “Yes, but I have been a member of Twitter since it LAUNCHED.” I do have a lot of tweets but they are all me. I don’t have a problem with people who tweet a lot (TweetDeck and HootSuite help) but the automation? URGH! I hear ya! UN-FOLLOW.

      1. I can totally get having that many tweets if you’ve been on Twitter that long!

  49. Thank you, thank you, thank you! This post makes me feel SO much better about what I’m doing. My FB posts, tweets, and blogs are all about connecting with people – along with an occasional bit about my books/WIPs. I’m an animal lover, a nerd, and love video games and these traits show in my online presence – I AM my brand.

    Maybe I’m not doing such a bad job after all…

    1. Not at all 😉 .

  50. I have a hard time with self-promotion on social media. I’ve always thought that good writing and a good story should sell itself, but you’re right — no one’s going to want to publish or buy my books if he or she doesn’t know who I am or whether my writing’s good or not. So it’s a conundrum, or a catch-22, or whatever else one might call the situation. I have a web site with a blog, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account. I try to promote the web site through the other two, as a way to let others know me and something about my writing, but thus far, either what I have written in the blog has not resonated with anyone, or no one has looked at it, as there have been no comments left on it. I hate some of the shameless self-promotion I see on Twitter all the time, but perhaps those doing it are going to be more successful than I ever will.

    1. No, just talk to people. We incline toward reciprocity. If we like a person we’ve chatted with enough, we’ll want to know more. The right blogs are great for forging a personal connection. We have to experiment with content until we find our voice and what “resonates.” This helps with the novels, too 😀 .

  51. Another great post…hits the spot…i got hi-speed internet not that long ago so a lot of this stuff is new to me….i was away in the Himalayas when the internet went global and missed that too! However with the help of a friend I did launch a blog when i self-published my novel — i guess the blog title projects my brand: the metaphysical and mundane musings of a maverick female scribe…. Would you agree with me that this alone is a sort of branding? Curious to know from an expert. And thanks again.

    • Linda Í on March 11, 2014 at 12:28 am
    • Reply

    I agree wholeheartedly with your distinction between marketing one’s book verses marketing oneself. There is a very steep learning curve I have found realizing that the hardest part about being a writer is the business end. Finding a mentor who is also helpful and not resentful or devious can be as difficult is learning to dive for sponges while holding your breath for an hour. Thank you so much for your article it was reassuring and motivating.

  52. You have a dead on quirky insight that is so helpful in streamlining this crowded world we all know as the book business. I would love to do a short but in depth interview of you for my blog if you have the time. If so please let me know where to send my questions to. Thanks a bunch!

  53. It did scare me at first, thinking about this whole new world I hadn’t previously participated in and trying to figure it all out – especially when there was such conflicting advice, or impossible advice, or advice to do things that made me cringe (those things I hated when people did them to me – like never commenting on anything I put up but just constantly spammed me). After reading your blog (which made me feel like I had a chance to breathe and grow in this new SM sphere), I decided to buy your book so I could understand it further, because, despite your fabulous blogs, I still felt like I didn’t completely get it. But your book was sooooo great. I’ve recommended it to all my author friends, both those published and especially those still trying to get published and all of them have bought it and read it and have got a huge amount out of it, and like me, feel like they can breathe about this whole SM thing. It’s not an insurmountable problem. It is an opportunity to meet new people, to find out about new things, to express the things I love to people who have the same loves, to be a part of a whole new community. When you look at it like that, it doesn’t seem so hard. I think the biggest thing is trying to make it work in the time-frame of my day – I still need to write that next book and the next one and the next one. But, I think if I remember that, I’ll be fine. What I basically wanted to say was, you haven’t scared me or misrepresented in any way what you were saying. I never thought you were talking about ‘marketing’ in the old sense – if you had, I’d probably have tuned out. Thanks for that.

    1. Good, because social media CAN be so rich and SUCH a blessing. I want you guys to have a plan you ENJOY because they you will DO IT and I really want all of you to live and enjoy your dreams. Thanks for the support and thrilled my book could help. When I was writing this I was worried that I might have contributed to the insanity, but I have slept since I rote ROM and many of by blogs, LOL.

    • Angela O'Brien-Malone on March 11, 2014 at 5:19 am
    • Reply

    Thanks you for the sane comments Kristen! Great blog.

  54. See, I used to be military, so every time someone said, “Oh, you should start a professional blog or something,” I thought it would have to be purely work-related and not at all personal. I even went so far as to create a new blog separate from my old one because it just got way too personal for me to feel comfortable with sharing bits of my latest endeavors. I just never occurred to me that people would like to get to know me before they buy something from me. Not that I really have anything to sell just yet. I’m still getting in the swing of things, writing every day and whatnot. Still, it does make sense to just keep everything somewhat lighthearted and friendly. I’m not making any friends by just posting about word count goals and little plot ideas. It just sort of seemed like sharing the funny bits I find on the internet and opinions on things going on wouldn’t really be appropriate. I guess I don’t have so many people following my every word that I would need to worry about trampling on politically correct blogging methods. Thanks for the info and I think I’ll try to be a little more social here 🙂

  55. Great article… I find your writing very easy to read. My company name is LB Living Better and I have done everything on social media as LB Living Better. I am finishing my first book and you have made me think perhaps it should be written by LB Living Better instead of Lisa Bates? Your thoughts greatly appreciated.

    1. I strongly advise that you shift everything to your name or you’re adding friction we (readers) don’t need. And that can be as simple as going and changing the username or ADDING your name next to the Living Better. We NEED your name or we will gravitate to writers who don’t give us extra work *shrugs*. Best of luck! 😀

    • Donna Fasano on March 11, 2014 at 7:06 am
    • Reply

    I market myself on my blog by just being me. Why not? I’m a likeable sort. lol I also market myself by marketing great books written by other authors on my blog: Awesome Romance Novels. Is anyone listening to my “read this book!” shouts? Thankfully, I can say yes. But I always want to capture more and more attention.

  56. This is why I love your methods! I don’t want to have to sell myself as an image or a brand… I just want to put forward the best version of me that I can. It feels more honest, which works for me. True, in real life I’m a huge introvert and get panic attacks over making phone calls, but online I can be the friendly, helpful, kind of dorky person I am underneath all of that. I don’t have a huge following anywhere, but I’m making friends, And this works– I don’t have books for sale yet, but I’ve bought books from people I know (and like) through blogging when I would never have even heard of their books otherwise. I haven’t read all of them yet, but I’ll get there. Maybe that’ll go both ways…

  57. I don’t have a book published yet. I dread the thought of having to market my book myself, if I ever get it done. I hate Facebook anymore. It’s a place for bad gossip and name-calling. I have several blogs/journals online. I’m only good at keeping up with one of them though. I do have a following on the one blog, which I’m hoping will help me. I also have a Tweeter account that I do use, although probably not as often as I should. I have WANA Tribe bookmarked but haven’t joined yet. How does one obtain his/her own book signing at a book store? Is there a way for places like Amazon to help an author out with this stuff?

  58. Hi there! I’ve been reading your blog for a bit so far all great posts. This one resonated because initially I was very hesitant to market myself, until I realized that as an author I just need to make friends. If I approach “getting the word out ” as just a conversation and not the sum of who I am then it becomes easy. I compare it to sitting around on a lazy afternoon with friends and having great conversation, you talk about everything, and sometimes talk isn’t necessary, just presence.

    That is how I approach my marketing-if i can call it that. Create relationships with people, have good conversation, help others when you can. I have found that the rest takes care of itself.

  59. Self-promotion is necessary, yet I dislike it when I’m on Facebook and all I see from an author is what seems like an endless stream of ads about their new book. It’s like sorting through junk mail. I much prefer–and would even enjoy–hearing about that author’s WIP or new release through conversation that includes that information.

    1. It really isn’t necessary. Just talk to people. Our work can come out organically and it makes others feel less cornered.

  60. Oh yeah, that’s me, the clown juggling fire. Excellent post as always. You have such a great way of putting things in perspective, Kristen. I save your posts and read them as my treats during the week. I’m going to be more gentle with myself about marketing; my goal for the year!

  61. Another great post!

    Yes, it’s an unfortunate fact these days that writers need to ‘market’ themselves. We need to compete with our more social-media-savvy colleagues, and more and more publishers expect authors (even those who write fiction) to come to them with a platform or established following.

    Having said that, I don’t think marketing has to be a dirty word. The idea of marketing myself (or anything, for that matter) used to freak me out. Until I started my writing business. At that point, it was either sink or swim, and so I dove into the deep end, attending all sorts of networking events — some enjoyable, but many awkward and uncomfortable. Before long, I realized that, at least for me, the secret to marketing is being true to myself and developing authentic human relationships that go beyond business.

    Instead of attending those awful “meet and greet” networking events (which always felt like pulling teeth), I started seeking out more organic options for networking with potential clients — classes, social and charity events, writers’ groups, book clubs, Meetup groups, etc. Places and events I would enjoy, even if I weren’t trying to market myself. I ended up making a lot of great new friends and business contacts, all while focusing on something other than hard-core marketing.

    I’m currently writing a novel about my family’s history in the Bahamas. As part of my platform building, I began a blog ( about the Bahamian island, Green Turtle Cay, on which much of the book takes place. I’ve made so many valuable connections and contacts through the blog, but I’m having a lot of fun with it as well. It’s something I’d find worthwhile and enjoyable even if it weren’t part of my marketing efforts

  62. Refreshing take on a 21st century dilemma, with which I want to agree but can’t seem to.

    See, I’m one of the “I know I should do more to promote myself” but would rather write because that’s what I do better. But I read a few years ago that review copies of novels were being turned down by reviewers on the basis of the author’s photo. That is, those not found appealing, their novel was rejected. So it seems people do judge books by their covers. If reviewers are indulging in that practice, I’m sure agents and publishers do, too.

    I’ve been told more often than not that I need to suck it up, learn how to market myself and my work if I want to succeed in publishing. That’s what the new publishing model is all about: the writer must do it all, write, promote, market, sell, and anything else to become successful. Even agents and major publishers are asking, in their submission guidelines, about your social network.

    What I want to know is, why? Actors act; they don’t generally write screenplays. Professional athletes play their sport, they hire trainers to get them in shape and keep them there, while coaches help them to improve their game; they don’t represent themselves when their contract comes up. They don’t write their own autobiography after they retire; they get agents to renegotiate and hire a ghost writer to pen their story. But writers are expected to look like a movie star on the back cover, and they must have a social network guaranteed to turn a mediocre book into a best seller?

    The publisher sinks their advertising budget into James Patterson or J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, whose books would disappear from shelves without fanfare. But if my book fails to sell out its initial print run, it’s my fault, my publisher will drop me, and I’m suddenly a bad risk in the future.

  63. Reblogged this on Sophia Kimble.

  64. Great article. I am always happy to get your blog posts in my email. I think of them as little treats. Kind of like what I give my dog when she does something good.

    1. That is so EPICALLY SWEET! (((HUGS))))

  65. Can’t do it. Won’t do it. I’ll probably never sell a word, even a contraction, but there it is.

    1. You don’t have to. I think it’s creepy, too.

  66. Reblogged this on Astigmatic Revelations.

  67. My first novel (Lovers’ Rock – a romantic thriller) is published by a reputed publisher, who are supposed to do all the marketing. I’ve no idea what they will do. I was compelled to put the damn thing on Facebook and told to invite the ‘likes’. It is very embarrassing. Ultimately, the content in the book should work more than anything else.
    Having said that, if you do not dance on a stage, how will people know about your skill? One has to shake a leg once in a while.
    Thanks for sharing your views.

    • Kelly Roberts on March 13, 2014 at 6:27 am
    • Reply

    Connection is key, to so many things. And I don’t mean the digital umbilical code “connecting” us. Connecting to me means taking a moment out of your day to be something to someone, other than an annoyance or barrier. And you know what the best part of that is? It feels really good!

    For instance, I’m an “assertive” driver. It drives me crazy when I’m following a car going slower than what I want to go. So I generally pass, feeling frustrated that they’re not moving along a little faster. One night after having done this, I noticed the car I passed and was now in front of in the right lane needed to turn right at the stop light, which was red. I pulled over in the left lane so the guy could turn right on red instead of waiting for the green. You know what? He waved a thank you to me. Know what? I felt awesome! Passing was about me. Moving over was about him. I connected to that stranger in a car and I felt something in doing so.

    1. Great analogy 😀 .

  68. Reblogged this on Rose's Road and commented:
    This has been a crazy day. I had a meeting two towns over, cooking, cleaning, errands… basically life happened today.
    So, I offer a blog post that will fit just about everyone. If you are in any type of business where you need a personal brand this is a great blog post for that.
    If you couldn’t care less what a personal brand is, just cruise through until you find the YouTube box and watch the funny video. (It made me laugh, anyway.)
    Hopefully my brain will be unscrambled by Friday evening and I can come up with a poem for you. If not, then I’ll just have to come up with a helpful and entertaining substitute… again.
    Enjoy! 😀

  69. A lot of people I know don’t understand why I can’t “afford” to “disappear” from Networking for weeks. I do think it’s so important to create that brand. That one particular brand… and sometimes I’m feeling like being lost in the Universe.
    Thanks for a great article Kristen.

  70. Thanks for this Kristen. I don’t think I’m shy, but I’ve learned the hard way that since I get in trouble when I’m visible, it’s better to be invisible. Now I’m trying to be visible and it’s not only hard, it’s downright scary! But I’m working on it.

    1. You don’t need to be interesting, just interested. 😉 Fabulous to meet you!

  71. Social media can be over overwhelming but it’s so needed. I like to mix things up by explaining what I’m doing and advertise my book since selling is not all you should do. At first it was hard, thinking I wasn’t interesting, but there are so many other people out there who feel the same way and who are willing to help as you should in return.

  72. Reblogged this on Ellie Elise and commented:
    Such good advice!

  73. “But topic no longer dictates the author brand. That’s Old Paradigm. Personality, voice, interests, etc. drive perception. I’ve written books on social media and also written Noir. I have a trilogy of mysteries to come. Also, with a BAZILLION food allergies, I don’t think anyone’s brain would short-circuit if I wrote and Allergy-Friendly Cookbook. Why? Because ALL of those are part of me, “my brand. We no longer need a “food blog” a “crime blog” a “craft blog” because people will get confused.”

    Hence the disclaimer on my blog: “Writing, history, museum work, the Pacific Northwest, traveling, national parks, geyser gazing, reading, quilting, gardening, meteorology, and the occasional cat.”

    And the reason I refer to myself as a “professional dilettante.”

    Unfortunately, this scattershot approach has not gained me any readers that I know of, and the blogs I enjoy as a reader *do* have a focused approach. But my brain just doesn’t work that way.

    Which is why I’ve written three time travel novels and a travel memoir, and am about to release a contemporary romance. I guess I’m doomed.

    1. You might need to just make slight adjustments. Are you tagging? Using keywords? Asking questions at the end to encourage engagement? Titles are important. Also it takes time and content. How many days a week are you blogging? I blogged once a week for a year and a half and no one knew me. I upped to three days a week and soon hit a tipping point. Went from crickets to my visits exploding. From 40 or so visits a day to 500 and it has only increased since then. And it isn’t scattershot. Your voice is the uniting feature. I blog on writing, social media, bullying, Star Wars, humor, body image, and on and on.

      1. I’m tagging, but — three times a *week*? [cringes] I’m lucky if I blog two or three times a *month*. I do post on Facebook several times a day, but that’s more just random observations, and certainly not more than a couple of sentences. An essay three times a *week*???

        Okay. Well, then. I guess I’m just not putting the requisite amount of work in. There’s only so much of what feels like a really awful homework assignment to me that I’m willing to do, and apparently that amount is not enough.

        So I guess the operative phrase is “never mind.” Sorry to have bothered you.

  74. Woo! Kristen, I’ve got two of your books and have followed your blog for a while, and I have to say, absolutely nothing made the idea of what I need to do to “self-promote” click with me more than this post. I’m saving this, all of this, including comments; I may need it for reference next time I’m lost in the woods.

  75. Okay, about to expose my hideous ignorance. What is tagging? And I know what keywords are, but what do they have to do with blogging?

    Also, I’m blogging between two and four times a week, have been for months, and the response is just about what it’s always been. A few stalwart readers of my writing read and occasionally comment. Nobody else cares. I ask questions and nobody answers. My sales hover around ten in a good month, my Facebook page gets a couple new likes who then dutifully ignore everything I post, and I lose as many Twitter followers as I gain in the average week.

    Let me guess. I’m driving people away by being, I don’t know, a human being who is frustrated because her free fiction gets thousands of readers and her best-selling original book has sold maybe two hundred copies at the outside after nearly two years?

    1. I explain these in Writer-ese in my book, but basically those are things we do to help search engine algorithms FIND our content. Think of tagging like labeling a box “Christmas Ornaments” on the outside to make them easier to find. Keywords are often the same as the tags and used in the first paragraphs of the blog. So if you open a box labeled (tagged0 CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS) you would expect to see christmas ornaments inside. Maybe even lights, tinsel, a star. It’s how search engines keep us safe from porn bots. They see if the outside matches the inside so we don’t click, “Cuban Recipes” and end up with make women. Make sense? And no, you are far from dumb. It’s why I am here to help take the panic factor out 😀 .

  76. Hey, my son has that exact same Neft sword! Or battle-axe? My twins battle each other while jumping on the trampoline. Now that’s talent.

    Thanks for this great topic. I don’t feel comfortable with marketing. At all. At this point I just put information out there when it’s relevant and then just keep communicating about regular stuff the rest of the time.

    I have definitely avoided a certain author’s books because of her “brand” on Twitter. Unfollowed her as well. Too many rants and way too much negativity. Who needs that?

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