How to Avoid Over-Promoting & Under-Promoting Our Books

Most authors are coming to terms with the undeniable fact that in order to make our books stand out, we have to promote them.

With the millions of books competing for reader’s attention, authors (traditionally & self-published alike) must make concerted efforts to let readers know about their books. Otherwise, our books will just get lost in the shuffle.

But how much promotion is necessary? If we promote too much we risk being seen as obnoxious. And if we don’t promote enough, we risk getting lost in the crowd of other voices.

If you haven’t figured out by now, I’m in the middle of promoting my newest release, The Doctor’s Lady. Some days, I can’t help but wonder, am I promoting TOO much? TOO little? Or Just enough?

It’s not always easy to tell.

My critique partner, Keli Gwyn, will be going through the promoting experience in July 2012 when her debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop is El Dorado, California, is released by Barbour Publishing. Keli told me she's been watching my efforts with interest and asked if I'd share my tips for knowing how much/how often to promote my book and the giveaway I'm running.

In light of Keli’s question and my own struggle to learn to find a balance in the effort to promote my books, here are several things I’m learning:

1. We need to make it easy for our friends and followers to share the news about our books.

The bottom line is that promotion is always easier when our friends and followers join in the effort—especially willingly, without arm twisting. If we’ve already worked hard at building a team (or tribe), those friends will likely come to us and ask us how they can help, rather than us having to run around begging people for assistance.

Of course, it goes without saying (but I’m obviously saying it anyway!) that we have to give our friends the kind of book they can be proud to promote. We don’t want to put them in a position where they have to lie about the quality of our book and essentially put their reputations on the line.

We can take it a step further by giving them things they can actually share–like news about contests, giveaways, or relevant blog posts, fun interviews, etc. And nowadays, sharing buttons (like the ones that I have below) are a nice touch for making the sharing easier.

2. Yes, social media is about socializing. But we can’t sit back and do nothing at all.

I think most authors (including myself) are finally catching on to that concept that we need to use social media to socialize (rather than as a billboard).

However, I’ve seen authors with new releases do very little to almost nothing to share the news of their books. In some ways, it almost seems like we’ve become paranoid about using twitter, facebook, or our blogs for sharing any book news at all for fear of spamming our followers.

But I think we can (and should) be responsible for sharing important information in moderation. If we open our twitter page and see mostly tweets about our book, then we’re likely going overboard. But if we share such information interspersed with other genuine interactions, then we’re hopefully sharing in a way that won’t offend most followers.

3. Look for ways to promote others in the process of your self-promotion.

During my blog tour, I’ve taken the approach of wanting to promote the blogs who are hosting me. I really do want each person to be blessed as a result of participating in the tour. So, when I take the time to mention their posts on my blog and on twitter, and facebook, I’m hoping they can get a little extra traffic that day, perhaps gain a few new followers, or increase their name and web presence just a little.

When people send me pictures, I try to post them on facebook or twitter so that I can spotlight that person, publicly thank them, and draw attention to them.

My Summary: Ultimately, we have to promote our books and that means talking about them. But through it all we can be on the lookout for ways to move the focus off us and onto others. And if we start to get the internal feeling that we're over-promoting my book, we can move a step back and take a break from it for a short time.

What’s your opinion? In what ways do authors over-promote? And have you seen authors who haven’t done enough promotion? Is it possible to find a balance?

No blog tour stops on Monday! But don't miss these two on Tuesday!

Tuesday 9/20: I'm visiting with Katie McCurdy on her blog and sharing my favorite scene from The Doctor's Lady and what was the hardest to write. (AND giving away a book!)

Tuesday 9/20:
I'm delighted to have a spotlight on Mary Bailey's blog where she'll be reviewing and giving away a copy of The Doctor's Lady.

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  1. My opinion is, I simply don't know what the right balance is. Right now I'm in the position of watching others and figuring out what will work best for me.

  2. I don't think you over promote. For me, overpromotion happens when the attitude of the author starts to come off as look at me, look at me. It's all in the undertones.

  3. Keli is not the only one learning by watching you. (No pressure there.) I also learn by watching my own choices in social media. When I'm scrolling through Twitter, what makes me click through and what makes me glaze over? When I'm choosing what to read in my Google Reader, what influences my choices? We learn a lot from how we respond to others in social media that we can translate into guidelines for our own to-promote-or-not-to-promote decisions.

  4. Good morning, ladies! LOL, Olivia! No pressure at all! :-) We do really learn a lot from each other--a sort of trial and error of what works best and what we want to avoid!

  5. I'm definitely learning from you, Jody. Even with a year or so before my book comes out, I'm often nervous I'm not doing enough to make myself known online, but I hope that trying to build a rapport with people is better than shouting "Look at me, everybody!"

  6. We are so lucky these days that we can follow how other people promote their books and see what works and what doesn't. In the past we never would have known what authors are doing. I think you've got the perfect balance going. If you overdue it at the launch it would embarrassing to keep mentioning your book a couple of months later. The way you are doing it, it wouldn't be embarrassing to keep up the same marketing things for as long as you want.

  7. I like the emphasis of the "social" in social media--remembering there are people on the other side of the Tweet or the comment or the FB page.
    And you're good at that, Jody, which is why I keep coming back to your blog--and why others do too.
    Plus, I love your books.
    And, yes, you can under promote. I think this is often a newbie writer syndrome. Newbie writers can easily think the publisher will promote their book.
    Well, it's true. The publisher will promote their book...some. But no one will promote a book like the author will.

  8. Thanks for addressing my question, Jody. I read the post with interest and am enjoying the insightful comments, too.

  9. You seem to have just the right balance--and I think much of that is due to your personality, but another part is because you have a large tribe who wants to help. Someone with little or no web-presence is really at a disadvantage. They're almost certain to overpromote and still not reach many people.

    The earlier we can connect with people through social media, the better!

  10. I think you're doing a good job, Jody. :-) And yeah, I think balance is key. I mean, you want to share your book with the world and make sure people who might be interested in reading it know about it, but you don't want to drown the cyber-world with plugs. :-)

  11. One expectation I heard that seemed reasonable was the 80/20 rule: 80% relevant/fun/personal content, 20% promotional. I think you have a great point about enlisting the help of friends and followers, too.

  12. I love the idea that promotion of your book can be done through promoting others--you are so sweet. What I dislike is when almost everything I see posted on twitter or FB is about pushing an author's week--EVERYTHING. There is an author I follow on Twitter that I am considering UN-following because there is nothing other than self-promotion hardcore. :-)

  13. Jody,

    Might you consider a post on the pre-launch/ post-launch emotional roller coaster many authors experience? I've watched a lot of my friends go through phases of elation and heartache in navigating a book's release, and I'd love your take on the experience.

  14. This is definitely a very delicate balancing act, but I think you're doing a great job at it. I really like the idea of turning our own promotion outward to promote others. The best thing we can do as authors is support each other, and a very small amount of extra effort can mean the world to others. When we can do that, we definitely should.

  15. How promotion is perceived seems to depend a lot on the author's choice of words. The pleas to "please friend me", "check out my blog" or "don't miss my newest release" get tiresome, whereas the interesting tidbits about what's being discussed on a blog are likely to tease me into a click to check. If the person seems friendly and outwardly focused instead of self-promoting I'm more inclined to be interested. I agree with Olivia that understanding our own response can provide insight on how we should handle our marketing. We also can't go wrong if we follow your example!

  16. Great post, Jody! I love Kristen Lamb's rule of three, where you promote your own links, etc., 1/3rd of the time. I've heard others say it should be even less. Either way, it gives us permission to promote ourselves but to keep it in balance.

  17. Such a great post! Love visiting your blog!

    Lola x

  18. Such a great post, Jody! Regarding #1, another way to make it easier for people to share good news on Twitter is to make sure the tweet is short enough to be easily retweeted. I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to retweet someone's news or links, but their tweet is too long and I'm too busy to shorten it.

    And I LOVE #3. It's easier to promote someone else than it is to promote myself. Cross-promoting with other authors who write similar books is a great way to do this. A group of us who write paranormal romance have teamed up and are sending each other our books to give away on our blogs, to newsletter subscribers, etc. A reader may not have heard of me but they're a fan of the other author and they'll hear about my books from her and vice versa. It's a fun (and easy) way to broaden your audience.

  19. I feel like promoting another author's book, especially yours, is a team effort!

  20. Hi everyone! I'm really appreciating your input on this post! Lots of great advice! Thanks for that reminder to keep tweets short enough to retweet, Laurie. And cross-promoting with other authors is a fantastic idea too. As Jill mentioned above, we can start early building those relationships with other writers so that we have a group of friends who will mutually support one another.

  21. Thank you Jody - as a newbie author building up to launch day, this post (and others you have written) is invaluable. Thank you!!!

  22. I strive for a nice balance. I do the Twitter and Fb thing, but try to only post promotional links a couple times a day. The rest are social tweets and posts. And I won't follow someone who only posts links.

  23. Indeed, we have to promote our thats the only way to do it.

  24. Well, I still think the "Ten to one" rule is best - ten posts about others for every one post about you. You've got to earn your right to self-promote :-)
    This is a great post, Jody - and thanks for pointing out that we need to make a concerted and special effort to promote those who promote us.

    1. I like the ten to one rule! It's definitely something to strive for! I think the point is that our efforts definitely require a team, and teams work together to support one another.


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