By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund
I'm definitely not a marketing expert. I've made plenty of mistakes. I've tried things that have flopped. And I've likely irritated people with my efforts at times.
But as I've looked around at what kinds of techniques work and don't work, I've realized there are several things that stand out as somewhat obnoxious, things I go out of my way to avoid.
1. Sending a direct message on Twitter (automated or otherwise) to a new follower asking them to go to your website, facebook page, or check out your books.
2. Following someone new on Facebook and then when he or she follows you back, ask them to go Like your Author Page.
3. Gaining a new friend on Facebook and then going right over and posting something about your book on her timeline.
4. Emailing someone you don't know, being friendly, and then ending the note by asking them to go to your website or Amazon page to take a look at your books.
5. Asking followers you don't know well to help "spread the news" about a book or event or to "please retweet" the information.
All of the above techniques are pushy and impersonal. And all of them have happened to me recently.
Such methods remind me of the college kids who used to come to my door every summer trying to sell me children's encyclopedias. The kids were trained not to take no for an answer, and I often felt like they were badgering me so that I'd allow them come inside and explain more about their books. Even if I had been interested (which I wasn't), I didn't want someone trying to force me to make a purchase.
Nobody wants someone knocking on their door in real life trying to sell something. Don't we all cringe when we get those kinds of visitors (or we hide in the bathroom and pretend were not home)?
Well, in the land of social media, cold calls are even more offensive. The old-school technique of hand-selling your books DOESN'T work. In fact, going door-to-door in cyberland and trying to drum up business is just a sure-fire way to LOSE followers. Since most social media works on a mutual acceptance of a following, we feel used when someone "friends" us for the sole purpose of getting us to buy something. As I said above, such techniques are impersonal.
And IMPERSONAL marketing rarely stirs our interest. But PERSONAL connections make all the difference.
When it comes to buying books (or anything) most of us are willing and go out of our way to support our friends. Or we might make a genuine connection with someone via blogging or twitter, and subsequently we're curious to find out more about his or her books. Or maybe we get interested in a book because others are excited about it. In all those cases, we make some kind of personal connection/recommendation which in turn causes us to pursue a book further.
I read a recent article from DBW entitled: Book Discovery Landscape Becomes More Complicated as Reader Behavior Fractures. The article said: "When it comes to book discovery, things are going to get more complicated before they get simpler."
The article had a couple of interesting charts about book buying habits as well as statistics about where books are sold. But out of all of the interesting data (compiled by Bowker Market Research), the most interesting statement was this: Amid all the change in how readers read and discover books, one thing has remained constant: in-person, personal recommendations are the No. 1 way people discover books, no matter who they are or how they read.
So my encouragement to all of us trying to navigate through the complicated maze of book discovery is NOT to get so desperate that we resort to badgering, pushy, impersonal techniques. But instead we need to try to remember that PERSONAL recommendations are what sell books, NOT from us as authors, but from readers who get genuinely excited about our books and then spread their enthusiasm to others.
So it comes back to the basics. The best thing authors can do to generate enthusiasm for their books is to write stories readers can get excited about. Plain and simple. Write books that readers will want to talk about.
What about you? Has anyone ever used one of the above impersonal marketing techniques on you? How did it make you feel? Have you ever bought a book as a result of someone's "cold call"? Are personal recommendations still the number one way you discover books?