5 Obnoxious Marketing Techniques Writers Should Avoid

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?


  1. I definitely understand what you're saying, Jody!
    No wants to be forced to buy something. Excellent post, once more. =)

    Did I mention that I won your book and that I am excited to read it? (reader promotion starting already :-) .

    Bless you, Jody for sharing a bit about yourself. I truly enjoyed getting to know you!

    Have a lovely day!



  2. Yep...those are pretty obnoxious tactics!

    I guess it comes down to: treat others as you would like to be treated.

    Thanks for the reminder, Jody!

  3. One I see quite a bit is authors using Twitter discussion hashtags to advertise their books or websites, and worse, some automate them, refuse to stop tweeting to it when asked, and a few even make multiple accounts to automate more tweets. Make sure you are using the correct hashtags to advertise, or make your own, but don't use ones or retweet with ones you don't recognize until you've investigated it's okay. People will report you if you barge in on their discussion tags. Spam is never pretty, and it can get you banned completely.

  4. I absolutely get turned off by these things. In the past I have bought inexpensive books as a result of one of these methods (mostly out of sympathy for the author not knowing any better), but my negative feelings about the author lived on, independent of whether or not I enjoyed the book. You don't get a second chance to make a first impression.

  5. Someone recently commented on my post on bullying. I didn't recognize the name. Several hours later, I discovered she was the author of SEND, a YA book about cyber bullying. I rushed out and bought the book. Had she left a comment on my blog promoting her book, I wouldn't have bought it. Instead, I told my friends how great the book is.

    I buy books because of my friends' recommendations and not because the author thinks I should buy it.

  6. I'd also add commenting on someone's blog just to 'invite' them to your blog - regardless of whether it's related to the topics they blog about. Don't get me wrong - if you write a blog about writing and/or reading, or have written about a topic related to one of my posts, I would love to check out your link. But if your only concern is self-promotion, it's annoying and - as you say, Jody - obnoxious.

    The first time this happened, I gave the guy the benefit of doubt and checked out his blog. After all, his 'polite' comment channeled the formality of a posh wedding invitation. Better than a bald 'read my blog'. It turned out to bea very rightwing, evangelical Christian blog that I would never want to follow. Skimming the top post, filled with hateful and ignorant opinions, I felt sick. Needless to say, I deleted the comment.

  7. I totally agree with the points you make, Jody. The Twitter DMs have to be the worst for me, though. It's like, sure, in theory, sending out a DM to thank all of your followers should technically be a good thing. In practice, it's actually impersonal and makes a really poor first impression. Even a 'personalised' DM is hard to distinguish.

    Thanks for the post. I'll be sharing it shortly.

  8. Yes, I've seen those and have promptly ignored them.

    Personal recs & buzz. Buzz still works for me too (as in book club buzz).

    ~ Wendy

  9. Marketing is so tricky. And difficult to master. And time-consuming. But I'm a big fan of trying to keep relationship-building with potential readers at a personal level and not blasting cyber space with a hailstorm of "Look at me. Buy my book. Visit my website."

  10. Jody, I first learned about you as an author because of your blog and your willingness to help aspiring authors like myself. Instead of pushing your books you have chooses to give back and that is a huge draw for me, and many others I'm sure. Because of your educational blog, I have gotten to know you, become excited about reading your books, and plan on telling others about your books as well. I a way I suppose it can be looked at as a marketing technique, but like you said, it's making those personal connections and writing stories that people want to talk about. Keep up the good work and thanks for giving back!

  11. So glad you are saying this, Jody! For some time I was being bombarded with email updates from someone I'd become recent friends with on facebook. It was completely off-putting. Love the advice to write stories readers can get excited about! :)

  12. Another behavior that concerns me is when authors hover around review sites like Goodreads, seeming to want to have loads of control over their image.

    Word of mouth does take time, and it can be hard to wait for it to happen, but impatience more often that not comes back to bite us. Better to channel that energy into creating new work.

  13. Jody, I love this post. Just love it.

    I enjoy making long-lasting and friendly connections. What a disappointment when folks "friend" us only to turn around & immediately DM us with "Buy my book now!" or "Like my website!"

    I've re-thought this as social media has evolved and have decided to be a bit more proactive when "following" someone.

  14. Whenever I hear or read something about the Kardashians I think about what money can do to buy you airtime and print space. I believe they are what is called 'famous for being famous' as opposed to any real talent or skill. It's another form of product placement.

    I was interested to read recently that in order to be eligible for some well-known literary awards, not only is there a fee as well as multiple copies of the book to be provided, but if you win you must agree to pay considerable advertising and promotional costs.

    The more you learn the more disillusionment. I think the cure is to keep writing.

  15. Hi Jody,

    Do you know what? I am guilty of most everything you wrote on your post. Gracious,
    I didn't 'know how bad I was being'. I'm so
    glad to read your post. I will stop doing that!
    :))) Gloria/ Granny Gee :)))

  16. I hate to say it, but I have un-liked a well-known author on FB because her only posts -- several times each day -- were versions of "buy my book." It's hard to condemn, though, in such a tough marketing world. If it had just been once a day or so, I wouldn't have minded. But it was at least a dozen times each day. I just didn't want her impersonal posts clogging up my feed.

  17. I always tune out the pushy, impersonal marketing from other authors. I come from a sales and marketing background, where I earned that offering helpful or interesting information related to your product is one of the best methods of promotion. Doing that as an author can require some real creativity, but authors are supposed to be creative!

    Great post!

  18. I JUST posted over at the Books and Such blog that your #1 obnoxious thing is one of my biggest pet peeves (I hadn't read this post yet), so we're definitely on the same wavelength. It just feels...slimy. Like a used car salesman. I don't like feeling used myself. Like I'm just another number.

    And I'm the same way as many here. I read books because friends recommend them. And I spread the word for my writer friends when they've written a book that I love. It really is about genuine connections...especially as Christians, we shouldn't be using each other.

  19. I've had some of the same happen to me more and more recently, and it's caused me to cut back on my retweets of others books. Sad to say. I want to help, but I don't want to have others upset with me for constantly promoting the same other books. I try and do an every couple weeks type promotion now. Rotating authors.

  20. Great post, Jody!

    I would like to add that it is extremely annoying when authors auto-add me to their newsletter or email lists when I haven't opted in or signed up in any way.


  21. Great post! The auto-response on Twitter is perhaps my greatest social media pet peeve. I'm surprised so many people still use it, considering how much bad press it's gotten and overall bad feeling it fosters. I read somewhere that one Tweeter was so off-put by the auto-response that he unfollows every person who sends him one.

  22. Hi Everyone!! I'm loving all of your thoughts today! I appreciate hearing some of the other negative marketing techniques. As I said, there are times I've been guilty of annoying others too! But hopefully we can all just keep learning and growing and being gracious with each other! :-)

  23. Yes!! I really despise the auto-response on Twitter. I'm surprised people still do this, too.

  24. it is overwhelming now, because everyone is an author. Since self publishing is so mainstream, it seems like everyone I meet has a book to plug. It is impossible to buy and read everyone's work, and I realize that when trying to promote mine. Like you said, just keep writing compelling books and hopefully they will be noticed and get a great following.

  25. Oh, Judy this is great advice!! Perfect! So true. Just last month I posted on FB how I had someone come to my door badgering me. It was a college kid selling children's books. LOL. It happened to us once before, we bought the books that one time but never again.

    This is a GREAT reminder. It's true. All the books I buy are from word of mouth. Try to write engaging books readers get excited about is the best advice.

  26. This is one reason why developing relationships early, well before you get published is an awesome idea. By then, you've connected with writer friends and built some sort of following on a blog or Facebook. Then you can access those friendships, and offer to help market for someone else in return as well.

    Yes, I've had people send me messages like that, or friend me to try to link me to their website to buy their book. I think we can learn a lot from what we don't enjoy seeing others do.

  27. Jody, such good advice. Thank you for the great post. Frankly, I'm overwhelmed by social networking in regards to writing. Still trying to sort it out.

    Nice to see another female "Jody" spelled with a 'y' and not 'ie'. I bet your middle name is not as weird as mine, though, lol. (Laredo)

  28. The only one I'm iffy about is a new author-friend telling me about their author page. I'm grateful when that happens because I immediately click over and like it...but I can see how that make some people roll their eyes. :)

    On everything else, YES! *groan* :)

  29. Excellent post. I've learned to ignore this type of behavior. I've even unfollowed people if it got really bad. Word of mouth means everything.

  30. I've just shared your post on my Writer' Circle as it beautifully echoes the reasoning I espouse myself. It all boils down to manners basically. Coming from a Marketing background helps me, but I think what writers fall prey to is panic. They lose their common sense and sense of self-moderation! I *hate* auto-tweeted PMs on Twitter with a passion I really do. And the other thing? Emotional blackmail.

    I got a PM from a tweeter once about his book, I wished him luck with it and he replied to say if I REALLY meant it I'd go to his Amazon page and click like and spread the word. He didn't know me from Adam, we'd exchanged no tweets, nothing. He actually had an interesting Twitterfeed too but I was utterly turned off and felt horribly pressurised.

    Keep your dignity peeps, start yourself off on a good foot and be patient. If you are in this for the long haul, patience is key.

  31. Amen!! I'm having anger issues over the FB and DM self-promotion--it drives me crazy!! Sorry. Had to let that out.

    I often read books friends have recommended. I never read books by pushy self-promoters. :)

  32. I so agree with your observations! A compelling story and great writing are the key! Since I discovered you via Rachelle's blog and read your first two books, I have been telling all my book lovin' friends all about you and how wonderful your story lines are. As the saying goes, cream will always rise to the top! And talent and a good story will always find an audience!
    Great post!

  33. A couple of weeks ago I had a GoodReads book recommendation from someone recommending me their own book. No "hi" or anything else, just a straight copy from the blurb with a link. I'd never heard of them before. Your points are good. I've always thought guest posting is an idea, because although it's obvious the author is promoting themselves they are able to write about something different, a story also, that might catch your interest rather than marketing in a literal manner.

  34. Hey I'm a new follower :) just wanted to say I've been reading some of your posts and I found them very insightful! especially on how to build up a blog following, I've just started my blog and its my baby. There's not much interest yet but I'm hoping that soon word will get round!

    Thanks for the advice xx

  35. Some marketing techniques can definitely be a turn-off. They remind me of telemarketers. They keep calling, even when you've said you're not interested.

    There are a couple of authors I follow on Twitter that actually post something about their book about 100x a day. To the point where they sound too desperate and because of that, I skip their posts, instead of read them. Bombarding people with desperate ads/posts/emails just won't work.

    Thanks for the tips!

  36. Excellent advice! The other two things that drive me crazy (and drive me away from reading anything about the book, let alone the book itself) are a) when the author posts ONLY about each and every tiny detail of their publication process. How amazing it is. Celebration is good; bragging is a turnoff. And b) those giveaways where you can't enter unless you spam two or three other places with ads about the book. Firstly, that's too complicated for a giveaway, and second, I feel like my arm is being twisted into working in someone's marketing plan. I spread the news quite a lot about books I like and authors I feel like need more recognition--but rarely does that coincide with situations where I feel manipulated into it.

  37. Great advice. I've been studying marketing before e-publishing my book. I'm glad I read this because the marketing book I read told me to do the irritating "push" mentioned here. Besides, it's against my nature to bombard people. Your blog and the comments are quite helpful.

  38. Yes yes yes yes yes! And also: a twitter bio that says "My latest book... NOW AVAILABLE! Who would click that link?

    Great post

  39. nice post very informative thanks for sharing

  40. Wow Great post!
    I totally agree with the points you share. Marketing is so tricky and difficult to master.I liked it. Thanks for sharing this.....Marketing Research Techniques

  41. I concur with most of the things you stated , and i adore the valuable points you revealed.mlm


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