Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Balancing Promotion

We’ve all seen the twitter streams that read something like: Buy my book. Check out this review. Buy my book! Pretty please? Tell your friends.

I usually don’t bother following back folks like this because, for me, twitter is all about content. If I don’t like your content or find it to be redundant or annoying, I’ll delete your follow notification without a second thought. Same with blogs that are solely focused on promotion.

I used to think these people were desperate and/or looking to make a quick buck. But as I started getting some of my own stories published, I realized promotion is hard.

Well, yes, I know that is rather obvious. But knowing it and experiencing it are different. At least for me.

I was fortunate enough to have a couple of stories come out around the same time. And of course I wanted to share the news with the readers of this blog. Since I’ve been posting approximately once a week, these more promotion-oriented posts became more prominent, simply because there wasn’t my more standard content to balance them out.

I could have delayed the announcements, spread them out a bit more, but there’s also the publisher’s expectation that I’ll be promoting my work as well to support the publication.

What to do? On the one hand, I’m diluting my own content with promotion posts. On the other, I’m not exactly forcing you to visit the blog from your google reader or what-have-you, so there’s no reason to not post what I want to post.

Then with the Kickstarter campaign for the Memory Eater anthology (which was successful!), I not only posted an interview with the editor and a contest opportunity, but I was also tweeting just under once a day about the anthology and the crowdsourcing campaign.

When I saw how much the Memory Eater tweets were taking over my stream, I started being more diligent by including other types of content (daily writing observations, RTs and other resources) to better space out the promotion tweets. That way I was still doing what I could to support the campaign, but I wasn’t totally drowning my followers with promo either. At least that was the intention.

And all this hand wringing and promotional effort went into just a couple of short stories.

I’m beginning to understand why folks with a book (or books) that they’ve devoted so much time to creating get so darn aggressive in promoting the hell out of them.

So here are my (admittedly limited) insights into balancing promotion:

Promotion is sometimes necessary, and that’s ok. After all, why blog or tweet in the first place if you’re not promoting yourself? Give yourself permission to celebrate your victories. Publishing is hard enough without feeling guilty about promoting your achievements. The people who are interested in you and your work will be interested in learning about your successes.

But don’t forget about your primary mission in blogging and tweeting. Here, my goal is to talk about the writing life, which covers a wide range of topics. I need to remember that some people appreciate my more resource-oriented posts versus ones where I talk about my story ideas. So we’re back to balance, in all things.

When gearing up for a promotion blitz, try not to dilute your normal content/brand too much. You don’t want to be that person people start to unfollow because you got too aggressive pushing your work. Remember the line: “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Consider promotion as the medicine, and your job is to have enough sugar going on, people don’t mind the medicine part so much.

Try to find ways to add value to your promotion efforts. This can feel like a transparent strategy, but it is a good way to talk about your publications without lowering your standards for quality content. Interviews with an anthology editor, the submission process for finding the right fit, the worldbuilding behind a particular story… These are all posts with more substance than just “Read my work.”

Best of luck in your own promotion efforts and finding the balance that works best for you! And if you’ve had the good fortune of having something to promote, what strategies did you employ to get the word out?


Elizabeth Twist said...

Hey, thanks for the RAOK earlier! Much obliged. I agree totally about the potential to go really far overboard with promotion, especially on Twitter where repeated tweets about one's work really ends up looking mercenary.

For me, the ideal mix is that I feel that I have had positive interactions with someone, whether just thinking their Twitter stream is clever or interesting, or I've liked something they've posted on their blog, and therefore I'm sharing their good news when they have something to promote. It is bad when I feel like the person is using my relationship with Twitter as a way to stick their hand in my purse.

I think with the blog you can be a little bit more chatty about the work you're publishing, since blogging is, as you say, totally flexible in the reader's ability to read or not to read any individual post. I like how you've handled the issue of adding value to your posts that also serve a promotion function.

P.S. I nominated you for the Kreativ Blogger Award. You can collect it here.

Laura Lee Nutt @LauraLeeNutt said...

As someone who has followed you on Twitter for quite some time and who regularly visits your blog, I can say you do a great job balancing promotion. I noticed when you promoted, but since I knew you weren’t one of those who obsessed over it, I didn’t mind. I was happy for your success.

My own strategy is similar, if you can call it a strategy at all. You hit the nail right on the head with some of the most important elements when promoting.

Deborah Walker said...

I know what you mean about spacing out good news posts. But thinking about it, I do follow blogs where the only content is promotional. You know, I don't really mind. I think because I have a connection with the writer, as they respond to my posts.

Elizabeth Twist said...

For my further two cents, Deborah above me there does a great job at balancing good news posts in a totally different way. She is so prolific that her blog has a high ratio of posts about stories that are coming out to (very helpful) posts about craft and keeping yourself going. On the other hand, she also goes out of her way to be warm and friendly and cool on the blogs she follows, and any time I've had a good news post she has been super encouraging. She visits back and I feel as though I know her. She's just accomplished that in a different way, not exclusively through her blog posts.

Bluestocking said...

Laura, glad to hear it wasn't too annoying! And I look forward to seeing your strategy in action ;)

Deborah, definitely, connection with the writer is so important and can be hard to do sincerely.

Elizabeth, as always, thank you for sharing your thoughts! I agree that Deborah *waves* is a great model for how she balances promotion with really wonderful interactions with her readers/followers.

I'm sure it's time consuming, but time well spent!

Deborah Walker said...

*waves back* Oh, you two. I'm blushing here.

That's the best bit about blogging, getting to know people. I wish I had more time to do it.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I think it has to be hard to do promotion and not seem pushy or self involved, but the people who know you know better. :) I've promoted quite a few authors on my blog and on twitter because I like their work, but when it comes my time to promote myself it might be much harder for me. It's easy to compliment someone else.

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