buy my book pleaseWho are you?

The ebook revolution really has been completely misunderstood by many new, and even perhaps not so new authors.

Whether the author is using self-publishing, small press or traditional publishing, I see so many making the same foolish mistake when it comes to convincing readers of their wares. ‘Buy My Book’ they scream, yell and even shout in caps. ‘BUY MY BOOK!’ ‘CHECK OUT MY BOOK!’

Well, guess what? I certainly won’t be looking, let alone buying your damn book. I’m sure most readers, with the possible exception of the author’s mother, won’t be either. The reason is so simple. We don’t know who the hell you are, what you write about, how well you write or even what nationality you are and language you write in.

I like books. I like reading. When I want to find a new book to read I do what most readers do; I think of an author. ‘Oh, a new Ian Rankin book perhaps. Steven King? Possibly. Oh, I heard there’s a new Jasper Fforde book coming out soon. Or perhaps Debbi Mack, Jens Khun, Jack Eason or Luke Romyn.’ You would all have heard of the first authors I mentioned, but maybe not the second group. Well, they are authors I have met online, chatted to, noticed or quietly popped off to read a preview of their books. The other thing they have in common is that after I did some research, I discovered that they can write and write well.

So, of course, I read mainstream authors, but more and more I’m reading new and self-published authors. Not out of some kind of friendly empathy and solidarity, but because they write stories I enjoy reading. I’m not a habitual review poster either, so it’s not a ‘suck up’ and they’ll do the same for me mentality. I read their stories to enjoy, not to make them feel obliged.

My point here is that no one buys a book. They buy the product of an author. So bashing readers over the head with ‘Buy My Book’ is doomed to fail. A better attack is:

‘Hey, nice to meet you. What do you do?’
‘A computer analyst. And you?’
‘Oh, I’m an author.’
‘Is that right. Must be fantastic!’ 

Making a killing selling a book is a pipe dream. But establishing oneself as a credible author and profiting in the long term is not.

The last point I would like to make is that having a blog is great. I can have a rant every now and again!

Buy My Book! – No Way, I Don’t Know You

33 thoughts on “Buy My Book! – No Way, I Don’t Know You

  • 28/02/2012 at 4:34 am
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    Thanks for the mention, Derek! :)

    I, too, get tired of the constant barrage of tweets touting books.

    A little BSP is fine, but enough already …

    Viv, I think your point about starting out by blogging is a good one. Your blog expresses who you are. This way readers get to know you, and may seek out your books.

  • 28/02/2012 at 4:48 am
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    Hi Derek…This is definitely very interesting for me…My friends here told me I have to bookmark this…Thanks!

  • 28/02/2012 at 6:20 am
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    I enjoy writing. I don’t write to sell books; I write because if I don’t I’ll go nuts. Don’t get me wrong though… I would love to sell a ton of books and be able to quit my part time job (although I know it’s good for me to get off my ass and do some manual labor once in a while) and write full time. Still, I manage to write five hours a day seven days a week.
    I should think a lot of authors shouting “buy my book!” might want to rethink just why it is that they write… do they do it for someone else? Or do they write for the love of writing? If they’re writing for someone else, they’re ego-climbing. They need to hear: Oh! But you write so marvelously, my dear!
    If they write for the love of it, the care they put into their words will show. Or am I being idealistic?

    • 28/02/2012 at 10:37 am
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      Nothing wrong with being idealistic Dan, and you’re right in pointing out that writing and writing well is by far the most important element. At the same time people need to know about you if you want to make a success of your writing. As other commenters have said, blogging is an ideal platform, but a little self promotion is always necessary. It’s how one goes about this that’s the issue.

      I think the point of my post was that you can’t rely purely on ‘pumping your book’ over and over. It needs balance. Sure, use services such as twitter and Facebook to make people aware of your books, but there must be more for potential readers to discover. More about the how, why, what, when and where you write and who you are.

  • 28/02/2012 at 2:59 pm
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    A person who pushes his or her books relentlessly reminds me of an insurance salesman at a family reunion. Everyone avoids them.

  • 28/02/2012 at 3:23 pm
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    Don’t be too tough on the keen marketeer. We all get that ecstatic enthusiasm when a book is published after a long hard slog.
    Let them have their moment. They will come down to earth and moderate their approach after a while.

    • 28/02/2012 at 3:37 pm
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      I don’t agree, Alice. Enthusiasm is no excuse for being obnoxious. What are the long-run costs of that enthusiasm? Most likely, the loss of sales as potential readers swear off the person. And for too many of these “marketers,” they’re more likely to be following bad advice. Some of them stop only when they’re bluntly told that they’re harming themselves.

      • 28/02/2012 at 3:45 pm
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        Well, I haven’t met an obnoxious writer, but quite a few enthusiastic people.

        Funnily enough, I went back on twitter after posting my comment above, and there she was, beaming out of her post; a newly hatched writer. She had just published her book online and couldn’t wait to tell the world.

        I felt a mixture of happiness and fear for her. She had worked hard, produced her book and thought the world would embrace her and say – ‘well done’.

        But she will slowly learn that it is not that simple and she will have to work as hard promoting herself, without annoying others, as she did on her book before she sells many copies outside her family.

        It is a tough game we are in. A bit of human kindness can go a long way.

  • 28/02/2012 at 4:02 pm
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    I have to side with you Catana. With the number of followers I have, I get bombarded every day with these pests. The worst are DMs from authors who I’m not following and are not following me. It shouldn’t be possible, but it’s done with an automated Twitter program.

    I read three author blogs only yesterday espousing the benefits of this program. So it’s not by naivety. These pests are so fully automated, they don’t even need to read their own twitter stream. So they probably won’t see your tweet if you complain.

    • 28/02/2012 at 4:31 pm
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      Sometimes, when I see posts advocating this swarming method of self-promotion, I’ll leave a comment to counter them.

      I do agree with Alice’s statement: “It is a tough game we are in. A bit of human kindness can go a long way.” The problem is that naggers are addressing two different audiences: writers who are aware of what’s going on and have either rejected it or are in competition for the same eyes, and readers who aren’t writers and know they have plenty of choices without having to put up with such nonsense. As a class, readers don’t know or care about the struggle and work that go into writing and self-publishing. As a result, they’re unlikely to be sympathetic. They’ve also been known to lash out against self-publishers as a group. Unfortunately, in real life, the behavior of a few is almost always generalized to the whole.

  • 28/02/2012 at 5:31 pm
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    Derek sweetie so true. I have stopped following writers who do nothing but tweet their book links. So boring, Thank you for reminding them. Oh and Debbie Mack is Fab!
    OK back to writing for me.

  • 28/02/2012 at 5:50 pm
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    I am new to the whole writers’ blogging and Twittering (I was previously only using it for mynon-creative professional alter ego) and I have started unfollowing people nearly as soon as I followed them. Why? When I discovered that they were tweeting about nothing else except ‘BUY MY BOOK’. I don’t mind an occasional reminder or review of it, interspersed among other tweets, but 20 tweets in half an hour? Seriously? In that case, I wouldn’t read the book even if you were the next Ian Rankin!

    • 28/02/2012 at 5:58 pm
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      It is the frequency Marina. I agree a tweet or two each day about your book is fine so long as there are other tweets of interest in between.

      Even on my @whizbuzz account which is promoting books and authors from my Whizbuzz blog, it only sends promotional tweets a few times a day. In between are tweets of interest about publishing and writing in general. Also, it is an automated account, but I have not had one complaint from people as I believe it is an account that is informative as well as promotional.

      But it’s certainly not tweeting 20 times day, let alone per half hour!

  • 28/02/2012 at 8:24 pm
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    Derek,
    This is a timely and apparently universal topic. When I first started networking with other writers on Twitter, I was overwhelmed by the hourly spam by some of them. I thought the point of Social Networking was to actively interact with others who share your interests, experiences, career, and the like.

    Authors seem to be the worst offenders. I also follow actors, musicians, humorists and artists. People accustomed to performing and interacting with others seem to be those least inclined to use the hard-sell technique, but they are often those with the largest following and the most often re-tweeted. I enjoy the personal bits about their lives and the quips they manage to fit into 140 characters. Communicating so much in so few characters, and making it entertaining, really is an art form.

    Now, I’m following FAR more people than I wanted, yourself included, mostly because they initiated contact by following me. I no longer follow obvious spambots or hard-sell-only tweeters. I enjoy exchanging witticisms and commiserating over the trials that only other writers can appreciate. Or comparing shopping lists. ;)

    The hard-sell doesn’t work. The books I’ve bought have been written by writers I’ve gotten to know, either by hosting them on my blog, or taking part in snippet sharing web-rings with them. In other words, by reading examples of their work online and interacting with them on a personal basis. For writers I’ve met under those circumstances, I’m willing to step outside of my preferred genre to be supportive especially if the writing is of good quality.

    I think the spambots and continuous hard-sell tweets are a direct reflection of a writer’s tendency to be what my husband so aptly calls “socially inept.” Writing is a solitary practice, and writers are generally introverted by nature if not outright anti-social, I know I am. There is a segment of the writing population that never gets a chance to develop any social skills at all. We’ve all met them — brilliant writers with personalities that send you running in the opposite direction. If writers aren’t careful, the very shyness, or social discomfort that led many of us to first put pen to paper could be the very quality that impedes our success.

    • 28/02/2012 at 9:31 pm
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      I’d never thought about it this way JC. But, yes writers can be a bit, or very, solo. Perhaps it explains some of the methods used by some in promoting their books.

  • 28/04/2017 at 2:23 am
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    Well said as usual Derek. It’s easier now for shy wallflower authors with the internet – Twitter, FB and a blog. They don’t have to leave the house and they can post their best photos. (Especially the ones of their pet). The author is who the readers want to get to know.

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