Hey, Look At ME!

Publicity, promoting yourself and getting your work into the view of other folks is hard to do. Information overload. We’ve got so many people, so many books, so many cool things to see and do and read. How does one get noticed?

What often surprises me is the glut of bad advice out there. The advice that basically says ‘treat this like a door-to-door salesman’.

Hey, maybe that works for everyone, and I’m like the 1% who puts up signs saying ‘all door-to-door missionaries consent to be BBQ’d’, and then puts up a pit and spit in their front yard. (It’s in the 5-year plan, actually)

Point is, I don’t care for it. And it seems like everyone I’m talking to is also not caring for it. So here’s what works for the people I know. Not necessarily how we MARKET our stuff, but what makes us look just a little harder at that book on the bookshelf.

First off in the series: Basic Etiquette Online and In Person.

Twitter (Of course, Twitter.)

Be Tweet, Not a Twit

I will buy your book if it fascinates me, makes me curious, or I’ve heard amazing things about it. I’m not going to buy it because the author tells me 50 times a day that it is fabulous. I’m not going to be guilt-tripped into it. My time is limited, my resources are limited, and I have to make hard choices against books I really, really want. So a book I haven’t heard of is fighting an uphill battle.

The problem is that, once you join the social media circus, you’re not just selling your book anymore. You’re connecting with people and making (hopefully) friends.

So tell me about the book, in your tweets, sure. But tell me about you, too. What inspires you? What’s your life like? What cool thing did you see between here and the bus? These are the things that make me curious to follow you. If someone talks to me, I try to talk back, even if I don’t know who the person is. It’s FUN to meet new people, and you never know what you’ll find. I love it when someone who is leagues out of my world replies to a random mention, and it makes me feel a bit awed that someone I really, really admire took the time to reply to ME. (I’m only human…)

Twitter is a powerful tool, and it is wonderful for promotions, but it’s like perfume: a little goes a long way.

So be engaging, be responsive, be genuine.

Play Nice!!

It seems like we shouldn’t have to still be saying this, but it keeps getting proved over, and over, and over again: Don’t lose your shit on the internet. Don’t bitch out reviewers. Don’t get in fights. Don’t debase another author, professional or random old lady on the street. It doesn’t get you sympathy, it makes you look petty. It also fosters a negative environment around you, and leaves followers feeling a bit unsafe.

That being said…controversy is inevitable. Just make sure you know where the line is between genuine, real-issue based controversy and cat-fights.

Don’t try to insinuate or manipulate. If someone isn’t following you, don’t take it as a slight, just shrug and move on. The ‘who’s following me’ apps that tell you the minute someone unfollows you are poison. This isn’t about being a popularity contest. It’s about social networking. Think adults, not high school, yes? Don’t call someone out in public and ask why they stopped. If you really, really, REALLY have to know…you probably shouldn’t be on Twitter. (And do remember: Twitter sometimes drops followers off of your list. It happens.)

And remember:Never, EVER, auto-DM. That’s just asking for the villagers to grab fire and pitchforks.

(Most of this stuff is equally applicable to Facebook, by the way.)


Engage, Personalize, Share

Like Twitter, I’ll follow you because you put up interesting things. I’m sorry, but I’m not following to hear how many words you got, if there’s nothing else there. Now an excerpt from your story? THAT, I will follow for. Equally enticing: photos from the dark corners of the internet, cat humor, musings on spirituality or sexuality, the minutae of a willow leaf’s molecular composition, history of the 3rd legion of Rome…

See? Give me a window. Give me pretty things to see and play with. And work your book around those, because you’ve already got my attention, and I’m probably hoping that the molecular composition of a willow leaf is vitally important to your plot, because that would just be COOL.


Don’t stalk. Really, that’s the number 1 rule. Sometimes, an invitation to an anthology, or a lead on a job, etc, can actually be a case of who you know. So it is of course good to network and push yourself to meet new folks. However, it is also important to NOT be the person who hands Neil Gaiman or Lou Anders a manuscript in the bathroom, as well as an earnest, half-hour pitch. It is also best, if you’re in a pitch session or trying to make small-talk with someone, to not know TOO much about them. An editor friend was not-so-pleasantly surprised that a pitcher knew what town this editor had grown up in, because it was not readily-accessible information.

Let the other person tell you about themselves, let them choose how well they will know you. Be respectful of their time and space, and remember that they are people just like the rest of us. Touching Jeff VanderMeer’s hand is rumored to cure all your writing ills, but otherwise, you aren’t going to die if you don’t get your book signed, or if you don’t get an invitation to dinner with their editor and publisher. Even new and mid-grade authors are very, very busy trying to stay fed and under a roof.


Really, it all comes down to the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Be polite, professional and willing to listen and learn. Don’t under-estimate your readers, don’t talk down to them or treat them like a faceless crowd. Like it or not, we’re really not remote from our audience, and everything we do is influencing our image and our reputation.

So be human. Don’t be a door-to-door missionary. Dedication and tact are virtues. Aggressive conversion tactics lead to BBQ pits.

Trackback URL

  1. Adam Israel
    25/05/2011 at 2:57 pm Permalink

    Thanks, Jaym! I’m pretty guilty of letting my blog be a wasteland of word count updates and not much else. That’s something I need to change.

  2. Shadow
    25/05/2011 at 3:13 pm Permalink

    Great advice. We all need reminders 😀

  3. M
    25/05/2011 at 5:26 pm Permalink

    When I first began this adventure, I made all sorts of “enthusiastic newbie” mistakes… in some cases, with very prestigious individuals, in flagrant violation of decorum. Most enthusiastic newbies will make a few similar blunders, as they learn the ins and outs of our industry.

    Fortunately, most of the professionals on whom I inflicted this unsavory behavior were not only kind, but also seemed to subconsciously intuit my relative level of experience and exposure… and tolerantly endured the blunders. A few even kindly pointed out why I “might not want to do that again,” with friendly anecdotes from their own initial exploration of the field.

    At this point, I’ve learned how to avoid many faux pas, but I am quite certain that I’ve yet to discover a few.

    So what is the best way to learn, and remember? Make the mistake, and feel the consequences. But if you can, try, try, TRY to observe the mistakes others have already made, note how foolishly ineffective such tactics were in practice, and incorporate a more sympathetically consentual, less offensively inveighed approach.

    Thank you, Jaym, for a well articulated guide.

  4. Sandra Wickham
    26/05/2011 at 10:55 pm Permalink

    Great post, Jaym!! *bows*

    Thanks for sharing all this.

  5. Sandra Wickham
    26/05/2011 at 10:56 pm Permalink

    Not sure why I came out all mystery profile there..it’s me, honest!