Thursday 19 February 2015

BUY MY BOOK! An Author's Simple Relationship With Self-Promotion

These days I quite often find myself being asked questions by other authors about self-promotion. On several occasions they've told me "my agent said: go look at what Mark Lawrence does". I see myself cited on blogs and forums as someone who is 'getting it right'.

... which is all very nice, but I've never really felt as if I were doing anything other than having fun online.

I was prompted to this blog by Brian McClellan's excellent blog post An Author's Complicated Relationship With Self-Promotion.

I think it comes down to doing whatever is the best fit for you. I've read Brian's blogs on driving to various far-flung conventions, signings at bookshops and the like. He seems to enjoy getting out there to book fairs and hand-selling his own work.

Which is great if:

i) You have the 'spare' time and can travel.
ii) You're a chatty, people-person who has that magic talent for drawing folks in and sending them away with a book.

On the other hand Brian seems ill at ease with things such tweeting a link to his book, he agonises about spamming his followers etc.

Now for me:

i) I can't travel - I'm always needed to help care for my very disabled youngest daughter.
ii) I'd rather eat a bug than cold sell anything to anyone.

On the other hand I'm perfectly happy to tweet BUY MY FRIKKING BOOK along with a link to the Amazon listing - I don't even bat an eye about it.

(Self-promotion ... I'm not even sorry.)

The reason I'm active online is that it's the only way I ever get to interact with readers - that's my readers and that's readers of fantasy, period. As the parent of a very disabled child (age 10) the last decade has been a very isolating one - when I'm on a forum chatting about fantasy, yes that's me self-promoting, but it's also me socialising. Same with Facebook - yes, I'm posting pictures of my latest book or silly competitions for signed copies or whatever ... but it's also the only chance I get to see into other people's lives - I do it for fun, for entertainment, for company, selling books is quite far down that list. If it happens to look like great marketing to agents etc ... that's really just a happy side-effect.

The other thing I've noticed - and this may just be a personality thing, but I think there's more to it - is that many authors on forums, reddit etc are incredibly guarded, very measured, very careful never to give an ounce of offence. They're there with their marketing hat firmly in place and on best behaviour. They sure as hell don't want to risk pissing someone off. One nutter carrying a grudge could put quite a dent in their efforts and that would be hours of contributions down the drain.

I'm not like that. I just say what I think and damn the consequences. It helps that what I think is (I think) pretty reasonable most of the time - but even when it's not ... I've come to the conclusion that people appreciate the honesty. They might not agree with me all the time but at least they feel they're having a real conversation / interaction with a real person, not some fa├žade constructed to minimise offence and maximise sales.

(look! I did it again! This one even links to pre-order on Amazon!)

My experience has been that fantasy fans respond well to honest expressions of excitement/enthusiasm over the projects authors are involved with, and appreciate honest opinions - even if stated robustly - and openness. Readers don't want to be promoted to - but they know we have to do it. Readers would rather have open/honest interaction with the real people behind the author names than cautious guarded interactions with someone trying to sell themselves. And if you give them that honest and open interaction, your sharp corners too, then when on occasion you do scream BUY MY BOOK, DAMN YOU! at worst they'll laugh it off, and at best they'll laugh and then buy your book.


  1. Why don't you link to Barnes & Noble?

    1. Why don't I link to iBooks, Smashwords, Waterstones and WHSmith?

    2. I have no idea why you don't link the referenced. Two are UK, I live in the US; the other two are solely ebooks I believe and 80/85% of my reading is hardcover and if I need an ebook I go to Barnes & Noble. I really would like to know why you don't link to B&N.

    3. Amazon is a global market, it isn't locked into regional/national sales, if he linked to Waterstones his link would only be useful to the UK market, like myself. If he linked to B&N the link would only be suitable for US audience. If he links to Amazon, he can cater to both markets, and his link be useful.

      Plus, who has time to link to every single outlet of books? Everyone knows where to buy a book, we all have our preferred stores.

    4. I'm sure Mark doesn't care where you buy his book, but Amazon outsells those other sellers, probably even if you combine them. Amazon's the honeypot. Plus, it's easily accessible to nearly everyone. No reason not to send people there.

    5. If Mark's real smart he's got himself an Amazon affiliate account. That way everybody who clicks the link and buys something from Amazon in the next 24 hours will be sending him a little coin as well.

    6. Actually, you would get lambasted if you put up Amazon affiliate codes. Doing so, without explicit acknowledgement on every link is scummy. It's how a lot of blogs make money, but it also stops people from viewing what you are trying to link, knowing that you are pandering to the affiliate audience. Just FYI, don't do it.

  2. Only wish your books, and the other authors I regularly read, would put their books out in mass market paperback at the same time as their hard covers. Understand the extra profit of the hardcovers bring, but the wait is a pain for those of us who are only going to purchase the mmps. And making the books in Japan at the same time would be even better.

    BTW promote your books as much and often as you want as it is the easiest way, and sometimes only, to keep track of release dates outside of the US.


    1. When and in what format books come out in is entirely in the hands of the publishers.

      That said ... I make 12 pence from the sale of most of my mass market paperbacks

      and considerably more from the sale of a hardback or reasonably priced e-book, so the delay (which does convince some people not to wait) is responsible for a large part of my income.

    2. Interesting re e-books. Since I got a kindle I've bought only e-books (but in vast quantities :-( ) and wondered if the writers were losing out by my not buying the physical book. I don't feel so bad now...

  3. I am annoyed by your self promotion. It's either for books I already have or books that aren't out yet. One is useless, the other just teases me :(

    Joking aside, especially on Reddit it's sometimes really annoying when you have to tease a link or even the name of their book out of authors who are so afraid of spamming that you have to run after them with a club to find out how to buy their books.

  4. Every single social media/branding expert catering to authors is advising the up and coming authors to set up a sterilized persona on social media and act like the perfect sales front. Sure, there is common sense such as not trashing the books of other authors, not writing nasty comments on blogs, not getting in heated arguments etc, but I highly doubt being sincere and acting like yourself would hurt the sales or the author's image. Neil Gaiman and Pat Rothfuss are stellar examples of that. Honestly the whole reason I started reading your books is the level of interaction you have with the readers and the 'real person' aspect. To me, a carefully crafted brand image looks more like a corporate thing than a person.

    1. Heck, look at authors like Jim Hines, Chuck Wendig, John Scalzi, Larry Coreia, etc. They're loud, opinionated, write blog posts actively expounding on those opinions, etc. It doesn't seem to be hurting them any.

      Sam Sykes has made "buy my book" into an ongoing joke by finding more and more ridiculous ways to say it.

      Any expert that claims they have found the one true way to attract followers and sales online is blowing smoke.

  5. I sell soap and other personal care products, and I'm active in a few online forums focused on the revival of traditional shaving methods.

    I find pretty much everything in this article to be true for me, too. As long as I participate in the forums for reasons other than self promotion, then no one bats an eye when I say "you know, I make a soap that does that thing you are looking for," or post about my newest addition to the product line.

  6. I enjoy being part of the small niche of the adult fantasy community. I don't do Reddit but I am active on Twitter and on Goodreads which I think is enough. I appreciate when authors come out and play. It doesn't offend me in the slightest, when authors say "buy my book!" after all, I follow authors because I am interested in their books. I especially enjoy when authors run the odd sweepstake now and then and have a blog which they update more than once a year.

    I think I'd feel different if an author I don't know bought my email address from a list and started spamming my inbox, but if I follow an author's blog, his/her twitter account and I am his or her friend on Goodreads, that means I am interested in what they may have to say. I also like getting book recommendations from authors I follow. There's a chance I will investigate the new author and buy their book as well.

  7. I'm late buuuuuuuuut always enjoy your stuff, Mark. As a broke college student I try to keep expenses low, but I enjoy helping support a genuine author who write stories I like. Wish you got a bit more per copy, but something is always better than nothing. A bit of self promotion never hurt anyone!

    Best wishes!

  8. Congrats to you Mark! Nothing wrong with getting "the word out" !. Say it Loud and Say it Proud. Not everyone has the privilege or resources available for hiring a PR staff. I have the upmost respect for you first as a parent . I myself raising two boys is a challenge in its own realm ! (If some days are not classified as "Fantasy" I don't know what is !!. Multi tasking HA! Finding time , making time, being on time !!! I wish you and your family the very best !
    One must help himself/herself, so then we can help others !. Kindness, compassion always comes full circle.

  9. As long as someone buys one of your books,they will buy the rest. Hooked! Can't wait for the next one. Cheers!

  10. "ii) I'd rather eat a bug than cold sell anything to anyone."

    I know these feels.