Marketing, Social Media, and the Art of Not Being Overbearing About the Whole Thing

This one's all about social media etiquette in terms of marketing yourself as an independent writer. In the end, it's just an opinion, so take it with a grain of salt. Opinions and assholes, we all have one.

So, I've been kicking around the (relatively dull and dreary) world of independent publishing for a few years now, and in that time, I've developed a healthy amount of distaste for some of the behaviors that are displayed by indie authors out there in Social Media Land. I know that it's tough out there, believe me - I'm probably the least commercially successful author you've never heard of. If you want to sell any books whatsoever, you need to promote yourself; for most of us, self-promotion is all we've got. But there's a point where self-promotion crosses the line into pestilence, and too many independent authors blithely cross that line on a daily basis.

I'm pretty sure that at least some of these people aren't aware that their actions put them somewhere between annoying and outright shitty - many of them are just following the advice offered by other independents, and/or the small army of smarmy-ass writing bloggers who clutter up the internet with their self-congratulatory bullshit. Most of these folks are doing what they think they're supposed to do in order to tread water out there in the depthless sea of self-published authors. You can't hate people for trying, that's for sure, but you can hate them for being an annoyance.

Anyhow, I wrote this out as a clickbait list, because that's how people communicate ideas these days:

1. Auto DMing New Followers on Twitter

Potential Follower: I will follow this person because they are also a writer, and perhaps we have common inter-



No. You stop that right now! That's bad! Look, if someone follows you, chances are it's due to one of the following scenarios:

  • they're also an independent creator of creative stuff that's related in some manner to your creative stuff
  • they're just randomly clicking 'Like' or 'Follow' on their suggestions list
  • it's an actual fan (holy shit!)

In all of these scenarios, it's irritating as fuck to receive a DM that's actually just an aggressive commercial for the whatever-the-fuck-it-is that you're trying to sell. Bugger off with this shit. Stop it. Personally, I started automatically unfollowing people who do this quite a while ago. I can go to your profile and click on your links on my own, I don't need you push that shit into my inbox. Bad!

2. Follow/Unfollow, Bots and Bullshit: Trying to Appear Popular When You're Not

This happens all the fucking time - people will follow me on Twitter, wait for me to return the favor, and then silently unfollow a few days later. This is to appear important and popular, when the perpetrator is actually a nobody like the rest of us. There's even a term for this; it's called churning, if you didn't already know. The idea is to follow a couple zillion users, wait for a bit, and then drop them all in one fell swoop - bango! Suddenly, it looks like you've got thousands of rabid fans who must love your work oh so much! The other route is to outright purchase page likes and followers, a practice known as "throwing money into a endless pit of dishonesty". Obviously, these tactics are lame as fuck, but I'll bet my right kidney that someone is reading this right now and sputtering, "But I have to! It will further my brand!"

It will not. No one believes that the no-name author of a craptastic Hunger Games ripoff series is, in fact, almost as popular on social media as Suzanne Collins herself. Also, if your profile has tens of thousands of likes/followers but almost no engagements, one could only come to the conclusion that your "fans" are either a) just not very into you, b) not real people or c) not actually your fans. Any way you slice it, it's not helping at all. You should be ashamed of how low you are willing to sink in order to push your undoubtedly generic dreck into the public eye. And so I shame thee! Shame! Shame! Shame!

3. Spam-a-Lam Damn You, Stop it!

I probably don't want your newsletter, so how about this; don't force it into my inbox. I definitely don't want to be added to a Facebook group against my will, and I can assure you that it will be a brisk day in hell before I become part of your "team", whatever the fuck such an obligation might entail. Straight up, I don't give a shit who you are, I don't want you up in my face 24-freakin'-7. There is no single human being in the history of the world that could captivate my attention in such a manner, and if there was, it would probably not be one of my fellow Amazon scribblers. Chill the fuck out, cool those jets, and think this through - do you, in fact, have enough of a following to warrant any of this shit? Are there thousands of people waiting breathlessly for your next Authorly Proclamation?

Probably not, right? I mean, I certainly don't - I get contacted a maximum of three, maybe four times a month by fans and well-wishers. At that rate, do I really need a newsletter and a fucking Facebook group? Hell, no. My advice? Don't overreach. I concede that being prepared for the possibility of an ever-widening sphere of success is a good thing, but I don't think most authors need, like, coffee mugs with their name on it, and shit like that. People get silly with that stuff, I'll tell ya ... shit, I've seen motherfuckers advertising merchandise for a book they haven't even written yet. That's just asinine, as far as I'm concerned. Talk about putting the cart before the horse ...

For real, though, if you feel that you do have an actual need for this sort of thing, don't automatically sign anyone up for any of it. That crosses the line from, "If you'd like to keep tabs on what I'm up to, check this out," to "I AM YOUR NEW FAVORITE AUTHOR. WORSHIP AT THE ALTAR I HAVE FORCED UPON THEE." Once again, if you do this to me, I will have no choice but to unleash my patented "UUBB" system: Unlike, Unfollow, Block, and Burn your fucking house down. Let's make this crystal clear: you're a bad person, and in due time, you will be punished harshly for your crimes against humanity. 

4. Expect Some Help? Be a Helper!

Time and time again, I've observed Authors of Great Self-Importance virtually demand that their peers support their endeavors with the liking and the sharing and the whatnot, only to never return the favor. Now, I don't know why you are like this, but you are, and it's stupid, and you should stop. If you don't wanna help anyone out, that's fine, don't - but don't expect anyone else to give one skinny, trembling little fuck about you, either. Even if you're the greatest writer in the history of scrawling symbolic characters upon a flat surface, no one likes a self-centered buttface. Be prideful, if you must. Be angry or dour, melancholy or cheerful, lecherous and vain and drunk as shit on a Tuesday morning, but don't be selfish.

There's more I could add to this rant-disguised-as-advice (the sneakiest kind of rant) but I think I've covered all the main no-nos that make me roll my eyes at my computer screen. I don't feel that it's difficult to promote your "brand" (I fucking hate that word in relation to writing, by the way; it makes the angry young punk rocker in me want to lash out in a blind rage) without being a douche canoe about the whole thing. Being the idealist that I am, I'd like to think that, in the end, the quality of your writing will make or break you, and no amount of marketing can change that outcome.

Unfortunately, this isn't actually true. But it should be, right? It should be. I'll open that can of worms some other time. For now, I'll sign off with this simple thought: don't be an ass. And if you must be an ass, make goddamned sure that you're a talented one.


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