A blog topic elsewhere was things authors do to turn off readers. I took some valuable lessons from it, but one of my first thoughts was “Guilty on all charges.” The list of annoyances could be summarized as using social media for marketing your writings. I’m over simplifying–to be fair–but that was my take.
What really rubbed me was the warning against using twitter to just talk about your books. Or joining Goodreads just to promote your books. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that those are annoying things. Basically, when a person walks around as commercial for their (or any product) it gets annoying. That’s why long before the “hoppa” was invented, people saw commercials and shouted “Food break!” Nobody likes them.
The problem is I can’t think of much that’s more of a waste of time than Twitter. Or most Facebook time. Or txting. Or any of the other million ways we’ve come up with to constantly tell each other how we have so little important things going on in our lives that we have energy to tell each other about it. I mean seriously, if you were working, if you were focusing on something you would not have the brain cells left to fire off a 160 character post about everything you did. I mean there’s a guy on twitter (that I do follow mind you) who just posts a bunch of Seinfeldian observations. I take it for what it is, but I have to think the guy needs to find something more useful to do with his time.
And that’s my point, FB and Twitter and txting and all that crap has a use, but it’s like the Ipad–90% just for amusement. Now if you’re someone who actually has work to do (say you run a restaurant) guess what? The time you take to write comes out of your sleep. Outside of that it would come out of knocking down a tree for firewood or digging a trench by hand to put in a retaining wall for next years garden. It would come out of the legitimate list of things your wife has approved for your time. And that doesn’t even count all the TV you “must see.” So if I have to lose sleep to get my craft in and then still do all my work, what makes you think I’m going to make it a priority to tweet to my 19 “followers” that today I literally saved my bacon (it was soggy and I had to put it in the oven to recrisp it before a customer could catch on)?
Needless to say, the primary reason I can justify any of this social media crap is for marketing. So when someone tells me that being there to market shows in my interactions, my first thought is “duh, that’s why I’m there.”
But then I cool down, and realize what is actually being said. Of course I’m there to market, so are they. The difference is they don’t look like it. Think of a catchy jingle for “Sweet Jack”. It’s catchy, it makes you want to sing along, but it doesn’t really sell the product just the mindshare. It’s a freebie. You don’t feel marketed to, but that is exactly what they’re doing.
Likewise, you can’t change the fact that you are on FB or Twitter to market. I can be sincere, but the sincere me is the marketing me. I sincerely only care about making a return on investment for this time. But what you and I have to realize is that being personal is also marketing. See, when a customer I like comes to my window and starts a conversation, assuming I have nothing that needs doing, I can enjoy the conversation. Sure I am there to make money, that’s why the open sign is on, but at the moment my personality is part of the branding.
So the problem with using tweeting for marketing, is not the marketing, it’s that we’re only marketing in one way. Marketing my book does not mean simply talking about my book all the time, it also means talking about me as part of the mix. For example, I talk about my interest in self-sufficiency, so why don’t I tweet about that retaining wall I’m building? Why don’t I talk about how my five or six heirloom watermelons this year have each produced like fifty mature seeds which means next year I’m going to grow about ten times as much and I’m going to sell those at a considerable profit if God supplies the rain. And not to mention these moon and stripe heirlooms are about the juiciest melons I’ve ever had. And that’s coming from someone who doesn’t really like watermelon.
See, a person might be interested in that. Interest in that means interest in me and thanks to the internet they’re about a click away from finding out I’ve written some stories. I’ve marketed those books without ever mentioning my books. At some point, somewhere, I will need to mention books but not every tweet. Not every post.
That’s the secret. It’s not that self-promotion is bad, but you have to think of your personal self as being part of the branding. After all, wasn’t it your person that created the art? So if you’re like me and can’t fathom how people can willingly waste so much time with tweeting totally moronic stuff, feel free to join in. Not because you’re a moron, but consider it a part of marketing. That came out wrong, but you get the idea.
PS> I finished my first draft of Evangeline on time, with 12k better than I expected.