These days every author knows that you have to play the promotion game to have any success. At least that’s what every publisher--big, small, or medium--tells us. So we struggle to find ways to get our names and books out there in front of the public. Some people can get pretty aggressive about it, too, which isn’t always bad, but there are lines that shouldn’t be crossed.
To get a feeling for what really bugged readers and authors about author promo, I asked about it on a couple of listserves. Did I ever get an earful!
I’ve divided the comments into two categories, covering face-to-face meetings and online presence. So herewith are more than ten commandments for author promo, based on things the readers and authors told me about that annoyed or angered them.
My thanks to everyone who responded to my request for these suggestions.
Face-to-Face Meetings Such as Conventions or Book Signings
- At a convention, everyone hates it when a panel author doesn’t stick to the topic and turns every answer into self-promotion. Thou shalt not be rude, boring, and only self-promoting; it actually causes people to decide they’ll never read that person’s book again.
- I’ve seen this one myself, but others also mentioned that they hate it when a panel moderator or author hogs the panel. I’ve seen an author hog a panel to the extent that no one else on the panel was able to insert a word into the discussion. Thou shalt be courteous to your fellow authors and give them equal opportunity to speak.
- An author should always behave professionally at a conference. Thou shalt not distribute your own promo material during other authors’ panels or events. Thou shalt not behave in inappropriate ways in the bar, the elevators or anywhere else. You’re part of the show at a conference and others will notice when you behave badly.
- Thou shalt not piggy-back on another author’s book signing or event by interrupting them with your own promo or bringing your own books to sell without permission.
- This one is such a jaw-dropper that I’m using the author’s own words here: “How about the author that, when I wasn't looking at a book signing, slipped his postcards into the middle of my books?” Thou shalt not do such insanely stupid and discourteous things.
- Thou shalt never, never respond to reviewers either on sites like Amazon or blogs with anything more than a simple “Thank you.” Thou shalt not attack reviewers who don’t like your book or leave negative feedback, no matter how stupid, off-topic, idiotic or depraved the review is.
- Thou shalt not run down other authors or make negative comments about them on line. You can review another’s book and not like it, but reviews should always be about the book and not about the author personally.
- Readers are particularly bugged by authors who show up on a social media site or listserve and join an ongoing conversation just long enough to drop some promo for their own book, then leave. Thou shalt not do this.
- And related to the above are authors who insist on talking about nothing but their own book in every post on a listserve or social media, or authors who comment on every single post, sometimes with just a word or two, and include their entire eight line signature file. Thou shalt not do this either
- And another related one: Thou shalt not have signature files that are three pages long. In fact, three to four lines should be the absolute maximum for an author signature.
- Thou shalt not add names to an email list (newsletter or whatever) without actual or implied permission and then provide no way to unsubscribe.
- If someone follows you on Twitter, thou shalt not immediately DM them with a load of promo.
- Thou shalt not jump on someone else’s good news announcement with words like, “Oh yeah, and my book just won a so-and-so prize, too. Let the original poster have a few minutes in the limelight, then make your announcement.