Breaking the Silence

shhhNow that I’m a published author, I’ve stumbled upon a secret society: the cross-promotional author collective. Any author, regardless of literacy, could join any number of warm, fuzzy clubs to mutually stroke each other’s egos, exchange rave reviews (sometimes without even reading the book), tag each other’s books on Amazon, like them on Facebook, host each other on blog tours, even compose our own hyperbolic promotional tweets (“…a real page turner!” “…stayed up all night reading!”) and post them to a special thread for other members to copy and paste to Twitter.

Apparently, scores of burgeoning authors have no trouble promoting anything and anyone for mutual marketing purposes. But is it a good idea for authors to publicly endorse badly written, poorly edited work under the guise of support? Is it really worth our time? Does the indiscriminate promotion of questionable writers result in more book sales for anyone? How do our recommendations affect our credibility? How long will it take for our Facebook and Twitter followers to discount our opinions and ignore our posts?

On the other hand, it’s a tough market out there. Trying to promote our own books makes us pariahs in reader forums. Even friends and family get tired of listening to us talk about “the book, the book, the book!” Giving away books for free is the not always the best business decision. How do we get noticed without support? Is there a better way? What do you think?

Stay tuned for my next blog post for more.

Posted in On Writing.

10 Comments

  1. If a writer I like – we’ll call her “Denise” – supports a book I consider poorly done, it absolutely affects my opinion of “Denise.” Absolutely. I think endorsements need to be extremely selective. I’ll judge the next book by that “Denise” through the filter of her liking something that is not well done.

    Maybe I am being holier than thou. Once I start my new website I will probably fall prey to all the marketing concerns you bring up. Ignorance can be bliss.

  2. Hey Denise,

    I have often wondered the same thing. Of course I am an author too so maybe I am the last person who should be agreeing with you. Also I read your blog, because you often have interesting things to say–damn here I go again.

    There are new groups all the time who have this ideas about how to help me promote my book–but they also all want something: most often its a circular “you help me, I’ll help you attitude.”

    The biggest problem I run into is that I rarely find those groups fuzzy. I find them scary. I fear I will say the wrong thing. I will crush someone’s spirit and love of writing.

    Beyond that issue I don’t find them very useful. As soon as a book in my circle comes out I buy and review it, but I am not reading for the love of reading anymore, but because I promised someone I would read and write a review to their book. Now I will admit I have found some great books this way–especially in genres I normally wouldn’t pick up, but I also have found some awful stinkers (especially of the self-published, couldn’t afford an editor variety.)

    However more than once, the other person couldn’t be bothered to do the same for me. Not so much as a retweet about my release. (UMMM..maybe I misunderstood, but wasn’t that the point of all this togetherness?)

  3. Thanks for your comment, Irene. It’s taken me a while to find my barometer for this. In the beginning, I didn’t think twice about mutually “liking” other author’s Facebook pages. I still don’t think clicking “like” on author pages is so bad. I mean, I could still like the person without liking or even reading her work.

    But as I got deeper into the community, and started reading samples of the members’ work, I had to draw the line at hosting them on my site or tweeting the praises of books by authors who have no concept of punctuation and grammar. Stay tuned for my next post. I’ll tell you what I, personally am doing to stay authentic.

  4. Beth,
    I agree. It’s a balancing act. As authors we want to support other authors because we know what a huge undertaking it is to get from conception to market. We also want others to support us, so navigate the communal waters, we must. But I believe there’s a way to be truer to ourselves and to the process.

  5. Couldn’t agree more. Parasitic – er – symbiotic relationships with writers only happen organically, when you actually enjoy the work of the other author. There are some people in my workshop group who want to start a marketing blitz meeting, and I don’t know how to tell them “Maybe you should be more focused on polishing your own work,” because I have read said person’s book, and yeah.

    Granted, there are things you can do to support without reading the book or compromising your integrity: Amazon tagging, marking reviews helpful, tweeting about the author themselves. Mutual backscratching doesn’t have to be all shady business. Besides, scratching your own back is difficult enough.

  6. Oh my. HOT BUTTON FOR JO!

    I’m all about trading reviews with other authors but they should expect nothing less than my 100% HONEST opinion. I don’t want anyone gilding the lily for me, I won’t do it for them. If they need help, I tell them. In a lot of cases, I offer that help. If they should never EVER touch a keyboard again for the rest of their lives, I tell them that, too.

    There’s a difference in: This book didn’t resonate with me. and: This author cannot turn a phrase if their life depended on it. If I feel a one or two star review is what their book deserves, I will let them know and offer suggestions on fixing it – or politely suggest they reconsider a career in writing.

    Burning bridges? Perhaps. Could they come and do the same to me? Yup. But that’s a risk I take.

    More than being a writer, I’m a READER. I have an expansive library and I know what it takes to make a book GREAT. If someone asks me for a review, I warn them that I’ll be honest. If I ask someone else for a review and they come back with, “What do you want me to say?” I simply tell them to write the review from their heart and not to hold back. If there are parts they don’t like, say WHY. Rate accordingly. If they lie, I’ll know and so will my readers.

    Some critic will eventually HATE my work. They’ll hate yours too, so just wait your turn. That’s fine. I know at least one hundred more will like it and maybe just one or two of those will love it. Perhaps what we need is a change in perception?

    Hell, even Stephen King gets regular hate mail 🙂

    I do think authors should trade reviews. But only honest reviews that truly speak from their hearts. If you ask, prepare yourself for the worst, always. If you get better, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If you get tops, you’ll be thrilled.

    WRITE ON!

  7. Jo, I agree 100%. But I’m learning to stop short of telling people to cut off their fingers so they can no longer use the keyboard, because there’s a good chance that an irritatingly large number of readers who read on the same grade and comprehension level will think the book I threw up on should be on the NY Times best seller list. I mean, look at Danielle Steele. She’s been laughing all the way to the bank for years!

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