Monday, 20 February 2012

The 90/10 promotion rule: what to do with the 10%?

I said a while ago that I favour the 90/10 rule for self-promotion on social media. In other words, if you spend 90% of your time there being generous - offering my three pillars of Friendship, Information and/or Entertainment - people will allow you to spend the other 10% promoting yourself, whether that means mentioning that you have a book out or telling your friends about a nice review, or whatever.

But, what can we do with that 10%? In other words, do I have any suggestions for using Twitter to promote your book without bugging the hell out of people? (And please see How Much Promotion is Too Much for that thorny topic.)

Non-writers, please turn away now. You don't want to know any of this. OK? You go to Twitter to have fun and sometimes chat to writers. You do not go there to be sold to. And this, indeed, is the one question all writers should ask each other before they do any self-promotion:
Is there a single person anywhere on Twitter who has gone there wanting to be sold to? NO. So be very very careful how you do it.
But here's what you might do during that 10% time. I haven't done all these things but I know others who have.
  • In the lead up to publication, generate excitement by occasionally mentioning publication date or tweeting that you've seen the cover (attach a pic) or something.
  • If you are doing a blog tour, once (or at most three times) a day, tweet the link to where you are that day. This is a favour to your blog host as much as anything.
  • You could tweet short quotes from your book.
  • Consider setting aside one day a week to tweet about your book. For example, Catherine Ryan Howard did #MousetrappedMondays. (For her book Mousetrapped, obvs.)
  • If your book has an underlying theme, find the organisations linked to that theme, and get into conversation with them, or about the theme with other interested users.
  • CAREFULLY (ie modestly) tweet when you find a review or any other mention of your book.
  • Tweet if you get a bad review, too - this shows you as a self-effacing person who can laugh at herself. (Don't be bitter about it and do avoid encouraging anger on your behalf.)
  • You could have a Twitter party on launch day. It's cheap and you don't need to dress up! Or buy drinks for anyone...
  • Link to any articles you write, on your own blog or anywhere else.
  • You could (if you can keep it up) open a Twitter account as one of your characters and tweet in character. However, there's no point unless your character has some followers, so you need to plan this in advance.
  • Advertise any events you are doing.
  • Have a giveaway or advertise a competition - if you need more space to provide details, explain in a blog post and link to that. Everyone likes a giveaway. Make the deadline really short because otherwise people won't buy the book in case they win it...
Anyone else have any good ideas?

And never forget - 10%.

And be nice :)


Stroppy Author said...

Anything else? One other - use appropriate hashtags so that people who are NOT following you but interested in the appropriate topic might see your 10%. So you might use #YALit or #zombies - if those are appropriate, obviously. Using #zombies if you've written about fluffy ponies with sparkly wings is not good. Unless they are zombie fluffy ponies with sparkly wings. My Little Zombie Pony. Hmmmm...*sucks pencil*

Ebony McKenna. said...

You're so right about people on twitter NOT signing up to be sold to.
The trouble with promotion is . . . it always comes across as hard sell.

Inkpen said...

Oh please, Stroppy Author - write My Little Zombie Pony! With a very dark sparkly cover!

Ebony McKenna. said...

My Little Zombie Pony! I want it.
With free promo glitter pens.

But seriously - having just said people don't like being promoted to . . . I just sent out a promo tweet.
And the first part of the tweet said 'excuse blatant author promo'.
(I tweeted because I saw a retailer with a very, very good price for my books.)
Anyway, the bizarre thing is two followers retweeted it, and a third marked it as a favourite.
Mind you, a few people probably unfollowed me because I crossed the line. Serves me right.

Mimi Foxmorton said...

I would sooo read a book about fluffy zombie ponies! ;)

Collage Pirate

Lauri said...

I'm starting to wonder about the usefulness of Facebook (esp.) and Twitter for increasing readership. Even blogging for that matter. They all have their uses but aren't we preaching to the choir? Increasing readership involves finding new readers. My thoughts nowadays are more about going to your market. If you write YA, find YA blogs, ask them to review your book, ask them to interview you, for example. But doing blog tours on all of your writing friend's blogs I'm finding are a waste of time.

Nicola Morgan said...

Lauri, I do know what you mean. Too many blog tour are ridiculously unfocused - by which i actually mean they are too narrowly focused. I also think that a lot of YA blogs are largely talking to the same group of readers (obviously with some exceptions.) In fact, one the things I'm going to be saying to a group of publishers next week is that they should consider whether the VAST work that goes into a tour (for the author) is actually justified.

Ebony - no, I don't think it always seems like hard sell. I have a very low tolerance level but I'm still perfectly happy to see moderate promotion - after all, we like to celebrate others' success.

You may notice that I deleted a comment. It over-stepped the line. The commenter had not earned the right to come onto my blog and put a link to his own work, explicitly asking me/us to go and read it.

Debra Harris-Johnson said...

As usual, always really great advice. Thanks!

Iola said...

Ebony - personally, I would be grateful if an author/publisher tweeteed or FaceBooked or blogged that their book is on sale. There are quite a few books on my wish list, and if I found one on sale I would buy it. If I sign up to follow an author, I do expect some self-promotion. But Nicola is correct in saying I don't want every post to be self-promo.

I will be looking out for the book with the fluffy zombie ponies. Can one please be purple?

catdownunder said...

I am not at all sure about Twitter or Facebook as a means of promoting a book. I have not bought any book because someone has self-promoted there. I would have bought Write to be Published anyway. (Not just for the sage advice but because it also is very useful for students who come to me looking for help with essays!) I have books by Anne (Stroppy) and Ebony but not because of any promotion by them.
Blog tours? I don't know. I have never been brave enough to invite you to "visit" my blog when on tour because I have always felt I could not supply enough virtual bubbly and chocolate (in the form of blog readers). Does it make people buy books? A few perhaps but I wonder whether the effort is justified.
It is really publishers who have the power to promote. Expecting authors to do almost all of the work is a fairly recent idea isn't it? Is it really just budgetary constraints or has the internet age changed things?

Nicola Morgan said...

Cat - very astute questions! You are echoing/voicing my own doubts.

Mina Lobo said...

I dig the "Tweet as your characters" idea. Quirk Books (or the author's posse?) did something similar, creating Facebook accounts for key figures in its "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" series. It was a lot of fun, while it lasted. :-)

James Pailly said...

I've bought books because of blatant author promotion on Twitter, but I'm the kind of person who's looking for good books to read. If the author can give me a good teaser in 140 characters, I'm interested.

Neil said...

I don't do much online, no twitter, no blog, but in terms of promoting my writing, I follow the 'news test' ie, fist I ask myself, Is it daily news, and not something I could equally well have posted yesterday, or tomorrow?
So a review in a paper would pass, an appearnace at a literary festival or on the radio, delivery of cover art or page proofs, an overseas launch day etc, etc, all seem fair game.
Soo, for example, in a couple of weeks time I am able to post on facebook something like 'Yay! Pub day in Canada...come on you Canucks', without feeling that I have just totally prostituted myself.

Jesse Owen said...

Great post :D

I always expect some self promotion on Twitter from an author (and I love seeing an author get excited when they've seen their books in the shop) but I completely agree with the 90% / 10% - you want to be seen as someone people can talk (I mean tweet :)) to as well :)

Jeanne said...

I really like your 90/10 promotion rule, not just for me as a writer but for me as a human in a larger community. When I support and promote other people's efforts, I put positive energy into that big karma wheel. It comes back to me ten-fold, usually in ways I didn't expect.

Helen Hollick said...

Enjoyed your talk at the Society of Authors Nicola - thank you. Interesting, informative and inspiring.

Couple of people in comments above have said they're not sure about the value of Facebook for selling books - thought I'd pass on that I've found it really useful. My books (thanks to being published by Sourcebooks in the US) are in most Barnes & Noble stores. I have had several people message me on FB to say they found my books on the shelf & bought copies because they chat to me on Facebook.
I use FB for general chat but geared towards my books - Twitter is where I enjoy the company of nice people and only occasionally mention my books (where and when appropriate) but I find I am selling books because people enjoy chatting to me. The trick is to be "chatty" though - and to retweet and mention other Tweeters.
The big problem is actually getting any work done......

Katalin Havasi said...

Catdownunder, I agree.

Authors are pretty amazing creatures. Not only do they feed publishers, agents, editors, printers, booksellers, librarians and reviewers who all depend on books, but they manage to find more and more time for marketing their work. Considering their apparently unsatiable appetite to do other people's job, I suppose five years from now most printers will in fact be undercover authors.