How To Get Your Book Noticed Without Being A Jackass
*Note: this is not for the nice authors I know who are never pushy or spammy about their new books. This is for other people. Jackasses. It’s for jackasses.
You might think that I have written enough posts on this topic that I would not need to ever write another one. You might think that I especially wouldn’t need to resurrect a site that has lain fallow (more or less) for a year to write another post on this topic. I have written a guide to getting your book reviewed. I have written a post about the motivations of book bloggers and how we can work together for awesome results. I have written some rants about bad practices and how annoying they can be. And yet.
People still do not have their shit together.
I still get all-fucking-kinds of book review pitches (despite no longer doing book reviews). I still get thirsty people up in my mentions. The one I got today was the very last straw that made the camel go fucking ballistic. Via Twitter, I got a message from a follower I’ve never talked to before that gave me a link and said (paraphrasing slightly): “Hey! Check out what’s on page 12!”
Dummy me, thinking this was someone who might be cold-tweeting me something that is relevant to my interests, I click the thing and go to page 12. Where nothing stands out. So I tweet back a polite version of “???? wtf? I didn’t see anything relevant to me?”
“Oh dear! There’s an interview with [author I’ve never heard of] for [book I’ve never heard of!]”
Clicked through to the person’s feed and it’s tweet after tweet after tweet of telling people to go look at this interview.
Why do I want to spend my time reading something because a Twitter rando sent me a link?
And if I do click that link and I’m not IMMEDIATELY drawn in, fuck-all is going to come of it–so why send me some shit that doesn’t IMMEDIATELY get my attention? Why do you think this is a good strategy to get your book noticed? Would it work on you?
Why are you wasting my fucking time?
I need to drop some truth bombs in a very impolite way. You can turn away now; I won’t be offended. But there’s no crying in the bookternet (unless you just read a really sad book) so I don’t want to hear any complaining if you decide to press on.
1. Realize that nobody gives as much of a shit about your book as you do. Probably not even a quarter as much.
There, I said it. You, your mom, your auntie, and your significant other all care deeply about you. I don’t. I do not even know you. It’s possible that we could become great friends in the future, and I will read all of your books and laugh and cry and tell everyone and their mom to read your books. Right now, I don’t know you, and if you come at me like a jackass, I am not going to want to know you.
One of the root causes of being a bookpushing jackass is the fact that bookpushing jackasses think that they’re the center of the goddamn universe and that their book is a fucking masterpiece that everyone needs to know about IMMEDIATELY. The likelihood that you have written the next great American novel is slim-to-none, BPJ (bookpushing jackass). Also? I’d like to point out right now that even masterpieces of literature don’t appeal to EVERYONE. NO book has universal appeal. But because you’re singularly focused on making dem book Benjamins, you’re making the very erroneous assumption that all of us readers and bloggers are sitting around on the edges of our seats waiting for you to tell us about your book so we can write about it. In reality, we’re so inundated with books from all sides that you’re a ripple in an ocean trying to act like you’re a tidal wave. You’re going to try to force yourself into my mouth or up my nose and I’m going to spit you out. (Did I beat that metaphor to death yet? Yes? Okay!)
The only way to get my attention is to have written a book that I would pick up if I were walking by it in a bookstore. Something that stops me cold with a title, cover art, or description that speaks to me. I don’t have time or energy to look at every interview and press release you want me to look at. I don’t care about your carefully-worded marketing email. I don’t give a shit that you have a book that needs to be read, because as a reader, my only interest is in finding books that I think sound amazing and putting them into my eyeballs ASAP.
“But aren’t those the same goals?” you ask. NO. No they are not. I’ve been pitched all kinds of books that include military fiction and vampire romance and books that are basically about extended rapes by a fedora-wearing member of the MRA club. I don’t want to read any of that. So that brings me to my next point:
2. Stop being a fucking lazy-ass and do your homework.
I’ve had so many writers complain to me that they don’t KNOW how to market their books if they don’t send out spam tweets and emails to people. It’s SO HARD. SO HARD YOU GUYS.
It’s only hard if you don’t take the time and effort to make any kind of real human contact with people who might want to read your book. If you attack the job with an organized plan and try to empathize with other human beings about how they might feel when approached in different ways, the job becomes suspiciously easier.
For example, you might imagine how effective a marketing strategy might be if some rando were standing on the street corner shouting marketing messages at you as you passed by. Maybe he’s trying to sell lipstick, so he targets every single woman regardless of whether she’s wearing makeup; or he’s trying to sell beard grooming kits, and yelling at dudes whether or not they have facial hair. And he’s not just yelling, but also pushing up into your face to show you the product in the split second he has before you brush past him. He’s not saying anything charming or clever or witty; he’s not even seeing you as a person. You’re just a demographic to him. He’s just checking off a box so he can say he tried.
That is marketing fail. Marketing 101 teaches you to know your target audience and then make your product enticing to them. Sending out messages to any book personalities with even a small following at random is also marketing fail. If you want someone to pay attention to your Cthulhu fan fiction or your steampunk romance or your alien invasion novel, you need to find book personalities who actually read that kind of thing. And you have to be honest with yourself about what kind of thing you wrote. I have had so many authors try to shoehorn every kind of book into our blog as “literary”. That’s LITERARY tentacle porn! It’s a LITERARY urban fantasy about werewolves and pixies! SO LITERARY I SWEAR.
Trampling all over my established boundaries is not a good foot to set off on. Of course, this is largely academic as I don’t expect to go back to reviewing books anytime soon . . . though part of doing your homework is to make sure that the person whose time you’re requesting is still DOING the thing you want them to do. Which actually leads me to the next point:
3. FOLLOW DIRECTIONS, JESUS CHRIST
You’re not the first industrious person to think that perhaps they could get some exposure by sending their book to people for free. Most people that you would want to contact have probably already been contacted at some point; thus, they may very well have a FAQ section or review policies in place. We don’t write these because we like typing; we write them because it’s the most expedient way to get in touch with us and, given that most book bloggers are super-duper unpaid (even with free books, the value of which doesn’t usually exceed the hours put into maintaining a site, writing and editing reviews, promotion, etc), we appreciate as much expediency as possible. I think absolutely nothing of deleting emails from people who reach out to me when they have clearly not done their homework (or worse, they have but have decided to ignore everything I said because they must be a special case). I will delete email all damn day, no fucks given.
Why? Because I own my time, you’re not paying me, you’re not my boss, and if you don’t have enough courtesy to follow directions when you ask for hours of my time, fuck you, that’s why.
4. When you have done your homework and have determined that a person might be a good fit for your book, approach them like a human being. Please. PLEASE.
You don’t have to become BFFs, but you do need to channel your inner Don Draper (minus the philandering and maybe the drinking, but you do you) and figure out what is going to make your target audience happy. Probably it’s NOT being mass-spammed on Twitter or via email with cliche marketing language. (You know we can see your tweets when you tweet a hundred people the same thing, right? And we can tell when you copy-pasted a form letter and attached us BCC. It’s not flattering.) So many people who contact me and other book bloggers that I know are so deeply concerned with their own happiness (selling a gazillion books) that they forget to think about how their
prey target audience might react to an impersonal mass campaign. Hint: not well. We’re people. Talk to us like people, not like you’re a marketing machine. Don’t forget that, if I didn’t opt in by following you on Twitter or subscribing to your newsletter, you are spam unless you catch my attention in a personal way.
“BUT PERSONALIZING IS HARD AND THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE I CAN’T DO IT.” Yeah, about that . . . see #2 again. If you don’t put in the hours, don’t expect me or other bloggers to put in the hours. Maybe read a book or three about sales or marketing before jumping in with your approach. Word of Mouth Marketing is an excellent start.
5. Please note that you’re not an exception.
A shitload of people think that they are specially exempt somehow from having to do the things that have been shown to work or from following directions or from having to act like a person and you’re not. If you somehow are exempt, you’re going to know already because I will have heard of you and will have acknowledged being a fan already. If I don’t know you, you’re not exempt.
6. Even if you do all of the above, the previous 500 authors surely did not and I might still be a little on edge.
Sorry in advance if I misinterpret you and bite your head off. It’s just . . . . it’s really, really fucking infuriating when people think they have an iron-clad claim on your time and energy and attention and hard work and I get a little ragged over it, you know? And those same people get real fuckin’ huffy when I point out that they do not in fact have a claim on any of those things. I have a gift for pissing people off and, unluckily for everyone involved, I give few enough fucks to exercise it on a regular basis.
If you’re pissed off, leave a comment. Or don’t.