Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam!
I love SPAM. In fact, there are few things that can make me feel more special than spam. Okay, form-letters, pop-ups and auto-tweets, but that’s all. I love it when someone takes the time to program their computer to send me a “personalized” message—Dear Valued Follower, go to my link. That almost makes my day as much as telemarketers. Hey, I said “almost.” Let’s not get crazy.
No, I haven’t gone crazy, but it seems that many writers do the second they realize they must market themselves in order to survive the shifting paradigm in publishing. We go from nice, sweet, fun writers to morphing into that weird third cousin we stopped talking to after she joined Amway.
One of the reasons I decided to write a social media book for writers is that I see these mistakes all the time. What is worse is that I see well-meaning writers who are just trying to be professional, PAYING people for software and books and techniques that make them about as appealing as a pop-up ad.
Now, do not misunderstand me. I am not saying these other social media folk are wrong. Frequently, they aren’t. But many of them are trying to lay a standard business marketing template over a writer’s career, and it just doesn’t fit. Why? For a number of reasons, but the largest is that, despite what TV commercials tell us, we really do NOT expect a personal relationship with our insurance company. Seriously. I do not call up USAA when my mother has me ready to pull out my hair or when I feel insecure about my thighs or when the dog throws up on my new book and eats my glasses.
Okay, I did, but they threatened to raise my rates to include therapy.
Many benevolent social media folk know how to rock it hard when it comes to the regular business world. In the regular business world mailers, form-letters, unsolicited coupons and promotionals work. I used to be in sales. When writers use them? They usually are just annoying tactics that will actually have the opposite results more often than not.
This past week on Facebook I approved a friend request for another writer. Within MINUTES, I had four other e-mails. “Here is my website! Go to my blog! Look at my book! Here is a discount! Pass on to all of your friends and let me show them how to blah blah blah!” It made me regret I’d ever befriended this person. Rather than it being like Starbucks, “Here is a coupon for a free Frappuccino” (awesome), it sounded more like, “Me, me, me, me, me! Look at meeeeee! I have vested nothing in this relationship other than clicking add as a friend and then cutting and pasting, but now I want something from you. Time! Attention! Promotion! Money!”
In my book, We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media I talk about the heart of the servant. Be genuinely interested in other people and the promotion will come. Genuine promotion that really will speak to others. Most people will feel the need to reciprocate if we do something authentically kind. Our motive should always be pure—do something authentically kind—because people can smell manipulation from a mile away, and who likes being manipulated? No one.
I know it seems counterintuitive when you have marketing folk shouting about “top of mind” and “numbers” and “exposure.” Those things matter, but writers would be wise to approach marketing differently than Crocs Sandals or Domino’s Pizza. On social media, relationships are key to building a platform and a readership. They see our name and see our face and we need to work to earn the reader’s trust.
Yes, but no more work than the time it takes to go SPAM a hundred people. And this method will bear a better harvest and create a platform that will stand the tests of time because it is founded on relationship. If you want something from others, then freely give from the start.
But Kristen! I AM giving. I just sent them the past ten issues of my “Romance Times” newsletter for free where I give them excerpts of my unpublished novel and a bookmark they can print off on their home computer.
Nooooo. That is taking. Giving is when you take your time to read their blog, to repost their story and to congratulate their writing goal on Twitter. Giving is when you write a nice review of someone else’s book unsolicited and expecting nothing in return.
Sow kindness and generosity of your own spirit and you will be shocked at the harvest. Authentic kindness is so inspiring to others that it frequently moves them to do the same thing.
As an example. I was up early one morning on Twitter. On my TweetDeck I saw this woman Donna who lived in London, England post her first chapters of her book on her blog on writegoal#. I wasn’t even following Donna, and didn’t know her from a hole in the ground. But, I was once a new writer so I took time to read her chapter and comment, even though it put me almost an hour behind my schedule. Donna immediately followed me, and I offered her my e-mail so I could help her. One-on-one. No money. No asking her to buy my book. I didn’t even tell her about my book. I just remembered how hard it was being new and how much difference my mentor made in me. I paid it forward.
All I wanted from her was that she be teachable and that she work hard, and Donna has done both (no money and no stipulations of buying stuff). I put her through Warrior Writer Boot Camp to teach her how to construct her novel, since one of the problems I noticed was that although she showed talent, she didn’t understand how to plot and was drifting all over the place.
Running Donna through my workshop on-line put me even MORE behind, in that now I had to read and edit the assignments I gave her. With a book due and a day job I could barely squeeze the time, but I saw something promising in Donna, so I made it work…even though I had to do so at the expense of my free time.
But you know what happened?
I now have a writer who is light-years ahead of where she would have been had I not taken the time to intervene. She reposts every blog I post, comments on my blogs, and was giddy to make all of her friends follow me. Donna even signed up for the DFW Writers Conference in 2011 where I am teaching. She also recruited one of her girlfriends to attend the conference. They are flying from ENGLAND! Two $400 conference seats sold, and I wasn’t even selling. I am also fairly sure that Donna and all of her friends will now buy my book. And if they don’t, that is okay too. It wasn’t my intention. My intent was to build a relationship, and THAT has been successful. I now am friends with Donna and all of her network, and it means something.
I think most of us writer-folk aren’t fond of “selling,” but we do like reading and giving our opinions, feedback and support. That is the best kind of marketing. Focus on acts of kindness—one per day. They don’t have to be big or massively time-consuming kindnesses. Spend the same time you would spend trolling for people to send form-letters and find a way to encourage or help them instead.
So let’s leave all the gadgets and promos to Chili’s and I-Pod. We have real friends to make. You will be glad you did.
Until next time….
If you just loved this blog and want more, my new book “We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media” is now available. I want to change your habits, not your personality. Harness that same creativity you use for writing and use it to build your platform.
For great ways to grow from writer to published author, I recommend Bob Mayers Warrior Writer Workshops. He even offers on-line classes, so sign up today at www.bobmayer.org
You can also connect with me on my web site www.kristenlamb.org.