Our series on bad marketing ploys continues with a look at additional marketing “ideas” that you may have witnessed in your FB feed or seen rearing its disturbing head on blogs and websites. If you are guilty of indulging in any of these promotional gimmicks, be warned. Your readers are on to you, and so are other independently published authors who are tired of getting a bad rap as an unprofessional because of the actions of a few. Read on for an in-depth look into marketing ideas that you are better off not using if you want to be looked upon by readers and other writers as a professional author.
Marketing Ploy #2: Pity Party!
“I’m being bullied by mean people leaving negative reviews on my books instead of all those 5 stars that I KNOW I deserve.”
“I’m disabled and my book sales are my only source of income!”
“My child is disabled and my book sales help offset her doctor bills.”
“I have a health condition and my book sales help offset my hospital costs.”
“Poor me! No one is reading my books!”
With Facebook being all the rage these days, virtually anyone can not only slap up a book onto Amazon for an instant publication, but they can also create a FB account, a community, group, and author page with just a few clicks of a mouse. The next thing you know, you have amassed yourself a few thousand friends who are picking apart everything you say or post. And herein is where authors apparently have a hard time separating their personal lives from their “professional” lives.
As an author, you will want to always present yourself as a professional just like any other. Even if being a writer isn’t your full time job, and it rarely is, you should conduct yourself as if it WERE your full-time, professional career and conduct yourself accordingly. You want to present yourself as a caring, intelligent, and honest person. Your personal life and events are just that, personal. They should not be broadcasted in minute detail over FB, blogs, and pages in an effort to make people feel sorry for you. You want people to buy your books because they are a good read, not because they are being guilted into buying it. Yet, more and more readers are complaining of seeing this growing trend amongst self-published authors and writers in their FB feeds. People are using their sob stories and personal tragedies to sell more books. Readers are getting wee-wee’d off about it, and rightly so.
While it is perfectly fine to post a quick comment about being MIA for a few days due to personal issues, it is NOT okay to use those personal issues to make your readers feel sorry for you or to try to guilt them into buying your book. No one should even have to tell you that it is dishonest and extremely unprofessional, yet I myself have seen authors on my own FB feeds play up their recent job losses, their or their child’s disabilities, their high risk pregnancies, their divorce, and most recently, their declarations of being “bullied” by readers who would dare to leave a low-star review on their books, among other things. Again, such behavior is very unbecoming of an author. If you are going to claim to be a professional writer, then you better start acting like one. Otherwise, you are going to lose readers and authors who do not want to be associated with anyone who uses such trickery into trying to squeeze a few more sales out of their customers.
Marketing Ploy #3: I’m a best seller!
Nothing will make a reader roll their eyes quicker than seeing an unknown indie author proclaiming to be an Amazon “best seller.” Unless your book has hit one of the other roughly six national best sellers list, the use of this title means nothing to a reader other than you are trying to boost sales by bragging about being on a list that doesn’t actually exist.
For those who have not looked into how the Amazon Best Sellers Ranking is calculated, then you might be surprised to learn that Amazon refuses to tell anyone HOW it calculates that list. Experts have speculated that it is a complicated mathematical equation dealing with total number of copies sold by any one author in relation to total number of copies sold on Amazon by all authors across all Amazon stores. Regardless of how it is calculated, the list itself is updated hourly. So even if you actually did manage to hit it once for that one hour, that doesn’t constitute a best seller. It only means that the specific book in question is selling a lot of copies for that specific moment in time. The reality is that unless you hit that list and can stay on it every single hour of the day for 30 days straight, you are not a best seller, you are merely a best seller for an hour.
Let’s look at the math to better understand this. Let’s say that you do hit the list once and you sell 500 copies that day for that one hour but only sell 25,000 copies for the entire year. Now let’s say another author sells only 100 copies a day. They will never hit the Amazon Top 100 Best Selling list with those kinds of numbers, but if they consistently sell 100 copies per day, they will have sold 36,500 copies for the entire year. So as you can see, from a numbers stand point, the author who sold the most copies in a year would clearly have more right to the title of Best Seller. However, since Amazon produces this list based on hourly sales, the title itself is of little marketing value and readers are not using it as a means to determine whether or not they will purchase a book. In all actuality, a lot of readers will purposely NOT buy a book from any author who is claiming to be an Amazon best seller. Why? Because so many self published authors have been using it as a “catch phrase” to entice readers into buying books that ultimately did not live up to either the authors’ claims or the readers’ expectations. To put it bluntly, the book wasn’t nearly as good as all the “hype” drummed up by the author and their street team proclaimed. Because of this, readers are learning the hard way to steer clear of authors who use the phrase “best seller” as a marketing line.
It has often been said that a book should sink or swim on its own merit. That isn’t to say that authors should not promote and advertise their book. However, more and more self published authors are using the insta-publishing now available like it was the wild west, thinking that anything and everything goes when it comes to self-promotion. This is just not the case. To put it plainly, as an author, you should be conducting yourself as if you were representing Random House. Think about that for a moment. If you had just been picked up by Random House, would you be on your FB trying to guilt people into buying your books because of a disability, or because you were getting negative reviews, or because you were recently divorced? The answer would be no, and the reason why you wouldn’t do that is because you would be too worried that the publisher would drop you because you were not acting like a professional writer worthy of being carried by Random House. So before you start laying on the pity party, astroturfing your reviews, and begging people to buy your books, ask yourself if you would want anyone from any of the big publishing houses to see and judge your professionalism according to that post. Chances are, you wouldn’t want them to see you in that light, so why would you want your readers to see you acting so unprofessional as well?