Wednesday, December 28, 2011

We Are All Whiners

This blog post does not represent the opinion of anyone else on Do Some Damage but Dave White.

Shut up.

We--the writers and fans of books--all need to shut up. Big time.

Lately, there's been discussion about self-promotion on Twitter, Amazon boards, Facebook. Basically it comes down to this. Book writers are promoting their books on Twitter. Posting "I have a book out. Buy it! Here's a link." Apparently, it's constant*. Look at me. Look at me. Look at me.

Then came the next wave. All the fans of writers have now revolted and started complaining about self-promotion. Immediate unfollowing of self-promoters. Creating arbitrary rules about promotion. "You can only do it once a week." "Five, ten, fifteen percent of time should be self-promotion." Wahh, wahhh, wahhh**.

Shut up.

First off, fans of writing... you have to understand something. Writers need to be noticed. There's a lot of noise out there and they want you to know the name of their book. Wouldn't you be upset if a writer you loved came out with a book and you never heard about it? All writers have fans. Some have a lot of fans. Some have 2 fans***. The only way their fans are going to notice them is if they mention their book. And you know what? Not everyone is always on Twitter at the same time. So sometimes these writers have to post about it more than once! So, if you're a fan of writer and of writers, give people a break okay. Especially if their book has only been out a month or two.

Okay, now writers. Yeah, you guys. Over here. Listen up. You need to chill out a little bit. Talk to people. Come up with conversation. And also, be creative. Let's not shout it all out all the time and then whine when people complain. You're a writer. Creativity is your life. You have to come up with a way to get noticed that's different from the ways everyone else gets noticed. And I'm not talking contests. Everyone does contests. No one who enters a contest ever buys the product their in the contest for. They want free stuff. If they don't get the free stuff, they'll go try to get other free stuff. I don't know what the real answer is. But you need to lay-off the shouting a little bit. I'm not going to come up with some random arbitrary rule for you****, you need to find your comfort zone. But maybe ease off the gas a little bit.

(Or, how about this. Everyone on Twitter picks a different author to promote. If we all promote each other, it's not self-promotion. Then what? Oh, snap!)

See the problem isn't self-promotion... or complaining about self-promotion. Not really. It's about society. The society we live in. The society of protests.

You see, in real life, protesters are doing something good. They're protesting BIG ISSUES. And they're trying to make real change. Look at the Wisconsin Unions, or Egypt, or the Tea Party, or Occupy Wall Street. They've all created real change over big issues.


We're complaining about .... commercials. Sorry, but commercials are a way of life. You're always going to have them. And some of them are pretty damn annoying. But we've always been able to ignore them. And then the people who make the commercials have to try a different tact. When all we do is complain... complain about the little takes away the power of complaining about the big things. About fighting against something.

But we see all these protests, and we need something to whine about so we take up this issue. OOOHHHHH, there's too much on my Twitter feed. OOOHHHHHH, no one's buying my book.

Gimme a break. All of us. We all need to take a breather. We allllllll--even me--should shut up.

Everyone needs to take a deep breath and just chill out. Yes, I know Freedom of Speech is a right. But by both clogging up Twitter with self-promotional commercials**** and complaining about those commercials, you are trying to prohibit free speech. Complainers want to shut people up, self-promos want Twitter to be nothing more than a commercial.

So, let's ease off. Everyone. Be positive. Have fun. Because you know what? Discussion on Twitter never lead us to real change in publishing. Their circular conversations, ones that end up in the same place****** and never solve anything.

So, let's all take a deep breath and stop the freaking whining*******.

*My Twitter feed did have some advertising in it, but I wouldn't say it was constant. And I follow a lot writers.

**I actually saw a lot more of this than I did the actual self-promotion because it got retweeted a lot. And people didn't just post it, they went on ten tweet rants about it.

***Hi mom! Hi dad!

****Unlike those people on the Amazon message boards. Whoa are they crazy. Anyone tries to do something nice for a writer and they flip the f out. And then high five when the writer slinks away, trying to be nice.

*****Funny. When the promotion comes from a publisher, I NEVER see anyone complain about it. There are never "Boyyyy, Little Brown tweets about their books too much."

******Yes, I understand the irony of me posting about this. But I wanted to say it in more than 140 characters. Then I'll shut up. Plus, I like reading comments.

*******Look at all these footnotes. I hate footnotes. I should stop the footnotes. BLEEECCCHHH. I wrote a whole blog post complaining about footnotes once. Ask Russel. But's a truce. I won't complain about them.


Thomas Pluck said...

You are the David Foster Wallace of Do Some Damage, with those footnotes.

But you have a valid point. If you don't like self-promotion, filter it out. Whining about it just creates more annoying noise in the twitter feed, after all.

Anonymous said...

This is an actual problem? I mean, I know I see a lot of self-promo. I sometimes RT it and sometimes ignore it. And I know I see a lot of whining about it. But I mostly ignore that too. It's not very interesting.
The footnotes are interesting.
And the literary feud thing this morning? That was funny.
The guy who only tweets the same five quotes and the same five promos? Not very interesting. Also, more work to unfollow than to scroll pass or bitch about. (See, took me longer to type that than it takes to scroll past!)

I shall have Prosecco.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave!

Dana King said...

I've been thinking these exact same things for weeks, just haven't got around to writing about them yet. Now I don't have to, because you did it better, which will free me up to for writing my next book, which will be called...

Anonymous said...

The thing is: people don't want to hear about a book from the author. It's obviously biased and there are too many bad books out there nowadays to filter which is which by each book's author screaming "Buy Mine! Buy Mine! Buy Mine!"

People want to hear about books from their friends. From review sites. From people they (somewhat) know and (reasonably) trust.

Nowadays there are too many people who think the key to a successful book is marketing and salesmanship instead of storytelling and writing skill.

Here's an idea authors: You want people to find out about your books? Write a damn good one.

And let others carry the flag for you.

Seeing an author constantly tooting their own horn comes across, to me, as either arrogant or pathetic.

Shouting about your book on twitter might have been effective when the service was new and fresh, but now it's like banner ads - annoying and ineffective.

Suw Charman-Anderson said...

It's all about moderation, tolerance and context.

Authors need to find that happy middle ground between pimping their books enough and pimping them too much. I've certainly been politely informed that I don't talk about my stuff enough. For example, people who would have joined my Kickstarter project to fund the printing of my novelette, Argleton, found out too late and were sad that they had missed the opportunity. Oddly, I had thought I was pimping it too much, but that just goes to show that it's hard sometimes to find the middle ground.

Equally, readers need to understand that these days, few authors have publishers with a nice, tidy marketing budget to spend on their book. Everyone else, whether published or self-published, has to do their own donkeywork. I know some amazing writers who simply aren't getting the sales their work deserves because their publishing companies don't want to spend much on marketing, and they aren't comfortable doing it themselves as much as they should.

Few authors are natural marketeers and publicists and for a lot of us it's a steep learning curve. Some of us to do little, some do too much or do it in the wrong way.

Which brings me on to context. If all you do on Twitter (or FB or G+ or whatever) is bang on and on and on about your book, yes, that's going to alienate a lot of people. Equally, if you butt into someone else's conversation with a "Yes, you should all buy my book now!" when it's not relevant to what everyone else is saying, then that's going to hack people off.

So context is really important. Don't gratuitously shove your stuff in other people's face. Don't bang on and on and on and on about nothing else but your book. Have conversation. Be relevant. Give people a reason to think, "Hey, this person's really interesting, maybe I'll give their book a go."

And finally, Anonymous, you are sadly wrong about the idea that simply writing a damn good book is enough to get you noticed by readers. If that was in the least bit true, no one would bother doing marketing because it's hard work, expensive, and time-consuming. Yes, people want to see good reviews and all that, but you cannot underestimate the importance of marketing and sales in simply breaking even in this business. It's tough, and whilst it's nice to think that the cream rises to the top, sadly, shit also floats.

Dave White said...

Hey Anon (and man, do I wish you'd signed your name),

Did you miss the whole point of this post? Whether you feel it's arrogant or not, it's the way of the world today, it seems. It shouldn't be done all the time, but it's going to happen. On the other hand, people shouldn't be going out of their way to bash these self-promoters. And, really, some people just are.

stevemosby said...

Dave -

I have some sympathy with your general point, although I think it's wishful thinking that, if not talking about this, we'd be talking about something worthwhile. This is teh internet!

I'm one of the whiners, I guess, in that I posted two (out of about fifty) piss-taking tweets about it and got into arguments as a result. Thing is, I did see a deluge: I saw loads and loads of identikit tweets: "Got a Kindle for Xmas? Treat yourself to my book here!" I completely understand the need for authors - all authors - to self-promote to whatever degree they want. It's just that the time of year exacerbated and uniformed the promotions to the point where it became ludicrous and frankly (to me) a bit desperate and self-defeating on an individual basis. It just mounted up.

More generally, I follow writers on Twitter because I want to know about them. If you've got a new book out, yeah, I want to know. If you've just got books out, then I probably know that already because you're an author and that's why I follow you. On something like Twitter, I'm more likely to buy your book if I feel like you're engaging with it as something other than a sales opportunity.

Dave White said...


Thanks. Good points made.

Matthew McBride said...

All the constant self-promo is ridiculous. It's necessary, true, but after a while a writer is beating the same followers over the head with the same tweets and g+ and Facebook status updates, and yes - even emails. It's out of hand. I personally, rarely, and I mean rarely, tweet about my own book and my publisher definitely doesn't help out with marketing or promo - but despite that, my book has made more Top Ten lists than I can count.

If you write a book and it's strong and people respond to it and love it, they will talk about it. And blog about it and tweet about it. I assume my followers and friends follow or friend me because they already know who I am or what I've written, and they have either already bought my book or they haven't - but telling them over and over does sound desperate and cheap, really. I used to enjoy twitter much more a year or two ago - before the Amazon Kindle situation changed everything. I get it. We are our own marketing force - but there has to be a balance somewhere and you shouldn't have to send 25 self-promotional tweets a day to sell your own books unless you're attracting a huge number of followers daily. Sometimes the best way to promote is just not to promote. At least, that seems to work for me.

Thomas Pluck said...

True, Steve. You don't want to smell desperate.

stevemosby said...

Thomas - I know. If I want to smell desperate I'll just tilt my head forwards.

Suw said...

Of course you don't want to overdo it. But a few tweets here and there, as part of a proper conversation or interspersed with more human stuff is no problem imo.

Not everyone has the luck to be a success without having to work at a bit of promo, so we shouldn't criticise people who do their own marketing simply for that. It's not the what, as usual, it's the how.

But I would give a tip to anyone who finds some authors to be overdoing it: Stop following them. Really does make Twitter much nicer if you ditch the bores. ;)

Diana said...

The best form of advertising is word of mouth. This is true for all products and services. Twitter promotion would work best if you're promoting someone else's book that you read and want to recommend to your friends.

Maybe the solution is to read your friend's books and tweet about it if you enjoyed reading it. (It's probably a good idea to say nothing if it was a stinker.)

Sandra Ruttan said...

Love this post. I've been told by some that even just commenting is self promotion because people will see my name and I'm promoting myself. So, some of the bitching is totally ridiculous.

However... I do get annoyed when there is a lot of promotion and over-promotion clogging everything else up. I guess it's my view on sales. I wouldn't drink Pepsi because their commercials were mean, so I drank Coke. If someone has something intelligent to say in a blog post or comment, I'm more inclined to check out their work. If all they can say is 'buy my book, buy my book' then I'll ignore them. And if it's too much, I'll block them. Problem solved.

My favorite subversive promo attempt from the past year concerns an Amazon review. A reviewer reviewed one of my books. They also sent me files of some of their own e-books available on Amazon, hoping I'd review them. I never make promises. After a while, when I hadn't reviewed their book(s) the person deleted their review of my book.

Sometimes, there's definitely a reason people are suspicious of self-pubbed authors. I can't entirely blame them. I think the difference with publishers promoting books is that we expect it, it's a product, and it still feels like a second source, instead of someone saying, "ME ME ME - LOOK AT ME!!!"

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons social media has flourished is that you, the individual, choose what you see/read/listen to. You are no longer passive when it comes to choosing your own content. Don't like a writer who promotes a lot on Twitter? Unfollow them. Don't like their sales messages on Facebook? Unfriend them.

It reminds me of a joke. Three construction workers sit down for lunch on an I-beam a hundred stories up. The first guy opens his lunch and says, "Ah, salami again! If it's salami tomorrow, I'm jumping off this beam." The second guy opens his and says, "Peanut butter again! If it's peanut butter tomorrow, I'm jumping, too!" The third guy opens his and says "Turkey again! I'm jumping with you guys tomorrow if it's turkey again."

The next day, the first guy opens his lunch, sees a salami sandwich, and jumps to his death. The second guy opens his lunch, sees peanut butter, and jumps to his death. The third guy opens his lunch, sees the turkey, and jumps to his death.

A few days later at the funeral, the wife of the first guy says, "If only he'd told me he was sick of salami, I would've made something different!" The wife of the second guy says, "I know, I wouldn't have made him peanut butter if he told me he was going to kill himself."

The wife of the third guy says, "What's so weird about it is my husband always made his own lunch."

Jay Stringer said...

It's about balance, which sadly is never in good supply on social media sites.

Writers need to stand out and make themselves heard, and they need to shout and self promote to do that.

Trouble is, and I think this is what Steve M picked up on, it all went a little nuts this christmas. It did seem like every other tweet was saying, hey, you, you've had a kindle for christmas, buy my stuff.

This is a valid and viable form of self promotion, but it failed at the "stand out and make yourself heard," because there were so man people doing it.

If every other author is doing something, maybe you should do something else.

And I think there are authors out there who need to trust in their writing more, on my twitter feed are some fantastic authors -some of the best in the field- who will have loyal readers that are more than willing to take up pimping work.

But i'm not going to get angry at writers who are out there trying to be heard, we all need to do it, one way or another.