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Promo: How Much Do You Share?

Maybe I’ve been watching too much baseball lately, but you know what I think we need in writing?  Coaches.  I want a promo coach.  Someone to help me improve my swing and give me the confidence to dig in for each at bat.

I’m not a good salesman.  Recently, at my cousin’s birthday dinner a bunch of my family members shared our least favorite jobs we’d ever held.  Mine was the closest I’ve ever gotten to sales.  It’s just not my thing.  So needless to say, self-promotion stresses me out.  I think the most frustrating part is the fact that there is no right answer.  My mathematical brain wants to know the solution to the problem (solve for X, dammit!) – but what works for one book might fall flat with another.  Promo success is a constantly moving target.

Today I would be delighted to hear any promo magic bullets you have (please, tell me the secret!) – but really, I want to start a discussion about HOW MUCH.  My answers to these questions are based on what works for me (which is pretty much finding that instinctual balance between guilt over not doing enough promo and frustration that I’d rather be writing), but I’d be fascinated to hear where your comfort level falls.

How much time do you spend on promo versus time on your other writing jobs?

I’m a binger.  I binge write (shutting myself in a hermit hole and writing up to 30K words in a frenzied week) and so I suppose it is only natural that I binge promote as well.  Knowing this about myself, I’ll block out a week or two between projects for a rash of guest-blog writing or ad booking or social media binge-ing.  I know this isn’t the “right” way to build a following, but it satisfies the promo-guilt so I can get back to my happy place again.  How do you find the balance?

How much do you share about yourself on social media?

I’m not much of a social media sharer.  I’m never sure what readers want to know about me versus what is just social spam.  And one woman’s social spam is exactly what someone else wants to see.  (I’m not a cook, so I just ignore posts about what folks had for dinner, but some people get really engaged in recipe sharing.)  How do we let readers know us without oversharing – both for privacy reasons and to avoid boring people to tears?  My personal solution is that I have one aspect of my life that I blog about regularly – and that’s my travel.  I put up travelogs whenever I come home from a big trip (and by waiting until I’m home, I can share details about where I went and what I did without my mom worrying about me being stalker-bait).  But are travelogs enough?  Or are they superfluous, since I don’t write romances about exotic foreign locales?

How much do you reveal about your book to build enthusiasm for your book without spoiling your book for readers?

I’m a firm believer that the best way to sell your books is to use your words.  Excerpts, Teaser Tuesdays on Facebook, giveaways that get your books into new hands – I really think those are the best promotional tools.  But how much is too much?  There are movies I feel like I don’t need to see because I saw the entire plot in the trailer – the last thing I want to do is tease people out of buying my book.

Recently for the release of Naughty Karma, I did something that I would *love* as a reader, but that made me a little nervous as an author.  Since the last book of the series was releasing, I posted recaps of all the previous books on my website to refresh readers’ memories and bring people up to speed.  As a reader, I’ve often wished for synopses of long series so I don’t have to re-read the entire series every time a new release comes out.  But as an author, I worried that I was spoiling the books and making it so readers who hadn’t read the series had no motivation to do so.

I was glad I did it and got a positive response from readers, but it still gave me a few moments of unease.

Where is that line between tempting and oversharing?

Please, Ruby friends, help me find the “right” answers so my math brain can rest!

30 responses to “Promo: How Much Do You Share?”

  1. Vivi, I sure wish I could help you on this. It’s so elusive. At least you seem to be finding a good balance. That has yet to happen for me, but may I just say your recap idea is BRILLIANT!!! Honestly, I’d never even thought of it! I love your brain. Thank you so much for sharing that with us. All in all, I tend to over share, I think. I am an open book and everyone knows it. They can ask me anything and 999 times out of 1,000 I’ll answer. I actually have to tell myself to tug on the reigns a little. I’m so gung ho and out there.

    Anywho, thanks again for this post. I can’t wait to hear what others have to say!

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  2. jbrayweber says:

    I’m like Darynda. By nature, I’m really very open. I have no problem telling people what they want to know about me—the good, the bad, the downright cringe-worthy funny. That’s just me.

    I wish I knew what works, too. There are so many great ideas out there, but what works for one doesn’t always work for another. It’s enough to drive any sane (or crazy) person crazy (or crazier).

    I also believe some promotions are cost prohibitive. That makes things tough for us struggling artists. 😉

    Vivi, your recap idea is great. I’m likely to steal it for when my next pirate book is released.

    So…anxiously waiting to hear what others have to say…

    Jenn!

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    • Vivi Andrews says:

      Oi, the cost prohibitive! I was thinking as I wrote this that a “promo coach” is sort of a synonym for publicist. I just might have to sell my firstborn child to afford one. (Note to self: Have firstborn child to sell for publicist.)

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  3. Kim Law says:

    Vivi, your math brain can never rest. Trust me. It. Just. Doesn’t. Stop!!!!

    But you do pose excellent questions. I love your travelogs (though I don’t get to read all of them). And I find it funny that I once had almost the same exact idea. Then I realized I would never travel enough to make it worthwhile.

    I think things on social media just need to be something that can make people connect with you. Make them feel like that know you. But what does that mean, right? Maybe…whatever interests you? If you’re excited about it, that will come through. It’ll give people a glimpse into you and keep them coming back for more. Except for those you bore who will leave or block your posts 🙂 *sigh* Like writing, we can’t please them all! I struggle with this, and with finding time to do it too. I just wanna write…

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    • Vivi Andrews says:

      **Like writing, we can’t please them all!**

      This. I need to remember this. I don’t expect my books to appeal to everyone on the planet, so I need to remember that *I* don’t need to appeal to everyone on the planet. Some will hate me and that’s okay! I’m not their cup of tea! THANK YOU, Kim, for this!!!

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  4. Hope Ramsay says:

    Vivi,

    I’m like you, I’m pretty reserved and . . . well . . . boring. So I just have never felt like there was enough going on in my life (work, work, work) to share on Facebook or twitter.

    But, not too long ago, I heard Eloisa James talking about this, and she used a term for social media that I thought was interesting and inspiring. She called it “curated space.” She said that your Facebook page is like a museum and you are responsible for what they see. What stuff would you want people to see in the museum of you? Not everything. Not even the real you. But some curated version of you.

    This got me thinking about planning stuff for each day of the week. Stuff I enjoy, that isn’t promo, but which gives readers a glimpse into who I am. So I do Monday humor — usually involving a photo of a cute animal. On Tuesday I do a teaser (with everyone else), also with a photo. On Wednesday I sometimes have hump day cocktail recipes named after Last Chance characters. On Friday I have a feature called Southern Gent of the week — a photo of a cute guy who comes from the South. And sometimes on Saturday I’ll post a song from one of my book playlists. This is my Facebook backbone. I’m going to do at least one post every day and these day of the week ideas help me get through that minimum commitment. I try not to post more than two posts on any given day and I try to space my posts more than 4 hours apart. You just get better bang for your buck if you do this.

    I will tweet some of these posts, and I’ll tweet other book- or writing-related stuff. I try to do one tweet a day.

    In between these planned posts, I will do cover reveals. I will ask readers to name the pet in my story (always a fave). Post photos of the cute guy who is the hero of my next story. When I was writing my B&B book, I posted photos of the rooms and the china. (It was fun furnishing a B&B virtually.) I post about sewing and knitting, which are hobbies. I sometimes have posts about the Good Ol’ Georgia Boy (AKA the husband.) And, finally, I blog about my memories of South Carolina as a child.

    I have no idea if this sells books. But my readers seem to enjoy this stuff and my publisher thinks I’m doing a good job. And some of this is kind of fun. However, I also have an assistant who helps me stay on top of this, because I also do monthly giveaways at Fresh Fiction and I manage Blame it on the Muse and I also have a day job that is quite demanding.

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    • Vivi Andrews says:

      This is great, Hope, seeing it laid out like this! My OCD side loves the idea of “On Monday I do X” – I just struggle to come up with what I would do as a repeating feature. I do Teaser Tuesdays (and love them) but other than that, I’m at a loss.

      THANK YOU for this insight.

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    • June Love says:

      Hope, I would never call you boring. 🙂

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  5. Kate Parker says:

    I don’t know the answer to this, since my first book doesn’t come out for another month and a half. But I’ve been picking Hope Ramsay’s brains for ideas. And yours. And Darynda’s. And…well you get the picture. We’ll see what works.

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  6. Laurie Kellogg says:

    I’m terrible at ALL of these things, Vivi. I know I could be selling more if I was better at promoting, but I just HATE it. I tried sales once, and lasted one month. As opinionated as I can be sometimes (And, Gwynlyn, if you’re reading this, don’t you dare snort!), I’m very uncomfortable about trying convince people to buy something from me. I have to sell my husband’s car this week, and I’m really dreading it.

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  7. Such tough questions for a Wednesday morning (or any morning)!

    I love your recap idea! I’ve struggled with finding that balance with how much to share. Readers who are rabid about a series seem to become rabid about that author, and crave the connection that travelogs and such can bring. But when we’re still building our career, and people aren’t so, ahem, rabid about us, what do we do?

    Because I don’t want to overshare and lose readers, I release a quarterly newsletter with occasional exclusive content or giveaways for the diehard readers. I place an ad here or there to see what works (by far, the BookBub sale ad was the absolute best bang for my buck – BY. FAR.). And I try to get keep my name out there with occasional blogs, workshop offerings, or sending promo items to conferences. Wish I knew the magic formula, Miss Math! 🙂

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    • Vivi Andrews says:

      It does seem like the more famous you are, the less fascinating you have to be to be, well, fascinating. A celeb going to the laundromat is endlessly intriguing, but we mere mortals without a rabid following of ten million? LOL. Not so much.

      I’ve recently reinvested in my newsletter, Anne Marie. Thanks for the tip.

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  8. Tamara Hogan says:

    Oh dear, Vivi. I suck at promotion. Absolutely suck at it. Parts of this I probably come by pretty honestly. I’m a lifelong Minnesotan, and that Lake Wobegon “every child is above average, so no need to brag” thing is innate, very solidly entrenched. I’m a massive introvert, a very private person, and also /sigh/ have some physical safety concerns that have nothing to do with writing but can’t help but influence how I interact with others online.

    I have a very low tolerance for being marketed to, and as a writer, I haven’t been able to come to terms with the fact that, in order to promote my work, I might have to do some things that would drive me batsh*t if I were on the receiving end. It feels…hypocritical to me. But the alternative is obscurity. So, what to do? How much of myself do I reveal, expose, give away – which compromises do I make – in the name of visibility and commerce? I have yet to find the answer. I recently read an interview with Joan Jett where she said something along the lines of, “Artists used to have this thing called mystique. I miss those days.” I do, too. For the reasons above, and many more, I miss the days when the art did the talking. The artist? Not so much.

    OK, that got a lot heavier than I intended. 😉

    So, for TEMPT ME’s recent release, I did a couple of friends’ blogs, with book giveaways. I occasionally tweet short excerpts from my book, but honestly I don’t tweet personal writing stuff very often. I don’t want to bore myself, or others. 😉 I participated in a NetGalley co-op with a group of other indie-published authors, and I was amazed at how many people downloaded TEMPT ME eARCs, which resulted in some very nice reviews. Still on my list, and making me shiver my timbers, is offering my book for review at a couple of influential book blogs we all know the names of.

    Can’t wait to see what others say!

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    • Cate Rowan says:

      Tammy, I resonate with so much of what you said, including having a very low tolerance for being marketed to and therefore feeling hypocritical about trying to promote my own work. I’m also a very private person, which makes me wary about sharing anything personal online.

      I haven’t found any solutions. I bounce from trying to market (because I feel pressure t do it in order to be seen) to running away from it, screaming. I’d love to find a better way!

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    • Vivi Andrews says:

      I *adore* that Joan Jett quote! Seriously, where did all the mystique go? Hello, Twitter. Hello, Facebook. Goodbye, mystique. If only my marketing campaign could be WWSD – What Would Salinger Do?

      Good luck on your big review sites! I was recently reviewed for the first time on one of the Biggies (but I was too chicken to read what they wrote). 😉

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  9. Great post, Vivi! I am horrible at promotion. Horrible. I just don’t do it (although I know I should). Maybe part of it is because the online places where I hang out are mostly populated by other writers (which I love). But I think it’s also because the introverted part of me prefers to hang back in the shadows. Hmmm…that makes me sound a bit like a stalker. 😉

    I did my first book signing at the literacy signing at the RWA national convention a couple of years ago. That’s probably the closest I’ve come to promotion. I did enjoy that and will probably do it again this year. And maybe all the helpful hints you guys are throwing out will make me a little bolder in that area!

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    • Vivi Andrews says:

      Don’t be shy, Tina! I understand the impulse, but remember, we WANT to hear about your books. We want to know when the next one is coming out. Do tell!!

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  10. I don’t have a clue when it comes to promo. I have a newsletter with exactly 16 people who are all friends or family. I’ve given out cute bags, refrigerator magnets, and kiss me mints. Does it work? No idea, but I’m having fun doing it.

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  11. June Love says:

    Vivi, like you, I do not like selling. Especially myself. If I’m passionate about something, I may spread the word…once. After that, it’s on its own.

    I’ve always considered myself an open book, but lately, I’ve become more private. I don’t know if it’s personal things I’ve experienced lately that’s keeping me more closed lipped, or if it’s because of social media where so much is shared.

    My life truly is boring. I don’t do exciting things. I write. I have dinner with friends. I occasionally travel. I watch tv. That’s one of the reasons I haven’t signed up for Ruby Tuesday…I’m too boring. 🙂

    I love your recap idea and have actually read one another author did for a one of her series. Trust me, it helps. I’ve had to flip back through older books to remember certain details because things like that matter to me. It must be straight in my head, or I can’t move forward. I’m sure there’s a word for people like me…oh, wait. I know what it is…crazy. 🙂

    Great post. Sorry I couldn’t help you, but you and the comments of others have certainly helped me! Thanks!

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    • Vivi Andrews says:

      You make a good point. I think I’m more guarded now BECAUSE of social media. One little off the cuff comment will live forever in the internet – which can be a little daunting.

      (And sign up for Ruby Tuesday! I want to hear your answers – they won’t be boring because they will be YOU.)

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  12. Rita Henuber says:

    Thank you. Reading what everyone else does is also a big help. I am so very lost when it comes to promo. Ugg.

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  13. Sorry, doll, but I can be of no help on this topic. However, it is the nature of things that cream will ALWAYS rise to the top. Your books are entertaining and as unique as you are. Time will be the final arbiter; that cream WILL rise.

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