Publetariat Dispatch: Indie Authors, Stop Promoting to Other Indie Authors

Publetariat: For People Who Publish!
In today’s Publetariat Dispatch, author, Kindle Fire on Kindle Nation Daily Editor in Chief, and Publetariat Founder and Editor in Chief April L. Hamilton advises indie authors to stop promoting to one another and seek out their target audiences instead.

The majority of indie authors have day jobs, family responsibilities, the burden of developing, writing and publishing their books, and the burden of establishing and maintaining an author platform on top of all of it. It’s not surprising that when it comes time to promote a new book, indie authors very frequently begin by reaching out to their fellow indie authors. After all, who can better understand the struggle and sacrifice that went into the achievement of bringing a book to market independently, and who could possibly be more supportive of an indie author’s efforts than another indie author?

Even though that rationale seems sound, authors promoting to other authors has got to stop, NOW, for two very good reasons.

The first is that unless you’re writing nonfiction books on craft or book production, other authors are not your target demographic and every bit of money, time and effort you spend promoting to them is money, time and effort that isn’t going toward courting your real intended audience. The second is that it’s simply too much to ask of your fellow authors.

You may think the fact that you’re spending more time promoting to fellow authors than the general public doesn’t matter, since increased sales and positive reviews will inevitably raise your book’s visibility among members of your target demographic and the general public, leading to more sales, but you’re wrong. Book lovers have gotten pretty savvy to the indie world, and they automatically discount reviews written for indie authors by indie authors. If the majority of your book’s positive reviews are from fellow indies — especially those who take posting a review as an opportunity to cross-promote their own books by including their own book title in their username or signature line — it’s actually a mark against your book in the eyes of the general public. They think, “How good could this book be, if the only people who read it and posted positive reviews are friends of the author?”

You may also think that since writers are readers too, it’s totally legitimate to promote to them the same as you would any other member of the public. But the thing is, most indie authors don’t promote to one another the way they would to the general public, they often think nothing of spamming and haranguing their fellows in ways they would never even consider doing to the general public. For example, they may think it’s totally fine to post a promotional message and link to their book’s product page on the Facebook wall, page or timeline of an indie author ‘friend’, but would never dream of doing so on other Facebook members’ walls, pages or timelines. They would never send out a “please buy my new book, I really need your support” email to their PTA or church email list, but don’t hesitate to do it to their own email list of indie authors.

Spam is spam is spam, regardless of whether or not the person on the receiving end is a fellow indie author. If anything, indie authors should be even more hesitant to bombard their fellows with promotional messages and pleas than they would be in dealing with the general public, because they should know very well what those fellows are up against every day.

Several times a week (or more) I’ll receive pleas from indie authors to buy, review and recommend their books, attend their events (virtual or IRL), locate and tag their books on Amazon, cross-post announcements of their book release events, share links to their blogs on my own blog, “Like” their Facebook pages, follow them on Twitter, allow them to post their promotional messages on my sites, et cetera. They don’t seem to realize it, but what their requests really mean to the person on the receiving end is this:

“Hey, I know you have a job, and a family, and your own works in progress, and your own published books that you need to promote, and a website, blog, FB page, Twitter stream and Goodreads account to keep updated, and a To Read pile a mile high containing many works from favorite authors of yours that you’ve spent the last year wanting to read for pleasure and for your continuing education in craft, and that on top of all this you’re trying to squeeze a half hour or so of free time or exercise into your day (and failing in that endeavor more often than not), but can you just drop one or more of those things to do me a favor, even though we’re only nominally acquainted and your own siblings would think twice before making this request? P.S. – Since we’re only nominally acquainted you don’t really know me, and it’s possible that I’m hypersensitive or just plain off my nut. If you don’t grant me this favor I may go totally ballistic and badmouth you all over the internet as being non-supportive of your fellow indie authors. ‘Kay? THANKS!!!”

If the request is to read a book and post a review for it, this wrinkle is added:

“I know you value your online reputation and integrity and stuff, but can you read my book and post a positive review of it? And if you don’t like it, can you just write off all that time you spent reading it and pretend you never read it at all? P.S. – If you do post a review and it’s anything less than a glowing 5-starrer, I may go totally ballistic and badmouth you all over the internet as being non-supportive of your fellow indie authors. I may even be one of those mean and bitter types who will go so far as to post negative reviews on all your books on every site where they’re listed. ‘Kay? THANKS!!!”

If the request is to buy a book, that request really means this:

“Hey, I know you’re only earning something like twenty bucks a month in royalties off your own books but can you take some of that hard-earned cash this month and hand it over to me? Of course, I’ll only be getting a small percentage of the profit, you’ll actually be giving most of your money to a publisher or reseller. I know you’re acquainted with hundreds of other indie authors who may be making this same request, and of course I realize you can’t afford to buy everyone’s books, and you don’t really know me any better than you know any of the rest of them, but can you just blow the rest of them off this one time and buy my book, because I really really really really need the help so much more than they do, and you know what it’s like being a struggling indie author so I’m pretty sure your guilt alone is already making you lean toward ‘yes’? P.S. – Again, since you don’t really know me it’s possible that I’m a selfish jerk. If you don’t buy my book and I find out about that, I may go totally ballistic and badmouth you all over the internet as being a greedy, tight-fisted hypocrite. ‘Kay? THANKS!!!”

What about lesser requests than these? You may assume that because it only takes a second to ‘Like’ a Facebook page or re-tweet a message, there’s no reason why anyone should turn you down or be annoyed by the request when you make it. But many people take their ‘Likes’ and re-tweets seriously, and believe there’s an implied endorsement and recommendation in every one of their ‘Likes’ and re-tweets. I don’t personally think there’s anything wrong with asking for a ‘Like’ or re-tweet, the problem is that most people who make the request attach an expectation to it and get angry or disappointed when their expectation isn’t met. Asking isn’t the problem, it’s the wave of resentment or even retribution that too often follows.

Identifying your target demographic, locating its members and crafting a promotional strategy that’s tailor-made to appeal to that demographic is hard work, but it’s the only kind of promotion and marketing that truly builds a dedicated and enthusiastic readership from the ground up. An appreciative readership becomes both a fan base and a cheering section, filled with people who are very happy to recommend a book they’ve discovered and enjoyed. That kind of fan base grows organically, so long as the author or publisher doesn’t screw up the relationship by subjecting the fans to spam or trampling on their boundaries.

If you still insist on viewing your fellow indie authors as a kind of training wheels community to which you can turn for support in promoting your book and goosing your sales, really think about what you’re asking before you ask. And no matter what, never ask your fellow authors for something, or promote to them, in a way you would think is inappropriate to do to your neighbors, the other parents involved with your kid’s soccer team, your co-workers, or the general public.

Being an indie author is a demanding and draining privilege; we need to treat it, and one another, with respect.


This is a cross-posting from April L. Hamilton‘s Indie Author Blog.


6 Responses to Publetariat Dispatch: Indie Authors, Stop Promoting to Other Indie Authors

  1. Saul Tanpepper September 13, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    Wow. I mean… Just, wow. April makes a good point (that so many indie authors are promoting to the wrong demographic), but then completely swamps it out with her underlying purpose in writing this post, which is to stop getting authors to spam her. The bitterness expressed here screams lack of empathy for her fellow authors. Yeah, we all get spammed, but that’s what the “trash” button is for. A simple: “Don’t spam me, please” would’ve conveyed the same message without the vitriol and condescension.

  2. April L. Hamilton September 13, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    Saul –
    It isn’t just me who’s being swamped with this spam, it’s indie authors everywhere. I have received very many ‘thank yous’ since writing this post from fellow indies who felt this needed to be said, and has needed to be said for a very long time, but no one has wanted to speak out for fear of alienating other authors.

    In any event, the point of the article isn’t “stop spamming me,” it’s that indies are wasting valuable time, money and energy promoting to one another when they should be promoting to their target demographics. The secondary point is that it’s not only annoying to one’s peers to swamp them with promotional messages, but very presumptuous and, when done repeatedly, downright rude.

  3. Anne Selby September 13, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    I am an Indie author and have never even considered spamming my fellow Indie authors for reviews etc. Your article has been a real eye opener! It would never even occur to me to do that. True, getting a reader base, sales and reviews is an uphill struggle, but I would rather have the reviews from genuine readers who came across my book on Amazon and decided that it was worth a read.

    However, you do come across as being very angry about being spammed April. I am not sure whether that was your intent, but I can see why Saul said what he said. Still you are right, nobody should be spamming other authors. Personally I spend my money on getting readers and advertising my book!

  4. April L. Hamilton September 13, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

    Anne – I was exaggerating to make a point. On my Indie Author Blog, from which this post was reprinted, I regularly use exaggeration, sarcasm and humor to underscore my statements.

  5. Linda Austin September 13, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    A lot of indie authors beg for favors and are spammers, which means they indiscriminately send info about their books to all their friends when they should be targeting their specific audience. I see them all the time. Of course, plenty of people buy their friends’ books, just because they are friends. I see them all giving each other 5-star reviews, too. I am laughing at April’s spot-on sarcasm. My takeaway from this post is to stop hanging around other authors so much, which is a lot of fun, and go find the audience for my book. Thanks for that reminder, April. By the way, we’re not supposed to beg favors and spam our target audiences, either. Softly sell.

  6. Dan Gollia September 16, 2012 at 11:37 am #

    April, I agree with your article. The book I am promoting NYPD Blood a true story of cops killing cops has a target audience and promoting non stop to other authors who themselves are trying to sell books is the wrong way to go. Kinda like two hotdog vendors trying to sell each other hot dogs. Sell to the public not each other. But for mutal respect its okay to like a facebook page or toss out a retweet.

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