Monday, September 25, 2006

How Far is Too Far?

So as you all know, lately I've been thinking a lot about promotion. Where to place ads, get interviews, do chats. What gives the most bang for the buck? What gives the best impression?

I worry a lot about what kind of impression I'm giving. I worry about readers seeing my name somewhere and thinking, "Oh God, not HER again, why won't she shut up?"

There's a feeling, I think, especially in the ebook and romance communities, that anything we do to promo ourselves is a good thing. And to some extent I buy into that, although I have over the last few years seen some techniques that obviously backfire--spam, either through emails or IMs or whatever. The recent brouhaha over spamming an editor's blog made me wonder if some enterprising writer out there hasn't had the idea already of going to random lj/Blogger/WordPress/Typepad/Vox/whatever accounts and posting comments about their books.

Of course, we've also had the "sockpuppet" discussions over at Miss Snark, coupled with some of the latest controversy about how responsible authors are for what happens in their online forums (my answer: pretty responsible, but I don't know the whole story, only one side of it, so can't say whether the author in question should be censured as she is being for it. At least some of the story is up over at Smart Bitches.)

But after my chat at FAR on Saturday (which was a lot of fun) I started wandering around cyberspace. I had a terrible cold--I'm still not feeling great--and couldn't sleep, so I was downstairs on the computer for hours, just looking at websites (authors and readers) and blogs, etc.

Something left...a bad taste in my mouth. I'm not sure if this is really something that would bother anyone else, or what, so I'm very interested to know what you think.

Author does a guest blog on a medium-popularity group blog (of which there are hundreds, and no I won't tell you who or which blog). Author's blog entry is in essence a little short story--very short, like 500 words or so. Author lets it be known far and wide that she has blogged.

Now let's be honest here for a second before I egt to the meat of it. We all blog as part of promotion. Yes, I have made some wonderful friends here, and that makes me happy. I would keep blogging even if I didn't have work to promote. But I do have stuff to promote, and my website and blog are part of that. So I do know that authors blog to garner readers. We blog to get attention (mainly because it's a way to get attenton without having to actually put some decent clothes on and meet people).

So I found the entry hours after it was posted, and there was an outstanding number of replies to said blog entry. I mean, really a stupid amount. How on earth did she get so many replies to such a short little entry? (I should mention here I'm not a fan of the story blog entry anyway. I read blogs to find out about what my favorite authors and friends think and do. I feel cheated when all I get is little fiction clips--which isn't to say I don't enjoy them once in a while, I'm talking about blogs devoted to stories.) Anyway.

I start reading the comments. And my interest quickly turns to...something else.

In essence, it looks to me like the friends of the blogging author showed up and started posting interview questions in the comments. The first ten comments were solidly other writers asking things like, "Wow, how did it feel to get such a great review at X site?" or "When is your next book coming out?"

A few readers (as far as I could tell) posted. One asked a question. Shortly after, more friends turned up to ask even more. The comments thread turned into one long interview conducted solely by buddies of the original author--making it look like there were hundreds of rabid fans out there. The blog post itself is not discussed at all.

Am I wrong in being bothered by this? In feeling this is somehow...I don't know..against the rules? A little tacky? Or am I being an idiot, and this is the way things are done these days?

I suppose in a way it's no different from me asking any of you guys to come over to FAR for my chat (thanks Jenn!) or to go read the latest installment of my short story at Indulge. I guess in a way it's no different from any other kinds of promo.

But I can't help feeling that something is different about it, and I just can't figure out what it is.

Any suggestions? What do you think of this type of promo? Have you ever come across something you found questionable, but weren't sure if it really was or not?


Erik Ivan James said...

I believe that we all use our blogs for our individual purposes. Certainly some of us use them for promotional purposes, while others use them as learning/information tools. Some, just to chat.

I use mine for the writing practice in a "public" forum. It is a method for me to stay serious about my writing and to experiment with different material. For the past several weeks,for example,I have been focused on alternating between sexual themes and mild violence themes. Because, I find both of those to be difficult for me to write and I want to improve my skills on those subjects.

Conseqently, what you will see from me, for the most part, is short fiction and very little, if any of, discussion topic material. Every now and then I'll throw in a little story about my dog, just for fun.

On the other hand, I do then travel to other blogs, such as yours and Bernita's, to name only two, for writing related education.

Sorry about the ramble.

Anonymous said...

I agree with eij in that each person can use their blog the way they want too. When someone does what you described -having friends join and make it look big- I don't have a problem with that, but the author should understand he may lose some folks like us that think it is misleading or tacky.

I think there are ways to use this to ones advantage, though. Suppose you self-publish and then promote and sell the book yourself. What's wrong with having a dozen or so friends go into the local B&N or Hastings at different intervals and ask for your book. You may even have one of them ask for the manager and feign disbelief that they do not stock December's Masterpiece. The store may actually end up ordering some of your books. If not, oh well, you tried. To me that's not misleading in the sense that the blog thing is. It's just being a schrewd business person, I think.

By the way. I do tell everyone I know that reads romance and erotica about you and the websites you mention. Hopefully some of them are buying your and some of your fellow future best-selling author's books.

Anyway. This is too long -sorry. -JTC

S. W. Vaughn said...

Drat! I missed your chat, December! E-mail me when you do another one, if you think of it, so I don't have to rely on my scattered brain to find it here... :-)

About this kind of fan-fueled quasi-interest on blogs: I do find it irksome when people try to hijack blogs that aren't theirs, especially when it seems purposeful. Or when sheer stupidity is involved, followed by a pointed lack of apology and an "I'm just getting what I deserve for being so fantabulous" attitude.

Unfortunately it's hard to tell when this is the case.

What really gets under my skin is when bloggers who never had any intention of writing a book get approached by agents or editors and offered a contract on the spot, which reflects poorly on the rest of us, who have been actually trying to write books and getting nowhere -- yet agents and editors tell us to keep following the rules and going by the book, because it's the "only way to get in." Seems a bit hypocritical.

Oh my, I think I've wandered off topic... Heeeere, topic, come baaaaack...

Bernita said...

It's probably the fakery, the contrived response, that bothers you, December.
It would me.

December Quinn said...

Ugh! Blogger stole my reply!

Don't apologize for leaving long comments, Erik! Not ever ever. The more there is to read, the better. (Although I have just realized it's been ages since I've been to your blog. I'm sorry, and highly ashamed of myself.)

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought it was a little tacky, JTC. You're right, they do have the right to do whatever they like, but it turned me off. As far as the bookstore thing, it is a good idea, but unfortunately a bunch of PA authors tried that one a year or two ago and the bookstore managers are now hip to it. :-(

December Quinn said...

Ugh! I feel your pain, SW, I totally do. Bloggers don't bother me as much as shitty actresses who can barely sign their names let alone write a book, but it does still bug me too.

And yes, blog hijacking is bad. I'm also soooo hyper-aware of it when I post on other blogs.

YAAY! Bernita's back! Yes, it felt really fake. I just found myself wondering if anyone bought it, you know?

Anonymous said...

Athletes get those deals, too. I laughed my ass off when one of them was being interviewed and said he was misquoted in his own book. What really made it funny is that the book is an autobiography!

As far as Eva goes, I'm sure she'll have a ghost writer at least (if you know what I mean). But, all she has to do is make it a photo book and it's an instant best-seller. -JTC

Robyn said...

There's a blog I read that is regularly sabotaged by an author. In the guise of a comment, she'll say something like, "Oh, that's terrible/funny/whatever ajective fits. Of course we don't do things that way at MY publisher (complete with link.) In fact, my new book (title and link to website) is about this and that and is coming out in Jan 2007." Talk about blatant self-promotion!

Emma Sinclair said...

Your post kind of reminds me of the Post at Romancing the Blog today - 9/26.

I think it's very obvious when people are doing promo because it's something they enjoy or because it's promo for promo's sake. (The word promo has lost all meaning to me right now).

I don't like promoting myself, it's just not something i fell natural doing, so the things I do are things that I enjoy. For instance, I'd blog even if no one read it (although I'd probably get a bit nastier). Chats are fun because they're interactive.

I do Yahoo group chats but I don't think I come off at my best so I don't do them often.

But some people don't have those limits and do whatever they can to just get themselves out there.

I think as long as it feels natural, there can be no bad promo!

December Quinn said...

That is funny, JTC. Of course Eva will have a ghost. It still irks me, maybe because it's my genre she's working in. Grrr.

That would irritate the *** out of me, Robyn. Knowing me, I'd probably say something one day. Of course now I'm dying to know what blog it is. :-)

December Quinn said...

How funny, Emma! I hadn't checked RTB yet. It does fit in, doesn't it--although the idea that blogging doesn't help scared me. I love blogging!

True, I guess if it's fun for you it's good promo no mstter what. :-) That's a good way to look at it.

Isabella Snow said...

Hmm.. I'm about to start promoting my first book. I'm so clueless. I know how to promote in my other job.. no clue about this.

I will try not to f*ck up, so's I dont wind up on December's blog! ;))


December Quinn said...

Lol that's right, Isabella, I'm the promo police!

What do you have lined up so far? I'm no expert, but if you want to email me I'm glad to tell you what I know and have picked up from others who know more than me!

Anonymous said...

Lesson number one, isabella:
Say what you mean! If you want to say fuck, say fuck, not f*ck. :~)

Isabella Snow said...

December - Ok, I'm so taking you up on that. I don't have anything lined up yet, my editor is the review coordinator for my publisher, so she's sending the book out for reviews.

She told me to join my author's loop and ask for advice on what else to do.. but I'm so bad at that.

JTC - I *always* say what I mean. ;)

December Quinn said...

I'm emailing in a couple of minutes, Isabella!

Faith said...

You just encountered a cyber clique. Such circles are everywhere on the net. Some would beg to differ and call them fanbases, but I don't see it that way.

Thanks for commenting today.

December Quinn said...

Cyber clique! I love it! That's exactly what it was. I agree--it isn't a fan base at all. When I have visions of Author A assigning questions to Author B to ask in the blog comments, it's not a fanbase.

You're welcome! I do try to check your blog every week or so. :-)

Jenn on the Island said...

I have started to wonder recently if the only people buying ebooks are other authors. A good portion of my wonderings does come from the fact that on chats, message boards, and blogs I recognise most of the names and handles as belonging to authors.

Of the 38 Yahoo groups I belong to and read regularly I think there are about 5 or 6 names I know for sure are readers. There are more than 20 I recognise as writers.

I admit I have shown up on my CP's chats, blog and message board and asked leading questions; I've done it solely for the purpose of promoting. I also know I was the only one there for that reason.

I do know the taste you're talking about, December. It's the taste of industry nepotism (epubs owned by writers who release their own books, and books by all of their editors are vanity presses IMHO), and it gives epublishing a really bad name.

December Quinn said...

I hear you, Jenn. I've wondered that myself sometimes.

The thing is, I do things to help my CP with promo, too. I think what I saw was, as Faith so aptly called it, a cyber clique. I've gone to chats for friends of mine, to say hi and show support, maybe to ask a question I know they'd love to answer. But this felt so...planned. Maybe it was the way it was worded, or the number of people participating--at least four other authors who showed up practically before the blog post had saved. It wasn't like going to a chat in the last hour and if nobody has asked your friend about her new release you ask, you know?

December Quinn said...

Why are my comments not showing up?