Thursday, February 18, 2010

Book Marketeering Do's and Don'ts: A Primer

Do slyly pull your book off the bookstore shelf and prop it up prominently with its cover facing out. This is OK because it is still kind of cute, and besides, freaking everybody else is doing it.

Do not make up a dozen fake usernames on Amazon and other book-reviewing websites and post eerily similar glowing reviews of your book à la "Elsinore Periwinkle takes on the subject of alcoholism among upper-class toddlers with astounding vigor and mind-blowing insight. Elsinore Periwinkle has written the greatest book since ever." If you are ever found out, you will be shamed so mercilessly that the prick of ten thousand daggers would feel therapeutic in comparison.

Do encourage your readers to write an *honest* review of your book on Amazon or other sites. Having a decent number of reviews, even if some of them are ambivalent, makes your book look interesting and talked-about, as opposed to obscure or not worth reviewing.

Do not allow your well-meaning mother or BFF to create a dozen fake accounts on Amazon and various key message boards and post glowing reviews of your book, thinking it will help you. This is called "astroturfing" (ten points to the first person who can tell INTERN why) and while it can seem like a brilliant idea (especially to a mother or BFF who is unfamiliar with internet etiquette) it will destroy your credibility more savagely than the wrath of ten thousand polecats.

Do try your hand at writing a press release and/or press kit for your book, even if your publicist is taking care of those things. Having a book published is a great excuse to learn how to write killer sales copy, which could come in handy some day if you ever want to do freelance stuff.

Do not try your hand at any brilliant and ingenious publicity stunts without telling your publisher. The best time for them to hear you're going drunken sky-diving with a pair of alcoholic toddlers is *before* you step into that plane, not when it's front-page news and you're in jail.

Do go for the things that will give you the most bang for your buck. Two hours spent making an incredible author website are worth twelve hours spent painstakingly crafting and pitching an article that will appear in an obscure journal and be read by no one.

Do not try to promote your book in Mongolia. Mongolia doesn't like you, and is probably laughing at you right now.


  1. This is called "astroturfing" (ten points to the first person who can tell INTERN why)

    It's like grassroots activism, only FAKE.

    Ten points?

  2. "Astro-turfing" as opposed to an authentic "grass-roots" sort of thing.

    ETA: Crap, blogger saves me from some shame by temporarily refusing to publish my comment.

  3. Mongolia told me it likes me and is laughing at YOU! If I ever learn the language I'll promote there is I please.

  4. You might want to master your english first. ;)

  5. We would like to point out that the prick of ten thousand daggers is called acupuncture and is therapeutic. It's even quite popular in literary circles.

  6. The wrath of ten thousand polecats? That's a scary thought!

  7. Gah. Lauren O. beat me to the punch!

  8. But what happens if ten thousand polecats get ahold of ten thousand daggers? WHAT THEN?

  9. Haha. Commenting for the first time to say I <3 your blog and you're hilarious!

    But the sad thing is, I've come across some very fishy books on Amazon where I'm 99% sure the bulk of the reviews have been falsified.

  10. My well-meaning friends (without my knowledge and/or permission, because obviously I fear the wrath of Amazon readers and/or polecats) decided to post glowing reviews of my board books posing as "busy mothers of three" . . . a month before the books were released.

    I'm sending them this post.

    - the ART ASSISTANT (formerly the ART INTERN)

    P.S. Love the blog! Especially everything regarding the slush pile... you should see some of the illustration samples that come in.

  11. My mother won't be posting anything about my books online, since she's gone to the great slush pile in the sky.

    My BFF has no interest in my books, since I write YA romance and he's a 40-year-old man with too much testosterone. (That would be my hubby.) He only reads books that have to do with guns and bullets. Oh yeah, and Red Green's bio. He loved that.

    Maybe I should put these facts in the "about the author" part of my query letters...

    Then again, maybe not.

  12. Not even if I'm going to Mongolia this summer? Darn, I thought I'd get something more than adventure and self-fulfilment out of it... :P

  13. A good page on astroturfing can be found here, including examples and a link to astroturfing's natural inhabitants, Sock Puppets.

    And yes, fake reviews at Amazon should be poxed with pestilent polecats.

    walkinginpublic - it must be good to have such support, but yeah, the timing could've been better. It might make you feel better to know the same thing happened to China a couple years ago.

  14. Great post as always!

    But I want to know more about Elsinore Periwinkle. Shameless self promoter, questionably talented writer. I think she has a story waiting to be told.

  15. Astroturfing=covering a lot of ground on the cheap? looks pretty (theoretically) but is fake?

  16. Taught Mongolia in class today. Japanese kids think the English name is funny. As if Mongoru is any better!

    Do's and do not's duly noted!

    The Blogger Formerly Known as Linguista.

  17. Turfing; 1. farming tediously innane or impossible tasks out to gullible, naive, or subordinate others: to DELEGATE. 2. to cover with sod. Astroturfing; artificial grass--sod--laid on sports arenas' grounds. Turfing the Astrodome.

    I'm a bit of an afficionado of astroturfing, not for promotional purposes, but reading for savoring the insipid comments made by zealous fans of authors and the authors themselves. A good way to learn how not to promote, read fan and vanity reviews. Bonus!

    Another form of astroturfing not to do is self-composed vanity bios for wiki's like Wikipedia entries. Balanced bios are a hallmark of discerning digital citizenship, and admirable.

    Publicity, promotion, advertising, marketing, the four corners of getting the word out. But in the final analysis, success all comes down to word-of-mouth watercooler buzz. Knowing the diffference between empty praise, shallow flattery, and substantive commentary is as much an art as writing reviews, pitches, and queries.

  18. You left off:

    Do not create a sock puppet on Amazon and defend you "favorite" author when a one or two star review goes up. This will only lead to days worth of ridicule and fun while you insult your core audience and people park themselves on the page hitting "refresh" every twenty seconds.

    Do not blame the fact that your book sucks on your editor who "never" helped you. Several someones will call your publisher to let them know you said this.

    Do not "reveal" yourself thirteen pages after everyone figured out you were a sock as though it's a surprise and you've caught them all. Especially do not do this in order to inform them you've contacted the FBI because their meanness to you violates cyber-crime laws. They will laugh at you and so will the FBI.

    When well known and highly talented authors find out about this and point their followers on Twitter to your meltdown, don't say bad things about them.

    If you write under more than one name - and people LIKE the stuff written by the other one - don'ttell people "yeah, well I'm _____". This will make them vow to never read _____, again either.

    When you go back to delete the evidence, you can rest assured that there's a screencap archive dedicated to your meltdown.

    That bbq smell you're picking up is the remains of your writing career.

    And Mongolia may hate me, but I'm a hit on Tralfamadore. My book was a best-seller there before it was even written, and they caught all my plot holes so I could fill them beforehand.

  19. The real trick is finding a pair of alcoholic toddlers. Little bastards are all teetotalers nowadays.

  20. I have a pair of alcoholic toddlers if anyone wants to 'borrow' them in exchange for bigging up my book on Amazon? They're cheap to keep, too, cos they run on supermarket band gin.

    PS Astroturfing - love it :)

  21. Do write. Do not write. Does anyone really give shit? Yes, someone does. And that is why you must write. Because someone gives a shit. And that someone is you. And that someone is me. We give a shit. And in that moment, when the 'me' becomes a 'we', there is a spark of light, and if we are extremely lucky, the spark between us lights a fire, and the fire casts a light, and the light leads us home.

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