Friday, April 17, 2015


Even Bones gets in on the Twitter/selfie action

After Sharon’s revolutionary post last week in which she vowed to opt out of the social media book promotion rat race, it seems the topic of book promo—how to, how much, if and when and whether—has captured everyone’s attention.

Including network television’s. I howled at an episode of Fox Network’s BONES this week in which forensic anthropologist/ mystery novelist Temperance “Bones” Brennan (Emily Deschanel) is forced by her publisher to join Twitter to connect with her readers. Of course, the socially awkward Bones is initially a complete failure at social media, tweeting links to articles about the family hierarchies of obscure native tribes. But at partner Seeley Booth’s (David Boreanaz) suggestion, Bones asks her young intern for advice, and is soon tweeting selfies with her arm around the shoulders of the lab skeleton. She goes from 10 followers to 3000 in the course of days, and, you guessed it, begins to ignore everything and everyone around her. Finally, fellow “squint” Angela (Michaela Conlin) pulls the intern aside and lets her know she’s creating a monster. Time to back off. At the end of the episode, things don’t exactly go back to the way they were, but Bones has found some kind of balance.

I don’t tweet. I had to make a choice a few years back of which of the many evils I would consider the lesser and went with Facebook. Zuckerburg’s baby had other advantages for me besides just as a promotional platform, and I figured I could control how much time I spent interacting with FB better than with Twitter, which is in your face all the time. Of course, now the evil Facebook gnomes with their indecipherable algorithms try to limit my “reach” to the people who have legitimately Liked my Page in hopes of hearing from me.  But Ha! I have discovered a way around that, at least for now. (I won’t tell you here. They may be watching. Email me. Or better yet, meet me in a public place in broad daylight where they won’t dare do anything to us.)

The problem with either of these platforms and with blogs like this one, too, really, is that we too often preach to the choir. We have our writers’ groups and special interest/fan groups and, yes, writers and fans read, but they too often have their own books or projects to sell. So we end up in this infernal loop selling to each other. I could spend the next two years doing nothing but just reading the books of people I’ve met in these groups. Maybe that would be good and maybe not, but it certainly wouldn’t be productive for me as a writer. This post by Delilah Dawson stirred some strong reactions when Spacefreighters co-blogger Greta van der Rol shared it on Facebook recently: Please Shut Up: Why Self-Promotion as an Author Doesn’t Work. But I have to say I can relate to a few of the things Delilah said.

I can’t get over the feeling that I should be moving beyond the writers’ communities to actually reach readers. There I have to admit my own market behavior as a reader is no help whatsoever. I’m a complete dinosaur when it comes to finding new reading material. I rely on word-of-mouth, the bookstore shelves, my favorite authors’ new stuff and, believe it or not, newspaper reviews. Yeah. Ancient.

But RWA® surveys have shown that word-of-mouth is still the Number One method by which readers find books. How that works is a complete mystery. Reviews are an important source, too, on Amazon, Goodreads, RT magazine and elsewhere. So even though it is risky to put your book out for review, it is a necessary means of gaining an audience. (Some people will even say a bad review is good, since there’s no such thing as bad publicity. I find that one hard to swallow, though.)

Your “presence” on Amazon or other online retailers is the equivalent of the bookstore shelf, so it pays to polish that presentation. A recent article in Romance Writers Report®, the official magazine of RWA® (“Managing Metadata: Mastering Mountains of Minutiae”) recommends playing up the book description as much as possible. I just added a “lead line” (a one-liner tagging the book) and endorsement quote to my naked blurb on Amazon in hopes of snagging more readers.

Finally, I may be wrong about this, but I doubt there is any substitute for physical interaction with the reading public. I can’t believe I’m saying this, because I’m an introvert and “public speaking” used to be the bane of my existence, but I’m looking forward to getting out there and buttonholing a few folks about my book.

This summer holds a couple of huge reader events for me—the RT Booksellers Convention in Dallas in May and the Shore Leave STAR TREK con in Towson, Maryland in August. I’ll tell you more about those as we get closer to the dates. In the meantime I’ll be warming up with some smaller events closer to home. Saturdays in May and June I’ll be signing Unchained Memory at my local library branches. Selling books at a library, where people can check out the book for free, may be a hard job. But I’m planning to have bookmarks—and candy! And you never know who you might meet if you put yourself out there.

Guess that’s the point of all this promotion in the first place, isn’t it?

Cheers, Donna


  1. I have to agree with you. I have a presence on Twitter which I have linked to Facebook, which is where I spend most of my social media time. I've given up on the Facebook author page thing, having come to the conclusion they're a waste of time. And I deleted my LinkedIn account. I also do not play on Goodreads.

    In fact, most of my interaction with people is via my photographs, which I post regularly on FB/Twitter, but of course they're not about my writing. I've never attended a convention (distance) but perhaps I should.

    Best of luck with your library book signings. I'll be interested to know how that goes.

  2. Physical interaction is something I cannot do (the rarity and costs of going to conventions, the impossibility of an unknown author getting signings etc). I adore Twitter and essentially chat there - I do not use it as an advertising/sales venue though I have sold the odd book there. I love Goodreads bit don't really interact - I have an author presence, keep an eye on my reviews but I'm mostly there as a reader sharing my thoughts on the books I love (no negative reviews because I don't want to waste time on them). I've kept my FB page despite the algorhythms, but only because I can schedule posts which then feed to Twitter. And yes, bad reviews *can* help. I got a 2* one because someone didn't like my beta hero, but that is exactly the kind of comment that would have me consider the book because I love beta heroes.

  3. Well, that's the interesting thing about this promo stuff. You can choose whatever suits you and see how it comes out. I am starting to see some results with the FB page and Goodreads in terms of questions from readers that indicate they're looking forward to the next book, etc. And since my little system is working on FB, I'll stick with it for a while. I was pleasantly surprised at the warm reception from the library folks and Shore Leave, but we'll see if it results in any real sales. Sometimes you just have to stir the pot and wait, I think.

    1. The digital specialist at my agency recommended hanging onto some kind of FB presence for the very reason you mention -- some readers will look for you there and try to reach you through messaging. So I do still have my account and post when something post-worthy comes up. I just don't agonize over it. The posts that get the most attention typically have nothing to do with my books, though.

      You mention feeling like a dinosaur for finding books in more traditional ways, but honestly I think that's how most readers choose books. They might hear about it through Facebook because a friend says it's great, but it's still word of mouth. Even libraries post lists of new genre books on the Internet -- my own books pop up in these lists periodically. There are new channels, but as you say, word of mouth and personal connection with the author are still key.


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