DUMBEST MARKETING STRATEGIES By Alina Adams

Remember the episode of “Seinfeld” where George starts doing the opposite of what his instincts tell him to do and suddenly his life becomes wonderful?

 

That’s the approach I’ve decided to take when it comes to promotion.

 

Everyone tells you that the best way to promote your books is to submit them for reviews to influential gatekeepers, do bookstore appearances, go to conferences and network.

 

And that’s what I did for my fist few titles, romance novels published by AVON and DELL. I had good reviews. And average sales.manloveswomen

 

Then in, 2001, I wrote a book about Sarah Hughes, an American figure-skater who would be appearing at the 2002 Olympic Games. Sarah unexpectedly won those Games, and the book went into first a second, then a third printing. Without me, personally, having done anything to make it happen. (Thanks, Sarah!)

 

In 2006, I pitched and wrote a tie-in novel to the soap-opera, “As the World Turns,” in conjunction with its 50th Anniversary. “Oakdale Confidential” spent two weeks at #3 on the NYT best-seller list. Not because of reviews or bookstore appearances or conferences (or because it was considerably better than all of my other books), but because it was on a TV show.

 

This suggested to me that perhaps there was more to book promotion than what common wisdom would suggest.

 

In 2014, all five of my Figure Skating Mysteries that had previously been published by Berkley Prime Crime, “Murder on Ice,” “On Thin Ice,” “Axel of Evil,” “Death Drop” and “Skate Crime” were re-issued as a one volume edition of enhanced ebooks, featuring not just all the text of the paperback series, but also skating videos to compliment the story.

 

When it came to promotion, I could have gone the tried and true route. Or I could have tried something out of the box.

 

FSMysteryOmnibusCoverTo promote my books, I partnered with 2-time Olympic Men’s Champion Dick Button. I produced his live commentary of the Sochi Games figure skating events on Twitter and, during the TV commercials, I put up blurbs and links to my titles. That February, sales went up 300%.

 

Now, I am once again breaking a cardinal rule of publishing. Common wisdom says that authors should only send out their very best work. They should polish and edit and revise until their manuscript is the best it can possibly be.

 

Been there. Done that. Getting kind of bored with it.

 

This summer, I launched a potentially career-sinking project. I am writing my next book, a romantic family saga, completely live on the web at: www.AlinaAdams.com/live/. Readers can literally watch me type each word. They can then watch me erase it and search for a better word. They can virtually look over my shoulder as I move sentences around and, when I delete two chapters completely, they’ll know why. (It’s because I decided that if one character was a bore for me to write, he’d be even more boring to read.)

 

I have spent twenty years (my first book was accepted for publication in 1994), writing to please editors. Now I want to write to please readers.

 

Don’t like something I’m writing? Tell me! Maybe I’ll change it.  And if I won’t, I’ll at least tell you why.

 

Editors are only guessing at what they think readers might like. I’d rather hear from the readers directly.

 

Even if that means showing them my raw first draft, my inevitable typos and misspellings, and all the wrong story roads I’ll meander down before hitting upon the right one.AWRCover

 

I’m hoping they’ll enjoy being a part of the process. I’m hoping they might learn something they can apply to their own work. But, most of all, I’m hoping this’ll be a blast for all of us.

 

Just call it George Conztanza Marketing 101.

 

 

Alina Adams is the NYT best-selling author of soap-opera tie-ins, Regency and contemporary romance novels, and figure-skating murder mysteries. Come watch her potentially destroy her career by writing her next book live on-line, typos, mistakes, sex scenes and all, at: www.AlinaAdams.com (Would you rather learn from her mistakes, or your own?)

 

 

Catching the Eye: Visual Marketing in the World of Social Media by Lise McClendon

LiseMarketing through eye-catching visuals is nothing new. We live in an online world full of photos, videos, and color, and we feel compelled to share what we like with others on our social platforms. Whether you prefer Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, image is king. A great image that speaks to people will get shared and there goes your marketing, all by itself. But the hard sell, even a book cover, isn’t necessarily what people share. They may be glad to know your book is out, but they probably aren’t going to push it on their friends and connections for you.

 

So how do you figure out what to post for sharing and how to create it? What to share is the tricky part. One social media expert ranks these five types of images as best for social sharing: Quotes, How-to’s, Infographics, Checklists, and Quick Tips. This makes sense because rich content — info that really helps people do something, learn, or feel better — is what people are searching for online.

 

 

How does this help sell your book though? Quotes from reviews or even from your own book can be incorporated into the image. Be original. Find a reason for someone to like your book; make them laugh, cry, be intrigued, or gasp with delight.

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One great resource for creating images, whether tweaking photos or making designs from scratch, is PicMonkey. The basic service is free. Use your own photos or stock photos or a blank template, add text, and be sure to point people back to your website or blog for more information. They have templates for square, portrait, landscape, Facebook cover, and more. You can pay extra for fancier fonts and textures and really go to town.

 

I’ve been experimenting with the site for about six months now. The only downside to PicMonkey is that you have to save your image to your computer. Once you close the window, it’s gone. Once you’ve saved it and shut it down you can’t edit it any more. (I find it helpful to save a background sometimes, as I did with my new Facebook cover below. I went back to PhotoShop to add the book covers but the background was a snap with PicMonkey. Honest, it’s fun and easy. No design degree required. The checklist image above took me about five minutes to make.)

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Check out this great tutorial about PicMonkey and social media sites.

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Okay, great, so you’ve created some images. Maybe they are inspirational quotes from your favorite writers. Maybe they market your book with a photo of the setting. Or announce a sale like this one for PLAN X, or simply entice somebody to read more on your blog. Now what?

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Using whatever social media you are comfortable with, post, hashtag, and go. See what works and what doesn’t. If you can add Google Analytics to your website, you can see where clicks come from and what is working.

 

Paid advertising offers more risk but potentially a much wider audience outside your usual tribe. When advertising on Facebook you can add up to five images for a campaign and Facebook will initially send them all out to your targeted audience. Whichever one performs best, that is, gets liked, clicked, and shared the most, will then be sent out over the others. When I was advertising for my new novel this image turned out to be most successful, and I almost didn’t use it. (Dogs, what can I say?)

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A trick with Facebook ads is to not use the book cover itself as once again it seems too pushy. Try to be friendly and enticing, you want people to click, share, like. This small image was successful, I think, because it fit nicely on mobile devices. You could see the whole thing on your phone. More and more marketing is done on mobile, so make it smallish and mobile-friendly.

 

Social media change every day. Now you can promote your Pins on Pinterest, your tweets on Twitter. Decide what you do best and do it there. If it isn’t working you can always move on. There’s always another day to market your book. J Have fun.

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Lise McClendon is the author of eleven novels and a partner in Thalia Press. As a traditional author she published two mystery series with New York houses. Since 2009 she has published five novels through Thalia including this year’s The Girl in the Empty Dress. She also publishes thrillers as Rory Tate. Her website is LiseMcClendon.com.

Series Covers by Neil Plakcy

 

Neil Plakcy

Neil Plakcy

I am not an artist or a cover designer. But I am a reader, and for years, I’ve been using the information I decode from book covers to choose what to read.

The art and science of cover design are complex, and way too big a topic for a quick blog post. But I’ve found two things that help make different titles look like they are part of a series.

The first of those is a consistent font. For my M/M romance Mi Amor, the cover designer hired by my publisher, Loose Id, chose a font that looks like neon tubing.

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I liked it so much that I asked for the same font to be used in succeeding books with the same setting and similar themes.

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The feel of the covers is very different because of the images and the color palette, but I think the font links them. The curly neon font evokes a light-hearted romantic romp, along with the shirtless guys and the images that relate to the particular plot.

The most recent books in my “Have Body, Will Guard” series of M/M romances, also from Loose Id, also use the font to convey an impression as well as link the books. The sans-serif font on these covers is much more severe, however, and conveys that these books, while still sexy, have a more dangerous undercurrent. You still get the shirtless guys, but the letters are crunched together, giving an impression of strength and determination.

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For the covers I designed for my golden retriever mysteries, I picked a font called Vinnie Boombah, because I could use different colors for the interior of each letter and the outline around the letter.

 

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By using a white outline and black interior, the font really stands out against a photographic background. For Dog Bless You, I swapped the black and white so that my name and the tagline “a golden retriever mystery” would pop out better.

In all three series, I think that the consistent typeface helps readers recognize that the books are connected, and also conveys something about the book itself.

Another thing I believe helps a series achieve a consistent look is the use of a frame. When I rebooted the Mahu Investigations series with MLR, I had the opportunity to redesign a whole series, and my cover designer, Vicki Landis, came up with the idea of using a frame around different images. This would be a pretty simple cover to achieve in the future.

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Vicki designed the first cover, including the image of the gun and the footprints in the sand, and then I worked with my editor at MLR, Kris Jacen, to come up with images for the other books in the series.  The font is the same, as are the frame, the surfboard, the palm tree and the white plumeria.

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Once I stopped using the word “Mahu” in each title, I wanted to add a tagline that let readers further know that these books were in the same series, so we added “A Mahu Investigation” under the title. The font may change – from a serif font to a sans serif, and the tagline gets smaller on the second book, but the impression is the same.

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Neil Plakcy is the author of the Have Body, Will Guard adventure romance series:  Three Wrong Turns in the Desert, Dancing with the Tide, Teach Me Tonight, Olives for the Stranger, Under the Waterfall and The Noblest Vengeance, published by Loose Id.

 

His other M/M romances are Mi Amor, The Russian Boy, The Buchanan Letters and Love on Site, and the novella The Guardian Angel of South Beach.

 

He is an assistant professor of English at Broward College in South Florida, and has been a construction manager, a computer game producer, and a web developer – all experiences he uses in his fiction. He cannot sing and has only been a model once.

http://www.loose-id.com/authors/l-p/neil-plakcy.html

www.mahubooks.com

Marketing With Attitude (Practical Tips for Indie Authors) by Robert Walker

Rob and Pongo

Rob and Pongo

Marketing With Attitude

or

Practical Tips for Indie Authors

by Robert W. Walker, author of 56 Kindle titles, 33 audible.com titles

 

Trust me, Marketing Responsibly can be a barrel of fun, if one comes at it with the right attitude. It helps if you are, or have ever been, a closet Advertising Executive. It helps if you have a steady stream of creative and inventive ideas streaming through your skull or if ideas are being channeled through your fevered brain by the deceased creator of The Pillsbury Dough Boy or the Ajax Dutch girl.

You definitely want to approach selling of your book with a proper good emotional high that involves convincing yourself that it can be done, and then going about doing the job.

Indie authors are lucky today as never before. With the ease of a keystroke nowadays we can access our book on a site like Amazon.com/Kindle and place our book cover and description onto our Facebook wall or pin it to Pinterest or add it to our Twitter feed. This is tempting in and of itself, and historic in and of itself,  but don’t do it without flair.

How can one add flair to a post about one’s own book? First get into character—the one you conjured up to pitch your book; the one who wrote the book’s dynamic description. Own that character as the way to book sales. You wrote copy for your book when you did the book description. You put copy-writer hat on for that. Now it’s sales marketer hat.

It all begins with humor and insider information that only you have ready access to. Information about your book and a self-deprecating attitude toward your book. First off, do not be afraid to poke fun at your own title or your genre. People love an author who can make himself the butt of the joke.

In addition, everyone loves a clever SEGWAY and a good joke. Use humor. Especially self-deprecating humor. For example, I might call my Instinct serial killer series “palatable—raw yet crunchy and binding” followed by a hehehe or an LOL. Else post a line in the story that might get a laugh, or a bit of dialogue that might be humorous. I will also make jokes surrounding the genre. A specific example here:  Speaking of my title Werewolf’s Grief, I might easily joke thusly:  “And you thought only Charlie Brown experienced GRIEF. It’s not easy being hairy all over.” The fine line between humor and horror is as thin or as thick as blood. 50 Shades of Blood Read Orange. You get the picture. Utilize what is current, what is in the hopper. Read Orange not Red Orange. “Blood Red is the New Black.”

Another approach to getting a look-see at your opening pages via the peek inside the book on Amazon.com for Indie authors is to work with your platform or one of the issues raised in your book. If autism, for example, is a part of the storyline or child homelessness or the supernatural, or if said issue has a part in the list of characters, highlight and emphasize the issues close to your heart in your ads. These issues would not be in your book if not important to you, and if important to you, then they will be important to others.

Finally, the tried, the true, the clichéd are all wonderful boons to crafting clever commentary surrounding your gem of a book. A quick run through of a book of clichés could really help here, but I simply use print magazines. Pick up lines, I call them. “A book is a terrible thing to waste…”  or “Here is your book, here is your book on speed!”  Open any magazine and scan the advertisements for any and all products, be it cereal or soap or electronics. Clever advertisers utilize that which is familiar. Familiar comes from the collective unconsciousness ala family. Familiar is warm and cozy.

A familiar line such as “The Sky is Falling” actually fits in my Pure Instinct where the sky indeed is predicted to fall and it does. So I’ve utilized the phrase for that title. You see an ad for Campbell’s Soup that reads: “It warms you to the bone” but for my suspense novel it reads: “It WARNS you to the bone.” I often cite the “Surgeon General’s Warning” against reading my books while anywhere but below covers, and certainly to not listen to one of my audiobooks while driving.

A familiar turn of phrase or new twist on one is an immediate attention getter, and that is what all advertising is meant to do – get attention for your book.  So you find an ad in a magazine for a muscle car that reads – “Finally, a car with real muscle and torch.”  You rewrite it for your sales ad to:

Finally, a book with muscle, torch, and verve enough for the most jaded reader.” Almost any print ad can be helpful in posting thusly. I suspect you can find between 5 to 10 ads in a single magazine that you can apply to your book. With magic marker, mark out the word CAR and replace it with Book or your title or Novel.

Without a dime out of pocket, these three steps have helped sell many of my books. Set your timer. Go on social media for a set time, visit your book on Amazon, keystroke the link for other venues and ADD your AD. Remember keep a positive and humorous attitude. People respond to confident and positive and humorous and clever approaches to selling any product. Why not the same with a book?

 

~~~

UnnaturalACX Bio: Robert W. Walker is a graduate of Chicago’s Wells High School, Northwestern University, and the NU’s Graduate Masters in English Education program.  Rob has taught writing TitanticCover2[1]in all its permutations (“All writing is creative writing but not all writing sings,” he says.) from composition and developmental to a study of the literary masters to creative and advanced creative writing.  His first novel was one only an arrogant youth could have conceived — a sequel to Huckleberry Finn (now published as Daniel & The Wrongway Railway, Royal Fireworks Press, NY), but his first suspense-techno-thriller-sf-mystery came in 1979, after college, a novel that won no awards entitled SUB-ZERO.

 

Why You Promote With a Long Tail by C. Hope Clark

2014-06-1316.56.56            A common reason authors use for not going with New York is how these publishers throw a book out in hopes fans will break down doors and stand in lines to buy the title. If such activity hasn’t happened in, say, two months, the title is forgotten as New York moves on to the next. They operate via a long-tail marketing approach that emphasizes big sales up front then a residual decline over time. It looks like this:

 

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Picture by Hay Kranen / PD

 

As a new novelist of a new release for a new series, I entered the publishing world afraid if I did not perform, my publisher would drop me like a hot coal. So I toured the country, hitting 26 events in nine states in nine months. Luckily I sold enough books to receive another contract. Rinse and repeat.

As I contacted the office yet again to insure books would arrive where I’d be, my publisher asked what the heck I was doing. Heart in my throat, I point blank confessed I fought to remain keep-able. As I almost cried in relief, I learned that most publishers these days, especially since smaller presses have gained such power and reach, prefer a long-tail approach to marketing their authors. I was familiar with the above method, but my publisher soon explained to me that this is the long-tail they prefer.

 

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Picture by Hay Kranen / PD

 

I could deal with this. As a matter of fact, I was more than familiar with this concept via my freelance brand FundsforWriters. As a freelancer, I’d entered the writing world with the goal to increase my image and notoriety over a period of time, one step at a time on a daily basis until people remembered who I was and told somebody else about me. In FundsforWriters’ 15 years of existence, my readership grew from a dozen to over forty thousand with that mindset, garnering ten thousand in five years. Writer’s Digest chose the site for its 101 Best Websites for Writers 14 times. Why couldn’t this day-to-day ritual work for my fiction?

I’d made a novice’s mistake thinking that mid- and small-sized presses functioned much the same as New York. Turns out they understand there’s more money to be made in continually putting an author out there one book at a time, one right after the other, until the name recognition catches on.

Word-of-mouth is a simple long-tail example. Blogging is another. Frankly, anything you can do promo-wise in this profession aids your long-tail advancement. So why do so many authors fail at becoming known and selling books?

 

They do not promote daily.

 

Why don’t writers keep their noses to the grindstone when it comes to promotion? Through conversations with my peers, I’ve learned the thoughts are:

  1. A big event (i.e., conference, signing, blog tour) goes a long way and warrants a reprieve.
  2. A couple of hard promo months allows time to coast.
  3. A peak in success means those fans are solid.
  4. If a reader buys one book, he’ll always buy the others.
  5. Hard promo should create immediate success or it’s not worth the trouble.
  6. Having been famous means you remain famous.

 

Promotion takes consistent drive to work and take you up that graph. Those who stop promoting, or do so only after a new book, or perform hit and miss efforts every few weeks, never gain serious ground. The gaps kill the momentum.

HopeOKsigning3Authors never reach a point they don’t have to market. Too many others never stop. The authors making daily splashes, over time, becomes the authors that pop up in a search or find themselves on a recommended reading list.

In my first mystery series, I struggled sliding my foot in the door of bookstores and libraries because I was a novice fiction writer. However, I continued on as if I had a strong HopeEdistoBookstoreSignanchor in this profession. I spoke in front of groups as small as two and blogged on many a site with no resulting comments. I spoke on radio shows where nobody called in. I ate lunch with potential readers, media people, librarians, and other authors every chance I could.  I handed out postcards and hung six foot banners where I appeared. I did not see immediate results from any of these efforts, but I kept telling myself that one day I might.

Today I can’t count the numerous situations where something I did, someplace I appeared, or someone I spoke to led me to a bigger opportunity from a meeting that occurred, weeks, months, even years earlier. A radio show led to a book club invitation which resulted in two banquet keynote addresses. A panel appearance led to a reporter taking my picture which triggered a women’s club asking me to be their keynote for a major event. An obscure book reviewer in an online magazine asked for a review copy, showed the review to a film agent who fell in love with the books and signed to represent them. A reporter saw me at a local country festival and asked for a feature interview in the newspaper. The same event landed Palmetto Poison as a book club selection of the month. A twitter announcement landed me another television interview. Never underestimate a connection, and never forget to put yourself out there somewhere on a daily basis.

To keep readers, feed them. Sure you wrote a great book five years ago, but what have you written lately? The long-tail approach works only if you keep pushing it forward, which means not only the daily promo but also producing new material to maintain your fans. You have to feed these hungry people. Otherwise they’ll starve and hate you for it, or find other source of food.

The point is, no matter how small the venue or effort, put yourself out there each and every day. No matter how big you once were or how hard you worked on one book, continue to produce works. This is a path that never ends, but the rewards of putting one foot in front of the other are joyous, rewarding, and satisfying beyond belief. Because you can’t see success on the horizon doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

 

BIO – Hope Clark is author of two mystery series published by Bell Bridge Books, The Carolina Slade Mysteries and the newest Edisto Island Mysteries. The first release in the new series is Murder on Edisto due out in September 2014. Hope is also editor of FundsforWriters.com, renowned throughout the industry for its resource information for writers, from crowdfunding to grants, contests to freelance markets, agents to publishers. She is frequently asked to appear at conferences and events, but lives on the banks of Lake Murray or visits Edisto Beach, both in beautiful South Carolina. www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com

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HOW TO: Throw a Successful Facebook Book Launch (even when you have the flu)

HOW TO:

 

Throw a Successful Facebook Book Launch (even when you have the flu.)

 

By

 

Pamela DuMond

 Dumond

 

I’m an Indie author and I don’t plan these events months in advance. I also do not schedule a book launch event for 12 hours or two days. The reason? Every time I receive one of these sorts of invites—I cringe.

 

‘But, Pamela,” you say. ‘There are 20 authors supporting this book launch and we all get to take an hour and explain how our books are important, the lead author’s new book is super important and then we field questions about our books etc. Why would you not want to click the ‘Yes-I’m-attending Button’ and support our auspicious event?”

 

Because a 12 to 24 hour book launch sounds… DAUNTING. I have a life. My readers have a life. Then guilt creeps in and I wonder if I should hit the ‘Maybe’ button, which basically translates to  ‘No— but I don’t want to hurt your feelings.’  Ack!

 

So, instead I pick a date and block out two to three hours and create a Facebook Event Page. I named it something festive like a — Cocktail Party.

 

I write a fun description based on my book.

 

Part-time Princess: Hold tight to your tiara! Stop by and have some fun with other readers, writers, artists, musicians and wacky folks. There’s plenty of royal bling to be given away. Enter a photo of Who-Looks-Best in the Tiara Contest (You can enter ahead of time.) Issue your Royal edict. Virtual snackies, cocktails, champagne will be served.

 

I invited people on my regular FB page when suddenly Facebook schooled me. I discovered that as of August, 2014, FB has capped the number of folks you can invite. So DON’T invite everyone. Only those you think might actually be interested.

 

I ask my author friends to participate and post links and descriptions of their new books. The more the merrier. It’s a ‘cocktail party.’ It’s not a mandatory college lecture. I start posting links and comments, images, etc. to my Event Page ahead of time. I included my book’s description and a link to my book on Amazon.

 

Consider the ‘THEME’ of your book and fashion a party around that. Part-time Princess has a ‘royal’ theme so I wrote up a couple of royal quizzes for folks to answer via multiple choice. These included questions about the movie The Princess Bride, notorious female royals in history and even trivia about Princess Grace of Monaco. I bought inexpensive princessy bling to award the winners of the various contests.

 

Michael James Canales of http://www.mjcimageworks.com created a Part-time Princess Royal name Generator for me.

 

Crossing the SPAM line

PJ Nunn

PJ Nunn

I read yet another announcement on Facebook this morning that said, essentially, I don’t care if your book is an Amazon bestseller, or if it’s been selected for reading by some book group I may or may not have ever known, if you keep posting advertising in this group I will NEVER read your book and I suspect I’m not alone in feeling like this.

We’ve all seen similar posts and maybe have posted similar posts. I hadn’t had coffee yet, but it set my mind whirling. Most marketing experts tell authors to be more active in social media, to tweet their hearts out and make sure they’re posting regularly. And honestly, what is advertising but putting your product information out in venues where it’s likely to be seen by potential buyers?

If I subscribe to a cooking magazine and sit down to read it when it arrives, I shouldn’t be surprised to find advertising in it that is somehow related to food. It’s expected, actually. I may not know the company that’s doing the advertising. In fact, I probably will come across quite a few products that I never knew anything about until I saw it there. I think that’s the point. Whether I like it or not, or will buy it or not, that’s a different story.

If you ask some people what crosses the line from discussing or introducing a book to spamville, the consensus is often whether the poster is known to the group in which he or she is posting. At first thought, that seems logical to most and heads will nod. But can you give me a comparison from general marketing guidelines? Where are the rules?

If you’re talking about groups to join on Facebook or LinkedIn or wherever, maybe that could be compared to those rare occasions when you get to watch a television movie with “no commercial interruptions”. I’m not saying spam is ok. I can get annoyed as anyone when that typical BUY MY BOOK tweet interrupts my feed for the umpteenth time and, no, I probably will not go buy the book.

Society is bereft of the manners with which I was raised oh so long ago, so I shouldn’t be surprised when some trample over any semblance of etiquette in social media situations. But I admit as a publicist I do feel a twinge of regret that this person wants very badly to see his or her book succeed and it’s too bad that he or she is going about it in the wrong way. I’d like to think that if we ranted less and offered well placed advice more, there might slowly be change. But then few take unsolicited advice to heart and I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to stick their necks out. Pearls before swine, as it were.

What are your thoughts? When does ill-advised attempts at advertising cross the line to spam?

Off to find that missing coffee…