Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Idiots in the email (part N +1)

AUTHOR here,
Sorry for the impersonal email but, I just copied and pasted all my 'contacts.' The purpose of the email is to announce that my first novel has just been published!! It's an e-book for now, the publisher says the paperback will be on the shelves sometime in October. You can find it right now on Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com or even as an iBook. Just put my name or the title (TITLE) and it'll pop right up.
And, if you do read it and think it's good, please consider writing a review and then, tell ALL YOUR contacts!
Well, no.

Instead I'm going to block you on my gmail account and post a rant about ineffective promotion.

This is textbook ineffective.
For starters, I have no clue who you are.
I assume I get these from people who've queried me, and my name got added to their address book. A lot of email programs do that (add to your address book) automatically.  It's something you want to be aware of.

Except a Savvy Author knows that "send all" is the kiss of death in any kind of promotion.

If you're not going to personalize your email (which you should but I'll fight that battle another day) at the very least you should send a form email to subgroups of your address book: friends/family; fellow writers; people in your address book you can't remember but they must be important if they're there, right?

Look at each name? Do you know that person?  If you do it's ok to send an email. And by "know" I mean something other than a form email passing on your book.

If you do NOT know the person, why is their name in your address book?
You then target the email to why they are in your address book:

Dear Felix Buttonweezer,
We met at the Flash Fiction and French Fry Eating Contest at Coney Island.
My book is being published. You can find it here.

Dear Colin Smith,
We met when we were in the kale fields of Carkoon.
My book is being published. You can find it here

Dear Janet Reid,
We corresponded when you rejected my novel that's now being published.
Boy, don't you feel stupid.

Notice that none of those have a request to spam YOUR friends.
And none of them ask for a review.

Promotion is hard work, and it takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to get out there and do it. Short cuts like these are just plain stupid. Don't do it.

Any questions?


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Wait a minute, wait a minute. You mean I have an address book on my computer?
I thought the little dog-eared, index card sized, with recipe card-pages, and famous-sayings spiral address book was all I had. The addresses in there are so out of date, I’m listed under my maiden name. (Um, married 37 years). Half the people have disappeared or are dead.
Whew, now all I have to do is delete the 400 lb. hacker-guy living in his mother’s basement in Detroit, my so-called friends from Bangladesh and Russia plus my ex-horticulturist boyfriend from Bogota. Ah, technology.
I will miss my little address book with the picture of a Rooster on it though.

Colin Smith said...

I'm not sure how, but it seems I'm on the email list of the publicists within a certain publishers. A few times now, they've contacted me with regard to a forthcoming novel, asking if I received a copy and encouraging me to write a review. On each occasion, I reply politely that I'm not sure why I'm on the list, I didn't receive the novel in question, but appreciate the heads-up. More often than not, I get a personal response from the publicist offering to send a copy to me, which I gladly accept. And I have reviewed a couple of those books on my blog. I really don't mind this kind of promotional email, partly because this is a big publisher, and it's a bit flattering to be included on an email list with (I presume) proper book reviewers. Call me sad, but much of my daily email consists of begging letters and promotional junk (some of which I signed up for, so I can't complain too loudly) so anything that's even vaguely intended for me personally has a warm glow to it (you can only imagine my giddy excitement when I get emails from you guys--even if it's only asking to be included on the List of Blog Readers and their Blogs).

Anyway, all that to say, I can see why this kind of promotion really doesn't work. First, the author is an unknown (unlike the publisher I sometimes hear from), second, this author freely admits to having no clue who Janet is or why she's on the list ("my" publicists at least suggest they know I write book reviews), and if Janet should want to promote Author's book, she'll have to buy a copy to read ("my" publicists gladly send me copies to review--hardcover editions, too, for the most part!).

I'm with Janet on this one, definitely. :)

2Ns: Half the people have disappeared or are dead. I'm sure I saw some of them in the kale fields of Carkoon. Which is like the Elysian Fields, but... did you like these people? :)

Claire Bobrow said...

I don't think I would ever do anything this silly on purpose. I hope I wouldn't. My fear is I would do it by accident somehow, like one of those "Reply All" email disasters. Gah! Or maybe my computer will take control and start sending out random "promotional" messages to my entire address book. Rodent wheel full speed ahead!

OT - hope you're feeling much better today, Janet.

Janet Reid said...

Thanks Claire I am in fine fettle.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Colin, did I like these people?
Nope, barely knew them but filling in the empty lines of acquaintances seemed like the thing to do at the time. Now, I am very selective, not out of want or need but out of fear.

BTW, (my friend and Governor of Carkoon), that stuff my ex Bogota boyfriend is cultivating is not kale. He enhanced his agricultural abilities in Colorado and is heading to Maine soon.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Janet, glad you are feeling better. The Reider-world is not the same without you.
Missed ya.

Claire Bobrow said...

Ditto what Carolynn just said :-)

Lisa Bodenheim said...

A part of that title, (Part N +1), is a algebra to me. Give me good ole accounting (addition and subtraction to balance my checkbook) any day.

The first sentence says it all, doesn't it? "Sorry for the impersonal email but..."

And, Janet, so glad to hear you are feeling better.

OT: I just caught my finger between my flat irons. Ow. I hope this isn't a foreshadowing about how the rest of my day will go.

Sherry Howard said...

Glad to hear JR is all better now!

I'm at the early stages of marketing my picture book, not yet released. I'm already afraid that all of my real friends are going to disown me, and that I'll end up sad and lonely digging up weeds in the kale fields of Carkoon. I'm trying to find ways to NOT be obnoxious, to be authentic, and not be annoying. I've read JR's bible on marketing, I've studied how the people I admire do it, and I know better than to do what THAT person did. And, still, I worry about being obnoxious.

nightsmusic said...

Ms. Shark, so happy you're back up and around! :)

Most people don't know that all electronic email programs have the ability to turn off the "automatically add" option. If you send or reply and that is not turned off, you get hundreds of email addresses in your contacts. Hitting Send All is just plain silly to begin with since any vendor/company/doctor or anyone else you've corresponded with will get the email. Then again, that would be a new title in itself. How To Alienate Yourself With The Press Of A Button...

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Janet, I'm glad you're feeling better.

I did some stupid things when my first title came out (the shameful and horrific details of those various acts of stupidity shall remain buried in the past). I was in "abundantly proud" mode and felt certain every horse/animal lover on the planet was drooling to get their hot little hands on my book. In my defense, this was nearly 15 years ago, back when email was fun, and I had zero guidance on the proper etiquette of a release.

We live, we learn.

Sherry, The fact that you're worrying about not being obnoxious is pretty much a guarantee that you won't be... I feel certain. And I'd love to be on the list of people you notify, "It's release day!" I'm looking forward to it and I'm super happy for you.

So, Colin? You don't roll your eyes when my name pops up in your inbox?

Lennon Faris said...

Oh jeez this makes me cringe.

Just curious though, is it ever appropriate to suggest that people leave a review? Or is that just bad form no matter how you say it?

Glad migraines have disappeared. Back to terrifying writers.

Colin Smith said...

Sherry: That's exactly what I'm doing (though I'm far from needing to publicize a novel--at least not one of my own), reading Janet's tips and watching how others go about it. It seems as long as every Tweet or email isn't a plug for your work, most people will at least tolerate the occasional plug. In fact, most appreciate being told that their friend/relative has a book coming out. I'd certainly hate to think that you, 2Ns, Diane, John, Julie, or many others here would publish a novel without telling us. :)

Melanie: Roll my eyes??! Heck no! I'm amazed. Don't you get enough of my blather here? Why on earth would you want more in your inbox?? Amazed. And grateful. :D

Casey Karp said...

Lennon, my gut feeling says that the answer is

1) When the people are known to write reviews, i.e. Colin.
2) When speaking in general, i.e. in a blog post, promotional newsletter, or suchlike.

Amusingly--at least I find the coincidence amusing--I was planning to slip a reminder that authors love reviews, hint, hint, into the post that'll be going up on my blog later today.

I'm fairly sure my email program doesn't even have a "Send to All". It does have a "Reply to All," which is dangerous enough. I mitigate the risk of using it accidentally by changing the keyboard command from Ctrl-Shift-R to Ctrl-Alt-Shift-Z. I used to use Ctrl-Alt-Shift-Q, but that's now the command I use to send queries.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Yes Colin Try not to send me to spam (or kale or Lima bean) folder if my name pops up in your email. I know where the bodies are buried on Carkoon. Well, parts of some of the bodies anyhow.

Colin Smith said...

Elise: I know... I buried some of them. Well, parts of them... :\

Brian Schwarz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BJ Muntain said...

Spam is never a good idea. Do you know what happens when your e-mail gets marked as spam by a few people? First, you're sent to people's spam buckets, then your e-mail provider could remove your account. If your e-mail provider doesn't discipline you, THEY get blacklisted in anti-spam lists. Even big companies. It takes days for a legitimate provider to get whitelisted again.

In Canada, spammers can be fined up to $10million. If I get spammed - especially regarding something I *really* don't like - I warn them about our legislation, and if they don't listen, I report them.

Spam. Don't do it.

Panda in Chief said...

I can barely manage to send emails to the people who have asked to be on my list. (I know! I know! Send me to Carkoon for a refresher course on proper use of email lists!!!)

There are good uses for "reply to all" but none of them have to do with promotion. And "send to all" sounds absolutely Carkoonian.

Meanwhile, I have to respond to the email from the deposed Prince of some country that I have never heard of, to help him get his millions of dollars out by temporarily putting it in my bank account.
I'm rich! (Or I will be. :-) )

Brian Schwarz said...

Let me try that one more time. Still drinking my morning coffee here.

What I’m trying to say is, writers tend to have the wrong view on promotion. It’s strange to me, because we spend so much time perfecting a manuscript, rewriting it, pouring over it. We, of all people, should recognize the laws of physics as they relate to spending a lot of time on something in order to build something great.

And then we sell a book and a part of us thinks, “Oh, no problem. I’m excited for my release date to come closer so I can get started promoting this book!”

It’d be as ludicrous as a friend of mine saying “You write books? That’s awesome! I’m going to write a novel tomorrow. I’ll just sit down and spend 20 hours writing the whole thing, cover to cover.”

Promotion is just like writing. It happens one word at a time, one person at a time, one email at a time, one tweet at a time. Sure, you’ll have days where you kill it and your email list grows by 30, or you speak at a conference or a convention or in front of a writing group who all hang on your every word. But most days you’re just carving out 30 minutes before breakfast to put yourself out there into the world and create one new fan, one new individual who wasn’t previously exposed to your work and who has now at least heard your name.

Sure, writing a custom message to each individual person about your book is hard. it's also something most writers don't do because it's hard. And it also works. Because it's personal. And that's the key.

You build an audience the same way you write a book. One sentence at a time, one person at a time.

Colin Smith said...

Did you know... the term "spam" for unsolicited email comes from Monty Python sketch, where the word "spam" (as in the cooked meat product) is chanted and sung repeatedly, drowning out all other dialog.

I first heard this sketch when our teacher played it to us in class one day when I was... 10 or 11? He brought the school record player into the classroom. In fact... I seem to recall the purpose of this exercise was to transcribe the sketch so we could perform it for a school assembly. Which I believe we did.

Needless to say, he was an awesome teacher. Mr. Cobbett. Best teacher I ever had. :D

Becky Mushko said...

Even worse is the newbie author who, not only wants you to search for her/his name or title at online bookstores, but also attaches a high resolution jpeg of the cover. All those megabits really mess things up when you have low-speed internet. Oh, and another jpeg of the back cover. . . .

BJ Muntain said...

My first reaction to anything that tells me to 'share' with anyone is to say No. Why should I? To help you? What's in it for me?

On a magnet near my desk, from a workshop where Bella Stander was speaking:

Book Promotion 101
Rule #1. Answer the Three Big Questions:
- So what?
- Who cares?
- What's in it for me?

OP is basically saying, "Do me a favour." This isn't marketing. Marketing is, "You'll love this book. It's full of action and nasty people trying to hurt good people, but losing." Marketing is, "If you enjoyed Discworld, you're going to love this." What's in it for me? Reading an enjoyable story. I care about that.

Theresa said...

My heart kind of aches for this over-the-moon author.

Even though I know you must research a thing before doing it.

Beth Carpenter said...

For people like me who tend toward shyness, promotion is doubly hard. When I think of sending out an email along the lines of "Remember when I beta read your manuscript three years ago? Well now I have a new book out," I feel like the Godfather.

"Someday, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me."

Joseph S. said...

I'll probably do marketing and promotion wrong. With the academic books, I left it all to a great publisher marketing staff.

For my novel (if there is one), I'm now on notice to consult with my agent and my publisher for guidance.

I was going to tell you the book I just read, "The Settling," is fantastic. Maybe I shouldn't. I don't know know the author, Michel Putegnat, so maybe it's okay.

Update on family in Houston: My sister and her family who live next to Lake Houston evacuated this morning to evade rising water, which should be in their house about now.

Brigid said...

Beth — that's hysterical. They'll know better than to cross you!

Craig F said...

I hope that in the future I will send an e-mail to the Queen. I hope it looks like this:

My Queen,

Thank you for passing along the knowledge that got me to this place. In a couple of days you will receive a package from me. In it will be three signed ARCs, a bag of marshmallows, Hershey bars and some Graham crackers.

It is my hope that two of the ARCs be used as the base for a flash fiction contest. The last is a gift for you. If that doesn't work for you please be safe when you make a fire with them. Enjoy the smores at least.

Thanks again

Time to get back in the boat.

Panda in Chief said...

Beth, I have often felt like using that line. It can come in really handy, even if I have never gotten the same level of trepidation that Marlon Brando did. Hmmmm....maybe I need to put a horse head in someone's bed. (Just kiddig! Really!)

Joseph, I hope your family is safe. I know that it will will be a long road home and I wish them well. My long road was caused by fire, not flood, but they are equally devestating. Except one is wetter. Well, things did get pretty wet after the fire, which was part of what took so long to get back to what passes for normal. 22 years later I still remember it well.

I recently got a wonderful compliment from a librarian friend, who complimented me on my use of social media, to which I said, "huh? Me?" I think of it as a million conversations in a million coffee shops. It does take time connecting with one person at a time, but it sure is fun. When my graphic novel is finally done and published, I know I have a great tribe of panda fanatics ready to buy, read, and review. In the meantime, we have a lot of laughs watching panda videos together.

OT: I just got SHARK stamps at the post office!

Lennon Faris said...

Casey you make good points! Those seem to be sensible answers.