Self-Promotion Sucks…Because You’re Doing It Wrong

By Rachel Thompson

There have been a few posts circulating recently about how authors who self promote are basically jerks, because self-promotion doesn’t work to sell your books.

I agree.

Wait, before you freak out on me, She Who Is A Marketing Person, let me explain…or as I always say, let’s deconstruct.

YOU’RE DOING IT WRONGanimals-215775_1280

You shouldn’t be ‘self-promoting,’ you should be marketing smart. Marketing your work correctly. Branding yourself with focus, sharing interesting content, articles, blog posts, quotes, graphics, throwing in the occasional humor, i.e., cat videos, Nutella pictures, whatever, NOT ‘Buy my book!’ posts repeatedly, ad nauseam, until we want to poke you (or ourselves) in the eye. Repeatedly.

Sadly, most people on Twitter or other social media channels tend to leave messages (DMs or tweets) like these (actual examples from my timeline just today):

Hello Friend, would you be so kind to give my book trailer a like/comment? I’d appreciate it. Thank you! http://linkblahblahblah

Hi @RachelintheOC! I’d love it if you would buy my book, review it, and tell all your friends! http://linkblahblahblah

Love your site! Please like mine, buy my books, and let’s party!!!! http://linkblahblahblah

(don’t even get me started on all the exclamation mark cheerleading)…

It doesn’t take a genius to see that these are not effective ways to sell books and there’s a really good reason for that: Twitter (and other social media channels) are ineffective channels for selling books. They are, however, quite effective for networking, relationship building, listening (if you are doing any listening, which these writers are clearly not), and sharing information — all of which can lead to sales.


When people start on social media, they see millions of potential book buyers (wrong. who is their demographic? not everyone on Twitter), so, like an excited puppy who pees in the house, they decide to run amuck and leave messages of all kinds, everywhere, with no focus, no strategic marketing behind them, just a brain dump of random ‘buy my book!’ messages. Very few even look at the Terms of Service each channel provides where spam guidelines are clearly defined.

In the examples I give above, those writers sent the exact same messages to hundreds of others victims, er, people, clearly in violation of Twitter’s TOS, of which they are blissfully unaware…til enough people report them for spamming and Twitter suspends their account. Boom. We are all subject to the same TOS, and yes, Twitter does refer to them as the ‘Twitter Rules.’ I’m not the Twitter police — I’ll report spammers because they are annoying and should know better (doesn’t anyone read anymore?).

Tip: Instead, put your link on your bio. Here’s mine:Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 3.06.10 PM

Share a quote from your book, and say ‘link on bio.’ I do this all the time (if there’s room) and it works. How do I know? I track clicks from Twitter to Amazon using I know exactly how many clicks come from Twitter, and I know that I’m getting hundreds of clicks from Twitter to Amazon each month. Sometimes, thousands — more than if I repeatedly spammed my link in every damn tweet. Does each click result in a sale? No, of course not (and there’s no way to track if it does anyway.)

The only time I suggest that it’s okay to be slightly more self-promotional? If you have some kind of promo going on, i.e., a free book or low-price limited time promotion.

Tip: Pin that promo tweet or FB post to the top of your timeline so it’s the first thing people see (for a limited time, anyway). Once your promo is done, change it up. I usually keep a quote from my most recent work pinned to the top of my Twitter timeline or Facebook page — kind of like a tease — with a ‘link on bio’ mention.

More Tips: You can also spend a few bucks on paid advertising (Google AdWords — not AdSense which is totally different and not at all effective for what we are discussing here — or Facebook or Twitter ads), put out a newsletter (email marketing is still extraordinarily effective as long as, again, you’re not spamming people and hey, Mailchimp is free), run a contest of some sort, start a street team who loves and supports you and your work and is willing to put out the word for you…it’s almost laughable how many options there are other than spamming your ‘Buy my book!’ tweet repeatedly.

Don’t be that clueless writer and if you are, don’t rationalize your cluelessness because your transparency is showing. Educate yourself, be a smart marketer, do the thing. Work on your entire author platform and be professional.

And think about this: aren’t you a writer? If you can’t write more than ‘Buy my book!’ in a tweet repeatedly, why would anyone want to buy said book? Duh.


When I asked a writer recently not to spam me, she YELLED AT ME IN ALL CAPS that I should share my good fortune (that I’ve spent seven years building, day in and day out) with all the newbie authors out there (apparently, she’d not heard of #MondayBlogs, my stupid cheap promo sites, my free blog posts (on BadRedheadMedia, BookPromotion.Com, IndieReader, Huffington Post), or the many other advocacy projects listed in my bio), and by me not sharing her free book promotion (again, I offer free book promotion on my promo sites if she’d bothered to read my bio), I am a selfish princess and other choice names I won’t repeat here.

That kind of entitlement has zero place in the author community, and buys zero happy points with me. As I tell my kids, ‘you get what you give, and you give what you get.’ I give of myself in so many ways, and in return, these relationships have more than given back to me in ways I never imagined — personally, in business, in advocacy, and yes, in sales. But I never once have demanded anyone do anything for me, ever. I am not a princess who stomps her foot and tells others what they need to do for me or off with their head!

I no longer ask people not to spam me simply because I won’t take the time to educate them anymore — the abuse and vitriol these spammers direct at me just isn’t worth it. So I block them. Who has time?

Tip: Follow readers, bloggers, reviewers, as well as other writers but not only other writers. I see this happen far too often: authors hitting up other authors. Who is your demographic? Who is your ideal reader? Is it another author? No. Then you’re doing it wrong.


Wait, what? How can you be both? It’s a fine line.

When Broken Places went free last week, I was shocked, truly and deeply shocked, at how many wonderful souls shared my free promotion without me asking them to do anything at all. I thanked as many as I could, and ultimately, was honored by the results — #131 on Free overall, #1 on Poetry and Women Authors. Without that amazing support, I don’t know that my book would have done so incredibly well. Now that it’s back on the Paid lists, it’s still ranked quite highly and selling well.

When you do (retweet, share, guest blog, invite them to guest blog, interview, etc.) for others, inform or promote others, offer your platform to others, they are more compelled to return the favor because you have helped them. Don’t do it to get something back for manipulative purposes — I wrote my books to give survivors a voice, not to make a living or to have people begging me to work with them. The more notice my book gets, the wider the audience, and the more survivors it reaches — that’s purely a win/win.

If that helps give a wider audience to the Gravity Imprint I’m now directing for Booktrope (stories of trauma and recovery), great! I’m happy to wave my pride flag. The authors in this imprint are extremely talented, and their stories are incredible. I can’t wait to bring you their books. Our first releases, out very soon by Lindsay Fischer, Dana Leipold, and Beth Stoneburner, are all compelling and I am so dang proud of the work they’ve done.Gravity-800w


You have given yourself permission to write your book…now give yourself permission to market it. If you wait until after you release your book to start creating buzz, you’ve waited too long. Start long before you release the book — I started two years before I released my first book with blogging and social media — because remember, the focus is not on selling, it’s on building relationships with readers. Are you tired of me saying that yet? Even I’m getting sick of me saying it. Maybe people will get it and I can finally shut up.

Bottom line: look outside yourself and your own work, embrace and follow readers, and don’t be annoying. Market smart, have a plan, and be focused. Golden rule, my friends.

Originally posted on RachelintheOC, modified for PG audiences. Republished with permission.  
Pictures courtesy of pixabay