When Does Marketing Yourself Cross the Line?

“I don’t take guest posts, advertising, or requests to promote your product, book, website, service, or blog post.” –Miscellaneous zen blogger

A warning sign I recently came across when researching blogs as publicity outlets for an author.

On an entirely different books blog, I found another disconcerting word, in an article written by an author I’d never heard of: “How Writers Should Not Market Their books.” (Author to remain anonymous.) The blogger listed 10 not-to-do’s, of which the worst transgression was receiving a cold email from someone she wasn’t familiar with to blurb or review her book. The nerve! Her lesson to authors was to abstain from self-promotion: if books are well-written, she theorizes, they’ll find their own word of mouth.

Except not.

I’ve seen that the “build it and they will come” methodology almost never works in books, and rarely in business. That’s why marketing and advertising exist. New York Times‘ bestsellers and Book Club picks will continue getting the lion’s share, unless a grassroots audience is willing to take the extra step to promote a title they love.

Whether an author or a marketer, we’re told to fully exploit social media channels, utilize our e-networks, send email blasts. And for most of us, this inundating of friends and contacts doesn’t come naturally. But most of those on the receiving end don’t hate us for it. If they’re authors, they might remember what it was like getting started.

I understand the need to keep your blog clean and your brand undiluted, and I know that many of us are swamped with promotional email. But there are so many ways that bloggers and authors can help each other if for no other reason than good old-fashioned Samaritanism, and possibly reciprocity and karma. (Five who have been particularly helpful to my authors recently and over the years are: authors Gretchen Rubin and Tony Hseih, and bloggers Donna HubertAviva Goldfarb, and Rebecca Regnier)

If you don’t have time to give a blurb, but the book’s subject interests you, then a blog interview or link back, an announcement on Twitter or Facebook, a media contact, a lead, a response and offer to spread the word really can go a long way. And I’ll still encourage authors to forge these genuine connections.

Just note that when you are writing someone blindly, who you don’t know, form letters don’t engender enthusiasm. (Think cover notes and college rejection letters.) Do the research and support the author you’re contacting in his/her own projects, even before you write.

If you’ve had success networking online using a creative, non-advertising approach, we want to hear how you did it. Comment below or on our Facebook page.

Tracy McCubbin

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