Last night, after L.L. Soares and I were interviewed for an upcoming episode of The Taco Society Presents, we joined hosts Tony Tremblay and Philip Perron for dinner at a local Mexican restaurant called Shorty’s.  The interviews continued when Philip pulled out a small recorder and captured a much more intimate discussion for his podcast Dark Discussions.  The feeling was laid back and we had a great time laughing and sharing tales of the author life, but there was one topic brought up when the mic was turned off that was of genuine importance and I feel needs to be shared.  So I’m bringing it up here, where I can expound on it in greater detail.

If you’re new to the publishing world, you’re going to want to pay attention.  If you’ve been around the block a few times, you already know.  Are you ready?

PROMOTING YOUR FICTION ON SOCIAL NETWORK SITES IS A WASTE OF TIME.

Didja catch that? I’ll repeat it.

PROMOTING YOUR FICTION ON SOCIAL NETWORK SITES IS A WASTE OF TIME.

Tony commented to me that he noticed I’ve been very low profile lately on Facebook, and that I really don’t do a lot to promote myself.  That’s because I’ve come to the realization that dropping Amazon links every other post does nothing to endear you to the folks on your friends list, and it sure as hell doesn’t convince anyone to stop what they’re doing, run to Amazon and buy your book.  It doesn’t work that way.  Right now, America is in a bit of a shit-show.  Most folks are going online to vent their frustration, find more reasons to get angry, or self-medicate on pictures of kittens and puppies.  I noticed long ago that my posts about my author life get a handful of likes (and not from the general populace, but from other authors trying to be supportive) whereas if I post funny anecdotes about my life or cute pictures of my daughters, I get scores of hearts and thumbs-ups.  So I’ve made a conscious effort to post less about politics and things that get my boxers twisted around the family jewels and more about things that will make people smile and feel like normal human beings again.  That’s where we are as a society.

But that’s only step one.  Step two is to share links about OTHER authors’ new books, or even better yet, publish reviews about them.  Because nobody wants to hear you toot your own horn, but they are generally interested in what you’re reading.  Cross-promotion works!  If I post a photograph of myself holding up the autographed copy of Ed Kurtz’s new short story collection (that just arrived in the mail) between the silly, embarrassing post about the conversation I just had with my pre-teen daughter and a pic of the awesome dinner I just cooked for the family, people don’t recognized the fact that I’ve just subconsciously spammed them.  I’m removing the “telemarketer” implication of forced advertisement and showing them a genuinely happy version of myself…and they’re recognizing my sense of happiness and responding to it.  It’s really that simple.

What I started doing was to share pictures of other authors’ cover artwork with the simple hashtag #myfriendswritebooks.  All people have to do is click on that hashtag and it takes them instantly to a treasure-trove of cover art, book reviews, and Amazon links.  Here’s the thing: I already know that I’m not going to buy a new author’s book just because (s)he posted a link to it.  I need to hear positive feedback from authors I know and respect, verifying that someone’s new book is worth checking out.  There’s just far too many new books to choose from and I don’t have the cash to buy them all, nor the time to sift through the crappy ones to find that hidden jewel in the dung heap.  It’s a sad reality that there are too many new writers who want instant success without the heartache of paying their dues.  The world of self-publishing has enabled a generation of not-yet-ready authors to flood the market without the benefit of rejection letters and the harsh critiques they really need to grow as writers.  I don’t say this to be mean-spirited or judgmental, but as my own personal admonishment that readers who take a chance on these new authors and are turned off by shoddy, substandard writing almost NEVER leave good reviews, nor do they take a second chance on these writers.  It really does pay in dividends to serve that apprenticeship the rest of us went through and submit your work to established publishing houses and use their feedback to perfect your craft.

Preventing ourselves from saturating Facebook with spam is a good idea, but that doesn’t mean we can’t bend the rules every now and then.  It is YOUR Facebook page, after all, and it is healthy to want to share the good news of a story sale or give a first-look at your new cover artwork or announce an upcoming event you plan to attend.  It’s still a good thing to let the world know that you’re happy, and definitely that you’re thankful for the help and support others have given.  That recognition really does go a long way.  When you start doing this, you’ll begin to notice that other authors are tagging YOU in their posts.  When this happens, you become a part of something bigger, something exciting, and suddenly people are noticing you!  They’re seeing you without all that jelly-like shit they pack spam in to keep it fresh, and guess what?  YOU’RE FREAKIN’ BEAUTIFUL.

It’s daunting trying to be both a serious writer AND your own marketing strategist.  There will be days when it feels like you’re a lost soul, shouting from the rooftop that you’ve just published a new book and it is awesome and the whole world should read it.  The reality is there are also THOUSANDS of other writers doing that very same thing, and a whole world of readers down in the world below who just want silence so they can continue enjoying what they’re already reading.  Don’t let social networking be your rooftop.  Don’t shout on deaf ears.  And definitely don’t be known as that author who shares links in every other post.  Find better ways to build an audience.  Work smarter, not harder.  Cross-promotion really does work better for you, and it feels damn good to elevate your friends and see them find success.  What goes around comes around, and in time they will elevate you.