How not to self-promote

Victoria Janssen posted a couple days ago about online promotion, and whether it’s worth doing. The short version of my own thoughts is that I think being present and online and part of the larger conversation doesn’t hurt, and may even help, but beyond a basic web page (so readers can find you if they want to) you should probably only do it if you enjoy being online and are having fun and want to be here anyway–since I agree with Victoria that anything we do online is a pretty much drop in the bucket stuff, anyway.

But today I was thinking about how not to do online promotion. And how not to do it is this.

Friend someone on your online service of choice: goodreads, myspace, shelfari facebook, twitter, wherever. And then, as your very first act of communication with them send them a recommendation for your book (on the book rec sites), or post information a link to information about your book (on the social networking sites).

Sometimes this is done almost-subtly (yet not)–a cheerful “thanks for adding me” comment immediately followed by a very prominent link to the book that makes one suspect the link was the real purpose of the comment. Sometimes it’s more direct, which is at least honest–a “check out/buy my book here!” message.

Either way, the thing is? Online conversations are just like real life ones, in that you get to know people over time. If someone I’ve gotten to know says, when we run into each other (at a local convention, on livejournal, wherever), “Hey, I have a new book out!” I’ll be excited, and happy for them, and maybe I’ll even go check the book out.

But if the first thing you do, the moment we meet, is say, “Hey, buy my book!” I realize you never wanted to talk to me after all–you just wanted to sell me something. At best I shrug it off, mutter something polite, and the conversation moves on. At worst I feel just a little bit used, and try to avoid you the next time we meet. Especially if, every time we do meet, you do the same thing.

Introducing yourself by trying to sell me something is no way to make a connection. I’m not convinced it’s a very good way to sell books, either.

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