Friday, January 01, 2016

Support Your Writing Friends WITHOUT Hurting Your Own Platform

By Edie Melson @EdieMelson

I think one of the most misunderstood aspects of being part of the community of writers is what our responsibilities are within that community. Our community could be an online group or a local group, large group or small one. Regardless, sooner or later, the invitation and/or expectation of cross marketing is going to come up.

We have to be careful though, a request to promote another writer’s book or blog could be a bad idea. Today I want to take it slow and give you some tools to make the best decision for your specific circumstance.

Promoting a New Release or a Special Price
Here’s how you may be approached:

Things to consider when asked to promote something to
your audience. 
Scenario One: The request may come as a plea for help. The author asking for assistance usually makes an announcement to the group requesting help promoting an upcoming release or special price drop.

Scenario Two: Someone in the group may suggest that if all the authors within the group band together to promote one another’s work, they’ll reach more readers. Unchecked this can quickly become the expectation and focus of the group.

These two scenarios seem—on the surface—like good ideas. Truthfully, they’re usually not. But before I explain the pitfalls, let’s explore the purpose of promoting our books in the first place.

Background on Building a Strong Platform
As writers, the basis of our platform is our readers. In a nutshell, we want to connect with the audience who reads what we write.

If we write science fiction, we’ll have one type of reader. If we write sweet romance, we’ll be attracting another type of reader. One audience isn’t better than another, but we must realize they’re different. They have different likes and expectations.

For example, those who read sweet romance, aren’t likely to cross over and read horror. This is a generalization and there will be exceptions, but we can’t market to the exceptions. We market to the target reader. This is the reason that authors brand themselves to a genre or two and don’t just write everything that comes to mind.

Once we realize how a healthy platform is built, we understand why our target marketing audience CANNOT be other writers. It’s just not reasonable to expect to build a strong, healthy platform on the backs of other writers.

Especially writers who have a totally different audience than the one we’re writing to.

The flip side of this is that we owe our reading audience our loyalty. Your readers have given you a trust. They read your books and follow you on social media. They have certain expectations based on they type of books you write. If we don’t deliver or if we drift too far afield from that subject, we’ll lose what we’ve built. And, if we promote books that our audience isn't interested in, we're not doing the authors we're promoting any favors. They won't gain any new readers and if these irritated readers remember the book, it will be in a negative light.

NOTE: if we’re publishing writing books or make a significant portion of our income by teaching other writers, then we can include them in our marketing plan. But even then, they are not the basis of an author’s platform.

Back to Requests to Promote a Fellow Author’s Book
  • Scenario One: When other author ask me to help promote their books, I have to evaluate whether or not what they’ve written fits in with the readers I target. Personally, the novels I write are science fiction and steam punk. So if I’m asked to promote a book that this audience doesn’t normally read, I’ll choose to say no. There are exceptions to this. Sometimes I’m excited for a friend of mine and decide to expose my audience to something different. BUT it’s an exception. I cannot build a platform by promoting everyone else’s books.
  • Scenario Two: In my opinion (and many other writers and authors) the primary purpose of a writers group is to teach and share important aspects of the writing and publishing journey. It’s a place to learn about writing and publishing. It’s also a place to encourage one another. The writing journey is tough and we need traveling companions who understand the struggles and joys we encounter along the way. I do not think a writer’s group has any obligation to promote one another’s books at the expense of respecting the audience we’ve chosen to serve. Beyond that, a writer’s group with this expectation isn’t going to attract professional writers because they know this isn’t a healthy way to approach marketing and won’t be a part of it.
Are there times to promote other books?
Yes. If we write to the same audience, we can cross promote. But even then, we have to bee careful. We don't want our social media feeds to read like one long commercial. So we want to break up book promotion (even some one else's) with other types of social media updates. 

What About Blogs and Social Media?
Fellow authors may also request that members of their writing group follow their blog and follow them on social media.

I think subscribing to another author’s blog is a good way to support that author, regardless of what they right with one caveat. I don’t share the blog posts of other authors UNLESS they will interest my target audience. AND I don’t expect them to share mind. For example, my good friend and critique partner, Lynette Eason, rarely shares my blog posts. My blog is targeted toward writers. The basis of her social media is readers. They just aren’t interested in my writing blog. If she shared it often, she’d run the risk of alienating her audience and the sacrifice wouldn’t net me much benefit because her audience isn’t the target audience of my blog. Subscribing to another author’s blog is a good way to help their numbers increase.

NOTE: Here’s a post to help clarify the difference between blog FOLLOWERS and blog SUBSCRIBERS.

Social Media
I look at following other authors on social media the same way that I approach subscribing to their blogs. As long as they understand my parameters of when I’ll share something, I’m happy to add to their numbers.

So How CAN I Help Fellow Authors?
There are a lot of things we can do to support each other. Here are just a few:
1. Post a book review. This is the NUMBER ONE way we can help one another. Book reviews are worth solid gold. When someone posts a review for me, it’s like getting a huge gift.

2. Subscribe to their blog and visit it regularly. This will help increase their numbers, which will help with publishers and agents.

3. Follow them on social media. Again, this will help with their numbers when they approach a publisher and/or agent.

4. Recommend their books to your local bookstore and library. This isn’t the same as promoting a book to your reading audience. But chances are you have a relationship with your local merchants (if you don’t, you should, but that’s another post!) and a personal recommendation can go a long way to getting author's books in a store.

Bottom Line
When I’m asked to promote something to my audience, my first loyalty is to my audience. It has to be.

My audience has given me their trust. And I cannot, in good conscience, betray that trust by promoting every random thing I’m exposed to. EVEN if those random things are good ones.

There are times when I share things that don’t fit these parameters. I share some personal things on social media, like when I signed with an agent or got a new book contract. I even pass on things that just tickle my funny bone.

The important thing is that I make sure these are the EXCEPTION in my regular updates, never the rule.

Truthfully I can’t promote everything I’d like to for my friends because I’d end up driving away my audience. I always try to explain, and most of the time I’m met with understanding. 

I don’t mind being asked to share information through my social media channels. Heck it’s a great way for me to be valuable with my audience. But I still have to know when to say no. It’s a ticklish line to walk, but it’s a boundary all of us need to establish if we want to keep the respect of those who follow us.

So how about you? How do you respond when friends ask you to share information through your social media platform? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Don't forget to join the conversation!

Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains ChristianWriters Conference and the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy. She’s also the Military Family Blogger at Guideposts. Com, Social Media Director for SouthernWriters Magazine and the Senior Editor for Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook. Don't miss her new book from Worthy Inspired, WHILE MY SOLDIER SERVES.


Heidi Chiavaroli said...

This was very helpful, Edie! Thank you!

Terry Whalin said...

Fantastic helpful information, Edie. Thank you. I hope many authors will read this information AND most importantly--take action on your insights. Happy New Year.

Ane Mulligan said...

Excellent advice, Edie!

Cathe Swanson said...

I can't really respond from a writer's perspective, since I am not a published author yet, but as a reader, I appreciate the book recommendations of my favorite authors. I hope they will continue to promote books and authors they like, or I won't find them!