How (Not) to Market

Kellyanne Conway can teach us something about promotion. Yeah, it’s nuts. Watching her try to plug Ivanka’s awful clothes last week made my skin crawl. It wasn’t just unethical. It was so far off the mark, and pathetic, that the show hosts were cringing. They tried to stop her. They warned her. Yet, she persisted.

Funny how many writers and artists have tried the same move. A few years ago, I watched a friend of mine on the local news. He was talking about his first novel. Great for him. It was a nice chat, but then he did something stupid as hell. He tried to guilt the co-hosts into buying his book on air. They asked how his book was doing, and he said, “Well I’m hoping to sell you two and the camera man one each right after the show.” Automatic facepalm. I had to take a shower on his behalf. And I had just taken one. That’s how bad it went over.

A few weeks later, a bunch of friends and I were getting drunk at a bar. A book festival was in town. Instant excuse to behave badly. Authors came and went. They told funny stories. They flirted. They gave advice. Midway through our happy hour, someone we didn’t like showed up. She talked about her writing for several minutes, killed the conversation, and then passed around bookmarks. Everyone just nodded politely. When she left, we threw them away.

One time, a guy came up to my signing booth. (My first book. Don’t ask.) He flipped through my novel and made a few quips. Gave me his phone number. Walked off without handing me a dime. He was hot though. We dated for six months. Fantastic kisser. Looked great in jeans. He never even read the first chapter. I’d rather have a great fuck than sell a book.

Another writer once told me, “If your friends won’t buy your shit, who will?” The problem here? This woman had no friends. I’d rather have friends than book sales. Some of my closest friends, well, I doubt they’ve read anything I’ve written. They’ve let me crash on their guest beds for a weekend, they’ve bought me dinner. Paid for drinks. Listened to me bitch about my problems all night long. But when it comes to buying something from me, they just get weird. Some people are like that. It’s the mysterious way of friendship. I’ll say it again. I’d rather have friends than a huge readership.

Nobody’s begging me for advice on marketing and social networking. But I’ve lived on Twitter and WordPress for a year now, and I’ve learned a few things. Mainly about what irritates me when other people try to promote their shit. It all boils down to some simple truths. First, preserve your dignity and self respect. That’s priceless. What else? Active social media users don’t like to buy things. Makes sense, doesn’t it? We seek entertainment from talking and playing games. All that’s free.

There’s no reason for us to buy your book, app, album, indie movie, or whatever unless we like you. Be funny. Be crazy. Be sexy. Sincere. Sad. Creepy. Mysterious. Whatever you excel at, do it. Craft a voice that appeals to people. Prepare yourself for failure. I’ve had so much fun online that I almost don’t care about my original plan to market a book anymore. That’s a good thing. If you don’t enjoy the ride, you should probably jump off. Blogging’s not worth the time if you wouldn’t do it for free anyway. Same with anything else. YouTubers. Instagram models. Porn stars (so I imagine…)

The other thing: Avid social media users dislike the hell outta people they impute with ulterior motives. I’m sure some people wonder what I’m up to, maybe they don’t trust me and think I’m just here to plug some stupid book I wrote. Well, I don’t care. I’m just doing what I like, when I have time. I happen to be a perfectionist, so even the free shit I do has to look and feel just right.

My philosophy? I’d give my book away, but then I’d feel kinda stupid. Anyway, this post is about social networking. I’m not sure I can tell you what to do, per se. But I can tell you what to avoid.

  1. Don’t buy followers on Twitter. Trust me, smart tweeters will find out and mock you openly in public. Literally shoving your money up your own ass would be a better idea. Those tweeps you buy have no real value. You’ll wind up with a bunch of likes and retweets that mean nothing. Besides, you won’t learn anything about your craft if you rely on Twitter bots. You want to earn the respect of real people. Real feedback on your blog and social feed feels good, and tells you if you’re on the right track with your craft.
  2. Don’t use auto DMs. Maybe you’re a newbie and don’t know. It’s really fucking irritating to follow someone, and then get a DM that says, “Thanks for following!” Or even worse, a long cheesy message that goes like this: “Hah, I hate auto DMs. Don’t you? But this one’s different because I’m a comedian and blah blah blah. Turn on notifications for me!” Hah, fuck you for clogging up my DM box. Unfollow. Real people use their DMs to have actual conversations. Your auto DM is like walking up to a clique at a party to hit on the hottest chick. We know what you’re up to. And it’s really rude. Stop it.
  3. Don’t ask people for favors. I know that sounds weird. Here’s the thing: If someone wants to help you, they’ll offer to do you a favor. If nobody’s offering you favors, then maybe you need to start doing things that people appreciate.
  4. Don’t give up. Yeah, my post has sounded sorta negative so far. So here’s the positive turn. It takes a while to build your readership. You have to keep tweeting and writing. You’ll improve over time, and people will start to notice you. Might take months, but it will happen.
  5. Don’t take your readers for granted. If someone comments on your post, try to respond. You won’t stay on top of it all. But at least make an effort. People notice. Recently, someone asked me if I was avoiding them, because I hadn’t seen some of their replies and comments on my stuff. Busy week. Nonetheless, it made me feel really guilty (in a good way).
  6. Don’t overwork yourself. Trust me, if your social media starts to feel like a tedious job, you’re taking it too seriously. Back off. Chill out for a day and take care of your personal life. Relax. Maybe post a couple updates about how you need a break. People understand. Your following or readership won’t vanish overnight. Besides, trying to be funny every single day for weeks on end can be exhausting. You have to recharge your batteries. Otherwise, your writing will sag. So will your videos or whatever you’re doing.
  7. Don’t quit your day job. After all, your real life is what makes you interesting. Imagine if somehow, magically, you started making a ton of money off your YouTube channel or whatever. Great. You don’t have to go to your lousy fucking job anymore. You can finally buy that fancy Keurig, snazzy web cam, and a nice leather armchair from which you can just make videos and tweet all day. How long’s that gonna last, before you run out of material?

See, actors will always have a script full of character and drama to delve into. Your material comes from your life, most likely. If your life becomes too comfy, it will fossilize. Heed my words. For they are truth. Plus, they apply to other parts of your life. Success in academia also depends on a careful blend of hard work and networking. But real networking just means acting like a pleasant, sociable person. Don’t overdo it.

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