The Marketing Tightrope

Today I had lunch with a good friend of mine at work. She asked how the book process was going, to which I replied, “The scary editors have it now,” and then broke out in hives and a cold sweat.

Okay, not really. And the editors aren’t really scary; they’re people, just like you and me. But I am a little nervous. This is my second time around with submissions to editors, and I can’t help but imagine what it would be like to get the call that someone wanted to publish it….

Rest assured there would be a lot of shrieking and jumping around and scaring any small children and/or pets in the vicinity, but I digress. Back to my lunch conversation with my friend.

So anyway. My friend is not an author, but she is a very popular blogger, and we were discussing the issues of marketing, branding, public relations, advertising, etc. and how uncomfortable it makes us to even think about the business side of things. How we’re not sure we want to be a “brand.” We want to be a person.

In case you haven’t heard me say this 6,000 times before, I graduated from the University of Alabama. My degree is in advertising, and coming from UA, that says a lot. In fact – please excuse my bragging – but at the time I was enrolled there, from 2001-2005, UA boasted the second best communications college in the country. How they figured that, I couldn’t tell you, but somehow they came up with it.

(Who was #1, you ask? I’ll never tell. Muahahahaha!)

(Oh, all right. It was UCLA. Thanks for knocking us off the top platform, California. Sheesh.)

(Just kidding. I love you, Cali.)

Anyway, the bottom line is this: My advertising degree also thoroughly trained me in marketing, graphic design, and public relations. And I really enjoy the concepts behind what I learned: spreading the word about companies, products, and brands. Coordinating with other people and organizations to market cooperatively. It’s fun, really. And I’m good at it.

But when it comes to me? No, thank you. I feel super weird marketing myself.

As our conversation continued, my friend said something that really struck a chord in my mind. She said that the reason she doesn’t do a lot of marketing for her blog is that if people want to keep up with her, if they want to follow her and be a part of what she does, then she wants it to be “organic.” She wants people to feel like they’ve really stumbled upon something special.

She doesn’t want them to feel like they’ve somehow been manipulated into being a “means to an end” for her to further her blogging career. She’s not willing to tweet about every blog post, or do TV appearances (which she has been asked to do), or otherwise push her name in front of people.

And as she was saying all this: BING! I had an epiphany.

Sometimes, I do tweet about my blog posts. Sometimes, I promote articles I’ve written on other blogs, or guest posts I’ve done.

And every time I do it, I hate myself just a little bit.

So it’s time to stop. (Yep. That was my epiphany. Kinda lame, eh?)

Now, please understand what I’m saying here. I’m not coming down on anyone who promotes their book or themselves as an author. I mean, after all, it’s necessary for us to network to a certain extent, and it’s helpful if people know about us before we’re published. I don’t think any worse of other people when they market themselves. It’s just hard for me to market me. I want people to find my blog because they looked for it. Not because I wore them down to the point where they felt obligated to follow me.

I like the relational aspect of networking. I SO enjoy getting to know all of you through your blogs, Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, etc. That’s why I do the blog and Twitter and all that. To get to know you. To make friends.

But I don’t like marketing myself to the faceless masses. I have a pretty small circle of friends from Twitter and blogs, and I like it that way. I don’t want 10,000 Twitter followers unless we’re all seriously interested in each other as people, and not as networking tools. I don’t follow people just so they’ll follow me. And I will no longer tweet about my blog posts, because I hated doing it in the first place. I only did it because I felt like I was supposed to.

Am I annoyed by people who tweet their blog posts? NO. Not at all.

Am I irritated by people with Facebook fan pages? No, as long as they’ve got a good reason for having one (don’t worry, all of you have good reasons!). But I CANNOT face the thought of making one for myself. I can’t. I can’t do it. I can’t ask people to be “fans” of me. MAYBE when my book is published… maybe. But I will have to get a point where the thought of a fan page doesn’t make me want to slap myself in the face. And I’m just not there yet.

Again… just to reiterate… I’m not coming down on those of you who have FB fan pages. I’m glad you have them. Because, honestly, I am a fan of y’all. I think you’re awesome.

One thing I am doing is working with a friend of mine on a website. A real one, not just my blog. And, yes, I have felt supremely narcissistic the entire time we’ve been building it. But I feel that this is a move I can make now, without hating myself too much. I’m actually kind of excited about it. And also a little embarrassed. But mostly excited.

And when this new website is ready to go live, my blog is going to be integrated as a part of it. My plan for right now is to leave this blog up for about six months or so, with a message to redirect people to the new site.

Will I lose some of your pretty faces in the Followers box? Maybe. But if someone doesn’t check my blog for six months and doesn’t get the message about the new site? Then obviously, they were never interested in me as a person. They probably aren’t missing anything, and that’s okay.

I want us to market and promote each other because we like each other, not because we’re hoping for a favor in return. That’s why I do the Pre-Famous Interviews. It’s why I do Week in Links. Because I like you as people, and I want others to like you, too.

What do y’all think about all this marketing stuff? Does it make you feel awkward too? And if it does, have you found a way to go about it without feeling like you’re forcing yourself on people?

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19 thoughts on “The Marketing Tightrope

  1. Heather says:

    It does make me feel a bit awkward. Like you I want to connect with people to connect with people, not just to promote myself or my books. But I like people who tweet links to their blog because it reminds me to keep up with it! And its easy to click onto it first thing (I read Twitter w/my morning coffee!). But you must do what feels right to you.

  2. penelopelife says:

    Anne, this is a great post! It's a fantastic represenation of how authentic you are and one of the reasons why I'm sure so many people follow you–you're not trying too hard! But please, tweet like crazy with book updates or post them on here. We want to know! And I'll look forward to the new site.

    Also, aren't you a Spanish teacher?!

  3. Lorel Clayton says:

    I wish I knew about marketing. I don't actually have anything to promote yet, but it's got to come in handy later. Still, I completely understand your distaste with marketing yourself. I feel the same.
    I blog because I love the connection with other writers and readers, and I learn so much in the process. I'm not even sure if blogging is even the best strategy to sell yourself? All I do know is that I want to learn to write as best I can. I hope my stories sell on their own merit, but I do know it's a business and you have to get your book into people's hands.
    So, when you are published, take advantage of that degree and don't hesitate to sell yourself in whatever ways you feel comfortable. Your blogging friends will still be your friends and we would never hold that website etc against you 🙂 Good luck with the editors!

  4. Jemi Fraser says:

    I'm not an outgoing person. I find self-promotion difficult as well. Hopefully by the time a need for it is there, I'll be more comfy doing it 🙂

  5. Terry Towery says:

    Hi Anne,
    I'm a new follower and I completely agree with you. I, too, tweet new blog posts and then feel like a smarmy car salesman. I'm a journalist and have always been taught that self promotion is not only unethical, but downright evil.

    Now, I find I must do it to carve out my little niche in the fiction writing world. But
    like you, I hate it.

    Thanks for the post. I'm glad I found you. 🙂

  6. Brianna611 says:

    I think about narcissism all the time and the fact that I want to avoid it at all costs. I have issues with promoting myself, too – it's weird. I don't feel important enough.

    When I was younger, I was a columnist for my city's newspaper, and there were people who called themselves my fans – it made me feel awkward – I felt so unworthy of praise, and still do in many ways.

    One thing to remember is that as much as we love writing, it's also a job, and part of that job, like it or not, is at least some self-promotion.

  7. Harley D. Palmer says:

    For me it's a means to connect with people. I have a huge fear of being in public around strangers and so I usually opt for staying at home. But I do need social interaction. Blogging and even the cursed facebook allow me to connect with other people and writers from all over the world!

    Would it be great if I had a few hundred people following my blog? Well sure! But I'm not going to drive myself batty trying to FORCE myself to have 100 followers. I'm happy with the 15 or so that I have – because they comment pretty regularly. It's nice and personal like.

    I guess for me it's not just a "marketing" thing perse – although I have it set up that way. Originally it was merely a means to meet people and for all us writers to get support and advice from one another. You guys here are seriously, my only friends! (That suddenly made me feel a bit…pathetic! LOLOL)

  8. Anne Riley says:

    Eisley: Yeah, that's a good barometer to use. Can it benefit someone? I definitely like to promote useful things I find around online, whether or not I am involved in them personally.

    Penelope: You are SO SWEET. Thank you so much! I'll tweet things if they are super important, but I think I'll refrain from tweeting most of the blog posts. And yes, I am a Spanish teacher! Spanish was my other major. =)

  9. Anne Riley says:

    Lorel: Yeah, I know that whenever my book does get published, I will be so grateful for the education and experience I have in marketing and advertising. And once I'm published, I think I'll be much more willing to promote my book, because it won't just be me anymore. I'll have the book to focus on, you know?

    Jemi: Yeah, I pretty much just echoed what you said! Once there is a product to market, I'll feel better about it.

  10. Anne Riley says:

    Terry: I'm glad you found me, too! And smarmy is the perfect word to describe how I feel about self-promotion. But, you're right. It is a necessary evil. I've just got to get to a point where I'm okay with it.

    Brianna: Yes, it is a job – and one that we need fans to do successfully. But… ugh. You know?

    Harley: Bless your sweet heart. You are one of the kindest people I've met! I'm so glad you're on here with us now. Welcome to our circle!

  11. Carolina Valdez Miller says:

    Oh my word, this is so me. I was feeling so lame, too, because I so rarely tweet about my blog posts. But I'll be honest, it really has more to do with insecurity than anything else, I think. But I really struggle with the whole concept of a brand, too. I mean, I'm just me, right? Like it or leave it. So relieved to find I'm not alone in this. Certainly, when I have a book to promote, I'll do it. I'll go full-force. But I guess it's hard for me to do any sort of promotion without the author label. So your post really made sense to me.

    On another note, I've been thinking alot about you lately. I've got my fingers crossed for you. Try to stay sane and hopeful. We're rooting for you.

  12. jason evans says:

    Tightrope is a great way to put it. You can't really force people to come (or buy your book), but you also don't want to be the best author that no one has ever heard of.

    Sounds like you have a good sense of where your tightrope leads.

  13. Anne Riley says:

    Carol: Thanks, girl. I don't know what I would do without you! Your support really means a lot!

    Jason: Yeah, you're so right. It's hard to find that happy medium, but hopefully once this book is in print, it will be clear how I should approach the promotion of it.

  14. Jennifer Shirk says:

    That's so funny, I feel the same way. I don't mind when people tweet about their blog posts or fan pages either. But when I tweet about my blog, I do feel…funny, too.

  15. Dean from Australia says:

    I had no idea about marketing when I began to focus on it for my book – and I still don't. Sometimes I feel as though I am using 21st century tools to "hawk" as a (mid) 20th century door to door salesman. I'm not savvy, I have had a couple of "interesting" encounters and I most of the time I feel as though I am spinning like a top.

    As I approach the release of the print version – I feel as though I have less idea than before (which was no idea anyway)

  16. Anne Riley says:

    Jennifer: Exactly. I feel "funny" about it. Why? Obviously, no one else does.

    Dean: Yes… I think I know what "interesting" encounters you are talking about. Ha! Well, I'll keep doing all I can to promote you, and I can't wait to have my own print copy of YOUR BOOK!

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