Marketing: When is it squicky?

Writers have heard for years they have to brand, they have to be “discoverable” and they have to market, Market, MARKET their own work because nobody else is going to do it for them.

I’m here to say there are times and places to turn it off. For example, I belong to the Romance Writers of America professional organization, which costs me US$95 per year. I belong to several chapters within that organization, including a couple of special interest chapters, which all charge US$20-US$30 per year in dues.

For any individual listserv, I’m pretty much paying US$50 a year for the privilege of getting e-mails. At least two of the chapters I belong to have a promo/marketing problem on their listservs/Yahoo groups. Frankly, it smacks of personal injury attorneys handing out business cards at a Bar Association meeting. Squicky.

I work closely with sales and marketing people in my day job (pretty much, I am the marketing communications department at my small company), so I deal with message, urgency, and spin — a lot. I know all the tricks, and I don’t like it when they’re used inappropriately.

So what do I mean by promo/marketing? This:

  • “I just posted to my blog about (insert subject), so click this link to read it.”
  • “I entered this esoteric contest you’ve never heard of and I’m blatantly soliciting votes.”
  • “Congratulations!” or “I commented on your blog!” (followed by a 20-line signature that includes multiple book covers and an author blurb) — this one looks particularly desperate, which is extra squicky.

Basically, marketing is anything that demands an action from me: give you blog traffic; give you support; give you more attention than your words merit; buy, buy, buy your book(s). Greasy-leer, sweaty-palm, used-car-salesman-with-matching-white-belt-and-shoes squicky. Note: Not all used-car salesmen are squicky. I’ll bet you know the ones I mean.

What’s not squicky?

Class is never squicky. Write thoughtfully about interesting topics and have a discreet link in your signature (that is four lines, maximum, with no graphics) and I’ll probably click it and read about your books.

For example, if your new blog post is so fascinating you want to promote it, post it to the list as well as your blog. Discuss it with your colleagues, using full sentences and words (textspeak on an email list is definitely more squicky than classy).

Be polite. Be interesting. Have ideas. I know, that takes time and we don’t have time because we’re on the social-media-marketing hamster wheel. So get off the wheel; it’s probably the leading cause of squick. I’m a lot more likely to tell my tribe about your new title if I know you as classy, thoughtful, polite, and interesting.

Even if it’s a humorous YA vampire mystery romance I’m most likely never going to read (sorry, YA vampire romances aren’t my thing, even if they have funny mysteries attached), I have friends who love that premise and would also love to find a new author. Just not a squicky one.

4 comments so far

  1. Keri Peardon on

    Maybe you’ve covered it in a previous post, but in regards to your membership dues in those various organizations/chapters, do you feel it’s a good investment? What, exactly, do you get for that money? $95 is nothing to sneeze at in this economy.

    • ValRoberts on

      Actually US$95 is comparable to the science fiction and fantasy organization (SFWA) and the mystery writing organization (MWA), but RWA seems to be both much more open to new members and much more organized than the other two. RWA offers craft training, business training, and market/business information that is updated regularly.

      SFWA and MWA…require you to be published in one of a limited set of markets before they’ll let you join. For me, RWA is a good investment; my second science-fiction romance novel is coming out October 1st of this year, and I’m not eligible to join SFWA because they don’t recognize digital-first publishers.

      By way of comparison, the Society of Technical Communicators, which I used to belong to, charges US$215 per year, plus US$60 if I want a printed copy of the journal (RWA doesn’t charge for the Romance Writers Report in hardcopy). I dropped my membership about the time the only STC chapter in my state disbanded.

      Your mileage might vary, of course.

  2. Angela Abderhalden on

    Love the word squicky! ….If only those types of people would listen to you, Val, the world (internet) would be a far better place.

  3. A Smith on

    I agree, totally squicky when they post, here is my latest blog post, drives me nutty. If I wanted to know when they posted I’d follow their blog like I do yours.

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