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shana galen

Getting It Just Right

The Goldilocks of Self-Promotion

In the fairytale of Goldilocks and The Three Bears, Goldilocks is looking for the porridge that isn't too hot or too cold. She wants the meal that's just right. That balance is important to find if you're an author as well. You've written a great book and are ready to release it into the world. You want to let your readers know you have a new release without either annoying them or risking them overlooking you completely. So how do you get your promotion just right?


One problem I see from many authors is actually a tendency to over-promote—to give readers super hot porridge. The over-promoter's social media is filled with promotional posts and pretty much only promotion-based posts. They send a newsletter to readers every week asking readers to buy their books. They post book release countdowns, beginning 100 days from release. When the book releases, they post screen shots from Amazon hourly detailing the book's progress on the charts.

Marketing experts say that a consumer has to see a product seven times before he or she remembers it, but if the product is constantly in a reader's face, you risk he or she skimming past it or, worse yet, becoming annoyed and hitting delete or unsubscribe.

If you recognize yourself—even a little—in the above scenarios, understand that it can be scary to scale back. What if sales decline? But what if you scale back and they increase?

It may help to look at promotion a little differently and to realize that just because you aren't saying "buy my book" doesn't mean you aren't promoting. Every tweet, post, and blog entry is a form of promotion. If you post a picture of your cat on Instagram or tweet about your lunch on Twitter, that's a form of promotion. Readers are learning about you, and in my experience, readers don't buy books because authors tell them to 100 times. They don't buy books because of cover quotes or Facebook parties. Authors can no longer count on readers to buy books because of low prices. Readers buy books from their friends.

Want to sell more books? Promote less and treat your readers more like friends.


The other side of the coin is to present readers with cold porridge in the form of little to no promotion. These authors often tell me they hold back because they don't want to annoy their readers. They may have been annoyed by an over-promoter, so they go out of their way not to make the same mistake.

These authors send a newsletter to their mailing list a few days after a book is released and never again. Their website and/or blog isn't updated. Their last Facebook post was six months ago, and their last tweet was 18 months ago. They've spent all their time writing—which is laudable!—and now the book is done and readers may very well have forgotten about them.

If you recognize yourself in this description, consider this: readers sign up for your mailing list because they want to know what you're up to. No, they don't want to hear from you three times a month, but once a quarter isn't overdoing it. And giving readers a heads up when a new book is coming out and then releases is appreciated, not an annoyance.

Further, if you have a Facebook page, Twitter account, Instagram profile, etc., use it or lose it. If you don't have time to blog, don't start a blog. If you don't have time for Facebook, get off it. But if you do include social media in your marketing strategy, then please post regularly. This does not mean you have to post hourly or even daily, but set up a schedule whereby you have regular posts that encourage readers to feel connected to you and that give them information on upcoming books.

Getting It Just Right

There isn't a perfect formula for promotion. Each formula is different for everyone based on genre, productivity, personality, and so on, but I recommend watching an author you admire or whose success you seek to emulate, and note what she does when she has a book release.

The authors I admire do several things.

  • They send out newsletters regularly, whether they have a book releasing or not. These newsletters offer exclusives to their mailing list, be it giveaways, content, sneak peeks, or an interesting tidbit of research. These authors give their readers a reason to open their newsletter, and when a book is up for pre-order or releasing, these authors slip that information in too.

  • Successful promoters keep their website updated and post regularly on social media, be it Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, or a blog. When I wonder if a favorite author has a new project out I check her Facebook page and then her website. The Facebook masthead will tell me immediately if she has a new book out because it has the image of the book on it. If I scroll down a bit, I should see lots of fun posts and graphics and a reference or two to the new book. The website should have the new book front and center along with links to every retailer.

  • Great promoters engage readers even when they have no book out and/or in ways seemingly unrelated to the new book on sale (but of course every interaction is a means of promotion). Posting a picture of your garden or a funny graphic may seem like a waste of time when you have pages to write and would rather make everyone aware of that awesome discounted price, but readers can connect with someone they see as human with passions like theirs. They cannot connect with a selling machine or an author who never attempts to engage them.

  • Finally, successful authors form relationships. If you're a student in a class and raise your hand to answer a question but the teacher never calls on you, eventually you'll stop raising your hand. It's the same on social media. If your readers comment on your Facebook posts or retweet your tweets or respond to your blog entries and you never respond back, they'll stop commenting. It's impossible to respond to everyone all the time, but at the very least, like every comment someone makes. Better yet, make an effort to respond to a few people. Remember that in this day and age, readers buy books from friends, not authors. You want to establish a relationship with your readers that 1) acknowledges their support of you and 2) where you share something of yourself. The sharing doesn't have to be overly personal, but it should be something beyond, buy my book.

No one becomes an author because she wants to spend all of her time promoting, but taking the time in advance of a book release to thoughtfully consider your promotion approach and implement it can save you time, headaches, and may even garner you new readers.

© Shana Galen

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