Advertising, Hypocrisy and Other Offenses

I just finished processing today’s load of solicitations for funds masquerading as personal letters, full of smarmy sentences such as, “We know you’re passionate about [their cause] and want to be a part of making the world a better place,” followed by several more paragraphs of similar verbiage and a separate sheet with suggested dollar amounts to donate. Then there are the employees of call centres who, after interrupting your supper, writing or blog-reading session, inevitably start off their spiel by asking, “How are you?” As if they care.

This kind of hypocrisy is extremely irritating — dressing up appeals for funds to make them look like friendly, personal attempts to reach out and befriend. While I’m scribbling out my name and address on the paper junk mail before chucking it in the recycle bin, I can’t help but recall the advice I’ve read in countless blog posts about how authors should present themselves on the internet. Never say, “Buy my book.” Not even, “Please buy my book.” Don’t be annoying — instead, create content readers find so fascinating, they will rush to seek out your books without any appeals from you.

Isn’t this a kind of hypocrisy, though? Let’s face it — most of us indie authors started blogging for one reason:  to create an “author platform” from which we could launch our book marketing strategies. After a while some of us figure out that almost all the folks who follow and read our blogs are other authors, and selling books to them works about as well as selling sand to desert dwellers. By that time we may also have found other reasons for blogging — making connections with fellow authors, creating a body of writing in the form of our blog posts, and so on. But in the background is the refrain, even if faint, “Look at my books, check out my books, please buy my books.” Otherwise, why do we display our books’ cover images in our sidebars, complete with links to where they can be bought?

I admit it — I hate advertising of all kinds. That’s one reason I kissed television goodbye decades ago. I’m an expert at avoiding click-bait on websites, and if the first or second thing I see on a website or blog (yes, even fellow writers’ blogs) is a pop-up plea to sign up for a newsletter, I’m gone. When it comes to advertising my own books, I put myself in the place of the recipient of such appeals and imagine them doing what I do when I recognize a sales pitch.

Writing — creating good quality prose or poetry — is a demanding art, with perfection always receding into the distance. Some writers manage to turn themselves into marketers as well. Good for them. I don’t happen to have a natural inclination for that aspect of the book business, so am walking the indie author path in my own fashion.


Rose coloured specs



  1. Those pop-up newsletter thingys are spreading like wildfire. I’m guessing someone said it was the newest thing authors had to do and a great many (unfortunately) jumped on the bandwagon.

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    1. I’ve seen newsletters cited as a way to build an email list you may then use as a tool to promote your books. Thing is, how does an indie author manage to write quality blog posts, produce a quality newsletter, write quality books, work at a day job (to earn money for professional editing and cover design) AND have some sort of family/personal time? I suspect it’s not possible for most. There are some indie authors who do effective self-promotion without becoming pests, but they are a minority. Which is exactly what many believe to be the case with self-published books — a few gems, but a lot of dross. The popup newsletter offers are another form of “magic bullet,” but like most such solutions, they aren’t all that magical. I would find them less off-putting if they at least waited until I had “liked” a post before popping up.

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  2. At the back of my mind, when writing the blog, is the possibility of someone thinking ‘I like this blog, wonder what his books are like.’ I always feel like a hustler if I write a blog post about the novels and that’s probably why I’ve only sold 25 books in four years.

    I’ve also given up wondering how it’s done. I don’t believe any of the advice you read, I’d certainly never hand over cash to the likes of bookbub to promote giving away free novels, and even my appetite for blogging is at an all time low.

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    1. I agree with just about everything you say. Every time I hit that “publish” button on WordPress, I find myself thinking “Maybe this will be the one!” while knowing it probably won’t be. And I do have a book cover image in my sidebar, just like many others. But blogging has become its own thing with me, so I carry on. I hope you won’t quit, because your posts are always worth reading (even the ones about weird British toys and games I’ve never heard of).

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  3. I agree about the intrusiveness of advertising – I’ve even had the phone go and been confronted with a robot-recording trying to sell stuff! Needless to say this is a 100% guarantee that I will never, ever, deal with the company or its products. In terms of direct web advertising, I saw figures the other day in which one advert fielded over a million impressions (which I discover is ‘turns up on somebody’s page or feed’ – this area seems to have its own jargon) but less than 2 percent click-through. Makes you wonder why anybody bothers to run the ad: we are conditioned basically to ignore them. As you say, the better way for authors is to create great content and get people to know who you are as a person – at which point they may well actively seek out your work. Word of mouth sells books. Hard sell doesn’t!

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  4. Great post! I can relate! I’ve come up with one strategy for junk mail; “return to sender”… they can pay to get it back, too. For those irritation sales calls, I will either begin ordering a pizza, confuse them, and then act as if I dialed the wrong number, or I will simply quietly set the phone aside and let them continue practising their spiel into thin air… 🙂 The only thing TV is good for is watching sports or DVDs… I’d rather write, or read, and spend time with my husband.
    Also, I don’t think there are many of us authors who think, “Oooh, I can’t wait to get to the good part – marketing! Self-advertising! Woohoo!” Most of us would rather crawl into a comfortable corner, cat, drink and computer or paper in hand, and write the next story welling up in our rich inner landscapes. 🙂

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