It was many years ago. My husband was on a television show that was, at that time, Canada’s answer to Oprah in the days when Oprah was still that kind of daytime talk show where the on-stage panel was deliberately provocative and the audience was stacked with people representing the points of view that were most likely to cause controversy. I know because I was sitting in that studio audience. The topic was sex with your doctor. Couldn’t get much more provocative, could it?
My husband, then chairing the Ethics Committee of the Canadian Medical Association, was representing the medical profession; one of the other panelists, a patient who had evidently had a long-term, in-office liaison with her family doctor, was in disguise (because that’s the way these TV shows rolled in those days); the third member was a psychiatrist from California. He had written a book. He wasn’t going to let anyone forget it. No sir. If we heard the title once, we heard it practically every time he exhaled. It was a fundamental lesson in book promotion for us self-effacing Canadians, and one that we would often laugh about in the intervening years when we co-authored four consumer health books. That lesson was so basic and so fundamental and so necessary for authors to understand.
Your potential readers cannot read a book that they do not know about and cannot find.
It’s that simple, but as we fast-forward to 2015 and beyond, it becomes clear that this simple, fundamental truth about book promotion is no longer so simple in its execution. Back when we first learned it, there were few ways to get the name of your book in front of potential readers. Being on television was a coveted one. That’s why good publicists were so important.
The first time I was taken on a book tour across Canada, I was thrilled. I was picked up at the airports by publicists and driven to interviews: television talk shows, radio station interviews and call-in shows, press interviews. It was such fun, but to tell you the truth, had only limited success in reaching the right audience. [You can read about it at The fun of an author tour] Those were the days when I was still writing those consumer health books, and was considered something of an expert. This is still an important entrée into media coverage even today, but things are a lot more complicated. As a result, I’ve come to observe that there is perhaps a line over which authors can cross when book promotion is nothing short of annoying to those of us on the receiving end. I mean, how many times can you be bombarded by tweets and posts that scream, “Buy my book!” before you get so annoyed you click ‘unfollow.’ And are these authors really doing themselves any favors? I think not, but I know who is benefiting: all of those thousands of sites and companies who will sell you their services to tweet your book all over the place.
I am often followed on Twitter by book tweeting services who, I guess, expect me to follow them back. I always look at profiles before I do that and if a new follower is following 25,000 accounts, I NEVER follow back. No one monitoring that feed would ever see a single one of my puny little tweets in the first place. In the second place, I will then be bombarded by those thousands of automated tweets they put out every minute of every day shouting at me to buy books. And in the third place, and this is the kicker, they will then stop following me anyway. What they really want is for me to follow them. Without thousands of followers, they nave nothing to sell to those authors desperate for book tweets.
Ever wonder where your followers go? Well, you may find that if you don’t follow back, you’ll be dropped. Those new followers are more interested in their new followers than in what you have to offer on Twitter.What they really want is for us to follow them. Without thousands of followers, they nave nothing to sell to those authors desperate for book tweets.
So, now I come to the end of my rant and bring myself back on topic and to that fundamental truth that has not changed. Your potential new readers will never become real readers if they can’t find your book. I just hope that we all recognize that there does come a time when enough is enough. Just as that psychiatrist plugged his book at every available opportunity on television: after a while it was just annoying.