Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Marketing Overload

Back when I began blogging, writers got online to:

Build a platform
  Find camaraderie among others of their own kind
 Learn about the industry
 Attract readers who might buy their books
 Procrastinate working on the novel
Impress agents and editors that they're serious about the business
Avoid face to face interactions with actual people

And in the last few years, it's morphed into must get online to:

Promote our books
Market our books
Tell everyone about our books
Put links to our books on our sidebar
Brag about our book sales

Not that there's anything wrong with that in moderation of course but it does get tiresome. And don't even get me started on the kind of feeding frenzy that Twitter and FB have become for those with books to sell. Still, these are our books and if we aren't passionate about them, then who will be? I guess.

Time for an informal poll! 

Have you purchased books based on a blog, blog tour, Twitter or Facebook announcement?

Ever been tempted to unfollow someone due to excessive promotional content?

Are authors the new spammers?

Am I overreacting, and should I just chill and accept that online marketing and promotional activities are an essential part of being a writer?

55 comments:

  1. Oh, sigh, this is such a tough one. I think there is a way to do promo effectively without going overboard - the key is to find that line!

    I have unfollowed authors who only do promo. One kept DM'ing me on Twitter to ask me to retweet his promo tweets. Um, no. He'd never even interacted with me. I have also seen authors' blogs get completely swallowed by promo - for them and other authors (and mine was in danger of that, I felt, before Christmas, too).

    Since the explosion of author promo, I'm even more conscious of when and where I post about my books, and I try to spread it out. I've made an effort to return my blog back to its fun origins and to make it less of a venue for author promo. I don't always get the balance right, but I'm trying!

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  2. 1. no. 2. yes. 3. not sure 4. i don't think so...

    although, i do feel for authors who are trying to make some money with their books. there are so many books out there, esp. now with self-pub, kindle, etc. it's got to be hard. but there has to be balance too, i think.

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  3. I have bought a book based on someone's blog, but haven't done that very often. I tend to like the posts which make the book promotion subtle. Their books are listed. They might mention them. But their blogs are geared not toward selling their books, but toward connecting with those who stop by. They can occasionally alert those of us stopping by that they've had a good review on another blog or they have some other publishing news, but I tend to buy a book because of the author, not necessarily how hard they're pushing their book.

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  4. yes, yes, maybe, maybe not

    Well, it's good to see I'm not the only one who feels this way. I think it's a doubled-edged sword. There are books I never would have read (or even found) if it weren't for twitter/blogs/facebook. At a recent book conference I attended, the authors were quote convinced that online promotions lead to sales. But, as you noted, too much can be a bad thing. It's a find line.

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  5. I have bought books based on other people's blogs. Most of the blogs I follow are good about not over-promoting. But I know what you mean, though. Blogging shouldn't just be a means to promote books; I've always thought it was more about writing and making connections with other writers. When it stops being about that, it stops being fun.

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  6. I like Talli and and Helen's responses. I've found several books from blog tours and I always buy my blogger buddies' books when they come out. (And I did stop visiting one bloggers who talked about nothing but her books because it does get old.) I am gearing up for a blog tour, so I will post about my book during that time, but otherwise I stick to my usual topics.

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  7. Karen, I have read books by other bloggers, but it was the connection to the author through blogging that aroused my interest in the books. I chose to blog for the reasons you stated above, NOT to promote a book. I want to connect with writers in meaningful ways. I like to discuss stories I've read. I like to share my writing experience with the world and learn from other writers, but writers who only care about promoting books turn me off.

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  8. I've definitely unfollowed authors who only post "Buy my book!" comments.

    I have bought books based on what I've seen in blogs and on Twitter and Facebook, but it has always been because I start to feel like I know the author a little and something about their personality, their love for writing, makes me want to read their work. So far, I haven't bought a book I already knew about based on a blog tour, so I imagine those are mostly useful for spreading word of your book to a wider audience, not convincing people who are already aware of it to buy it.

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  9. I'm hearing you loud and clear on this, Karen. There is a threshold in regards to promotion and over-promotion. I think my general feeling is this: the only promotion that really ever works is that done by other people. You can tell people you're great all you want, but if they don't know you, you're just another stranger saying you're great.

    Hence my belief that authors should blog, Tweet, FaceWhatHaveYou, etc. for the lone purpose of getting to know people. Sure, put links on your pages. It's perfectly okay to crow about a big win (top in the Kindle genre, award, etc.) from time-to-time. Let us know on Twitter when your latest is released to the masses. Other than that, just interact. Share things you love. Talk about the business. Basically, make it so that if someone is interested in getting to know you, they can.

    I recently read a comment made by a fairly prominent author sating that his book sales numbers (they're big) weren't a reflection of his online presence/popularity simply because most of his blog and Twitter followers were authors, not fans who buy his books. I think he has a point.

    In the end, it's probably a percentages game. Yes, a certain (most likely small of small) percentage of your Facebook friends and blog followers are going to read what you're writing. But I'm not certain that number would warrant the kind of focus I see authors giving to promotion on those vehicles. That isn't to say you shouldn't be blog hopping, etc. Those are worthwhile activities, and definitely help spread the word. I just think they probably work best when instigated by others.

    Just my thoughts, and certainly not gospel.

    EJ

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  10. It's a delicate balance. I HAVE bought books I've seen promoted on blogs and Twitter, but if the ONLY thing I ever see from the author is "Buy me! Buy me! Buy me!" I get turned off.

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  11. I've bought books through blog promotions, but usually after I've followed the author for a while and gotten a sense of who they are . . . in a way their "character" helps me get into the characters that they write about. I've tried twittering but I haven't really gotten into it, and facebook is a playplace, but I have promoted my writing there - more of a "yay!" kind of announcement than a "buy my stuff, or defriend me" kind of thing. I think it depends on the style of promotion. The best blogger buddies and facebook author buddies I have offer more than self-promotion. They offer encouragement and connection.

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  12. Have you purchased books based on a blog, blog tour, Twitter or Facebook announcement?

    Yes, I have, numerous times. I find social media is a fantastic way to find out about new authors.

    But, and it's a big but, I only end up buying books if the writer has given me some reason to believe I'll like the book.

    For example, when I started blogging, I loved Talli Roland's blog. I looked forward to reading it. When I heard she had a book out, I thought 'Oh, I love her writing! I must get that book.' Equally, I discovered Kiersten White online - her blog also makes me laugh out loud, so I had to seek out her book, which was great. I have never bought based on a 'BUY MY BOOK NOW SERIOUSLY ITS AWESOMESAUCE' tweet.

    Ever been tempted to unfollow someone due to excessive promotional content?

    I have been tempted and I have unfollowed them. Ads are boring. Give me something to engage with, even if it's just a line. I've bought books based on just a line or two before!

    Are authors the new spammers?

    Sadly, they can be, but I think spamming authors are a minority.

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  13. This is a tough one. I've unfollowed people on Twitter who bombard me with 'buy my book' tweets or worse, DM me and ask me to do their promotional tweets for them. Tsk.

    I have bought books that I've seen mentioned on blogs, Twitter and Facebook but - and it's a big BUT - I've already had some sort of rapport with the author.

    Somehow, we have to let people know our books are out there. We also have to avoid the excessive self-promotion. Getting the balance right can be really difficult.

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  14. Luckily my blog doesn't set out to do that - I stick to just being silly which is probably as tiresome! LOL!

    I've tried to unfollow one (blogger wouldn't let me!! Boooo!) cos they wrote something evil about the RSPCA but that's it!

    Take care
    x

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  15. Yes, yes, no and no. In my opinion. =)

    I think it's the world we live in. A little promotion I'm fine with, but when all I get from them are twits about their book, I get tired with it. (Hope that helps)

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  16. This really is a tough one. Yes, I've bought books based upon blog tours/reviews/and so on, but I definitely give priority to blogging buddies whom I've known for awhile and tend to post about things other than their book or WIP. I really, really look forward to purchasing a fellow blogger's first book as I believe strongly we should support each other.

    I've never dropped a follower for marketing tactics as none of my followers has ever given me reason to do so. However, I do ignore e-mails that say, "Hey, check out my books" and breeze on. Kinda rude, telling me to do something.

    I hear what you're saying, but so much is the sign of the times in a technological age. I have faith the proper etiquette will shake out.

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  17. Hey thanks to everyone who has responded to this poll! Your well-thought-out answers are interesting and helpful. I'm sure that readers of this post will also read each comment to get further feedback, because it's an issue we all face and deal with constantly.

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  18. Have you purchased books based on a blog, blog tour, Twitter or Facebook announcement?

    "Ever been tempted to unfollow someone due to excessive promotional content?" I've done it on more than one occasion. I even had to block someone who kept sending me spam.

    "Are authors the new spammers?" Some are. They're usually the crappy author I wouldn't buy anyway.

    "Am I overreacting, and should I just chill and accept that online marketing and promotional activities are an essential part of being a writer?"
    You aren't overreacting. Some authors are a real pain. While we need to promote, we need to do it in an unobstrusive way. Blogging and tweeting about the subject of your book is one way. Write romance? Have a romance blog that occasionally mentions your book. Write historical fiction? Tweet about history and throw in a mention about your book now and then. Provide content, not sales pitches.

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  19. Whoops, forgot this one!

    "Have you purchased books based on a blog, blog tour, Twitter or Facebook announcement?"
    Yes, more so since I got my Kindle and started stocking it up. The majority of my pleasure reading (which all too often takes a back seat to my research reading) still comes from me browsing through bookstores, however.

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  20. Have you purchased books based on a blog, blog tour, Twitter or Facebook announcement?

    Absolutely.

    Ever been tempted to unfollow someone due to excessive promotional content?

    Absolutely :o)

    Are authors the new spammers?

    Not if they know what they're doing. If they know what they're doing you don't notice the promo because they are smart enough to blend it into something interesting for us to read!

    Am I overreacting, and should I just chill and accept that online marketing and promotional activities are an essential part of being a writer?

    No you're not over reacting. There are some authors who think tweeting purchase links over and over. And over. is going to get them somewhere. It's not. As I said above, the smart ones promote without it looking like promotion.

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  21. It's such a careful line, isn't it? I have bought a couple because of great reviews or interviews on the sites of trusted bloggers or because of relationships I've built. I have downloaded FREE or 'now 99 cent' books if I learn on FB promos.

    But I feel like promo should ONLY be when there is 'news' and 'news' is something that happens once. So a post for a release, a review or a guest blog or something... great. But daily 'buy my book' with NO news... going to annoy me really quickly. I have turned off updates for people who do too much of it, and I never check the updates of people who post on several pages at the same time because I'm sure it's spam.

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  22. Some good responses. I think Hart's second paragraph sums it up best.

    After six books, I've done enough that I don't even want to mention my books on my blog. I do now and then because it will suddenly hit me "Oh pits - does anyone even remember I'm an author?"

    Just making friends online and letting others promote is best and I know several authors who do that well.

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  23. 1. Yes, I have bought several books because of online promotion on blogs -- by people I know.

    2. I get very tired of the people on Twitter who send out endless tweets about their novels, but I haven't unfollowed anyone because of it.

    3. Some definitely are, and I feel a little sorry for them that they don't know how to promote their books in a humane manner...like making friends with people first.

    4. You're not overreacting, just thinking things through. Proves you're not a robot. :))

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  24. Interesting questions.

    NO, I've never bought a book because of a blog tour, and in fact, rarely follow one of the "tours", but I HAVE bought a book based on personal recommendation or stellar reviews from other bloggers I follow. OR because I like the author's blog voice.

    NO, I've never "unfollowed" anyone, but I may avoid reading some if I find the content too self-congratulatory, too me-me-me or too repetitive. (Only so many hours in a day!)

    NO, I don't think they're spammers. Not exactly. It's understandable that they're uber excited about their book and want to do all they can to promote it. However, I hope to refrain from that sort of behavior if (No, doggone it ... WHEN!) my book is published.

    NO, you're not overreacting. You are entitled to your opinion, dear lady. I suspect most of your aggravation stems from Twitter and Facebook, and since I maintain a very low (read: darned near non-existent) profile on both, I haven't run into it. I've just observed a modicum of this behavior on Blogger.

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  25. No, yes, some, no

    A few things I can't stand - someone posting about their book on my facebook wall seconds after I accept their friend request. Guess what? We aren't friends anymore and the post gets deleted.

    And another - being added to groups without my consent.

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  26. I have bought many books because of promotion through social media. And I've taken even more out of the library. I have unfollowed people because of too much self-promotion. Also, I've seen examples of self-promotion done really well and I hope to follow those leads. Like anything, I think a balance is important.

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  27. It never offends me when someone promotes their book a lot. It's the right thing to do! I just always feel guilty because I'm way behind in reading all these lovely books.

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  28. I know. It's overwhelming really isn't it? I must admit though, all my book choices come from blogger recommendations. It's rare I'll buy something that I haven't heard buzz on. So for me I'm the perfect person to be persuaded by online buzz. If I see more than one review, I usually buy the book.

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  29. I admit, I have stopped following people who get annoying and talk of nothing but their books. STILL, I have read books based on blog tours and book reviews other authors have done, so I think it's important to promote. Finding that balance, though, is tricky!

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  30. I've definitely bought books having read about them on blog tours, the author's own blog and through them tweeting about their books (although with this last one, I usually try a book if I'm actually tweeting with the author and not just subject to their promotional tweets. They have to tweet about other stuff for me to think them interesting and that their book might also be something I'd like to read, as an extension of that.

    Can people overdo promotion? Oh, yes. There's daily evidence of that in my DM's (which earns the author an unfollow after the 2nd attempt) and Twitter stream. I hate that some people seem to think they have to retweet or link to every single review or positive word of encouragement from their mum to the family pet, so that earns them an unfollow too. There needs to be a balance of chat, interesting or fun links, and book promo and it's tough to get the balance of that right to satisfy everyone, I think.

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  31. Well...I downloaded your book because of a blog post...
    : )

    That said, there are a few books I've read due to online marketing...and I might have read more if I had a bigger book budget...but I tend to go for those who quietly mention their work...vs. those who blast it all over the place. Easy for me to say now...but if I ever get to a place where I need to market my book, we'll see...

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  32. I can't speak for Twitter since I'm not on it yet. Facebook and other media I tend to ignore most of the time.
    But I can understand how it all has a place. Promotion on blogs I don't mind for the most part unless it is overbearing and excessive.

    I'm somewhat surprised by your position here since you have your own thing to promote as you well should in order to make it a success. If you don't talk about your books and projects who else will without a bit of a push from you.

    It's all about balance. I don't mind hosting blog tours on my site, but I wouldn't do it every day. I'm not a fan of "book blogs" where every post is about book reviews and things related to the books, but I can see how there can be a place for them.

    I don't want to fill up your comment section with what I have to say about this as I have already started a series on this and related topics. Last week I discussed "Product Placement" as a prelude to what you're talking about here and more.

    This is a great topic, but I wouldn't stress out about it since it's part of the way business is done. TV? You can always turn it off or change channels. Blogs? You can always exit and go to the next one.

    More to come on my blog (sounds like a promo doesn't it?)


    Lee
    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog
    Twitter: @AprilA2Z
    #atozchallenge

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  33. WOW! This is the first time I've been to your site - you actually dropped by mine a few days ago and I'm coming over to meet you - AND - you definitely have a new follower! You summed things up perfectly as to what seems to be happening right now. I don't think you are over-reacting. It's very difficult to find a balance for "us" writers these days. Like most - I would love to sit back and just write write write until my fingers bleed, publish and then sell millions of books. And like others, I know it doesn't work that way. Marketing seems to have become the Godzilla that forces us to run away from our writing and into the hands of the social media. Don't get me wrong, sometimes it can be fun...the challenges are great and meeting new people is wonderful, and the support that's out there is incredible, but sometimes I would just like to write, get my book out there and see what happens...a little less pressure would be nice. The amount of information out there in overwhelming. Your questions are interesting, I agree reading about the same book's publicity can get tiresome, but I've never un-followed someone because of it. And I can say the more I read it doesn't make me want to buy it more than I did the first time or change my mind if I didn't. I would hate to think we're in the category of spammers, so I'll say no to that question for now.

    Great post! I'm on my way to check out your other sites. Have a great day!

    Ainsley

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  34. Thanks for stopping by, Karen. I'm amazed at the pillow fanatics out there. Don't feel so quirky anymore, yay!

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  35. These comments have just blown me away. Thank you all so much for taking the time to read this post and leave such thoughtful responses. It has been tremendously helpful.

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  36. I came exceptionally close to blocking one particular author who was spamming her work everywhere I went. It was relentless.

    I completely ignore posts, emails, twitter direct messages and facebook spams of books from authors who haven't taken the time to treat social media as a social output.

    There's a way of promoting one's book without PROMOTING it, if you get what I mean ;)

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  37. Yes, Yes, Not yet, I don't think you're overreacting.

    From what I've heard and read blogging isn't that big a source for book sales....

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  38. I have bought books based on blogs and blog tours. Actually, I really love hearing about other authors process and then seeing them do the blog tour...like Jessica Bell. It is all about having balance and not crossing that magic line. I have been tempted to stop following someone if ALL they do is self promote. You are not overreacting at all.

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  39. Hi just wanted to drop in and meet you. I'm in the A-Z Challenge. You brought out some really great questons.
    I've bought books based on friendships but not blogs.

    I know of one pushy blog person that signed up for the challenge to get "followers" and name recognition.

    If you are really a good writer your work will get out there word or mouth, blog or tweet but too much tooting your own horn turns me off!

    Love your blog...I'll be back!
    dreamweaver

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  40. Hi Karen!
    I have purchased books based on a blog tour or something like that. For the most part, I'm happy to have do so.

    I have "unfollowed" people due to excessive promotions. But only if what they were promoting sucked.

    Yes, authors can sometimes seem like spammers. But, it's a product that I like, so I usually don't mind.

    There are some great writer's blogs and some great writers out there. The opposite is also true...

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  41. Interesting, but tough question. I'm afraid of excessive promo-ing, so
    I try to promote myself within reason, but mostly I try to build community. I think it's more important to share your ideas, thoughts and make friends. I started my blog as way to express myself and meet others. It's been one of the most wonderful thing I've done.

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  42. I have bought books that were recommended to me on other people's blogs, but not because the author posted there.

    It doesn't move me to buy if I know the author and blogger are chums though. I prefer recommendations from more objective sources.

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  43. Hi, Karen. Stopping by to meet you. I'm also participating in the A to Z Challenge.

    I've stopped following a couple of blogs because all the bloggers did was continually promote their books or whined about no one buying their books. Big turn off.

    I've bought books that other people have recommended on their blogs by way of reviews and blog tours.

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  44. Susanne, Nice to meet you! I can't imagine whining on my blog because no one has bought my books! I save those conversations for my husband. *smile* I may whine about a lot of things, but I think I'd have enough sense to refrain from THAT LOL.

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  45. 1- No. In fact, it turns me off.
    2- Absolutely, and I have, many times.
    3- Seems like a lot of them are. But there's a difference between them and the professionals.
    4- Not at all. It's been bugging me too.

    Have a good weekend, Karen. :)

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  46. LOL! Great post, Karen G. I'm still blogging to do #2, #3, #5, and #6... although now I'm making myself go back in the cave, so scratch off #5.

    As for your questions, I have bought books based on blog reviews. And if it's a friend of mine (you included), I've bought books based on tours, etc. So far, I'm not in overload land on this yet. But I don't venture out as much as you guys~ ;p <3

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  47. Now that I've learned all about the industry, I'm online only to attract readers so I'll have camaraderie while I procrastinate on my novel.

    Authors have a tough role these days: promote too little and you don't gain readers; promote too much and you lose 'em.

    Informal poll answers:
    I've bought books I've learned about on blogs. I unfollow people who do nothing but promote. Authors are new spammers, but not THE new spammers; spam is everywhere. Just chill, and try to find the perfect balance between engaging and promoting.

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  48. Actually, I have bought books because of some of those items. That's where I've gotten many of the books on my "to read" list at Goodreads--it's nearly 140 now.

    But there's a way to do it and a way not to. I hate when the first thing I hear from someone I just followed (back) is "check out my book here". People who spam, I just stop following.

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  49. I have unfollowed people on facebook who do nothing but promote their book twenty times a day. And there are a few blogs I stopped visiting for the same reason.
    On the other hand, I have found some new authors through blogs. I don't know the answer to how much is too much.

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  50. You're not overreacting and some people go too far. I've certainly bought books as a result of loneline promotion - but I've also been put off by folks promoting too much. There's a balance to be struck, I feel ...

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  51. On the first two questions, I was going to say "no" and "yes", then I remembered I did buy one book based on discovering and being intrigued by the author's site, and the fascinating background information he posted there. OK, that wasn't based on a promotional announcement, so my "no" still stands :)

    I'll take a different slant on this and say I almost never read reviews. Whenever I see the word "review" in my Blogger dashboard I skip the post. And if a blog is clearly all about reviews or promotions I probably wouldn't follow in the first place.

    How's that for not answering the question?

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  52. All the reasons you put at the very beginning-

    Build a platform
    Find camaraderie among others of their own kind
    Learn about the industry
    Attract readers who might buy their books
    Procrastinate working on the novel
    Impress agents and editors that they're serious about the business
    Avoid face to face interactions with actual people

    Are still my reasons. I can never imagine ‘hard selling’ ANYTHING, let alone myself.
    What I found, while blogging, is that reason #2 has been the most satisfying so far. This is one reason I’m commenting here, dear writing colleague.

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  53. Hi Karen .. I agree I'll happily buy if there's a blogger whom I relate to - and often if there is a recommendation to another blogger's book there.

    I don't like push, shove, do, do, etc .. really puts me off - and I'd unsubscribe from them ...

    Thankfully most of you authors don't do that .. and as Lee says we can always switch off ..

    Glad you linked back to this .. from your 6th March post about Making Peace with Marketing ... cheers Hilary

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  54. I have bought a book because I liked the blogger too.
    I can be put off by too much selling. I like reading interesting stories about your life, you being the blogger. If you make me laugh, so much the better, or cry, or get mad. Slick characters bore me.

    I'm doing the A to Z challenge too checking blogs out. But I'm really a painter, not a writer. And the same things seem to apply.


    Mimi Torchia Boothby Watercolors

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