Saturday, August 24, 2013

Blog Tours, and How to Screw Them Up, Part 3

Sorry to be so late with this week's installment. It's been a crazy week, in part because I was on a blog tour. So, even though the publicity game in indie publishing continues to change fast enough to make anyone's head spin, the advice in my friend, Ritesh Kala's I'm a Blogger... series is still vital to know. As with my previous two posts in this series (part 1 and part 2), I'm following Ritesh's post, point by point. So go read Ritesh's post here to understand the blogger's perspective, and then come back for me to expound on things from the writer's side. I shall follow him point by point.

11. Twitter: Don't turn your tweet stream into a bunch of auto-tweeted self promo, and don't pounce on every new follower with a direct message asking for stuff. I actually have sold a lot of books via Twitter, and never has it been by asking someone to buy my book. It was always a moment of personal connection, a funny exchange, and then the person looked at my profile, saw I was a writer, and decided to buy one of my books. While a lot of people disregard Twitter as a marketing tool, let me tell you a story:

When I first setup my @emtippetts Twitter account, I wrote a blog post about one of my favorite TV shows, Being Erica, which was produced for Canadian network television and ended up being syndicated in over 70 countries worldwide. I tweeted out links to it and also a hello to the star of the show, Erin Karpluk. Then I went to bed. Come morning, I had a response from Erin with a compliment on my blogpost. The moral of this story? Do not underestimate the power of Twitter. The 140 character format makes your moments of contact very accessible. An actress isn't going to respond to every tweet and will certainly not click on everyone's bio and follow links to their blog, but she can because the 140 character message doesn't demand a lot. For that matter, I have had several ongoing conversations on Twitter that have blossomed into friendships because a tweet is very non-threatening. A tweet is like passing someone in the hall and waving, maybe asking a quick question, your posture showing that you'll move on in a second. It should never come off as the equivalent to cornering them and pelting them with questions.

So don't waste valuable social networking space with rote auto-tweets. That doesn't mean don't schedule tweets. I do that all the time, to have them go out while I'm away from Twitter, but I write each one myself. People know that my feed has a lot of retweets of events my formatting clients are doing, and tweets from me about what's going on in my career at the moment. People even stop to read those. Make your tweets count.

12. No Means No: When a blogger turns you down, accept it. Personally, I'm shocked that Ritesh even had to say this. What does anyone think they have to gain from antagonizing a blogger? Why would you want to be reviewed on a blog that initially turned you down and now feels like they have to do it anyway? Also consider this. By accepting that no means no, you let the blogger focus on the books they want to focus on. Eventually you'll find a blogger who is able to review you because they want to, and because everyone else they turned down accepted their decision, leaving them time to review books like yours.

13. Behave Yourself on a Blog Tour: Ritesh gives a long list of what not to do. Read it, and I hope you have this overwhelming sense of "duh." If you don't, go read it again. Memorize it. Abide by it, always. I'm not going to reiterate what he has to say. I'm going to tell you another story.

This one's about Carey Heywood, an author who's got multiple books out, and who has been hit with some pretty harsh reviews. For a few releases there, before she found her target audience, her ratings were a little low for someone who went on to hit the New York Times Bestseller List last month. Here's my personal experience with Carey. She doesn't know me, but we're Facebook friends. I had a client who wanted to give away keychains as swag, which Carey did once, so I messaged Carey to ask what site she got the keychains from. A minute later I get a response with the link. I test it, see that it's down, and say, "Oh, they're out of business now, but thanks so much." Immediately I get a response that says something to the effect of, "Maybe that's the wrong site. One moment." A minute later she messages me with another site link, and a smartphone picture of the return address label on the package that the keychains had arrived in. This definitely counts as her going out of her way. Even if the box was right next to her, she didn't know me from Adam. Most people wouldn't bother. I thanked her again and we signed off. Now, I don't think sweetness alone made her break through, but it certainly doesn't hurt. Furthermore, it made an impression on me that someone who has had her detractors and one-star reviews didn't come off as the slightest bit bitter or defensive.

The kind of temperament she showed me is one that wins supporters. If you ask me now what I think of her, I'm unreservedly positive. She's great. I'm really, genuinely happy to see her selling so well. She accomplished this in three quick Facebook messages. The impression you make, even in short interactions - or I should say especially in short interactions - matters. Always be on your game. Always behave as if people are on your side. That, in a nutshell, is what professionalism is all about.

14. Commenting on Blogs: I touched on this before. When you're on tour, visit the blogs that post for you and respond to comments. I'll be doing that this evening after I post this post here. Don't ever just let blogs post stuff for you without going to respond to any questions fans ask in that venue.

15. Replying to Negative Reviews: Okay, go read what Ritesh had to say, and then remember this rule of thumb. Don't. Now am I hypocrite here? Yes, because I sometimes do reply to my negative reviews. I had one where the person hated the book and ended with "Sorry," and I said, "You don't have to be sorry about being honest" and I thanked her. I had one that ripped a book of mine to shreds with some factual inaccuracies, and that one caused problems because I started to get messages from people saying they'd never read the book because X and Y happened in it, when in fact, nothing like the person described had happened. The person also made some personal attacks on me. So what did I do? I responded with, "Just to clarify, X and Y didn't happen in this book." But then here's where you have to be careful. Because the person had attacked me personally, I had to make it clear that this didn't bother me, and that's hard to do in print. "Really, it's fine that you think that," will often come off as defensive. So I took some time to craft another paragraph supporting the reviewer in her opinions, because everyone's entitled to their opinions. I just had to intervene before I got more messages reaming me out for writing a book about X, when X literally did not happen anywhere in the pages of that book.

Replying to a negative review is nearly always a bad idea, and I would say don't even attempt it unless you really are fine with bad reviews. I am. Truly. I spent ten years in a high powered writers group getting ripped to shreds by professionals, most of whom made their living from writing. No fan can come anywhere near the impact of George RR Martin telling me what was wrong with my process. I'm also weird. If you are uncomfortable with getting one-starred, you're normal. And don't respond to your negative reviews.

For that matter, don't respond to the positive ones either, or be very careful. People who write reviews would be a lot less likely to continue the practice if it became obvious that the writer read them. Reviews are for readers. Even if the review was positive and you say "thank you," you've changed the dynamic. You've invaded their space. The review was a place for them to talk about you, not to you. A lot of people will stop leaving reviews once this happens. Respect the role of reviews and treat it with respect.

But yes, when someone on Goodreads said they found one of my novels, bought it as an ebook even though they didn't have an ereader, figured out how to read it on their computer, and endured a massive headache as a result, and left 5 stars, I did have to ask, "Why the heck would you go through that kind of trouble for an author you'd never heard of before???" We had a lovely conversation in which I learned the power of the GR recommendations engine (which was useful to know), and then I ducked back behind the curtain, explaining that this was really where I belonged and why.

The End: That's the end of Ritesh's series, and mine on this subject. Hope it's been useful. I've gotta go post links to all the blogs that hosted me on my last tour, check the comments, and compose tweets to direct my followers to go to those blogs. And then I need to write my thank you notes. Because this is how don't screw up a blog tour.

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