There are Tools and Then There are Tools…

Yeah, I’m back. You can start the party.

I’ve been freelancing for a fundraising event and the communications – including social media, radio, print, etc. – kept me really busy. But the event is now over. At my nonprofit social media blog (Social Media Birdbrain) my last post was about the communications that come after the event. Engagement is at the heart of social media, after all, so just because an event has passed, doesn’t mean there’s nothing left about it to share. Which brings me to my mini-rant.

I’ve gotten more than a few emails during the time I’ve been away from this blog that have made me scratch my head and wonder.

Several emails were from people I connected with on Goodreads. I’ve never turned down a friend request from there because I figured people who read would be fun to talk with about books. But I’m going to be a little more cautious in the future because I suspect some accounts have been established just to send out book recommendations.

I prefer recommendations from people I trust and these did not meet that criterion. They were sparse and contained a kind of die-cut prose that put me off immediately. Reading them, I did not have the feeling that someone had just put the book down and couldn’t wait to tell me what a great experience they’d had. Instead, it was more as if they had a list of books in one hand and a list of email addys in the other. Trash.

I don’t know for sure if what I suspect is true – that some people are trying to game the recommendation sharing on Goodreads for their own profit, but if they are, then they are going about it the wrong way. I love reading what my friends on Goodreads are sharing – I like hearing why they did or didn’t like a book. Reading their reviews is like getting a letter telling me about what’s happening somewhere else in the world. I don’t get that from a bald email that says “Joe Blow recommended you read The Wind Smells. ‘It was groovy.'” When I see stuff like that, I don’t think it’s just the wind that smells, but someone’s marketing plan.

Author invitations are usually part of a marketing plan. Goodreads allows you to set up event notifications and send them out to your friends list, which is neat if you’re having a signing, a live interview, or a reading. But they should be used with caution.

I’ve gotten two recently. One was for a virtual St. Paddy’s day party on FB, celebrating the release of a book of Irish fiction. There was no mention of the name of the book, its premise, or why it was assumed I would be interested. The incentive to ‘attend’ was the chance to win some ‘free Irish fiction.’ I felt an immediate desire to consume my virtual green beer elsewhere.

The second invitation was an even worse attempt at using a virtual event for marketing. The author even titled it “Help Publish a Book.” It was a sad story – the author had had family support in publishing the first two books in her trilogy, but her father had passed on and she was now running out of money and ways to finance the publication of the last book, which she wants to give the treatment it deserves:’ terrific cover art using live models, creame (sic) paper, advertising and much more.’ She’s had to ‘fight and work long hours’ to get this far, so she wanted me to go over to Kickstarter and review the plan, bearing in mind that ‘when you help out you get something in return.’ She says writing is her passion and she loves everything that goes into getting a book published. Too bad I didn’t see any of that passion or attempts at mastering marketing and promotion in her email.

That’s two benefits to Goodreads that ended up irritating me because the people using them didn’t use them correctly.

Social sites are great places to begin to gain an audience for your work because they allow you to have a conversation with your readers.  Social media is about creating a relationship, which grows trust. Using social media to ask people for money or favours without establishing a relationship (or your bona fides) is violation of trust, bad marketing, and likely to backfire.

It’ s not enough to be a good literary writer in times where the author is almost solely responsible for marketing her work. You almost have to learn to be a copywriter as well. If you can’t or won’t, then find a way to let the work you believe in speak for you. Social media can help with all of that, so it would be too bad not to use it. But it is definitely a tool that performs only as well as its user.

Even a  good tool will hurt you if you misuse it.

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2 thoughts on “There are Tools and Then There are Tools…

  1. Thanks so much for this post. I have not yet created a Goodreads account, but I was asked to do so by a friend. The information you provided is great, though it saddens me to see that social sites like Goodreads has its cons. Still, you must admit: there is no good without bad; no light without dark. Smelling the Wind is just a fact of life these days 😉

    Like

    • Nice to see you here, Saul. I agree with you – smelling the wind these days is a given one should be prepared for. Even so, the benefits of Goodreads outweigh the negatives for me, which are more like outliers than the norm.

      Like

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