By Amy Collins
November brings with it a flurry of activity as authors participate in NaNoWriMo and the winter holiday season sparks a flurry of marketing activities.
There is something about this time of year that moves even the shyest author to reach out and promote their books. It is in that spirit of brave, new, crazy ideas that I bring you this month’s edition of DO THIS NOT THAT.
Usually I mention the name and book of the person who willingly agrees to share their experiences, but in these case, the names have been changed to protect the embarrassed.
What She Did
She orchestrated a number of large-scale purchases across the US to try and buy her way into some best seller lists.
This practice is not illegal nor is it even particularly rare. Publishers do this often. A number of conservative publishers have had a lot of success buying bulk quantities across the US to use as “thank you” gifts or incentive give aways for memberships.
These purchases often do get tracked and the books listed on the best seller lists for a short time. In some cases, the title is marked with an asterisk and notice that the purchases were orchestrated. In other cases, the books are pulled from the list all together.
It worked! By having 250 people order between 20 – 28 books from bookstores across the US, her book shot to the top of the bestseller lists that week. The author was in the top 15 of the major East Coast newspaper’s bestseller list and she could now call herself a New York Times Best Selling Author.
She believed that this status would spark enough sales to start the ball rolling and pick up momentum on its own. She believed that the inclusion on the list would jumpstart the organic success the book deserved.
What THEN Happened
Nothing. Nada. No one bought the book and her week on the list came and went without the explosion of sales the author hoped would help launch the book.
Having a New York Times Bestselling book did NOTHING to improve her chances with the movie and TV agents she was trying to woo because they could see that the sales were for one week only.
What She Should Have Done Instead
Driven sales honestly and organically.
Buying bulk quantities to use for charitable and altruistic reasons is fine. I applaud it. But don’t try and “game” the bestseller lists and the system by orchestrating a nationwide purchase campaign.
By my reckoning, she spent AT LEAST $115,000 on the books. That does not even take into account what she might have paid others to help her with this endeavor.
In the end, it was an expensive and wasteful exercise. Her best seller status will forever have an asterisk next to it and that time, money, and energy could have been spent launching the book properly and given it a real chance.
Our next author shared with me that she came up with HER big idea by reading a suggestion on line in an author discussion group.
What She Did
She organized a “review-swap” online via social media.
Authors from around the globe would share PDFs of their books online with each other and then write reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and other sites in exchange for getting reviews of THEIR books.
A LOT of reviews were written and most of them were flagged and taken down. Hundreds of hours of reading and review writing/posting wasted because in this day and age, it is REALLY easy for sites to spot reviews that have been traded.
In this particular case, the Facebook page where a lot of this was organized was “tattled on” and reported to the review sites. Several of the authors in the group were blocked from writing reviews on at least one site.
What They Should Have Done Instead
Approached authors and reviewers with review copies of their books and ask for an honest review.
Asking for any return on a review or offering any sort of compensation (even in the form of a positive review) is a HUGE no-no in our world. Reviews need to be autonomous and stand free of any possible appearance of collusion. If reviews are going to stay the powerful sales tool that they are, they cannot be traded or incentivized.
Going after and requesting reviews or setting up bulk sales for legitimate organizations are two honorable practices. They are a good use of our time as authors. There is no need to try to take shortcuts or “game” the system. Let’s use our creativity and time to get the word out there that our books are great reads.
See you in December folks. If you have any comments or questions, please leave them below. I would love to continue this conversation with you.