The Fine Line Between Promo & Bozo

There’s an author on a popular social media discussion forum who starts a half dozen Twitter-like threads about her self-published books at least twice a day. My inbox floods with @’s, RT’s and hashtags when it’s supposed to be filled with lively discussion and debate about children’s literature. I’ve tried to gently steer this author, explaining that Twitter blasts aren’t appropriate for a discussion forum, but she continues to promote her books as if she doesn’t care about annoying the group membership.

Likewise, I’ve seen authors on Twitter tweet “read my award-winning book!” and “my book rated 5 stars on Amazon!” ad nauseam, never writing about anything other than their work.

And you know, when it comes to book promotion, that just doesn’t work.


Imagine a cocktail party. Whom at that party do you slowly back away from? The person inflating themselves, talking about their accomplishments, their interests, even their Amway products (“but they really are superior!”). They never engage in conversation, they never ask about you. You stealthily pull out your phone and text a friend across the room: “Save me!”

Social media is no different. If you constantly talk yourself up, everyone’s going to tune you out. It’s like a radio station that loops the same song for 24 hours. Once or twice and you’ll bop your head to the beat; more than that and you’ll bop your head against the wall.

headagainstwallThis is why book promotion is so difficult; there’s a fine line between promo and being a bozo. How do you inform people about your book without sounding like a windbag?

What I’ve learned over the past seven years of blogging is that being a friend to others is the way to go. Be helpful. Prompt interesting discussion. You don’t have to talk about your book to do book promotion. In fact, I roughly adhere to the 80-20 rule. Talk about your work only 20% of the time (or less). If you’re funny and entertaining online, people will assume your book will be similarly guffaw-inducing. And maybe they’ll buy it.

But the worst thing to do is to beg. You’ve seen it: “Only 34 more ‘likes’ and I’ll reach 500! Go ‘like’ me! Please RT!” Really? Is this the way to get quality followers? No. It’s the way for authors to inflate their numbers and their ego. Authors should stop looking at the numbers and start looking at the people. Because people online are just like the ones at the cocktail party–except they don’t need anyone to save them. They just need to press a button and you’ll go away.

(But please don’t go away! Tell me, what book promotion mistakes do you see online?)


tarafall2011piccloseTara Lazar loves writing witty bios that make her sound interesting, but often fails. Her debut picture book THE MONSTORE will be released with the Aladdin imprint of Simon & Schuster on June 4th. She’s the “Social Media Captain” for the NJ chapter of SCBWI. There’s more hilarious authorly escapades at her blog,



Filed under Blogging, Book Promotion, Social Media

8 responses to “The Fine Line Between Promo & Bozo

  1. Poignant post that is right on target and very true. Social media has become clogged with too many “Like My Book” and “Buy My Book” posts. The result is like watching one too many commercials on TV….sooner or later they become mindless drivel and you tune them out, ridicule the product, and/or change the channel. More writers need to adhere to the 80/20 rule and be a friend to others.

    I’d write more but I have to go post about my own books.

    Excellent job, Tara!


  2. Great post, Tara! I’ve definitely unsubscribed from a Twitter feed or two that was all promo, all the time.

    Though I’ve seen people swing too far in the other direction, too–never talking about their books online, probably because they’re afraid of being labeled an overpromoter. There’s a fine line, sure, but I think a bit of squeeing about a new book deal, or having your book cover as your Facebook header, is totally appropriate. And as your pub date approaches, I think it’s OK if the 80/20 balance shifts a little, though it probably shouldn’t pass 50/50.


  3. Love this, Tara! Wise as always.


  4. I loved your advice and hope I don’t turn into a bozo while trying to get the word out about my upcoming picture book!


  5. kevanjatt

    Great post, Tara. So many familiar annoying situations. I don’t have much to add to the list on the negative side, but I would like to acknowledge folks that have multiple posts promoting their books without being repetitive and annoying. They offer images from their book, or humorous tidbits about the process of making the book. It is not a push to buy, or to follow, or to share. If the post is interesting enough people will follow or share or comment on their own. Much more organic, and much more viable.


  6. I couldn’t agree more. You are so right about the person from whom you would back away at a party. I’m usually attracted to author interviews on blogs, rather than someone on Twitter telling me to buy his or her book.


  7. Pingback: The Cookie Monster Puts on Makeup | EMU's Debuts

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