The Unmagic of Spam: A Dead Bluebird To The Face

English: The Spam-mobile.

My Twitter homescreen many times of the day. English: The Spam-mobile. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Quick added disclaimer — I had already planned this post when very coincidentally an author directly tweeted to me a recommendation of said author’s own book. While initially perturbed, I did poke around and discover that a friend of mine (who I then contacted) had written a five star review for this book and when asked, said the review was wholeheartedly in earnest. This is a rare, rare, diamond-in-a-cesspool rare instance of me planning to purchase a book I hear about that way. This post is in no way a denunciation of that writer.

It’s no secret that I’ve gotten a bit fed up with excessive amounts of links on Twitter lately.

I tweet links occasionally throughout the day, but only if:

  • It’s a link to my daily blog post (this happens twice per day, spaced out if I can help it)
  • I’ve actually followed the link and think it deserves retweeting/sharing
  • I think the link is relevant/funny/poignant/powerful in some way that will be rewarding for my Tweeps to explore
  • And finally, if and ONLY if I am on Twitter, actively engaging with others

What I see when I go to my homepage is link after link after link after link. Some of them I think hold to my own personal criteria, but most (60-80%) are automated or are one of a constant flow of RTs from a few accounts who don’t do anything else.

I see very little conversation. Very little actual interaction. It’s tiring, because I adore Twitter. I think I like it more than just about any social platform.

The sad thing is that it is mostly writers doing it. You can barely see a person between all the “BUY MY BOOK” “VISIT MY WEBSITE” tweets, and it’s really unfortunate and annoying. Here’s why.

When my first impression of someone is that they’re trying to sell me something, it’s an immediate turnoff. I don’t go on Twitter to look for something to buy. I go to Barnes and Noble or Amazon for that, and if I really want recommendations, I’ll ask on Twitter. And when that happens, I don’t want to see recommendations from one person for their own book.

Epcot - Mine

Epcot – Mine (Photo credit: SpreadTheMagic)

“Which book should I read? Hmmm…”



The reason the self-promo gets me so much is because it’s not objective. Of course you think I’ll like your book, because you love your book. It means a blabbitizillion times more when a friend of mine says, “Oh, you know what book you should read? The Murgendurfer Report. I couldn’t pronounce it, but it kept me up all night!”

(Okay, maybe not those exact words.)

A lot of people have been talking about reviews lately (real and fake), including me. But I think we can all sort of concede that your own review of your book is rather biased at best, downright delusional at worst. Just ask any agent how many “IT’S HARRY POTTER BUT BETTER!!!” queries they get in a given calendar year.

Sending link after link after link into the Twitter-ether may seem like effective promo. It’s not. It’s obnoxious. If the first time you met me, I was all, “OMG, I write the bestest most splendiferous blog in the blogoverse! SQUEE, go read it!” whilst slapping you in the face with a dead bluebird, you’d probably be a little disinclined to acquiesce to my request.

I want to make my living writing. I do. That’s the dream, and it has been for as long as I can remember. People would ask, “Oh, whatchu gonna do with a history degree, eh? Teach?” *Thump Emmie on the shoulder.*

To which I’d reply, “I want to write.” And most of the time, that was the end of it, because not teaching with a history degree didn’t compute. Which is fine.

When my book comes out, I’ll promote it, sure. But I’m not going to spam. My hope is that enough of you lovelies will like me enough to give said book a shot and then if you enjoy it, pass it on. But only if you enjoy it. If you don’t, hell. I’ll write another book. A better book. Because that’s what this career path is about — every day, in every way, we are getting better and better!

Except when we spam.


Me. spam (Photo credit: Vince_Lamb)

Spam kills relationships.

Social media is about relationships.

Ultimately, your book is going to speak for itself. I picked up a free Kindle book with a bunch of five star reviews a couple weeks ago. It was…not good. If I take a chance on a book that’s been tweeted into the Cloud Itself and it turns out to be, erm…le crappe, it’s not going to do anything for how I feel about the author.

Gaining traction takes time. A lot of it. (Feel free to remind me of this when I get published.) It doesn’t happen overnight, and while tweeting 50 links a day to your Amazon page may seem like it will help you out, in reality you’re not paving your road to financial solvency. You’re dumping water on an already muddy track. People don’t want to slog, and if you get a reputation for being a link spammer, it’s tough to come back from that. No one wants to feel like every time they see you, they’re getting a dead bluebird to the face.

Here’s how to make me (yes, me) want to buy YOUR book:

Write a damned good one. Know your craft. Don’t rush publishing if you go indie. Hire an editor and make sure at least five sets of eyes that aren’t yours (and preferably don’t share DNA with yours) read it before you upload it to whatever marketplace you’ve chosen for its home.

Be a person. “But I am a person. I’m clearly a person.” Not if you only tweet links, you’re not. Then you become the antagonist in the above cartoon. Do you want to be the Spam that ate my laptop? No. Be human. Have human interactions. Don’t stress about how many people are following you, and for gods’ sake don’t follow people until they follow you and then unfollow them just to boost your “ratio.” Talk to people without mentioning your book. They can read your 160-character profile that says you’re a writer and follow a link to your site there. Give them the chance to “discover” you themselves.

Be human. It’s worth repeating. You don’t need to tell people “I wrote a book! You can buy it!” We KNOW, already. I firmly believe that the way to success for most indies is going to be through relationships. And that’s becoming more and more true for trad pubbed authors as well. Here’s a secret: you telling me to buy your book means nothing to me. Why should I? Because you say it’s good. Okay, fine. But really? You want me to buy your book because it makes you money. And every time I see, “Such and such book now available,” that’s the first thing I think if I don’t know you. The Joseph Konraths of the world can afford to be a bit aloof (and he’s not, really). You can’t. Let people get to know you. If they ask, tell them. Otherwise…

Write a book so damn good that I first hear about it from someone else. Sound like an awful piece of advice? Probably. I can count the number of traditionally published authors whose books I first heard about from the authors themselves on….no hands. That’s never happened to me. Ever. Indies have it rough. They face a saturated market that has a lot of le crappe to wade through before getting to the magnifique. Remember above where I said it takes time to gain traction? That comes in here. It takes time for enough people to read your books that some of them go rabid-fan and start shaking their friends and relatives into buying them.

Write more than one book! The worst bits of Spam are the ones that are the same book over and over. FOR MONTHS at a time. It makes me wonder what the writer is doing. One book is probably not going to gain you traction. But ten might. Twenty might. Sound like a lot? It is. It’s probably several years worth of work, and that’s something indies and trad pubbed authors have in common.

It takes time.

Spam does one thing very quickly: it makes me write people off.

How do you feel about self-promo? Are you an indie trying to gain traction and frustrated by a lack of response? What methods do you use to promote? Is your Twitter feed as spammy as mine?


About Emmie Mears

Saving the world from brooding, one self-actualized vampire at a time.

Posted on September 26, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Yes! What you said! Drives me crazy when every tweet from someone is “Buy my book.” Once in a while is fine. Maybe with a fun quote. But tweet some other stuff, too. Promo someone else’s book that you loved. Maybe I’ll check yours out too. Sorry, my Twitter feed is spammy, too. 🙂 I RT a lot, but try not to be spammy about it.

    • I think everyone’s Twitter feed is spammy these days, especially (more’s the pity) if you follow a lot of writerfolk. I think a lot of people feel that’s the only way they can get their book out there, but that’s not the case. Like I mentioned in the post, people don’t seem to be okay with it taking time (and others are in such a hurry that they publish books that probably shouldn’t see the light of day…but that’s a separate issue). I recently unfollowed a writer who only tweeted links to his book when I realised I could write out his three variations on self-promo without looking. That BAD.

      I RT a decent amount, but only stuff I’ve checked out. I RT’d something once and then read it later only to find that it was NOT something I wanted to promote. Ay caramba.

  2. Well said. I’ve stopped following people back who are obviously only out for numbers. I am guilty of mostly retweeting during the day because I’m at my day job and anyone who walks byy cube can see my big monitor over my shoulder. That said, I am selective about what I retweet, not just links and not for my web site! I like Twitter for the sense of community it builds. But you’re right. Writers who use Twitter solely as a spam tool are hurting themselves more than they realize.

    • Kristen Lamb’s said it multiple times — spam creates a negative association with a name. And when you’re an indie author, your name is all you have.

      You may RT a lot, but you also respond to people regularly (even if it’s not right away). I can say that from experience, and you’re definitely not one who touts the same link over and over ad nauseum. 🙂

      I think indies can benefit so much from Twitter if they behave like people and not spambots. It takes a lot of time to build a reputation as an author who doesn’t spam, who’s funny and kind, who responds to real conversations. I’ve been known to check out author pages and websites of authors who do that. Their books don’t always appeal to me, but if I know someone who might like them, I’ll pass it on.

  3. First of all, greatest blog title in the history of ever.

    Secondly, I’m probably a little guilty of this when it comes to my blog posts, if only because I’m terribly impatient about trying to build an audience. But when it comes time to market my book, I’m not going to spam the crap out of people. It’s unbecoming.

    • I don’t notice that your tweets seem spammy at all, and you tend to engage with people on Twitter as well. I get the wanting to build an audience thing — right there with you. When I scroll through your tweets, 70% of them are interactions. I pronounce you Not Guilty.

      • Yes! Sweet absolution!

        I make it a point to be “human” at least as much as I automate stuff. So many of my fellow tweeps are international, so I’m in bed when they’re up and about — so I do automate a little, and promote other people with Triberr, but I don’t want to seem like a machine.

  4. “I can count the number of traditionally published authors whose books I first heard about from the authors themselves on….no hands.”
    This is SO worth remembering, when you start to obsess about Amazon rankings and blog visits and all the rest. Nice job reframing things in your post, dear.

    • 🙂 Thanks.

      Word of mouth is really what’s going to do it for indies — and that comes from writing damn good books. 🙂 When I hear about a book from an indie author from someone other than the author, that makes me want to check it out. Links on Twitter do the opposite. And when the links on Twitter become spammy, my response goes from “meh” to “KILL IT WITH FIRE!”

  5. Well done, my sweet friend. I always look at Twitter history before following a person. If the last three tweets are identical links to their book, *BOOT TO THE HEAD* and no follow.

  6. Raiscara Avalon

    That drives me nuts too. A free promotion is one thing, that doesn’t bother me so bad. A couple of links a day,sure. But most of us tend to follow other writers, who are frankly too busy WRITING to read every book that comes across the stream. I need money like yesterday, but I only promote my short story every so often, because I’m writing other things! I do share a lot, but very few of them are my own stuff…usually I’m too busy gabbing to promote! 🙂

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