Is “No Promotion” Really so Hard to Understand?

I moderate a writing discussion group on Facebook where we’ve banned any kind of promotion. The point is to develop a sense of camaraderie among members, and to share writing tips, techniques, friendship. It’s supposed to be a destination, a fun place to hang out, rather than a bulletin board with links to other sites. It’s almost impossible to get people to understand the benefits of such a group. The following correspondence I had with a Facebook Friend (now a former Facebook friend) is a graphic example. FBF joined the group on December 18, participated in a few discussions, and then sent me an interview for my interview blog.

December 20 — FBF: Did you receive my interview? I felt really good about my answers. What did you think?

December 23 — PB: Yes, I received it. Haven’t read it yet, but I did see it. I’ll read it when I format it for the site. It will be perhaps in a week.

December 23 — FBF: Yeah. You answered me on a post in the group so I already knew. I’m very excited. Thank you for doing this for me. You are amazing. Don’t let those promo people bug you. They obviously lack the social skills necessary to make friends and understand what professional respect means.

December 23 — PB: Actually, the one that bothered me the most was the guy who posted on the wall that what he hated was my whining about no promo. Before you joined, all anyone posted was promo, and some of the members rebelled. I was pleased because I’d just about decided to dismantle the whole thing. I think we’re developing a great group. Thank you for joining and for participating in our discussions.

December 23 — FBF: Your welcome. I’ve already gotten my book on two websites. An interview and two reviews in progress. And I never promoted my book once! So thank you.

December 23 — PB: See, that’s the whole point. Get to know people, and let them promote your book! And you’re welcome. I am glad to do what I can.

December 31 — PB: Hi. I posted your interview. Thank you! Sorry it took so long. Let me know if you need me to make any changes.

January 1 — FBF: It’s great. Thank you.

January 10 — FBF (in response to the question what three words describe your writing?): Comical, dialogue, needs-improvement. But that’s why I’m here.

February 8 — FBF: I posted a promo (a book trailer) on the group wall yesterday for a good writer, and it was removed. I’ve had enough. I’m outa here. [And then he used a lot of not-so-nice words.]

12 Responses to “Is “No Promotion” Really so Hard to Understand?”

  1. lvgaudet Says:

    Holy 360. All in on the no promo, friendly and everything, and then gets a mood swing when a promo post gets deleted.

    I’m 100% in on the no promo idea. There are groups for promo. More groups for promo wouldn’t hurt, since there are so many hungry for promo.

    I think maybe the big problem is there are too many people pushing the idea of promo to too many people who don’t understand that too much in the wrong place only turns people off.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      You’ve stated the problem very well. I hate being the heavy in this situation, because after all, moderating the group is a promotion in and of itself, and it doesn’t do my image any good to be gathering insults, but it’s fun to have a group for talking about the basics of the craft.

  2. sandy Says:

    I think people get really frustrated with being ignored. It is hard. As a child I read and wrote stories for company because I was pretty much ignored and all my teachers said “do something with your writing” but I turned down an opportunity to write for Seventeen magazine because I wasn’t really interested in the magazine’s content (I had entered their short story contest as part of a high school creative writing class requirement) and really didn’t try to promote my own writing as a young adult. later I did get work published and was encouraged by Jack Salamanca who went from being a best selling author in 1969 (Lilith, which became the film with Jean Seberg, Warren Beatty and Gene Hackman in his first film role) to being so forgotten in the mid 80s that I when I asked him for a back cover blurb for my first novel, he said praise from him might do me more harm than good. I was never very good at self promotion and am awed by the energy some authors demonstrate to sell their books, sometimes in order to raise funds for causes (like Jackie St. Joan with her book about honor crimes against women in Pakistan) but I got energized to promote OTHER writers like Helen Hudson, also highly acclaimed in publications like The New Yorker back in the 60s and 70s and then dropped by her publisher in the mid 80s. What exactly happened in the 80s I wonder? My blog is devoted to writing about OTHER writers including Pat here but I only have about 9 “followers” and I’m done with trying to promote books anymore and I’m done with writing altogether which some writer friends lament but I’m just not comfortable in this new cyber world. I’m right here right now but I’m a retired defense att’y and spokesperson for people who no one else would listen to, so I see a different side to someone getting frustrated when they think they’ve been ignored. I watched that fabulous musical movie Chicago on TV recently and John C. Reilly does a great song and dance number “Cellophane” in which he sings that his name is Mr. Cellophane because you can see right through him and walk right by him and never know he’s even there. I think a lot of people are feeling that way these days. I’d go easy on folks who get emotional when they feel they’ve been largely ignored.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      You make good points, Sandy, and as a person who is chronically ignored, I quite understand. The problem in this case is that it’s a group for writers. Most simply want to take the easy way in and post a link to their book which is totally non-productive. First, it’s being posted to other writers who are also there only to post a link to their book, which turns the whole thing into an endless stream of links that no one pays attention to. I lost hundreds of group members because of it — members who wanted what the group originally offered: a place to discuss writing. And Facebook, in its wisdom, took away the discussion board. So now we’re left with posting the discussions on the wall. With almost 2,000 members wanting to post links to their books, any serious discussion quickly disappears down thread.

      If they don’t want to be ignored, it’s simple — they can participate in the discussions. The benefit of social networking is to network. Get to know people. But truly, most people who continually post links are not upset at being ignored. They are on facebook for one reason only — relentless promotion. They have zillions of places to promote on facebook, starting with their own pages and profiles. Most groups allow promotion.

      They can even promote through my group under certain circumstances. I set up a separate “event” every week for people to promote, so this way we can have both — a discussion and promotion.

      Like you, though, I’ve largely given up writing and promoting my own work. Books are so devalued that the whole process seems pointless.

  3. careann Says:

    I began blogging to initiate an online visibility and meet other writers. I didn’t like the idea of Facebook or Twitter — they seemed like frivolous time wasters — until my family got me involved in both. Now I enjoy the relationships that have developed, but have to admit I’ve “unfriended” a number of people whose only purpose for being there turned out to be self-promotion. As you’ve said, Pat, these places are “social” media sites, and not just advertising billboards. I can appreciate an author’s desire to spread the word about their publications, but some go about it with the wrong attitude and end up alienating readers rather than attracting them.

    As an aside, it distresses me to read you’ve “largely given up writing and promoting my own work.” I know the marketing aspect must be exhausting, but success isn’t always measured by sales. You’re a great writer and I can’t imagine you not wanting to continue creating your wonderful fiction! Please tell me you’re still doing that.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I haven’t been able to write since J. died. Just don’t have the focus or the desire to spend that much time in my own head. I wrote a short story which will be included in an upcoming Second Wind anthology, and I participate in the collaborative novel Rubicon Ranch at http://rubiconranch.wordpress.com –I write the character of Melanie Gray. And I did NaNoWriMo a year ago so that I have some usuable chapters about a woman who lost her husband if I ever decide to pursue such a book. But that’s it.

      I do think there will come a time when I am ready to embrace writing again, because, really, what else am I going to do with the rest of my life?

      And thank you for calling my fiction wonderful. You have no idea how much I needed to hear that today.

  4. lvgaudet Says:

    Well, Facebook does seem to be going full circle. Their new timelines looks like what Myspace did way back when, and closer to what Facebook did when I first got on compared to now.

    Only a matter of time before they discover this “new” improvement – the discussion boards.

    And, yes books do seem devalued these days, don’t they? Everyone seems to want them for free, whether in print or ebook. And everyone seems to be writing them and self epublishing like crazy with no way of knowing which is good and which isn’t. Probably mostly because of the glut of books being tossed on the market. But, like the dot-com bubble, given time this one will burst too.


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