Do you bribe your audience?

I’ve noticed a marketing trend among authors recently. It makes me uncomfortable, though I’m not sure why. It has to do with the increase in promotional offers to encourage readers to pick up a copy of the author’s work and read. I get the theory. We all want to figure out the formula for getting our work into the hands of people who will truly enjoy the ups and downs of our fictional creations.

But… I dunno… some of it seems to border on desperation. Where does the metaphorical line get drawn that separates smart promotion from that’s-a-bit-over-the-top sort of madness?

time is blurredIt seems that every day I’m beseeched to read someone’s work and as an added incentive they’ll throw in a (fill-in-the-blank for yourself). Today’s offering caught my attention because someone wiggled a chance to win an Amazon giftcard or the equivalent amount of cash via Paypal. Technically, I guess it works pretty much the same way. I could use either one to purchase items for my personal gratification but somehow the idea of winning cash in exchange for downloading a book that is already being offered FREE seems like overkill.

Be patient people.

You want to reach the readers who want to read your book because they like the sound of the story not because you’ve enticed them with goodies. Goodies are nice. I like goodies too. But as a writer, I want readers to find my work because they’re curious about a plotline. I want them to read my books because the characters appeal to them (or not, depending on which book we’re talking about). That usually takes some time.

Everyone has to make their own choice about marketing strategies and figure out what their goals are – and it’s a certainty we don’t all want the same thing. In the meantime, I’ve started to avoid downloading the books that are hawked with increasingly strident shouts. Maybe they’re wonderful stories with characters I would love… and if that proves to be the case I suspect somewhere down the road I’ll discover them because someone will mention them by name.

But not because I had a chance to win a Kindle or a Kobo, pocket some cash or giftcards, or be expected to offer a mailing address so they can send me a box of chocolates (that’s the weirdest one yet, yeah?).

whaaatHow about you? Have a story of marketing gone wrong? What about something that worked well and brought a positive return with excited readers? What raises your eyebrows?

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  1. #1 by Jeri Walker-Bickett (@JeriWB) on October 24, 2014 - 11:16 am

    I barely market my self-pubbed stuff as I’m still trying to get a handful of titles out there, but I did team up and do an iPad giveaway with three other bloggers about a year and a half ago as a way to add subscribers. I gained close to 100 new readers, but a paltry handful actually became regular readers and even fewer comment or share my posts. Thank goodness for MailChimp because I’ve spent the last six months weeding out the contest people who only ever opened a few posts way back when. I’m with you on the mantra to be patient. If I have to invest copious amounts of time to give my hard work away for free and also tack on an incentive… ugh.

    • #2 by Lesann Berry on October 25, 2014 - 9:59 am

      I’m caught in the same situation, Jeri. It’s difficult to market (or figure out how) a single book or a handful of mismatched works. I’ve seen other writers do wonderful marketing binges and giveaways that seem to work for them but I keep floundering around trying to figure out how to get my work in the hands of readers who want to read it. I also had to go back and skim out all the subscribers that were lured in by the wrong things. I do think there’s a teeter-totter effect where eventually you have enough works out that people find and read and enjoy that word of mouth spreads. I hope so, otherwise I’ll be writing about this again in another few years. lol

  2. #3 by Roland D. Yeomans on October 25, 2014 - 6:49 am

    Insightful post. I wrote of the same thing a few days ago:

    You can’t buy love. You can pay to be kissed, but it doesn’t mean anything. And you will seldom get a voluntary SECOND one.

    People value an item that costs them something. FREE to most readers means inferior.

    The tried and true methods have been tried too often and now are no longer true. We have to think of a unique way to draw attention to our books. I’m still working on it. Like Jeri writes: Ugh!

    • #4 by Lesann Berry on October 25, 2014 - 10:09 am

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, Roland. I read your post and agree – we’ve encountered a lot of the same negative experiences. I think most people don’t realize they’re acting like that guy at the party who talks too loud and too long, and all about himself. Regardless, we’ve got to find innovative ways to reach the readers who might really be interested in our works. Creating that buzz that promotes word-of-mouth is like the Holy Grail of the writer community – to continue with a bad analogy – it feels like being on an endless quest for something undefined. lol

  3. #5 by balroop2013 on October 25, 2014 - 5:29 pm

    Thanks for espousing my sentiments here. I have never downloaded a free book nor could I offer one. I may be lacking the skills of marketing but don’t believe in attracting the attention of readers in the ways mentioned here. I would like to follow Roland’s ‘unique’ way when he discovers one. I hope he would share with us 🙂

    • #6 by Lesann Berry on October 26, 2014 - 12:55 pm

      I do think all the experimentation is worthwhile, especially when it comes to trying something for the first time, but when any idea gets over-used it loses the impact. I like trying out methods to see what my results are but some of the things I see people trying just seem over the top – but I guess that is relative too. Maybe the best result is the one that works for each individual… but I agree, it never hurts to share. 🙂

  4. #7 by John Yeoman on October 30, 2014 - 12:57 pm

    The nicest bribe I found, to entice someone to read a debut novel, was: ‘Write me a review, good or bad, and I’ll write you a poem. Guaranteed original and good.’ Well, it promised something unique: the author’s own time! (No, I didn’t respond…)

    • #8 by Lesann Berry on October 30, 2014 - 6:37 pm

      Well, John, you may have passed up a potentially wonderful opportunity. I have to admit that the offer of poetry (one hopes it was good poetry) might be difficult to pass up. It makes me wonder what the poem might have been about? Now, had it been a limerick, I might have agreed to write a review. Creativity knows no bounds – that has to be safer than being bribed with chocolate by a total stranger.

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