I define auto-promoting as the condition whereby you program your favorite Tweeting automatic application (Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Socialoomph) to send out a “Thank you for following” message but you ALSO include a “please check out my (book/collection/trailer/website/Facebook page/etc.)” along with it. I used to be of the marketing, marketing, marketing mindset and though I would not normally say something as bold as “buy my book” I figured an “if you’re interested, please check out my book” was subtle enough, congratulating myself that I wisely left it up to them, depending what their mood might be, AND I said please.

At one point a few months ago I received a reply to my automated response from a lady author who said (paraphrasing from memory):

“I’m an author, too, and self-promoting your work in a thank-you message is a turn off.”

I shrugged it off as unsolicited advice, not because I don’t take such comments seriously, but I had changed my modus operandi and was simply offering a link to my book trailer. The book trailer was (and is) receiving excellent feedback and who doesn’t like to watch a four minute movie? Apparently not this woman (although I’m guessing if it was a dog that says ‘thank you’ or one cat batting another cat off a ladder, we’d have been fine).

Point is, I did nothing. Screw her and her over-sized opinion of her commonsense and her super-inflated view on how much I gave a crap about her personal vantage point. I unfollowed her with all the disgust one can generate by clicking a mouse button and moving along.

A few months later I changed software and never got around to reconfiguring an automated ‘thank you” to followers (I know, I know, I am subconsciously a schmuck at heart) but I keep intending to. A funny thing has happened, though:

I’ve really started to notice the little “oh by the way, check out my goods” messaged tagged on with the (now semi) heartfelt ‘thank you’ at the beginning of the message. I’ve even cringed at the (quaint?) “here’s the ____ I promised you” (for which, of course, I never asked and about which, of course, I was never promised).

Look, I get it. We work hard at our writing. We write and we write and then when our fingers cramp, we write some more. As Hemingway said:

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

I know you want to sell your book at every turn; take every opportunity you can. But sometimes less really is more. There are times you DON’T want to attempt the hard sale. And as I have pointed out, I’ve changed my mind—been convinced otherwise on this. So I DO know where you are coming from.

I sometimes wish I could remember the name of the unsolicited knucklehead who took it upon herself to educate me over Twitter DM, not because I would not still like to spit on her shoes but rather because I’d like to tell her “you may be onto something; now stop being such an annoying bitch”.

Seriously, dear readers, I don’t care what you do with your auto-features. This is just one man’s opinion and though not technically solicited, most of you read my blog and know I tend to have opinions about things. So please don’t comment and call me an unsolicited bitch (come up with something more pithy and creative; I love good, well-thought snarky accusations).

I can hear you now: but I offer something FREE (insert excerpt/first book/short story). I’m telling you, even when offering something as generous as a “freebie” I don’t think anything beyond “thank you very much for your follow; it’s much appreciated and I look forward to tweeting with you” is doing you much good. You’ve got plenty of time to sell, giveaway, advertise, lower price, push reviews, etc. Don’t ruin a very nice (and presumably well-meant) Mahalo with a slimy sales pitch.

And yes, “let’s also meet over on Facebook…my page is here” still constitutes ulterior motive. Just thank them! Be sincere. Be glad yet another person in the Twitterverse decided they wanted to follow you. Don’t worry they may be profiling you with the intent to serial murder you later in the month. Neither should you view them as a customer (they might not yet even be a fan, so don’t risk stifling that possibility).

Finally, here’s the good news: if the new follower really is a serial killer and you are the next intended victim, giving them a free book has NOT been proven a way to deter criminal activity (particularly crimes driven by psychological gratification).

Now if your free book is entitled “9 Ways to Quell that Urge to Murder”, sure give it a go.


The blank page is dead…long live the blank page.



Author known to use spontaneous satire, sarcasm, and unannounced injections of pith or witticisms which may not be suitable for humorless or otherwise jest-challenged individuals. (Witticisms not guaranteed to be witty, funny, comical, hilarious, clever, scintillating, whimsical, wise, endearing, keen, savvy, sagacious, penetrating, fanciful, or otherwise enjoyable. The Surgeon General has determined through laboratory testing that sarcasm can be dangerous, even in small amounts, and should not be ingested by those who are serious, somber, pensive, weighty, funereal, unsmiling, poker-faced, sober, or pregnant.)



9 Responses to YOU? A Used Car Salesman?

  1. I think you’re right, a thank you doesn’t come across as sincere if it has a promo attached, even if it’s free – besides, let’s face it, some of that stuff I don’t want unless the author is paying ME. Free just doesn’t cut it for some stuff.

    I thank people but never attach a promo (let’s be honest, I can’t even if I wanted to, I don’t have a book to promote… OK, I guess I could do the facebook thing). People seem to appreciate the thank you, and it’s one way of indentifying the interactive new followers – the ones who reply! I suspect the response would be less positive if I attached a promo.

    I’m a little concerned about your disclaimer. Will I have to stop reading your blog when I get pregnant? *look of horror*

  2. Love this. Could not agree more. I have been known to unfollow people when I receive one of *those* DMs. Also wrote this post about promotion:


    Whether in person or online, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it.

    Off to share widely… 🙂

  3. Trish Gentry says:

    I LOVE this blog. Outside of the “Have you seen this nasty message someone wrote about you,” and the TrueTwit Verifications, the “Please check out my book or FaceBook page” is the next likely message to get deleted. Like you it’s not that I don’t understand the motivation, just please don’t reward my follow with you trying to get me to do something for you.

    One of the coolest auto messages someone sent me recently was the DM that said “Thanks for following me. You may also enjoy following (fill in the blank).” That was unique, got my attention and yep, I followed one of the three people they recommended. Now that I would like to see more often in my mailbox.

    Thanks, Rob, for the blog and your humor. I can always count on you for delivering a great read and putting a smile on my face 🙂


  4. Caleb Pirtle says:

    We like to think of ourselves as authors. But we spend much of our day promoting with blogs, tweets, Pinterest, etc. So we become salesmen. The difference is choosing to become a professional salesman instead of the used car variety.

  5. Rob, I appreciate the blog. It’s really a fine line in my mind. Right now, I have a message that says thank you and informs the new follower that I blog at xx. I see that as nothing more than an introduction, but others may see it as salesmanship. The reality of it is that the first exchange is one of the only times you may have the other person’s attention and I don’t see anything pushy about mentioning what you are about. But I think the “buy my book” messages are altogether different.

  6. The sleazy salesman auto-tweet generates a guaranteed auto-UNfollow from me if I receive one. If I can’t visit a link on the profile, I scan previous tweets to get a feel for the personality and conversation from a follower. If I like what I see, I follow back, and quote something interesting I have found on their site/stream.

    The best advice I have ever received about social media interaction and business – people on social media are in a social mind, NOT a buying mind – be social, don’t sell!

    Thanks for another great (and wonderfully snarky) post! “Now if your free book is entitled “9 Ways to Quell that Urge to Murder”, sure give it a go.” Another gem!

  7. Matthew Rowe says:

    Yup, all those auto messages do is make sure I dont automatically put you in my ‘ones to watch’ lists and so you get lost in the flood of twitter feed… bye bye!

    I do use automessages but only as a occasional random post to make sure my twitter presence isn’t zero when I feel ill or too busy

  8. Jericha says:

    I find the self-promotion thing a huge turnoff as well. The major reason? If I follow you, it’s because I’ve actually done more than glanced at your Twitter bio and have decided you have something to say that I’m interested in hearing. Which means I have already looked at your book/facebook page/blog whatever. And if I think that your Twitter exists solely to promote you, whether you’re giving stuff away or not, then I’m going to suspect that your work doesn’t stand on its own merits and you don’t trust anyone to be compelled enough to check it out unless it’s shoved down their throats.

    I can’t help noticing that authors who heavily self-promote tend to be, well, mediocre writers, whereas the authors I most admire seem to spend most of their time on Twitter engaged in genuine conversation with their followers. When you don’t push and push and push, you’re allowing people to check out your stuff because they’re actually curious, and there’s a sense of discovery in that, which is lost when it’s pushed on you. I love finding out that someone who follows me is a wonderful writer. If your work is of a high quality, the quality of your Twitter interactions will drive me to find out more about you.

    The Book Doctors, who I really respect, and whose book I LOVE, suggest keeping your self-promotion to between one in five and one in twenty of your interactions. Listen, nobody likes desperation. And honestly, gently suggesting that somebody look at your work after you’ve had some kind of real conversation is going to make them much more interested and engaged with your work than a link in an autoreply. Not over-promoting is, I think, better for your brand: quality over quantity!

  9. Scott Morgan says:

    I’m surprised how we seem to keep coming to he same revelations at the same time, Rob. Was just thinking this the other day when I got a direct message tweet that said “Thanks for following. My book XXXX is available at…”

    Humans love to buy, but hate to be sold to.

    Fortunately for me, I’ve never been in the hard-sell camp. I figure that if you see my stuff out there and like it enough to give it a shot, great. Makes me worry less about pissing people off. 🙂

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