How Not To Market Or Promote Your Shit

(early warning: contains a great deal of caps lock)

The goal of promoting your work is to entice people to be interested in that work.

It is a soft hand in a silk glove.

Possibly stroking my neck or, if I’m really into it, working mah nips.

Your promotional efforts are not a fist punching me in my junk drawer.

Example:

I am not really a huge Star Trek fan, but fuck, I’m interested in seeing the newest one because despite the 87 different teasers, trailers, commercials, teasers-for-teasers, teasers-for-trailers, trailers for featurettes about the making of the teaser trailers, it looks pretty cool.

Except, there’s this half-ass transmedia campaign called ARE YOU THE 1701 or something which is about, I dunno, blah blah blah the Enterprise and something-something Instagram and — you know, whatever. Every once in a while I am compelled by a truly inventive trans- or social-media campaign, but this one, ehh. Yawn. Snore. Poop noise.

NOT THAT IT FUCKING MATTERS because while I’ve never signed up for this campaign nor have I ever intimated my interest online anywhere at any point I continue to be assailed by marketing emails from this campaign. Which, you know, in the grand scheme of First World Problems is not a particularly big one, true. And here you’re saying, “Well, just unsubscribe, you lazy douche-sicle,” and I’m like, I’M TRYING TO DO THAT BUT IT WON’T LET ME. I give it all the email addresses I currently possess — including the one it sends its emails to — and it’s like, “Nope, we don’t have that shit on record, sorry, please enjoy more of our Star Trek spam HAR HAR HAR.” Then it belches in Klingon and shoots a phaser up my pee-hole.

It makes me mad enough I want to hate-avoid the film. Which isn’t fair to the filmmakers or the movie or the movie theater people or anybody except whatever insane promotional programmer ensured that I’m getting email from Paramount about crap that I didn’t ask for –

AND CANNOT ESCAPE.

Here’s the lesson: marketing and promotion should never be a kick to the face. It should never be unearned or unasked for. It should not be unavoidable.

This goes to any website that has anything that auto-plays ever. Sound. Music. Movie. Animation. If I’m sitting here at the ass-crack of dawn, sipping coffee, and I go to your website and get a blaring loud commercial for fucking Floor Wax and it wakes my toddler up I will find your house and shit on your pets.

This goes to all you authors out there who randomly DM people on Twitter: HEY PERSON I DON’T KNOW I GOT THIS BOOK MOVIE COMIC GAME KICKSTARTER BLOG POST THAT I THINK YOU MIGHT LIKE FOR NO REASON BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW YOU LET ME UNCEREMONIOUSLY HAMMER YOU ABOUT THE HEAD AND NECK WITH IT.

This goes to all your authors who spam me with: “Hey I think you might like my blog post on writer’s block / self-publishing / bacon enemas / donkey shows / blargleflargle [insert link I'm never going to click here].” At first I’m like, “Oh, are they actually talking to me,” but then I see they’ve sent the same goddamn message to 150 other people oh, and they follow like, 35,000 people and yet I’m not one of them.

Pay attention:

Unwanted and invasive advertisement doesn’t work. We skip past commercials. We close any window that pops up that tries to elbow its message into our brains. Marketing and promotion needs to seduce us, and it does not seduce us with a hand grenade to the face.

MY RANT IS NOW OVER YOU MAY RETURN TO YOUR HOMES.

P.S. JUST TO REITERATE WE REALLY DON’T NEED 184 DIFFERENT TRAILERS FOR YOUR BIG SUMMER MOVIES I’M LOOKING AT YOU IRON MAN 3

59 comments

    • That Purina one with the song “I could be great,” makes me sniffle like a toddler who dropped her ice cream. Every time I see it I go to Youtube and watch the full version about 5 times (on average).

      :)

      • Dating myself here, but I loved the old Gravy Train Chuckhouse Dog Food commercial from my youth. I sooo wanted that dumb lovable dog to catch that Gravy Train and tear into those horses.

  • “P.S. JUST TO REITERATE WE REALLY DON’T NEED 184 DIFFERENT TRAILERS FOR YOUR BIG SUMMER MOVIES I’M LOOKING AT YOU IRON MAN 3″

    Ha ha ha. Funny thing about that, in relation to writing elevator pitches, cover blurbs, query letters, is that it’s really quite stunning when you realize that for your average consumer of mass market entertainment, they’ve been elevator-pitched a movie like 40 times before they see it. And that’s a fully cinematic elevator pitch at that.

    Are we that assaulted by entertainment media that it requires the machine gun firing squad pitch to get through to anyone?

    Of course we are.

  • “If I’m sitting here at the ass-crack of dawn, sipping coffee, and I go to your website and get a blaring loud commercial for fucking Floor Wax and it wakes my toddler up I will find your house and shit on your pets.”

    This.

    And I really, really, really hate the ones that you can’t turn of for x number of seconds. I really wonder how it affects all those people who surreptitiously checking personal e-mail or surfing the web at work. Even if its not against company policy, nothing like a screaming loud movie trailer to make your office mates shit their pants too.

    • Erica beat me to the quoting of my favorite line in the above screed. My dog is cowering just at the thought.

      But seriously, my PC speakers are perpetually on mute for just the above reason. What I hated the most were the dang hidden video feeds, that make you scroll all over the page to find them and shut them down.

      mute = peace :)

  • Love it! I frequently get DM’s on Twitter from people I don’t know telling me about their book that’s the next big thing. I have never once clicked on any such link let alone purchased a book from a DM or FB message from an author. I couldn’t agree more.

    “This goes to all your authors who spam me with: “Hey I think you might like my blog post on writer’s block / self-publishing / bacon enemas / donkey shows / blargleflargle [insert link I'm never going to click here].” At first I’m like, “Oh, are they actually talking to me,” but then I see they’ve sent the same goddamn message to 150 other people oh, and they follow like, 35,000 people and yet I’m not one of them.”

    LMAO!

  • This has to be one of the greatest things about not having TV. The only spam of movies, etc, is what I get on social media and then I have to actually read it. Which I don’t, unless people are talking about things I care about, e.g. race, gender, etc. I don’t give a crap about blockbusters otherwise, including ST even though (or perhaps because) I love TOS. Hated the latest movie and won’t watch the newest one, fell asleep during Iron Man and Avengers. Wait, I’m off topic now. I greatly dislike all marketing including authors who promote their work too much, only talk about their books, etc. Which is too bad, since their books might be wonderful, but I get too annoyed to try them if they’re pushed at me. I’m contrary like that.

  • Self-promoting/marketing is absolutely terrifying to me.

    Precisely because I don’t want to be THAT person. The one you just described up above. Hell, when I update my blog or vlog post a single link on my twitter/facebook about it I feel like a douche. When I send an e-mail to my non-facebook/twitter using family about the said update I also feel like a douche, despite the fact they ASKED ME to e-mail them in such cases.

    I can’t even imagine having to promote a book. Jesus.

    I guess it kinda goes hand in hand with having a healthy balance of confidence and humility in your work, a balancing act that I’m never sure if I’m executing correctly.

    Any tips on how to get around this stupid mind block?

  • So totally true. I now have an inbuilt spam-blocker in my brain, so that I don’t notice even the good stuff that comes up in ads. (Companion: Hey, did you see that monkey with a flourescent sombrero flying through the sidebar? Me: Sidebar? What sidebar? HA.)

  • Ha, you´re a funny dude, I did return back to my home after I read your rant, quite depressed though. You should write a comedy one day, I´m looking forward to that not that your book Blackbirds was boring, it´s very good, but with your sarcastic-ironic humor….do published authors are allowed to swear?

  • Self-promotion is the great void…no one sane goes there without expecting to become one with a black hole. I don’t know why those idiots with marketing degrees think that if I’m forced to see a movie trailer enough times my brain will demand I let it fill in all teasing gaps by seeing the movie. My brain is merely irritated and sometimes it will put me off…like the trailer for the latest Star Trek movie. I was wanting to see it until I saw that. Own goal baby! It’s freaking Star Trek! They don’t need a movie trailer. All they needed to do was plaster our minds with one photo of the USS Enterprise and most of us would show up to see it. Idiots. Generally, modern movie trailers are infuriating. They usually show all the best parts of the movie…why pay to see the rest? What sends me round the bend is when I go to see a movie and I’m sitting there and they force me to watch ANOTHER trailer for the movie I’m about to see. This happens on DVD as well. What the heck is that all about? I don’t want to watch the best movie bits before I watch the movie. Why do they do that? Has humanity’s collective IQ dropped another fifty points while I was off in a mental quadrant picking my teeth?

    For those outgoing authors who feel comfortable writing to strangers and asking them to promote your work (which I think is great – one day I’ll have to nerve to do it)…be prepared to reciprocate. If you ask Chuck to give you a high five and he does…you need to plaster his face all over your blog. You need to write to friends and family and long lost coworkers and tell them how wonderful Chuck’s books are. Not reciprocating is like farting in your own face. I once had someone (I didn’t know) ask me to help promote their stories (so I did – why not?) but there was nothing offered in return. As a cherry on top I was made to feel like a mutant. If I ever hear from them again I’ll just delete the e-mail. Don’t expect something for nothing. There’s no such thing as a free lunch (there’s always someone who gets the bill). If you want long term “free” good will towards your book…be prepared to sing and dance for someone else’s book. And before you write to other authors…at least read a sample of their work and if it’s not something you like…don’t write to them. You then won’t have to insinuate that you think their brain children are mutants and incur their eternal non-love. If you want to incur instant love from said author…read one of their stories (and if you enjoyed it) tell them you enjoyed it (and offer a reason you enjoyed it that will make them feel all pink and fluffy inside)…then ask them (in the same letter if they’ll promote your story). If you’re sincere, they will probably help you.

    • If it’s any consolation, the Star Trek trailer does not contain the film’s best parts. I guarantee it (having seen the film twice now) :D

  • May 15, 2013 at 6:01 AM // Reply

    What’s sad is that hammering people about the head and neck gets results for Hollywood. It must, or the marketing analysts (anal-cysts?) at the big movie studios wouldn’t be using it to make a gabillion bucks for the studios. If an ad campaign yields $170 mil and they projected $185 mil, execs want to know why they came up $15 mil short. People get called into other people’s offices. The stockholders demand explanations. People get fired. There are armies of people creating these marketing campaigns, honing them like the long knives of assassins for the Hollywood Profit Machine.

    Hammering doesn’t work in niche markets where artisans are building relationships with fans and other artisans, which is why Chuck is repulsed by it.

    Different markets demand different tactics. But what do I know? I have like 12 followers on Twitter and 25 on WordPress.

  • Ouch. Damn. Chuck, I’m a huge fan of yours, and I hope the review/interview question I sent you a few days ago didn’t contribute to your inspiration for this post. If so, sorry about that.
    I totally agree, though, with your views on getting spam carpetbombed by the media. I’ve had to add many email adresses to my Blocked list to keep my mailbox from getting filled with junk mail. Those fuckers go straight to the spam folder, where they eventually get auto-deleted.

  • I remember when Blair Witch came out in 1999 (mostly pre-internet), some people came on our college campus and handed out those stick-figure voodoo dolls, and told us to go see the movie if we wanted to know more. I Thought it was absolutely brilliant marketing. I went to see the movie, so you could say that it worked, and was not too invasive

  • The advertising for Star Trek has been… bad. It’s like they’ve sold out to every possible unrelated product on the planet. Do they really need that? It’s fucking STAR TREK.

    And hate-avoid is totally real. I think it’s part of the reason people shit on authors like Dan Brown. They just didn’t care initially, but someone kept shoving in their face and wouldn’t shut the fuck up about THIS BOOK IS SO GREAT IT’S LIKE SEX AND RAINBOWS WHY AREN’T YOU READING IT NOW. (This is part of the reason I haven’t seen Avengers.)

    • I don’t consider myself a Whedonite (never attempted to watch Dollhouse, don’t know/care where he lives, or what he does in his off-time), but if he’s attached to a movie I’ll plan on seeing it, regardless of the amount of spammage. I just chalked the Avengers barrage off to his being the “cool kid” of the moment, and the fact that the movie was set up to be audience generic. The Dan Brown advertisements, to me, were probably more annoying due to the fact that it’s more of an over-saturation of a niche market (paranoia/conspiracy/big brother).

  • This is the main reason why it took me years to finally see the first Shrek movie. I don’t remember when the advertising started in relation to its release date, but when it hit it felt like the Hoover dam bursting. The worst of it all, to me, were the images that featured the top of Shrek’s head with his antennae/sprouts/whatever in the shape of the letter S. Every time I saw them, my brain translated them as dollar signs.

  • I think I developed a definite tear in the fabric of my innards whilst reading your rant, Chuck. No WARNING, THIS RANT MAY CAUSE A HERNIA disclaimer, eh? I’ll be DMing you my doctor’s bill….

    PS. Spot on, man. Apparently, many people hate the intrusiveness of our new Social Media Society.

  • How did I not see a single teaser trailer tralala for Star Trek? And now I feel bad for tweeting you, even though there never were any links involved and you’re actually one of the fifty-seven people I follow. Oh well, I go back into hiding now. I’m too old for fangirling anyway.

    • Oh, gosh, please believe I’m not saying “don’t tweet me.” I want people to tweet me! And talk to me! Just not, y’know, SELL ME STUFF ALL THE TIME. :)

      — c.

  • May 15, 2013 at 9:40 AM // Reply

    You know, I’ve written a book.
    I published it on Kindle. I’m writing another.
    But when I come here, or when I bug the fuck out of you on Twitter, it’s basically just to say “Hey, Chuck, you’re a funny guy, and a talented one. Let’s be friends. Writing is fun, but it’s also hard sometimes. Let us have conversation about this or any other sundry subject.” Same thing I do with @neilhimself, same thing I do when I read Ms. Saintcrow’s blog, just about everyone I follow. Because I believe in NOT BEING A DOUCHECANOE.

    The crap thing about that is that it equals crap sales. *shrug* I can live with that, if it means not being a douchecanoe.

  • Unroll.me might help if you have a gmail or yahoo based account. Sign up and it scans your email for marketing emails and whatnot. It’ll either allow you to unsubscribe to them or roll them up into one big email that you can check out if you wish to.

    It’s certainly not for everyone in how it works, but I’ve found it to be a lifesaver in keeping on top of my inbox.

  • Fantastic article. I experience similar issues with companies owned by Viacom – I keep getting spam, I keep unsubscribing, and they just keep sending me crap. And don’t get me started on the Disney Baby garbage that they assault you with in the freaking delivery room.

    BTW – read my blog/spam mail/book. It’ll change your life. Except for not at all :)

  • May 15, 2013 at 9:47 AM // Reply

    Facebook is the worst about people hammering you with requests to “like” pages and join “events”. And scheduled tweets is the work of the devil. Sad thing is the folks that are doing all this obnoxious self-promotion don’t seem to realize it hurts them more than it helps them. Just write a damn good book and people will read it and want more of you. Shove it down my throat and I’m guaranteed to ignore you, unfollow you, unfriend you, etc.

  • I <3 you so hard right now. LOL One of my pet peeves is someone who friends me on Facebook and then when I accept, they immediately post a link for their crap on my wall, or PM me a link for their stuff. Instant delete and block. I tell newbie writers to treat digital real estate as valuable (or more) as they would "real" real estate. (More because of how fast bad press can spread.) If they wouldn't want someone doing it to their "house" (as in slapping a big-ass sign for something they could care less about and without their permission on the side of it) then they shouldn't do it to someone else's house.

    The dumb is strong with some, however. Very strong. *sigh*

  • “This goes to any website that has anything that auto-plays ever. Sound. Music. Movie. Animation. If I’m sitting here at the ass-crack of dawn, sipping coffee, and I go to your website and get a blaring loud commercial for fucking Floor Wax and it wakes my toddler up I will find your house and shit on your pets.”

    This. I cannot emphasize this enough.

    Also, Iron Man 3 promotions (actually all the Iron Man promotions) made me not want to see them just because of everything in this post.

  • I almost cried when I saw Downey, dressed in his Iron Man suit, ask for a subway sandwich.

    I hope that pleasant, flattering requests to your email for a blurb aren’t annoying, even under the full knowledge that you can’t respond to most of them.

  • yes Yes YES!!! It’s for exactly the problem you cite with the Star Trek peeps that I took myself off a political list – to which I’m affiliated – because of the incessant noise showing up in my inbox. If that’s my reaction to my own party’s promotional tactics, how do you suppose those with a potential interest are going to react, said party? If that’s your reaction to the ST promotional tactics, how do you suppose those with a potential interest are going to react, ST peeps?

  • I have done that before, and it was a wake up call in terms of who my ambition and, admittedly desperation were making me become. I don’t do that anymore, because self publishing wasn’t allowing me to make the good choices and it took time away from the writing. So, apologies and I have learnt my lesson. I think that it is a lot of well intentioned people really looking for that one RT or endorsement that serves what Gladwell called The Tipping Point.

  • May 15, 2013 at 1:55 PM // Reply

    Shame on you for being so funny! You made me laugh so hard, I almost spit out my coffee! You totally hit the sniggering whack-a-mole on his ugly little head.

  • There is no such thing as “unsubscribe.” That button only serves to move your email address (or in your case, Chuck, all your email addresses) to the “confirmed as active” list that gets sold at a higher rate to every marketing agency in the world. The only solution is to use aliases or your spouse’s email address for everything.

  • The thing that is sorta funny about this, is that by bashing you over the head with it, they’ve now garnered a blog post mentioning their movie on your website.

    I totally agree, I think aggressive, punch in the face marketing is fraught with peril, but their sole purpose is to get as many people buzzing about the film as possible to increase sales and attendance. And in this case they’ve achieved one of those objectives. Although I personally believe that marketing of this nature has a tendency to frustrate and alienate your audience to some degree. It’s not something I’d personally ever ascribe to the design of a marketing campaign. Strategic, targeted messages optimized for channels while still adhering to unsubscribe best practices help to establish credibility with an audience, an turn them into a loyal following.

  • You probably hear/read this all the time, but I think you are one cool papa bear. Your blog posts are so entertaining but right on target for how this writing life goes. If people do not pay attention to your wisdom they should just take out a pistol right now and blow off a few of their own toes, because the result is basically the same. Metaphorically speaking.

  • So accurate. I despise certain forms of marketing/advertising, especially on twitter when people only post reviews of their books and links to their stuff. BE HUMAN. I want to scream. Maybe if I share this post they’ll get the message. Doubtful!!! It doesn’t have their name in the title.

  • Can we please find some way to make THIS the Spam That People Cannot Escape?

    Every author who spam-auto-DMs “Hey, my toaster-porn book is five stars on Amazon and you would love it” on Twitter (or, worse, spider-grabs my email address from some benign, legitimate communication and force-feeds it into their Constant-Freaking-Contact spam promo email bot) should be forced to read this one thousand times, eyes propped open like something out of A Clockwork Orange.

    Seriously.

    Because the BUY MY BOOK overkill makes me angry. And you won’t like me when I’m angry…

    And for the record…I’m totally not into toaster porn. Toaster PASTRY porn is a different story.

  • In a case of inward-spiraling meta-irony, there is an ad I see on TV for a spamming service.

    Excuse me, direct marketing service.

    It shows some pet company as the subject, but I think it works for any business. So, if you own a pet, here’s an e-mail. if you ever use the word “pet” or any subspecies variation on Twitter, Facebook, G+, or wherever, enjoy your new followers.

    The fact that a freaking SPAM service bought TV airtime just kills me.

    The Girlfriend and I often will often comment about a film we “can’t to come out.” Not because we want to see it, but just so the marketing of it will stop.

  • I absolutely vehemently hate the sound-playing ads! I often find myself opening say, 10 or 15 tabs of related shit in rapid succession, and when a few of them have these ads the act of trying to find them and mute or stop them quickly leads to near-hulk-inducing rage tantrums…especially if I’m skypeing or listening to music or a podcast or something.

    I actively boycott products whose ads I especially dislike. The list is long and grows rapidly. Sometimes I’ll even go out of my way or inconvenience myself to avoid a particular brand, for no other reason than an annoying intrusive ad.

  • May 16, 2013 at 7:36 AM // Reply

    AGREED! And Twitter peeps – if all you do is flog your wares, I don’t follow.
    PS – And the really annoying thing about 184 trailers is that by the time you’ve seen them, you’ve pretty much seen the movie (or all the good bits).

  • I have stopped following some people on Twitter specifically because they constantly post the same messages verbatim about a certain book or movie several times a day, EVERY DAY. (Looking at you, well known game designer who keeps posting about a recent Emma Watson movie)

    Then there are the self pubbed authors who search Twitter for people who mention writing or follow writers and they follow you so you politely follow them. I’m glad you’re a struggling author trying to get exposure, I feel your pain as I try to tame the beastly monster of a first draft I created. But you post the same message all day every day and DM me about your book I’ve seen tweet about 25 times in 2 days? Seriously, you’re not winning friends with these tactics and I’ll be damned if you annoy me, I have zero interest in checking out your book.

    Unfortunately, it means that I stop following people. Marketing on Twitter, you’re doing it wrong.

  • Oh my. No, really. Sitting in front of my computer with a glass of wine after the kiddies are tucked in and Merlot almost spewed forth onto the screen when I read: “Well, just unsubscribe, you lazy douche-sicle,” and I’m like, I’M TRYING TO DO THAT BUT IT WON’T LET ME. I give it all the email addresses I currently possess – including the one it sends its emails to — and it’s like, “Nope, we don’t have that shit on record, sorry, please enjoy more of our Star Trek spam HAR HAR HAR.” Then it belches in Klingon and shoots a phaser up my pee-hole.” Guilty. Guilty as charged. But at least I ask only those who I’ve been social with or if they follow me one time and one time only. If they don’t respond I take it as a no. I don’t think I’ve ever randomly tried to sell someone on my book. Ok, well that’s not entirely true. I have done that but only for my charity anthology ;)

  • I actually met the head of the marketing department that sells my books last week, and I said to him “I’m so glad you exist, because my tendency is to apologize for having written a book.”

    And he smiled at me, author of many sweet little books for children, and said, very kindly, “And my tendency is to whore that book out every place I can.”

    I was amused. But this is why I don’t self-promote. At all.

  • You say “You cannot exert your talent unless you first have the skill to bolster that talent.”

    Yet there are so many so called, super self made rule makers out there now , I don’t know which is the way ? Which one is going to take me down that yellow brick road to home base, and show me how to write correctly before I enter the keyboard minefield.
    I think I will google, ‘how to write correctly’ before I go any further, then jump on the merry-go-round, (carrousel) !
    Yet , I’m told “there are no rules” just write your shit !”
    Yours , frustrated.

  • It’s the fucking truth. Imperatives belong inside the prose, not as the wrapping paper. If I see another tweet about another fucking cover reveal my vomit will not be contained. (Even though I plan to actually HAVE MY OWN COVER REVEAL). Ugh.

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