Pied Pipers and Gingerbread Houses

Art for art’s sake

Was having a discussion earlier about marketing, with a couple of great authors who advocate social networking in marketing, creating fan pages for stuff relevant to or similar to what you sell, yada yada yada. It all sounds cool and funky and modern at first. And, er, blatantly sneaky…

Personally, I think you need social skills to use social networking, and a lot of time on your hands for the admin. I’d rather sell books in my sleep with no effort on my part whatsoever, but then I guess I just like my sleep better than social networking sites.

Something was bugging me though. Something saying at the back of my mind that I’ve seen it all before, heard it all before, and it’s not modern or funky at all.

Then I remembered ‘Timeshare’. Where you’d get a free holiday, but basically had to sit through their hard-sell sessions. And those ‘youth clubs’ you’d get invited to as a youngster, which were all good fun until they mentioned Jesus. After which you didn’t get out of the door without knowing you were going to Hell, but who gave a toss anyway, at least Hell would have a bouncy castle on which you didn’t have to feel guilty about keeping your shoes on, while cussing and swearing if you felt like it.

And half of the kids’ fairytales warn of the same thing. Don’t go into the Gingerbread House, it’s a trap. Don’t follow the Pied Piper. You’re being led up the garden path to meet a sticky end. And not the good sort.

Basically, it’s a way of avoiding paying for formal advertising. Call it dishonesty if you want, or ‘grooming’ *BLECK* nasty word, unless you work in a stables. Come hither, Facebook folks, and ‘like’ my fan page about Harry Potter. The next thing you know, I’ll be recommending books you’ve never heard of, muahahahaha… no Harry Potter freebies or competitions here, just badly-edited thinly-disguised fan-fiction promotions…

I read another blog post recently, with any luck I’ll dig out the link so that I can credit Red Bonsai or whoever it was, about ‘old media’ being what works. Posters on the rail platforms and the Underground. TV and radio appearances. Sunday broadsheet literary supplements. It’s true. Last stand-up comedy gig I went to, was after seeing it advertised on the London Underground. But that costs money, and apparently the time and money is better spent on paying an office full of typing monkeys to play on Facebook and Twitter all day. For a month’s worth of that, they could pay for a poster on the Underground, and catch all the folks who are actually buying stuff, instead of just rounding up all the others who are also playing the social networking game.

It’s so overcrowded now, most of the mutual follows are from people in the same business. Indie authors get followed by indie authors. SEO experts follow other SEO experts, hoping to scam their ideas off them.

I’m not against having your own fan pages, of stuff you really like or recommend to others. But there’s a difference between indulging in a love of your own, and setting up a coconut shy covered in big fluffy teddy bears which only gives away penny sweets if you have a go.

Who do you think JK Rowling promoted herself as while looking for a book deal? “Hi, my books are like Enid Blyton meets Terry Pratchett. I run the Blyton Meets Pratchett Fan Club, which people join and they get a weekly newsletter all about me and my own writing.” No? Good. I don’t think she would have done that either. Do you think it would have been as successful if she had started out that way?

Or those youth clubs… Come and talk about Jesus! You might also get a beaker of weak orange squash and five minutes on the bouncy castle in your socks! But the Jesus part is compulsory!!

If you think you’re talented, or have something worth selling, f***ing tell people you are up front. Don’t hide your personal trainer diet leaflets in Happy Meals packaging.

So you have stuff to sell, good for you (and for me). If you don’t think it’s worth advertising properly, or being honest about, just think about what other associations you’re going to attach to your product if you go the sneaky route.

Instead of becoming the next Rowling off the back of your own talent, you too could be the next Timeshare inΒ heaven…


12 thoughts on “Pied Pipers and Gingerbread Houses

  1. I think sns and competitions are a brilliant way of getting people to recognize you, i mean, you could go old school with advertising, BUT your target market is small. I believe in fan pages and competitions, heck, im throwing one next year for my readers to win a copy of my new book. And i believe that through these techniques, people will discover if they like you or not, if they do, thats awesome!

    • Each to their own πŸ™‚

      Whose small target market are you referring to? I wonder if Rowling was told how ‘small’ her potential market was in marketing budget terms…

      Out of interest, would you have succumbed to the ‘Timeshare in Jesus’ technique? x

      • Small as in, if advertising were just in bookstores and in newspapers and all that, then the target market in just within your own country. Going global would be hard. Unless you work with an international publisher, then things are diff. Im stating this from a self publisher p.o.v.

        As for timeshare? lol… no. I remember my parents going for those things just to hear a company babble about their services and the only goal for ppl going for those is for those free trips. How many percent of ppl actually buy into this sales technique?

        I think youth clubs that have activities are not considered or categorized under time sharing.. its more of outreach. The goal is to have fun and share about Christ. No one is selling anything there.

  2. I’m glad no-one is selling Jesus. I’m sure he’s well-known enough already not to resort to that kind of thing. Kids under 18 want to have their own conversations when doing social activities. Otherwise when that bouncy castle pops, you get youngsters saying to angry group leaders “Don’t worry, Jesus will fix it, just like you told us he fixes everything!” πŸ™‚

    Timesharing – I think my point is illustrated quite neatly there πŸ™‚

    However, good point about self-publishing. Here’s an example of how one poster can have an impact. Recently, self-published author Laila Bevan was having a book-signing in one of her local bookshops. She’d provided her own poster to go in the window promoting it. A television show PA saw the poster, took her details, and a week later she appeared in a half-hour Sky TV channel one-to-one interview about her life and her book. And Jesus (see, the guy gets everywhere).

    Now, wouldn’t you rather be doing something like that, than sitting at home playing on a facebook fan page sneaking in your own self-promotion once in a while? πŸ˜‰

    • Ah, but that is subjective. How many of us self publishers could be blessed enough to have a television show spotting your poster? She’s one in a zillion i tell you. To even have a book signing session is NOT easy to get. Most self published authors go unnoticed, if not for the sns’ and all that, we would barely be noticed. The publishing world is full of competition, if Bevan got screen time, she should be very thankful.

      • Just saying – if she’d been on facebook instead, promoting herself in the guise of a Harry Potter fan-page, she’d NEVER have been spotted by a TV promoter.

        How many authors are going to picked up for a TV interview doing that, I wonder?
        Less than one in a zillion? The market is overcrowded – and social networking is where most of the competition hang out – because it’s free.

        Believe in yourself for who you are, not because someone else is already doing well who you can hide behind and jump out at people with the occasional free book. Get out there like she did, and talk to the bookshop owners and print off a few posters. You might just surprise yourself.

        Gaining a hundred sales in your own town, is better than giving away one free book to a Harry Potter fan who may not even read it…

  3. Of course if one wants to be recognized, one has to do a lot more that fan pages and competitions that’s for sure.

    Though i dont think 100 books is even enough to cover cost.. speaking from personal experiences.

    Im not part of any hp fan pages though… haha!

    • I’d expect you to be more annoyed if you were πŸ™‚

      The subject of this post was about hijacking other products/authors and running fan pages about them to promote your own products behind, without official endorsement from them. So if you’re talking about running a fan page for your own books, that’s not the issue here.

      • I have seen people do so. I’ve even participated in a competition, haha! But i do use fan fics, or i write them, to give the readers a feel of my style.

  4. Here’s a few examples of the kind of thing that goes on in these ‘unofficial’ fan pages:

    An unofficial HP fan page starts, promising competitions and suchlike. Lots of people join, expecting to get things like signed special editions by Rowling, trips to Disneyworld Florida etc. What they get within a few months is promotions of books that are a bit like hers but no-one has heard of, and maybe a free copy contest.

    An unofficial chart RnB music fan page starts. Lots of people join. A social is advertised. It turns out to be a street gang meet/recruitment in the guise of a party, or a flash mob as distraction for a criminal act occurring elsewhere.

    An unofficial women’s TV show fan-page starts. Lots of people join. Within weeks it is promoting questionable diet pills.

    An unofficial Michael Jackson tribute page starts, which is later found to be circulating illegal pornographic images.

    This is what I meant by the ‘associations with’ that type of scam fan page. They’re using exactly the same technique on the same social platform, to ‘groom’ *BLECK* fans into participating in something unrelated to the front, or ‘cover story’.

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