Wicked Witch of the West:  “No!  Fool that I am… I should have remembered– those slippers will never come off as long as you’re alive.”

Dorothy:  “What are you gonna do?”

Wicked Witch of the West:  “What do you think I’m going to do?  But that’s not what’s worrying me– it’s how to do it.  These things must be done delicately… or you hurt the spell.”

And there you have it… marketing.  These things must be done delicately or you hurt the spell.

No panhandling.

Don’t beg your readers to do your work.

Does that mean as an author you should not include book covers and the titles of your back-list at the end of a story?  Excerpts from other works or upcoming releases?  Links to a website where readers can learn more about you and engage in communication with you?  Include away!  Please!  I’m a reader – I love links to authors’ websites.  If I enjoy a book, I want to follow an author– I want to know what else she’s written and where I can find her books.

If I like an author’s work, I’ll tell everyone I know about her books.  I’ll scream my love from the mountain tops.  She doesn’t have to ask me to do a single thing on her behalf. Telling others about books I like is second nature to me.

In fact, if she did ask me to do something marketing-related, I’d feel downright uncomfortable– as if an invisible barrier had been crossed and the author felt she had license to intrude upon my personal space simply because I’d read her book.

As an author I think that’s an impostion.  As a reader I don’t want to be imposed upon.

I love to chat with readers.  It’s fun.  I’m grateful for every single reader and every book sold.  Period.

Asking readers to market is like panhandling.  Panhandlers make me uncomfortable.

1.  They are in need.

2.  They play upon my guilt because they are in need and I am a people pleaser.

3.  My guilt makes me believe I should give them money.

4.  If I don’t give them money I feel more guilty.

5.  If I do give them money I’m pissed off because the truth is I need my money.

6.  Giving money to one panhandler causes the other panhandlers to race in my direction like a flock of pigeons after a crust of bread which then makes me…

7.  Swear to never ever give money to another panhandler because…

8.  It’s not my fault they need money.

Some panhandlers are in my face scary and most of the time I run like hell.  I loathe and fear those kinds of panhandlers.

The occasional panhandler is funny and creative and I might toss him a couple quarters, but I don’t feel like giving the next guy anything because I already did my bit.

Some panhandlers have a dog.

And sometimes it’s the homeless who are obviously in great need but don’t ask me for a damn thing who get lunch or a cup of coffee or a five dollar bill.  Therein lies the secret.  Stand up straight.  Have a little pride.  Let your book do the talking.

There’s one author in my world who gets a free pass.  He can ask me to do anything, within reason, and I’ll do it for him because he’s earned my favors many times over.  Yes, mom, if Lawrence Block told me to jump off a bridge I’d do it… just not a very high bridge… and not if there’s quicksand below… or water moccasins… or not it it’s one of those two bridges in Costa Rica I hiked over, the Pray-to-Heaven Bridge and the Oh-My-God Bridge with the crocodiles beneath… But other than that I’m doing it, mom!





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26 Responses to Panhandling.

  1. Amber Skyze says:

    I agree if I like an author I’ll tell everyone about his or her books. I don’t having the books shoved down my throat. I can’t do that as an author.

  2. Tom Stronach says:

    Yep, I give to one charity each year for Children with Leukaemia, they didn’t ask, but I give. I’ve done my bit and refuse to give to anyone else. Someone said that was a bit mean spirited. Maybe, and if I ever win the lottery I may, probably will, give to others, but while I am still paying a mortgage off and trying to live on a meagre wage, that’s it.

    On authors, will support their charge to the best seller list as much as I can, that’s why I tend to buy their books even if for less than a £1 ($1) rather than waiting for the eventual free copy , doing my bit as best I can and you’re right no need to get in people’s face, it just turns them off you and if you turn one person off, you’re more than likely to be turning off their friends as well, AS THEY DO TALK ABOUT THESE THINGS

    Good post

  3. Penelope says:

    I’ll reiterate my comment I made recently on another thread about this topic….

    Readers have one “job” to do: read.

    That’s it.

    Authors have no business asking them to rate, review, share, tweet, chat or post about their books.

    Promo is the AUTHOR’s responsibility, not the readers. Asking readers to do our jobs (free of charge, of course) is unprofessional and reeks of….yes, you nailed it…panhandling.

    Including links, backlists and excerpts is common courtesy, not the same thing at all. If I read a book I like, you just saved me the trouble of Googling your name, finding your backlist and website. It SAVED me work. You aren’t forcing me to look at these things, but you’re including them for interested parties.

    Explicitly asking readers to do our work (marketing), free of charge, because we don’t have a big promo budget, or the time, or whatever, is not okay.


  4. Jaye says:

    You scooped me yet again, Julia (I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!). You said it more elegantly than I would have.

    I get frustrated and a little sad when I see writers engaged in desperate endeavor. When you bring up Lawrence Block, you make a good point. If he, or writers such as Neil Gaiman, or Elizabeth Berg, or Jonathan Maberry, or Barry Eisler, or David Gaughran, or even that ornery so-and-so Chuck Wendig asked for a favor–personally or as a general call-out–I would respond. Why? Because they’ve earned it. Because their hard work and dedication to craft and loyalty to their audiences makes them trustworthy. It takes time to build that trust. It takes time to prove you have the chops and build a reputation. Writers looking for shortcuts indicate to me that they do not have the chops. They aren’t willing to take the time. Thus, they aren’t worthy of my respect.

  5. Interesting comparison.

    To me, it’s more like walking the street and being beseiged by vendors hawking their wares. The authors aren’t really asking for a handout, but trying to sell something.

    We may get overwhelmed by the sales pitches, and may not really want to buy anything, but we’re not being asked for charity.

  6. Delilah Hunt says:

    Excellent post Julia. Just like you, when I discover an author whose work I love, I let everyone know. I’ll even go out of my way to promo the author, who has no idea I even exist.
    I’ve never asked a reader to do anything for me and never will. When I do give-aways that’s just it. If the reader wants to review it, fine. If not, that’s fine too. I’d never solicit a review. Like Penny said, the readers job is to Read and form an opinion. That’s as far as it goes. Everything else is on us, just like any other job.

  7. Hi Tom. Thanks for visiting. I see your comparison. To some extent I agree, but the difference is this- vendors aren’t asking you to hold the sign for them or man their booths or shill for them. They aren’t asking you to hawk their wares. An aggressive vendor is simply annoying.
    I’ve been to many craft fairs – love to peruse the wares– and I’ve spent time in Italy where vendors simply set up on the side of the road and literally get in your face. I’m unlikely to buy from an aggressive vendor. I’m more likely to stare straight ahead and walk on by.
    I do believe asking readers to market for you is asking for charity. I think we can deceive ourselves into believing it’s part of an overall marketing plan… but I do think it’s asking for, well, basically a donation.
    To be completely honest, I’m not all that sold on Kickstarter either.

  8. Sorry, Jaye, and LMAO! And no, I never ever say anything elegantly! I’m sort of a stutterer.

    Unfortunately asking readers to market does reek of desperation or a get-rich-quick scheme. Just rubs me the wrong way.
    On the other hand, I love to read those tid-bits at the end of a book because I like to find exciting new authors.

    Yes, some people have earned so much respect that if say… Tad Williams issued a general call-out for donations to some charity I’d consider donating.

    Sometimes we have one-hit wonders or overnight stars. It’s rare and the stars often fade. The authors you mention have spent years building their career. Do you know George R.R. Martin wrote a book years and years ago – a book that was barely read and went out of print quickly? I happen to have a copy from my high school sci fi days. It’s since been re-released (for obvious reasons) – The Armageddon Rag: A Novel. Took years from that first release to fame.

  9. I could not have said it better, Penny. You boiled it down. My husband said about this comment – “She is so smart!” He’s right!

  10. I agree, Tom. I don’t upload freebies. I buy books and I consider that my contribution to an author. I seriously don’t upload freebies. If I want a book, I want to reimburse an author for his or her efforts. Charity is tough. I give to local charities and causes I very much believe in. Large charities tend to use most of the donations for administrative needs.

  11. I’m with you, Amber. I won’t do it either.

  12. I do that too, Delilah – If I read a book I like, I’ll mention it on my blog and I’m quite sure the author doesn’t even know I exist. And that’s all right with me!

  13. Tom Stronach says:

    Mind you, having said what I said earlier, I am not against finding an author on twitter, who I read or who I connect with , who tells us that they have a book out, to retweet that for them to the folks who follow me

  14. I’ll do you one better, Tom. If an author I know and/or like has a new book out, I tweet it anyway! I think the most important thing between reader and writer is first and foremost engagement. A connection. If people connect as people, that makes all the difference. I just don’t think we should expect our readers to take on our work.
    If, like you, a reader tweets something about a book, or reviews a book – it’s gravy!

  15. anny cook says:

    Sigh. It’s just embarrassing, isn’t it? Sometimes I watch a desperately-selling-buy-my-book-right-now author and I want to cover my eyes. I want to say just exactly what you said, “Have some pride. Stand up straight. Write a good book! And quit worrying about sales.”

    Good post, woman.

  16. I know, Anny. Maybe we’ve been doing this too long! The thing is, 50 Shades notwithstanding, writing is a long term proposition. You just gotta plug away and hope eventually something sticks.

  17. I do agree with you…I try to spread the word about books as well to tell people but I hate when someone is force feeding me the work…I get people sending me emails through my site read my book buy my book, or to my private email..It doesn’t help the cause..

  18. I agree, Savannah. I think most of us are willing to cross-promote friends – we all do that often. But we don’t tell readers what to do or think. Bad idea.

  19. Margaret Y. says:

    It’s really not such a fine line, is it? Some authors like to pretend that there’s no distinction between informing readers that they have a new book out and asking the *reader* to pimp it for them. But really, it’s not a fine line. It’s a canyon.

    Waaaaay over on this side is quietly mentioning your book when it’s appropriate. (You know when that is. Yes, you do.) Waaaaaay over on the other side is getting up in the reader’s face, trying to guilt her into reviewing, shilling, whatever.

    These authors know exactly what they are doing. And I am embarassed for them.

  20. Well said, Margaret.

  21. Aaron Pound says:

    I’m generally not bothered by an author trying to promote their work, so long as that’s not the only kind of media interaction they have with the rest of the world. I have stopped paying attention to some authors whose entire twitter stream was some variant of “buy my cool book!”

    One phenomenon that I have run into that I find somewhat odd is when I get multiple offers of a book to review for my blog even after I have accepted a copy and reviewed it already. I have had this happen more than once. It always makes me wonder if the marketer bothered to check and see what I had already reviewed, since I have a page on my blog that specifically lays out all of the reviews that I have written and published there.

  22. Aaron – Submitting review requests to reviewers is par for the course. It’s part of an author’s job – or a publicist’s job – or a publisher’s job. Yeah, I agree – submitting multiple requests is simply lazy marketing.

  23. Nina Pierce says:

    I’ve got to agree with TW … there are some who make it feel like you’re being accosted by someone hawking their wares. It’s just noise and it annoys me to the point where I won’t buy their book on principle. The problem? Sometimes I worry I’m becoming that person.

    I suspect though you’re alluding to the whole new fad of “street teams” thing. (I don’t have one of these.) But it seems to me that readers are enjoying helping out their favorite authors. If they’re enjoying the perks offered by authors and it makes them feel closer to these authors … is that a bad thing? Just asking.

  24. What do I think about street teams, Nina? I think these days readers think it’s cool to have some sort of proprietary relationship (real or imagined) with an author. As far as whether or not that’s a good thing, the jury is out. What happens when the author doesn’t reciprocate? Or the author’s book is lousy? Move on to the next author? Honestly, this is so new I don’t know yet.
    In following internet arguments in which one author’s minions take on another author’s minions or a reviewer’s minions… it all seems pretty unpleasant to me.

  25. Nina Pierce says:

    Oh, such a visual … author minions battling it out … sounds like a new reality show. *vbg* But seriously. This street team thing seems to be working for many authors. And I do think there are readers who really like being in an author’s fan club and are proud they’re on more than one “team”. I however, see the whole concept as another nasty ploy to keep me from writing. I mean isn’t there the cultivating of a street team and then the care and feeding of a street time? That, in and of itself sounded like more work than I was willing to put in.

    And yes, what happens when author or reader tire of the whole thing? Will we end up with all these teams hanging out at Amazon writing bad reviews and mis-tagging books because they have nothing to do? Just kidding. That was a joke.

    Anyway, I don’t know if it’s a passing fad. But the way I figure it, if I can neglect my website, twitter and pinterest accounts, I’m probably not ready to develop and manage a group of living people!

  26. Nina, unless I become a vampire I don’t want minions.