“I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that”- promo no-nos and personal integrity

I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that”- promo no-nos and personal integrity

If you substitute the words “book sales” for love in that Meatloaf line, you’ll have a better idea of what I’m going on about. The last couple of months I’ve become a tad despondent about the amount of pressure to sell millions of books by any means available and legal. It’s as if authors really are starting to measure both their worth as people and the worth of their work in terms of how many units they have shifted that day, week, month or year. I’ve fallen into the bear-pit too often, lured into reading yet another article about how to increase your exposure and gain more sales. Net result is me feeling miserable and overwhelmed.

There’s no easy way to say this but selling books is hard. It might even be harder than writing them. It certainly gets in the way of writing them. There is an undercurrent of fear too, that says, take your eye off the game for a few days and you’ll lose traction and be swept away in the tsunami of slush and never be found again.

I’m also aware that one of the most delicate of things is under more threat than you’d imagine. Integrity.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve had a couple of emails that have troubled me. Most months I get an email or two about advertising on this blog, or guest posts from random strangers trying to (I think) build their portfolio or similar. I used to reply politely but now I just ignore them all. I have concerns about the concept of advertising in general; it’s a clever, devious business of trying to convince someone they want what you’re selling. I have things to sell here: my books. I happen to believe in them, and while I do want my readers to buy them, I’m of the hope and conviction that to some extent the books sell themselves. But to host other products on this space, that brings up a host of awkward questions I’m not willing to try to answer and most of those questions are about how those potential ads impact on my own ethics and integrity.

Back to the new emails. The first was from a company I won’t name, who sell software that highlights grammar issues and other such things. They also have a lot of humorous memes on Facebook and other places, about grammar misuse. The import of the email was to ask if I would like to host an info-graphic from them, about a hot topic. In return they would make a $50 donation to a children’s literacy charity. It caused me pause, you might say. I have what you might call a still small voice that tells me when something is bothering me at a subliminal level. So I did a bit of a look around and had a think. There was enough material out there concerning this company to make me feel uneasy. Not a scam, not really, but there’s times when something can sail so close to the wind that it might as well be. I can’t really say any more but the topic of the info-graphic decided me on saying no. I believe the term is “click bait”, a subject so emotive it’ll have people screaming the odds and as impossible to make any real conclusions as asking which makes the better pet, dogs or cats. Final confirmation of my decision came when I heard of other folks being contacted with the same email from the same company.

The second email was harder still to deal with. I received an email from a journalist at a big national newspaper (again, will remain nameless) that is infamous for its sensationalist approach and its somewhat flexible attitude to truth. She was looking for adult women who believed in fairies and having found my website (this blog) she wondered if I would be interested in being a part of this article. I assume she would have interviewed me or something. This really did give me pause. National newspaper exposure for Away With The Fairies is not to be thrown away lightly. I dithered for a very short time before being reminded of how this paper always make people look totally stupid at best and mentally deranged at worst. Do I want my beliefs and convictions derided and laughed at? So that email has also been ignored.

Perhaps you might think me too precious about both these invitations but as I said earlier, I believe in my books and I don’t think they or I would be best served by being pilloried by the national press, or by being caught up in a hurricane of acrimonious debate initiated by a company about whose ethics I have some doubts. In the end, I don’t think that potential book sales are worth compromising my own integrity over. There will be other opportunities at some stage that do not give me such concerns. In the meantime, I will write my books and know that there is more to being me, the author, than how many or how few books I sell each week.

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21 thoughts on ““I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that”- promo no-nos and personal integrity

  1. If you are too ‘precious’ in your distaste, I share that. I have also been the route of reading (avidly) as a novice, all the ‘can do, should do’ imperative articles, initiatives that will lead to selling books, and made more expensive mistakes than most.
    I also share your distaste for plugging either books or myself, and it never gets easier. The assumption ( hugely general) that ‘if you don’t believe in your books (enough to plug being implied) why should anyone else? omits a central corollary. The respect for the freedom of others to ignore them, and plugging ( by a thousand stratagems) flies in the face of a conviction just as strong. This underpinning belief that ‘marketing’ is an obligation of the ‘authorpreneur’ (dreadful word) is now so entrenched that questioning it is considered ‘precious’. So I applaud your post. Hugely. The quiet voice usually causes the listening ear to tune to it.

    • Thank you. I think that while we do need to let potentially interested readers know our books are there, we ought to remember that what underpins the ethos of a book is as important as the book itself.

  2. This couldn’t have come at a better time! I’m thinking about PR for next book, and got a similar email to first one above. Thanks for putting it in perspective!

  3. I think you need to get a better junk sorter on your email, Viv! I don’t get them via email, but I get stacks of this rubbish all the time on Twitter. My advice; don’t even read it. Delete it all, straight away, without even opening – some of it might be a phishing scam, anyway, it’s always a risk. If you think about it, no-one starts up companies and advertises to make YOU money. As for the Away with the Fairies thing – well, she wasn’t doing it to help you and your book, but just to make a sensational article. I have no doubt that your fears were right; she may well have not portrayed you in a serious light. I also have no doubt that it would have sold many copies of your book, but at what cost?

    My sister in law, a teen coach, has sometimes been invited onto BBC programmes to be part of a debate. In one, it was so obvious that she was on there only to be laughed at as the token loony leftie that it actually did her career some damage.

    • At what cost indeed. I do look at every email, and some that initially seemed to be dubious turned out when I read them, to be very kind words from fans. So I shall read what comes through but with a careful eye.

  4. Oh crumbs Viv this is well timed! With Shell Shocked Britain just out I am already feeling exhausted at the work it seems I have to do in order to encourage sales. All that work to get over 1000 followers on twitter feels pretty pointless when Waterstones don’t answer emails, Amazon mess you about and charities that ought to support the message don’t even bother to send a stock reply. I don’t think you are precious at all – I think you are right.There is almost an expectation that we have to prostitute ourselves to be read and that is very stressful and disheartening.

    • It is disheartening. I keep coming back to Jesus’s sermon of the mount, though. As things stand, it seems to me that those who shout loudest, push in front, etc, get what they want. Yet, I do believe that quiet determination and integrity get a much deeper, better response if we are patient.

      • But it feels as if more should happen. And patience doesn’t seem de rigeur in the book world. So much is published it feels as if you have one shot…..

  5. I’m doing a similar idea on my blog shortly about courtesy on social media connected with selling books. I’m with you Vivienne – I’d rather have lower sales figures and be able to look myself in the mirror xxxx

  6. That quiet voice ~ totally trustworthy. You made the right decision. I too am lacking in the marketing rush. I am taking the slow boat process. I think there is a flotilla of us on the same sea who look to the reader rather than the marketer for our feedback, praise and ultimate rise in reader numbers.

    • Yes, once we learn to identify the voice as trustworthy and not the voice of our fears and doubts. Slow and steady wins the race, I believe. xx

    • I’m glad to know I am not the only one to get them; it seems there has been an extensive fishing operation. What makes me cross is that some get these emails and seem to take it that they have been specially selected. There’s a very broad catchment.
      Good to see you, Cait.xx

  7. …it’s always a fine balance …how much to ‘push’ and how much to allow the ‘pull’ but I think you are absolutely correct by going with what your gut tells you… great post, Viv…thanks 🙂

  8. Pingback: Sunday Surprise | creative barbwire (or the many lives of a creator)

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