Ed’s Casual Friday: How not to sell (me) a book.

Let me start by outlining my own history of involvement in the wacky world of online everything. Before March of 2011, my presence in Virtual World consisted of an e-mail account I checked once a week or so. If I remembered. I usually didn’t. March 2011, however, was when I first hit that “Publish” button over at KDP, and I figured I had better dive into the digital world, seeing as I was trying to sell digital books.

The only reason I signed up to facebook, Google+, Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, the Kindle Boards, all and sundry, on and on, ad nausea was – I repeat – to try and spread the word about Ye Olde Fantasy books I was publishing. I had no network of friends with whom I e-corresponded regularly, never used social media as any sort of platform for my views or opinions or any of that. I never had a blog through which I kept anyone informed about my life or my beliefs, or anything else. But as the virtual world seems to be “the done thing,” in Indie World, here I am.

Thus, the most recent presidential election cycle we all just suffered through was the first one I experienced “online.” And boy howdy, what an experience. The chance to witness countless virtual acquaintances reacting all through the run up, the denouement, and the post mortem period was, shall we say, enlightening. It all left me with one major question:

What in the hell are you people doing?

I address this to my fellow authors, others like me who are using their social media presence in large part as a means to the end of getting people to read our written work. During this election cycle, a vast number of my fellow scribblers felt the need to clog the virtual world with so many whackadoodle posts from all points of the political spectrum that I can’t believe they did not totally alienate everyone who isn’t a die-hard, true believer on one side or the other. I am not calling out any specific position – nobody had a monopoly on preposterous polemics. What I’m wondering is why any author trying to sell books to the widest possible audience felt the overwhelming need to share their most outrageous diatribes (or more often pass along somebody else’s) with the whole class?

We all know that this is one of the most sharply divided, polarized times in American culture. Yes, there have and will always be differences of opinions, and our history is littered with instances of them getting totally out of hand. What is new are the giant conglomerates (on both sides) that pass everything that used to be daily information through a political filter, only delivering it to the consumer once it has been slanted to fit whatever angle the media outlet favors. We can all read, listen to, or watch “news” 24-7 now, without ever getting a dissenting opinion that is anything but a target of ridicule. Ergo, people’s positions are less thought out, and more intransigent than ever before. It’s bad, and this is the way things are nowadays.

Aside from those of us doing work that has a hard slant to begin with, why would any of us authors want to wade into these turbulent political waters? That’s what I failed to understand as I was seeing increasingly shrill nonsense filling my newsfeed day after day. Yes, I know we all have a right to believe anything we want, and to shout it from every mountainside. But in exercising that right, we are tacitly acknowledging that everybody else has a right to think we’re obnoxious morons for doing so, right? I have a hard time imagining any potential reader sees a political screed from an author and immediately thinks: “X’s position on marginal tax rates comports with my own, maybe I will read his Paranormal/YA/New Adult/Zombie/Romance/Cozy/Thriller.” I can, however, imagine some readers thinking “This dude is off his nut. Brain, remind me not to buy anything with his name on it. I don’t want to catch the crazy.”

I’m not saying authors should not have political opinions, as of course we all do. All I am saying is that we also have a choice about the manner, tone, and timing with which we choose to make them known in front of a hypothetical audience of potential readers. Do give that some thought the next time you are tempted to click “Share.” 😉


In closing, a one-star review of a book, in its entirety.

“Anti American.”
Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot by Al Franken

Author: M. Edward McNally

Epic fantasy author M. Edward McNally is a North Carolinian of Irish/Mexican extraction. He has a Masters in English Lit from ISU and Russian/East European History from ASU. He grew up mostly in the Midwest along I-35 northbound (KS, IA, MN), and now resides in the scrub brush surrounding Phoenix AZ, where the scorpions and javelinas play. Learn more about Ed at his blog, and his Amazon author page.

10 thoughts on “Ed’s Casual Friday: How not to sell (me) a book.”

  1. Absolutely! Whackadoodle overload. I finally sorted all of my Facebook friends so that I could filter out the more politics-centered ones and read what I was online for. You’re right–things get passed along without checking where the info came from. This is why I stopped reading the news altogether.

  2. So true, Ed. Totally agree with you. It was ridiculous (re-dick-o-lis as my son said when he first learned to speak 26 years ago) and sadly because of the rants by other authors and even family and friends, I unsubscribed from their feeds. I tried to stay out of the foray but once in a while I just couldn’t help myself and was immediately thinking I shouldn’t have responded because I was probably adding fuel to the fire. Families have been torn apart because of the discussion about the election and I saw it first hand on facebook. Again it was re-dick-o-lis!!!!!

  3. My personal FB page was never intended to become anything but a means of keeping up with my adult sons and friends who I actually know well. It’s a social forum, and I don’t promote my book or discuss publishing on my personal page.
    I have always been a political activist, and can’t comprehend anyone remaining neutral at this moment in history. Our personal pages are just that…highly personal. Why would people I don’t know want to see photos of my family?

    Being “friended” by other authors (when that began, fairly recently) struck me as unwise and unnecessary, since most of us have gone to great lengths to separate our personal FB identity from our author page identity. I have never posted political comments on my author page. That is the forum for sharing news about publishing with other authors.

  4. So, let’s see. We have a group of people who are stereotypical introverts (supposedly) and we tell them go on line to market (they are already shaking) and to be themselves (so stand in the corner at the dance?) and gather followers.
    Is there no wonder we get things wrong?

    I agree that there are places for political opinions and as most businesses know it’s not in the marking department. By supporting something, you can alienate the consumers who support something else.

    I do my best to keep the political stuff off my author and business pages – I don’t do much of it on my personal page either. I will also unfollow/unfriend/unlike people who only post political rants, or religious quotes.

    My advice is to be yourself on your personal social media and be your business self on your marketing stuff.

  5. What others have said. My FB fan page is my business face; it’s all public, it goes straight through to Twitter, and so I would never post anything political there. My personal timeline/wall/whatever, though, is meant to be private, and I’ve got my privacy settings set to “friends only” for nearly everything. That’s where I post notes to my kids, pictures of yarn bombings, memes stolen from George Takei’s feed, and — sometimes — political stuff.

    That said, I’ve seen authors (even trad-pubbed) who never bothered to set up a fan page, and who put all kinds of political stuff on their timelines. Luckily, I usually agree with them, so it doesn’t bother me. 😀

  6. Sorry Ed, just this once I have to disagree with you, on two levels. I see the recent online debate as being an antidote to the pre-digested pap pumped out by both sides of the media.

    At a more personal level, I believe writers have always expressed their world views inside a persuasive narrative – e.g. Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

    In this digital era however, readers want to know who we are and where we stand on the big issues. They want to relate to us as people, so while expressing a political opinion openly may alienate one segment of the readership it will make other segments feel they have something in common with us.

    The point at which I agree with you 100% is that the debate needs to adhere to some rules of engagement and not devolve into an ugly slinging match of personal put-downs.

  7. After enduring months of political rhetoric I posted on facebook:
    “Hey! Everyone is talking about politics and I want to say-I just made great pancakes!”
    I’m so happy the election is over. My phone has stopped ringing off the hook. As a Political Science major I am happy to discuss politics with anyone OFF my facebook page.
    The Founding Fathers were brilliant. And while I respect and love that Freedom of Speech exists in America, I am saddened by the ignorance I witnessed. Ignorance of the founding principles of this nation. So, I stayed silent on facebook and made pancakes.
    Great post.

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