Oh, we’ve come a long way from What Makes People Buy Self-Published Books last week, ladies and gentlesirs!
Brace yourselves now, as we enter the dark side of book marketing: the things which make you REFUSE to buy self-published books.
And we’ve all experienced this to some degree. Self-publishing often gets a very bad rap. If people avoided some of the behaviour which follows, the industry can only benefit.
Cobbled together from the feedback from you, the nice people who comment, I now have a list of what’s most likely to make sure you will never buy a book from a certain author, let alone read one.
These fall loosely into 3 categories:
1. Pushy Marketing Tactics
2. Bad Book Design
3. The Writing Itself
These categories also come in the order which they would turn readers off a book. Even if a book didn’t fall at the first hurdle, it still had at least 2 further stages to go through before it was safely in the basket.
Most of what people said, to be fair, fell into the Marketing Tactics camp. I wasn’t sure what to call this category, because most of this behaviour could hardly be called tactical, let alone marketing.
1. Pushy Marketing Tactics
Most of the antics most likely to get readers’ backs up fell under the broad category of pushiness. Other than that, it was just plain old Twitter.
I said before that there was nothing less likely to make me buy a book, than an author telling me on Twitter to buy their book. It seemed a lot of people agreed with me. In fact, most social media was open to the abuse of pushiness. Here are some of their comments:
“People want to get to know you (on Twitter, Facebook, your blog or Instagram – or wherever) – not forever be bombarded with BUY MY BOOK!”
“Nothing is a bigger turnoff than a tweet that says, “Read my book.” The only possible answer is, “Shan’t!””
“Other things that turn me off are social networking messages saying “Check out…””
“…I had one [author who] tweeted every three mins or so as well as direct mailing me and turning up on every book conversation in Linkedin trying to sell me (and others) his teen vampire book. One of the threads was about the great French writers. I was just thinking to myself, Voltaire, Maupassant, Rousseau and a good teen vampire book, they go together well”
“There is a book which the author plugged all over the Amazon forums when I posted there regularly. It may be wonderful, it’s certainly won awards, but there’s no way I will ever read it because of the author’s relentless spamming when it first came out. I loathe having things sold to me in a pushy way.”
Overall, it would appear that many authors just don’t think about how they might like things to be sold to them. Imagine you had a market stall, and your method of selling things was to jump up and down and scream at people “BUY MY STUFF!” rather than to tell people why they might benefit from buying your stuff, or why they could be particularly interested in buying it…. Well: good luck with that.
2. Poor Cover Design
Cover and blurb came up again, and again, and again. Loads of people looked up books because the cover or title caught their eye. If the blurb was written in a way which indicated the style of the book, they liked that too.
However, the cover was just as likely to make readers discard the very idea of reading a book at the first hurdle. As one commenter put it:
“And yes, I will completely ignore a book if the cover art looks amateurish or cheap (unless I know the writer or he/she came recommended). It’s just a fact – you need a good cover to sell books.”
[It’s difficult to know what makes a cover look amateurish or cheap, granted. It obviously didn’t look that way to the author who chose it. However, and this is just me – I tend to stay away from any titles in an italic font. They always make me think of locally-produced poetry anthologies from the 1980s.]
3. Bad Writing
Finally, we come to the meat in the gigantic and sometimes unpalatable sandwich that is the self-published book: the actual writing.
The people who commented often looked at a sample of the writing last. That’s not to say that some of them didn’t look at this first (however, they would already have had to be attracted to the book at that point by something else, such as the cover or title) but this seemed to be the final decision-maker for most, either through Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature, a downloaded sample, or a sample available online.
Readers know what they like. And they don’t like these things:
“Many of them (probably most of them) turn me off within a page by the bad writing — overuse of adjectives, adverbs, stilted dialogue. Amazing how many bad books there are out there.”
“The first thing I look at is the Look Inside. If I see: grammatical errors; spelling errors; tell don’t show (particularly saying what the character thinks or what motivates her/him instead of showing it through words and actions); or clumsy construction, I don’t read on and I don’t buy the book.”
“Something else I look for in the Look Inside: if the POV changes inside a scene, it’s off the list of possibles immediately.”
Suffice to say, if you get any editing done, for heaven’s sake, get it done on the first few pages. Although if you don’t bother getting the whole thing edited, I will go squinty-eyed, and write things like this.
There are plenty more things to avoid. The list could go on, but if this post gets any longer, I will be in danger myself of committing word crimes.
Instead, do tell in the comments – what drives you mad? Is there anything else which will ensure that you will absolutely not buy a self-published book?