The White Hat Promo Manifesto

After my last post, I got some valuable feedback from a reader who was “dismayed” that, in essence, I was advocating a new way of “infiltrating” the Amazon forums, or any forums, for that matter.  That I was suggesting ways to trick readers.

She was worried that my stance of connecting and giving it a couple of months before mentioning a release was a carefully crafted plan.

In re-reading my post, honestly, I don’t blame her.  I wasn’t clear enough.  So today, I want to make my position on promotion as clear, I hope, as possible.

But first, a lurid, “hooky” header…

How is book promotion like sex?

Let’s say you’re a single guy.

You’re lonely.  You’d like companionship, someone to spend time with, among other things.  You don’t consider yourself particularly adept with the opposite sex, and you’re shy.

What you do know: your chances of finding Ms. Right while staying in your hermit cave are between slim and none.

You realize that one of your biggest problems is you hate this dating thing.  You don’t know what to say, or do, and you don’t know when to say or do it.  You’re not sure why anyone would say “yes” and you fear the pain of hearing “no.”

You decide you need help.  You need a plan of action.

“Black Hat” or “Evil” approach.

You see an ad from a guy who teaches classes on how to be a “hundred percent success!” with women.  He’s a pick-up artist, a successful one.

In these classes, you learn how to ignore the pain of rejection.  You learn to be flamboyant and attract attention while minimizing your defects.  You learn who to prey on.  You learn how to use psychological cues to zero in on women’s weak spots, and improve your chances.

Above all, you learn it’s a number game.  For every five to ten women you offend, one will eventually succumb.  The key to success, then, is not in your attractiveness, or your compatibility. It’s in your persistence and the sheer quantity of your invitations.

These classes emphasize another number: your success rate.  How many women you “pick up.”

These classes do not teach you how to sustain a relationship.  Considering the techniques you used to get the connection, it’s not like you’ve got a strong foundation to begin with.

You’re able to manage a number of one-night stands, but at the end of the program, you’re right back where you started: alone.

“White Hat” approach.

You decide you don’t want to simply bag a large number of random women, and keep up the numbers game.  You want a meaningful relationship with one woman who is right for you.

You go to therapy.  You do work on yourself.  You accept yourself as you are, recognizing what you have to offer as well as what you have to overcome.

You get as clear about who you want, what’s a definite and what’s a deal-breaker.  You think about where women with the qualities you’re looking for are most likely to be found, and start going there.  If you’d love to find someone athletic, you join a hiking club or marathon training.  If you’re interested in someone who loves old movies, you’d join a movie club.

You might work with matchmakers.  You might try online dating.  You could let friends fix you up.  If you’re determined, you might try all of the above.  You realize there are a number of available paths.

Finally, when you meet someone, you’re gentle, non-pressuring, and you give the relationship time to develop.  You go for coffee.  Maybe dinner.  You date for a while.

When you do propose, she says yes.  But to keep the marriage going, you don’t take her for granted. You don’t ignore her and chase other women in front of her.  You don’t forget to send flowers. You appreciate, check in, and give your best.

All the above applies, almost exactly, to book promotion.

Predator marketing.

Hard sell manipulative tactics are like being a pick-up predator.  You’re looking to score a sale from anyone who’s half-way willing to buy.  Often, you try to bend the truth to seem more like what they’re interested in.  “You love thrillers?  There’s a mystery in mine!” you say, even though you know it’s really a comedy with a light, ridiculous suspense subplot woven in.  But you don’t care — you’re trying to close the deal and make one more sale.

If someone does pick up a book under these circumstances, odds are unlikely that they’ll become fans.

Congratulations… you’ve just made what I call a one sale stand.  You don’t have a relationship with your reader.  And like a pick-up, when you’re done, many of them will walk away feeling screwed.

Permission marketing.

Permission marketing, on the other hand, takes a bit longer, and takes more work.  Finding and connecting with your Right Reader is a lot like getting married. For one thing, you don’t just wander up to someone and say, “hey, you read books!  Want to buy mine?”  To stretch the analogy, that would be like going up to a total stranger and saying, “hey, you’re single, but appear to like sex!  Want to hook up?”

You need to know what makes your book special. That will tell you who your Right Reader is… the type of person who is looking for just what you offer.

Then, you can follow the relationship arc:  you “meet” the readers where they hang out (book blogs, websites, conventions) and strike up a connection.  You interact when you bump into each other in comments or on forums designed for interaction.

The reader likes what you’re saying — she goes to your blog, and learns more about you.  She knows and likes you. When your book comes out, she’s more than ready to give you a try.

If she’s your Right Reader, you’ve got a fan for life — one that, if you respect her with quality books and continuous appreciation, will be worth more than a hundred “pick-up” sales because it’s easier to keep her happy than spend the time and energy finding new sales.

Bottom line:

At Rock Your Writing, we only wear White Hats. Want to be a pick up artist?  Door’s over there.

If you wear a White Hat, please re-tweet or like this post.


Photo by A. Germain.

22 Replies to “The White Hat Promo Manifesto”

  1. You’re so right about ‘knowing yourself.’ Still struggle with it in the writing world (I’m often surprised by which readers connect with my work. Often people I never woulda pegged). But in my former life I had an opportunity to join a large wholesale distribution company by taking partial ownership of their new Chicago branch. We went to their headquarters, were wined and dined by the owners and board, but something wasn’t right. I realize now they were predatory marketers, and my gut twisted at the thought of practicing their philosophy (my gut twists the same way over in-your-face book marketing). We ended up buying into a much smaller, 100-year-old family firm. The kind of business everyone knew and trusted because their fathers used to buy from them. Colleagues in the industry thought we were nuts to walk away from fast money to try to revive a rusty jalopy. It was a long, slow build, but guess what, the branch of the Goliath failed, and our little David keeps on going (even after we sold our share and left).

    Sorry for the long story, but it’s the approach I want to take in my writing career, and you are so perfectly describing the philosophy and revealing the pathway for me, Cathy. I’m with you, and am donning my white hat. (Will ‘like’ and retweet too!)

    1. Thanks, Vaughn. It took me years to figure this out. You so often hear “but you have to (repeat your posts three times daily, get in front of people, mention your title at every opportunity) or you won’t sell anything!” And the desperation cramps you, and you start doing stuff that makes you feel vaguely slimy. The funny thing being it doesn’t even work. What does work, I find, is caring about your reader, both in writing your book, and getting the word out.

      White hats unite! 😀

  2. Great analogy! Self promotion is a slippery topic and hard to understand. You want the right match between reader and writer, and this post says it all.

  3. Great blog Cathy!!!

    I really believe that integrity shines through in online interactions just like in person. Self-promotion is important, but it only works if you’re honest about who you are and what you write…

    Trickery is never a good sales tactic!

    Lisa 🙂

    1. A fellow White Hat!

      Thanks, Jus. Of course, for some books it’s easy to be honest. Like, I don’t know, yours! 😀 Can I just say I can not wait for that launch!!

    1. Thanks, Sarah and Nicola. It’s so nice to see the post, and the philosophy, are resonating. I’m heartened! 😀

  4. Wow, so relieved the pressure is off to ‘corner and sell, sell, sell’. ;>>

    Thanks so much for the reminder – if it’s a good book, it will find a solid audience.

    1. Let me clarify — you don’t need to ram your material down people’s throats. However, you do still need to practice a consistent plan of connecting with your potential readers. Being a good book isn’t enough on its own; you can be a good person and never get married if you never leave your house! 🙂

  5. Love this! And I think I’ve finally figured out how to get a date 🙂 A few years ago I was at a bookstore, browsing the Fantasy section, when I saw a woman with her daughter, who looked to be about 15 or so. They were both carrying books so I asked them what they had (I’ve made some of my best book discoveries chatting in bookstores.) The upshot: Mom and daughter had a budget, but lots of books they wanted. They were gonna pare it down to just a few, but they still would have to dip into the food budget for the week. If you’re gonna be a whitehat promoter, I think you need to remember that sometimes you’re asking people to part with what little grocery/fun money they have. Don’t b.s. them.

  6. Years ago I worked for a decorating store that had a black hat approach to sales. The manager overheard me telling an old woman not to buy a particular set of rugs. I’d listened to her describe where she was going to put them and how she wanted her home space to be, and I just said, “Ma’am, I don’t think these rugs are right for you from what you’re telling me.”

    I got yelled at later. And I’m fairly certain it is the main reason I soon after was “let go.”

    It was a learning experience, and I still never want to be the one with the black hat.

    1. Grrrr. It’s not easy to do the right thing, sometimes. But sounds like you know… you “never want to be the one with the black hat.” I think that’s awesome.

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