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.