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Named to "Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites," this #SharingwithWriters blog is a way to connect with my readers and fellow writers, a way to give the teaching genes that populate my DNA free rein. Please feel free to add to the conversation using the very tiny "comment" link. For those interested in editing and grammar, go to http://thefrugaleditor.blogspot.com.

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Unsuspecting Authors Get Lead Into Scammy Marketing Schemes


When I was taking a class offered to UCLA instructors in ethics, my master professor (those who teach the teachers) said, "Leadership means ethics." He knew that wasn’t the dictionary's definition, but he knew it was a good start for his class.

I had taken ethics classes before—as part of my journalism minor and as part of a marketing class at USC. I didn’t really see a reason for another—this one with a focus on classroom ethics. My theory was that by the time we reach a certain stage in life, we’ve probably absorbed theories on ethics anyway. But as I began to teach new authors, I was glad to have this update because so many new authors get lead astray by what at first appear to be brilliant marketing ideas for their books. It’s a whole new field for us and we may be as starry-eyed as we are ignorant of the end results of our actions.

Authors often get lead astray because they are so focused on their passion—sharing their books with others—but when we look a bit more closely, many of these ideas smack of dishonesty at the best and are scammy at their worst. Things like, "If a library doesn’t have your book, ask your friends go into libraries and ask them to order one, you know, even if that friend has already read your book." This idea is not only unfair to the library but it deters an author from building a relationship with libraries on her own. 

Another one: "If you can afford it, buy a ton of books just before its release date so it will hit the LA Times or NY Times bestseller lists." In the early 2000s, one traditionally published author did this and got caught. The story hit national news and it was not a pretty thing to see—either for him or for the publishing industry.

Authors, like other celebrities, must lead by example. It's part of great branding and great branding is part of great marketing. This is such an important part of an author's marketing plan that I mention branding, ethics, and scams (author scams as well as scams perpetrated on authors) quite frequently in The Frugal Book Promoter.

On the other hand, marketing is part of the game. In fact, it's an essential part of the game.  As long as it's tempered by a good, strong dose of ethics, you can be a power marketer who does your writing career—and your book—proud. The reason at the lowest rung of the ladder that ethics are so important is Karma. Bad actions can come bite you in the butt. The reason at the highest run of the ladder is also Karma. You and your readers will reap the highest benefit when you do things for the highest possible reasons.

Here is a quote from The Frugal Book Promoter that I hope convinces you that ethics are important.

“I think the word "humble" is used far too often. The thing is, we should be proud of what we do. It's part of doing the right thing. Pride is the stuff that self-esteem is made of and by extension the stuff people (that includes authors) need to do good in the world. Friends may mean well when they preach modesty or being humble but they also may be exhibiting passive aggressive tendencies. In either case, it is probable that they don't understand the heart of a writer who usually only wants to share.”

It’s true. The more we "brag" (or "market") the more good we can do. The trick is, we must learn to do it right. It isn’t about us as authors or even about our books. It’s about the reader. If it’s clear to the people we target with our marketing (our future readers) that we have their interests at heart, we’ll be successful with it. They’ll be grateful. We’ll be happy we shared. Everyone benefits.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor .

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