This post was written by Jason Kong, who helps fiction authors combine online tools and smart strategy to create a better platform. Enjoy!
What do the following activities have in common?
- Spamming email lists
- Buying Amazon reviews
- Artificially pumping up Twitter follower numbers
These are examples of gaming the system. They’re tactics to boost promotional efforts by circumventing the spirit of a tool’s intended usage.
And make no mistake, they do work.
In addition to being quick and easy to use, the marketing benefits are obvious. With a little time and effort, anyone can get more clicks and more sales.
The appeal of these gimmicks is understandable. With the popularity of self-publishing at an all-time high, the competition for attention is fiercer than ever. Indie authors are on the constant lookout for new ways to get noticed.
Perhaps you’ve used similar shortcuts yourself, and everything was rosy. That may be true in the short run. The truth is, there’s also a cost to these approaches, one that hurts you down the line.
They all have the tendency to violate trust.
The currency of the internet
It’s a sad story. You probably know it quite well.
It involves being ripped off, deceived, or scammed online. It’s having expectations dashed and hopes crushed. The ability of poseurs to twist our perceptions behind a computer screen is unfortunate, but real. Negative experiences have caused us to become more wary, more apprehensive to believe anything we see and hear through our internet connections.
Trust is more valuable than ever.
Marketing is nothing more than a promise. You’re broadcasting an idea or story that leads to whatever it is you sell. Gaming the system may not be breaking any laws, but eventually you’ll break someone’s trust.
Once that happens, the interaction is over. No trust means no sale. Not now, not ever.
What’s more, your online activities have a lasting footprint. A damaged brand or reputation isn’t easily forgotten, when a Google search can instantly pull that history to the surface.
Using shortcuts that damage trust is a form of debt. Maybe it doesn’t hurt your life today or tomorrow, but eventually you’ll have to pay up. And you’ll do it with interest.
Why take that risk if you don’t have to?
A marketing approach that works (and feels) better
If all you did was keep your promises, you’d be trustworthy. But not necessarily noteworthy.
To be deserving of conversations that spread, those promises must also be compelling. And the best word-of-mouth for an indie author is caused by the demonstrated value of her work.
Try focusing on marketing activities that get you attention because of your writing – writing that directly ties to your published books. Examples include:
- Offering a free eBook
- Guest blogging for an audience similar to yours
- Doing book tours
- Getting reviews from book bloggers
I call this getting related attention. Not attention just for the sake of getting noticed, but attention specific to the content of your books. Your marketing is relevant to the value you offer, which means you’re not only respecting the people you attract, but you’re also directing your energies where they’ll do the most good.
Unlike gaming the system, marketing through remarkable writing is only about connecting with the right people. These are the ones that care about what you do and will support your efforts given the chance. You’re choosing to stand for your work, not clever manipulation of the system. People recognize authenticity.
There are a million ways to pump up your social media following through tricks and hacks. The bigger numbers may give the appearance of popularity, but how much does that really matter? How many of those subscribers really care about what you’re doing? You need real fans, not fake ones.
Trust comes in many forms. There’s the kind of trust when you treat someone fairly and with respect. Then there’s the type forged by meeting or exceeding expectations. That’s just as important.
When the bar is set high and you come through, that’s worth noticing. When the people who notice are readers who care about the work you do, you’ve earned attention that lasts.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint
Trust takes time to build, but can be destroyed in an instant.
That’s what makes it so hard. You need patience and consistency and the inclination to invest for the future. The temptation of instant gratification will never go away.
But the payoff? A solid reputation. Loyal fans. Repeat customers.
If you’re working for the long haul, then trust matters. Gaming the system has a compelling hook (who doesn’t want more results in less time?) but it’s also a ticking time bomb that can’t be diffused.
If you’re looking for a career that lasts, don’t take the risk of blowing it up with a shortsighted gambit.
Embrace the value of trust. If you have it, you’ll spread your ideas, attract supporters, and make sales. If you don’t, nothing else you do will help you or your books.
When it comes to trust, the best shortcut is no shortcut at all.
What do you think, readers? Have you tried shortcuts that haven’t worked? Are you dedicated to the long-term payoff of creating trust and delivering value? Leave a comment and share!
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Image by Beat Küng