Promotion 201

I really struggled on whether to post this one, or not. I don't want to come across as singling anyone out, or being negative, but there are some things people just aren't teaching. These involve what not to do. Most good lessons explain the various promotional options, they encourage us to do certain things, but they never go into what not to do.

Keep in mind this is only one man's opinion. Nobody has to agree with me, and some of you probably won't. I'm going to write this without photo examples, because I don't want to pick on anyone.

I'm going to write this from the perspective of an author, because that's what I do. Maybe you want to accomplish something else, but the ideas still apply.

To start with let's drop a couple of lines about why I think the way I do.

  • Mom always said, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
  • As a writer, a common lesson is to never give someone a reason to say no. This applies mostly to traditional publishing, and the process of shopping a manuscript around. There are lessons here for the rest of us though.

First up are author pictures. These come come in two varieties that I'll loosely define as a photo, and a Gravatar.


I believe an author photo can be almost anything, but it shouldn't turn people off. It's fairly common to see an image where the camera is looking up at the author, they're standing there with their chin up, and their arms crossed. (One of my author friends told me my singular use of they is back in style this week, and I'm going for it.)


I'm sure the photographer, or the author, thinks this is an image of someone who is a master of their craft. It shows confidence, and charisma. I think these photos also translate a raised chin into looking down your nose at me. The crossed arms are defensive and protective. In fact, I think the photos look downright arrogant. It's almost like holding up a palm and saying, “Talk to the hand.” I've seen plenty of multi-level marketers, pyramid schemers, and get rich quick guys projecting the same image.


Personally, I tend to bounce right by those kind of sites. I wonder if others do the same? If they're too good for me, maybe I'll go hang out with people more my level and buy their books. PS: I review the books I read too.


Then there are the ones who try really hard, but don't pull it off. As an example, there is a fine line between mysterious and creepy. I see a lot of guys looking up from under their eyebrows. This can also be done with the brim of a hat. Many of these are in black and white, but not all of them. To be real honest, they look angry and even mean. Isn't the point to attract people to your blog/books/Etsy store?


I've seen one that seems to do all these at once. It involves an over the shoulder look with a furrowed brow, in black and white.


I try to do one of three things; smile, be myself, or be corny. I actually use three pictures that reflect one of each. In one, I'm wearing a tie and smiling. (Yeah, I have a full beard, but you can see it in my eyes.) My arms are crossed, but they are leisurely resting on a countertop. I'm also leaning slightly forward. No arrogance here.


The second photo is me at one of our regular hangouts. I'm hoisting a beer while wearing one of my fedoras. I'm still smiling, but it's a natural environment image. I also pushed the hat back on my head so people could see my face. Who wouldn't want to have a beer with that guy?


The other one is my bronze bust. This image is kind of dour looking, but it's quirky as hell.


Dean Koontz writes some scary stuff, but he usually has a really nice picture of himself with a golden retriever. You can't dislike someone with a golden retriever.


Any of these images are unlikely to scare people away, and that's the point. Don't give someone a reason to say no. If they do read, it isn't because they're looking to disagree with me. Open mind, open heart…open wallet.


If your natural environment might be somewhat controversial, maybe don't project that until you know someone a little bit better. Remember what Mom said in my first bullet point. Holding up a dead opossum by the tail and saying, “The other white meat,” might be something to hold back for later.


The other kind of picture is what I'm calling a Gravatar. These are the little calling cards we leave all over the Internet. These don't have to be pictures of you, but if they are, the same concept applies. Make sure to create one as soon as possible. Nothing is easier than blowing right past the Twitter generic egg symbol. It screams “I don't care enough to actually participate.”


If I click on a site, it's because I want to read something you've written. I really detest being assaulted with pop-ups. If you are on something like, like I am, you don't have control of the advertisements. At least they don't have pop-ups yet. If you have your own site, like with, it's clear that you chose to make me deal with a pop-up before I can read your post. Sometimes I just move on. If I haven't signed up for your newsletter the first couple of times I visit your blog, I probably never will, but I still get assaulted with the pop-up. It doesn't make me feel welcome. It makes me feel like prey.


Twitter has its own version of this. I follow someone, and immediately get a direct message asking me to buy, read, and review their book. At least kiss me first. It tells me I'm the least important person at this party, and I'm welcome to leave my money on the table and get out.


I'm convinced that I am the brand around here. What I am selling is myself. If enough to people decide they like me, they might turn into consumers too. I don't want to drive them away before they get the chance to see what I'm all about. I've actually struck up a friendship or two with people who've never bought any of my books. I'm okay with that. Friendships are wonderful, and that's a big win too.


Filed under Blogging

38 responses to “Promotion 201

  1. I like you, and I think the fedora, the beer, and the dog all are good additions.
    I HATE the Twitter autorespond. HATE it.
    I’m not a fan of pop-ups either. Bleh.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I know exacty what you mean about images, some of them are ridiculous. I personally use an avatar as I hate the way I look, and I quite like the image of a blue lady siting at her desk. I should get a professional shot done, but I doubt anyone could improve what nature has bestowed.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Interesting comment about the pop ups. I too find them annoying, but mainly if I can’t get rid of them quickly. I have one on my website for my newsletter and on a discussion with someone else about whether or not it should be there ( I wasn’t sure it should), they said it looked professional. People perceive things in different ways I guess πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like your comment about, “Kiss me first…” I can deal with a certain amount of pop ups, but when someone immediately asks me to buy their book, or put them on my preferred Twitter, that sort of thing – a real put off. I do however, like to see who I’m talking to. The egg head is obviously a no-no. These days folks want to see the real deal, so unless your avatar is for a book page, I would much rather see you – wrinkles and all … I’m just sayingπŸ˜‰

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I absolutely hate the direct messages on Twitter asking me to buy a book or follow them all over social media or whatever–especially when I’ve followed that person as a courtesy because he or she followed me. It definitely does not make me want to buy the person’s book.

    I had to actually look at my gravatar. I think it’s OK. πŸ™‚ Maybe not the best picture of me, but I think I look friendly. When someone follows me or likes a post of mine and then they have no picture and nothing on their “About” page, I ignore them. It makes me wonder if it’s a “real” site.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’ve definitely seen some zany ones out there. Personally, I always dread the author photo because I don’t think I can take a good picture. Got new ones 2 years ago to look more professional and I’m still not sure if I made the right decision.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Totally agree. I wavered for months on whether to use a pop-up (because I hate them), but they work. I’ve gotten more subscribers since I installed the pop-up than ever before. It’s crazy, because I don’t know anyone who likes them. And yet, it gets people to subscribe. Go figure.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. N. N. Light

    Great points here and I agree with most of them. I’ve seen some scary-looking author pics that would even make Stephen King back away from the book/device. I think you’re right about the author wanting to look intimidating but it totally backfires. Why would you want to intimidate your readers? *smh*

    My husband and I have a dual author pic and we’re satisfied with it. It’s the two of us and presents the perfect image for N. N. Light.

    Pop-ups are one of my pet-peeves. I mean, it’s totally insane how many authors have these gigantic pop-ups and no “x” button to escape. A few of my favorite authors have put up a banner at the very top (centered) of their website/blog asking to subscribe to their newsletter. I find that much more appealing than those dreaded pop-ups.

    Autoresponders on Twitter do nothing for me and in all actuality, only make me unfollow them. Twitter is the ultimate social club and that involves… wait for it… real-time interactions. πŸ™‚

    MRS N

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think it’s important that we do our promotion. It’s kind of why we’re out there in the first place. I post something direct every once in a while. (Like tomorrow.) I also tweet things out regularly. I try to keep most of it in my sidebar, and never use the direct message feature on Twitter to push my product. I like your Gravatar, and I liked the one you used with the pretty girl from the book cover.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I use crowd fire from time to time – just to get a few followers, but I try to keep it real from there onwards, but it is really difficult to be platform building along with everything else an author has to do. So I suppose those of us who can afford extra help must be the lucky ones. All I know is that DM’s pop ups and the rest of the annoying things in cyberspace are here to stay with or without our blessing. It’s not always possible, but I try to answer everyone as if we know one another for a while. It is very difficult to find the right balance between selling, marketing and writing. Oooh… I’ve finally said it … I don’t have an email list yetπŸ˜–

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I never really thought about author photos too much but some of the gravatars I’ve seen have bordered on obnoxious. I tend to steer away from those. I don’t follow Twitter eggs and I personally despite an automated DM asking me to buy someone’s book. I mean….I don’t even know them yet!
    When it comes to pop-ups I really dislike them but I understand why some authors use them. I thought about doing one on my site, but just couldn’t. If there were a way to make it less obtrusive, off to the side or in the bottom corner, maybe then. Until then I’ll skip the pop-ups.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are one of the few who pull off the mysterious hat thing. That’s a great image, but it’s back off your face and we can see you. We have to do promotional posts (Like I will tomorrow) but I try to keep most of it in the sidebar.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. I see myself in this post but have to agree on the twitter auto DM and Gravatars. I also agree that your branding is super.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, John. It’s always a good idea to assess something new before we run it out. Maybe even get a second opinion. I haven’t always done that myself, but it’s still a good idea. Some of my stuff is mildly controversial, but my regulars stick with me through thick and thin, so it isn’t too bad.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Ali Isaac

    Oh no! Was it me? My blog has a pop up, but it shouldn’t pop any more after your first visit. I hope it wasnt me who rattled your cage, as I know you visited my blog today. Also, I easily get paranoid.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. All true.
    Lol at the pyramid schemers, you nailed that.
    Generally I think people over cook or undercook their photos. Vague or ott.
    A good pic is really crucial, and a picture at all is necessary, because its hard to connect on any level with an avatar or picture of a seaside.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. All of this is so simple, and so true. Yet still I get that sinking feeling when I follow someone on Twitter and get the dreaded DM – does anyone get sucked in by those these days? Or the people who spam me with book tweet after book tweet, but never seem to have anything to say. I use the mute button a fair bit πŸ˜†
    I don’t like pop ups either. Gosh, I’m grouchy aren’t I? You wouldn’t know it from my picture though πŸ˜†πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

  15. GREAT idea for a post! Love this: “It doesn’t make me feel welcome. It makes me feel like prey.”

    YES! I run away quickly (and try to remember NEVER to return). But then, I really hate PUSH marketing altogether. Really doesn’t work for me. At least you can wait until I reach the bottom of your post. I’ll still hate it, but I won’t hate YOU so much. I mean, how would I know if I want *more* before I know what you write about and how well you do it? And make it REALLY clear how to get rid of the form if you want me to read anything else on your site.

    What I REALLY hate are those sites that have auto-start audio or video that blare at me. How rude to assume I’m not already listening to music or something (usually), or browsing while I chat on the phone (sometimes) or am on hold with obnoxious music and adverts already in my ear (often). Those sites are OFF my list as quickly as I can close the tab. If you post media of that type, grant your reader the respect of clicking to start (or not).

    One thing I do like to see is some kind of caption that puts some context around an author photo – even something like “Bowser and I hangin’ in the back yard” – or “Join me for a Brewski at my favorite pup, The Meetup in Chicago” or something similar – because I always want to know the photo backstory and a quick bit of something friendly about the author. I frequently jump to About Me posts and find very little info about the author – along with a lot of marketing about the author’s books, which I also find off-putting.

    I’ll stop while this comment is still shorter than the post πŸ™‚ but you’ve obviously struck a chord with me. πŸ™‚
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

    Liked by 2 people

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