What Authors & Writers Should NEVER Do . . .

I recently asked theologian, writer, blogger, and my friend Frank Viola to write a guest post on what authors and writers should never do. Here’s what he said:

As a long-time blogger and author, I often receive emails from people who I don’t know from Eve asking me to promote their new book. After comparing notes with other bloggers (like Phil), they get the same emails on a consistent basis. In fact, there’s not a week that goes by where I don’t receive an email that looks like this:
“Hey, I really love your blog. I just came out with a new book called [title]. I think your blog readers will love it. I’ve attached a copy for you to read. It would be great if you shared about it on your blog.”

Note that these authors write these emails to people they have no relationship with. Unfortunately, however, they are clueless about how their requests come off. It’s akin to walking up to a stranger and saying, “Hey, can you promote my new widget?”

Yes, it comes across that crassly.

Prefacing your “pitch” with, “I think you will enjoy this” doesn’t help. And neither does the overused introduction, “Hey, I love your blog” and then on with the pitch. Or “Hey, I read your books and I love them,” and then on with the spammy request.

The bottom line is that this kind of approach not only violates every rule of email etiquette, but it comes across as feckless, self-serving, and ignorant. It’s spam — plain and simple. And it can get your email address penalized if the person chooses to report you for it. Note that the people sending these emails don’t realize — nor feel — that they are spamming their recipients. But more than it being awkward and spammy, it’s highly ineffective.

And I mean HIGHLY.

So how do you resolve the problem? How do you get the attention of A-list bloggers and best-selling authors and persuade them to become genuinely interested in what you’ve created? Here are 5 steps and each of them is vitally important:

1) Whenever you write to a blogger or author you don’t know personally, keep your emails VERY SHORT. One paragraph containing 4 to 6 sentences is ideal. 99% of the time, long emails to A-list bloggers and best-selling authors will not be read or responded to. These people are very busy. Long emails scream, “Ignore this!” So keep that in mind.

2) This is crucial. Attempt to develop a RELATIONSHIP with the blogger or author before you make any requests. This necessitates that you get familiar with their work. Writing them and saying, “I really enjoy your blog” or “I love your book” is so vague it smacks of insincerity. Have you actually read their books or blog? More likely, people who send such emails are sending the same email template to multiple bloggers and authors. If you have read one of their books, tell them which books you appreciated and why. (The “why” is critical.) If you’ve taken the time to read their blog, what blog posts have you read? Comment on those.

3) In a follow-up email, offer them something without asking for anything. That’s right. How about inverting the pyramid and offering them something of value instead of asking them for something which benefits you. Offer to promote their work on your blog, for instance. Offer to buy a case of their books to hand out to friends and ask if there is a discount. In other words, before you make your self-serving request, give them something.

4) Once you’ve done the former, then pique their interest with something about your product that will benefit them. Again, this necessitates that you first get to know them and their work, thus understanding how your product could benefit them. For instance, let’s say you’re writing to a blogger who specializes in productivity. Here’s a good example of how to write to them:

“Dear [name of blogger],
I’ve just uncovered a new finding on the number 1 obstacle to productivity.
Let me know if you’d like to see it.”

You’re doing 3 things there:

(a) you are offering them a benefit – a finding that you came across in an area of their interest.
(b) you aren’t giving them the link to the finding (which may be on your blog or in your book). Instead, you’re letting them respond if they are interested.
(c) you aren’t asking for anything; you’re giving.

At bottom, this is the way to build relationships with A-list bloggers and best-selling authors.

5) Thank them for whatever they do for you. Yes, be grateful. Sincerely grateful. Bloggers and authors who are well-read get reams of emails every day asking, requesting, pleading, etc. Most will never reply. Or if they do, they just might send you a quote by Groucho Marx for good measure: “From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed by laughter. Someday I intend reading it.”

So if they choose to even respond to you, and nothing more, be grateful. Because 99% of well-read bloggers and authors ignore every email they get from people they don’t know. I’m not condoning that; just stating a fact. They don’t owe you anything.

Remember that.  And one more thing…

If your response to the above is, “That’s too much work!” Then forget about trying to promote your resources to people you don’t personally know. If you choose the lazy, selfish, mindless path, it will not only prove to be ineffective for you, but you’ll quickly lose potential friends who could help you tremendously. You’ll be viewed as a spammer and a taker. Plain and simple.
If you really care about your book and its success, consider in investing in learning how to get people interested in reading it in non-spammy ways that actually work.

One of those investments is The Buzz Seminar Master Course which Phil Cooke highly recommends. (So it’s gotta be great, right?)  I was honored to be one of the 9 presenters of this course, and I can tell you without wincing, that’s it’s the most practical training for authors and writers that I’m aware of.  It teaches the following:

(1) how to promote your resource in ethical, non-spammy ways that build buzz and get results.
(2) how to write emails by giving you actual templates of emails that ask for promotions in ethical and effective ways.
(3) how to target the core audience you have created your resource or service for.
(4) what to put in your email (or blog) headline, other ways to build relationships with A-list bloggers and best-selling authors.
(5) how to write a book from scratch in a short period of time and get it published in the best ways.
(6) how to create a blog, build traffic, and even monetize it.
(7) how to have your book hit a best-seller list, and much more.

In effect, the course teaches authors, musicians, bloggers, writers, creators, business people and artists of every kind how to build buzz for their products and services and to be extremely effective at doing so. For those of you who may be interested, take a look at the details here. It’s open until November 1st, 2016. Then it is wait listed.
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FRANK VIOLA is the author of 8 bestselling books with Thomas Nelson, Tyndale, Baker, and David C. Cook. You can visit his blog at frankviola.org.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • I can relate…

  • Great content, thanks Frank! And Phil, I appreciate your contribution to changing the way we communicate in today’s world.

  • Thanks for posting this article. I’m currently editing my first book. I’m also writing my marketing plan for the launch and will add this advice to my game plan.