Manage Your Brand – and Your Friends
As one of the great unwashed self-published writers, I’ve run across any number of blog posts, etc. that discuss the necessity of “managing your brand,” or acting professionally. Others might put it, “don’t be a douchebag,” which would be consistent with the theme of this post.
After enrolling Diary of a Small Fish in the KDP Select program, I chose to do a few days of free promotion last week, to see how it worked.
Things were going great – I had a huge open house party that was packed. Wall to wall. Code violation material. On day one, it cracked 6,000 downloads. The morning of the second day, I was smiling, thinking that we were in the middle of a pretty good party. Not that I was making money – it was open bar – but still, it’s nice to see people grabbing your free stuff with reckless abandon.
Then someone left a turd in the punchbowl. It is this that I wish to discuss.
Let’s examine that quaint vernacular. This is an expression for the event that changes your smashing soiree into a potential disaster by leaving an unsavory calling card where everyone is likely to see it.
The precursor to the event was the appearance of a 2 star review on Amazon. Here’s what the reviewer said:
I scanned the preview pages hoping the story would not be laced with gutter language and feeling pleased…until! Several pages in, the profanity started to fly. No thanks! I’m disappointed because I would have otherwise been very interested in the plot. I just don’t understand why some authors are unable to make their points without the dirtiest of expletives. Of course, dirty book-characters in reality probably would use dirty language, but just say, “He cursed a blue streak” or something more creative than a direct quote! 🙂 I only write this as a heads-up to others who like to avoid foul language whenever possible.
Now, I know what a lot of you are thinking, but don’t go there. This person has every right to his opinion, and I have no objection whatsoever to his leaving a 2 star review and a warning to others. I don’t agree with him, but my job isn’t to pick fights with readers.
In response to this review, an individual with whom I am acquainted through one of the many writers’ community websites left a comment that I think is fairly characterized as “abusive.” It called the person an “a-hole,” insulted his knowledge of narrative, and told him to “read a few novels.”
If you discover a turd in your punchbowl, you remove the punchbowl before anyone sees it, right?
So I messaged my “friend” and asked him to remove the comment. He wanted to argue about the rightness of his position, but right as he might have been, it is never, ever appropriate to abuse a reviewer. Not if it’s your book, and I would say ESPECIALLY not if it’s someone else’s. I insisted that he remove it, and he did.
But not before the reviewer returned for some punch. The abusive comment had been emailed to the reviewer (apparently he checked the box to receive notices).
In the meantime, a like-minded reader commented on the reviewer’s position, sharing his own distaste for vulgarity, and the reviewer shared the nature of the abusive comment he’d received. I’d gotten the punchbowl into the kitchen, but there were murmurs going through the living room. Fast thinking was required!
I had to confront the tried and true axiom that one never responds to a review. But I wasn’t really, was I? I was engaged in rehabilitation, necessitated by someone else’s intemperate meddling. I needed to disavow the abusive comment. So:
Hello LKD, I would like to thank you for your comment, and assure you that I have no problem with your criticism. When I saw the comment to which you refer, I chased down the offender and demanded that he delete it. There is no place for that here; you are entitled to your opinion. I’m sorry Diary of a Small Fish wasn’t for you, and wish you the best.
The discussion proceeded thereafter, which you can see here, and perhaps some will raise an eyebrow to my offering to “sanitize” the manuscript just for two readers – an idea I have since abandoned. But what it shows, I hope, is that sometimes a little extra effort can turn lemons into lemonade (We’ve had enough of the punchbowl metaphor, haven’t we?).
This is not a problem most traditionally published authors would worry about, is it? But self-published writers need to exercise more care in managing our brand – not just our own names, but also the “Self-published” brand itself. This requires that we not only treat reviewers with care and restraint, but that we police our overzealous friends and fans as well.
When it comes to managing your brand, all publicity is not good.
[As for the free promo experiment, the total 2-day download was 8,860, during which it reached #24 on the free list; and coming off the end of it, Diary’s paid rank has gone from 120k to 11k this morning. Now tell me how to keep it up!]
Filed under: Book Marketing, Peter Morin, Uncategorized | 9 Comments
Tags: diary of a small fish, reputation, reviewers, self-publishing, turd in the punchbowl