Begging for Hits

Facebook's latest upgrade exclusively for content creators
Facebook’s new button exclusively for content creators

Introducing the Facebook “Beg” button, for when you’re not “Liking” or “Sharing” something you’ve discovered, but “Begging” for hits for something you made. Simply click the “Beg” button and your followers will see this message:

(your name here) asks if you have any spare attention for their link, God bless.

The “Beg” button gives your followers something to turn away from, while they spend their time clicking on Buzzfeed lists, misleading Upworthy titles, and misattributed celebrity quotes.

As insensitive as this analogy is (there’s no comparing those with passion projects to the truly needy) self-promotion can come across like panhandling. I wrote a blog about the feeling called “Every Little Hit Counts.” Here’s the premiere of the audio version.

(If SoundCloud is down, download the track)
(Download the instrumental version here)

As a blogger, I’m willing to do what it takes to direct traffic to my site. I have faith that if readers see my work, a few of them will enjoy it. My end goal is to sustain myself writing. Not fame or fortune, just the ability to do what I love for a living. This means I have to build a brand, to sell my work by selling myself.

Lacking a blueprint, I can never get the balance between humility and vanity right. I come across as a passive aggressive narcissist. This has more to do with my fledgling marketing abilities than how I see myself. For authors in the information age, embarrassment is part of the process.

Regarding this uncertain future, Neil Gaiman put it best, “Try everything. Make mistakes. Surprise ourselves. Try anything else. Fail. Fail better. And succeed in ways we never would have imagined a year or a week ago.”

Aspiring authors have to build up an audience before abandoning our books on Amazon. We can’t be too proud to beg.

So I put my hand out, “Every little hit helps.”

Twitter has been generous, most writers understand that tweeting the occasional link is part of the self-publishing process. Facebook has been less forgiving.

Twitter followers, with shared interests, embrace my goofy Photoshop self-portraits, while my Facebook friends require an explanation. I have supportive followers who comment on my entries, and a few proximity acquaintances who don’t care for me clogging up their feeds. Fair enough, you can always select “Hide all” or “Unfollow.”

This is why writers have separate Facebook author pages, that way users have to “Like” the page to see our links. The problem is that Facebook’s algorithm pushes my posts to less than a third of my followers, while links from my personal account get twice as many views. It’s a catch twenty-two, damned to obscurity if I don’t share, declared a self-obsessed self-promoter if I do.

I’m curious how the rest of you handle this. Have you had to lose followers to gain followers? Have you found a magic number for weekly links you can get away with sharing, or do you leave your website in your profile and hope people will discover it? I’d love to hear your answers in the comments.

28 thoughts on “Begging for Hits”

  1. Great post, Drew. I’m still not comfortable – although it’s necessary – with the self-publicity part of this writing dream. I think maybe until we find true fans clamouring for our work (I’ve seen yours and it will happen), it’s hard not to feel like narcissists and that we’re pedalling into a void.

    I set up a fb writer page a week or so ago after resisting for a long time. Fb still feels like a personal space to me – rather than a place for fan acquisition! – and I’ve not yet worked out how to not come across as a spammer. Twitter feels more natural in that respect but then sometimes it feels more like a huge supportive writing family rather than a base of readers. But then, as our body of work grows, hopefully that will too. If you find the magic formula on fb in particular, please let me know…

    1. Thanks so much for your in depth comment. I’ve found Facebook to be another plate to spin (amongst Google+, Stumble Upon, and Pintrest).

      It is a personal space, and frankly the place I interact with folks the least. Maybe if there were some revisions to the newsfeed so I could see the most recent content as the default, and not have to see post again every time someone else comments on it.

      1. You’re on Stumble Upon? Barely heard of that one… Whichever platform, the goal has to be quality interaction in a limited amount of time that doesn’t squeeze the hours we have to write. But you’re right. It’s messy at the moment and will be a steep learning curve. Night Drew

  2. Ah, that elusive magic formula for self-publicity. Yeah, I’m open to suggestions as well. Facebook is frustrating in that it seems that everyday banality plays much better there than depth. That is, a heartfelt, blood-sweat-and-tears post will go ignored while somebody’s offhand comment about their kids’ poop will get a hundred likes. I think it probably speaks to what people are looking for when they log on to FB – just quick fixes about how all their friends are doing, as opposed to wanting to read something that will make them think. I’m looking at disconnecting my posts from my FB account and setting up an author page as well; I think what keeps me from doing it is the fear that the only likes I’ll get are immediate family.

    Nillu’s right, Twitter seems to be a much better fit. Though I still struggle with how many times one should tweet the same link to the same post. I keep imagining being on the receiving end and thinking “Graham, if I didn’t want to read this the first three times you tweeted it, what makes you think I’ll change my mind on the fourth, fifth, or sixth?”

    1. It seems like I’ve become a critic of the “Everyday banality.” It’s getting to the point where I’m parodying it (i.e. My Cthulu comes to Craigslist ad, and my Missed Connection post from an NSA agent). The Onion’s slideshows do an excellent job skewering Buzzfeed.

      It seems like the shared sentiment among writers is that Facebook isn’t the ideal place to get our message across, which is sad because I find my close friends like what I post when it shows up in their feeds, it’s the people I never knew all that well that overreact.

  3. Think it’s because Facebook wants you to pay for the (more) exposure. I’ve read that somewhere, but can’t think for the moment where.

    1. I think you’re right, which is sad when you go to the trouble of creating an author page, getting followers, and now you have to pay to reach all of them.

  4. I admittedly do little self-promotion (I’m a short story writer, so the chances of me making a living from my writing are practically nil.) But when I do have a story published, I’ll post about it on my blog, and normally try to make the post about something more than my story. (For example, one of my short stories was published in a Southern Gothic anthology. So in promoting the story, I also blogged about the definition of Southern Gothic literature, and gave some noted examples.) I have a lot of writer friends on Facebook who are tying to promote their novels, self-published or otherwise. Honestly, the separate author pages annoy me. I’m already a friend to them there, so now I have to see their promotions twice. The authors who seem to do best in connecting with readers on Facebook are those who have only a personal page. Then interested readers can search for the author there and friend them. It feels more personal. And those authors who follow this tactic tend to post on Facebook a lot–not about their work, unless they have a new release–but about everyday stuff in their lives. That builds a rapport with readers. Not building this rapport, and treating every Facebook/Twitter follower or fellow blogger as nothing more than a potential purchaser of your work, is the biggest mistake I see writers make. For instance, a writer recently started following me on Twitter. I followed back. Then he sends me a message asking me to like his Facebook page. Since the guy hasn’t bothered to interact with me at all on Twitter or check out my site, his tactic is not cool. (As a matter of fact, don’t send people private messages promoting your work. It’s more annoying to them than beneficial to you.)There has to be give and take. Now if you’ve made it to the big time and have written a bestseller and have millions of fans, then of course you’re not going to have the time to reach out to each one, to acknowledge all the comments on your FB page, blog, or tweets. But most of us are nowhere near the big time. If we have that kind of time to promote our work, we have the time to make a connection with readers. And for the love of all that is good, do NOT begin a Kickstarter campaign trying to raise money to publish your book, and hit your friends and family up for money. Sorry for the long response; self-promotion is a necessary evil, but when people go about it the wrong way, it annoys me to no end. That is all.

    1. Whenever I post an audio blog (a spoken word version of a previous post) I try to write a fresh blog around it too. I’m always trying to find a good reason to justify asking for people’s attention.

      I’m a huge fan of short stories myself. Are you planning on releasing a collection? Have you had any luck promoting an older short posted on your blog?

      I’m not planning any Kickstarter campaigns just yet, maybe a parody one just for fun.

      1. I wouldn’t rule out publishing a collection of stories further down the road. Short story collections are a notoriously hard sell for writers aiming to be traditionally published, but smaller presses are often more receptive toward them.

        I enjoy reading your posts, and I think you’re going about promoting your work in an effective way. (I hope my previous comment didn’t sound too preachy; when I talked about “you,” I didn’t mean you specifically, but you in general.) And I would love to see a parody Kickstarter campaign!

  5. I share the discomfort many of your commenters have spoken of when it comes to self-promotion. I can walk away from my desk after a morning session doing “social media” feeling like I need a fast walk against a stiff wind to blow the smell away. I know it is mostly about attitude and how one approaches these things and trying to give back and interact and above all else – be social! Still – it’s a way tougher gig than writing, for sure.

    1. I do my best to participate. To throw quirky thoughts out there, to respond to questions people pose under the #AmWriting hashtag. I’ve seen slow and steady growth and made genuine friends, people around the world that I do enjoy interacting with.

      Like many of the people commenting here, I’ve found twitter to be a great support group for fellow writers. The question we’re always asking is how many readers are we gaining by blogging about writing? How big of a platform do we need to build before we can start selling things on it?

      We’re the first generation to approach publish and self promotion this way. There’s going to be a lot of growing pains, and a lot of trial and error.

  6. Thanks so much for this post! I’m definitely not great at or comfortable with self-promotion, either, like many of the others commenting here. I feel like maybe I have lost followers to gain followers (or just lost followers?) since I started promoting my website/blog on Twitter. At first it was really disheartening, because I didn’t tweet about it more than once or twice a day (if that), so I knew I definitely wasn’t being spammy. The question became “Oh, are they leaving because my website sucks?”. I’ve moved beyond that stage, and am just focusing on making it better and better as time goes on. I also try to think more about my net gain in followers versus the day-to-day fluctuations.

    1. I doubt anyone took a gander at your blog and said, “This person clearly doesn’t know CSS, HTLM5 design, I’m going to unfollow her on Twitter.”

      I’m learning more and more that the sheer volume of Twitter followers doesn’t matter. There are a lot of bots, and those things come and go quickly, my numbers are always fluctuating. Some followers are fickle, I’ve stopped talking about my core subject for a day and times for them to go away. I try not to take it personally.

      I find what matters is how often you engage with people directly. I feel like my core audience is 15 people who’s blogs I’m always reading.

  7. I believe FB has made it harder for pages to show up in feeds because they’d prefer that you buy advertising.

    Fair enough. They obviously need the money 🙂 I read somewhere (who knows where? There’s so much out there!) that followers on FB are primarily looking for deals and promotions when they follow/Like a page.

    That’s all well and good, but I have yet to figure out how to get users to my page in the first place! How do I promote to invisible fans? I have one fan (yes, mock me if you must. Just the one) who’s gone out and told a few of his friends, so they’ve all liked the page, but that’s it. I have no idea how I got that fan, so I can’t replicate the scenario and draw in more fans. Ugh. I hate Facebook.

    Twitter, on the other hand, is fun. I haven’t released my book yet, so this past month has just been about learning what works and what doesn’t. I actually have made friends, which I didn’t expect. I have no idea, however, if any of my followers are actually fans, or just other authors looking for reciprocity.

    At the end of the day, I’m thinking that I should stick to what works for me. If I get two thousand fans on Twitter who are really friends, and if I ask them all to buy my book, maybe some will. Who knows?

  8. Hi there, firstly I’m not on FB so can’t comment there. Secondly I am on Twitter a lot, but in a rounder real person way, not just pimping my work. I never ask for retweets, so if I get them, the retweeter felt moved to do so for their own belief in me or my work. I don’t think authors have the right to append a please RT to any of their tweets (actually I don’t feel anyone has the right to do it, except in cases of charity appeals or appeals for lost items/people). The reason I say this is because it’s indiscriminate, it goes out to all of your followers who are very likely to include many people who are not your readers. People who want to interact with you as an author will do so and seek you out in their tweets. There’s no reason to drag all those who have no interest in interacting with the author you into tweets about your books. Those people interact with me on sport, politics or hashtag word games. If any make the crossover, it will be of their own accord, not because I beg them. Begging on social media is more likely to lose you potential sales I feel.

    I didn’t know Gaiman said that, he totally ripped it off Samuel Beckett – “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” 🙂

  9. You are right about experimenting, bravely trying new things and risk looking foolish. We are all pioneers in this new territory. As long as you don’t hurt anyone or make someone feel used you will be forgiven making a dorky mistake. It’s easier to love a nerd than a jerk. 🙂

  10. Nice post and I agree the balance is hard. I have stepped away from Facebook pages a little as it just seemed a little too much and it also seemed like what posts I made there were gradually being less and less ‘promoted’ on followers streams. When I was postng regularly I’d post maybe 2 or 3 times a week- always to advertise a new blog post, and then probably once or twice to point out something not about ‘me’ but something I just found interesting.

    1. This seems to be a common sentiment. I keep hearing that Google + has SEO benefits outside of just your followers, but it still feels like another social media plate to spin.

      Thank you so much for reading the piece

  11. Morning!
    Interesting post, thoroughly enjoyed reading everyone’s comments too.

    With regards Facebook pages vs private Facebook accounts … as an author with a small press I have both. The last thing I want is people I don’t know personally (as in we haven’t met, I haven’t had a meal with them, that kind of thing) trying to friend me via my personal page so I set up my author page a while ago. Sure I post stuff relevant to my work on both pages – but none of my friends/family mind seeing things twice (if they ‘like’ my author page).
    As for exposure on through a Facebook author page and finding a reader base using Facebook. Yeah nah. Facebook does indeed make you ‘promote’ your posts to reach more people. Yes that means it will cost you. We did experiment with that for a little bit and I can say it made no real difference to sales or fanbase. It was a fun experiment but it costs and really wasn’t worth it.
    Twitter is annoying me at the moment – my timeline is way too full of authors who throw links at it all day long. I particularly dislike the authors who follow me and think it’s okay to DM me links. Seriously, stop it! I will and do unfollow them. It’s just rude, either interact or go away! Too many authors (tend to be a lot of self-pubbed authors doing this) don’t interact and fire out links to their books constantly. I’m there to interact with people not ram my books down their throats. It’s also hard to find readers among all multitude of authors. They are there, but hard to find.
    The best way to approach social media (in my opinion) is to remember it’s SOCIAL … interact with others. You’ll get more attention and a bigger following by interacting, being nice, being supportive, and having fun than you will throwing links into the ether. 🙂
    Self-promotion is horrible. Very few people enjoy it. But it’s also necessary but you don’t have to hit people over the head constantly with the “buy my book” barrage that is prevalent at the moment. Gently does it.


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