I get a lot of fodder for this blog from mistakes I see—author errors, newbie blunders, whatever—and believe me, I’m not immune to my own criticism. If you’ve read much at all here, you know I have several “do as I say, not as I do” and “learn from my mistakes, kids!” posts.
Well, sit back and relax folks, because I’m about to reveal the blunder of all blunders, the king of all kooky ideas, the superlative what was I thinking?! of all thoughtless mistakes in the publishing business. Read and learn.
If you’re published now and starting the promotions end of this business, you’ll recognize the idea of newsletters and self-promotion. I have trouble with my newsletter. More often than not, I don’t know what to write about, but aside from that, a newsletter is useless without subscribers. Building my list has proven challenging.
Then one day, an experienced author spoke to our group and told us how giveaways increased her circulation, readership, and sales, so I started focusing on giveaways. That helped some, but not as much as when I joined in a Ryan Zee campaign. My first campaign, a giveaway of sweet and mild romance, tripled my subscription list and gave me a wonderful bump in sales.
Ryan has several categories, and for an amazingly reasonable fee, you can join a giveaway along with other writers in your genre. Ryan and crew develop the ads/memes, Twitter and Facebook post language, and even a template for your newsletter. You and the others in the campaign post what Ryan provides as often as possible, then sit back and wait. Soon, you’ll receive a list of folks who want your newsletter because you write a genre they enjoy reading. They voluntarily sign up for it.
Of all the ones who signed up for my newsletter in my first RZ campaign (339), only four have unsubscribed, and the average open rate is 49.5%. Not too shabby.
So when I got notice that Ryan was at it again, I zipped over to his site to see what was up. My first campaign was Small Town Contemporary Romance, sweet to mild, but this time I didn’t see anything for October that really fit. Then—picture me scratching my chin as I’m deep in thought—I saw the category for Sports Romance.
Bull riding is a sport, says I. My book would fit right in, and I can pick up new readers!
So, I paid my fee, got my promo packet, and whipped out my newsletter, complete with the ad:
The larger ad I used in my newsletter showed the other writers’ covers featuring men with wonderful, washboard bellies and bulging muscles. Just the kind of things most romance readers are looking for.
But not my readers. As one person put it: “I don’t read smut about half-naked men!”
I lost five long-term subscribers almost immediately. When I looked at the ad the way the reader above did, I literally slapped my forehead. My daughter is seeing this. My Sunday school class! What was I thinking?!
Here’s the thing: I write Christian romance. By joining my book with these others, I violated my brand, and by violating my brand, I violated my readers’ trust.
I feel fortunate that I’ve lost only five readers—so far, anyway. I have three groups of subscribers: folks I know personally or have met through my speeches and events, folks who signed up through the first RZ campaign, and folks who signed up for a similar campaign designed by a fellow Christian Romance author. I scheduled the newsletter for three different times and, fortunately, cancelled the one addressed to the Christian readers. That would’ve been another 300+ cancellations!
This isn’t a discussion of how there’s nothing wrong with the male body, nor is it an opportunity to bash people whose sensitivities are different from others’. This is a discussion of image and how easily you can blow your own.
This is me, making my stumble part of the dance by hoping you learn from my mistakes.
As authors, we work to develop our brand, our image. One need only a glance at Paula Deen to see how quickly it can crumble. One word—substantiated or not—can crash an empire.
I’m not as famous as Paula was. Not many of us are. This will all blow over soon. At the worst, I’ve learned a valuable lesson. At best, my lesson also teaches you. Lesson learned. Move on . . .
When I received that email, Linda, I wondered what you were up to, but just deleted it as it was nothing that interested me. I certainly wouldn’t unsubscribe because of it. Don’t feel bad. We all make mistakes along the way. Hang in there, girl!
Thanks for not unsubscribing! ❤
I so love your honesty. I saw that ad and did not retweet it. I wondered if you’d lost a few marbles.LOL! I couldn’t figure out why you were promoting sports romance. I wasn’t focusing on the bull riding in your stories but the relationships. Missed the connection.Probably a good thing. Great lesson to share. I love getting your newsletter and I allow you to stumble along the way, just like the rest of us. God’s grace covers our mistakes and your willingness to share your blunder helps the rest of us along the way. It is so easy as we struggle to find markets to make these sorts of errors. Thanks so much for sharing.
Thank you for allowing me to stumble. I didn’t think it through very well. 😛
Thanks for the reminder. We all have our oops stories. Mine only cost $50 & my newsletter wasn’t involved. I’m definitely more careful on who I do booksigning with now. Their erotica & my Christian comedies didn’t go hand in hand. 🙂
I know how you feel.
I saw the ad and thought you were being very creative (thinking outside the box) to put bull riding into the sports category. Nothing about it offended me. Which now makes me wonder how tone deaf I really am.
Apparently, I suffered from the same type of tone deafness. Lots of readers have no trouble going from sweet to mild to graphic (many don’t like sweet at all—which puts me at risk of receiving awful reviews), but I need to be more sensitive to those who prefer lighter fare—especially since they make up the bulk of my readership.
Yep, sometimes it happens. It does show you’re trying. I quit counting my mistakes affiliated with my newsletters and books. Hang in there. BTW, we’re trying a Ryan Zee gig for the release of my next book!
Let me know how it turns out. I’m super impressed with his services. I hope you have the luck I have with it—without the stupidity I exhibited.
I’m so sorry! I’ve done things like this, and they’re always devastatingly stressful. But hang in there–they *do* pass and people *do* forget!
I can’t imagine you doing something like this. It seems like such a dumb-redhead thing to do. 😀
I can sure relate to what you said. I was hot after the free promo sites on Facebook and signed up for a bunch of them. Afterwards, I went through the site and was horrified at some of the books presented there. I immediately removed myself from any iffy ones and am very careful now where I promote my books. Thanks for your honesty. This may very well save a lot of others from similar mistakes.
Thank you! So glad I’m not the only one who made this blunder. I appreciate your telling me!
I sure understand your embarrassment. I did something similar,but with my blog. Quoting an older devotional, I titled my blog and then realized my mistake. It cost me followers when I had to change the title and then the URL, but it had to be done. I don’t know if you remember it. The original title was Out of the Closet and Into the Light, a quote from Streams in the Desert. Oops. Different meaning now in our society. I didn’t catch on until later…. ***Paint me red faced**** However, the blog and I have recovered and moved on. Whew.
I gave you the benefit of the doubt, as it sounds like others have too. We love you and your stories! ❤
Oh, I *do* remember that! I didn’t take it the way 21st Century folks would, but now that you mention it . . . No wonder you were red-faced!
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