Is Expecting People to Help You Market Your Books Lazy? A Discussion.


If your book marketing plan is: “Well, it can’t hurt to ask,” as you inundate someone’s PM, DM, or email with “Buy my book!” (aka ‘drive-by’) spam, I think you’ll agree with me when I say, you can do better. You’re not only annoying people, you’re potentially headed for account suspension or worse, fines.

What’s even worse than that is compromising your ethical standards — this kind of marketing, or truly lack thereof, is not only transparently lazy, it’s also predatory. You are taking advantage of people. People who have worked long, hard, and smart.

Is that the kind of author you want to be? I promise you, there’s a better way.

Let’s discuss how you can get there.

Having Integrity in Marketing your Books 

I read this short little post on Seth Godin’s blog the other day, and a few days later, someone sent me a PM that proved his point. First, Seth’s post:

“Nothing wrong with having standards”
This is the snarky feedback of someone whose bias is to hustle instead of to stand for something.

When you say ‘no’ to their pitch, they merely smile and congratulate you on the quaint idea that you have standards.

Their mindset is to cut corners, slip things by if they can. The mindset of, “Well, it can’t hurt to ask.” Predators and scavengers, nosing around the edges and seeing what they score.

They talk about standards as if they’re a luxury, the sort of thing you can do as a hobby, but way out of the mainstream.

The thing is, if you begin with standards and stick with them, you don’t have to become a jackal to make ends meet. Not only is there nothing wrong with having standards, it turns out to be a shortcut to doing great work and making an impact.

I’d been ruminating on Seth’s words of wisdom when a fellow sent me a private message (PM) on Facebook:

“Hey, I know you don’t know me, but I really need your help and I figure it can’t hurt to ask: please buy my book (it’s only 99 cents right now!), and leave me a great review on Amazon. I need to show my publisher I’m worth keeping. Please tell at least one person on Twitter and Facebook. And hey, if you ever need me to share a post or retweet something, hit me up!” 

This is what I mean by drive-by spam — in all likelihood, he left that generic message (notice, there is no personalization) for a bunch of people he’s quote-unquote ‘friends’ with. Without realizing it, he’s being a “predator, a scavenger — nosing around the edges, seeing what they score.”

Well. He did not score with me. I referred him (politely) to my blog here, to several other experts and mentors of mine, to blog posts and books in which he can learn about how to effectively market his book (and even to my free #BookMarketingChat, every Wednesday 6pm pst/9pm est). It doesn’t cost money to learn how to market your book — it costs time and effort.

Oh, his response: (Paraphrased for space: “Thanks for the suggestions. {Blah blah blah my books}….You never know what works.”)

Perhaps he missed out on the laying the groundwork for his author platform or doing any pre-marketing activities memos. Regardless, this kind of marketing is ineffective at best, annoying and a blockable offense at worst.

As I always say, do the work.

Can It Hurt To Ask? 

A seemingly innocuous question. But, is it really?

A big part of what we do as authors and businesspeople is networking, aka, building relationships. Often, this has nothing at all to do with selling our books. For example, I started #SexAbuseChat back in 2013 as a way to connect with other survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Do I pitch my book to the community? No. Do I use the chat as a way to tell other survivors to buy my books? No. Am I connecting with potential readers? Perhaps, but it’s up to them to peruse my bio and click on any links or articles (just as it is for any potential reader).

Am I asking them outright: will you read my book? Absolutely not. In this case, yes, it can absolutely hurt to ask these survivors to buy my work. It would compromise their trust in me, as well as my standing in the survivor community if I used my position in a predatory way to hit people up in that manner.

That said, many people know I founded the chat after I wrote my own books about being a survivor, and I’m open about that. Why shouldn’t I be? I’m thrilled to use my platform as a way for others to form survivor connections and use their voices, making my author blog available for their stories, as well as creating Speak Our Stories (for any survivor to share their stories).

Conversely, all manner of people ask me almost daily to share or retweet something for them, and I usually do not mind if they’ve spent the effort to build a relationship with me. However, when it’s posed in a way that appears entitled, particularly the ‘well, you’ve been at this a long time so you need to give back to me’ kind of way, I bristle.

Informing people that I’ve freely shared years of free blog posts, free advice, weekly #BookMarketingChat, and a new guide on book marketing that’s less than $5 bucks gets me called out for ‘virtue signaling’ — so, how do we maintain having ethical standards and not give in?

Simple — NO is a complete sentence. Boundaries are a great form of self-care.

What Else Can You Do to Market your Books Instead? 

Do you find yourself asking people to share your book promotions and feeling ever so slightly uncomfortable about it? There’s a reason for that. You haven’t done the work to build those relationships. You haven’t earned the right to ask yet.

Asking — and expecting — people to market your work for you is lazy marketing. In fact, I’ll say here and now: it’s not marketing at all. It’s like going to work, sitting on your ass all day with a few naps thrown in for good measure, and expecting to get paid. And yet, authors do this every day by:

  • spamming Twitter and Facebook buy links instead of interacting and building relationships,
  • refusing to blog (a wonderful way to connect with their reader base and increase Google visibility),
  • refusing to shell out $50-$100/month on Facebook ads (which I know they’re spending weekly on Starbucks because they talk about it on their walls) and taking the time to learn how to effectively create and manage ads (free YouTube tutorials, y’all),
  • learning how to SEO-optimize their blog posts and websites.
  • scheduling in some social media using Hootsuite or Buffer (pro accounts are like $9/month and a tax write-off)

I’ll stop there. The excuses of “I don’t have time” or “I have a day job” don’t fly with me because, no. I run a business, write full-time, and am a single mom of two (and a cat), with a house to keep.

Besides, does not having time equate to not having standards? 

If limited income keeps you from thinking you can market your books, there are all kinds of free options. Read more of my blog, attend my upcoming free Facebook launch party (win all kinds of great books and prizes from professional consultants), attend my weekly #BookMarketingChat (or review past chats by going to our Book Marketing Chat page on Facebook) — all free. Save up the $5 to purchase my new BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge or attend the party to win a free copy!

Bottom Line 

Only you can decide what level of integrity you have, and how you want to conduct yourself as an author. As always, my advice is to be professional, do your research, and do the work.


For a more detailed plan on developing your book marketing, purchase Rachel’s new book, The BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge now on Amazon!

Already a 5-Star Reader’s Favorite! 

30-Day BadRedhead Media Book Marketing Challenge,, BadRedhead Media, @BadRedheadMedia, Book Marketing




  1. Joseph Hefferon on February 20, 2017 at 9:36 am

    Quick Q, though it might hurt to ask. The answer may be in your book that I should probably start reading. I’ve a friend who is a successful self-published author. Friend told me recently the best thing I could do for myself when releasing a new book is to get 15-20 amazon reviews (knowing amazon my delete a portion of them). If this is true, how do we acquire those early reviews without asking?

    • Rachel Thompson on February 20, 2017 at 3:04 pm

      Ha. Good question, Joe, and it all comes back to prep and building relationships. If you’ve built relationships with readers prior to release, you have already connected with them to be beta-readers. If you’ve built relationships with book bloggers, you can send them ARCs (advance review copies). You can read more here to learn about the difference and how to go about connecting with those readers/bloggers:

      In this case, the ‘ask’ is acceptable because you’ve earned it by doing the pre-work — I’m not saying it’s never okay to ask, silly. I’m saying the expectation or entitlement Joe Author (hehe) has that these folks will magically appear without any effort is ridiculous.

  2. Elen Sentier on February 27, 2017 at 3:40 am

    I basically agree with this. My one difficulty is that I’m a far better writer than I am publicist *sigh*. But I agree most folk want/need a relationship with the author and in the modern world social media is the best way forward, including blogs in there. When I’m deep in a novel (as now) I find it very hard to switch off and then back on again, I’m living the characters pretty well 24/7. Ho hum! Shall go read your stuff again, Rachel 🙂

    • Rachel Thompson on February 27, 2017 at 11:13 am

      Hi Elen! Thanks for reading and commenting. As I say in my many posts and new book, it’s not a race. Set aside a bit of time each day (even 15 minutes) to connect with readers and build relationships. That’s really where building your author platform and social media presence makes a difference when you DO publish. Otherwise, you’ll come across as disingenuous when you end up asking total strangers to buy/review your work.

      Baby steps. 🙂

  3. Raimey Gallant on March 6, 2017 at 7:15 pm

    It’s all about the touches, baby.

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