Courtesy or professionalism?

24 Mar

Generosity vs business sense (promotion).

During the discussion of this piece, the question of whether author contests/giveaways are done out of generosity, or as part of promotion efforts for the author’s book(s), was raised. Obviously, the only person who can answer it categorically in each instance is the author herself.

However, for the audience looking in, particularly for a new visitor to the site or blog, what matters is the professional side of the person behind the name. Regardless of whether an author’s motivation to hold contests/giveaways is friendliness, generosity, caring, or whatever else; she will likely be expected to behave professionally when interacting with readers or other authors under her professional name.*

That, in my opinion, includes adhering to deadlines set by the author herself; i.e., if you say you’ll post something on a specific date, not doing so could be considered unprofessional (particularly if no explanation or apology for the delay is given, and/or if such behaviour is habitual). I also think that it should definitely be the author’s choice whether to hold contests or giveaways or not, and under which specific conditions and circumstances—really, there’s no question there.

From what I gather, online readership is only a small percentage of the total readership for any author, in most if not all genres.** For that reason, it’s obvious that authors have to weigh just how cost effective it is to deal with the hassle (and the potential downside) of holding contests—just like they have to weigh time constraints for blogging, interviews, and all other forms of promotion, vs the potential benefits therein. It is common sense, really.

There are, I’m sure, plenty of readers who are demanding, ill-mannered, and all around uncomfortable to have around, and who give writers/bloggers/reviewers headaches. I do not doubt there are people whose only interest is in any freebies they can get—and that these people would not think twice about trying to rig a contest by posting under multiple handles, etc. But then, readers are people, and people come in all varieties. That is something else for authors to consider.

Also important to consider is that word of mouth is one of the most—if not the most—effective of marketing tools relative to its cost. Viral marketing is not really new; it’s only that much faster these days.

I think it behooves authors to consider that online readers interact constantly with people who may or may not have ever heard of this or that author, series, book. Readers who may not spend significant time online. Our mothers, neighbors, sisters-in-law, the person next to us at the grocery store or the bookstore, the list goes on. We readers love finding other readers and expanding their reading horizons. We are like pushers to other addicts—and we love it when they return the favor.

Do I like freebies if/when I get them? Yes, definitely, and I imagine very few people would answer that question (truthfully) in the negative.

However, as a reader, I don’t expect freebies from authors. I visit author’s websites to find out about backlist titles I may not have or know about; to check current and future releases; perhaps, if the author blogs, to interact with him or her and talk about the books. I visit readers/reviewers blogs to see what people whose tastes I trust (because they jive with mine, or because I have learned where they differ, etc.) are saying about books I haven’t read, and authors I know nothing about.

*See this wonderful piece by Jules Jones at erecsite.

**I’m falling for the stereotype that readers of science fiction would probably be up to the latest technological gadget, and therefore, plugged to the net most of the time.

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