Archive for the ‘marketing’ Category.

How not to promote your crappy self-published book, part II

I just received the following email:

My name is Sterling Nixon.  I recently published a book entitled The Sea Kings of Rome: Champions of the Naumachia through Black Rose Writing (ISBN 978-0-9825823-2-9).  The novel is appropriate for individuals 13 and up, and yet complex enough to thrill adult readers.  It is as historically accurate as it is exciting.
Publishing a book is a new experience for me and I am constantly searching for ways to increase my local exposure.  I know how influential library selections can be and I am hoping that The Sea Kings of Rome: Champions of the Naumachia is something that you will consider stocking in your library (It is available for sale on the Barnes and Noble website).  I am also interested in setting up a local Q&A at the library-if that is possible.
The Sea Kings of Rome chronicles the lives of two famous gladiators and their difficult choices between good and evil.  My book reflects the moral and ethical struggles we all encounter in life.  The Sea Kings of Rome is a story of redemption and culminates in the Roman Coliseum with an account of the only gladiatorial battle ever recorded.

Thank you for your time.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions..

You just can’t make this stuff up. I’m guessing that wherever my new buddy Sterling found me, it wasn’t from this blog… :) Maybe it was at “the library.” You know the one, The Library. Or maybe Benito Lombardi told him.

How not to promote your crappy self-published book

I’m getting more and more of these types of emails, and they’re really starting to irk me. So, here’s one from yesterday for your mocking pleasure:

I am a history professor and advisor to the local chapter of the Roman Historical Society. The Roman Historical Society is a society focused on preserving roman history by ways of education, living history, and research. I recently read a historical fiction that is detailed and painstakingly accurate regarding Roman genre. The book also details the only recorded gladiatorial fight in the Roman coliseum. I ask you to please make one or more copies of this book available in the library for the benefit of our members. The book is entitled “The Sea Kings of Rome – Champions of the Naumachia” – ISBN 978-0-9825823-2-9.
Thank you in advance,
Dr. Benito Lombardi

Uh huh. First of all, “Dr. Benito Lombardi,” I don’t work in “the library.” (You know — THE library.) In fact, I don’t work in any library. The fact that you can use Google and found my name associated with the word “library” somewhere doesn’t really count. I’m glad that you enjoyed reading “a historical fiction,” but here’s a current fiction: You aren’t “Dr. Benito Lombardi.” In fact, I’m pretty sure that your real name is Sterling Nixon, and that you enjoy writing repetitive 5-star reviews of your own book on Barnes & Noble. (Psst — try Amazon next; more people will see them there.)

And as for Black Rose Writing, there’s a classy vanity publisher. I can’t decide what I like better: The owner’s 5-star reviews of his own books and other Black Rose-related books on Amazon, or their fancy website full of grammatical errors and misspellings.

I’m pleased to see that no WorldCat libraries own this title yet. Here’s one for you, “Dr. Benito Lombardi” — no one buy this. This belongs in no libraries, partially because if it’s written as badly as this email (ooh! and the author’s blog!) it has no place in a library, and partially because liars shouldn’t be rewarded.

How not to do social media

So in my nonlibrary life (which keeps me so busy that I hardly post here any more), I run a frugality and money-saving blog over at Mashup Mom. This has been fascinating in part today because of the lessons for libraries, and for all of us, from companies that don’t do social media well. Bear with me for a minute, here.

Exhibit A: Safeway (Dominick’s, Genuardi’s, Von’s, Randall’s, Tom Thumb, other sister stores…)

This past weekend, the Safeway chain blasted subscribers with an email stating that if they became a fan on Facebook, they could come back on Monday the 7th for a free box of clementines. Cool, right? I like clementines. :) Here’s the original ad:


Pretty straightforward, no? Here’s what the promo turned into on 12/7:


Hmm. That’s not the same at all, is it. Not only that, earlier in the morning people were able to load the coupon to their cards, but it didn’t say on the coupon that it was only valid 12/8 — they went shopping, and guess what happened? No free box of clementines, that’s what happened. On Safeway’s Facebook Wall, people are reporting hold times of upwards of 30 minutes with customer service and arguments at their stores. (This begs the question of who holds for 30 minutes for a “free” $5.00 box of fruit, but…) Some people were unable to load the coupon because of technical glitches, others did their big grocery shop already for the week and were miffed about the $25 purchase requirement. Here are a few choice comments from their Wall:

  • “Not a happy customer. The coupon would not let me complete it because it was too low down on my screen and I could not submit it.”
  • “Yes, I find it interesting the way Safeway went about this promotion! Why not just say: “shop tomorrow,spend $25 and we’ll throw in a box of clementines” ?? wouldn’t that be alot easier than pissing off loyal shoppers?”
  • “”With $25 min. purchase.” is a bunch of B.S.! NOT what was advertised earlier! To say I’m displeased would be a GROSS UNDERSTATEMENT!!!”
  • “Time to un-fan. This “coupon” is not what was promised days ago. Plus, I do not have the kind of time/money where I can just zoom off to a store and spend $25 for “free” clementines.”
  • “Too difficult. Another convoluted Safeway gimmick.”
  • “This sucks with a capital S…Shame on you Safeway. I thought youu were above these underhanded tactis.”
  • “This is a horrible promotion. Why would you go through the hassel for some clemintines when you have to pay $25 for them. They are not free.”
  • “Safeway’s “FREE clementines” offer = FAIL”
  • “Incredible! I go to the link and try to register my card. The little pop up doesn’t allow me to move it so I can’t even register my card. I will by the Clementines on sale at Fry’s instead!”
  • “Does your company have anyone who checks continuity on your offers? There was no mention of a 25,000 limit on the email you sent and no meniton of haveing to buy them a certain day or with a $25 purchase. This is not responsible advertising and makes me think the people in charge of your Facebook ads are doing your sto…re a disservice by alienating us, the customers. Rethink this process. I think it backfired on you.”

Now, Safeway has started to respond to the negative comments with a generic:

Hi ____,
You can view all the details of the promotion here:
Please let me know if you have any questions!

Think that’s making people happy? Anyway, you can read hundreds more here if you enjoy this sort of thing….

Exhibit B: Walgreens

Everyone’s jumping on the Facebook bandwagon lately. So Walgreens puts out a promo yesterday: Fan us on Facebook, and then come back Monday for a “special offer.” Ooh! Mystery special offer. What could it be? Well, it turned out to be free shipping, today only, not good on photos. Yawn. Apparently it’s not even working for a lot of people, and then their site went down for “system upgrades” shortly after they released the code. Here’s what their Wall now sports:

  • “Boo…this kinda sucked…not impressed or excited about this “deal!”"
  • “The code applies but then when you go to next page to put your payment info it puts shipping charge back on! This is so screwed up!”
  • “I’m taking my name off the list…very disappointed!”
  • “i signed up for this crap?! booooo”
  • “It’s not that we are ungrateful, it’s just that free shipping it’s pretty much something that most comsumers already expect – because most retailers already offer this – especially around the holidays. Sorry Walgreens – I must unfriend you as well.”
  • “Yes, bogged down and now closed…Merry Christmas Walgreens. Your sale is mega lame as everyone on the planet lives within walking distance of a Wags so free shipping is a slap in the face and now your website cannot handle the “load” of the seven people who actually want to take advantage of your “sale.” Unfriend.”
  • “Walgreens site is down. Gee thanks for the “Today Only Free Shipping”. Jerks.”

It’s not making people quite as mad as the “free” clementines, but it’s not making them happy, either. Read more here, if you’re so inclined.

Lessons for libraries (or anyone else):

So here’s what I take from this:

  1. Deliver on what you promise. If you are promising something for “free,” there had better not be a catch.
  2. Be clear as to what you’re offering. If the original Safeway promo had specified a free box of clementines with $25.00 purchase on 12/8/09 when you become a fan, people may not have liked the idea as much as “FREE CLEMENTINES.” But they would also know what they were signing up for, and could choose to fan or not fan Safeway based on accurate info. As librarians, we should be all about the accurate info, right?
  3. Don’t overhype what you’re offering. People felt let down by Walgreens because the whole idea of “mystery special offer” promised something better than a free shipping code that excludes a huge category (photos and photo gifts) of what you’d want to buy from Walgreens online.
  4. Make sure your site is robust enough to support what you’re offering. If you create a promo intending to attract thousands of fans, this probably isn’t the time to take your site down for maintenance.
  5. Check your technology across browsers and platforms. If your submit button for a major promo, for instance, is off the bottom of the screen and unclickable on some users’ machines, that’s a problem. If you use pop-ups that refuse to clear, that’s a problem.

Examples like these make me think about my own online presence and need for clarity. How does your library look?

Perception is key

I was catching up on email this week and saw yet another mention of a focus on the “survival” of libraries. Although the actual document they’re talking about is proactive and positive in talking about ways to transform and move forward, it re-emphasized how often we use words like “survival” and “endangered” and “uncertain” when talking about libraries and the future of our profession. When we come at it from that angle, it really does sound like we’re scrambling from survival, and not working from a position of strength. Reframing our language and our approach might help us come at these challenges from a different angle.

It also made me think about just how much perception is key, in anything. For instance: I run a resume posting service over at, for which I charge $10.00 for the first six months. (The only area of the site, btw, that incurs any fees.) Reactions to there being a fee at all generally run the gamut from:



  • Is it really only $10.00? That’s so reasonable. Thank you so much for this site.


  • You didn’t tell me there was a fee?!

(This last, apparently, from the non-reading type of librarian.)

Same service, same fee, but incredibly different reactions. Now, I’m wondering if there’s a way to tweak the language on the page so that I get a lot more of reaction number 2 — and a lot less of reaction number one (which, I’ll admit, is more rare). I already tweaked it a while back to avoid number 3, but this oddly hasn’t worked so well.

The Accidental Library Marketer — Check it out!


It’s been an honor and a privilege to work with a number of ITI authors, but I was never so intimidated as when editing Kathy Dempsey’s The Accidental Library Marketer — given that she edited some of my own earliest work over at Computers in Libraries magazine. Be that as it may, her due-out-any-day-now book, quite simply, rocks. Get it. Now. In tough economic times her succinct and down-to-earth advice is more important than ever.

Also, if you’re headed to ALA next weekend, be sure to stop by Kathy’s book signing at the annual Swap & Shop on Sunday July 12. Swap & Shop runs from 11-1:30 in the special events area in the exhibit hall — so you can go even if, like me, you’re only springing for the exhibits pass! :) And check out her new site at — the URL sums it up right there.

All the news lately makes me angry — today, it’s Elsevier again

So. Who here is still writing for Elsevier? And how much do you pay for their journals and textbooks, again?

Elsevier officials said Monday that it was a mistake for the publishing giant’s marketing division to offer $25 Amazon gift cards to anyone who would give a new textbook five stars in a review posted on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. While those popular Web sites’ customer reviews have long been known to be something less than scientific, and prone to manipulation if an author has friends write on behalf of a new work, the idea that a major academic publisher would attempt to pay for good reviews angered some professors who received the e-mail pitch.Here’s what the e-mail — sent to contributors to the textbook — said:

“Congratulations and thank you for your contribution to Clinical Psychology. Now that the book is published, we need your help to get some 5 star reviews posted to both Amazon and Barnes & Noble to help support and promote it. As you know, these online reviews are extremely persuasive when customers are considering a purchase. For your time, we would like to compensate you with a copy of the book under review as well as a $25 Amazon gift card. If you have colleagues or students who would be willing to post positive reviews, please feel free to forward this e-mail to them to participate. We share the common goal of wanting Clinical Psychology to sell and succeed. The tactics defined above have proven to dramatically increase exposure and boost sales. I hope we can work together to make a strong and profitable impact through our online bookselling channels.”

Hmm. I wonder how much they’d pay me to not post a negative review? As if the Merck fake journal thing weren’t bad enough. Ooh, wait! I wonder how much the going rate in Amazon gift certificates is for five-star reviews of fake peer reviewed journals?

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the “anything to make a buck” mentality, but I must be naive. Idonotgeekelseviertoday. :)

What do I geek?

Igeekthatgeekisnotaverb! I also like to.put.spaces.between.words. But maybe I’m old. I think I don’t get this site. Or don’t geek this site. But it’s so shiny and pretty…

I do GROK the library. Ooh! the domain’s available: Dear Bill and Melinda Gates: Please give me millions of dollars to develop a marketing site there. Or hundreds of thousands. I’m flexible.

KFC discovers that Oprah is popular — librarians laugh

Apparently, the raincheck thing? Not working out so well, people everywhere getting turned away. Isn’t it odd, Oprah tells people to go get free chicken, and they actually try to do it…

The crotchety librarian

Smart? I don't THINK so

I’ve been meaning to post more lately, but it all wants to come out crotchety. (Maybe I should roll with it so LJ could hire me back as the “Even-more-annoyed-librarian” — but who can sustain that, really.) Besides, LJ itself is annoying me with its new “BookSmack” business, but maybe that’s because I don’t read enough “Books for Dudes.”

The Chicago Trib's revamped automotive section
But, I guess this is the way we’re going. Not only did LJ revamp itself, but The Chicago Tribune launched its own redesign a couple of weeks ago. In addition to lots o’ pictures, less actual content, and hardly any margins, it now features sections called “Smart” (ya THINK?), and “Rides” (AKA, the automotive section). Maybe I’m not the target audience, but I’m almost ready to jump on that “dumbing down of America” bandwagon. It’ll be interesting to see if the cost savings and change in focus will help or hurt both LJ and the Trib.

Anyway. I’ve been working on the long-neglected redesign, and plan to launch, if all goes well, on Friday. I’ll keep you all posted, and hopefully the changes won’t be as… well… annoying!

Shooting ourselves in the foot

So what is it with public libraries lately? Most have never been good at marketing per se, but now it seems that every week brings us a new story about a public library doing something incredibly stupid and patron-alienating, usually having to do with kids. It’s not enough to kick out the knitting girls, now we’re carding and turning away students who want to walk across the street from their high school to use the library on their lunch hour. (Wow, would I have loved to have a library across the street from my high school! But I digress…)

It’s one thing not to market yourself, it’s another thing entirely to create your own bad publicity — especially in an age where a negative story about one library’s actions spreads to tarnish public libraries in general, and the social web encourages others to share their negative experiences as well. Every time one of these stories breaks, you can expect the comments: “I’m not surprised — because, get what my library did to me…

Let’s try really hard not give any more ammunition to the “librarians are mean; libraries are irrelevant” meme, OK?