Sunday, November 29, 2015

"Likes" For Nothing

Does being apparently popular translate into sales? Who really knows? Since around Y2K there seems to have been a frenzy all over the internet of enterprises of all sizes trying bribe fun-loving individuals to "like" them, or "follow" them, or "friend" them, or "pin" them, or .... whatever term any given social site uses for the conspicuous attraction of attention.

One popular method has been the contest, which often ends up looking suspiciously like a lottery or sweepstakes. Sweepstakes are not legal in every state, and there are certain rules to be followed, certain phrases that must be included in every contest's rules in order to keep the promotion on the safe side of the law.

Such phrases should include "void where prohibited", "no purchase necessary", "full rules available at...", moreover, there should be alternate (write in) methods of entering, there should be a clearly stated start and end time and date for the promotion, the means of selecting the winner should be set forth. Ideally, there ought to be some skill involved to avoid the winner being chosen at random, but if the contest promoter satisfies two out of three criteria, he/she is probably fine.

Also, the contest promoter should be careful not to require "a consideration" (payment or a review or a "like" or some other valuable activity by the entrant.)

Here's a good guide:
Here's another:

Here's a Thompson Coburn LLP law blog devoted to the topic:

The law may be changing, per the latter, for the FCC, but there is also the FTC.  The following quote caught my attention.
the FTC brought an action against [a famous shoe company] for a sweepstakes promotion asking people to pin pictures of [the famous shoe company's] shoes, as well as destinations to which they would like to travel. People who pinned pictures received an entry into a sweepstakes. The FTC took the position that the mere act of pinning constituted an endorsement, and a sweepstakes entry was a "material connection that had to be disclosed." In other words, [the famous shoe company] needed to make sure that consumers disclosed that they were pinning pictures, because they were hoping to win a prize.
Find the entire article on

All the best,

Rowena Cherry


  1. That's scary enough to discourage one from running a contest at all! Not that I've seen any noticeable positives results from the few giveaways I've done.

    It's a mystery to me what online activities, if any, do draw readers to buy books. I would have thought positive reviews would be important, since if I'm considering buying a book by an unfamiliar author, reviews are my main guide. But I've received excellent reviews for many of my releases, and they don't seem to have affected sales.

  2. Margaret:
    I've been working with a world class marketer on the Sime~Gen videogame project. I've known all my life that the key to selling books is marketing, and that is what publishers do for a living. That's actually ALL publishers do for a living -- it's a specialty, and takes all those people all those years to perfect that ability.
    Here's the key thing to learn that they know that writers do not:
    This article has been rewritten to take away most of the best information:
    Here's some of the information that used to be in that first article under Public Relations:

    Between them and all the links in there, you see that it's not that your books aren't "selling" but that you are being out-competed by top drawer professionals in Public Relations who work for publishers who pay a bloody fortune to get advertising created (using focus groups) and then distributed via the media.

    The media book publishers hammer into doing what the publisher wants (not the reader or writer) are the media that is read and followed by WHOLESALERS (a small part of the budget goes to bookstores, but it's wholesalers who are targeted.)

    And that's the whole secret -- it isn't hundreds of reviews on Amazon or anything like that. If you want to understand what is going on, FOLLOW THE MONEY.

    And it isn't enough to invest scads of money in advertising yourself -- creating and distributing ads is a whole, entire, lifetime talent/training specialty. I've been SEEING such a unique person doing that work before my eyes. What I just said is true. Indie writers are being out-competed. Quality of product doesn't matter (much). Indie writers hit the quality threshold, but do not access the professional messaging system described in those articles.

  3. BTW the information you need to do the publisher's job will never be available to you. It is sales figures, production costs. laws governing warehousing and distribution, tax laws, etc etc. For example, publishers choose the color of covers for a new title based on the sales of a cover of a recent title (not even containing the same subject). That's true. It may not be relevant with e-books, but it is true of bookstore-browsers choosing to buy a book. And there is a lot of data the publishers have that is proprietary and not for sale to indie writers.

  4. And don't forget lobbyists. Publishers have lobbyists. That may not seem relevant to connecting your books to a buying public, but it is.

  5. Thanks for the links and information. I'm surprised at the bit about cover colors. I go to bookstores (or websites) looking for specific authors or even a specific book. I seldom browse to buy things on impulse or "on spec." And if I do, it's by genre. An ugly cover might prevent me from picking up a book by an author new to me, but it would never put me off from a book I'm already interested in. The only impulse buys I might indulge in are from the table displays, and I admit with those I might be more affected by covers than I think I am -- but even there, title more than other factors would be the element that draws me. Color? Really? Good grief.

  6. But Margaret - YOU are a writer. You don't choose books to read the same way that your general market does. I don't either. PR is about the statistical behavior of large numbers of people. The extreme tails of that bell curve are where writers are found, not in the middle, average or norm on the curve. Markets aim to move that central norm to buy the product, not the negligible remainder.
    Look carefully at this chart in conjunction with the PR links I gave you.