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The internet marketing cold caller and the problem with LOL

LOL CatLOL is the nervous laugh of internet interaction. I doubt anyone is actually laughing out loud as they type it. If they were, given how most people use it, they’re either mentally deranged or a cackling comic book villain.  “Bank’s just foreclosed on the mortgage, could lose the house – LOL!”

“LOL, just found I’ve got a brain tumour.”

“LOL just about to wipe out all life in Milton Keynes with my gene bomb LOL. Bet you wished you followed my twitter page now ROFLMAO- Bwah-ha-ha-ha!”

LOL rarely has anything to do with real laughter or humour. LOL is the nervous way the neighbour laughs when they ask to borrow your hedge trimmers, or the apprehensive giggle you have in your voice as you phone up a casual lover to let them know you’ve got chlamydia. “So you should really get checked out yourself – LOL.”

It is also the inane grin on the face of a door-to-door salesperson. Especially if a writer or artist uses it. especially if that writer or artist has a fracking novel/graphic novel out! “LOL just thought you’d all like to know that my latest book ‘Please Help Me Quit The Day Job’ has 50% off on Amazon all this week.” LOL is the new spam siren, a red flag that one of your creative chums is about to infest every page and forum you visit with their desperate pleas for love, money and artistic vindication.

When I was in my 20s, one of my flatmates was involved in a pyramid selling scheme. He was encouraged to keep a list of the birthdays of all his friends, family and acquaintances so he could phone them up a week beforehand and sell their partners his dodgy wares as a ‘great present’. Every travelling salesman who came to our door found themselves the target of an aggressive counter sales pitch. The postman started leaving our post with a neighbour and we all hid in our rooms for fear he’d beg us to buy another dodgy bottle of perfume that smelled just like a name brand.

The rise of Internet 2.0 has turned every writer and artist into an army of just these sort of Amway-style sales drones. Instead of inviting you to Tupperware parties we invite you to ‘like’ the page dedicated to our latest work. Rather than hammer on your door when you’re home from work we post on your Facebook page. Rather than cold calling we tweet endlessly about whatever we’re currently hoping will bother the best sellers chart. The things is though, we’d never dream of selling our wares door-to-door. So how did we all end up as the Jehovah’s Witnesses of the world wide web?

Well for a start, the brave new world of web piracy has had such an impact on sales that few publishers can afford to invest in marketing for all but their big name writers and artists. This means the rest of us have to fall back on guerrilla marketing techniques if we want anyone to read our works. We take a look at the thousand plus people we’ve befriended on Facebook and the hundreds of followers we have on Twitter and think “wow if everyone on this list bought just two of my books and encouraged their friends to do the same then I’d be a best seller in less than a month!”

Sadly all our colleagues, most of whom are our Facebook friends, have had the same thought and are in direct competition with us, diminishing our pool of potential buyers/victims. Then our quarterly royalties statement arrives, in my case usually on the same day that my mortgage statement turns up. One of these documents contains a sum so paltry that the accounting department have had to use a dead currency to accurately reflect its value. The other is my mortgage.

Way of the Barefoot Zombie LOLSo naturally I turn to guerrilla marketing with a renewed vigour. Only now I post pictures of my children weeping with packed suitcases and beg you not to see them out on the street, after all there’s 20% off all my works on Amazon for the next four days. Eventually you leave every Facebook group and any forum of which I’m also a member. This is the point at which good writers go bad and cross over into the posting equivalent of a sex pest, or a lap dog that’s gotten too friendly with your leg.

I like to think that I’ve yet to cross that line myself, but I’m betting that every person reading this knows someone who has. One writer I know posted from the hospital that his wife had just given birth to their first son. He’d just cut the umbilical chord. He was holding his child for the first time with one hand and posting on his smart phone with the other. Having held my own child for the first time I know the sort of awe and affection it inspires in you.

Not ten minutes later, seeing the hundreds of people who were congratulating him he couldn’t help posting: “Thanks for all the well wishes LOL. Don’t forget my latest novel ‘******* Wars’ is still available on Amazon, LOL.” His son was still sticky with amniotic fluid, his wife was being stitched back together and he was busy pimping his wares on Facebook.

Another writer I know posts thinly veiled suicide notes to entice people to buy his books. “I don’t want to drag you all down or anything – LOL, but I’m feeling kinda fragile and it would really help if just one person could check out my latest deal on Amazon”. Trying to get us all to make the purchasing equivalent of a sympathy fuck.

Of course the main thing that annoys group members and forum users is the writer who’s a fair weather friend. Who only posts or interacts with other members when they have something to sell. Then as soon as they’ve plugged their books they’re nowhere to be seen. So it always pays to remain a fairly active member of any group or forum in which you post. Not only as it’s the best way to sell your books and comics but because you can have a lot of fun and learn something too.

However, you do want to avoid turning into a troll. There’s another graphic novelist I know who has some really interesting ideas about online marketing and who is an active member of practically every comic book group or forum on the net. When he puts his mind to it he can drive a lot of traffic to his various web comics, but unfortunately he just can’t keep his mouth shut or his reactionary views to himself. As a result he’s hated by just about every member of the international comics community and all his promotional efforts inevitably backfire on him.

Online marketing is an amazing resource for professional creatives, no matter what level they’re at. It not only puts you in touch with like-minds and potential customers, it also gives you an unprecedented level of feedback, not only on your work itself, but the effectiveness of your marketing campaign. However if you get it wrong it can bring out the worst human traits, both in yourself and the people with whom you’re trying to connect.

Now, the more observant readers of this column might have noted that it’s supposed to be about horror comics and I’ve hardly mentioned either horror or comics. To be honest, that’s quite a niche market and this week is royalty statement week (sigh). So I figured I’d write something that applied to the world of horror comics and a much larger potential readership as well. Because, as the really observant among you might notice there is a link at the bottom where you can buy my books on Amazon and I do have two kids and a very hungry overdraft to feed.

I’m just saying.

LOL

JASPER BARK

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2 comments

  1. Alan Dale

    BRILLIANT!!!
    That’s why I rarely LOL use LOL when I am promoting my work LOL….well maybe sometimes LOL….
    But consider this….
    I use LOL in text/email/post to let someone know I am being mild mannered or just not being serious.
    However, the way you explain it here LOL
    DEAD ON!
    On that note….buy my book LOL

  2. Paul L Mathews

    Good article, Jasper. The kind of transparent online behaviour you describe makes me grind my teeth, and that’s one of many reaons I’m not going to ‘make it’ in this industry; I’m just too self-conscious to jump up and down and shout “Hey, look at me!”

    That said, I admire those who can do it with either subtlety … or such charm and outright bravado that it becomes amusing. I think you’re definately in that latter category.

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