Togather, permission based marketing, and moving forward

Back on the 9th I posted a link to questions people had about a service called Togather that was sending out press releases to people who had reviewed my stuff or mentioned me on their pages.

They’d done it without consulting me, or making it fully clear in their PR that this was something they were doing of their own initiative. So I wrote a blog post to explain. I mentioned that I dug their idea (offering ways for readers to crowdsource asking an author to come in person, or gather enough of a crowd ahead of time) and had signed up for the service to kick the tires, but was caught off guard.

Since then, the CEO of Togather both emailed an apology for the manner in which the press release was sent out, and then also called and talked to me on the phone yesterday at length to talk about what he wanted out of Togather, and to again, apologize.

So all is good, now.

Moving forward, what now?

I like Togather’s idea, and the service. And we talked about the fact that I wouldn’t mind experimenting to see if people wanted to use it to facilitate asking me to do online events, or even in-person ones.

So we will, over the next while, try to tweak how they reach out to people to see if they are interested (they revealed that some of you were interested in using Togather to do something with me, despite the initial oops) in doing events, and to see if we can all get win/win things out of it.

I’m particularly interested in seeing how it may be useful in doing some physical readings throughout the summer, but I’m intrigued by the fact that people wanted to figured out how to have a virtual appearance as well.

A note about Togather and permission based marketing

Several readers and reviews of my books have gotten emails from a PR rep at a website called Togather (and emails representing as being for other writers rather more famous than me, like Neil Gaiman, etc), and have queried me on twitter and via email about whether it’s legit.

Said email goes something like this with the varying words in brackets:

Hope you’re well. I just saw your [blog or Goodreads] review of Tobias Buckell’s [title], which I stumbled upon while doing some research on Tobias’s behalf, and I was glad to see how much you seemed to like the books!

I work for a Brooklyn-based company called Togather that helps readers around the country connect with their favorite writers.Tobias Buckell is just one of the 500+ authors on our site who is looking to meet with folks who are interested in their work.

If you’re interested in reaching out to Tobias, or have another author on your wishlist that you’d like to get in touch with, please let me know! I’d love to have a quick chat with you about some ways that we can help you plan an in-person event or online video chat with the writers you care about most.

Four people have forwarded this to me.

Togather was an interesting service that offered writers a way to set up an account for potential publicity appearances. It’s not the first, there was another web 2.0 attempt at this 6 years ago (the name escapes me), but I signed up for a test account, being open minded as I tend to be.

However, I’m busy finishing Hurricane Fever and traveling very little right now (or at least, very little without the right incentive).

The idea for Togather would be that interested readers would indicate an interest in hosting me somewhere, and agree to either purchase X number of books or an $xxx speaking fee. Kind of like a crowdsourced ‘come to us’ sort of thing.

I looked into it, and thought it was worth looking at the mechanics, just so that if it looked useful for potential integration in my site.

Again, no rush, I’m busy right now.

However, Togather has taken it upon themselves to reach out with the above form mail (with a few tweaks) to lots of people who reviewed my books on Goodreads or on blogs, acting on my behalf, sort of. And a lot of people were a bit confused about the relationship.

Well, there is none. I signed up for a test account. I haven’t implemented it. And I did not ask them to send/spam people on my behalf.

So to everyone emailing or twittering to ask if this is something I triggered:

No.

I apologize for the intrusion, and am crafting a request that they stop doing this in my name. I view this is a bad attempt at PR, clumsy at best. I see that they’re trying to raise awareness, and trying to jumpstart a company/service. I’m reasonably sure this will annoy people who are my fans more than get them excited about the service.

And as its something I would have considered experimenting with, I’m now certainly soured and not exactly trusting. I spend a lot of time building up my reputation and connection with readers in as much of a non-spammy and non-form mail way as I can, so it actually annoys me. It certainly acts way more chummy about our relationship than it actually exists. And again, I did not authorize it.

Other authors may want to consider this before signing up.

A website’s your best bet

Jeremiah Tolbert speaks truth here. I see more and more people falling back on almost exclusively using social media platforms. But what happens when they fall out of favor, fragment, go away, lock down, or fuck you over? Remember when everyone had to be on Myspace (I remember authors who bet everything on their Myspace presence).

It’s true, to some extent, that if you’re amazing enough all you need is to write. That’s the core.

But if you are putting your thoughts up online somewhere for people to read, to connect, then consider the long term consequences.

With your own website, you can easily add links to other things people can check out if they’re digging your words. You can build the traffic up and always keep it there, your own castle. And with RSS, you can beam out into Livejournal, tumblr, twitter, Facebook, or anywhere else. It’s the core of your spiderweb.

“A web­site (and thus your RSS feed) is some­thing you own and con­trol, for the most part (let’s not get into seman­tics about own­ing domain names and so forth).  It’s an out­post on that wild, untamed open web, a place where the rules are a lot thin­ner than Facebook and Twitter.  It seems safer to stay within their lit­tle ecosys­tems, and they’ve done a great job of mak­ing it seem easy and close to free;  but you’re not the cus­tomer there; you are the prod­uct, as Charlie Stross (and per­haps oth­ers?) famously pointed out.”

(Via Why a Website (and RSS) Is Still Your Best Bet | JeremiahTolbert.com.)

To this end I’ve actually changed a number of my behaviors. I’ve been testing out better ways to blog short snippets and thoughts while mobile and from my phone (instead of just going straight to twitter).

You can expect to see a lot more stuff just going straight to this blog first, and then from there everywhere else. It’ll mean more blogging, shorter blogging, and so forth. But with it all here, it will allow me to easily come back and find it (via tags and categories, and my blog’s search engine). So it serves as an outboard brain. And no matter what hiccups come with social media, I will be secure.