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Anne R. Allen's Blog


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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, March 15, 2015

How NOT to Sell Books: Top 10 Social Media Marketing No-Nos for Authors

by Anne R. Allen

Let's face it. Authors do a lot of obnoxious things online in the name of "marketing." I think that's because the average author isn't educated in the field and we don't realize that not all marketing is created equal.

Good marketing is not about bullying your customers. It's about enticing them.

A lot of online groups badmouth authors, especially indies, because of iffy social media marketing practices. We can avoid adding to the bad feelings if we learn to use social media correctly and ethically.

Both of these things are "marketing":

  • Robo-calling families at dinnertime with a recorded pitch claiming the recipient has already ordered a product, then tricking them into giving a credit card number to "un-order" (but actually order) the product. (Unfortunately I get these all the time.)
  • Placing a discreet advertisement in The New Yorker with a picture of your product and warm endorsement quotes from Oprah Winfrey, Stephen King and/or Stephen Colbert.

Which would be more likely to get you to want to buy a product?


Here's the thing: if you wouldn't like to be treated a certain way, chances are that other people wouldn't either. Thinking of your readers as "targets" or a generic "them" can lead to wasting time and money as well as just plain bad behavior.

Using hard-sell, intrusive, or unethical marketing techniques doesn't work to sell books. Your only result will be to make readers dislike you.

Ditto swaggering around social media with a literary or techno-nerd chip on your shoulder. Even if you have an MFA so expensive it won't be paid off until you're 93, you've memorized every word written by Marcel Proust—in French, of course—and/or you personally knew Steve Jobs, you're not going to entice readers by telling them you're better than they are.

Treating people with contempt doesn't convince them of your superiority. It convinces them you're a bully with all the erudition and savoir faire of a tomcat "marking territory" on somebody's leg.

These days, anybody with a keyboard and a some text in a Word.doc can upload it onto Smashwords or Amazon and call him/herself an author. (And the worse the writing, the more they will probably feel entitled to have a readership: it's the Dunning-Kruger Effect again.)

Also, a certain percentage of writers—the same percentage as you'll find in any demographic—are mentally unhinged, high, or just plain rotten human beings. Working online as much as I do, I meet people every day who essentially wear a virtual tee-shirt that says: "Hate me. I'm a Jerk."

Bloggers have to deal with them a lot. Suzannah Windsor, at the great writing blog, "Write it Sideways" discussed her encounter with one of the piddling tomcat types this week in her post, Here's the Type of Hate Mail Bloggers Get.

Do not under any circumstances engage with these people, because that's what they crave. If you need to deal with your anger, you can always put them in your stories and find imaginative ways to kill them off. (Although you may have to add a bit of humanity to your fictional version. These people can be so over-the-top in their efforts to be disliked that they'd be unbelievable in fiction.)

But these unfortunates are the reason why the rest of us need to work extra hard to pull away from the pack and present ourselves in the most professional light possible.

Here's my list of the Top Ten things authors do on social media—often in the name of "marketing"—that make people want to feed them into a fictional wood chipper.

They are all in violation of the Ethical Author Code.

10) Forgetting that social media is social.

Social media is for networking, not direct selling. It's for making friends. You are not here to broadcast your message but to engage with potential customers.

An endless Twitter, Google+, or Facebook stream of BUY MY BOOK is not friendly. Neither is barging into forums and groups to leave a drive-by promo without interacting with the other members.

Not only is this behavior annoying, IT DOES NOT SELL BOOKS. Yes, people may buy stuff like a Sham-Wow! or collapsible garden hose sold by screaming pitchmen endlessly replayed on late night TV, but this is because the pitches are designed to convince people they have a burning need for the product and will save a ton of money.

But nobody "needs" a book in that way, especially not a novel.

I once pointed this out to a writer in a workshop, and he said "but that's easy for you to say—you've got bestsellers—I'm just starting out, so I need to market!"

Nobody needs to use "marketing" that doesn't work. That's like saying. "I need to sell books, so I'm going to drive through your neighborhood playing my radio REALLY LOUD while flipping everybody the bird."

I don't know how else to say this: annoying people does not persuade them to buy books.

At least half your followers probably have a book to sell. Wait until you have a sale or a big announcement to tweet about it.

At least 80% of your social media interactions should be non-marketing.

9) Over-hashtagging and robo-posting 

The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created in 2007 as a way to categorise Twitter messages. Their creation is attributed to San Francisco blogger Chris Messina, "the godfather of the hashtag". They can occur anywhere in a Tweet.

In 2013 Facebook started allowing them, and they're also used on Google Plus, Instagram and other social media sites.

They can be very useful. Some of the writing categories I check regularly are #amwriting, #writetip, #pubtip, and #amediting, but there are hundreds. There are also lots for sales and giveaways like #freebook and #freedownload.

Unfortunately, people abuse them. Hashtagged words are a paler color and hard to read. You should use only two or three, tops, or your message will be unreadable and annoying. Your tweet should be at least 50% actual tweet, and less than 50% hashtags.

Ditto your Twitter profile. A profile full of hashtags tells people nothing about you except that you're probably a spammer or a clueless newbie.

Learn to use them right. They really work to reach the right audience if you do.

And I know everybody tells you to automate your tweets and posts, and automating can work for a busy writer if it's done thoughtfully and sparingly. But repetitive auto-tweets (especially ones full of hashtags and "buy my book") seem to dominate feeds these days. It's all so overdone, nobody pays attention to any of it.

It's not marketing: it's just noise.

8) Emotional blackmail in demands for shares and RTs.

Memes with tags like "share if you care about abused puppies" or "If you don't care about child abuse, then scroll on" are usually scams or hoaxes. 

If you put a guilt-inducing tag on your post, it will look like a hoax too. Even a "please RT" comes across as guilt-trippy.

Facebook lists some of the most awful sick kid/abused puppy memes on the site.  Often the child is long dead and the perpetuation of the hoax is terribly painful to the family. Or sometimes they are just photos that have been stolen off somebody's personal page and the child wasn't abused but fell or was in an accident.

Be wary of sharing anything that's emotionally manipulative. There's one meme that's been going around recently that starts out with something like, "I don't have many friends on FB because I'm a stuck-up snob, so I'm going to unfriend you if you don't share this and make a comment to prove that you really know me in real life." I've been amazed at how many very nice people have shared it. One day I had 12 of them in my newsfeed.

It's not smart to share stuff that's going to annoy your peeps. Is the guilt-tripper really more important than all your other followers, fans, and friends?

And always check with Snopes.com before sharing something that's written in legaleze that's supposed to "protect your privacy" or whatever. Those things are hoaxes. There is no such thing as online privacy. We're all living in a fishbowl here, which is why #7 is so important. If you want any kind of privacy on Facebook, start a closed group for friends and family. But realize that's not going to add to your writer platform.

People will share if they like your post. Begging, bullying, or guilt-tripping just makes people less likely to want to share...or buy your books.

7) Projecting a snarky, nasty online persona. 

Always follow Wil Wheaton's law: "Don't be a D***."

Shocking headers may work as "click bait" to get people to your blog, and you may get more initial engagement on Twitter or Instagram if you project a "Mean Girl" image, but it won't work in your favor in the long run.

Reading a book, even a free one, is an investment in time. Strangely enough, most readers don't want to spend their time with jerks.

I know some people love to use social media to say nasty things about celebrities, but if you care about your writing career, you need to act like a grownup online—at least when using your author name.

That means cutting out the tweets about how all bestsellers suck and all readers are stupid.

And never make obscene or threatening remarks on social media if you intend to have a career other than picking up cans on the highway. That stuff is forever.

It's also not a good idea for authors to leave nasty reviews of other authors' books, especially in your own genre. You can say respectfully that you didn't enjoy this book as much as the last or whatever, but if you indulge in name-calling and insults, you're burning bridges you may desperately need later in your career. Even if an author has tons of reviews, they remember the nasty ones.

Do follow the top authors in your genre, but treat them with respect. If you diss a bestselling author, you're dissing all their fans. That's a lot of readers in your potential audience who won't buy your book now.


Also, don't say nasty things in response to a positive review. You wouldn't think I'd have to say this, but recently I saw one doofus author rip into a reviewer who gave him a 5-star rave, for no apparent reason except to make sure he will never be reviewed again. I see a great future for this guy in fictional wood-chippers.

NOTE: The "comment" function on Amazon's reviews is for other readers to agree or disagree with the reviewer. It is not a place for authors—even to say thank you. If you want to thank an Amazon reviewer, try friending them on FB or Twitter or following their blog.

And never, ever link to a blogger's negative review from any of your social media pages. If your followers bounce over and say mean things to the reviewer, your reputation can take a hit that will last a lot longer than the sting of the bad review. I know of naive authors who have had that happen, and they very much regret it.

In fact, don't make nasty comments, period. You can disagree respectfully, but choose your words carefully when you're wearing your author hat. People usually visit a blog because they like the blogger. If you don't, and say so in unpleasant terms, you've just made enemies of everybody who reads the blog.

Insulting people does not make them respect you or buy your products. It makes them want bad stuff to happen to you. And if they decide to gang up on you, it will.

6) Starting lots of blogs, webpages, and social media accounts 

I've read marketing advice that tells writers to start a new website and Facebook page for every single book, and others suggest you have a Twitter account for all your major characters. I can't think of anything more annoying for your readers (or exhausting for writers.)

When somebody Googles you, they do not want to have to click on 50 different links before they can find your main web page. You need to have one "hub" for your social media presence. This can be a free blog like this one, or a professionally designed self-hosted website, but it should be your primary spot where Google will send people who are looking for you.

That means an inviting site where they can find everything about you and your books and where to buy them. (DO NOT neglect your "About Me" and "contact me" pages!)

If you write for children, you may want your website to have pages for your main characters so kids can interact with them, but I don't think that works for adult fiction, and certainly not on separate websites or landing pages.

A good place to have separate pages for each character, setting, or book is Pinterest, where you have one hub and people can explore all your "boards" easily.

Don't fragment your audience with multiple blogs unless you have separate writing careers with totally different demographics. (For instance, if you write Christian YA fiction as Mary White and BDSM erotica as Marva Whippington, then you'll need an entirely separate platform for each one.)

Authors should Google themselves regularly. If dead and seldom-updated pages come up first, that's going to work against you, big time. People will think you've quit writing or kicked the bucket. Make sure that any dead blog links to your present one.

5) Pop-ups and other annoying gimmicks on your blog or website

Pop-ups are everywhere, but that doesn't mean people like them. Lots of websites won't let you read a word until you deal with that annoying window that demands that you subscribe to the newsletter, buy their ebook, and/or give up your personal information.

How do you know if you want to subscribe when they won't even let you enter the site?!

A pop-up is like an UNWELCOME mat at your front door.

It says, "whoa! You don't get what YOU want until you jump through MY hoops."

Just because you've hired a web designer who knows how to put an automatic pop-up on your site doesn't mean you should. I often click away if there's a pop-up. You just lost a reader. Is that really what you wanted?

 4) Auto Direct Messages in reply to a follow—or advertising in a DM

Direct messages are personal. Get to know somebody in regular tweets or comments on their posts before you cozy up to them with a DM.

This is especially true of messages that say stuff like: "You followed me, sucker! Now go subscribe to my blog, buy my book, like my FB page and pick me up a latte: cashew milk, half caf/half decaf, with half a packet of Stevia, and step on it!!"

Um, how about I just unfollow you?

And never send an ad for your book or service in a direct message on social media unless you're GOOD friends with the recipient.

This is true of a @Tweet as well. Don't tweet an ad to a person you do not know, telling them to buy your book, visit your blog or grant some other favor.

You're there to network, not sell. This is like walking into a Chamber of Commerce mixer wearing a sandwich board advertising your business. Everybody there has a business. You have the one run by the nutjob wearing a sandwich board.

Looking needy, desperate or demanding does not sell books.

3)  Pitching your own book on somebody else's Facebook Page

A person's FB page is like their home. Putting your own ad on their page is like spray-painting your message on their front porch.

This is especially creepy if it's on their birthday or book launch day. Hey, you know people have lots of visits on their page on a birthday or launch day, so wouldn't this be a great chance to piggyback on their following and hijack the peeps over to your website?

"Have a happy whatever, whoever you are, and eff you, because it's all about ME. Here's where you can BUY MY BOOK!!"

Do NOT do this. Ever. It's like putting your own name on somebody else's birthday cake.

2) Buying or trading reviews and trading "likes".

I know it seems as if everybody does it, but it's not ethical.

Lots of authors contact fellow authors on social media saying "I'll like your FB author page/Amazon page if you'll like mine". They're almost always lying about the reciprocation part, and even if they do as they promise, "liking" something you're not actually fond of is a bad idea.

It confuses the algos and can mess up your profile and your feed on Facebook and Amazon.  If you "like" the fan page of an author of gritty thrillers even though you don't read them, you're going to get recommendations for gritty thrillers and miss out on genres you actually read.

And trading or buying reviews is not just morally wrong, it can get you banned from Amazon.


This means you should not:

  • Bribe somebody to review your book by offering to review one of theirs
  • Give a book a four- or five-star review, then approach the author for a quid pro quo
  • Ask for a guest blog spot, interview, or other reward for a good review

This stuff is not just immoral, it's violates the Amazon TOS, which forbid, among other things, "Reviews written for any form of compensation other than a free copy of the product. This includes reviews that are a part of a paid publicity package "

NOTE: NOBODY OWES YOU A REVIEW. Free ebooks are everywhere these days, so they're not that much of a "gift".

A thoughtful reviewer's time is the bigger gift.

And even if you give a free hard copy, you can request a review, but do not press for it. The reader may hate the book and is doing you a favor by not reviewing it.

Way too many authors feel entitled to good reviews and stage tantrums when bloggers don't review or give a less than enthusiastic notice.

Be a grownup. Some people aren't going to like your work. It stings, but that's the way the world works. Learn to live with it.

This kind of behavior has made it harder for all of us to get reviewed.

I know Amazon has been lax in enforcing its own rules for the last year or so, but that doesn't mean they won't run a big sweep again the way they did in 2012 as a result of the paid review scams reported in the New York Times.

I've heard personally from several big name authors who are working hard to lobby Mr. Bezos to do another clean-up. Don't get caught up in the next sweep. Be ethical even when you think nobody's watching.

Want to do your part to clean up the review system? Write an honest, real review of a book you've loved! It only needs to be one sentence, and you can build up some good review karma and become a respected reviewer.

1) Putting somebody on your mailing list who has not signed up 

This gets my number one spot because it's getting so much more prevalent. There's a huge push to get authors to go back to email marketing. All the marketing gurus are saying "the one with the biggest mailing list wins."

But guess what? That doesn't work if recipients didn't actually ask to be on that mailing list.

The worst offenders don't even have an unsubscribe button, so you have to write them personally to say you want off their list and then you leave yourself open to temper tantrums.

I've seen writers who totally don't get the "street team" idea, and they expect to launch a book using hijacked, unwilling fellow authors to tweet, share and guest blog for them without even asking first. They just send out a list of demands in the form of a newsletter.

Here's the thing: other authors are busy promoting their own books. They're not going to drop everything to work for you for free just because they once commented on your blog or shared your Tweet.

Yes, we would all love to have those "1000 true fans" who read everything we write and will work tirelessly to spread the word about our work. Heck, I'd like 10 fans who wanted to do that.

But you're not going to find them by skimming email addresses off your fellow authors' websites. If you want to have a newsletter, then put a sign-up window on your website and urge people to join. Offer a bribe of a free book or other perk if you need to. If they decline, that should let you know a lot of readers don't want to get one more annoying newsletter.

What about you Scriveners? What "marketing" stuff do you find most annoying? Have you been approached by review-traders? Do you take the time to leave reviews of books you've liked? Have you felt pressured to trade "likes"? Would you like to see Amazon clean up the review system? How do you feel about pop-up ads? 


We love all our email subscribers. You're some of our most loyal readers. It was brought to my attention by several of you in the past couple of weeks that a lot of you don't realize what you get in your inbox isn't the actual blog. It's the text of the blog sent by MailChimp. 

That means that if you want to comment on the blog, you need to click through to this url. You do that by clicking on the header in the emailed version. That's the thing that says "Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris". It should be colored blue in your inbox. 

When you get to the blog you need to scroll down to "comments" then click on that word. The best way to make sure your comment gets through is to sign into Google first. If you have gmail, or a Blogger (blogspot) blog, you have a Google ID and you are probably already signed in. A Wordpress ID should work too, but some people tell me they have trouble. If you do have trouble, email me with your comment and let me know you want it posted on the blog.

Commenting on blogs is a good way to get noticed by search engines and other commenters, so if you're just starting out with this platform thing, it's a good place to start. For more on commenting on blogs see my post: Are you Ignoring this Simple Platform-Building Tool? 


9 Months on Amazon's Humor Bestseller list!
only $3.99 on Amazon
The first three books in the hilarious Camilla series for 99c each.

GHOSTWRITERS IN THE SKY #1 in the series: Camilla meets a bogus agent, a hot cop and a ghostly killer at a California Writer's Conference. SHERWOOD LTD #2 Camilla runs into a gang of outlaws at a small UK publishing house near the real Sherwood Forest. and THE BEST REVENGE #3, the prequel, which takes Camilla and Plantagenet back to the "greed is good" 1980s, when Camilla is accused of killing a pastel-wearing, coked-up TV star.

Get ready for Camilla mystery #5, SO MUCH FOR BUCKINGHAM, due in May, in which Plantagenet is accused of murdering the Duke of Buckingham and meets the ghost of Richard III, while Camilla has two bad boyfriends to deal with.

The Camilla Randall Mysteries Box set is available at all the Amazons. Kobo, iTunes,Smashwords, Inktera, NOOK, and Scribd.

If you've been thinking of taking a look at my loopy, but oh-so-polite sleuth's misadventures with murder, mayhem and Mr.Wrong, here's a chance to read the first three cheap.

"The Best Revenge, Ghost Writers in the Sky and Sherwood Limited are hysterical. Anne Allen will keep you laughing throughout, but in the meantime she dabbles her fingers in some topics worth some serious thought: sexism, weightism, lechery, murder, duplicity, homelessness & poverty to name a few. If you love to laugh, you'll like these three books. If you love to think, ponder AND laugh, be ready to fall in love"... C.S. Perryess aka the Wordmonger


MARK TWAIN HUMOR CONTEST  Entry fees: $12 Young Author or $22 Adult. 7,000 words (or fewer) of any original work of humor writing. Submissions must be in English. Submissions are not required to be in the style of Mark Twain or about Mark Twain. 1st Prize: $1,000 (Adult), $600 (Young Author). Other cash prizes! Deadline July 10, 2015

PULP LITERATURE'S The Hummingbird Prize for Flash Fiction $10-$15 ENTRY FEE. Winner published in Winter 2016. First Prize: $300 (Runner up: $75). For unpublished short fiction up to 1,000 words in length. Contest Opens May 1, 2015 and closes June 15, 2015

Writer's Digest Writing Compeition. This is their biggie. First prize is $5000 plus your photo on the cover of Writer's Digest. Entry fees are a little pricey at $25 for a story, $15 for a poem but there are lots of big prizes. Categories for many genres of fiction, Creative nonfic, essays, screenplays, and poetry. Early Bird deadline May 4th.

The Vestal Review is looking for FLASH FICTION. Submissions are accepted February-May for the Vestal Review, the oldest journal devoted exclusively to flash fiction. 500 words or less. Humor is a plus. Pays $$ plus copies.

WRITER ADVICE FLASH PROSE CONTEST $15 ENTRY FEE. Flash fiction, memoir, and creative non-fiction running 750 words or less. First Place earns $200; Second Place earns $100; Third Place earns $50; Honorable Mentions will also be published. Deadline April 21, 2015.

The 2015 Bulwer Litton Bad Writing Contest. Wretched Writers Welcome! This is the "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" Bad Writing Contest! Write the worst opening line you can come up with (about 50-60 words). Must be a single sentence. NO FEE. Small cash prize. Deadline April 15

INDIE AUTHORS: Here's a list of 50 contests open to self-published books. If you've always wanted to be "an award-winning author," this is a good place to start. List compiled by the Alliance of Independent Authors.

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Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I know a few with nasty attitudes online. You're right, it has the opposite effect.
Social media is all about being social. Share about others and talk to others. It's about treating people as friends not a sale.
One thing I've seen over the past five years is an author's blog degenerating into nothing but advertisement for books. And I don't mean announcing a new book release. It's only posting about the reviews the book is receiving, or how well it's selling on Amazon, or how many awards it's up for - things of that nature. I admit, I've unfollowed a few people like that.

March 15, 2015 at 10:13 AM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

Hi Anne,
Amen to the negative aspects of the hard sell. I can't count the number of times I've walked out of a "deal" because the salesperson belonged to the Hard Sell School of Sales. And robo-calls & digital hard sells get even less of my consumer consideration.

And folks, if you haven't read Anne's novels, that's an incredible deal above on the first three Camilla Randall mysteries. Laughter is a great thing, & Camilla is bound to bring some laughter your way.

March 15, 2015 at 10:24 AM  
OpenID sallyember.com said...

Another great post with excellent tips, examples, and information from Anne R. Allen. Thanks, Anne! Sharing!

March 15, 2015 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Anne—Thank you for this much-needed post! Good manners go a long way. Semi-psychotic tantrums don’t. I wonder: do people behave in real life they way they so often do on the net? The answer: of course they do. Tabloid headlines and reality TV are all the proof anyone needs.

As for me, I will shut up and go read a book. ;-)

March 15, 2015 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alex--That's a great point! Bad author blogs are springing up all over. These people are not trying to be obnoxious, but they are unclear on the concept. They need to join blogging groups like the Insecure Writers Support Group where they can learn how to blog in a useful, inviting way. Bragging is never attractive.

March 15, 2015 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

CS--You're right that this stuff is obnoxious offline as well. 'Hard-sell" tactics don't work on a lot of people. I run very fast from those people.

And thanks so much for the shout-out for my Camilla books! That means a lot!

March 15, 2015 at 10:44 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sally--Thanks a bunch!

March 15, 2015 at 10:45 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ruth--I think you may be right that a lot of these people are probably toxic offline as well as on. Anonymity makes people meaner, but many of these people aren't anonymous. They're jerks and proud of it. And I hadn't thought about it before, but of course reality TV encourages this kind of loutish behavior and makes it look like the norm.

"Shut up and go read" is probably good advice for most people. :-)

March 15, 2015 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger The Hostess with the Mostest said...

Don't interact with children under 13. It's against the law in the US.

March 15, 2015 at 10:50 AM  
OpenID haydenthorne.com said...

I get a lot of authors with over 10,000 people on their list following me. I normally consider that not a good thing because I'm most likely nothing more than a number used to boost their follower count. Which in the end means absolutely nothing since they don't engage unless someone responds to their tweets. My numbers are TINY since I re-joined Twitter late last year. And I've been trying to keep them small, so I can keep up with the conversations and actually, you know, TALK to people about things. So far I've gotten more luck this way, having people either favorite or RT my tweets to their followers.

March 15, 2015 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Hostess--I didn't know that! It must make it hard for children's book authors. Anybody out there who writes children's books with thoughts on this?

March 15, 2015 at 10:53 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Hayden--I think when people have been on Twitter a long time, they tend to have quite a few followers. It doesn't always mean they're just racking up numbers for numbers' sake.. But I know what you mean. When you get to that number, you have to TweetDeck or something else that shows your top Tweeps so you can interact with them without going through the endless stream. I admit I usually only interact with people who send me @ messages or RT or comment on one of my Tweets.

But Twitter is also really useful for news, so I follow a lot of news organizations. It's not interacting, but it's useful. .

March 15, 2015 at 11:04 AM  
Blogger Ann Bennett said...

I feel like copying and pasting this url to some folks. I've gone to a local book fair and some authors are literally begging you to buy their book. If they are modestly priced, I buy them. Some of them have been good reads.

At one book fair, two women had written an art book which was truly worth the $45. I did not buy it because I did not plan to read it and $45 is $45 for a retired teacher. They were a bit snobbish when I said I would have to think about it. I felt like I should have said, $45 books are harder to sell than $15 books.

I know the work people put in their books. But the marketplace rules. If desires ruled, there would be more lounge singers than people on Earth.

March 15, 2015 at 11:16 AM  
OpenID haydenthorne.com said...

It would be great if there's some hard data showing us how number of followers translates to actual sales. It's one thing to have a large number of authors following you back, but are they also readers of your books (the question I always ask myself)? This is my third try at Twitter, having been turned off by online drama so many times in the past. I'm hoping to keep a tight rein on things this time around and proceed extremely carefully with the follower thing.

March 15, 2015 at 11:17 AM  
Blogger Linda Maye Adams said...

The most annoying thing for me is writers spamming other writers with "Buy My Book." I used to be a on a FB list for a writing organization. They opened it up to non-members, and suddenly it was a spam fest. The writers seemed to think that every writer was their audience, regardless of what they read.

I've also been spammed by authors for reviews. They look for "writer" in the profile and then send out a blanket tweet to everyone asking to review the book -- without even checking to see if I 1) do reviews; 2) read their genre.

On #6, I'll add one more: A lot of writers identify themselves by their book titles, or a character in the book -- NOT by the important thing: the author's name. The key for anyone to look more professional to readers is to use your name! Your brand is not the book. It's the author!

Personally, though, I wouldn't waste time with doing character pages or setting pages. I did an actor's website for about 10 years, and the more pages that need to be constantly updated, the more work the site is. The more work the site is, the more time away from the true marketing area: Writing more stories. It's better to keep the level of updates as simple as possible.

March 15, 2015 at 11:34 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Hayden--I avoid online drama as much as possible. I only visit Twitter a few times a day to check my @messages and visit a hashtag or two and many a few friends Twitter feeds.

There's no way of knowing if your followers are going to read your books. I'm more likely to follow somebody back if they look as if they're in my demographic, but people can surprise you. I'm pleased when I tweet a sale or free book and I see a string of RTs. That shows some readers think it's worth retweeting. But there are no guarantees. You have to be nice to everybody and hope somebody will relate to you enough to take a look at your work.

March 15, 2015 at 11:35 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ann--Book Fairs can be deadly. Great point!

A lot of people at those are self-pubbed with vanity presses that overcharge for the books, so picking up a paperback can set you back $20+ . I'm not going to take that kind of financial chance on an unknown. We can't be expected to shell out a big chunk of our budget for the week just to feed somebody's ego.

March 15, 2015 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Linda--Authors begging for reviews can get positively toxic! I got an email last week from an author who said I'd "promised" to review an erotic romance and proceeded to have a temper tantrum because the review wasn't here on the blog. Thing is: anybody who's glanced at the blog can see it's not a book review site. And I do not read erotica under any circumstances. This person is ending up in the woodchipper, for sure. :-)

And absolutely: using anything but your author name as an ID looks unprofessional.

I'm glad you agree with me about multiple pages or blogs for characters and settings. I know some authors say they get a lot of traffic from that stuff on Pinterest, but for me, it's too much work. I need to get the next book out!

March 15, 2015 at 11:49 AM  
Blogger Sarah Brentyn said...

All fantastic tips. Honestly, I can't believe people still do some of these. #4 (the auto DM after following)--I still get these! Wow.
#6 seems to be a big thing right now. I don't know how they manage it all. Five websites, multiple FB and Twitter accounts, plus a Pinterest page (or two) and an Instagram account. How is this possible? For me, it would be impossible to handle. But it's also impossible for me to visit all of their different sites.
And, this is just me, but the emotional blackmail demanding RTs and shares is SO annoying to me, it's an automatic mute or unfollow. Gah!

March 15, 2015 at 12:24 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Lots of great advice in this post, Anne, and also in the comments. Thank you. I use social media but sparingly. When someone is gracious enough to read one of my books and review it, I thank them but never suggest I review one of theirs. When I see a good review of an author's book, often someone I know, I share it with my FB and Twitter followers.

March 15, 2015 at 12:26 PM  
OpenID writerchick said...

Another great post, Anne. Actually for me it's a bit of a relief because much of what you said is treated as the right and truly gospel thing to do. Yet, I can't bring myself to do these sort of things. In fact, after reading this I think I may unfollow a few people on Twitter. Like one of your other commenters, I keep my Twitter (tweeps) small, I actually want to engage in conversation, not be yelled at all day long (which is what the constant hawking and bragging feels like to me).

In fact, I'm thinking of shutting down my FB page because there seems to be little interaction, which is what I hoped for. I'm looking into other social media that isn't just wall to wall spam. Not sure if there is such an animal, but you never know til you try, right?

I really appreciate your sound and 'real' advice. So refreshing in a sea of voices that seem to yammer the same bad advice constantly.


March 15, 2015 at 12:35 PM  
Blogger Marie Ann Bailey said...

I love it when you bring up the Dunning-Kruger Effect! Wonderful post as always, and it makes me wonder if some of my self-publishing friends are actually guilty of some items on this list. I see these friends as struggling more and more when each book they self-publish. Some have even complained that they are getting less support for their 2nd book than for their 1st. Part of me feels that they try too hard, their expectations are too high. Yes, if they have 4,000 followers for their blog, I can understand why they might think they would get 4,000 buyers for their books. Except that probably a vast majority of those followers are bots or inactive sites. You can usually tell by how many actually Like their posts, even more so by how many actually leave comments.
I want to ask my self-publishing friends to just chill. Yes, they put a lot of blood, sweat, tears and $$ into their books, but so have many, many, many other writers and they all struggle. I'm a writer, not yet published, and I'm learning a lot about what not to do when I finally publish. Knowing that as a reader, I am turned off by the seemingly relentless marketing that so many indies engage in, I hope to be far more restrained. In fact, the indie authors that I keep gravitating to are the ones who spend most of their times engaging with other bloggers and writers. When they pitch their book, it actually doesn't feel like a pitch because it often fits within the context of their blog posts or tweets. Like when they share examples of how they edited certain chapters or developed particular characters or what they learned from a recent book signing event. It's much more subtle, but, at least for me, a more effective way of marketing.

March 15, 2015 at 12:35 PM  
Blogger Traci Kenworth said...

These are some good lessons we can all use!! I'm hesitant a lot of times to advertise my stuff for fear of bugging people. I do as much as I can but hold back a lot in this respect. In truth, I hope I do enough. Thanks for the advice!!

March 15, 2015 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger Lucy Lit said...

Amen and thank you, Anne! This should have been the eulogy at the funeral for "Author Common Sense". There are days I want to pull a turtle and retreat into my shell, away from the social media nonsense. It's my fervent hope authors who act like adults will rise above the chaos and connect with readers searching for good books without all the drama.

March 15, 2015 at 1:40 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sarah--Not only are people still sending those auto DMs but some agents and publishers are still telling authors to send them. So annoying. And they're also telling authors they have to do all this stuff. I think they get the info from professional marketing companies who charge a whole lot of money to do this stuff for an author. But nobody questions whether these things actually sell any books.

I feel the same way about the emotional blackmail. Nothing turns me off faster.

March 15, 2015 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Mindprinter--Great point! One of the best things you can do to promote good reviewing practices is to vote a good review helpful and tweet and share it.

March 15, 2015 at 2:07 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Writerchick--You can mute people on Twitter without unfollowing them if you want to keep your communications open. And you can separate out the people you really want to interact with using TweetDeck.

I don't think a FB author page does much good. I use my personal page a lot because I've really made a lot of friends there. But don't delete your author page. Let it sit there like a Yellow Pages entry. It's still good to be there for SEO. Make sure you link it to your website, then only stop by to post new info.

I have a lot of great interaction on Google Plus. Very different crowd, and they're not much interested in my novels, but they teach me a lot about tech and it's very international.

March 15, 2015 at 2:13 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Marie Ann--LOL Definitely 4000 followers does NOT mean 4000 sales. In fact I think you can count on maybe 1% of followers even looking at your books, especially if you write fiction.

Indies are told by all the gurus that they have to do that "relentless marketing" but I honestly don't think it works. You need a basic platform and Internet presence, and you need to join a few groups and network, but all that noise is just that...noise.

March 15, 2015 at 2:20 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Traci--Some of us were raised with a strong message not to brag, so we can err on the other side. But I think making friends will sell more books in the long run than endlessly tooting your own horn.

March 15, 2015 at 2:22 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Lucy--I felt like doing that "turtle" thing this week after encounters with a couple of nasty amateur "authors" I do hope these types will give it up and take on a new hobby. I think a lot of them jumped on the indie bandwagon when it seemed like everybody was becoming a "Kindle Millionaire". Now that the market is saturated, maybe they'll give it a rest.

March 15, 2015 at 2:26 PM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

Thanks for another great post. Wouldn't you think most of these points could count as good old common sense or...is it common courtesy? Which would explain the problem, I think. We were all taught how to be courteous in face to face social encounters (whether or not we learned it as another matter). These anonymous internet encounters are a whole other animal. Maybe it would be a good idea to start now with kids. This is how you do it: shake hands and say hello nicely when you meet someone in person. Introduce your self and use civil language when you meet someone virtually. Hum...maybe there should be a class...maybe you should teach it!

March 15, 2015 at 2:30 PM  
OpenID mmjustus said...

My problem is, after working as a newspaper display ad proofreader early in my adult life, I have an extreme allergy (as in I avoid as much advertising as humanly possible and refuse on principle to purchase what is made impossible to ignore) to advertising and marketing of all kinds. So, given that, how do I decide how to market my books? I *really* don't want to do unto others what I hate having done unto me.

March 15, 2015 at 2:34 PM  
Blogger Rosalyn said...

As always, sage advice! Seems like most of this could be summed up with: be considerate. (And smart).

March 15, 2015 at 2:35 PM  
Blogger Gill Andrews said...

I don't usually read long articles online, but if I do, it's usually yours, Allen :)

A very useful post. And although some pieces of advice are exactly the opposite what I've heard before (like the pop-up, for example) if I think from the reader's perspective I would agree with all these points 100%.

March 15, 2015 at 2:43 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Christine--LOL. Maybe Camilla, aka "the Manners Doctor" should teach it. Yes, this stuff is all common courtesy. Also covered by the Golden Rule. But marketing and advertising are all about manipulation, so normal behavior goes out the window. People see others doing this stuff, so they figure it's how it's done.

March 15, 2015 at 2:44 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

mm--I'll be writing a post next week on what does work to sell books. I think you'll find it much less distasteful. :-)

March 15, 2015 at 2:45 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Rosalyn--As I said to Christine, it's all there in the Golden Rule, but what's "simple" can be awfully hard to do, especially when people are telling you you're wrong not to be out there "working" to sell your book.

March 15, 2015 at 2:47 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Gill--People who charge money to put popup ads on websites will tell you you need them. But ask readers if they like them and you'll get indifference to extreme dislike

The pop-up people don't care what readers or customers want. They care about manipulating authors into spending money on their annoying product..

March 15, 2015 at 2:52 PM  
Blogger Kristiana Gregory said...

Anne, thank you for your insightful column. As a children's book author, I've found it challenging to post on Facebook and blog with a younger audience in mind because parents and teachers are the ones checking in.

March 15, 2015 at 3:30 PM  
Blogger Patricia Lynne said...

Number 4 gets me all the time. That's an instant unfollow for me.

March 15, 2015 at 3:34 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Patricia--I don't have time to unfollow everybody who sends those stupid things. But if it's especially obnoxious, I do.

March 15, 2015 at 3:54 PM  
Blogger Krystina K said...

As always lots of sage, sometimes obvious, advice with added humour. Thank you.

March 15, 2015 at 3:58 PM  
Blogger Phyllis Humphrey said...

Thanks for another helpful article. Am looking forward to next week when you'll tell us what does work.

March 15, 2015 at 4:24 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Krystina--I do feel like Captain Obvious here sometimes, but the most obviously stupid stuff is often the most common. Glad if I could make you laugh!

March 15, 2015 at 4:35 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Phyllis--There's no sure-fire path to success. But some things work better than others. The number one thing I tell new writers is to write another book, but for an old pro like you, that's not exactly the problem. :-)

March 15, 2015 at 4:37 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

Great post! You've covered so many of my pet hates...I just hope it is read by writers that make these mistakes, and they have a rethink on how they do things from now on. Thank you for sharing.

March 15, 2015 at 5:29 PM  
Blogger Tam Francis said...

Whew! I was afraid to read this. I was hoping I wasn't STILL doing any of these things. I think I'm good. :) (Is my signature with website spammy?)

Truth is when I started out I mistakenly did a few of these on the list. Let's make sure we're going easy on newbies and letting them know gently that there's social media etiquette. It took me a while, and several different blogs to figure it out.And some people were down right mean, and I had no idea the faux pas I'd made. (I still haven't figured our Reddit)! Yikes!

Thanks Anne, for putting the biggies all in one place!

~ Tam Francis ~

March 15, 2015 at 5:49 PM  
Blogger Tam Francis said...

Ditto what you said about Tweetdeck, FB author site and google+ I was so disappointed that the "Build it and they will come" to my website and social media platform wasn't what he gurus had promised, but its been a great tool for learning from other writers and keeping constant encouragement going!

March 15, 2015 at 5:55 PM  
Blogger Tam Francis said...

Forgot to add, I did make the mistake of early on doing my website name a title of one of my books. I didn't know any better then and now I'm kinda stuck. I'm making it work, though, I think. :)

March 15, 2015 at 6:01 PM  
OpenID writerchick said...

Anne, thanks for the tips. Good point about the SEO value. Funny, I just learned about the mute thingie today. That's a cool little trick. I did try tweet deck but it made me nervous - LOL - too much coming at me at once. ;) I may look into Google plus, although I'm really trying to simplify - probably a silly goal. Anyway, thanks a bunch. Annie

March 15, 2015 at 6:31 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Maria--Unfortunately, a lot of these people are relying on out-of-date books for their information. They don't realize that free blogs actually give more reliable information than something that costs money but was written years ago. Thanks!

March 15, 2015 at 6:49 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tam--A signature with your books is absolutely fine. In fact it's useful. It lets people know who you are. Newbies are not to blame. They're just listening to old, out of date information.

The trouble is the "enforcers" can be toxic bullies. I got death threats from some of them when I had no idea (still don't) what "rule" I'd broken. Some of these people are way, way more toxic than any confused newbie author.

March 15, 2015 at 6:53 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tam--There are ways around that. Just changing the header but keeping the url is best. Kristen Lamb herself made that mistake. ;-)

March 15, 2015 at 6:54 PM  
Blogger Firetulip said...

I have engaged in review exchanges. There are several huge groups on Goodreads, where they do non-reciprocal reviews, the groups are organized in such way that you do not read or review the person who is reviewing your work. At first the rule was that if you didn't like the book and will give it less than 3 stars, you do not have to post on Amazon, but you need to say to the author why and why not and you do have to post on GR. Then they changed the rules and you have to post on Amazon no matter how bad you think the book was. I always try to say something positive about the book and leave the negative out, but sadly there are some books that I just couldn't find a single thing to boast about. And I've got harassed either right there on Amazon/GR or through my private email. I stopped doing reviews with this group, but if done right, the review exchange could work. It gets bad when you get someone's book that you don't care about and you don't want to review but the other person thinks just because you're exchanging reviews it's given 5 stars. Not so fast.

March 15, 2015 at 7:44 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Firetulip--Thanks for sharing your experience. It's kind of shocking, but I'm not that surprised. I've found so much bullying on Goodreads from both reviewers and readers.When they threaten you through your private email, it's terrifying. They sent me death threats with photos of my house when they didn't like a blogpost. It's terrifying. (Although it inspired the plot of my new Camilla novel. :-) )

A review "exchange" that doesn't actually involve trading could be an okay idea. But not when there are bullies involved. Nobody should be pressured to give a positive review to a book they didn't enjoy. That's a betrayal of the reader. Good for you for hanging onto your integrity!

March 15, 2015 at 7:58 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Florence Cronin is getting thwarted by Blogger today. Curse you, Blogger! Here's her comment:

Thanks for this post, Anne. My take is simple: "Here's the thing: if you wouldn't like to be treated a certain way, chances are that other people wouldn't either. Thinking of your readers as "targets" or a generic "them" can lead to wasting time and money as well as just plain bad behavior."

It all goes back to respect. Whether we are selling widgets or real estate or stories. Keep the person you want to buy in mind. Ziggy says: "The sweetest sound to anyone is the sound of their own name." Not your name ... the name of the person you are talking to and treat them the way you want to be treated.

And oh, I hate pop ups. They drive nails into my brain and whenever they POP I immediately click off the site :)

Florence Cronin (of "Fois in the City")

March 15, 2015 at 9:40 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Florence--Thanks for weighing in on pop-ups! I find them utterly offensive and click away too. I wonder if those designers know how much they're hurting their clients by putting them on every darn website these days.

And you're absolutely right about respect. If you treat your customers as human beings worthy of respect instead of "targets" you'll make more sales in the long run. It all comes down to the Golden Rule. (Here that, pop-up makers?!)

March 15, 2015 at 9:52 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Good advice, although I quite like the idea of a website/blog for each book - as well as a central one. I've come across authors who do this. None that I know attempt to use them as blogs, but as a few static pages of information on the book which is easy to find.

March 16, 2015 at 12:50 AM  
Blogger Eileen Goudge said...

See, this is why I no longer have a landline. Too many robo-calls. For the same reason I ignore online perpetrations. Amazing people need to be told this stuff. You'd think they would know instinctively. The saddest part is many of them don't. Your post was right on target, as usual, Anne.

March 16, 2015 at 4:38 AM  
Blogger Barbara Meyers said...

What a great post and informative site. So glad I found you (courtesy of MFRW). I do a lot of guest blogging on author sites and one author who'd hosted me did indeed send me a list of instructions on what I should do for her when her latest book was released (which I ignored). You can bet I'll never be a guest on her blog again nor will I read or recommend her books!

March 16, 2015 at 5:01 AM  
Blogger Piper McDermot said...

I tend to lurk here, and on other blogs for writers, just reading and soaking up all the great advice in the posts as well as the comments.

What drew me out of my corner today was the addendum after the main post, where you mentioned commenting on blogs. So this is a bit of a contradiction - but here goes!

I'm not published in any form as yet, but I have spent time setting up the required blog and other social media pages ad then watching the shenanigans that go on. The very idea of marketing makes me want to run and hide, and those awful spam posts make something shrivel up inside me. I always want to ask those writer "Do you ever pay attention to or buy books based on anyone else's spam? No? Then why do it yourself?"

That said, I can understand the drive to find readers, reviewers, someone to please, please buy this book! I just don't understand why anyone would believe those methods work. I haveno real clue what will actually work, so I do look forward to reading your post on that.

But back to commenting on blog posts... From early on, it seemed to me that blogs are a haven away from the craziness of some social media sites - people actually interact, listen to one another, make real connections. Often, you can learn as much in the comments section as you do in the original posts. Long may it last!

"Wow, great post" comments are always welcome blog traffic, I guess - but my hope is that the good blogs like this one, and their comments sections, don't become the next 'big target' for empty promo name splashing.

And there's the contradiction - a lurker posts, and disappears again. But I will still be lurking and reading and learning, so thank you!

March 16, 2015 at 6:17 AM  
Blogger Lola said...

Thank you for this terrific post. Not only did I learn something (quickly looks at behavior #6) but I nearly spit coffee on my computer screen from laughing. I've noticed a recent uptick in the number of people sending an @ lolakarns post on twitter from non-followers. It annoys me to no end because it denies me the small joy of unfollowing them, which to me is the equivalent of hanging up on telemarketers.

March 16, 2015 at 7:26 AM  
Blogger Drue Hoffman said...

Thank you this is one of the best pieces of advice I have read in a very long time!

March 16, 2015 at 9:36 AM  
Blogger Drue Hoffman said...

Thank you this is one of the best pieces of advice I have read in a very long time!

March 16, 2015 at 9:36 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Kristi--Thanks for weighing in. You're a long time trad-pubbed children's author, so you know what's involved here. (So is Hostess above.) I had no idea that it was actually illegal to interact with children, even if you're a children's author. So your social media presence really has to be aimed at parents and librarians, not kids. Which does emphasise my point about making your website easy for adults to pop in and out of rather than have many pages to linger over.

March 16, 2015 at 9:41 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tam--The gurus promise a lot, since there's a huge amount of money to be made off newbie authors. These "gurus" make the money from authors, not book sales, so they don't really care if it works. Just that you pay. :-)

March 16, 2015 at 9:44 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Mark--That's a great idea if you have lots and lots of money and time...and your readers all have very fast Internet connections. But mine is kind of slow, so I'm not going to click around to a bunch of websites. If you have more than one, I skip them. And if all your info isn't on the one site I clicked on, you just lost a sale or a guest blog gig.

You can put all that info on the pages of any one website, which is much kinder to your readers AND your wallet.

March 16, 2015 at 9:48 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Eileen--I do hate robo-calls. I've kept a landline because of earthquakes--cell phones don't work during a quake. Twice I've been the only person on the block with a working phone. But even landlines are dependent on new tech now, so I doubt my U-Verse line will work in the next quake.

I know this stuff seems totally obvious to a person who lives in the real world, but the world of tech and marketing is a planet unto itself. Everything is about gaming the system and manipulating people. Thanks!

March 16, 2015 at 9:51 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Barbara--I had to Google (M)arketing (F)or (R)omance (A)uthors, but wow--what a great site. I followed them on Twitter. Thanks!

What that author did is exactly what I'm warning people against. Not only does it turn off everybody who guests for her, but that kind of behavior could get her into trouble with Amazon vigilantes. A guest post is a gift in itself. Nobody should ask for any kind of payment on top of that. She must be making a lot of enemies!

March 16, 2015 at 10:01 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Piper--Thanks for, um, piping up. (Sorry, couldn't resist) We love our lurkers! Lurking is the best thing to do when you're a newbie. I lurked for at least a year in the early days of publishing blogs. It's where I got most of my education is social media.

And I totally agree that blogging is the most useful of all social media for writers. Most bloggers keep discussions moderated and civilized, and if they don't you just click away and don't go back.

Commenting on blogs gets you into search engines and guest blogging is the best--and cheapest--way to spread the word about your work and build a following.

March 16, 2015 at 10:07 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Lola--Those @ messages from non-followers on twitter seem to be a new fad for morons selling stuff like weight loss scams. I get them all the time. You don't get to unfollow them, but I do go over and report them for spam and block them. It is satisfying.

March 16, 2015 at 10:09 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Drue--I'm so glad you found it helpful!

March 16, 2015 at 10:09 AM  
Blogger Corie Skolnick said...

You had me at "Let's face it..."

March 16, 2015 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Jensen said...

Love these rules (and I'm guilty of a few!), very much looking forward to next week!

March 16, 2015 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Corie--Thanks! :-)

March 16, 2015 at 11:13 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jennifer--We've all done some of this stuff because we do what we think is expected of us, and lots of "gurus" tell us to. They just happen to be wrong. Or they're not right any more.

March 16, 2015 at 11:16 AM  
OpenID pdsinger.com said...

I got an autorespond for a twitter follow that contained a code for a free book, so I forgave the author. ;)

March 16, 2015 at 11:18 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Hein said...

Great tips, Anne. I'm surprised by how many people DM of Twitter with "buy my book" messages. I used to get bent out of shape about it until I picked up a very well known book on marketing, and the author instructs people to do just that. The book also suggested flashy pop ups and ploys to increase your Twitter followers. I think there are a lot of authors out there getting bad advice and we are all paying the price.

March 16, 2015 at 11:23 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Elizabeth--I knew there had to be something big out there generating all this bad behavior. Would you be willing to share which book it is? It maybe the one by a famous tech guy. Selling books is not the same as hawking the latest tech gizmo. Flashy stuff is usually just annoying to the serious reader. Thanks for enlightening me!

March 16, 2015 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

pdsinger--I guess a free book would probably be less annoying than a demand--and if it was in a genre I read, I'd probably feel the same way. But I still would rather not get it in a DM. I'd be afraid they'd hit me up for a review later on.

March 16, 2015 at 11:31 AM  
Blogger JeriWB said...

Getting emails when not signing up for someone's list is totally unforgivable, but as you point out, happening more and more often. I like to send a link to MailChimp's spamming tutorial video when that happens. Equally annoying can be when you do click with someone and say, "By all means sign me up!" But then they wait 3-4 months before adding you to their list or sending a post or newsletter out. By that time, I've usually forgotten all about them and what they are about.

March 16, 2015 at 1:29 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jeri--It's true that MailChimp's tutorial tells them everything they need to know. But there are so many gurus saying "the biggest mailing list wins" that they ignore it. They also probably aren't using MailChimp, which charges an arm and a leg once you get more than 2000 subscribers, so you don't "win" at all. It's $360 a year. You need to make a lot of sales to make that pay off.

I never thought about a long delay between sign-up and newsletter. That could leave you scratching your head. That's one of the reasons I don't have a newsletter for new launches. I usually only launch 2 books a year. I figure announcing it on the blog reaches more people

March 16, 2015 at 2:01 PM  
Blogger Barbara M. Hodges said...

I dislike hard sellers. I believe that authors support authors, but there are times when I'm not interested in their books and I hate feeling pressured into buying.

March 16, 2015 at 5:37 PM  
Blogger Sugarbeat said...

Hi Anne! I'm a long term quiet lurker. I share and send people your way, but today your post caused me to attack the attention of my whole family as I shouted "YES" and "EXACTLY" and "I TOTALLY AGREE" as I read. I wish I could copy and paste this post onto the foreheads of all the morons that repeatedly break these rules. What I might do is respond to all the DM on my Twitter stream with a link to this post and suggest they read it...hhhhmmmm But sadly, your other commenters are correct. It will likely do no good. Morons will always be morons! I'll go back to being a quiet observer and fan and I look forward to next week's post.

March 16, 2015 at 5:59 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sugar--Thanks so much for unlurking long enough to introduce yourself. I'm so glad this post resonated with you. I'm hearing from a lot of people who feel the same way. I'm an optimist and I think the old, bad ways will fade as people realize they don't work. I think the advice came from one or two tech gurus who don't understand how books are sold. A lot of the "become an overnight Kinde Millionaire" types are already galumphing off to the next Big Thing.

March 16, 2015 at 7:34 PM  
Blogger RADay said...

I found this whole post really really helpful. There is so much good advice and helpful information here. It's like 6 blog posts in one. I'll have to pay a return visit to take it all in. Thank you so much.

March 16, 2015 at 8:13 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

RADay--Welcome! We only blog once a week, so we like to give value. :-) Next new post on Sunday at 10 AM Pacific time.

March 16, 2015 at 8:35 PM  
Blogger Jodie Renner said...

Wow. A lot of wisdom here to absorb all at once, Anne. I'll be back to re-read it and will definitely be sending others to read this savvy social media advice! I wish those people who DM me or advertise their books on my Facebook page would read it! And the ones who ask me for a review in return for reviewing one of my books. I've gotten so I almost never review books so I can avoid those kinds of reciprocal expectations.

I also love the way you sprinkle wit and humor in among your spot-on advice!

March 16, 2015 at 9:39 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jodie--Thanks for helping spread the word. If we could cut down on some of those DM's, we'd be doing everybody a favor.

So many people think review trading is not only okay, but required. It's crazy. I've had people send me hate mail because they reviewed one of my books and I didn't automatically review one of theirs. These people are totally unclear on the concept of what a review is supposed to be..

March 17, 2015 at 9:23 AM  
Blogger Katarina West said...

Thanks, Anne, what a great post! Your points are so valid - and aren't they basically just pure old common sense?

March 17, 2015 at 12:15 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Katarina--Thanks! Unfortunately, common sense is awfully uncommon these days, especially on the Interwebz.

March 17, 2015 at 12:24 PM  
Blogger Linda Maye Adams said...

It probably comes out of the business side. When social media first started, I saw all these non-fiction writers hawking the same kinds of tips. They were all small business people who were an expert in their business, so writing a book on their business topic was an addition to the business. There, being an expert worked. But everyone tried to apply it to fiction writing, assuming one size fits all. I still remember asking one NF writer, "I write fantasy. What would my brand be? Unicorns?" He just referred me back to the advice, as if I would magically divine the answer. The problem is that all the traditional selling advice never worked for fiction, and it doesn't work in social media, and it's what everyone does.

March 17, 2015 at 5:07 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Linda--Very insightful. I'm writing about this for my post next week. Nonfiction and Narrative (fiction and memoir) are two different animals. You can't sell them the same way. So many of those books on "how to make a killing with ebooks" are aimed at people writing how-to manuals and business advice books.

Totally useless for selling novels--as you say.

And I think you're right that's where all the bad behavior is coming from. People are dishing out nonfic sales advice to novelists and it's useless. What's okay in selling business books is not okay for selling books to be read for enjoyment. Great comment!

March 17, 2015 at 6:46 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Here's a comment that came via email from MD Luis:

As a newbie author, I am constantly wading through the social media sea trying to make sense of it all. Much of what I see seems tacky and downright underhanded. At first, I thought it was just me and that maybe I didn't have the ability or tenacity to self-market. Maybe I was wrong, maybe I wasn't lacking anything. Maybe what I actually had was some class. Thanks for reminding us of that. It's become increasingly difficult to hold yourself to your own standards when everyone else seems to be waning.

MD Luis

March 19, 2015 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

MD--I agree. A good deal of what goes on in the name of "marketing" is simply gaming the system and duping the customer. But this stuff doesn't work in the long run. Books can't be sold like used cars. Stick to your principles!

March 19, 2015 at 10:43 AM  
Blogger Michael Kelberer said...

Hi Anne,
Great post as always. One of the issues I've struggled with is pop-ups. One the one hand, yeah, pretty annoying. But you can moderate this with tasteful copy and only offering freebies (a signup incentive, say). On the other hand they are devilishly effective (say people I respect). I haven't instituted them yet, but when I do, I'll at least have them appear "on exit" - so that the person at least gets to read the page they went to before I ask them for something. Al least it's in the vein of "give first"

March 20, 2015 at 7:46 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Michael--Most readers really, really hate pop-ups. They can be fine if they come up on the side or in the lower corners, or "on exit"--although I find them all really, really cheesy, and I tend not to bookmark a site with an "on exit" popup, and I'll never subscribe..

But when they block the whole website on arrival, they're only devilishly effective in driving away traffic. (And of course filling the pockets of the pop-up designers)

I think the stats that say they are so effective are not taking into account where and when they appear. A big pop-up blocking entrance to a site only blocks entrance to the site. It's like slamming the door in somebody's face. How many Brick and Mortar stores would survive if they did that?. I think it can drive away most of your potential readers. The designers don't care. The pop-up people are making money from the author, and they don't care how many readers get driven away--and I doubt they have any stats on that. They aren't going to let you know how much their work will wreck your business. :-)

March 20, 2015 at 8:02 PM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

I find #6 (setting up pages for Every. Single. Book. You. Got) exceptionally annoying/irritating. I used to see them on a daily basis on my FB sidebar, but after culling a level of writers from my circle of friends, they don't pop up as much.

Father Nature's Corner

March 21, 2015 at 4:08 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

G. B.--I'm glad you agree. I simply ignore them on FB, but they do appear daily. I think some guru or other must be telling authors to do this. I wish they'd stop.

March 21, 2015 at 4:15 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 21, 2015 at 7:20 PM  
Blogger Mary Martinez said...

Thank you so much for this informative blog. One of my writing friends emailed me this link. I thought at first, I am so careful with social media. I try to be fun, etc. I figured I wouldn't find anything that I did wrong on social media in this post. Man was I wrong. Things I really didn't think were bad, are annoying.

I'd already been thinking of new and less aggressive ways to market. Something fun that doesn't say BUY MY BOOK but says lets discuss your favorite author, even if that means it's not ME.

Your blog came at a good time and has helped me decide what to do. Again, thank you!

March 22, 2015 at 8:43 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Mary--There are lots of ways to use social media to reach readers and I'll be talking about some of them in my new post today.

Discussing other authors' books with readers is a great way to do it. Getting to know readers of some of your favorite books will definitely provide you with some fertile ground for finding fans of your own work. Just make friends first, and pitch later. :-)

March 22, 2015 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger Deborah Blake said...

This should be required reading for authors. The only one of these I'm guilty of (and only rarely) is the PLZRT. I don't see it as emotional blackmail, more of a polite request, if not overused. (I usually put it on links to giveaway posts.) But I may give it up altogether now :-)

My other pet peeve is authors who are overly snarky and/or self-deprecating. One author who is a lovely woman and whom I like personally (although her books tend to also be too snarky for me) tends to put herself down in an joking kind of way. But there was a day I wrote a tweet telling her I'd gotten her new book and couldn't wait to read it, and she responded by saying, "OMG, don't do it! It will give you anal bleeding." (SERIOUSLY) And I thought, "I am so turned off by this, I can't really don't want to read the book now." I know she thought she was being funny, and maybe some of her followers would agree, but for me, it was a bridge too far.

March 22, 2015 at 9:44 AM  
Blogger Mary Martinez said...

Deborah, that is exactly the one I found! I do use Plz #RT and I won't any longer.

I had someone PM me and she/he (I'm not certain which) said they would drink bleach if I would read a sample of their book or I could just read it on my own and gave the link. I didn't even click on it. If they'd DM with a 'would you like to read a free sample' I may have clicked on the link, but the bleach thing? Really.

March 22, 2015 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger Mary Martinez said...

I look forward to your new post. I've started follow your blog. Very useful information.

Thank you.

March 22, 2015 at 9:57 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Deborah and Mary--I think the PLZRT thing just got over-used. Some people would put it on every time they retweeted my blogposts and I thought it made me look desperate--like I had a terminal disease and was in need of support or something.

And I can't believe those icky messages you both got! What were those authors thinking? I guess I should have added another to the list of no-nos: Don't be disgusting. Humor is subjective and many, many people do not appreciate gross stuff. I don't think the free sample is all that great either, because anybody can get a free sample on Amazon. But maybe that's just me.

March 22, 2015 at 10:20 AM  
OpenID Reading Warrior said...

Yikes! Saw myself in a few of those points, feeling a but embarrassed now but thankful that I've learned some really valuable things about using social media as an author. It just comes down to treating people with respect the same as everything else does :)

March 22, 2015 at 11:52 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Reading--Yeah. We've all done some of this stuff, because respected authorities told us to. But then when we're on the receiving end, we realize how annoying it can get. The secret--as always--is to be empathetic and practice the Golden Rule. :-)

March 22, 2015 at 11:57 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Here's a comment from Phil Mayes:

"Hashtagged words are a paler color and hard to read."I only recently noticed that hashtagged words (and @names and links, too) are the same color as the Theme color. Yours is #47C427. We use #2D780A @PhilAndMaude

March 22, 2015 at 7:37 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Phil--Sorry Blogger was difficult. I never know why some IDs go through and others don't. Unfortunately, I don't have the only theme that makes hashtags hard to read. You'll find complaints about over-hashtagging all over the Interwebz. They're not just hard to read. They're annoying. If you don't have enough meat in your Tweet, people see you as cheesy. :-)

March 22, 2015 at 7:40 PM  
OpenID chargord said...

This is a great article. Thank you!

March 24, 2015 at 7:36 AM  
Blogger Kim Headlee said...

Okay, I confess that after the first half a gazillion comments I started to scan... but I don't seem to have found anybody yet who has mentioned the single most important aspect of hashtags: Design them to point curious readers to your own product! Not everyone else's too. To that end, I designed the hashtag #KASIWC for one of my books, and I usually stay away from the more obvious and overused ones like #Kindle #scifi #fantasy #timetravel #romance. :)

April 28, 2015 at 6:35 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Kim--Well, that's a new one on me!

A hashtag is a keyword for a subject that people might be searching for on Twitter, like "#Baltimore or #TonyAwards or #writingtip

If you are famous enough that a ton of people have your secret hashtag that's great for keeping in touch with each other, but I don't think a stranger would be likely to randomly choose to search for KASIWC, so it does nothing for discoverability.

Most of us use hashtags so that we can be discovered by new readers who are looking for our topic or genre.

I think you use hashtags differently from the way most of us use them--which is to be discovered in a search. But it's fabulous that it works for you and your team.

April 28, 2015 at 7:04 PM  
Blogger Mathew W. Weaver said...

Hey, Anne. I don't comment very much, but you have always been one one of my favorite bloggers since I myself started it over a year and a half ago. You're pretty inspiring, and what you say always makes sense. Much respect, and I'm glad I found you.

Keep being awesome :)

August 3, 2015 at 2:30 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Matthew--Thanks for the day-brightener! I really needed a little cheer on this sticky Monday morning. I'm so glad to year I inspired you to blog!!

August 3, 2015 at 9:21 AM  
Blogger Patricia said...

I just want to say "thank you" for your Sunday posts. I look forward to them because I trust you completely and know that I'm getting the truth about writing when I read your posts. It's taken me a good many years to be able to figure out who to read and who not to read. You're on of the good ones, Anne. Thanks so much. You've become my "go to" person if I want concrete advice about the subject of books and writing.

September 20, 2015 at 7:28 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Patricia--I'm so glad this blog is helpful to you. That's great to hear! There is a lot of advice out there, and different stuff works for different people. We report what works for us and try to share that in a friendly way.We're so happy to have you as a regular reader!

September 20, 2015 at 10:08 AM  

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