Sunday, February 17, 2013

12 Social Media Mistakes for Authors to Avoid

Are you "building platform" or just annoying people?

This week, author Mary W. Walters blogged that promoting your books on Facebook and Twitter is a total waste of time for book sales.

That's because Social Media is not for selling books. It's for making friends—friends we hope will help us in our careers sometime. It's for networking, not a direct sales tool.

Mary Walters is right when she says, "Most book-reading folk...aren’t interested in advertising and promotional copy, or in watching writers pat themselves on the backs for winning awards or getting great reviews. They are interested in discussions and opinions about books. They are interested in two-way exchanges about literary matters – not in one-way communications."

One-way communication is a misuse of Social Media—and that's why it doesn't sell books. 

And why we find it so annoying. 

Author Elizabeth Ann West rebutted Mary Walters' post in a comment on The Passive Voice . She pointed out: "The problem is most authors start using social media in a professional capacity for the first time when they publish and guess what? It takes a large amount of time the first few months to figure it out and test it out and make social connections."

In other words, they blindly jump in and start screaming "buy my book" at everybody instead of making friends with people who could then suggest your book to readers in your target demographic. 

It's like going to a Chamber of Commerce mixer wearing a sandwich board advertising your restaurant instead of schmoozing a large company's event coordinator and getting her to use your restaurant's banquet room for future company parties. 

Don't wear a sandwich board to a cocktail party. Be subtle. Make friends. Anything else is misusing the medium.

I've made a list of some of my unfavorite misuses of Social Media here. I admit upfront that this is a very subjective list, so please feel free to vent your own pet peeves in the comments.

And if things I find annoying have made zillions for you in book sales, we want to hear about that too.

I think authors have probably learned their most irritating habits from “marketing gurus” who tell them they’ll make more money if they’re just “bold” enough to use social media “like an expert.”

Be wary of "experts" in new tech fields that are constantly evolving. What was OK a few years ago can be deadly now because it’s been abused or overused. Yesterday's "surefire sales tool" can be today's spam.

So here is my subjective and by no means comprehensive list of what NOT to do in social media.

1) Spamming* somebody’s Facebook wall. A person’s Facebook "wall" is like their home.  Posting something there is like putting up a billboard on their front yard. Do not do this without permission.

If you’d like somebody to share your promotional material or make a plea for charitable donations, send an email or DM. And don’t be surprised if they say no. I know your "Ban the Roach Brooch" cockroach rights foundation seems like the most important cause on the planet, but everybody has one and when they spam my wall, I make a note NEVER to give to any of these charities.

The only time it’s OK to post on a person’s wall is to send a personal message that's about THEM and will enhance their page. Stuff like: "Love all the cockroach cartoons on this page", "Congrats on your new book," "I’ll be at your book signing tomorrow—save me a cupcake."

2) Creating a Facebook page and Twitter account for every one of your books, short stories, launches, life events and rainy Mondays. No, I will not Like and Follow your 50 different Like pages and Twitter accounts. You are not respecting my time, so no—actually, I DON'T like you.

In my opinion, an author only needs one Twitter account, one blog and at most, two FB pages: one for yourself as an author and one for your personal page (FB now requires a personal page in order to comment on most pages, so the personal one is useful, if a little time consuming.)

But no matter how much you love to spend time on Facebook to avoid that WIP, chances are most of your readers don't. (Your ideal reader is busy reading books.)

But if you must put up a new FB page every time you finish a chapter of your WIP or whatever you consider  to be a momentous occasion in your life, don't invite random fellow authors outside of your genre. We're busy promoting our own books.

Do join supportive, non-spammy writing groups like Indie Writers Unite —where membership is by invitation. But forming a group and automatically adding names without permission is not a good idea—no matter how good your intentions.

Which leads me to…

3) Creating an “event” or “group” and adding people’s names without permission. At least ten people I know launch a book in any given week. When you include me as a "member" of your launch "party" so I have to opt out and say why I'm "not going," I'm sorely tempted to tell you the actual reason. Don't push me.

I realize that FB encourages you to add the names of everybody you know to all your "events", and may even disguise the addition of names as "invitations," but don't go there. Mark Zuckerberg should not be anybody's role model for good manners.

Unless you know I’m a fan and a reader of your genre, don’t tell me about your book at all. I’m not your audience. I can cheer you on if you get a request from an agent or a great review, but I’m not going to read a whole page of your BUY MY BOOK ads.

If you spam me, I’ll remember you, but not in a good way.

4) Responding to Tweeted links without reading the article. If I tweet a link to a brilliant post at “Mystery Writing is Murder,” don’t tell me I’ve ruined your day because you just started writing a mystery novel and you don’t want to hear that it’s “murder.” That’s the name of a top-rated blog by Elizabeth S. Craig. If you don’t like the title of a blog or post, tell the blogger—ON THE BLOG.

If you want to start a Twitter discussion with me, say something like, “I just started writing a rom-com mystery novel like your Camilla books. Any tips?” Then—when I have time—I'll be happy to help.

But clueless arguing with a title isn’t going to make you any friends. And that’s why you’re on social media. To make friends. Not rack up a list of people who think you’re a jerk.

5) Tweeting as a fictional character and expecting people to respond as a character in your own personal fictional world. I’ve had people tweet to me in Pirate-speak and then get incensed that I didn’t Pirate-tweet back. And it wasn’t even Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Or they take offense at one of my general-audience tweets because it isn't about their fictional time period or planet. I am tweeting for anybody interested in the publishing industry—not for you in particular.

If you like to be twee, find other twee Tweeps to talk pirate or baby or aardvark or whatever language you like, but don’t expect professional writers to have time to play games with you.

These days, most people are on Twitter for information. It’s the best way to find out the most current news on a given topic, like the latest merger of the Big 6-5-4, that strange sonic boom in your neighborhood or whether your aunt’s neighborhood is under 30-foot drifts of snow.

When you send somebody an @ message that demands some sort of game-playing, you are behaving like a spoiled child grabbing Mommy’s arm and saying “Mommy, Mommy, look at my Barbie!” while she’s driving in rush hour traffic.

6) Blogging your WIP and asking for critiques and praise. If I see that anybody is blogging pieces of a novel in progress on a blog, I skip it. I figure they’re clueless beginners. (A WIP can never be traditionally pubbed if you give pieces away, even in rough draft. You are violating your own future copyright.)

Update: Please note: I said Work In Progress. By that I mean the rough draft of  an unfinished novel. Blogging is self-publishing. It's fine to self-publish good, solid edited work on a blog as long as you realize you're giving away your first rights. No agent will ever be interested in it unless you get a following of over 100K—which is very tough for fiction. You are essentially publishing the book as a serial. That's fine.

What's not is composing your book online and expecting the general public to function as your editors and beta readers.

People who do this tend to be the same kind of newbies who will accuse you of “stealing their idea” of writing a novel about a lonely, brilliant, disaffected youth who can’t get published because the system is rigged against him.

When I catch a whiff of this kind of amateurism, I run.

If you want critique, join a critique group. I highly recommend

If you’re a published professional giving us free stories about your main characters, or edited-out scenes from a published novel, again, that's great—that’s for your fans and they’ll love it. (Although you'll want to run it by your agent or publisher first.)

But be aware where you are in your writing learning curve. Most people do NOT want to read a beginner’s practice fiction unless they're getting paid to.

7) Blaming people you’ve friended or circled because you’re getting email notifications whenever they post. Your notifications from Facebook and Google+ are YOUR responsibility.

Unfortunately the default mode for social media is they send you an email every time your friend’s cousin’s Beagle farts, so as soon as you sign up, go to your home page, go to “Privacy Settings” (via that tiny gear icon on the upper right.) Then click “notifications” and turn them off.

Some guy circled me on Google+ and I circled him back because he’s a writer. (I’m not doing that any more.) A week later I got a furious email from him saying I’d been spamming his inbox, so I should uncircle him. I did. Immediately.

But he kept getting my posts (I only post there once a day or less, but for some reason it was making him furious) and he kept emailing that I had to stop. Finally I told him that HE had to take me out of HIS circle (and turn off his notifications) and I had no control over his settings. It didn’t end well. He’s out of my circles and onto my list of Jerks to Avoid.

8) “Thanking” people for following you by sending spam. It might seem like good manners, but a thank-you for a follow is generally unwelcome. Especially if the “thank-you” is posted on somebody’s Facebook wall.  Or loaded with spam. If you really want to thank somebody, retweet one of their tweets.

An automated message that says “Thanks for the follow, now you  are my minion: so go like my FB Page, LinkedIN profile, circle me on Google+, follow my blog and BUY MY BOOK and I’ll teach YOU how to be the kind of successful author I imagine myself to be!! Bwahahah!!!” is not good manners in anybody’s world.

9) Following and unfollowing immediately after you get a follow back. People do this to rack up numbers on Twitter. Which is idiotic. Numbers on Twitter mean nothing without engagement.

It’s like re-calibrating your scale to show you weigh 30 pounds less and expecting that to make you fit into size zero jeans. Or turning off the fire alarm to put out a fire.

You want real people who respond and retweet your stuff. Not just ciphers you’ve duped into being one of your statistics.

10) Tagging a photo that’s an ador worse, pornwith the names of all your Facebook friends. People are doing this ALL the time. I don’t know if they mean to or if it’s one of those diabolical Facebook “games” where if you click on the answer to a stupid question, spam is immediately sent out to all your friends.

Never, ever tag a photo with a person’s name without thinking long and hard. Especially if the photo isn’t of that person. I guess it’s a way to game Facebook into posting the photo on that person’s wall—but what do you gain by that? Now somebody thinks you’re a moron. And that benefits you…how?

You can sign up to have no tagged posts go up on YOUR wall without your permission in your "Privacy" settings, but it will not stop that photo from being posted on a lot of other people’s walls.

And if the photo is unflattering or unprofessional, don’t tag it, ever. Ask the person first if they want to be identified in your photo. I’ve become a fat lady in middle age. Most photos of me are hideous. NEVER take a photo of me and put it on the Interwebz without my permission, or you're going on my $%*! list for a good, long time.

11)  Not posting share buttons or your @Twitterhandle on your blog. Even if you’re not on any social medium but a blog, you can have a social media presence if your fans tweet your links and post them to FB, Google+, etc. But you make that very tough if you don’t have a “share” button (They’re available in your list of “gadgets” or “widgets” on your dashboard.) I have a icon on my toolbar that I can use to share your posts, but most people don’t. (If you want the handy share function and url shortener on your toolbar, visit  for a quick download.)

Also, try not to make your title too lame to tweet. Even though your content is great, it’s not worth sharing if I have to take the time to make up a good title for you. Lame titles are things like "Blue Monday" or "Thoughts". Good titles are questions, lists and answers. Stuff like: "Can You Write a Publishable First Novel?" or "12 Tips To Get Out of the Slushpile".

And if you don’t have your Twitter handle on your blog, I can’t credit you and you won't even know I tweeted you.

12) Hiding your identity behind a whimsical name or avatar. Don’t put a picture of a baby rhinoceros in a tutu as your avatar. Or call yourself @HoneyBooBooFan or @SexyBeast247. If you’re an author who wants to succeed, you need to be professional. The Internet is not Kindergarten, a celebrity fan club, or your favorite bar. For a rant on bad avatars, read the quote from Porter Anderson in my Feb 3rd post.

Treat Cyberia as your workplace. Because that’s what it is. Look and act professional and show you’re proud of who you are. That means letting us know your name or pen name every time you Tweet or comment on a blog.


A word on *spamming. Most people know that Internet "spam" is an inappropriate, unsolicited advertisement for a product. 

But a lot of things that can be perfectly appropriate in small doses are not when they show up too often.

Like newsletters.

I know that some people who are very savvy—like self-pub guru David Gaughran—say that newsletters are the best way to reach your fans.

They may be. But personally, I'm not fond of them. Partly because newsletters are one-way communication.

Also, I think they have been overused to the point they have become an annoyance. I only read one in about 50 and the rest go immediately into the trash—even the ones from big name authors. Some newsletters I may have actually signed up for when I had more time, but many come from people who just took my email address off my blog or a group email.

I figure if I hate having newsletters fill up my inbox, other people do too. We can say what we have to say here on the blog and people know where to find us.

But you might love newsletters. If you do, I really want to hear about it. I may be totally wrong on this. I’ve been wrong before. If you’d like a newsletter from Ruth and me, do speak up. In fact, if there’s anything you’d like to hear more or less of from us, let us know.

I agree with the statement Mary Walters made in her post, "As writers, we should focus our promotional efforts on trying to get people to talk about our books (review them, read and recommend them, give them awards, take them to their book groups, write articles or blog posts about them) instead of trying to get people to buy them."

What we really need to focus on is connecting with readers who aren't necessarily writers. Social media Jedi Kristen Lamb said it very well in an interview this week with Alex Laybourne. "We have to stop expecting “readers” to come to us and we need to go to them. We are talking about query letters and Smashwords and Amazon and agents and then wonder why we aren’t connecting with readers. Try talking about some stuff THEY like for a change. We need to start a dialogue on mutual ground, then that leads to a relationship which will eventually translate into sales... Spend less time being interesting and more time being INTERESTED.

And what about your pet peeves? Let us know what annoys you in social media. How about newsletters? Like or dislike? 

If you have a comment and Blogger won't let you post for one of their unknown reasons (talk about annoying) don't hesitate to email me at annerallen dot allen at gmail dot com. I'll post your comment with my response. 


If you want to learn more about what to do and not do in building your platform, and you're in the vicinity of San Luis Obispo, CA, I'll be teaching a seminar called THE TECH-SAVVY AUTHOR with iconic author Catherine Ryan Hyde on March 2nd.

The organizers have given me two FREE TICKETS to give away this week! Each one is a $75 value and includes a yummy lunch. All you have to do is leave your email address in the comments or email me at annerallen dot allen at gmail dot com  to say you'd like your name to be put in the drawing for the free tickets. I will then assign each of the contestants a number and go to on Saturday February 23rd to name the winners.

Contest closes at 6 PM Pacific time on February 23rd.

The winners will be announced in the post on Sunday, February 24th. More info on the workshop in the Opportunity Alerts below.


Milestone: This is the 250th post on this blog. Amazing. Especially since the first 50 or so were read by maybe a total of ten people. Now we have close to 1340 followers and a lot of very nice awards. Sticking with something really does pay off.

Opportunity Alerts:

1) BiblioPublishing is looking for submissions of out-of-print or new books for publication through their small press. This 25-year-old press (formerly called The Educational Publisher) is branching out from educational books to other nonfiction and selected fiction. They're especially looking for self-help and sci-fi. They provide cover design, formatting and distribution, but ask your ms. be pre-edited. They publish in print as well as all ebook formats

2) Tech-Savvy Author Workshop: If you live on the Central Coast of California and you’re interested in learning about blogging, building platform and everything a 21st Century author needs to know, Anne will be teaching at a seminar called THE TECH SAVVY AUTHOR with Catherine Ryan Hyde, screenwriter and radio personality Dave Congalton and a whole crew of smart techie folks on March 2nd. Students get in for half price.

3) Interested in having your short fiction recorded for a weekly podcast?There’s no pay, but it’s fantastic publicity if your story is accepted by SMOKE AND MIRRORS. They broadcast about three stories a week. Spooky, dark tales preferred. No previous publication necessary. They judge on the story alone.

4) Cash prizes for flash fiction. The San Luis Obispo NIGHTWRITERS are holding their annual 500-word story contest. Anybody from anywhere in the world is welcome to enter. Prizes are $200, $150 and $75. This is a fantastic organization that boasts a number of bestselling authors among their members, including Jay Asher, Jeff Carlson, and moi. (Well, some sell better than others :-) ) Deadline is March 31st. 


  1. Very helpful post, Anne. I mostly blog and use snippets from old stories I probably will never pub. Either way, they are never from my WIP or anything I send to agents.

    I love your list and agree with all of it. I actually am not a lover of the social media because in the past few years all I ever see are writers talking to other writers.

    I'll have to take a graduate level course for the promotion side of this when the day comes ... in the mean time ... I enjoy this aspect of the social media. I also think that if you really don't love posting before you get pub'd it's nothing but a chore and a bore to your readers later on :)

  2. Brilliant post! I almost can't believe some of the examples of bad social media behaviour are real... I have one guy following me and refollowing all the time. I do not follow him, I just watch him reappear every so often!

  3. So much great advice here. Wow. I am not on Facebook or Twitter at all, but I do blog and enjoy Goodreads, so I can relate to all of this. Book discussions are way more important to readers than buy-my-book spam that usually targets other authors. I think Goodreads groups are a key way to reach actual readers, but it is time-consuming to build real relationships there. Worth it, though.

  4. I'm not into facebook or twitter. I do like Tumblr where I see a lot of YA authors hang out so I might try that. I do have my blog which is only once a week.
    As I get ready to publish I will for now just use my blog to announce books.


    Talking about common joys and concerns create friendships and interesting moments.

    If people get to like you enough, they may be tempted to try one of your books -- but don't bet the farm on it. Just enjoy getting to know another struggler.

    Blame John Locke for much of the poor social media manners he hawked as his reasons for becoming successful. Actually, it was his paying $1000 for 50 positive reviews which included 50 sales of his book happening in a day. THAT is what shot his rankings up, creating a buzz about his books.

    As always a thought-provoking post, Roland

  6. Elizabeth's site is awesome. Weird someone would protest the name of her blog.
    I was told early on never to post excerpts of my work online. The only time I've done that is a very short piece for a book tour or something and with the permission of my publisher.
    People do number nine on Twitter and with blogs!
    And sorry, my icon is not my photo, nor will it ever be. I promised my wife when I signed that first contract I would keep our lives private. My name is always included, but never my photo.

  7. Thank you, Anne. Lately It's getting hard to tell the difference between a social platform & a social disease. As usual you're right on target with much needed advice! Emily Post/MsManners for the e-age.

  8. Thank you, Anne. Lately It's getting hard to tell the difference between a social platform & a social disease. As usual you're right on target with much needed advice! Emily Post/MsManners for the e-age.

  9. Fois--You have a great blog--with just the right combination of creative nonfiction and fiction. Because it all has the same theme--New York. Love it.

    Annalisa--Isn't that amazing, when you see the same face over and over in your "new" Twitter followers. Do these people think they're that unmemorable?

    Shell--I do think Goodreads is a good alternative to FB and Twitter--if you can figure your way around there. It has the clunkiest interface around. But it's where the readers are.

    Vera--Tumbr is a great alternative, especially if you write YA. You want to go where your readers hang out.

    Roland--Thanks for the insight. I didn't know where all this was coming from. I know Kristen Lamb preaches against it, but still people seem to think it's the 'right way' to use social media. Blame Locke. Now that we know FB and Twitter had nothing to do with it and he was buying his reviews, we should put his ideas to rest once and for all.

    Alex--So that's why you don't have a photo! A book cover or blog logo can be just as professional looking.

    Ruth--LOL. It does feel like a social disease. I read Klout is like a disease you can never get rid of.

    How funny I should become an Internet Manners expert. My sleuth Camilla Randall is an etiquette columnist called "The Manners Doctor."

    Blogger is being squirrely today. I see they put your comment twice. All morning they told me I had no comments, but now--here are 8.

  10. You're right on point again, Anne. I have a lot of the same pet peeves, as do I'm sure most writers, when it comes to social media.

    Time is money for a writer. We don't have time to waste. Which brings me to this question, why do some writers have two "almost" identical blogs? I've noticed a rash of writer/ authors carry a blog on Tumbler and Blogger. It seems crazy to me to spend the extra time to post on one site and then the other.

  11. Spamming is one of the biggest problems in social media. It seems like if you say you're a writer all the writers gravitate to you and proceed to try to sell you to buy their books. I've even had a writer follow me, and then when I followed him, he sent me a tweet asking me to help promote his books. Excuse me? I know you for exactly one minute and you're already asking me to use my time to promote your book, a book I have not read?

    BTW, I don't use my photo for my avatar either. Though I'm on some form of social media, I also want to not have my entire life out in the world. Some privacy please! So I use a photo my family's historical house, which they're trying to get declared a National Landmark.

  12. THE NEW YORK TIMES article that speaks of Todd Rutherford's review for money site and John Locke's use of it can be found here:

  13. I have little time for FB or Twitter so I guess I'm not misusing social media, but the share button thingee is interesting. I agree with you about newsletters. I don't sign up for them anymore. And I despise tagging.

    I did post a couple of paragraphs of a wip a long time ago, before I knew better, but I assume such a small sample would not violate my own future copyright. Egads!

  14. Christine--I've preached against multiple blogs for a long time. They fragment your audience and waste your time. But maybe Tumblr and blog audiences are different, so it's worth it to post the same content on both platforms. I'm not Tumblr user, so I don't know about that.

    Linda--An avatar that's a book cover or a setting of your books like that is fine. But not a baby pic or Honey Boo Boo or rhino in a tutu. It's about looking professional.

    I've got that same spam from so many writers. Somebody who writes horror or something I loathe asks ME to promote HIM, even though my profile shows I'm an author myself, in a very different genre. Use the little grey cells, people, as Hercule Poirot would say.

    Roland--Thanks. If anybody doesn't know that John Locke disgraced himself and his "system" was buying reviews, not using social media, follow that link.

    Yvonne--I think we all posted a little snippet of our writing somewhere when we were starting out. It's not a huge deal if it's just a snippet. But some people serialize their entire WIP and ruin their own careers.

    Thanks for saying you hate newsletters! I'm getting so much pressure to start one. I'm not going to give up fiction writing in order to spam people 24/7!

  15. Number three, every time.

    Twice I've woken up to over 1800 msgs from an 'event' I'd been added to (deep breath - WITHOUT my permission - yes, they'd asked me but six hours before the event when I was asleep? Are they kidding?)

    I was chewing tack nails to clear the crap out of my inbox. Same with groups. Do NOT add a person to a FB group without their permission because they'll receive every burp and fart that group makes.

    At least with Goodreads I'm not automatically added to events etc. But even so, Goodreads spam is driving me nuts. Don't authors speak to readers? All this stuff is from authors to other authors.

    I don't use a newsletter either, readers told me they HATE them, so I don't go there. I've a fanmail list and I alert them (four times a year) when the next book's out, that's it. And they've thanked me for the fact I don't spam them, which means they actually open the message (always a help I think).

    And keep readers up to date with where you are in a series or on new work on your website. Devote a page to 'coming soon' or the title of your next book. Make it easy for fans to find you.

    Great post, Anne.

  16. I've often thought that people are creating blogs and using FB and Twitter just to sell their books. I'm getting sick of the whole social-networking circus. It's very phoney. But since we're being honest, I'm not fond of blog posts that take 3000 words to discuss a subject, either...

  17. Great post. I love Twitter, but I hate spam. If someone's Twitter profile description is a big mess of hashtags, caps-lock words and links, I pass. I want to interact with a person, not a billboard!

  18. Christine--It was #3 that prompted me to write this. It's getting out of control. I don't think I've had 1800 of them though. Yikes.

    Thanks so much for weighing in on the newsletters. I like your idea of a "coming soon" page for the website though. Hmmm. We might try that. Thanks!

    Lexa--Ouch! Most of my posts are about 1500 words. I didn't realize this had gone over. I guess I'd better do a better word count. You could always stop reading when you get to your limit :-)

    Elia--That was another thing that prompted this post. I've been getting followed by a lot of Twitter accounts that only have one tweet--tweeted 1000s of times. (I do NOT follow back.)

  19. Excellent post. I have to agree with everything, including the newsletters. The only one I have ever signed up for is from Writers Digest, and I just deleted about 30 of them going back several months that I never got around to reading.

    I joined Twitter just a few weeks ago, and was amazed by how many of the authors who could be posting interesting tweets are doing nothing but self-promotion. I ended up posting a blog about it last week, but it was limited to only Twitter peeves, not other social media. My most recent Twitter annoyance is people who post nothing but a ton of quotes from literary figures. Yes, they can be intersting, but when you post 20 in less than five minutes...

    Thanks for the post, though I'm afraid the people who need to read it the most, won't.

  20. This is such great advice. Many of the same things irritate me too, especially when people I don't know request likes for their Facebook pages. Others add me to their event lists, which is most provoking!

    Common sense is necessary. Before you send a message via social media or email think to yourself - would this irritate me if I received it? If the answer is yes, then don't do it. Step away from the computer!

  21. Excellent blog and I would love to enter your writing seminar contest.

  22. Thanks so much for saying this out loud. Agreed throughout. And you've inspired me to articulate my own thoughts on my aversion to marketing:

  23. You'd definitely included all the bad social media practices I've seen. My personal fave is the person who DMs you when you follow back and says "Hi, follow me on FB, Goodreads, and here is my book you can buy on Amazon!" I don't even bother replying anymore, just instantly unfollow. What do I care about that? I don't even know you.

  24. Fantastic post, Anne. I think #3 is my most hated. And I confess, I feel bad saying no, so I usually click a fibbing Maybe so I can turn off the notifications that would flood my email.

    I do have to disagree on a couple points. As a reader - yes, we authors buy books, too - I like to see FB posts with news of awards, or making a bestseller list, or a new release. And while it is offensive when an author tweets the same thing too many times, I have often clicked on Twitter blurbs for books that sound interesting and bought them. Books that I would not otherwise have known were there.

    One last squabble -- I have an extreme distaste for making ANYONE a scapegoat, and I think that has been done with John Locke. I know nothing about the company he hired or what his expectations were, or how many other authors were using this system, but I have been in this business long enough to know that 50 good reviews is NOT some magic bullet that will sell a million books. I know other authors who can match that and they are struggling. I believe Locke came at the peak of the self-publishing golden era when several authors hit amazing sales numbers. And I have read one of his books. No, it was not brilliant, but it was fun, and I can see how some people chose to go on buying them.
    Okay, I'll duck out now before the tomatoes start flying at me . . .

  25. FB is supposed to be for your friends and you should be able to tell your friends about your success. If it seems repetitive that's because it is. Good tips Anne.

  26. The share button is a necessity, IMO. I just started an email subscription list which I intend to use only to inform readers of new books. I don't have time to actually deal with a newsletter. :-)

    I am on Twitter all the time, though, and I have a FB page, but I've not spent the time trying to build a following out there.

  27. My Twitter and FB accounts are linked, so anything that's posted on one appears on the other. I try not to spam, but unfortunately only about 10-20% of your FB fans will ever see your post unless they specifically click on your page or you pay to have a post promoted. My FB followers tend to be family and friends, and my Twitter followers are people I've met online through various writing sites - very little overlap. I hate to do it, but sometimes if I have a new publication coming out I'll post about it several times to increase my odds of people seeing it. I try to limit it the rest of the time, though.

    As for pet peeves, mine with Twitter is when someone is following 5k people and followed by just as many. It makes me wonder, are they following them because they actually care (and there's no way you could ever possible read tweets from 5k people), or are they following them so they'll be followed back and can become king/queen of Twitter?

  28. Aaron--I think a lot of people are trying to do the right thing, but have outdated advice. Maybe this will filter through...

    Shelley--It's amazing how often the Golden Rule would solve everything

    nakedguy--You're entered, but if you're in the uk, you'll have a lot of traveling to do. This is a real-time IRL seminar :-) in California.

    Hila--Thanks! I'll check out your blog.

    Callie--That stuff seems so unnecessary. I think they're simply following some bad advice.

    Alicia--I'm NOT saying you shouldn't tweet your launches and reviews and triumphs. I'm saying that shouldn't be the ONLY thing you tweet. And I'm arguing against John Locke's book of advice on how to sell millions because it was based on a lie. I'm happy for his success, but he wrote an advice book for indies with bad advice and made millions from it. I don't begrudge him the money, but I think people should stop following bad advice, if that's where it's coming from.

    The Desert--Of course you should be able to tell your friends about your success, but if the only thing you have to say is "look how great I am" then you're going to be pretty boring. If you don't have anything else to say but "buy my book" you might need a hobby.

    Scott--It's great to build a following. That's why you're there. Just don't cheat or brag about yourself 100% of the time.

    ED--I'm not a big fan of linking your Twitter, FB and LinkedIN accounts. Each one has a different purpose. While your Tweeps may be interested in what you're thinking as you eat lunch, your LinkedIn readers may be your future employers who really don't need to know the pastrami could be leaner, and your FB friends want only a few more substantive posts per day.

  29. People who only push their wares on Twitter and Facebook and never, ever have conversations with other people are the worst. It's like they're robots. They turn me off and I usually end up turning them off by unfollowing them.

  30. Hi Anne,
    I'm not a fan of e-mail newsletters because these tend to be one-sided conversations. Instead, I prefer the interactions blogs offer.

    In regards to pet peeves:
    Automatic linking. If I am on FB, I want to interact on FB. If I wanted to read twitter links, I'd go there. It only takes a moment to leave an authentic comment. Automatic linking without interaction results in my unfollowing or unliking a page.

    The biggest pet peeve for me at the moment is a blog post followed by a summary of quotes with "click to tweet." Um, no.

    One of my favorites? What you said about you don't have to post photos in blog posts. Thanks, Anne. You validated what I suspected all along. :-)

  31. First, I don't like newsletters. I get one from a friend who was just starting out and her pub decided it was a good idea. Quite frankly, I'd like to unsubscribe, but I would hate to hurt her feelings.

    I was on Twitter, but got so disgusted with the spam I stopped. I go back to it every once in awhile to see if it's changed but it hasn't. I've just got to unfollow people.

    I don't do FB, never will, I have a separate blog (I know you hate that) but it's a slow blog, and that is where my readers can find out what I'm doing in regard to my books. I didn't want a stagnant website, and I wanted something I could change around when I felt the need. Believe it or not, that blog (with 67 followers) has more people who read it by email. So, not a newsletter, but almost. It keeps me in touch with my fan base.

    Thanks for another great post.

  32. Phew! Good to know I'm not the only one who hates being spammed with useless information all over my Facebook wall!

    Thanks for the tips - very helpful, especially for those of us who aren't sure if we're just being annoying when we ask about things that aren't strictly related to our books. I rather like asking my scanty Facebook Page followers about what they're reading right now.

  33. I have a newsletter just for new releases. I don't mind receiving newsletter but I don't read all of them. I check them out, more from curiosity. maybe it's just me but if I like an author, I'll figure out when they have a book out. I don't need a newsletter. :)

    But I"m def. not the expert on them. They must work for some authors.

  34. "If I see that anybody is blogging pieces of a novel in progress on a blog, I skip it. I figure they’re clueless beginners."

    Blanket disapproval? Always? Everyone? Forever?

    A little harsh.

    I can agree that much online writing is in that category.

    But could you consider that maybe, just maybe, someone has evaluated all their options at the present time, and decided that their best chance to connect with their potential readers IS to serialize the WIP?

    There are many things to consider, the biggest one being, "After I promise this story, can I deliver? Day in and day out, until the promise is fulfilled?"

    And that there are ways around the copyright problem, one of the obvious being to copyright the whole blog every three months, which includes the posting of the WIP, a chunk at a time?

    Not everyone can do things the traditional way. Not everyone can, for various reasons, participate in a critique group. And not everyone can labor on in obscurity, with no feedback.

    I enjoy a lot of your advice, and read regularly. I may not persuade you to change your mind - but I thank you for having comments so I may respectfully disagree every once in a while.

  35. I figure they're clueless beginners. (A WIP can never be traditionally pubbed if you give pieces away, even in rough draft. You are violating your own future copyright.)

    Um, no. Random House published Fifty Shades of Gray after the whole thing had been online as fanfiction. Hachette Group published Julie & Julia using lots of excerpts from the author's blog. Tor published John Scalzi's blog's exact content, in "Your Hate Mail Will be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998 - 2008". It would be pretty easy to find plenty of other examples, so you might want to rethink that clueless beginner thing.

  36. Melissa—Actually, they probably are robots. Automated tweets don’t allow for interaction. I do understand why some people use them, and they’re fine for people who tweet lots of links. I’m always grateful to Elizabeth S. Craig for her tweeted links—I find the best blogs that way—but if I thank her for one I found useful, she will respond. So you can automate tweets if you also go on Twitter often in real time.

    Christi—I haven’t seen those blogs with the pre-chosen quotes to tweet. I suppose people think it looks helpful. But it sounds as if it can backfire and look desperate.

    Thanks for affirming what I feel: you can do all the same stuff on a blog as on a newsletter, but the blog allows people to respond.

    And thanks so much for letting me know my advice about images helped your blogging. I always like to hear it if I’m making an author’s life easier.

    Anne—I don’t hate multiple blogs—I just think they’re too much work. But I know why you need two, so yours has my blessing :-) Both your blogs are lovely.

    Good point that if somebody subscribes you your blog via email, they’re getting a newsletter anyway! Thanks for that insight. I think publicity people are very big on newsletters, so they force authors to send out stuff that ends up being boring and pointless. But if you like the author, you don’t want to hurt their feelings by unsubscribing. So you get repetitive motion injury deleting them every day.

    Charlie—Not only is it NOT annoying to talk about something besides your book—it’s what social media is for. Ask people what they’re reading, or what they thought of the ending of the season finale of Downton Abbey (Julian Fellowes, how could you?!) or what they like to eat for lunch. Anything that’s friendly and allows you to interact.

    Laura—Newsletter/e-mail announcements of new releases are fine with me too. It’s the PDF fancy ones that I really tend to skip. They’re 90% fluff to fill out the template, I think.

    Lieb—Nothing wrong with being a clueless beginner. We were all clueless beginners once. :-) But I write this blog offer clues. There are lots of options for publishing a novel besides posting your raw, unedited WIP on a blog. And is free and it’s online.

    As I said, this list is subjective. I have worked as a professional editor, so I’m not going to give away my time for free to edit beginners’ fiction on a blog. But other beginners may be happy to critique your work in exchange for your critiquing theirs. That’s called a critique group. Trouble is, if you do it through a blog, you’re all violating your own copyright. (See the quote from Meredith Barnes below.)

    Wyndes—from agent Meredith Barnes:
    “Many writers serialize their work on their blogs. I cannot encourage you strongly enough to avoid that….If you choose to do so anyway you may put yourself breach of the warranties and indemnities clause of the publishing contract that you haven't even signed yet.”

    Yes, if you have million-selling novel publishers are desperate for, they may break the rules for you, but if you’re expecting to be treated like E.L. James, you need to sell like her.

    Nonfiction blog books like “Julie and Julia” are a whole different animal. There are lots of them. In fact, making a successful blog into a book is a great idea. Wordpress even has a way to do it automatically.

  37. Great advice-- mistakes I commonly see but try to be gentle with. It is a learning curve for new authors isn't it? And I imagine the excitement of a debut novel is hard to resist! But good etiquette never goes out of style. I will bookmark this article for when my day arrives!

  38. A lot of good tips in this post.

    I don't use a picture of myself because I simply don't like myself being photographed. As far as I know, I've posted only one genuine photo of myself, and that was back in 2008 for my blog.

    I do however, have a picture of my book cover as my avatar on Facebook and on my blog. I would rather keep people guessing about my identity (already been mistaken for a female) than let them see that the author of the novel they're reading is a bald guide just south of 50. :D

    As for Facebook, I decided when I reactivated my account, that I would use it for strictly networking, making friends, and the very soft pimping of my novel. I even at times had asked permission and/or apologized for pimping my novel on one of their conversation threads, which was done only in response to a question/comment about my avatar.

    At the moment, I'm thanking people people on FB for buying/reading/enjoying my novel, because quite frankly, word of mouth is still the way to go on Facebook.

    About the only thing I really mention about my about my book, both on Facebook and my blog, is that it's been banned at least twice in the past month, once on Facebook and once at a book signing.

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  41. The Office, originally posted online as fanfiction, will be published by Simon & Schuster for an advance described as "substantial". (The Hollywood Reporter)

    Sylvain Reynaud's Gabriel's Inferno, originally posted online, will be published after a seven figure advance by Berkley. (MediaBistro)

    Student Emily Baker posted a fictionalized story about the band One Direction online and got a contract for it from Penguin. (The Daily Mail)

    Calling people who are aware of the advantages of building an audience online "clueless newbies" because one agent says it's a bad idea demonstrates an ignorance of current book deals and how online posting is reshaping the industry that looks kind of, well, frankly...clueless.

    I'm sorry to be rude about it. It's not my usual style, really. I just hate to see you spreading out-of-date misinformation packaged in insults.

  42. Julie--It IS a learning curve. And not all of these things were "mistakes" a while ago. Or maybe they were and they're not now--see Wyndes comment.

    G. B.--You bring up a very good point I should have mentioned. If you write erotica or don't want your "real life" self to be on display, by all means use a different avatar. Your book cover is always a good choice.

    Wyndes--I stand corrected! This business is changing at warp speed. What was a no-no six months ago may be perfectly OK now. Thanks for providing all that evidence.

    But it's still a gamble. I'll bet most of these authors weren't fledgling writers writing first drafts. First drafts by definition tend to be shaky. Even when written by pros.

    If you haven't built a huge following like these writers, most agents still won't touch a book that's already been published--whether on a blog, KDP, or parchment scrolls. Publishing on a blog is giving away first rights for free. But if you're good enough at writing and marketing, you have provided ample proof that today's publishers are happy with seconds.

    Personally, I'm still going to run when somebody publishes an amateurish first draft on a blog expecting praise and free editing. I don't edit for free. But I said up front my list is subjective.

  43. I've been trying to figure all this stuff out and it drives me crazy.
    Thanks for explaining so it makes sense. Great advice.
    Thanks again
    Bonnie Kelly

  44. Very insightful. I think you pointed out a lot of things that some beginners wouldn't realize or even know.

  45. Bonnie--I think the reason it's so crazy-making is there's so much conflicting information out there. Marketing "gurus" can dispense some pretty bad advice.

    Terra--My main goal is to help new writers filter the good information from the bogus. So they can spend the majority of their time actually writing :-)

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  47. Good stuff, Ann. I'm on board with all of it.

    Barbara M Hodges

  48. I had an author I don't know post on my FB page "Megham (sic) Please post my interview and information and link for me" followed by a paragraph of text. Oh, okay, I'll get right on that!

    These are all great tips. I'm especially peeved by the auto-replies for following someone on Twitter. I have to hold myself back from immediately unfollowing them.

  49. Anne, so many comments! It goes to show your post was timely and well-received. I couldn't agree more with all you said...except one (small) point but it was picked up by an earlier commenter: some very respectable writers do publish their work chapter by chapter on their blog (or blogs of several writers together like Venture Galleries) and they claim it works for them.

    Maybe it does. I don't really know and I know I would never want to do that! But one thing is certain: it's two different things whether you publish you unedited or partly edited WIP, hoping for comments that will improve your work and whether you publish your highly polished latest novel by instalments. The former, as you say, is a very bad idea, the latter may be ok...

  50. Barb--Thanks! I sure enjoyed our chat on blog talk radio last week!

    Meghan--Wow. That might get a prize for clueless chutzpah. Amazing. How could anybody possibly think that was OK? But I get some pretty clueless requests, too. Mostly people who offer us "content" that's just ad copy for their books, products or services. Sometimes content that has nothing to do with publishing. I got one today from a pharmaceutical company of some sort who wanted me to give them free ad space for anti-depressants on this blog. I guess they figured all authors need drugs?

    Claude--I've added a paragraph to explain what I mean by WIP. It's a raw, unedited Work In Progress.

    Many people don't know that putting something on a blog is publishing it.

    There's nothing wrong with self publishing polished work on your blog instead of Amazon or Smashwords. But be aware you're giving away first rights and those cannot be sold again.

  51. My biggest peeve is when a writer uses near-extortion methods to get you to buy his or her book on a certain day to get it to number on on Amazon/Kindle, or to vote on it somewhere, does it on every social media outlet in cyberspace, and tries to pass it off as a contest.

    One writer was particularly aggressive and I was waiting for orphans to get sold into slavery or baby harp seals to be clubbed if her book didn't make it to number one by a certain day. The funny thing was I enjoyed one of her books but refuse to buy the others because of her heavy-handed selling technique.

    Don't get me wrong, I don't mind a real contest, but not the kind where if the book doesn't do whatever it is the author was reaching for--for example, making it to number 1 in a particular category on Kindle on a particular day--then the author will not award the prize.

  52. Sorry, that should have been number one ,not number on.

    Holli Castillo

  53. Holli--I think I've seen things like that on Twitter but I didn't get what they were about. It's good I was so clueless. I really hate that kind of thing. And you show exactly why these things are such big mistakes: that author lost you as a reader. She probably lost more. Making people dislike you by acting like a narcissistic bully is not the best sales technique. Why is that so hard to understand?

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  55. Anne, I would so drive up for your workshop on the 2nd, except I already signed up for a day at the Huntington Museum with Jeri Westerson. It never fails that two great writing events happen on the same day! Hopefully, you'll have another?

    My pet peeve is all those event invitations coming from Facebook and Goodreads (don't get me started on Goodreads). And this is the best comment of the week: "Don't wear a sandwich board to a cocktail party." Great post!

  56. Hi Anne,

    Just dropped by to let you know that your blog has been nominated as Most Useful in the Paying Forward Awards.

    Congrats! It's definitely deserved.


  57. Debra--Sorry you can't make it. I'd love to meet you sometime! David Congalton is the force behind these seminars. He seems to schedule two or three a year.

    Goodreads! I forgot to mention those Goodreads "events"--even more numerous and more annoying than the FB "events". I'm always amazed I get invited to these horror book and paranormal events, that are so far from my reading preferences. Untargeted marketing is such a waste of time.

    Misha--Thanks so much for the nomination. We're flattered!

    If anybody wants to vote for us--go to Misha's blog through that link in her comment. Lots of great blogs in lots of categories. And you can vote for Alex J. Cavanaugh in 2!

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  59. Thank you for the great post on social media. I agree with the points that you've made. It's not about selling books, it's about connecting with other authors.

    For example, I'm not published (yet, fingers crossed!) but by following author's blogs I like, their twitter feed, and interacting with other bloggers through comments I get to meet some really amazing people. People that I respect enough that even if I did become published, I wouldn't want to bother them with it. Your friends with retweet your tweets, talk about your book and success without your request. Whereas if you spam them or bother them about it, they won't want to.

    And like you said, you're making career connections. I was able to become an intern for a published, successful author through social media. I'm so grateful for the opportunity -- it's taught me so much about the publishing world -- and without social media, without being able to connect with people (two ways) through it I wouldn't have this chance.

  60. It's unfortunate that many of us didn't have posts like this to read when we began using social media. Thank you, Anne, for down-to-earth tips and real advice. I especially love the last line: 'spend less time being interesting and more time being interested.' :)

  61. Kim--You've got it. Social media is for making connections with people who can help your career. I know many authors who have got agents and publishers through referrals they got from social media friends. I even know two agents who got their jobs through social media connections.

    Treating everybody as a "mark" to be exploited is short-term, unproductive thinking.

    Vivian--People make the mistake of thinking they have to be the center of attention all the time like needy children. Making somebody else the center of attention for a while will pay off in the long run.

  62. I found this article very helpful. Brutally honest,funny and very helpful.
    Wow there are a lot of comments. First I'd like to say, although it is probably obvious, I am a newbie.
    I didn't realize it was bad form to respond to a follow by sending a request to like a fb page. I don't do it but almost every author I have followed has sent me such a request.
    I have only one question that I suppose most experienced authors could answer. I do have a blog solely for the purpose of posting new episodes of a fantasy show that is mentioned in my work in progress. My work in progress is not actually about this fantasy show, it is about the actors in the fantasy show. I created the blog to hopefully draw interest in the show and through association, the upcoming novel. There is nothing on the blog that is found in the novel except the name of the fantasy show. So my question then is, will this have a negative effect in the view of agents or publishers? Will they consider this a type of self publishing of my novel? Or am I safe as long as I don't post anything from the actual novel? Any comments would be appreciated.

  63. J Keith--Thanks! Your blog idea is intriguing and creative. If you're not putting pieces of the novel in there, it shouldn't be a problem. The biggest problem with fiction online is that people don't tend to read it. They like to skim, and dart in and out, and don't come for sustained narrative. I know a bestselling novelist who got no hits on her prize winning short fiction on her website, but when she put it on Amazon and charged money for it--people loved it. Go figure.

    But if it's working for you, keep at it. I'd suggest you blog your "fantasy show" only part of the time and have at least one post a week that's nonfiction stuff about your plans for the book and about yourself as a person, because you are the "brand" you're trying to sell. Maybe join in some blog hops and connect with other bloggers, especially in your genre.

  64. Excellent post. I have to agree with everything, including the newsletters. The only one I have ever signed up for is from Writers Digest, and I just deleted about 30 of them going back several months that I never got around to reading.
    Ben Linus,
    rc vliegtuig

  65. Ben--I do that with the WD newsletters too. I guess that's why I'm beginning to find all of them so annoying. They just clog the inbox. I need time to write, people!

  66. Social networking sites have quickly become the most visited sites in the world next to search engines. I have to agree with everything, including the bad social media practices. Thanks for sharing and this article was explained very well!

    Phoenix Social Media


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