New authors. Gotta love 'em. It's exciting to think of someone just starting out, following their dreams. And with epublishing and even self publishing, there are so many ways now to get your book out there.
But some new authors are a little over zealous about getting their stories read. I am not the first nor the last to be frustrated by a relatively new writer going about and aggressively trying to get people to read their books, and getting good reviews. A part of me cannot blame them because of course they want people to buy their books. However it's the way some of them go about doing it that is a turn-off.
So I've come up with a list of do's and don'ts that I would follow if I were a writer and wanted to spread the word about my books. My own personal etiquette, if you will:
- Do take advice from some respected and veteran authors. Many of them, like Lori Foster, have been very supportive of providing opportunities for new authors to get their work published. And I know for a fact that Lori is a big believer in writers getting to know their audience. She's been around over 10 years and obviously has had experience in the business and knows what she's talking about.
- Don't relentlessly recommend your books to readers, especially readers you don't even know. A lot of readers I know are happy to read a book if an author asks them to, but when you use channels such as GoodReads to endlessly recommend your own work, it comes across as tacky. A recommendation from a person I don't know is more a deterent than anything else, and 99.999% of the time, I decline. Readers have so many books to choose from, a lot of which they already own, so trying to force your book on someone isn't the way to get it read.
- Do get to know your audience. Online drive-by notifications about an upcoming book release are very frustrating, because you are most likely just trying to get free advertising for your book, and it's really rude to use another author's blog or Yahoo group to do so. If you don't take the time to get to know your readership, you won't have one. True, not all readers use the internet, but many of them do, and readers talk about the good and the bad. Check with local bookstores about setting up a signing. I myself have contacted bookstores on behalf of a reader, it's not hard to do. And it can be good business for them as well. This gives you the opportunity to meet readers. Sure you might be shy. Guess what, so am I, but if I want to meet an author, I'll take a deep breath and walk over. But there has to be an opportunity.
- Do network. It's overwhelming, the number of places a person can network, both in person and online. You've got annual conferences, big and small, you've got your own website, perhaps a personal blog, industry blogs, reader blogs,Twitter, Facebook, MySpace (does anyone still use MySpace?). It's intimidating. Select the most effective ways that work for you and use them efficiently. Carve out an hour a day or two hours a week and network. Update your blog and site. Find blogs that you enjoy visiting yourself (if you have time) and ask if you can be a guest blogger.
- Don't respond to reviews, unless it's a brief "thank you" whether the review is good or bad. It can't hurt to thank someone for taking the time to write a review, even if it's not favorable. But keep it short and sweet. I cringe when I see an author battling to defend their work, because ultimately, it makes the writer look bad. It doesn't matter the reason, just let it go. I've seen some authors claim the reader didn't "understand" the book. Oh, don't go there. VERY unprofessional and rude, and doing it online means there's a great chance it will spread to other readers. I blocked one person on GoodReads for this very reason. I won't friend her or read her book. Ever.
- Do be a reader. I know you don't have time, but you don't need to read 100 books a year. It's good to read what's popular, and have something in common with your audience. Reading can be just as much educational as it can be fun, and it's good way to connect with other people.
- Do keep your website/blog updated! I can't stress this enough. And take the time to have a professional site created, even if it's just a blog. They are either free or relatively inexpensive. Some of those glittery, blocky sites are eyesores, and I immediately leave. Provide excepts for your books. Readers are selective, and if they don't have a way of sampling your work, many of them move on.
- Don't get too personal. I know a few authors who are very, VERY open about their sex lives, and their families, and even where they live. You need to think very carefully about this. I'm not a prude, and I have engaged in my share of raunchy conversations on occasion, but I don't get explicit, and I won't. Not in public. Writers, you risk alienating a lot of people by getting too personal, not least of which may be your own publisher. It's not very professional and in fact are very inappropriate. If I had those kinds of conversations at my workplace, I would be fired. And I'm not kidding. No second chances if I were reported for making any kind of comments of that nature. That's pretty serious. Also be careful what you share about family and friends. About a month or so ago, an author revealed on her blog too much information about a minor child she takes care of, which got a lot of readers upset because now you're invading that child's privacy. Not smart. I know the internet seems like a cozy place to share with your friends, but it's a very public forum where anyone could be watching.
- Don't brag. When I get a friend request at Facebook or GoodReads, if I see the author going overboard touting their own work (best-selling author of the most amazing and original and brilliant "insert catchy phrase here" series), it doesn't sell me. In fact I tend to laugh cynically especially since chances are I've never even heard of the series, so how can it be best-selling? What are your sources? Just state the facts. Awards don't impress me much. I don't even remember any of the names of the recent RITA winners. Shame on me, but I don't.
- Do write. Yes, networking and all those professional responsibilities are important, but you won't be doing any of that if you don't write your books. It's understandable if you take time away from the internet to work. Readers expect it, especially if we want the next book.
Now I am not an author, so take what I say with a grain if salt if you must. I just know what works for me and what doesn't. I've been a reader for over 30 years, and I've been on the internet for about 10 years. I've also gone to a lot of signing and events. And I love meeting new authors. Maybe one day I'll meet you too :)
Readers: anything I need to add?