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Thursday, October 07, 2010:
Letter to new authors

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?



  1. That was a great post Stacy! I'd add don't send mass emails telling people your book is out. Got one the other day for a book that's in a genre I don't even read. The author didn't want me to review it-just told me where I could buy it.

  2. Great post! I totally agree with everything you said. The thing that bothers me the most is the oversharing (re:sex life). I don't want to know that much about your personal life.

    One of my pet peeves is getting the generic "Dear Reviewer/Blogger" emails from authors who want me to review their books. Books that are in a genre that I clearly state in my review policy that I don't read. I think it's totally unprofessional. Have the courtesy to visit my blog, read my policy, read some of my reviews and learn my name.

  3. Ohhh I think you should add: don't email the book request with 3 pdfs attached to one reviewer 5 times. No kidding. Happened last week to me. And I already said no to the first email.
    Not working at all!
    Great post!

  4. Wow - awesome post.

    The only thing I can think of to add is when requesting a review, make sure you include name of the book (yes, I've had requests that don't even include the title of the book) blurb, and a link to either your website or if you are a smaller author a link to your pub.

    And I say most importantly - keep your website updated!!

  5. Great advice, Stacy!

  6. Wow! GREAT post Stacy!!!
    I agree with everything. I've received multiple review requests from the same author for the same book even though I say 'no thank you' every time. That's kind of annoying. Why do you want me to read a book I'm almost 100% sure I won't enjoy? Do you really want me to post a review about it?
    And do make sure your book fits the blog. I got asked to review a children's book about caring for the environment while using Christian views! My blog is called 'Yummy Men & Kick Ass Chicks'! Where do you see 'suitable for children' there? lol

  7. Fab post Stacy. I would love to copy it and post to a selling forum that I chat on. It really speaks to ANYONE who's business is dependent on the public. I tell new sellers everyday to be professional. Oh, and if you are thinking of doing something and you get that indecisive twinge that feels like it may not be the best thing to do-then it probably isn't.

  8. Excellent post, Stacy. I'm going to do a tweet directing folks to it.

  9. Awesome, awesome post, Stacy! You've hit the nail on the head here with so many things. I think the biggest thing is DO NETWORK. I'm far, far more likely to read a new author whose name I recognize from Twitter or FB or other blogs.

    Develop a good online reputation, it really WILL increase your readership!

  10. Excellent post, Stacy.

    (Not that I'm doing a drive by. **cough**)

  11. Great post, Stacy! Agree with it all.

  12. Great post Stacy! You touched on every point that came to my mind.

  13. Great post! and same goes to the additional comments from the gallery here!

  14. Great post as always. You made some very valid points and I hope this post is read by authors.

  15. I have to say that I'm a little bit in love with you for writing this post.

    OMFG I can't stand it with they self-rec to the point where I roll my eyes every time I see their name... or when they overshare to the point where I gag (has happened before!)

  16. In regard to the authors' website, I wish they were mobile-friendly. (And thank you to the authors that already do this!) I'm attached to my smartphone and it frustrates me when I can't pull up the site.

    Love this post, btw!

  17. Thank you Stacy. And yes! It's very frustrating when an author at GoodReads sends you a friend request and then recommends their own books...books they have reviewed and given a five-star rating...

  18. Great post, Stacy. I agree with your points. I think authors need to put themselves in their readers' shoes when using social networking to promote their books. I can only speak for myself but I won't continue to follow authors on Twitter who only use it to promote their books and never interact with their readers.

    I've had some very odd review requests, including one from an author who said she'd send me a free copy of her book if I provided her with my most recent blog stats. This was an unsolicited review request, mind, so I found it a bit odd.

    I've also had authors/publicists ask me to review a book I've already reviewed. This is generally after they've gushed about how much they love my blog. Yeah, right. If they'd actually read it, they'd have seen that the book they were asking me to review was in one of my most recent posts.

  19. So sensible Stacy.
    Should be a working manual for all authors not just new ones. Beyond the self promotion, my biggest pet peeve is no excerpts. I won't buy a book without reading them first.

  20. Thanks, Stacy for the good advice. As a newbie on the writing scene I know what it's like to be itching to have people read your stuff, but I don't want to be one of those people who shoves it down your throat.

    I'm going to have to check out Goodreads. It sounds useful. Don't worry, I'll behave myself on there.

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