Tuesday, June 12

Authors Who Sell and Repel

I've talked about an author's attitude in the past, but now I want to delve into how an author's online presence can boost or blunder their sales.

Something I love about the internet, and the world of social media, is that it gives readers an insight into what an author is like. Of course, this isn't appealing for all readers (those who like that separation and mystery) but as an aspiring author it fascinates me. However, there are things I've noticed about how authors behave online, that either escalates my interest in them and their writing or causes me to switch off.


Twitter is brilliant because you can use it for whatever purpose you wish. For writers and readers, it is a great way to connect with the goings-on of the literary world. There are so many books and authors I wouldn't know about if it weren't for twitter.

After reading the Writer's Guide to Twitter, and learning that there were such things as Twitter Parties and Twitter Chats, I realised that there was more to this tweeting thing than celebrities taking photos of their navels. Not only was it a great platform to let people know that I was alive and writing/procrastinating, it was also the hip location to find fellow readers and writers, including published authors.

I will admit that my interaction with authors on twitter has been limited, but tweeting with an author - whether about their book or just random stuff - is beyond neat. Authors actually reply to people on twitter, and if they don't, I can't fault them. I haven't replied to every tweet that's ever been sent to me.

However, there are a few twitter no-nos that I've witnessed authors commit. For instance, it is flattering to be followed by an author on twitter, but if an author follows more people than they have followers, it's a warning sign that they are trying to get more people to notice them. Alas, dear author, I do not auto-follow people.

Then there are the beautiful twitter chats I like to participate in, or at least peek in on, to see what's a-happenin'. It isn't uncommon to find authors in these literary chats, and they can provide some of the most stimulating insights into various subjects. However, there are a few that seem to pop in for the sole purpose of promoting their work.

Me: So, what good books has everyone been reading lately?

Enthusiastic: Well, I just had a book published, about dragons and princesses and exploding mimes. Here's the link.

Boisterous: I wrote one too. It's called 'I'll Have Your Garters for Guts!' Check it out! Link.

Blunt: Mine is good. Link.

Me: Uhhh...

Of course, not all authors are like this. It's also not in a trait that falls solely to self-published authors. There are plenty of writers, from all publishing backgrounds, who use twitter with wit and finesse. However, there are just some who don't understand that readers want to be talked to, not marketed at.

In conclusion, I am more likely to take a gander at your twitter bio if you have something interesting to say, than if you thrust your bosom book in my face.


A lot of people will scream and run just at the mere mention of facebook, but you cannot deny that a lot of people live there. Yes, live. You know it's true.

There are a lot of different things you can do on facebook: friend people, make groups, make likable pages, and access a bunch of different apps. It's a black hole of procrastination, but it's also good for networking.

There is a facebook group for Quill Café (shameless plug) where I sometimes link to posts, interesting sources I find, or just discuss literary and random things. While it's awesome when an author joins the group (it is for writers and readers, just as Quill Café is meant to be) and we welcome people to share their writing, when someone posts the same thing over and over again, or DOES SO IN CAPS LOCK, it's a bit abrasive.

Spammy: Hey. My book has just come out. If anyone is interested, check it out. Thanks.

Me: Oh, cool. I will!

Spammy: Hey. My book has just come out. If anyone is interested, check it out. Thanks.

Me: Accidental double post?

Spammy: Hey, just a reminder that my book has just come out.

Me: Memory lacking but not that lacking, mate.


Me: Eyesight is fine. Also, ouch goes the voice in my head.

Always remember to treat your potential readers as intelligent beings. If you wouldn't yell at them or tell them the same thing over and over again in person, why do it online?


I don't compulsively follow any author blogs, but I do enjoy them. You'd think I wouldn't, since a blog isn't as interactive as twitter or facebook, and I just gave a long-winded spiel about being "talked at," but I think blogs are pretty cool. Maybe I'm biased. This is a blog after all.

When an author is personable, without getting too personal, it is easy for the reader to be drawn to them. Sure, I don't need to know every little thing your kid does or what you had for your last meal, but as long as someone is interesting and relatable (and doesn't lash out publicly at life or specific people) I'm captivated.

Let there be no mistake that everyone is out for themselves. Too blunt? Let me elaborate. When you write something that is helpful to someone else or gives them something to think on, you offer them something and they appreciate being able to take something away from it. I don't want to say that all readers are greedy but on a subtle level they are seeking something that is of use to them. Readers aren't wandering waifs, waiting to be whisked away by your words. You need to impress, not stress.

Replying to comments on your blog is good (something I need to do a lot more) but there is no guarantee that the original poster will see it, unless they subscribe to the post in question or there is a reply option. It's all circumstantial. Replying to everyone might seem tempting, but if you copy-paste "Thanks a bunch" over and over, it can look a little spammy.

An extension of blogging is video blogging. While vlogs don't disillusion me into thinking that an author in any way acknowledges my existence, they can make me feel a more automatic connection. Seeing someone face to face, even impersonally, is engaging.

In conclusion, I think that authors who use social networking to enjoy themselves will accomplish more than those who enter social networking because they feel they need to in order to promote their writing.

I don't want to seem preachy. I'm far from perfect, and a lot of the things I've noticed have helped me to understand what I should and should not do when engaging with others through social networking.

What are some things you've noticed authors do online that made you want to read their work and what are some that made you run for the glen?


Jae said...

I haven't had any interaction with authors on social media but I have heard some horror stories. I don't know if it's because social media is still so new, but regardless, the things you outlined just seem like common sense to me. I guess once the people using these tactics realize they don't work, the'll give up on them.

Anonymous said...

Authors should not blog at the end of their careers. See mystery and YA writer Sandra Scoppottone's http://sandrascoppettone.blogspot.com. She's spent the last few years chronicling her writer's block, her loss of her editor, her backlist not appearing in stores, her final rejection by her publisher, her publisher dumping her whole list, her giving up writing, her buying used copies of her own books and struggling to scan them, and finally her occasional offers of 99-cent or free access to her titles as e-books. It's like watching a sandcastle lose to the rising tide.