Social Media Etiquette: 15 Dos and Don’ts for Authors

by Anne R. Allen

Note from Jodie: I’m just heading home from presenting at Word on the Lake Writers’ Festival all weekend (2 workshops, panel, blue pencil sessions), so humorous author and award-winning blogger AAnne Allen_e-agenne R. Allen has graced us with her wit and wisdom today. Take it away, Anne!

Thanks, Jodie. It’s a pleasure to be a guest on TKZ.

“Authors behaving badly” tends to be a hot topic on booky forums and blogs these days. A lot of people blame the indie movement, but some of the worst social media behavior I’ve seen comes from traditionally published authors who are following the dictates of their marketing departments.

Unfortunately, a lot of marketers seem to have studied their craft at the “let’s cold-call random strangers just as they sit down to dinner” school of salesmanship.

As a general rule, I feel if someone has the social graces of a rabid squirrel, he’s probably not the guy to listen to on the subject of winning friends and influencing people—which is what social media is all about.

We need to keep in mind that social media isn’t about numbers, no matter how numbers-oriented your marketing department squirrels are. Social media is about making actual friends, not about mass-“friending” a horde of random strangers.

You’ll make a lot more real friends and sell a lot more books in the long run if you heed the following dos and don’ts.

1) DO remember Tweets are casual: Never tweet a query—not to an agent, reviewer, blogger or editor.

2) DON’T post advertising on anybody’s Facebook “wall.”  A person’s wall is how they present themselves to the world. When you plaster the cover of your book on their timeline you seriously mess with their brand.

Posting on somebody’s wall is like putting a sign in the front window of their house. Don’t do it without permission. This is true for pleas to sign petitions or donate to charities, no matter how worthy the cause.

3) DO use social media to interact with people, not to broadcast a never-ending stream of “buy my book” messages.

People whose Twitter stream is the identical promo tweet over and over look like robots with OCD. They will only get followed by other compulsive robots.

Twitter is a place to give congrats to a newly agented writer here or a contest winner there. It’s a wonderful vehicle for getting quick answers to questions. Or to commiserate when you’ve had a disappointment. Or if you’ve found a great book you love, tweet it.

Social Media is a party, not a telemarketing boiler room.

4) DON’T put somebody on an email list who didn’t sign up for it. ONLY send newsletters to people you have a personal connection with, or who have specifically asked to be on your list. Lifting email addresses from blog commenters without permission is considered especially heinous. Cue Law and Order music…

5) DO use Direct Messages sparingly. And never automate DMs. Private messages are for personal exchanges with people you have a legitimate connection with—not for advertising or begging for money. The fact somebody has followed or friended you back doesn’t give you license to send them advertising through a private message. This is especially true with “thank you for the follow” messages that come with a demand to “like” your author page, visit your blog and buy your products.

6) DON’T forget to check your @ messages on Twitter several times a day and respond to them. It only takes a moment, but those are people reaching out to you. Ignoring them will negate what you’re doing on Twitter in the first place.

 7) DO change the Facebook default “email” address to your actual email address. You are on social media to connect with people. Post a reliable way to connect—which that Facebook address isn’t.

8) DON’T forget to check your “Other” Folder on Facebook regularly. People who want to contact you for legitimate reasons may contact you through a Direct Message, but if they’re not on your “friend” list, the message goes into your “other” file.

A lot of FB users don’t even know it’s there.

If you’ve never heard of it, go to your home page and click on the message button on the left side of the toolbar (It’s the one in the middle, between friend requests and notifications.) They’re semi-invisible if you don’t have anything pending, so if it’s all blank up on the left side of that blue toolbar at the top of the page, move your mouse slightly to the right of the Facebook logo in white and click around.

Mostly your “Other” file will be full of spam and hilarious messages from guys with poor language skills who think Facebook is a dating site. But nestled in there you may find a note from a fan or a fellow author who wants to co-promote or is asking you to join a blog hop or something useful. So do check it once a week or so.

9)  DO post links to your website on all your social media sites. And have your contact info readily accessible on your site! Being paranoid on social media makes your presence pointless. Even if you’re on the lam, incarcerated, and/or in the Witness Protection Program, you need to be reachable if you want a career. Use a pen name and get a dedicated email address where you can be reached at that Starbucks in Belize. 

10) DON’T “tag” somebody unless they’re actually in the picture. This is an unpleasant way some writers try to get people to notice their book or Facebook page. They’ll post their book cover or some related photo (or worse, porn) and “tag” 50 random people so they’ll all get a notification.

But here’s the thing: a tag means a person is in the photo. Full stop. Yes, you may get a person’s attention with this—but not in a good way. Remember you’re trying to get people to like you, not wish for you to get run over by a truck.

11) DO Network with other writers in your genre. Joining up with other authors to share fans and marketing is one of the reasons you’re on social media. You’re not here to sell to other authors, but you are here to pool your resources.

12) DON’T thank people for a follow, especially on Twitter. It may seem like bad manners, but the truth is most people on Twitter and FB would prefer you DON’T thank them for a follow. That’s because those thank-yous have become 99% spam. If your inner great aunt won’t let you rest without sending a thank-you note for every follow, send it in an @ tweet.

If you actually want to show gratitude, retweet one of their tweets. Then maybe they’ll thank YOU and you can get a conversation going. 

13) DO talk about stuff other than your book. Yes, we’re all here because we want to sell books, but social media is not about direct sales. It’s about getting to know people who might help you make a sale sometime in the future. Consider it a Hollywood cocktail party. You don’t launch into your audition piece every time you’re introduced to a film executive. You schmooze. You tell them how great their last picture was. You find them a refill on the champagne. You get them to LIKE you. Then you might get asked to audition in an appropriate place.

14) DO Read the directions. If you’re invited to join a group, and you’re instructed to put links to your books only in certain threads, do so.  Anything else will be treated as spam and you could get kicked out of the group. And don’t dominate any site with your personal promos, even if it isn’t expressly forbidden in the rules. Taking more than your share of space is rude. People don’t like rude.

15) DON’T ever respond to a negative review or disrespect a reviewer online.

  • Not in the Amazon or Goodreads comments.
  • Not on your Facebook page
  • Not on their blog.
  • Or yours.

And especially don’t Tweet it.

If you get a nasty, unkind review, step away from the keyboard. Go find chocolate. And/or wine. Call your BFF. Cry. Throw things. Do NOT turn on your computer until you’re over it. Except maybe to see these scathing reviews of great authors. Getting a bad review means you’ve joined a pretty impressive club.

If you break this rule, you can face serious consequences. So many authors have behaved badly in the past that Amazon has sprouted a vigilante brigade that can do severe damage to your career if you get on their poop list.

In my forthcoming mystery novel, SO MUCH FOR BUCKINGHAM: The Camilla Randall Mysteries #5, an author breaks this rule and ends up being terrorized—online and off—with death and rape threats, destruction of her business, hacking her accounts, and other horrors.

This isn’t so farfetched. I know authors who have gone through this, for much smaller offenses than my heroine. There are some terrifying vigilantes in the book world who don’t just fight fire with fire. They fight a glow-stick with a nuclear bomb.

So ignore these rules at your peril, or you could be designated a “Badly Behaving Author” and become another of their victims.

What about you? Have you been making any of these faux pas? (I’m not going to claim I haven’t. We were all newbies once.) Do you have any funny “Other” folder encounters you want to share? Any do’s and don’ts of your own would you’d like to add? 

Anne R. Allen is an award-winning blogger and the author of eight comic novels Anne Allen_ARA roseincluding the bestselling Camilla Randall Mysteries, plus a collection of short fiction and poetry. She’s also co-author of How to be a Writer in the E-Age: a Self-Help Guide, with NYT bestseller Catherine Ryan Hyde.

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Social Media Marketing Made Easy


Since the launch of my e-books I’ve been getting emails from author friends, some of whom are flummoxed or annoyed about the whole social media marketing thing. These are established writers, too, who feel under pressure to Tweet this and Facebook that, and blog the other thing. All of which takes time away from what they want to do most — write fiction.
And then there are the newbies, who are being told You have to have a platform even before you have a book, which always seems like telling a Sea Scout he has to build a boat before he can go to the beach.
It’s a real concern, because too much stress and attention put on self-promotion and marketing can actually have an adverse affect on your writing, and even your personal life. You can take away some of this pressure away if you look at options that will enable you to have a large following on platforms like Instagram such as using the help offered by Buzzoid. Going to https://buzzoid.com/buy-instagram-followers/ could prove to be a fruitful venture for you. OTOH, an author does need to get in the game in some way. There are of course ways you can streamline the process – we’ve all spent countless hours choosing the perfect character name, but luckily that doesn’t have to be the case for social media. Tools like this instagram username generator can streamline the process, so you can get back to worrying about the umpteenth supporting character you’re just about to introduce.


So what’s the balance? What follows are some tips for getting a foothold in social media marketing. They seem to work for me, so do with them what you will.
1. Specialize
Don’t try to be active on every possible platform. You’ll end up diluting your effectiveness in each. Instead, choose two or three and get really good at it.
For me, it’s primarily blogging (here at TKZ) and Twitter. I find the substance of blogging once a week, and the real time of Twitter each day, the perfect blend. On occasion I drop into other blogs and comment if I feel I have something to add to the discussion. I do have a Facebook author page.
I do an occasional video, like this one on writing advice.
The smartest social media guy I know, Thomas Umstattd of Author Tech Tips, says, “It is much better to specialize. Seth Godin does not do Twitter or Facebook. He just has the most popular blog ever. Be faithful in a few areas and then you will be ready to be faithful in many areas.”
2. Don’t Be Like Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross
Remember the famous Glengarry Glen Ross speech delivered by Alec Baldwin? “ABC – Always Be Closing!” The hard sell, all the time.
Not in social media. If it’s always about you and your books, it gets tiresome fast. You may think you’re doing a numbers game, like sales folk, who cold call with the same script over and over until they land a fish. At the very least, use a service like Just Deliver It to streamline the process.
In social media, the key word is “social” as in “relating to or designed for activities in which people meet each other for beneficial exchange.”
Don’t be repetitive, sending the same tweet or message over and over again: Please follow me on my fan page. Followed a day later by, Please follow me on my fan page. You might as well type Apply directly to the forehead because that’s what people will want to do with the headache you’ve given them.
Try to give each message a unique spin or angle. You’re a writer, aren’t you? Prove it.
3. Use the 80/20 Rule
Spend 80% of your social media time focusing outward. Interact with people. Provide good content. Link to other sites and articles of value. Be personable. Make people glad they have you on their list of people to read.
Use only 20% of the time to “sell” something. And even when you do, don’t make it a generic “Buy my stuff” (BMS) kind of thing. If you do BMS over and over again, people are going to tire of you and find ways to avoid your posts.
Instead, always provide some sort of reason people should buy your stuff. Maybe it’s the launch, which you can announce winsomely and with a little panache. Or a contest. Or you’re providing some proof of value (such as a clip of a review). You can be clever in how you word things. Anything but “Buy my stuff!”
4. Don’t Hurt Your Writing Time or Your Life
If you find your social media presence detracting from your writing time and your ability to produce quality words, cut back. If you’re on Facebook more than you’re with your family, check your priorities. This stuff isn’t as important as either of those two things.
5. Don’t Sweat It
No one knows what works. In fact, even the stuff that works doesn’t work all the time. This is a fluid and un-measurable sea we’re in. So find a good balance, provide quality, be consistent and be patient.
Most of all write great books. That’s the key to repeat business, which is what makes a career.
So what about you and the social media scene? What are you doing that works? What frustrates you?

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The Reality of Book Promotion

Joe Moore’s post yesterday on the effectiveness of book signings made me think about what does and doesn’t work as far as book promotion goes. With each book release, I try new things, ditch what doesn’t work and constantly look for cost effective ways to reach the largest number of readers. For my debut young adult release, I had a marketing strategy to launch IN THE ARMS OF STONE ANGELS that encompassed four pages of a varied promo effort directed at indie stores, libraries, professional organizations, online social media, my mailing list, etc.

Book promotion has changed over the years and the developments are coming even faster as we trend up in the digital world. I have an e-reader now too, which has drastically changed how I buy books and how I hear about novels that interest me. So how does the average author today promote their own book in this evolving business?

This usually translates to online promotion since it’s free (except for the time you put into it). Focusing your marketing and branding efforts online can be an effective means to get the word out to the right people. On my recent summer read tour with fellow Texas YA authors, we had a tour blog set up a couple of months prior to our events that garnered thousands of hits and counting. Old school thinking on group signings is how many books did you sell. New school thinking is about exposure, perception, name recognition and the number of online hits you get before, during, and after the event if it’s promoted effectively online.

A book signing might have ad promo and get people to come see you, but the exposure is greater online where a website’s traffic can be hundreds or thousands of hits a day with the post continuing to get hits even after the book signing event is over. And with a reader already online, they can click on a link and buy your book, or download a sample on their e-reader that might entice them to buy the rest of your novel. This doesn’t mean the book signing is dead. It just means authors have choices on how they spend their time. And some ingenious folks have devised a way for authors to digitally sign a photo taken at the event or their actual e-book. (Here’s one LINK on that.)

Online Marketing I’ve Found Effective:

1.) A professional looking website or blog – Blogs are free if money is tight and you can share the work by putting together a group blog, like TKZ. My website designer – xuni.com – specializes in authors. For great examples of websites with cool navigation, check out her portfolio.

2.) Twitter – Get to know your regional review bloggers. They can be great support.

3.) Other Social Media – I hate Facebook for many reasons, but there are other sites that could be more effective. I’m trying Tumblr now.

4.) Goodreads – If you don’t have an author page here, why not? It’s free and you can link your blog to your Goodreads author page to keep material fresh without much effort. Any Goodreads member is a reader and your target audience.

5.) Amazon Author Central – Did you know that you can update your own author/book page for reviews, book endorsement blurbs, post book trailer videos, etc.? If your brand is important to you, you may want to take control of your author page.

The simple truth is that most authors won’t see a great deal of promotion dollars from their publishers. You’d think that if a house were taking on a new author and book that they would include a certain amount of money geared for promotion, but the reality is that the publisher spends generic dollars on promoting their line of books or other authors’ work and hope readers will notice your book in the process. They rely on the author doing their own promotion. It’s quite conceivable that the average author will spend more to promote their book than their publisher will, especially given that houses are tightening up on advances and other expenses.

So as authors look seriously at self-publishing and e-books, it’s real tempting to cut back on the time consuming and resource depleting efforts to promote that detracts from the time you have to write. Time literally is money in this empowering new future, but having online marketing supports your digital sales. Many might think that simply having your book available for purchase online is enough and that money will roll in. For the average author, this simply isn’t the case. You have to try things to see if they work for you. Traditional houses are watching the self-published authors with solid sales and offering them contracts because they have a readership and a marketing platform that will come along with them. When I first sold, I had no idea how important my own marketing would become. Self-published authors today will know more than I did when I sold, but they will also have to weigh how important it will be for them to sell traditionally if it means giving up control of their copy rights and business decisions.

In my opinion, the number one best thing you can do—whether you get published traditionally or go the self-published route—is to write a good book. And in either case, you’ll need to build a readership, people who like what you do and will come back for more. Online promotion on various fronts is a good way to get the word out in a cost effective manner to tap into a marketplace of the savvy readers we have today.

For discussion, I’d love to hear. How do you find out about books you want to buy these days? And how important is it for you, as a reader, to make a connection with the author either online or in person? What are your favorite ways to do this?

Specifically for authors—aspiring, self-published, or traditionally published—what methods of promotion have you found most helpful? (Yes, aspiring authors should weigh in. Having an online website/blog presence is important for you, too.)

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FACEBOOK IS HERE TO STAY: A Great Medium For Free Exposure

By: Kathleen Pickering

I have seen three TV shows in the past week where characters mentioned Facebook. This fact cements in my mind that Facebook as a media tool is here to stay. So, my question is: Are you still not on Facebook?

If you’re like my mother, you are not, and never will be, on Facebook. (That’s a story for another time.) However, if you are a curious planet dweller with a story to tell, Facebook is a phenomenon not to be missed. It is the perfect tool for authors or artist of any sort. The ability to reach millions of people for free, and as personably as humanly possible on the Internet, creates an outrageous boon every author needs: Contacts! Lots of ‘em!

Writing Facebook BuddiesAuthor friends and fellow Facebook Buddies. Top L to R: Allison Chase, Nancy Cohen, Linda Conrad, Kathleen Pickering, Heather Graham. Bottom L to R: Traci Hall, Marcia King Gamble, Michael Meeske.

For those of us on Facebook, here are some quick tips I have learned to enhance your “Tribe” of friends:

For making friends:

When you offer and/or accept friend requests always add a note to the request, i.e., “Thank you for the friendship. Feel free to visit me at http://….” (or mention the topic that connects you as friends.)

Create Groups:

Build a tribe of your own with chat groups to discuss items relating to your business or areas of interests shared on Facebook. Go to your Message section and click on the “Groups” tab on the RH side. Then, click “Create Group” on the top. Send the group invitation to everyone on your Friends List. Be consistent with your Tribe with regular contact. Use your Group/ Tribe solely for relationship building and providing value to your group. Send them links to your blogs and videos. Note: Only promote business once per month, maximum. Your group is not for marketing; it is to establish you as an expert in your field.

Create Events:

When holding an on-line or on-site event and want to attract attendees, create this link. It is important that YOU be the Event Leader. It sets you apart as creative and reliable. Again, the Events link is found in the Message Section. Be sure to add an email contact for RSVP or inquiries. This is a great tool for building contact information. Tip: If you know how to build a Caputre Page for email captures, do not give the link to the event. Instead, set up a Capture Page for email captures to build your mailing list, then give the link to the event.

Tag Photos/Videos:

Take the time to “Tag” your friends in your uploaded photos/videos. This sends a direct link to their Facebook page as well as posts the photo/video on your profile page.

Create A Fan/Business Page:

Where your Facebook page is your social activity, your Fan Page is your business face. Both pages can be linked. (See Help Section under “Account”.)

Ideally, no more than 30 minutes per day should be all you need–either in the morning with your coffee or end of day before closing down business. If you cannot update daily, set a schedule that will work for you. They key: be consistent.

The more YOU reach out, the more you will attract visitors. Birthday announcements appear daily on Home page (right hand side). Send birthday greetings. (Stand apart from the crowd and use your computer’s camera to send a video and personalize your good wishes!) Respond with a quick reply to others’ posts, as well. You’ll enjoy the interaction as much as your friends.

Bottom Line: Facebook is your chance to shine and be recognized as unique among many by keeping a personal touch in the world of commerce. I have even gone so far as to place a Kathleen Pickering Welcome Video on my YouTube channel inviting folks to visit my Facebook page.

I invite you to visit me at http://www.facebook.com/kathleenpickering. Let’s be friends! If you know any Facebook tips, I’d love to hear them!

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