Recently, a bestselling author reached out to me asking if I would post something for her anonymously. She was uber frustrated with what she saw other authors doing on social media. I felt like she raised several great points and then I polled numerous prominent authors and asked them what they see authors doing poorly on social media. You know- the mistakes that make other writers cringe and whisper to each other, “I wish someone would tell them…” but no one ever does. Make these mistakes a few times and people let it go. But over and over again and readers are alienated, fellow authors become less supportive and you may even see your followers decline.
Before we go there and you picture yourself on the Author Wall of Shame, let me point out numerous authors who totally “get” social media and are doing it right.
The Authors on Social Media Hall of Fame
Karen White- Look at her Facebook page here. It’s professional with a touch of personal thrown in. You can see all of her books, get on her mailing list (every author needs a mailing list), see upcoming events, buy her books and enter giveaways. This is an example of the Cadillac of Author Facebook Pages. You also get a great taste of Karen’s humor and personality.
Diane Chamberlain– Look at her Facebook page here. Diane interacts with her readers constantly. She polls and asks for help with character names, etc. Again, all of her events are listed here as are giveaways. Basically, you cannot help but love Diane if you follow this page.
Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke- They are funny, young and hip. They hosted a Pop Up Party for their recent release and clearly had as much fun throwing the party as those who attended. Their Facebook is here and Instagram here. They promote other authors constantly by sharing what they are personally reading every week.
Kristy Harvey– Kristy is a design professional AND a Southern authors. She combines her love of both in her social media. Kristy especially rocks Twitter, promoting herself and other authors without seeming Twitter tacky. See her Twitter feed here.
So without further ado, authors, here are the social media missteps you should avoid or stop immediately, as mentioned by your colleagues (the use of the pronoun “I” below is taken directly from the author who offered the comment)
- Sending a Facebook or Twitter message like “Check out my new book here and tell me what you think”. No hello, no nice to meet you just an abrupt Check out this…. Not good! Automatic Twitter messages when someone follows, asking to check out their website or Facebook or Amazon page. Those drive me CRAZY, and they do absolutely NOTHING for the author except annoy.
2. Stop talking about your print runs, earning out and your Amazon rankings. Even n author groups, this is annoying. Saying “Oh my goodness, my book is in its eighth print run,” means nothing without knowing the size or the print run. Earning out is meaningless without knowing the advance. And Amazon rankings are just a moment in time. Plus, even if these did quantify real success, they engender hard feelings. Writers who have done better will look at xx print run as trifling and those who have smaller print runs will resent you.
3. Not everyone is that prominent author’s BFF (you know the one)– Stop sucking up to bigger writers and celebs or at least stop telling us about it or blatantly doing it on social media. Don’t get me wrong – going fangirl on a favorite author or celeb is fun and if you can get Reese Witherspoon to take a picture with your book on Amazon it is well worth it. But the rest of it doesn’t matter – standing next to a famous author doesn’t make you one. Or as Joan Cusack said in Working Girl, “Sometimes I sing and dance around the house in my underwear. Doesn’t make me Madonna. Never will.”
4. Stop posting pictures of your glamorous lifestyle. You know who I mean: the writers that post photos of their opulent lake house and bemoan arduous meetings with the decorator. Because many of the people reading those posts, authors and readers alike, are struggling to make ends meet. You are alienating them by being tone deaf (and some folks at least will take you less seriously as a writer.)
5. Stop bemoaning how busy you are. We are all busy, and most of the people reading your posts are working one if not two jobs, raising kids and taking care of parents. And the way we earn a living is a lot more pleasant than a good percentage of the country.
6. Watch Your Twitter Feed– On twitter, do NOT post a constant stream of the same promo without changing verbiage. New authors forget that social media is Social, meaning that they are talking to people. Even if you do a scheduled tweet it can sound personal and creative.
7. Posting all of your media hits. As fans, readers, supporters, we’re thrilled that the media is shining a big spotlight on your hard work. However, it’s not the most interesting content. When you post a media clip to social media, it’s important to preface it with something more, something personal, something that says, “this is less about me and more about why you should know me, why you should read me.”
8. Don’t Besmirch Your Readers– I don’t like it when an author badmouths a reader online for a poor review. Nobody likes to have their work slammed, but the reader bought the right to say what they want when they bought the book. It belittles all authors when you attack a reader. Rise above!
9. Respond and Interact- I’m amazed at how many authors don’t take the time to respond to comments and/or questions on their pages. It takes two seconds to type “thank you,” how hard can it be? I also hate the “buy my book, buy my book!!” posts that come too often; occasional ones are a necessary evil (esp around a launch), but they should be interspersed with more personal posts and presented with a personality that reflects your brand
10. Not supporting other authors. Some authors seem to think that readers only want one book, and don’t have voracious appetites. Spread the love! Readers read a lot!! J.A. Konrath has a great quote about this, which I will now butcher: it’s a big boat, start pulling people up.
11. Enough About Your Book. And of course, a lot of authors talk about their book too much. It’s like: join the conversation. Talk about other stuff. Post about things in your wheelhouse, not just your book in particular. It can get really tedious.
12. Tone. Too familiar, too formal, it’s really hard to strike that balance. And some people are negative nellies. That sucks too. Tone matters!!
13. Using social media for self-promotion and nothing else. Self-promotion is fine and necessary, but needs to be balanced with forming personal relationships with readers, showing our interests outside of the literary world, and supporting other authors in their endeavors.
14.Using instagram like Facebook. Each social media outlet is different. In Facebook you can post multiple photos and make it an album. But not on Instagram.…you shouldn’t photo bomb the instagram feed with 10 photos of your book event at the same time…pick one and post it, then later, post another.
15. No Double Posting– No need to post on your personal page AND your author page. We get it!
16. Begging– Please do not beg for reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Begging shows desperation. Readers do NOT need to know that you need 20 reviews to be able to do Bookbub.
So what should authors do on social media?
- Remember the cardinal rule– If you wouldn’t say it to an actual human standing in front of you at a party or networking event, don’t say it on social media.
2. Tell us your big news: if you hit the NYT bestseller list, score a film deal or an awesome new contract, we want to hear about it (even if we might hate you a little bit, we’re still really glad.) Share the little victories too, the hard chapter written or revision completed.
3. Share the struggle. I’m talking about both the creative and business sides, because let’s face it, we are all there at some point sooner or later. Knowing others are in the trenches makes us feel less alone. And readers can connect your struggle to those in their own lives.
4. Share your events. If they are upcoming, readers will in that city will want to know. Post photos of your past events (including skypes) and tag readers if you are able (they love it!) Plus it subtly let’s folks know you are available for bookings. Link to the Events Page on your website. It causes your fans to leave Facebook and go check out your website.
5. Be generous in promoting other writers. Shout their new releases. Tweet about the books you are reading. This book business is not a zero-sum game. And if you find your tribe, the benefits will be thousand-fold.
6. Use Your Publicist. Ask your publicist to promote you on the publisher’s social media channels which are much larger than your own. It is always better when someone else brags about you versus doing it yourself! They are there to help you. Quit complaining that they didn’t get you into People Magazine and let them do their job to promote you! They will absolutely help you IF you communicate with them. Don’t just expect them to anticipate what you are thinking. CALL your publicist!
I hope these tips have been helpful to you! I promise NOT to reveal my sources as long as you authors keep sending me great books!
What are you reading and where are you going?