February 6, 2013 by Thomas Pluck
Self-promotion is my least favorite aspect of writing, and I know I am not alone. I’ve done it wrong before, but I am trying to get better. I have read articles on dos and don’ts and secrets and no-nos, and coupled with my Internet Dinosaur badge (1988… that makes me a young dinosaur) let me suggest the following:
If it feels wrong, don’t do it.
If you automate twitter posts to recur so many hours, I am not going to follow you or follow you back. Because I want to follow people, not town criers or newsfeeds. If all you post is essentially an RSS feed, I will instead follow your blog using my RSS reader. There is no magic number, but I try not to post a link to Protectors more than once a day, usually less often. In the past, I was not as polite, but I learned my lesson. There are twitter tools to find when the most of your followers are active. Share it then. Automate it, even. It’s once a day, who cares? As long as you communicate like a human, it won’t be obvious that you’re like a classic rock station playing “Layla” at precisely 4:32 every day.
A wiser writer than myself said that most people who follow you already buy your books and read your stories. Make them aware of new ones for a brief time, in small doses.
Do NOT send direct messages, especially canned sales pitches like “check out my webpage” or “thanks fr the follow my new book comes out next week RT plz” … this is SPAM. No one likes it. Plenty of people block folks who do this. I unfollow, even writers who I want to follow. Because I know what’s coming next, the spew of self-promotion. Do not feel compelled to follow people back. Are they interesting? Do they simply RT stuff? Listen, this isn’t a circle jerk. If you follow me just to get a follow back, please unfollow me now.
Facebook is less onerous, because if you talk politics or update your wordcount every few hours, I can unclick “Show in News Feed” and mute you. I know writing feels like hard work, but we really need to stop acting like punching in another 2000 words is worthy of discussion. Writers write. Do you write? Great, you’re a writer. We don’t need reaffirmation of this. If you need a daily affirmation- Lawrence Block stresses their importance- read his fantastic guide Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, or the excellent Break Writer’s Block Now! by Jerrold Mundis. Both will teach you how to write in an organized manner, which won’t make a few pages seem delivering a breech birth.
Only make an author page if you also are not friending everyone in sight. Pages are good for keeping personal and professional life separate. There is no point (other than ego-stroking) to invite friends to Like your author page. Friends who like your pages get to see your posts repeated 3-5 times, and again when you share them with Groups. It gets overwhelming and annoying. Also, don’t make a page for every book you write. That’s just silly, it dilutes your fan base. I made this mistake, by making an author page. If we’re friends, please feel free to unlike this page. I have a separate page for the Protect anthologies- this allows people to be alerted of a new charity anthology without having to “be friends” and share personal info with me. That is the only reason for a page on Facebook if you have fewer than 5000 friends (the max).
Mailing lists are great. But you know what? E-mailing your entire contact list, or a hidden list of writers and friends is NOT A MAILING LIST, IT IS SPAM. It’s passive-aggressive as hell, because to ask to be removed, the recipient has to tell you they don’t want to hear about your latest story/interview/baby/book/puppy fart video. You want to be a pro, act like one. Use a mailing list service. Mailchimp is one the pros love. It forces you to follow all the anti-spam laws and readers can subscribe and unsubscribe with a click. It is also free. You have no excuse. It asks for your address, so get a P.O. Box. Take some advice from pro Briane Keene’s “Writing Full Time” speech and get a P.O. Box anyway. You will want the privacy it affords you.
Blog every day! Actually, don’t. I did for years. I’d sit around thinking of what to blog. I reviewed every movie I saw. It was boring for me and for readers. Blog when you have something to say. A few times per week. Daily if you aren’t rehashing stuff you’ve said a thousand times before. I blog about a new band, a movie, a dining experience, books, and I try to interview someone at least once every two weeks. The interviews take the most time, I come up with the questions on lunch break, and I edit them and make them look pretty on another lunch break. Blogging is writing- it will sap your creative energies- but it can also inspire you and kickstart you into writing on days when the fingers just want to scratch your ass instead. (NOTICE: all employees must wash hands before writing)
I haven’t done one of those yet, but people sure love them. I don’t see a downside unless you spam about them. Don’t auto-DM people about this or your Kickstarter. They will see it in your feed when you post about it incessantly.
Well That’s Just Like Your Opinion, Man
Yes, it is. These are my opinions. Some people are better at ignoring bad Internet etiquette. And some people go on rampages to destroy people with bad ‘net manners. You don’t want them on your back. The more popular you get, the bigger chance you’ll piss one of them off.
Writers Who Do It Right™
Here are a few writers, both new and established, who in my opinion do it right: Lawrence Block, Andrew Vachss, Christa Faust, John Scalzi, Stephen Blackmoore, Karina Cooper, Christopher Moore, Roxane Gay, Ray Garton, Dan O’Shea, Mat Johnson, Charles Stross, David Brin. I have conversed with all of these writers. They don’t answer every tweet or FB comment, but they interact with writers and fans alike. They do not use their fan base as “minions” or ask questions that could be answered with a Google search. They do not spam you about their new releases, but they make you aware of them. They treat people with respect and thus get it in return. They do not circle-jerk and promote you for promoting them, or reek of desperation.
We all get excited about our work and yes, the best way to get the word out is on the Internet, but let’s do it right and not give writers a bad name. We don’t want to be lumped with Real Estate Agents at parties, do we? Are you looking to buy a house? I can get you a great deal on a mortgage *BLOCK*