Authors behaving badly

This is a subject I see talked about a lot. It’s more prevalent than most people would think and it’s quite hard to know what to do about it, if anything. With the explosion of social media in the last decade, publishing may be infinitely easier, but so is irritating your readers.

There’s an agent I follow on Twitter who frequently tweets about the outrageous things that people say in their query letters. As much as I’m amused by it, I can’t help but wonder what on earth the authors were thinking. They’re trying their very hardest to find representation but don’t see the problem with rambling monologues or bizarre statements, often full of spelling mistakes. This total lack of awareness of what they’re saying and doing, and the effect it has on their sales is almost frightening. Crafting a book takes time, editing and a certain level of filtering and polish. Surely people can see that your public image needs to be the same? Think about what you’re saying and if you don’t want to feel like you’re always on guard, set up separate official accounts for your author persona and make everything else private to family and friends.

Tantrums are another thing you see quite a lot of. Authors responding badly to negative reviews is a common problem. We all get them, those strange one star reviews that don’t seem justified. As much as I try not to, I always end up reading them and the truth is that it does hurt. I’m more thick skinned now and I like to think I deal with them with grace (ie I ignore the hell out of them!), but I’ve watched other authors go through it and some have responded aggressively to people who diss their books. The thing is, we’re all entitled to an opinion. Ranting at someone isn’t going to change their mind. What’s worse is that responding in such a way attracts trolls and, before you know it, you’ve got a flame war burning down your timeline. It’s not worth it. Walk away. Leave them alone and use your energy encouraging the readers that do love your work. They’re the ones who will appreciate it. Even if a review isn’t justified, just walk away. Good writing will speak for itself, much louder than one disgruntled customer. You can’t please everyone and you shouldn’t even try.

As an addendum to the above paragraph, I’ve seen a lot of authors just withdraw books all together. I even read one yesterday that stated she was never writing again. The idea of that is just alien to me. A life without writing is just…barren. It’s a life I wouldn’t want to live. I just can’t comprehend that response. If people are sending you hate mail, just block them and report it. There’s no point letting it hurt you because that’s just letting them win. You’re never going to beat the pirates. You’re never going to enlighten the idiots. Withdrawing books is only going to hurt two factions – you and your genuine readers. The people that love your work are going to suffer all the more for the withdrawal of your books, simply for the sake of one or two troublemakers. You will lose out on the thing that you love, as well as the revenue that the pirates don’t manage to steal. You’re cutting your nose off to spite your face. And if you’re simply threatening to withdraw them or stop writing as a publicity stunt, think very carefully about the damage you’re doing to your image. People will see you as petulant and immature and it does a lot of damage to any respect or credibility you hold. I don’t need to repeat the story of the boy who cried wolf.

Specific to social media is this habit of blanketing everyone with marketing posts. I have to admit that I’m a lot more judgemental about it than most would be, but I have pet hates and a zero tolerance policy for them. If your feed is full of nothing except promo and marketing, I won’t follow you. If I follow you on Twitter and get an automatic DM either with sales info or a demand to verify myself, I won’t follow you. If people have looked you up it’s because they’re already a fan, so they don’t need to have you rammed down their throat every ten minutes. Post when you have new books out or events that are happening, and try to only do it twice a day at most, interspersed with personal messages. Think about the time zones you’re aiming for and aim it for maximum readership

My current big peeve is something that happened to me the day before yesterday, but has actually happened three times before. I had a private message to my Facebook author page saying “Hi, I’m author [name removed]. I’ve liked your page, please like mine. It’s here…”. Call me jaded, but I actually checked and said author hadn’t liked my page at all. I’m sorry, but that’s just plain rude. Lying to get followers is not cool, especially when you’re “cold-calling” other authors who are just as busy as you are. I’m not sure if she genuinely thought I wouldn’t realise.

It’s called social media for a reason. You should be enjoying the opportunity to speak with your fans and tell them what you’re about. It’s the special moments where someone tells you how much you’ve moved them that make all the late nights plodding away at the keyboard so worth it. It’s the lives you touch, the people you make smile/cry/laugh/FEEL that are what social media is all about. Answer questions. Be available. Talk to your fans, don’t preach at them. I have no objections to people writing to me or posting on my feed. I’m even open to requests to visit book club pages or like author pages. Just make the effort to get to know me first, or at least contribute equally to what you’re demanding.

I’m going to round off this post with an article that I think encapsulates all of what I’ve tried to say above. All I have left to remark is that Bill and Ted gave some great advice – “Be excellent unto each other”.

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