How to hate an author in five easy steps

First of all, please stop by Celeste Jones’ book club discussion of Desire in Any Language today. This discussion is amazing! She has a few great questions about F/F, reading F/F…and I am finding out that I was the first F/F reading experience for more people than I thought! I’m flattered and a bit nervous at the same time. I worry whether Mira’s tutor is so perfect that now every character after her will be held to the same standard.

Today I’m going talk about ways that authors screw up. Turn off their audience. Become relegated to the “do not reply” slush pile of emails and requests. I have met many more wonderful authors than lemons in this journey toward establishing a writing career, but some of the lemons have been bad enough experiences to alienate me from the author and the author’s work.

Bottom line: There are millions of authors out there hoping to get noticed. If you make people hate you, there are 9,999,999 (margin of error of plus or minus a few thousand) other hopeful authors who will happily take your place.

Anthea Jane has written a wonderful, insightful blog post on how to promote books (she says indie, but it can be true for anyone). Regarding blog commenting, she says:

Don’t make it an opportunity to promote your book, just make thoughtful comments that relate to the article, and make sure your signature contains a link back to your book or website.Β  [. . .] You have to read the article so that your comment can be relevant. Otherwise it will look like an obvious cheap attempt to put a link back to your blog. Your comments should add to the discussion. [. . .] Don’t put in a plug for your book.

Well said, Anthea Jane. Very well said. Which brings me to my first point:

1. MAKE EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU. MENTION YOUR BOOK(S) EVERY TIME YOU OPEN YOUR MOUTH (OR TYPE).

Facebook posts. Replies. Blog comments. Tweets. Emails.

Everyone has experienced the nauseating parents who will NOT shut up about their nauseatingly perfect children doing nauseatingly perfect things. How often do you deliberately seek out their company, purely for the enjoyment of spending time with them?

Or what about your friend who just got a new boy/girlfriend and manages to work in a “Susie/Scotty says” reference into every single conversation? Are you thrilled at each reference and eager to learn more?

I thought not.

It’s a good rule of thumb that, unless you have been invited to do a guest blog/promo spot, you should treat people’s blogs as their homes and skip the self-promo. Their home; their rules. Same with their Facebook page or other social media sites. If someone visits my page or blog only to insert a reference to his or her own book every other sentence…or if that person only ever posts to promote his or her own work, I stop engaging.

Yes, it is true that as an author of a book you are absolutely certain that your book relates to the discussion and absolutely certain that everyone else is as fascinated with it as you are, but the sad truth is that few people enjoy relentless advertising. Think back to that nauseating parent who is sure that everyone must be fascinated with the latest tale of Susie’s latest amazing exploit, remember how you rolled your eyes and vowed never to get stuck in a conversation with this person again…and you will get a taste for how people react to authors who only talk about their own books.

We get it. You’re excited. But remember that everyone else is just as excited as you…about his or her own book.

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2. ONLY SHOW UP/CONTACT PEOPLE IF YOU NEED SOMETHING. DON’T DIRECTLY STATE THAT’S WHY YOU’RE CONTACTING THEM.

Call me old-fashioned, but I like relationships. I like honesty, integrity, and above all I like someone to be interested in me (don’t we all?) as a person rather than as a conduit for advertising.

If you only want to contact someone to advertise your book or to serve as a platform for you to mention your own book, it should be a paid service.

If you’re going to make me your call girl, I want to get paid like one.

There are some people who are consistent about their contact, and they ask for help in promoting. In that case, I am pleased to be asked and pleased to help–when it is phrased as a direct, clear request rather than something sneaky. When authors only post in groups and blogs right before or after a book release (and I never hear from them otherwise, and they only post about their own books or books associated with them), I tend to write them off. (Pun not intended.)

If you become a trusted colleague and even a friend, I will do anything for you. One loyal friend in the author world is worth one hundred acquaintances who tolerate your self-promo only long enough to make sure that they get their own turn to promote themselves.

Make relationships, not sales.

A sale is over in one day. A relationship, if you are lucky, will last you throughout your career.

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3. ENGAGE IN NEGATIVITY. DO NOT WALK AWAY! YOU MUST PROVE THAT YOU ARE RIGHT.

As grown-ups, and there are fewer than biological age might otherwise indicate, we come to a conclusion that would have shocked us in childhood:

People have different, equally valid perspectives and opinions.

Someone might misunderstand something you have said or written. Someone might post an unflattering review, say something unkind, or perhaps even begin a smear campaign.

While I have sympathy for people who receive these kinds of responses, I quickly become frustrated when authors then turn the occasion into a spitting match.

I have seen people post negative things about me and my work. I have read public messages that accused me of things that I did not do, or they distorted the actions and assumed intentions that were not there. I have been on the receiving end of snarky, mean-spirited comments that served no purpose.

I’m not talking about a thoughtful, intelligent critique that says my book sucks for reasons that the critiquer then outlines. Although that kind of critique is painful, I have received strong criticism that I incorporated into my work to make it even better. If I can win over a naysayer, I count it as an enormous victory.

But to engage in flame wars and drag something out makes you lose credibility as a professional.

Protect your name and your reputation. While there may be certain cases severe enough that you do need to post a public clarification, engaging in negativity will nearly always make you look like a donkey.

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4. GIVE ORDERS. AFTER ALL, YOU NEED TO MINIMIZE YOUR EFFORT AND MAXIMIZE YOUR RETURNS.

It’s another funny thing about being a grown-up. The things we learned in kindergarten really are true.

I host Fika. I hosted the Advent Calendar last year and plan to do it again this year. I’ve been the contact person/coordinator for Love Spanks and Spank or Treat. We hope to bring you another event in the summer. I truly love it. It is such a joy that at times I have to remind myself to go back to my “real” writing. However, there are always a few lemons who seem to confuse “request” with “order”. I would say that I make a sincere effort to give back to the reader and author community.

However, some people seem to think that they are entitled to my services, not because we are friends or because we have built up a professional working relationship, but because I (pick one or more) am a woman, write about women, write spanking fiction, have done similar things for other people in the past, have worked hard to build up a blog following, have published two books…or who knows what else.

When I receive a short note commanding me to do this or that (whether it’s to follow someone on Twitter, retweet, add someone to an event, promote his/her book, vote in a contest, like an author Facebook page, visit a blog, buy a book, or anything else), very rarely do I respond. More frequently, I unfriend or unfollow the person. If there are reasons why I can’t do that, I certainly don’t like or buy or visit.

Up to a certain point, letting people know is fine. Getting back to the parenthood and dating example again, if your child is getting baptized or performing in a recital…or if you are getting engaged or going on a special trip…I want to know. I would be hurt if I did not. The difference is whether you tell someone close to you or randomly spam 5,000 people on every social media site.

Remember those emails telling you to wire money to Nigeria or to enlarge a body part that you don’t own? You don’t want to become relegated to the same category.

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5. FORGET THE FOLLOW-UP. AFTER ALL, YOU HAVE MORE IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO.

The truth is that there are many wonderful, generous, kind, and intelligent people out there. The “conventional wisdom” of “Circles that are only authors promoting each other are worthless” is not true, particularly for new authors. I slid into writing from the back door, so I was lucky enough to have readers and followers. Maybe not enough to turn The Vengeance of Mrs. Claus and Desire in Any Language into instant bestsellers, but I had some. (I adore each and every one of you! Thank you!)

While I consider myself extremely lucky to get to talk with readers, I also am lucky to be connected with other authors who can help me out with questions about submissions, anthology calls, formatting, publication procedures, and especially to get tips on which publishers, reviewers, and advertisers might be worth my time.

That network also includes discussion of which authors are gracious colleagues…and which fall into the categories listed above.

If someone invites you or allows you to visit a blog, show up and comment. Thank the person afterward. If someone hosts your book as part of a giveaway or other promotion, visit the person’s site or blog. If you find something that would be helpful, share it with others.

As I said in my recent interview with Blushing: Be real, be honest, and be true. It’s hard enough to make it in the publishing world already. Epublishing has opened the market to new writers in new fields, but it has also meant that authors need to work that much harder to get noticed even after getting published. Treasure the connections you make, show your appreciation for those who have helped you, and never be afraid to help out someone who can’t do anything in return.

Oh, and the people who are only nice in order to get what they want?

We call that manipulation.

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Anyone can write a book. But can you be an author…without making people hate you?

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40 thoughts on “How to hate an author in five easy steps

  1. Sophie Sansregret says:

    A excellent post, even if you DO threaten me with The Elf. I rarely contact authors to visit Evolved when they follow those five rules you mention above. Why? Because clearly they have it all figured out and don’t need MOI.

    xox

    Like

  2. minellesbreathMinelle says:

    I think I am still stuck on the thought of you as a call girl! Sorry I couldn’t resist.

    You have some wonderful insights. Everything you stated can be applied to any relationship. It is about respect, care and consideration.

    Like

  3. Patricia Green says:

    It’s very easy to fall into the “everyone else is doing it” trap, but just like Mother told you in fifth grade, if they jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do that, too? Unfortunately, we get into self-defeating habits as humans. Occasionally, that makes other people bristle. I have found that saying a word or two about why you’re rejecting that person (or their request) yields fairly reasonable results. You are a kind person, Ana. You probably do that even more than you give yourself credit for. πŸ™‚

    Like

    • Ana says:

      The thing is, these kinds of interactions seem to pay off in the short term. There are also big-name authors who do these kinds of things, and perhaps it works for them because they have a large and loyal enough following to pull it off.

      I find it frustrating when people interact in these ways because in a normal sense I would love to help. I sure didn’t get anywhere without a lot of help from some wonderful others.

      Like

      • Patricia Green says:

        It’s a shame when someone gives herself a black eye. But you’re so right; it does appear that the individuals that behave that way are the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. I have a friend who’s primary social networking purpose is marketing. The thing is, she’s super-successful, so why should she learn to use less of a sales pitch? When you see that going on, you have to say…..hmmmm.

        Like

        • Ana says:

          I think that for many people, being successful allows them to behave in the way they like. People may not like it, but they can’t argue with success. There are people who hate nearly any successful business, but it still works.

          I hope that there is success waiting for kinder, gentler people. πŸ˜€

          Like

  4. Celeste Jones says:

    Excellent points, Ana. A good reminder for all of us. Being a bit cynical, though, I have to wonder if the people who really need to read this will figure out what they are doing to annoy others?

    Like

    • Ana says:

      I know. And there are others who go the other way…never promoting themselves even when it would be a good idea.

      And true. Maybe no one will read this who needs it, but I wanted to write it anyway.

      Like

  5. Joelle Casteel says:

    Wonderful article, Ana! All very good points. I like how much interaction with this community started off with me as a reader; it was a few months before “author” really came into play. I can see in some of your points where I’ve been struggling with my Master recently- I feel He just doesn’t understand the differences between the publishing industry and the artist/costumer etc that He knows from making chainmaille things and selling them at sci-fi conventions. While a dear friend proofed “Night” for me, I’m hoping to offer her $50 to proof the next book when it’s ready. He said to me though “Why don’t use just proof it yourself?” I decided when He was about to leave for work was not the time to continue the conversation though lol

    Like

    • Ana says:

      I had to proofread/copyedit my own manuscript once, and it was 72 hours of nonstop terror. But at the same time, I used that last re-read to add little touches to make it better. It was intense but ended up being a positive. There are ways. πŸ™‚

      Like

      • Joelle Casteel says:

        I can fall somewhere between prefectionism (witness the 8 “mistakes” I fixed in “Night” after a proof-reader had already had at) and blindness for having read it over too many times. And I think for me at some point it comes to a question of professionalism. Like how I decided to figure out how to do my cover art for free myself rather than letting my Master ask an artist friend to do it for free for me.

        Like

  6. Katie Meer says:

    Great post, Ana. I totally agreed with all of them.
    And I apologize, in advance for my occasional lack of feedback. But this is all done using technology, which is my worst area. What I don’t forget to do, I lose, or break on the computer.

    BUT…to play devil’s advocate for the new authors out there:

    I can totally understand someone’s excitement over a new piece. (When I get my first story published, I will most likely be screaming and posting it everywhere (in certain circles, anyway)). The overall excitement for a “newbie”, might overshadow their typical behavior. And I hope that the rest of the “seasoned” professionals will take it with a grain of salt, and gently redirect the behavior. (Ana, I have heard you are a great administrator of corner time) πŸ™‚

    I also liken this to a matter of heart. An author who only cares about themselves, and acts in the aforementioned manner, because they do not care about anyone else, is most definitely a jerk. He or she need to be treated accordingly.

    But, an inexperienced author who is just going overboard and getting a little “energetic”, might not actually know that they are creating negativity, or hurting themselves.
    They need to be treated with the same love and compassion that the men (or women) in our stories, treat their women- with guidance, love, and forgiveness.

    Like

    • Ana says:

      Oh, so true, Katie. My first publication was not even two months ago, so I certainly know what you mean about excitement. People were more than kind about tolerating and even smiling indulgently as I screamed with excitement.

      Hehe about the corner time. πŸ˜€

      I also know about making newbie mistakes. Someday I’m going to post about some of them. πŸ™‚

      There’s certainly a difference between a newbie who is excited about a first book and someone whose typical behavior is only about him or herself. Don’t worry. πŸ™‚

      Like

  7. Cat says:

    Hey Ana – Excellent post and very helpful to aspiring authors (and a few current authors πŸ˜‰ ).

    Hope you don’t see yourself in any of those points…if you do, I’ll need to report you to Mrs. Claus!

    BTW…got my friend to start reading Vennie – will let you know her reaction. πŸ™‚

    Blessings,
    Cat

    Like

    • Ana says:

      Oh, how great! I hope she likes it. Bless you for being such an evangelist. Hehe. πŸ˜€

      Believe me, Mrs. Claus has more than enough reasons to come after me! I’m going to have to change my name or something.

      Like

  8. Kathryn R. Blake says:

    I try to conduct most of my promotion through the advertising (banners, book covers, etc.) I do, rather than my social interactions. I also try to give back rather than just take. That said, your article has some excellent points that newbie and established authors alike should keep in mind.

    I’d also like to add that conversational style sometimes leads to misunderstandings when an author is reaching out. A blunt request or suggestion can occasionally be misinterpreted as a command and viewed negatively as a result. So, like you indicated, the pleases and thank yous we were taught in kindergarten should not be relegated to the unnecessary pile, simply because we’re adults. In keeping with that thought, thank you, Ana, for writing such an insightful article. No, really.

    Like

    • Ana says:

      Aw. Thank you. You are right that social media does blur the line. When communication was printed letters, there was more of a sense of professionalism and formality…however, I for one know that I would never have gotten published in that kind of world. So I do appreciate the informality that has crept into making publishing into an online business, but manners never go out of style.

      It boils down to trust, I think. If we establish trust with others, they will overlook our foibles. Most of the time. πŸ™‚

      Like

  9. pao says:

    Good points, and I agree with Minelle. I think all of them are applicable to any kind of relationship and really they’re like common courtesies. Connecting and promoting through social media/ the internet is convenient but it can also make one take others for granted. It’s easier to offend someone through these means too.

    Like

    • Ana says:

      Yes, that’s exactly it. Taking for granted. In response to Katie above…it’s not that newbies are going to get smacked around for getting excited. It’s about taking people and opportunities for granted.

      Then there are naughty girls who pick up naughty phrases…

      Like

    • Ana says:

      That’s the other risk! In trying not to be the nauseating kind, it’s difficult to find a way to still do the necessary promotion. Such a tough balance.

      Thank you so much for visiting!

      Like

    • Ana says:

      Sometimes I think that other parents are the best ones to understand because they have to go to all the events to be around the annoying ones. πŸ˜€

      Like

  10. Julie Oceans says:

    This was a very good post! I thoroughly enjoyed it and appreciate the tips. I am new to all of this and at times it does feel a bit overwhelming. But mostly I’m just sticking to being myself, and I think in the end it will pay off.

    My favorite was the part about negativity. In my opinion I would probably say it’s the biggest one to be honest. When I think of writers and readers I think about people who are positive and share common interests in that art. But when I think of trash talk and going back and forth over something, it reminds me of Youtube.

    It’s so easy to get into those like heated arguments online, but I personally stopped doing that years ago and it’s really payed off. It’s so easy to get absorbed into negativity online, I feel like just ignoring it was a skill I had to develop over the years. I don’t even play online games anymore because I would rage too much when I would lose, but that’s a different matter. πŸ™‚

    Now I just look at it like, I go online, I talk, I rant, I share, I click buttons, I share links, then I log off and go back to writing.

    Thank you for making this post I really liked how structured it was. It’s a good reminder that even though we are online and communication is so easily accessible, we have to remain professional or there could be dire consequences.

    Like

    • Ana says:

      Welcome, Julie! So glad you found me. I think that as long as we strive to be honest with who we are and try to be professional in our encounters with others…that we will have good results even when we inevitably make mistakes.

      We hear so much trash talk in so many places that it makes my mind shut off. I love a good debate where people disagree but respect each other. I’d like more of that.

      LOL about the online games.

      Best of luck to you, Julie! Stop by again any time. πŸ™‚

      Like

  11. Sassy Chassy says:

    I loved this post! This is sound wisdom. I agreed with every point. Absolutely be real, be yourself, & share that with other people. We aren’t attracted to robots or those invading our personal space. I have had authors that I had read & was intrigued to learn more about their work. However, was quickly turned off when it was all about self promotion. Authors that I do not talk to semi regularly who post ads on my social networking personal pages are usually unfriended. I love making friends and love promoting & sharing the word about books and authors that I love. You are so right, though. We want authentic. We want manners & common courtesy. Most of all we want to read great books & share that love with other people. I have to say that this author community is the best!

    Like

    • Ana says:

      It takes a great deal of patience to be friends with authors, and to post ads on your pages is tacky.

      I wish that common courtesy was a lot more common.

      Definitely about the great books and other people, and the authors here are wonderful in more ways than one. Though a bit crazy. πŸ™‚

      Like

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