Basic Online Etiquette for Authors

I find myself chagrined.

A couple of weeks ago, another author posted a comment on one of my Social Media Monday posts, in which he thanked me for the information and then proceeded to tell me he thought I would like his book and I should check it out at ‘x’ buy linkI was, to put it mildly, flabbergasted at the nerve. And more than a little annoyed. 

If you’re raising an eyebrow and wondering what the problem is, let me ‘splain.

Leaving a blatantly self-promotional comment on a fellow author’s blog, without his/her permission/invitation, is just plain rude. Especially when that fellow author is providing you with a service. (Heck, leaving that kind of comment on any blog without invitation is rude, and I’m pretty sure many book reviewers will agree with me on this.) Think of it this way: if you were attending a performance, would you walk up onto the stage, take the microphone from the performer, introduce yourself, and proceed to tell him/her — and their audience — to buy your book? Of course not!

Unfortunately, too many people fail to see the connection between online behaviors and real-life ones, and all too often, authors fall into that “too many people” category because they don’t understand the nature of social media. So today on Social Media Monday, we’re going to go back to some of the basics of online etiquette.

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First of all, if you’re fairly new to the whole social media thing, welcome! Online is a fabulous place to be, and it really isn’t as difficult as some of you might be imagining. Generally speaking, online etiquette can be summed up in one “golden rule”: Don’t do or say anything online that you wouldn’t do or say in a real-life public place.

More specifically:

  • Remember that social media is about being social. Yes, you’ve written a book, and yes, you’re trying to market it, but you’re not likely to take a bullhorn down to a street corner in order to blare “buy my book” messages to total strangers, and you shouldn’t be doing that on Twitter or Facebook, either. Instead, focus on building community. Talk to people. Get to know them. Be nice. Be approachable. Offer help if you’re able. Be a human being rather than a sales pitch. People with whom you’ve built relationships are far more likely to be interested in your books than the ones on the receiving end of a bullhorn message. 
  • Do comment on blogs you read (bloggers love comments…it makes us feel less like we’re talking to ourselves! Hint, hint! 😉 ), but don’t hijack the platform for your own message
  • If there’s a particular blog you love and you’d like the chance to promote yourself/your book there, ask! Many bloggers, myself included, welcome guests. (Check out A Writer’s Guide to Book Blogger Etiquette for tips on doing this.)
  • Avoid negativity. The online world is more interconnected than many people understand, and too many authors have found themselves in seriously hot water after making ill-considered comments. Bad review? Ignore it. Snarky discussion going on about another writer/blogger/personality? Walk away (figuratively speaking). Gossip isn’t a good thing in the real world, and it’s even worse in the virtual one. Always remember that what you say online can and and very likely will come back to haunt you.

And that’s it. Lecture over. Questions? Comments? Have I missed anything? Let me know below — and remember to share this post using the buttons below! 

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28 responses to “Basic Online Etiquette for Authors”

  1. Erin Brown Conroy Avatar

    Bravo. Excellent and completely agree.

    1. Linda Avatar

      Thanks so much, Erin! Glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂

  2. Kelsey Avatar

    Oh wow. If I got a comment like that on my blog I would just plain delete it, I don’t think anyone would actually go and buy it. To me that would be rude.

    Great advice this week though, I agree with all your bullet points! If an author talked to people like a normal person and engaged the community I think more bloggers would be wanting to check out their work for sure.

    1. Linda Avatar

      I think more readers would do so in general, Kelsey! And I did delete the comment, but I also emailed the author to let him know why. AND I followed my own advice and waited 24 hours to cool off before I did so. 😉

  3. smilesomebodylovesyou Avatar

    Nice information. Shared it a bit. 🙂

    1. Linda Avatar

      Thank you…and thanks for sharing! 🙂

  4. stripe6499 Avatar

    After being in online communities for well over a decade (mostly online games) I still find it amazing that people’s manners seem to stop at the keyboard. I’ve seen and experienced many examples of behavior that simply would not be tolerated in the ‘real’ world. It’s as if some people think that the internet gives the carte-blanche to be…well, provide your own description here. I wish more people would treat the web as it really is, an extension of life, and behave accordingly.

    1. Linda Avatar

      Yep. Me, too. 🙂

  5. onbecomingalemonademakerblog Avatar

    Linda: Thank you for giving us all some excellent guidelines! I’ve really tried my best to speak with people online as if they were sitting next to me in a conversation, however I cannot guarantee that I haven’t broken some other online rules in my beginner’s zeal! It’s easy to get a little carried away with the excitement!

    So, if I’ve broken any rules with anyone reading these words, please accept my apologies! Peace!


    1. Linda Avatar

      Lol! Most of my advice is based on my own mistakes as a beginner, Tamara, so not to worry. And I’m glad you liked the post. 🙂

  6. L.E. Fraser Avatar

    I just started the social media for my new book and have been horrified by the number of strangers posting stuff on the book boards about their offering. They don’t even write in the same genre. Having avoided social media my whole life, I’m woefully uninformed and am stressed about driving the numbers. I wouldn’t do it for exactly the reasons you’ve cited – it’s their board and their promotion. It’s refreshing to see that I’m right and it’s not okay to use someone else’s media to plug your stuff.
    Thanks, Linda!

    1. Linda Avatar

      You’re so welcome, L.E.! And if you have the chance, check out some of the other blog posts I have under the “Social Media Monday” category (you can do a search on my site for them). You may find some of my other tips helpful as well. And congrats on the new book!!! 🙂

    1. Linda Avatar

      Thanks! 🙂

  7. Allen G. Bagby Avatar

    Please read my novel about Cowboy Zombies in the Canadian Rockies! ….j/k 😉 ….seriously, I enjoyed your insight.

    1. Linda Avatar

      Lol, Allen — and I’m glad you enjoyed! 🙂

  8. Valerie J.O. Gardner Avatar

    It is far better to mention something relevant (to the conversation) about your book in passing and then let people specifically ask you for more information. If you want a review, then be certain to check the website and follow the proper instructions. I’ve shipped paperbacks to all around the world at the request of the reviewer and found the result of following the reviewer’s rules far more valuable than what it cost me in postage.

    1. Linda Avatar

      Very true, Valerie — and glad you’ve had such success with reviewers! 🙂

  9. Carmel (@RabidReads) Avatar

    I can’t count the number of times in a day that I receive comments / tweets / emails / Facebook posts / GoodReads messages, etc along these lines. Authors who do this are actually hurting themselves IMO because personally I auto-delete all self-promotion & refuse to even consider reading their books. And, us bloggers actually talk to each other, so if you do it to one of us chances are news of your spammy habits will spread. It’s just plain rude, and your example of grabbing a mic from a performer is dead on. Great post!

    1. Linda Avatar

      Thanks, Carmel — from the response I’ve had to this post, I’ve realized it’s a hot issue for many. May have to expand on this. 🙂

  10. Laura Steurer Avatar

    Love, Love, Love it! Where is your ‘Like’ button? Just wondering. BTW: Totally sharing this!

    1. Linda Avatar

      I don’t think I can put a ‘like’ button up on a WordPress site, Laura…but sharing works, too! 🙂

  11. L.Z.Marie Avatar

    One of my top social media peeves! Sometimes I wonder if sending a private message to the offenders would do any good. Probably not.

    1. Linda Avatar

      How about sending them a link to this blog post, L.Z.? 😉

  12. Laura L. Smith Avatar

    What surprises me is the people who are trying to promote their book are downright ignorant by posting negative comments or lambasting someone for posting a viewpoint. Then they wonder why no one is interested in reading their book–let alone liking or following them.

    And the worse thing is the jealous people who always say something derogatory when a person posts that they have been accepted by a publisher. With an attitude like that–no wonder their book is going no where.

    And yes I agree that if you want to build a community–you have to post helpful and positive things.

    1. Linda Avatar

      Guess we’ll just have to re-educate those ones, Laura. Thanks for stopping by to comment! 🙂

  13. D. D. Syrdal Avatar

    Totally agree. I am so sick of the relentless “buy my book” tweets. I’ve had to unfollow more than one person because of that behavior.

    Here’s another one I have no patience with: Getting in an online argument on Twitter, and RT’ing the whole thing out to all your followers, including the supportive tweets from fans. This isn’t a middle school playground.

    1. Linda Avatar

      Yes, I’m starting to unfollow those ones, too, D.D. Hopefully they’ll get the message soon!

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