Most of us who aspire to be career writers are active promoters (or at least, we’re thinking about promoting). Even if you’re not in the “giving book signings” phase, you may be in the “attracting an agent” phase.
It’s only natural that we want people to notice our writing. Adults aren’t much different than children when we’re proud of our work (“Hey Mom! Look at me!”). Lucky for us, social networks like Twitter and Facebook can be a great way to help people get to know our writing.
But here’s the thing: There’s a right way and a wrong way to promote your writing on interactive websites (like social networks, forums, and blogs). And we’ve seen writers do some pretty embarrassing and desperate things to get attention.
Not all writers are annoying. But those who are make the rest of us look bad.
So here are eleven things you should never-ever-in-a-million-years do when you’re promoting your writing online:
1. Never post random comments on people’s blogs that say, “Hey, I wrote a book and you should read it now.” It’s annoying. You’re a writer: Come up with a more clever way of getting your link on somebody’s blog comment feed. Or prepare to be deleted.
2. Never dedicate every single social media post of your life to your writing. If you’re on social networks, be social. That is, act like a human being who does human being things—as opposed to an all-promotion, all-the-time automaton.
3. Never ignore your grammar, spelling, punctuation, and usage. If you want to be a professional writer, write like one—always.
4. Never post updates, emails, or comments in all caps. IT’S ANNOYING AND MAKES YOU LOOK BAD.
5. Never promise something and then fail to do it (unless you have a really, really good reason).
6. Never talk smack about people in the publishing industry. You will come off as volatile and unprofessional: a loose cannon. Your readers will think, “If this person is being so negative about so-and-so, who knows what he/she is saying about me (or what he/she might someday say about me if we establish some kind of working relationship)!”
7. Never be the guy/girl at the party that nobody wants to hang out with. Even if you’re a chronic complainer in real life (we all have our moments), avoid complaining too much in your online persona. Once in a while is fine, but be careful not to alienate people.
8. Never ask strangers or brand-new friends for favors (like, “Will you please go read my blog and then tell all your networks about it?”). Not only do you make a bad impression, you lose a friend.
9. Never settle for subpar formatting (like lack of paragraph breaks or vacillating fonts).
10. Never go on a (real) tirade. Unless you’re going for Seinfeldian humor, save your tirades for your personal life, not your promotional life.
11. Never be sarcastic unless it’s very clear that you’re being sarcastic. Like, duh!
And just to drive the point home—and show how reading something that’s stated in the positive feels different than something stated in the negative—here’s a list of what you SHOULD do:
1. Be friendly.
3. Be polite.
4. Engage your friends with interesting questions, quotes, and news.
5. When possible, use humor. Everybody loves to laugh (and loves to “Like” and retweet funny updates).
6. Write well.
7. Be visual! Post pictures or images.
8. Be open! Let people into your life (at least a little bit). It makes people happy.
9. Keep it positive.
10. When you’re excited about your writing, share your feelings!
11. Offer to help others promote! Share the love.
Of course, you are welcome to break all of the above rules. Some people want to use their social networks and avatars for self-expression (as opposed to promotion). If that’s the case, then by all means—be negative. Write in all caps. Attempt to bully people into reading your work.
But if the reason you have an Internet presence has anything to do with your interest in being a professional writer, then you might want to consider being moderate, friendly, polite, and helpful as your primary MO.
So there’s our laundry list. We usually like to keep things positive, but in this case, we didn’t want to beat around the bush. We don’t want to see any writers alienate their social networking friends at the expense of promotion!
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