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Eleven Deadly Sins Of Online Promotion For Writers

online social networking, marketing for writers
Quit buggin'.

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!

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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.

2. Care.

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!

Do YOU want an author website? A blog? Web Design Relief can create your blog and site for you! And we can even offer advice based on our experiences in the publishing industry since 1994. Check it out!

Writer QuestionsQUESTION: Add to our list. What else should a writer NEVER do when promoting? What SHOULD a writer do?

43 Responses to Eleven Deadly Sins Of Online Promotion For Writers

  1. Think you! This advise is not only excellent for writers, it is also applicable to promoting other businesses as well. We have a holiday accommodation establishment in a seaside town, and the single most valuable thing to market on social media certainly is – Be sociable. And get known for something associated to your business, like I am your “famous” for something really silly, the colour of our building (bright orange), and the front door (red). People appreciate that and they help me market our place, by posting red doors etc.

  2. Nice laundry list! One piece of advice I’d add is to not only get on one branch of the social media, but to shake the whole tree– Pinterest, Google plus, Twitter, Tublr, etc. We offer a comparison of these and more from a writer or blogger’s perspective [on our site].

  3. Annalisa, thanks for commenting! It looks like you’ve got a good handle on your Twitter account. It’s good to post on a variety of topics, not only to keep readers coming back for new content, but to attract a diverse group of readers as well. We’re glad to hear you took our advice to heart!

  4. I just stopped by via a link on Facebook. I’m new to Twitter and have adhered to the advice about not only talking about my book (#2) but I’ve already started deleting people who do just that and nothing else. Why doesn’t everyone read the same advice??

  5. So very helpful. When I come online, sometimes it feels like all I should be doing is promoting my blog or upcoming book. It’s very kind of you to remind us to us that we should use that rush of energy for other things – like building a positive and supportive community.

  6. J. Aric Keith, Your comment illustrates a larger point: Each social network has its own etiquette. It can take time to learn the subtle differences. Thanks for posting!

  7. I have to add one about Twitter…

    There are hashtags for promotional purposes. I doubt very seriously that many people follow them closely as they are abused horrifically. #writing is an example of this. It is now being used in every way imaginable for spam.

    A pet peeve of mine is for someone to find a hashtag chat designed for another purpose and fill it with retweets of another author. It doesn’t help spread the word for one thing, if you use the same exact hashtags with every retweet. Send it out to other areas!

    This also is an important theme compared to finding a different hook for your own promotional tweets for the same link/book. Find like-minded people who use these specific hashtags and retweet to each one separately.

    Now for those who are reading this who are new to Twitter who have no earthly idea what I just said: Hashtags are a way of pigeon-holing a conversation into a group of people.

    Such as Cara Michaels has started a group called #WIP500 where each day/week we check in with our daily word counts. The idea is that if we can write 500 words per day we can fill an entire year with several books. Personally I am at 235% others are only at 65%. The point is #WIP500 is a cheerleading squad that is designed to not only keep us grounded in continuing to write, but also so that we can help others to cross their personal goals. Think of it as a focus group for your new years goals. Anothe rhashtag like this is the #ROW80 or the #myWANA groups

    Another noteworthy hashtag to get involved with is the #wordmongering or #editmongering groups where we do 30 minute sprints. There are other hash tags like these.

    The point is, there is more to Twitter than even seasoned writers may know. Spend some time in conversations. And I wouldn’t get to involved with things like #teamfollowback…

  8. Thank you for this. I am really turned off by several online writing communities- and frankly a few writerly acquaintances– who miss several of your points, perhaps the biggest being number 2. If you don’t care at all about the other people you are connecting with, don’t expect them to care about you, either. So many of these communities just seem to be a place for people to repeatedly post links to their blogs to mentions of their books, but there seems to be no interest in discussions or opportunities, best practices, techniques, ideas–isn’t that what a community should be about? Quite frankly, several communities seemed to have been established purely for the founders to push expensive online classes, etc. It’s more than a bit off putting (hope I’m not abusing the rant guidelines.)

    Certainly a tough line to walk, as promotion is important. But social networks, as this article pointed out, are intended to be social, and hammering people over the head with a one way conversation of how great you are seems a poor way to engage.

    I’ve really appreciated the writers and communities who take time to really interact with people, be interested in their work ongoing and complete, be interested in sharing resources and ideas. If anyone knows of more places where these great things are happening, it might be worth a share!

  9. Dear Anonymous: Your writing is very impressive for your age!

    Writer’s Relief is designing websites, but we’re not offering promotional services beyond that. We help writers submit to literary agents and editors, but we don’t manage people’s social networks, don’t build mailings lists of fans, etc.

    Social networking is very much about being social. We certainly understand that some writers are introverts and don’t love networking. While you could possibly find a publicist who could manage “fan” accounts for you so that potential fans have a place to get info about upcoming projects, etc., there are numerous problems that can arise in having someone impersonate you and do your social networking for you. Also, keep in mind that there are privacy settings for social networks. Some writers use pictures of pets or other icons for their profile pictures, etc. And you can say only as much as you want to and no more.

    Good luck with your writing! And keep us posted!

  10. I have a question about Writer’s Relief with regards to promotional marketing. Does WR provide marketing and/or freelancing solutions that will do these social media promotions for the writer, leaving him/her with ample time to write rather than spend any time promoting if s/he does not feel comfortable with this?

    I don’t have a Twitter, a Facebook, a blog or even a functional email address. Nor do I wish to have any of these. I am also very reclusive, introverted, and EXTREMELY shy in real life. (I certainly would never consent to have myself photographed, much less put a likeness of myself out there for all to see!) But if and when my work is published, I want it to sell exceptionally well in the marketplace. However, I personally am not comfortable with the interaction bit of this. I would much rather write and let the book be the brand, rather than myself as the individual. If social media is a must for marketing and having one’s work picked up by major publishers (under no circumstances will I allow my work in ebook/digital format), then I would like to know if there are third parties more adept with this who can market and promote on my behalf. In other words, if my name is a brand, a company, if you will, then perhaps it is not a bad idea to have a small staff with expertise and “people skills” far better than mine ever will be.

    Please reply. If WR does not offer such a service, then please offer advice or recommendations of where/how I might go about procuring something like this. From what I understand, WR offers professional web design, but I am interested to know if promotional and marketing solutions are offered as well. (The old, “if you can’t find it here, go to Gimbel’s” would be an ideal gift for me!)

    Thank you very much in advance. (By the way, I should add that I am only 15, and even still, am not the digital native or “people person” that those in my generation are often considered to be. I’m also much more of a wordsmith than can be contained in 140 characters or less!)

  11. A very big ‘to do’ item for those who plan to post and leave comments anywhere online–for your own credibility, please invest in having a professional picture taken. Make sure the photographer knows you intend to use it in this manner to avoid potential legal hassles. This applies even more to pictures you offer your publisher where you should credit the photographer. Any trustworthy publisher will ask for such details.

    People like to match comments with faces. It helps them feel as if they already know you when they see the same photo on other sites.

  12. Here’s a 12 one: do not interrupt chats and discussions to promote your book if the discussion does not pertain to your book.

    Nothing’s more frustrating than have a Tweetchat about Victorian history to have some barge in with “my book takes place in England – you should read it!” and discover that the writer fibbed and just wanted to self-promote.


  13. Suzan, So glad you like the post! While we can’t write an article specifically for your blog, you are welcome to repost our articles with a link back the original and a byline “Writer’s Relief is a highly recommended author’s submission service. Check our their website today!”

  14. FAB POST! (Oh, sorry, I shouted.)

    But you’re so right. Despite the fact that I’m a non-fiction author, everything you say in this article is bang on.

    Would you care to write a guest post along similar lines for my blog, http://www.HowToWriteBetter.net – ? I’m sure my readers would appreciate it, as would I.

    If you’re interested give me a shout on the email address I assume accompanies this comment. Hope to hear from you!


  15. I have books that are over a hundred years old. They have been read by dozens of readers and each time they use no electrical energy. Digital is energy hungry and each time you switch on a computer, mobile, etc you use more energy unlike reading a book or physical newspaper. If the paper used for books etc is from a renewable source then so much the better. Digital is a stressful environment unlike reading a physical book, which is relaxing. I use old Russian film cameras that use no batteries and have manual focus and mechanical shutters. Analogue is always better than digital.

  16. Drusilla, we’re glad to hear you found our article helpful. It sounds like you’re quickly getting the hang of things!

  17. What else is likely to kill authorss promotion attempts:

    1)When authors re-tweet the same review from the same book blogger multiple times. It’s confusing. Why re-tweet 3 times? If I didn’t check it out the first time, I’m not likely to the 2nd or 3rd.

    2)When authors tweet/promote their books with the SAME exact Tweet. Daily. Come up with a different hook, or better yet~let someone else do it for you! I am much more apt to pick up a book that another author or book blogger recommends. I don’t think I’ve ever checked one out based on an author’s “Hey, check out my book” or “Tigers and lions, hot passion…”

    3) Also, sometimes giving a little a way FREE (gasp) is the best promotion you can do. I am a book blogger/writer/reader. An author tweeted, looking for a reviewer of her upcoming book (3rd in the series). She sent me ALL 3 books (again-free) with the understanding that I would post reviews.

    Guess what? My last Tweet about her compared her books to crack, because they are both highly addictive and hard to stop. It’s all over my blog and Twitter. Sure you might get some negative reviews, but you might get those anyways.

    Good luck all!

  18. I have only been blogging and on Twitter for a couple months, so I appreciate this helpful information. The titles to my blog posts are done with all capitals, so my Twitter announcements about my new posts were coming through all capitals. I read someone else’s advice on this, and then started manually typing in the title so it wasn’t all capitals.

    My only suggestion is to make sure your followers know how much you appreciate them. I know how easy it is to get discouraged wondering if what you are posting is being read or appreciated. My blog today is a thank you for all those that have read and commented on my posts.

  19. Never join a linked-in or other social media group just to promote your writing. For example, I see people joining the book marketing and fiction writers groups to promote things that have nothing to with marketing books or fiction writing.

  20. thats very nice hey i m writing a book and i think you would realy enjoy reading it ;P LOL can you spread the word???

    Just kidding.

    Thanks for the great information. I’ve been trying to diversify my blog posts a little bit, while keeping the focus on my novel. It’s not easy, and I appreciate these tips.

    May I offer a suggestion for Twitter users? Go light on the #FF and the #WW and all other shout-outs. If you clog my News Feed, my wrath shall be aroused.

  21. Of all the people who have commented, I admire A.H. the most. She gave up the desire to make money on her books. God please grant me such wisdom. We see so many people unhappy at the top. Why bother to try to climb. Just write, and enjoy.

  22. Belinda, Your comment is a perfect example of good online interaction! You recommend that writers contribute positively to a conversation–and in making that recommendation, you do exactly that! Thanks for sharing!

  23. Good list. Another one: Don’t leave comments on other people’s blogs just for the sake of being seen commenting on other people’s blogs. Comment because you’re genuinely interested in the topic.

    But as a counterpart to that: Do think about leaving a comment on a blog that doesn’t get many comments, as it will encourage the blogger. :-)

  24. Do learn the ins and outs of Internet promotion. There are correct ways to ‘promote’ without ‘marketing.’ For example, if there’s a place to list your website on a comment page your posted comment -usually- will automatically contain a link for those who click on your avatar. However, if your comment is irrelevant to the discussion it may be rejected completely by site administrators.

  25. Hi. I don’t promote my books. I’m retired from writing books after writing 91 paperback and am elderly. But if anyone wants my books, my website lists them and so does the publisher’s website. Long ago I gave up any desire to make money from my writing and turned to studying other subjects instead that make my golden years more relaxing.

  26. I love the advice here. I guess we all know those rules but sometimes when people are so caught up in promoting their works, they get carried away. I once received an update by a writer telling me I absolutely had to buy her book because it was this and that good. Really not that attractive …

  27. Super excellent advice. I’m tweeting this and Stumbling it too! I especially the love the no caps and watch your grammar. Ugh, those two things drive me NUTS!

  28. Not a thing wrong with plugging someone else’s work!

    There’s nothing wrong with plugging your own work, as long as you do it sensibly. I’ve discovered lots of good books that way.

  29. I often write about the book I’m presently engrossed in – especially if it’s a good novel. I’ve just finished reading S.Y. Agnon’s Only Yesterday . It’s more than 600 pages long, and is set in Palestine at the turn of the 20th century, a story of a painter and a dog. And the dog is almost as human as the man. The critics call it a literary masterpiece.

  30. Good advice here. Most writers know it instinctively, but there are always a few who need reminding.

    Sheila’s right about updating blogs, esp. blogs about writing and publishing. New posts will keep readers.

  31. I think a major DO is: Update often! If you’re funny and visual and polite and all that for a week and then don’t update your site for 2 months, none of the above really helps. Always keep your site fresh, otherwise you disappoint the fans you worked so hard to get. I’ve found many great blogs over the years that I started out loving and just stopped visiting after a while becuase there was such a long lag between posts. Snooze!

  32. One thing I keep hearing is never to say the words: “You’ll just have to read the book to find out,” or sentiments to that effect. Personally, I’d much rather tell you something about my characters and the way they act. No-one can connect with ‘that’s in my book,’ whereas if I mention one of my aliens doesn’t like the fact that he’s still bald after all their genetic engineering, suddenly he seems more, well, human.

  33. Consistency can be a factor in successfully reaching an audienc, especially if he or she wants to use social networks for pomotion. It’s a downer to go to a site expecting the “news” or comments and find nothing.

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