Purveyor of fine fantasy adventures

Is it just me?

TargetFrom time to time, other writers decide to follow me on Twitter. Some of them are self-pubbed, some traditional. I read their profiles and decide whether I want to follow them back – if they’re funny or interesting or wise, or they write in my genre, or we have something else in common that makes me think they’re going to enrich my Twitterverse.

Sometimes, when I do follow back, they promptly DM me with links to buy their book(s). No “Thanks for the follow”, no “Hi, nice to make your acquaintance”, just jump straight to the sales pitch. Which says to me that they weren’t really interested in me as a fellow writer or someone who could enrich their Twitterverse, just as another target.

I think that’s rude. If you’re hoping to get me to part with my money on the basis of zero acquaintance, zero interaction between us, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed. Like any customer, I need to be wooed a little. Why should I buy your book? What makes you think I would enjoy it, or would want to read it? You don’t know – you can’t know, because you’ve made no effort to engage with me, which means you are attempting scattergun marketing in the hope that if you throw enough links out there, someone will click on one.

Newsflash: that doesn’t work any more than spam in my inbox encourages me to buy fake Rolexes or help Nigerian bankers get millions out of the country.

What works on social media is networking. Joining the conversation. Engaging with other individuals and showing yourself to be an interesting person who has something to contribute to the online experience beyond shouting BUY MY BOOK every hour. Cos, y’know, that looks kinda desperate. And more than a bit unimaginative. And after a while it gets boring, and people tune you out, or unfollow. Congratulations, your marketing strategy is alienating people.

The latest writer to do this to me, I replied: “Um, don’t you think it’s a bit rude to hit me with a link to your book without so much as a thanks for the follow? Social Media 101: network, don’t sell.”

His reply was that he didn’t think much of rules, and that people who tried to impose them were a bit ridiculous (nice subtle implication there, eh?) but that he hoped I had a lovely week anyway. Mighty big of him.

I said: “There’s rules, and there’s simple politeness” and promptly unfollowed.

He wasn’t the first this week, either. The other one didn’t even follow me, just @messaged me straight out with his sales pitch for his child-abuse survivor memoir. Several dozen other people in my Twitter circle got the same message. When I said I thought he was doing the equivalent of buttonholing strangers on the High Street he claimed that I was being rude to him by reacting that way to an innocent “Friday Reads”, which might have been more convincing if it had been

a) hashtagged as #fridayreads

b) somebody else’s book, and

c) not an @message, including praise from one of his reviews, sent individually to 20 or 30 people.

World, is it just me? Am I the only one who gets utterly pissed off with this behaviour?

I know, it’s my own fault for responding and I should just Delete and Move On. Few people are capable of grace when told they’re being a bit of an arse, and trying to cram a lesson in Social Media Etiquette into 140 characters often results in one sounding a tad snippy.

Grannies on benchesOr am I merely a grumpy old woman, waving my walking stick in frustration at a world that simply doesn’t care about good manners and politeness and respect any more?

Eee, I remember when all this was trees . . .




Images from freedigitalphotos.net



  1. Guy With No Book to Sell

    This very post is an example of how networking can work.

    See, I actually don’t know a single book you’ve written, or even in what genre, but I’m here because I was reading a favorite author’s tweets, and she mentioned you, and I was curious who you were (plus, I was bored), and so I hopped to your Twitter feed, and then skipped reading over your site to go straight to this blog, and found a wonderful, funny, insightful, helpful post on social media blunders.

    And because of that, now I want to see what you’ve written.

    • Ellie

      Please, knock yourself out! I should warn you, though: I write epic fantasy. If you are offended by naked swords and scenes of an explicit magical nature, my books may not be for you ;o)

  2. Mieneke

    Can I join you on that bench? I’ll even bring my own stick to wave! I think that with people being told by ‘social media guru’s’ that you need to self-promote, especially in this age of information innundation, it’s easy for them to do it wrong, while thinking they’re doing it right. Putting yourself out there isn’t the same thing as flinging your crap at everyone hoping some of it will stick, unfortunately it’s far easier than engaging and connecting, so that the option they choose. And it annoys the heck out of me, just as the ones that keep following then unfollowing, in the hope you’ll follow them back.

  3. Mike (@NewGuyMike)

    It isn’t even just published authors. I’m still in the process of writing mine and I get Followback Fiends four or five times a week. I follow 92 people and find it’s too much to keep track of sometimes. Followback Fiends with 90k? Not serious in the least.

    I think there are social media “experts” out there selling this line to people who are eager to buy into… well, something. It’s actually become a bit of a game to me to see how long they last before unfollowing.

    I just don’t understand why people would want to bypass the networking. It’s fun, something I look forward to in my day.

  4. Cassandra

    You are probably nicer than I, because I respond with “Yes, I would ALSO like it if you gave me some money. Here is a link to my paypal account.”

  5. Greta van der Rol

    No, it’s not just you. In that last case, where a person doesn’t even follow but messages with a ‘buy my book’, I have reported people for spam (after, of course, blocking). As you say, it doesn’t work – quite the reverse, in fact.

  6. Kathryn

    No, I think you’ve got the right of it.

    I follow a lot of authors and publishers on Twitter (well, not a lot, but a fair amount), and luckily I’ve only encountered this a few times.

    But… I have a lot of followers who are authors, and I don’t follow them. Why not? They follow me, don’t say a word and when I look at their profile and/or tweets it’s BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS. That doesn’t interest me 99.9% of the time. My list of books to buy is maybe 60-100 strong, and I’ve got another 150 books as it is to read. You need to do a lot more to get me interested in your book.

    There was this one author I ‘met’ via Facebook. They were a member of a book discussion group and occasionally plugged their own book when it was relevant (e.g. recommendations), and eventually they added me. I was fine with this, but then it got weird. They commented on loads of my updates with pointless, inane drivel. They liked a lot of my statuses. Basically they creeped me out, and to top it off every few days or whatever, I’d get a request to ‘like’ their page whilst they posted statuses that were almost always linked to their book. I *hate* behaviour like that.

    So, basically – don’t make your potential readers uncomfortable, don’t badger them, don’t abuse social media and – most importantly – remember that your book is not that important to anyone except yourself. I’ve bought your first novel and other novels/stories by authors not because they’ve whispered sweet nothings about their books in my ears, but because they, as people, appealed to me and seemed ‘worthy’ (to sound slightly arrogant) of my time and money.

    Oh, and don’t get me started on authors who don’t type ‘properly’ when trying to plug their books. Really inspires confidence in your grasp of the language. But that’s me being really picky and finnicky more than anything.

  7. Paul Weimer (@princejvstin)

    I get pissed that people spam me with links to their book. I have no clue who they are as a person, but I should buy your book based on…what?

    Especially if its not a genre I’ve shown any interest in (child abuse), for example.

  8. Sam Sykes

    No. It’s definitely not just you.

    There is a noted cycle to a lot of published author that begins with following and ends with unfollowing if it’s not reciprocated with immediacy. I’ve been followed-unfollowed by many, MANY authors who apparently thought I took too long to consider their admiration.

    There are all kinds of subculture philosophies surrounding this, of course, that are used to justify the practice. “Team followback,” “hey, help out your fellow writers,” “you’d want someone to do it for you.” And those aren’t TOTALLY incorrect. I do follow several people that I wouldn’t mind following me back, but that’s not something I can force (not without looking like a total dink and earning, at best, a fleeting and grudging follow that will disappear if I ever give an opportunity).

    We chat a lot about the difference between self-published and traditionally-published authors and I can’t help but think that traditionally-published authors have a strong advantage in that we have a culture to rely on that will tell us what is and is not acceptable. I know I, myself, am very lucky to have people who will quietly mention that I am acting a little stupid in public.

    This is not to say that self-published authors are inherently poorer in social skills or the way things are done. They merely lack an advantage that we have in that they don’t really have anyone on-hand (editor or fellow author) to tell them what’s going on. The end result is a lot of hand-to-mouth desperation that I’m sure all of us, self-published or no, have felt (I know I did in my early days).

    To those aspiring writers, self-published or no: listen to Elspeth. Take the long view. Your book and personality are both products. You need to make both of them compelling and worth talking about, rather than trying to use twitter hostage-taking.

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