How NOT To Use Social Media, Or How To Be The World’s Most Annoying Writer

by August Wainwright on June 11, 2013

If I was feeling like a particularly mean spirited a-hole right now, I would head over to Twitter, take a nice little screenshot, and paste my feed into this article. I would tell you to look at the twitter-ers listed, and notice the pattern of every single tweet. Then, I would say, “THE END”.

Or, I could head over to my G+ page, let the mouse meander its way up to the notifications section, take another screenshot, and let you digest the numerous unsolicited notifications, invites, and blog posts that I must be “dying” to read.

But at this very moment, I’m not feeling all that mean spirited (I won’t promise to feel the same way by the end of this article). So instead of calling out the authors that continually and religiously employ the “BUY MY FREAKIN’ BOOK RIGHT NOW” technique, I thought it would be better to have a discussion about what NOT to do with social media.

In general, I do my best to stay away from absolutes. But when it comes to utilizing social media, I have only one definitive rule, and it’s very simple:

DON’T Sell on Social Media

Seriously. Don’t do it. Ever.

I know some people might not entirely agree with that, so let me clarify a little. Social media sites are for connecting with people and sharing. And it’s for enhancing those connections; enhancing the “idea” of what you represent.

Social sites like Facebook and Twitter and G+ are called “social” for a reason – because that’s what you’re supposed to be when you’re using them.

Imagine for a second that it’s a gorgeous Saturday afternoon in late spring. It’s a perfect 75 degrees out and the wind is just barely blowing. You’re on your way over to the nearby park for a community bbq. Everyone from the neighborhood is going to be there. You get there and the food is great and the drinks are cold. You couldn’t ask for more. Naturally, people start breaking off into individual conversations. You bounce from one little group to another, laughing and smiling as you go. Occasionally, you circle back to the coolers and pop a Michelob Ultra (because you know it’s almost beach season and you have to watch those calories), but you’re always able to find another cozy conversation. In a word, you’re being SOCIAL.

Then, that dreadful d-bag “Don” shows up. “Don” is that guy that thinks he doesn’t have to “play by the rules”. He does whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and fails to recognize that the rules weren’t set up by some evil overlord… no, they were set up by his peers, who he constantly irritates. “Don” is louder than everyone else. He only talks about himself. He photo-bombs and convo-bombs at every opportunity. Everyone knows he’s there because he sure as hell won’t let you forget it.

And while “Don” is having a good ol time, everyone else is thinking:

“Who invited this asshole?”

If you spam your book over and over and over again, then welcome to the party “Don”.

Now, I’m not saying that if you release a book, and you have 20,000 facebook fans, that you don’t drop an update to let your fans know your new book is out.

That’s completely fine. Nobody will ever judge you for that. And the less you send out those updates to your followers, the more that it will come off like an exclusive thing for only them – which is good.

What you don’t want to do is what I see every single day on all the social media sites:

“I just published my book. Please buy and review it here.” – NO

“Isn’t this the best book ever? Read it now here.” – NO

“My new book is out. Please retweet and share the link.” – NO

“My book has 8 five-star ratings. Read it now” – NO

Rinse and repeat, again and again.

Look, even if your book is the best ever, and even if I would have read, reviewed, retweeted, and shared it before, when you spam the living shit out of me hoping to force me into something, you can count me out as a reader. And here’s the thing – I’m not just going to not read this book, I’m going to remember you and not read any of your books. Ever.

Because when you take the “Buy my freakin’ book right now” approach, you’re nothing more than a bad used car salesman. You’re the guy who runs up and follows me around the department store to get that commission when I buy that sweet pair of jorts.

I despise that person. And here’s a little tip that’s only a secret to the person who employs the same tactics – everyone despises you too.

The truth is, people buy books for many different reasons. Anyone who tells you that they can guarantee you a sale if you do “X-Y-Z” is more than likely lying to you. However, there are obviously a few things that can help tip the odds in your favor:

– Write a really good book
– Have a really really good cover
– Write other really good books
– Be nice to readers and, especially, to other writers; offer to give instead of always asking to receive
– Get lots of reviews, aka “enticing the herd”

There are plenty of other things you can do too. But take notice of the fact that spamming social media sites all day is nowhere to be found on that list.

If you’re ever enticed to employ this ludicrous tactic, maybe you should stop and ask yourself this question: When was the last time you purchased a book because you saw a promotional tweet about it?

Or better still: When was the last time you clicked on a Facebook ad? What about a banner ad, on a social media or any other site?

Lastly: When was the last time you saw someone “screaming” for you to do anything online where you sat back and said, “You know what, the fact that I’ve seen that same ad 10 times today really makes me want to give that maniac my money”?

Think about. You don’t want to be “Don”.

What do you think is something that is an absolute “don’t ever do it” on social media? Are there some acceptable practices on Facebook that don’t translate to Twitter? Let me know your thoughts – leave a quick comment below.

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I’m cringing slightly *winces*

Having organised two blog tours in the last three months, I knew I was going to have to do a lot of promotion on social media to advertise the interviews, guest posts, and reviews that would come out of the blog tours. To be fair, I kinda warned my followers on Facebook and Twitter in advance.

I don’t think I was that bad (I hope not anyway!). I always thanked the person who featured me either directly on their blog + either on their Twitter/Facebook page. I also tweeted/Facebooked the feature 2 times (max 3) in a 24 hour period. I then tweeted about the post about once or twice a week the following fortnight.

Most of my feed relates to writing, author posts, book reviews, and publishing industry news, with the occasional personal comment.

As for your question, the don’ts, as far as I’m concerned, are the ones you mentioned above:

1. Don’t DM/tweet/Facebook me to tell me to buy your book
2. Don’t DM/tweet/Facebook me to tell me to buy AND review your book.
3. Don’t send me a free ebook in the hope that I will review it.
4. Don’t DM me and tell me to read your Amazon review.

I have had personal emails from other self-published authors asking whether I would be interested in reviewing their book if they provided a free copy. I did do so on two occasions when I was intrigued and interested in the stories, and enjoyed the experience. Will I do it again? Depends on the book and the author and my time schedule. Considering I have about 30 books waiting to be read, probably not.

I’ve connected with a lot of wonderful people through Twitter, mostly writers and book bloggers. I’ve gone on to become a fan of several of those authors after reading their books. None of them assaulted me with a ‘BUY MY BOOK!’ barrage of information. I picked up their books because they really interested me as human beings and writers.

I try to schedule my tweets/Facebook posts so that I have about 7-10 a day (I use Hootsuite). I’ve heard of one author advocating tweeting every 15-20 mins (this author schedules in advance). I think that’s way too much. It takes away crucial time from actual writing and is exhausting.

Too often I look at my Twitter feed and feel that I’m drowning in information.

So, is the solution to cull followers? Is it to organise feeds in such a way that you only ‘see’ the ones you’re genuinely interested it? Is it to simply be on there LESS or not at all? (I’m thinking of JA Konrath, DWSmith and Kathryn Rusch here).

In this day and age , I think an author needs to have some sort of presence on the internet. Whether this is simply a website/blog that fans can suscribe to, or the full array of social media platforms, I think they have to have an internet voice, especially if they want to attract new fans.

Most self-published and indie authors use several social media platforms and do so with great zeal. Not all of it is good (lots of buy me, buy me, buy me tweets and DMs). Most traditional published authors, if not already present on social media platforms, will be pushed by their agents and publishers to do so.

Bottom line, social media is here to say (unless the zombie apocalypse really does happen!). How we use and abuse it will continue to evolve.

One thing is for sure. I don’t want to be a ‘Don’ 😉

by AD Starrling on June 12, 2013 at 1:54 pm. Reply #

I certainly don’t want to be a “Don”! I’ve got several “Dons” in the list of Tweeps I follow, that I am considering unfollowing because of the constant barrage of sales tweets, but I haven’t done it yet because their OTHER tweets are generally worthwhile. Still, if I see their name on a tweet, I just scan to see if it’s more of the same sales pitch and then ignore it. I guess I’m not doing myself any favors by not unfollowing their feed. I think, between you and me, we just talked me into clearing my clutter off of Twitter.

by Tammy J Rizzo on July 13, 2013 at 10:50 am. Reply #

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