Obviously, this is about SOME authors, not all authors.
There have been a few things that happened recently that have me flabbergasted. Of course there is no rulebook for how involved an author should get with readers and with review sites (however, review sites DO have rules!), but I would have thought common sense would fill the gap.
Author sites like Romance University dish out a lot of good advice, alongside some utterly WRONG advice. Sometimes I wonder if authors remember they are also readers, and were readers first. They need to think about the product they’re selling, and think how a customer would feel about their behaviour.
I’ve been coming across some truly appalling advice recently, and have also seen and experienced it in action.
Authors spamming Goodreads.
Multiple articles on author advice sites actually TELL authors to spam the site. They tell them to add their own books to every Listopia they can find, tell them to comment under reviews of their books, tell them to send private messages to people who review their books, and so on.
Uh, NO. Do Not do those things!
Readers don’t like being harassed and intimidated by the creator of the product they bought. And a book is a product the same way a toaster is a product. Once you buy that toaster you can do whatever you like with it and say whatever you want about it. No different to a book.
Listopias are the lists of books on Goodreads. “Best Romantic Suspense”. “Best Cover”. Once upon a time they were spammed by Twilight fangirls, who ruined every list by voting Twilight and every connected book to the top of it, even though the book didn’t fit the topic.
Now the lists have been ruined by authors. People go there for recommendations from other readers, not to be advertised at! Apparently the list function has become very unpopular recently, because authors actively encourage each other to spam them, and then make deals to vote each other’s books to the top.
Commenting under reviews (especially on Goodreads) might seem like a good idea, especially if you’re thanking someone for liking your book.
However, it is often intimidating, and readers can’t have an honest discussion about a book if Big Brother is watching over their shoulder. I’ve had so many conversations silenced by an author who just couldn’t help themselves.
What if I want to ask the reviewer something like: ‘I hear this book has homophobic comments in it. Is that true?’
How am I supposed to ask that when I know the author is following the discussion and likely to get angry about it?
What if I want to ask the reviewer if the book is as good as the first one in the series? How in the world is the reviewer supposed to answer that question when the author is hovering over her?
There are exceptions, and there are some authors I fell I “know” well enough that comments are fine. But to do drive-by comments under reviews really is a terrible idea.
Sending messages to reviewers.
Talk about making me flabbergasted! Who in their right mind thinks it’s a good idea to harass your customers via private messages?! Contacting people for a review is one thing, but that’s where the transaction ends. Randomly contacting people you don’t know is a little creepy.
I had one author last year who thought that me reviewing one of his books was the beginning of a long and beautiful relationship, and I was bombarded with private messages nonstop for weeks. Weird. Really, really weird.
Arguing our point in someone else’s review space.
This actually made me rethink some of my Goodreads friendships. If I point out I don’t like something, STAY OUT OF IT. Unless I’m accusing you of being a Nazi, you can’t come in and ‘splain to me why I’m wrong – or evil.
Two recent incidents:
I said in a status update I think the “Street Team” concept is an unethical way to get your books out there.
The author retaliated by attacking me personally (WHY was she reading my personal status updates?! We weren’t even “friends”), and then setting all her fangirls from the street team on me too.
Another time, I commenting that I’m sick and tired of Australian books being written with American terms and expressions we don’t use here.
The author jumped in on the discussion and said something to the effect that US English is better and really popular. Well, sure, if you want to think that I can’t stop you, but it’s also WRONG for a book set in another country!
This all sounds like common sense, right? But apparently it isn’t, because authors keep telling each other behaving like this with their customers is fine. Honestly, I don’t WANT to know what people are saying about my work. I don’t know why authors set themselves up for disappointment by reading everything on the internet.
If authors want advice on how to interact online, they should be listening to readers, not each other.
It might be a good idea to think of your book as a toaster, and act the way you would if that’s what you had to promote.