You know what drives me crazy (currently)? How much of what passes for author interaction at social media sites these days resembles spam.
I made the connection while clearing out the spam comments at this blog. They almost all start out the same, with a sentence that looks like the writer (probably a bot) might actually have read my blog post—“I enjoyed this post. This topic is really very interesting. . .”—then they turn into self-serving sales drivel. While I was gleefully emptying the spam folder it occurred to me that I’ve been seeing lots of this same sort of “let me say a polite thing about you so I can talk about ME, ME, ME” stuff on twitter, in on-line writing groups, and on facebook lately.
Frankly, it’s cheesing me off.
It’s gotten particularly bad in writing and reading related facebook groups. When I join a group devoted to say “Lovers of Mysteries with Dogs as Their Main Character” (okay I made that one up, but I don’t want to point fingers at actual groups or communities) I expect folks therein to share information on good books with doggy detectives, or links to websites to help me in researching or writing same. Instead what I am getting these days are nearly naked advertisements—“My book ‘It’s a Dog Eat Dog World’ just got a super-duper review at ‘Dog books R us!’ Read it here. Or better still buy my book here, or here, or here.” This is just annoying. If I want advertisements there are plenty running along the top or side of every darn website I visit. “Come on fellow writers,” I want to scream, “you’ve got a personal facebook page, probably an author FB page, and doubtless an author website to share good reviews and ‘buy it now’ links.” The essence of communities and/or shared-interest groups (like FB “bookclub” pages) is dialogue—even in the virtual world.
A hybrid of “boast posters” are the folks who share EVERY blog post they’ve ever written or will ever write to a facebook group, or to twitter, irrespective of whether it’s on topic. Sure, if someone has written a post that is germane to the topic of a group or comment thread (or touches on one of the subjects that they assume people follow them on twitter to hear about) then posting that link is a worthy public service. But if a blogger is just slapping up everything he can think of to increase his name recognition then he should spare us and save himself the time (because pretty soon I for one am going to stop looking at his posts because I already KNOW what they will say – some version of “look at me.”)
As a writer I understand where this behavior has its roots. There is a great deal of pressure on writers today to market our own work, and very specifically to have a presence in the virtual world. If writers join any community of like-minded people as part of “building an internet presence,” however, I firmly believe they should try to interact in a genuine, non-agenda-driven, manner. And just for the record the interaction is neither effective nor genuine when it amounts to commenting on topics started by others in true spam form (“I am fascinated by cocker spaniels but for a really great blog on poodles, more specifically MY poodles, click here”). I think spam-types fail to recognize a basic truth – all on-line presence is NOT equal and, specifically, an annoying presence seldom sells a book.
If you are a spammer not a genuine community member you are wasting your time—at least as far as I am concerned. Because the truth is, when I have my “reader hat” on, I buy two kinds of books: 1) those receiving notable reviews or buzz from reviewers I trust (whether that’s a “R”eviewer in the print or digital media or a guy I sit next to on the bus every morning and discuss books with); and 2) books written by friends (folks I’ve gotten to know through writers conferences, through on-line communities and through their blogs). You are no friend of mine if you spam me.
Readers, what do you think? When you join a “readers” or “lovers” group on line (as in “mystery lovers” that was NOT meant to be an X-rated comment) do you expect to encounter posts/comments that are nakedly self promotional? When you do see them do they bother you or do you merely consider it a convenient way to discover new books in a particular genre? Am I must imagining a sudden spike in such spam-like posts (after all I am a writer and I do have an overactive imagination), or have you noticed a similar phenomenon?
As those of you who follow me on twitter know, I learned a lot at 4th North American Historical Novel Society Conference in San Diego last month (see—I didn’t just spend my time drinking in the hotel lobby). I even had a number of “ah ha” moments.
One of those happened early on, when a publishing industry insider said, “The author to reader connection is closer than it has ever been.” Now admittedly this was a bit more of a “duh” moment than an “ah ha” moment as it was happening because if there is one thing a writer knows (even a newbie like me) it’s that in this era of social-media we are expected to network with our potential readers. But knowing something being able to act on it effectively isn’t always the same thing.
What does it mean to “be accessible to our readers?” How can we turn the monologue (I blog, I tweet, I facebook, therefore I am) into a dialogue? How can I improve your experience—of this website and ultimately of my book?
It was while thinking about these questions that the “ah ha” bit happened (or more precisely while thinking about these questions and not coming up with any clever answers) —ask readers. AH HA!!!
So, what do you think? What would you like to read about here in blog-land? What do you like about this place and what needs some improving? Do you follow me on twitter, and, if so, how would you whip @lit_gal into shape if you were given access to a whip? What can I or should I be doing to improve your experience as a reader (of this blog and soon, I hope, of The Sister Queens)?