1) Follow the Golden Rule
Do onto others before they can do onto you. Wait, that’s wrong, that’s the leaden rule. The one we want is do onto others as you would have them do onto you. Let me give you a couple of practical examples. When you’re trying to decide what to post, think of your favorite author. What do you wish she would post about? Got it? Now post that. Here’s another example: you know that crazy uncle who’s on Facebook, always posting his crackpot political or religious views? You don’t care for that, right? So don’t do it yourself.
2) If you want it to be private, don’t put it on the internet.
As authors, we put ourselves out in public. There’s really no avoiding this, at a minimum, just by publishing your book, you’ve exposed a sliver of your soul. Don’t rely on complicated or confusing Facebook privacy settings to keep your information private–they change every week anyway. Instead, just don’t post anything you want to be private. Similarly, don’t post anything you wouldn’t want published on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper. Or anything wildly objectionable to your primary audience. Controversy is okay, lots of controversial stuff goes viral, but you need to engage in a respectful way, so you’re not viewed as a wingnut.
3) Make sure everything you post is clear.
I’m going to pick on my friend Gae Polisner for a moment (sorry Gae!). When we first connected, I noticed she was posting a lot about something called TPoG. I had no idea what that was for months. When I finally found out it was her book, The Pull of Gravity, I bought a copy and read it. (It’s awesome! Go buy it now!) Similarly, if you invite me to an event at the Barnes & Noble at the mall, I’m probably not going to come. I need to know which mall in which city. The temptation to abbreviate and leave out information is strong, particularly on Twitter. Resist! Make sure you’ve answered the key questions: what? when? why? where? and who? before you post.
4) Your followers want to know about your books.
I see lots of posts warning authors against talking about nothing but their books, and we’ve all seen authors who annoy us with constant links to Amazon. But I think the more common problem is writers talking too little about their books. If someone is following you, it’s likely because you’re an author. I love knowing more about my favorite authors and books–the trick is to craft posts that are entertaining or useful in addition to reminding followers about your work. Remember that you and maybe your mother are the only people who read all your social media posts. What seems like a lot of promotion to you probably isn’t that much to your average follower. The average viewer needs more than 12 exposures to a commercial message before burnout begins.
5) Generosity pays.
Participate in giveaways and charity auctions. It’s good for us all, and it gives you a chance to talk about your books in a way that most people won’t object to. Bloggers love giveaways too–if a blogger has been particularly supportive, thank her by offering up a free book as a blog giveaway.
6) Be honest with your followers.
Part of your online persona is your integrity–if you maintain it, people will be much more willing to trust and follow you. The common practice of trading reviews, trading likes, etc. destroys both party’s credibility. Only recommend another book, author, or Facebook page to your followers if it’s something you genuinely like and think they would, too (like Gae Polisner’s The Pull of Gravity). I try to follow the golden rule here. If I don’t like a book, I usually won’t rate or review it anywhere. If I love it, I tell everyone. What I won’t do is post a dishonest review. You shouldn’t either.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments, please.