25 June 2012

Why Most Authors Are Not Your Fans

by Carrie Bailey

I'll give you three reasons, but first I should apologize. I'm developing a habit of writing potentially misleading titles, because they sound so dramatic-so don't read this if you want to know why other authors don't enjoy your writing-this about the nature of fandom in the era of social media.

My point: focusing your social media efforts solely on other authors is the wrong approach.

Reason #1: Authors Are Your FRIENDS

A fan can become a friend and a friend can become a fan of your work, but you have little chance selling your book on Twitter to your Christian romance novelist friends if you write YA fantasy. They aren't going to be persuaded to switch their preferred genre to accommodate you.

It's true that you might share long conversations about the life of the writer, but whether they are a possible consumer of your work is independent of their friendship with you. Don't batter the wrong people with links to your book. Batter the right ones. Kindly, like you're massaging them.

Some authors think I'll change my mind and buy their romance novel. Nope. Sorry. Not a fan of bodices or anyone's throbbing anything. I might recommend their work to friends, but as a favor. I will say that a number of amazing women like the 2011 Grace Award for Romance winning author, Linda Yezak, have provided amazing support and yet never pushed their work and that strangely makes me curious enough to dabble across genres.

Reason #2: It's Business, It's Not Personal

We're not out there to sabotage each other, but we are busy promoting our own work and most of us, if we're serious about being an author, want to make money doing it, not spend all their time being every new author's fan.

Between Books by Ananasb
The first year I decided I would become a famous author and run around the world drinking cocktails with my fellow writing friends, like Leona Bushman and go to the book signings of all the people who inspired me like the brilliant thriller author Ashwin Sanghi, I also took the time to research the grim statistics on failed writing careers. I had to spend a lot of time justifying my obsession, which I was causally referring to as a hobby. I got a lot of support my first year writing and a free education from blogs like Nouveau Writer with the lovely Laura Fabiani, but between actually learning how to write and doing the research I needed to start a career, I don't have time to read as much.

So, while I'm glad people add me to multiple social media sites (I love being able to snub humor writer Perry Block in both Twitter and Facebook as well as on his blog), I like authors best who don't assume I'm their fan until I say I am.

Reason #3: Fan Should Be a Verb

I recently discovered a celebrity page containing a lot of the articles I've written. I thought I could hear the Twilight Zone theme song playing somewhere, because I haven't even published a popular book. I admit I get a lot of attention from friends and family, like my sister Winonah Drake, the co-editor of Peevish Penman, but A) she'd pay attention to me anyway and B) the most impressive thing I've done is not give up.

But I've been a fan many times. There's nothing wrong with being impressed by people's hard work. When I first read Bizzaro author, Jeremy C. Shipp, I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to give something back,  a good book has such an incredible value. So I wrote a few articles about his work and I did a quick internet search, scanned a few of his interviews and added the content his Wikipedia page. Not sure if I scared him with my enthusiasm, but I was playing the part of a fan to the best of my ability. Being a fan is genuine. It takes effort. It's an activity. It's not the numbers on social media sites.

Being a fan is what we do when people add something of value to our lives and we recognize that we can never completely compensate them for it. 

Basically, if you're sending automated messages thanking other writers for following or friending you in social media, please rethink your strategy. They probably don't know who you are and are just browsing for individuals who may have something of value to add to their lives at some point in the future as a fellow writer. If you're promoting your book on Good Reads, take a little time to target people in your genre if you follow a lot of other authors. Because, when you don't, it's spam. I know you may be doing it by hand, but it's still not okay.

Self-promotion is a balancing act. At first you're too shy to do it. Then you break past your fear and start selling yourself and usually go to far. Later on, with experience, you adjust your efforts to be more targeted. Authors should temper their aggression to match what they would be comfortable doing in person and remember we're here for you, but maybe just not quite like that.


  1. Oh, this rings so true! We are all encouraged to increase out 'numbers' on FB, twitter etc., but like u said, we can't all be buying and reading each others work. I recently read something written by john kremer that was much to the same effect - find your target AUDIENCE and promote to them. (FYI - I like the tantalizing titles - it's what got me to read your post!)

    1. That's awesome Tracy, I'm having fun writing titles that I think would get my attention. It always surprises me when I look at my browsing history what I actually read versus what I would like to think I read.

      I've seen a few articles about targeting your audience this month. I wonder if one of them was John Kremer's. Some business classes I've taken propose the same idea, too.

    2. "I like authors best who don't assume I'm their fan until I say I am."

      Oh, yes! Yesterday, I got an unsolicited newsletter that had no way to prevent future mailings. On FB, I'm forever being added to groups by people I don't know. I'll happily go around and "Like" everyone on everything that has a like button--all they have to do is ask, but I tend to resent the presumption that it's okay to invade my email or plop me into a group I may not even support.

      Sigh. I could really go on about this pet peeve, but I'll shut up now. :D

  2. Hmm, An interesting take on the whole matter.