It seems that my poor blog has become my venting place…but better to vent than blow, I say!
I’ve been thinking a lot about social media behavior and the things that drive me crazy. Social media are great, but they seem to bring out the worst behavior in a lot of people, and that’s what I don’t like about them.
It’s no different in indie author world. There are so many instances where I’ve made some really great indie author friends, ones I am so proud to have met and glad to have in my life. A lot of them, though, just feel like users. I’m sorry to be a little harsh, but that’s how it feels. Let me explain why.
First, though, let me tell you why I think the behavior is the way it is. Indie publishing is tough. Oh, it’s easy to publish your book. It’s hard to get noticed…so authors are desperate for any attention they can get. I understand that, but there are less annoying ways (and sometimes more polite ways) to get attention.
So…let’s start first with Twitter. I joined Twitter in the summer of 2011 when I was trying to find as many outlets as possible for readers to connect with me. Granted, no one was looking for me yet, but I wanted there to be any and every way possible. Twitter was one of those ways. When I set everything up, I started following some of my favorite bands and I was extremely twitterpated (ha!) when my very first follower was Korn (yeah, the real f*cking Korn!!!), following me back. Talk about a total fangirl moment. I was writing the first Nicki book and their act changed Nicki’s favorite band from what it was (a secret I’ll take to the grave) to Korn.
But I digress (something I do frequently, I’m sure you’ve observed by now). It wasn’t long until I started connecting with other indie authors. At first, it was pretty cool. There were a lot of them who were just starting out like I was, and we shared information and gave each other feedback about certain things (blog posts, book trailers, and the like). I’m not sure when it changed, but it did. I followed lots of authors back, but I noticed after a time that I would get particular sorts of responses. “Please read my book” was the most frequent one. Some were very nice about it. One person even gifted me a copy of his book. Others were a little needier about it. Recently, I was badgered (I wish I was exaggerating!) into following another author back. I did, and then he started bugging me about reading his story…didn’t say and/or ask about my writing, instead began pestering me about reading his work. Finally, trying to be polite, I explained that I didn’t have time, free copy or not. I beta read for friends and, believe it or not, like to read for pleasure. How do you nicely tell someone that their writing might not fall into either of those categories? I looked at my schedule and tried to tell this guy nicely that I couldn’t make any promises to get to it any time soon, and that he would do better offering his story to someone else with more time. He acted insulted that I wasn’t going to drop everything to read his book.
That guy is just one example of Twitter behavior. A lot of authors DM as soon as you follow back, asking you to read their stuff or visit their website or…well, you get the idea. I stopped opening direct messages on Twitter a long time ago because if they weren’t spam (many of them were), they were solicitations. It comes down to this, a metaphor for the Twitter experience: If you come to my open house party but you don’t even know me, why would you start shoving your shit down my throat at first contact? Don’t you even possess the courtesy to get to know me first? And, if you don’t, why are you surprised that I don’t want to read your shit?
It’s like going on a blind date and having the guy unzip your pants before even offering a drink. It’s presumptuous, rude, unfriendly, selfish, and self-absorbed.
So…I stopped following writers back a long time ago unless I already know them first in some other way. If I’ve already “met” them on Facebook or elsewhere, then I will follow back. I recently had another good reminder to stick with that rule. A traditionally published author followed me a few months ago, and I figured she wouldn’t be the desperate type (didn’t fit the profile), but damned if her f*cking DM to me didn’t prove me all kinds of wrong. So my personal Twitter rule continues to be not following authors back unless I already know them somehow…and that has to be more than their also friending me on Facebook.
Facebook…well, that’s another animal. I get friend requests all the time from people I don’t know. That’s okay, because I know a good chunk of those requests are readers, and I don’t care if they want to connect with me as a friend or by following my page. I’m okay with either. For quite some time, though, I’d say at least four times out of five, one of those friend requests is a wannabe author (or maybe a newly established author). It drives me crazy that I’ll accept the friend request and not five minutes later get an invite from that person to like their Facebook page. A few of them (maybe ten percent) will be nice about it–they’ll offer to like my page back or they’ll thank me. Most of them, though, just friend request (probably as many authors as they can) and then sit back, waiting for the accept so they can immediately send the page invitation. Again…it’s presumptuous and rude behavior. I suppose I shouldn’t encourage it by liking their page, but I do. I know how hard it is starting out. But these folks have a lot to learn about being social. This is social networking, after all. Here’s my metaphor for the Facebook experience: Don’t come knocking on my door and, when I shake your hand, start dragging me out the door so I can come shop at your store.
That’s not the whole of it, though. I can’t tell you how many aspiring authors or authors just starting out send me messages asking me to share things. I don’t mind doing it when I can, but if I promoted all the authors who asked, I wouldn’t have time to promote my own work. Add to it that, out of all those authors, only two in recent memory have offered to promote (or actually have promoted) me in exchange. One author, about a year and a half ago, one who is now well-known, hassled me to share her stuff every week or so, and when I finally politely declined, she disappeared. Now she’s well known, but I guarantee she doesn’t realize that people she bugged like me helped her get there, and I can also tell you she doesn’t pimp MY shit like she begged me to do for her for months. That’s kind of disappointing. But it is what it is, and unfortunately a lot of newbie authors don’t understand why I’m so guarded nowadays and also hesitant. It also reflects on me when I promote others, and so I have to be careful of how and when I promote. I’ve started doing other things now, hoping to deflect some of the negativity, and I hope these authors will take advantage of what I offer and stop asking for things I’m no longer willing to give.
Bottom line, I try to be polite, both in “real life” and online. I try not to do things online that I would never do to another person face to face…and I wish I could figure out why other people lead their life in the exact opposite way. I understand, as a writer, wanting to be read, but if you annoy the shit out of people, you might never be read.