All right, so at the very outset, I will say that this is going to be an unpopular post. It is possible that a bunch of you might unfollow me after reading this one, but let me put up a disclaimer. Whatever I say in here is out of my observations and interactions on social media. Which means to say, even I have committed the mistakes mentioned below, but then there’s always a time to learn and live on, right?
Now after seeing authors on social media for several years now, I have observed this: The majority of authors use social media for one of two things (and usually just these two things, which is the sadder part) — (1) propaganda of their works (2) ranting about their pet peeves. Look at your author friends on social media. Chances are that a high percentage of them come alive on those posts only when they have to do one of these two things, otherwise they are totally absent. And if you are an author who is doing things apart from these—constructive things—then we need to doff our hats at you.
Why is this bad, though? Let me enlist it in a way that it becomes more readable.
Most authors will excessively promote their works.
Definitely not recommended. Typically, one post when your book is launched and then follow-up posts whenever your book makes some kind of achievement is good enough. If authors are going to make a post every day about their book in the hope that someone will like, comment, or share, let alone buy the product, then that’s a horrible way to go about promotion. The best case scenario here is that your followers are going to be frustrated looking at your excessive post with the same cover page (of course you cannot change that, can you?) and they are simply going to scroll down. The worst case is that they will unfollow you, and there it goes—a prime example of counter-marketing.
We authors have to trust that our readers have good recall value. They know that we have authored that particular book. It is not necessary to post the cover page at every given opportunity. Sadly, most authors fail to understand the point that book marketing has to be classy.
Most authors will form close-knit communities and stay only in those.
Oh, this does happen. Hang around a bit on social media in writers’ groups and you will see how authors tend to band with each other. They won’t label themselves or name themselves, but they will definitely flock together. You will see them liking, commenting on, and sharing each other’s posts but no other posts at all. You will see them coming out in support of one of them to the point of undeserved raving. You will also see them blindly praising each other’s books in the hope (sometimes there are also unwritten rules) that their book will also be praised by the others when the time comes.
I am not saying that this is totally a bad thing. Author groups help. I have been a part of many too. All I am saying is that the authors who are part of one group should not stay in only that group but also be friendly towards other groups. Why make it so obvious that you are trying hard to promote only yourself and others in your community? Does it harm you in any way to respond to posts from other people too, especially if they are saying the same thing that your community is saying?
A time comes when these communities go out of control or simply get defunct. They all will. Law of nature. And when they do, it will become difficult for the authors concerned because a lot of things will need to be done from scratch, like rebuilding visibility outside the community.
Most authors will rant about their pet peeves (and nothing else).
Some of the best authors we know, some of the biggest award-winners in the literary world, have been reduced to being whiners. And that is sad. It is pathetic to see post after post from good authors speaking only of one thing, and that is the thing that they hate. It might be a valid issue that there are voicing against, but if the author goes on and on about that in one post after another, it becomes oh-so-annoying.
Trust me, even the best of authors lose respect that way. This is one of the surest ways to turn those likes into dislikes. Our readers might be aligned to our thoughts, but when we go on a continuous tirade, even they will be put off.
We cannot help it though, because most of us are hard-headed opinionated pricks whom we ourselves would not like to get into a conversation with. But that’s the sad part. We authors have the potential to change the thinking of society and veer it towards a positive direction. We have to do it constructively though, and not by coming across as a ranting crybaby. Our words are effective. Our poems can stir hearts. Those are the tools we must employ, maximum impact in minimal words.
Most authors will abuse the freedom social media gives them.
A lot of us are culpable of this, including yours truly. We go on and post just about anything on social media. Just because we have this freedom of sharing things at the click of a button, we go ahead and do just that. We don’t stop to think anymore. That post might be badly-constructed, show us in a poor light, be detrimental to our reputation, but we hardly stop to think about it and go trigger-happy with the posting.
Just think about it. Orwell, Dickens, Hemingway, and all—how would it have been if they had social media at their time? How would it have been if they posted their half-baked poems and prose too? Would their readers have followed them with the same conviction, and would these authors have been classics today? I am sure Shakespeare would have ranted on social media and so also Dickens. That would have blunted their edge. The reason why our classic authors and poets are classics today is because they were selective about the things they put out in public. Not to say they had a choice otherwise, but they were selective anyway. We saw only the best of them, and that’s why we revere them.
Most authors won’t “talk with” people but “talk to” them.
There’s a difference between ‘talking to’ and ‘talking with’ someone. When you talk to someone, you are only telling them your thoughts and not listening to them. In short, you are being condescending. People comment on your posts, but many of us are not listening to them. We are only telling them what we feel, over and over again, and not even entertaining the thought that they might be reasonable too.
The thing we need to do is ‘talk with’ our people on social media. Social media is all about interaction. When someone comments, we have to talk with them, maybe take the conversation ahead, and sometimes when there’s reason, begin to see things a different way. Well, that’s what I believe social media is—a place of learning. It is not just a place of teaching as a lot of us authors tend to believe it is.
And this applies to posts from other people too. Sadly, very few authors will comment on other people’s posts. Maybe there’s always this unspoken elitist feeling going on. But then that’s again ‘talking to’, right? It is a very selfish way to use social media if you only expect people to interact on your posts and you turn a blind eye to theirs even if they have written something that makes sense.
So, that’s it. These were some things I really wanted to say since a long time, and I did it now. Feels better, because now I can also “listen to” the mistakes I have been making and can improve on them.