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5 Ways Authors Alienate Readers on Social Media Sites

Social media is revolutionizing the publishing industry. Authors can interact with readers in ways we never could before. We can get to know them on a personal basis. We can stay connected with them between books. We have the ability to reach out to more people in more places than we ever could physically.

Yes, social media can be very helpful for authors. In fact, I recently asked one of my readers, Amy (@MyFriendAmy on Twitter), to give me her perspective about authors and their use of social media. She has over 4000 Twitter followers and has a fantastic blog where she reviews books, so I figured she’s been around and seen enough to share her thoughts.

Here’s what Amy had to say about the positive influence authors have on social media: “Without social media and the charming presence of some authors on social media, I would never have discovered their books. I have a lot of fun conversing with authors on Twitter and am definitely more likely to want to support an author who has been kind, witty, or helpful on Twitter. I get excited to read their books because I hope that those same qualities will come through in their writing.”

Social media has the power to help authors. Immensely. But it also has the power to hurt them. And of course, I had to ask Amy to share ways that authors have alienated her on social media sites. Here are a few of the ways authors can turn off their readers (a combination of mine and Amy’s thoughts):

1. When authors voice their opinions TOO strongly.

Here’s what Amy said: “Authors who are too strong in their political views and say spiteful things about other political parties, who belittle any group of people. Readers want to engage with authors online, and readers come from all sorts of different backgrounds.”

2. When authors handle criticism POORLY.

Amy indicated when authors don’t handle criticism on their books well, it alienates readers. She said it might be unfair, but when authors come across as really angry and unpleasant, she’s less interested in their books. She said that many readers feel the same way.

3. When authors use social media ONLY as a promotional tool.

I loved what Amy said: “Social media is a conversation, not a promotional tool. Readers WANT to engage with authors and get to know them better. We want to know there's more to you than your book. And yes of course we do also want to know ABOUT your book . . .sneak peeks into the cover process or choosing a title . . . but we also want to know about what great books you're enjoying reading, how that marathon prep is going, the latest greatest free ebooks you've discovered, and whether or not that recipe turned out the way you thought it would.”

4. When authors DON’T acknowledge the comments of readers.

Amy said: “I also like to see authors acknowledge me if I say something to them on Twitter. For a lot of readers, it can take courage to send that first tweet to an author or post a comment on their blog or Facebook page. If authors make their readers feel noticed and appreciated it can really go a long way. I think there are ALWAYS more readers watching than actively take part and it's important to be mindful of the whole audience. If my tweet is acknowledged or you reply to me on Facebook--WIN!”

5. When authors make readers feel they’re too BUSY for them.

This has probably been one of the biggest turn-offs for me personally as a reader interacting with other authors. It’s presumptuous of authors to think that they’re busier than others. Everyone everywhere is busy. It’s good business practice to give each consumer (reader) the feeling that they’re the only one, that they’re important enough to receive our full and undivided attention, and for us not to complain about how busy we are to them.

As Shakespeare said (in As You Like It), “All the world’s a stage.” Now with the expansion of social media, all the world has taken on new meaning. More people are watching us than we realize. And with the greater exposure comes greater responsibility.

As writers (both unpublished and published), we would be wise to evaluate how we’re doing. Of course nobody’s perfect. But are we doing our best to have a positive social media presence?

What do you think? Has an author ever alienated you because of something they did on a social media site? What did they do? And how could they have improved their interaction?

*Picture from Toby Young's Memoir: How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

51 comments:

  1. Most authors I've met through Twitter are extremely nice and respond. I wouldn't say they alienate readers on purpose. But the biggest turn off to me is when all they start tweeting and blogging about is their book - I mean every time. And no more funny or helpful posts. I eventually stop reading . And I don't mean the authors who just say buy my book - it's the sharing of every single piece of good news that comes across their desk. After a while it gets tiresome. And don't worry, you don't do that at all!

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  2. I have not had any negative interaction yet, but I will say it certainly brings people together that never would otherwise. I had a couple of DM's going back and forth with Michael Hyatt one night. Completely cool! :O)

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  3. I unfriended a couple of people on Facebook because of their constant political statements. I'm all for everyone having an opinion, but I don't like other people telling me how to think.

    I try to reply to everyone who responds to me. I'm still trying to find a balance of social media interaction and writing. Sometimes I feel like I just don't have anything worthwhile to say.

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  4. I agree with all of your points!

    I don't mind opinions UNTIL people get in my face about mine, which happened last November, during the elections.

    I am most uncomfortable when tweets and comments to specific people are ignored.

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  5. Thank you, Jody, these are great points. I'm so new to the various types of social media that I know I haven't learned all the unwritten rules yet. Blog posts like yours today really help!

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  6. This is a great post! Thanks to you and Amy for putting it together. I agree with all of these points.

    One of the things with Twitter, I've found, is that those with sparkly personalities will have a much better time with it than those who are a little more introverted.

    I was once following a well-known, highly successful author and had to stop, because his tweets were so mundane and boring it was altering my opinion of his work. It's a tricky slope.

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  7. Oh man, have I seen someone go nuts promoting themselves. Sometimes I laugh. Sometimes not so much. I hope people will grant me grace if I do stuff like that (I also hope I don't do stuff like that.) I'm convinced that's why God's is keeping me humble.

    I also get paranoid I leave people out (the people-pleaser in me).

    I'll be thinking about this one today.
    ~ Wendy

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  8. This is a great post, Jody and Amy. I know I'm very opinionated, but I try to keep it off Facebook (not so much twitter where I do more of my political stuff), but I try to use humor and I never take people on on their opinions on their own walls.

    The responding to readers is trickier. Some days I have to choose between interaction versus getting out to read other blogs. I find it easier to email my response to blog commenters than to go back to the blog and respond to each person. That strategy seems to work for now.

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  9. EXCELLENT POST!

    Jody, you get better all the time!

    I'm tweeting this one for sure!

    And by the way, I think you will enjoy today's post at Moonboat -- about bookstores and booklovers. I wrote it as a personal experience essay, but I am getting immediate and emotional feedback. There are a lot of folks who feel the same way.

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  10. I agree with all your points, especially the self promotion one. I've stopped visiting a few author blogs because all they do is talk about their book.

    And like Laura said, you don't fall into that category.

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  11. These are such great points for authors/aspiring authors to read.

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  12. There was a time an author ignored me. She is very talented and I adored her writing, the premise of her story, and the depth of her MC. I knew I would read her work from then on. Even though I was disappointed with her ability to connect with me I still love her work.
    But as a writer I would never want to take this chance with my readers. Ever.

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  13. As a new author, I find this incredibly useful.... I am hoping I have not yet fallen into any of these traps. It's good to know what to guard against, thank you.

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  14. These are all great tips, Jody and Amy! I think authors, especially those new to social media, should remember how esteemed they are in their readers' eyes. When I met my favorite author, I literally couldn't speak. I bumbled and squeaked out something ridiculous--I'm sure I looked like a crazed maniac!--but the thrill of meeting her had overwhelmed me.

    When a reader e-mails, tweets, or reaches out in any way, authors should value it. It takes a lot of guts (and a bit of time) for readers to enter the author's realm.

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  15. I hate when authors don't respond to an honest question on FB, especially if they have asked you to review their book on your own website. That to me, means that there should be somewhat of a relationship established and a quick reply is easy, fast, and a way to secure a fan for life. Ignore me and I start to wonder why you contacted me in the first place. Just for more publicity? I get that but if that's all you want out of me, it rubs me the wrong way. If I were a book reviewer or wrote a review blog, I wouldn't take it personally but I'm neither of those. :)

    I agree with everything Amy said. One author reviewed my ebook for me. Not only did she review it, but she reviewed it ON her website and she now has me as her biggest fan because she went above and beyond for a new author and fan! That speaks volumes about her heart.

    Christian authors I think have more expected of them. We expect them to be kind. I have unfanned some pages on FB because there was too much negativity. I know I probably shouldn't but I hold the Christian author to a higher standard, just as I do for myself as a believer.

    Blessings,
    Mel
    Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God

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  16. ABSOLUTELY SPOT ON. Nothing ticks me off more than someone ignoring me. I'm a book reviewer and I have a LOT of people in real life and online life who ask me my opinions about what I read. I put thought into my reviews. I do not like seeing a certain well-known Christian author (nameless because you probably know her and love her) highlight every single positive review under the guise of being "humble" and then ignore my reviews EVERY TIME. She thanks me for my comments in private, yet ignores me in the "public" forum. After the third book of this, I've decided not to promote her books, her business, or recommend her anymore. It's too bad because she is good...but don't ignore your readers and reviewers.

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  17. Great tips, especially that last one! With my book release just over five months away, I've been feeling overwhelmed and so crazy-busy I can't see straight. I know I need to keep reminding myself NOT to let that show, lest potential readers roll their eyes and think, "get over yourself."

    Tawna

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  18. It's really helpful to hear from everyone today! Thank you all for chiming in!

    As an author and reader, I've been ingored at times by other authors too. When that happens I can't help but wonder why they've chosen not to respond. Did my comment just get lost in the crowd? I usually try to give the author the benefit of the doubt--and continue to think the best of them. Because I'm sure there are times when I've inadvertantly missed responding to someone (although I try really hard not to!) But if the author repeatedly fails to respond, then it IS hard to continue to like them.

    Yes, social media is helpful, but if we don't use it right, we could end up doing ourselves more harm than goo.

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  19. Thanks, Jody and Amy, for the great points you made. The last thing I want to do as an author is alienate my readers--once my book is released and I have some, that is. My heart's desire is be sure they know how much I appreciate the time they take to send an email, leave a blog comment, or write a book review. After all, readers are the ones who matter most. Without them, authors have no audience. =)

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  20. Very good post.

    I was at a writers conference last summer (Chautauqua--go if you write for children--it's wonderful) and I mentioned to one of the staff members that I was wanting to get a book signed by another staff member, but I didn't want to bother her. She said, "If anyone on this staff doesn't stop what she's doing right now to sign for you, then she's not going to be on the staff long. What a lovely thing to have someone ask you for your autograph. No one here considers that a burden, believe me."

    I agree with everything that Amy said, and I even agree with the part about authors not being busier than others. I don't think they are busier, but I do think that there is a limit to how many autographs you can sign in a day. Or how many tweets you can respond to.

    I am not a twitter user so I'm asking for a little clarification. Do you mean that if an author goes on Twitter for twenty minutes each day and is there interacting with people you want him to respond to people within that time frame? What if he goes to the bathroom and misses a tweet. That twitter page moves so fast I can't stay up with it. Which is why I never go on.

    I do use Facebook, though, and I always wonder what all went by that I didn't catch because I wasn't online. Am I held responsible for missing someone's birthday because I wasn't on that day? Am I expected to answer a two-day old comment on my wall that I hadn't seen, or have people moved on?

    Not that I'm an author and anyone cares, but I'd like to be a considerate friend, all the same.

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  21. Sally Apokedak asked: Do you mean that if an author goes on Twitter for twenty minutes each day and is there interacting with people you want him to respond to people within that time frame? What if he goes to the bathroom and misses a tweet. That twitter page moves so fast I can't stay up with it. Which is why I never go on.

    My response: Sally, great question. I think what you are asking is this: How can authors keep up with every correspondence? Should they be held responsible for every interaction?

    Personally, I do try to make a point of interacting with all those who make a special effort to communicate with me. Of course I can't do that with each blog comment, so I usually only respond to direct questions on my blog.

    On Twitter we can look at those who send @'s to us directly. So even if we're not keeping up with the stream, we can see those who directly @ our names. Thus we do have the capability to respond back, and I try to, even if it's a day later.

    Same thing on Facebook. While I can't respond to each individual comment people leave on my comments, I DO respond to every comment someone posts on my wall or to every message, no matter how many hours have elapsed.

    Yes, I'm sure some comments slip past me! But I feel it's my responsibility (and privilege) to interact with those who take the time to chat with me.

    Hope that answers your question!

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  22. There is one author who has made it very clear to me that she would rather I had nothing to do with a blog she is involved with. I won't name names, but the blog itself is a collaborative blog with several authors--all of which are women. I've visited that blog off and on for several years and participated in the discussions. Some time ago, the other ladies on the blog invited this woman to join their group. On one of her earlier posts, I left a comment, like I have done on so many blogs. I don't recall the exact wording, but she commented along the lines of "Oh, there's a man here." She has make similar comments at other times. It's a blog, for crying out loud, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a man might read it, but you would think I had walked into the ladies' restroom or something. If it were just her blog, I wouldn't read it at all, but I just try to ignore her. I don't expect I'll be reading any of her books.

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  23. I've never been alienated by an author that I can think of. However, there have been agents that have torqued me off when they start spouting their political opinions. I have some pretty strong beliefs, which I try to keep reined in on certain social media areas, and let things fly in others, and knowing that a potential partner has some dramatically different views is off putting to me. There's several that while I think they're fine agents, I don't think they'd be even third or fourth tier in a round of submissions--just because of some of the views they've voiced on Twitter.

    On the flip side, most of the writers I connect with either share my views or don't voice their views, so I've never been offended by another author.

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  24. I enjoy following authors on twitter, and I definitely have an opinion about what I do and do not like.
    I love when authors talk about their lives, their writing process, and their favorite books.
    I hate when authors retweet compliments (if I didn't already like them then I wouldn't be following them), use profanity excessively, seem rude or abrasive, or espouse extreme political opinions (even if I agree with them, I don't enjoy politics in general).
    Such a true blog post!

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  25. Timothy, In my opinion that's just poor taste on the part of that author. Even if she's joking. But I think your comment brings to mind another potential pitfall that bloggers can fall into: the tendency to become cliquish within the comments of our blogs. Yes, it's fun to have conversations with our closer friends. But we also have to be careful to make sure everyone who stops by feels welcome and safe, with the freedom to voice their opinions (even if they differ from ours).

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  26. I think #4 hits home for me. It DOES take quite a bit of courage to post that first comment and sometimes it seems like an author is only trying to collect blog comments like badges rather than interact with their readers. I left comments for a few new writers recently, and even though my comment was one of maybe only 3 or 4, the blogger never commented or responded to any of them, even collectively.

    I know, of course, that writers are busy. I'm not published or agented but I'm still swamped. That's why when someone does respond to their comments I can become endeared to them.

    I recently read a new release from a popular Christian author and found what I thought was an anachronism. I really wanted to let her know (in case she had reprints in the future) but there was something terrifying about not only contacting someone who I knew was busy but to do it in order to point out an error in her work. I sent her an e-mail and waited and waited. Then several weeks later - a response! She thanked me and acknowledged it was an error that no one else had found. I know that her responding was something small and likely took only a few minutes, but that small guesture made me feel invested in her work and eager to check out her next book. Our connection is minute but it's a connection nonetheless.

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  27. Great stuff here. So much of it boils down to being a pleasant and giving person. I follow a certain author on Twitter, and her political rants have turned me off. Maybe that's not a fair thing to say, but it's the truth. That's NOT why I followed her!

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  28. I've felt that last one. I know I shouldn't take it personally, but hey, I'm human. ;) Great post.

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  29. Whitney Bailey said: "I think #4 hits home for me. It DOES take quite a bit of courage to post that first comment and sometimes it seems like an author is only trying to collect blog comments like badges rather than interact with their readers."

    My response: Wow, great way to put that Whitney! I know it's hard for any blogger (published or not) to have time to respond to each blog comment. But I do think it's great if we can try to jump into the discussion on our blogs from time to time. While it might not be possibly every time we post, I do think it helps our blog readers know we really are reading and that we do care about what they have to say.

    So, thank you EVERYONE for commenting today! :-)

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  30. Good thing hubby isn't home yet. He'd think I need a doctor with all the head bobbing as I read your blog and these comments, Jody. Thank Amy for her valuable input.

    Hi Tawna. I know you from somewhere, but can't remember. Maybe you read and judged for NRCA last year? eHQN? Critted with me briefly? :)

    I'm not into politics so I tend to skim over those twitter and FB posts. However, there is one person on my Twitter that, if it weren't for her witty posts and the fact that I may work with her one day, I'd unfollow. She has responded to exactly two of my @ tweets in almost six months. I feel like I'm not good enough to tweet with her because I'm not published yet. Those are the ones who bother me most. Not that they don't have time because everyone can 'see' how much time they spend on social media- but that they don't have time for *you*. I guess that falls into the cliquish group Jody mentioned. I interact with quite a few authors who are multi-published and wonderfully warm people. I visit their blogs and they visit mine, we congratulate each other in person and socially on progress highs, commiserate on the lows. Even though I am still trying to get n=my book published, I exist to them as much as they do to me. Readers? I don't have any yet, but I do have several debut potentials. I want to keep them! So I FB and Twitter and try to keep up in the fast lane. I admit, I'm not good at it, keeping up, but I try. Which, sadly, is more than I can say for some. Thanks for a great and so helpful post.

    To Timothy- you, or any man, are welcome to my blog any day! After all, what is a HERO?

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  31. I just unliked an author's fan page. The reason: She only talks about herself and posts constant pictures of herself. I guess I'd like to see Christian authors show some humility. I mean this ability to write is a GIFT and should be treated as such. So I guess if you are a conceited, I will also stop being a fan. The fans are the reason you sell books.

    Blessings,
    Mel
    Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God

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  32. Gee, I hope I get to the stage of having this as a problem. Great advice and I promise I'll take it.

    Thanks for the post.

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  33. I love Amy, she's great. She is right on with all her thoughts. I'm not into politics and it only serves to hurt the author and turn people off,especially the ones who don't agree with them. And it definitely rubs me the wrong way when an author totally ignores comments made by me or anybody else. I've come across a few who only comment to their friends and ignore the rest.
    My pet peeve is swearing.

    I quit twitter for a while because it just seemed too cliquish. After reading a few blogs by some other authors, I finally decided to try again. Will see what happens.

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  34. I've unfriended authors on Facebook when they got too political or too religious.

    I've only tweeted to a few published authors. All but one tweeted back. The TV writers never tweet back.

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  35. I absolutely agree with the comment about it taking readers a lot of courage to ask an author a question or even leave a comment about how great something is. When I was a kid I was way too scared to talk to authors, or I thought they would just ignore me. That first comment took a lot of courage, and you have no idea how happy I was when I actually got a response. Since then I've met (both virtually and in real life) plenty of authors who love their fans and will interact with them. As a fan I would advise every author to interact. And I mean interaction on any level. Some people don't mind having whole conversations with fans, while others prefer little interaction. Either way is fine. Sometimes the simplest "Thanks for liking my book!" goes a long way.

    Also, a good piece of advice that someone gave me about open social networking: "When you blog, you're not a politician. You're a newscaster. It's okay to have some opinions, but you don't need to argue them in front of the President."

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  36. Mel said: "I just unliked an author's fan page. The reason: She only talks about herself and posts constant pictures of herself."

    My Response: Mel, thanks for sharing your experience. After you left your comment, I had to quick think what kinds of comments I leave on my Author Page. Were you referring to boastful, self-promotional comments? Because I think we all tend to leave comments on Facebook that have to do with our lives and families and what we're up to. So facebook can be a bit ego-centric. But I'm assuming you're talking more about being turned-off by authors who are using their Page as a billboard?

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  37. You and Amy have both made excellent points here, Jody. I tend to think our blogs, FB and Twitter pages reflect the kind of personalities we have, and the purposes we have for them. So much is made of the need to promote and market via online media that we might go a little overboard on how we handle it. #3 turns me off very quickly. We have to find the fine line between conversing and sharing with others, and shouting, "You have to read my blog post/book. It's fabulous." I've just recently stopped following an author on Twitter who does the latter constantly. The comments were so frequent that they were hard to ignore. Now I need to make sure I'm not an offender, too!

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  38. These are all good points. I can't think of any authors I know that have bugged me but I see self-promotion on facebook sometimes that turns me off rather than intriguing me.

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  39. I'm a new fiction author, just beginning to build my platform, so this information is greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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  40. This was (yet again!) another informative and interesting post. As a reader, I don't like "liking" a FB page or following an author is all they do is talk about THEIR books and work. I like to see authors that are supportive of others and interact organically with their readers.

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  41. Thanks for this, Jody and Amy. I agree with all points, but especially one and three. A popular blogger who doesn't respond to every comment, I understand--if they make some effort to participate, at least. But aggressive marketing and political belittling will deeply hurt my desire to work or spend time with the person. Not the sort of reader response any of us hopes for.

    On the other hand, we all love networking with people who are friendly, warm, lighthearted, good-natured, clever, funny, interesting, etc.... :)

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  42. Great post, Amy and Jody :)

    My experience as a blogger and reviewer has been overwhelmingly positive when it comes to my interaction with Christian authors. I've been particularly impressed with authors who have responded graciously when I haven't been enamoured with their book.

    For any authors who are introverted, Twitter and FB can be daunting and even difficult technically - I still struggle with a lot of FB, so much I don't get! So, like Jody I'm keen to give writers a break if they miss some comments. It works both ways, in my view - writers should do their best to respond genuinely given the brave new twitter world we live in and readers need to not be too precious about having an author's undivided attention every time we comment!

    If you want to see a writer who does this exceptionally well, check out Laura Frantz's blog (http://laurafrantz.blogspot.com/). She responds to every single comment on her blog individually and with genuine interest and care. It is worth noting she gets a LOT of comments. She has chosen to focus on blog comments and not twitter so she has the time to respond.

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  43. As a new author, I have to say it's hard to walk the fine line because I feel like if I don't promote myself, then who will ever hear about my book and want to read it? I think right now most of my followers are just as excited as I am about the whole process, because a lot of them are fellow authors and we've been on this journey together for a while. I'm trying to determine what is acceptable as far as 'advertising' and what isn't. Right now I'm just working on building up my blog readership and connecting with folks on my author page and website, and of course I'm still in the honeymoon phase of being published, so I am probably way overenthusiastic about it all a lot of the time!
    This was a great post and very insightful!

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  44. Jody,

    I've only been using social media as an author and businesswoman for a few months. However, I've been using it as a reader and a book and writing lover for years. Most of those bold points annoy me (and probably just about everyone) and are good reminders that an author is not an island unto themselves, so to speak. Their actions effect how others see them.

    A great reminder. Thanks.

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  45. I made an innocent comment on Absolute Write several weeks ago and had someone give me the rudest, snarkiest response. Initially, I wanted to be snarky back, but I remembered that anyone who goes to that site could potentially read my post. I just made up my mind to never, ever read anything published by that individual. There's something to be said for "do unto others as you want the to do unto you".

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  46. Fran, It sounds like you did the right thing! We never know what's going to come up when our name gets googled! That one snarky comment on that post might be the thing that people will see. I agree, that it's best to respond with graciousness (or silence). People will respect you for it!

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  47. I just signed on to Twitter. (Spent a good part of the day trying to master Tweetdeck. Still trying to figure out RT and hashtags!) Thanks for the interaction tips! Will do! (Or try my best!)

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