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Making Friends Without Making Them Feel Used

Thursday, January 5, 2012

We hear a lot these days about the need to build a team (or tribe) that can help us in our quest for publication. As I recently said in this post How To Drive Yourself Crazy as a Writer, writing a book might be a solitary endeavor, but the road beyond that is not.

In the changing publication climate, we need each other now more than ever for things like editing, marketing, encouragement, instruction, advice, etc.

Now, with two published books out there, I’ve come to realize just how important a role my connections have played in achieving success. Influencers, reviewers, online friends, and blog readers, have been some of my biggest supporters.

For example, Lydia Sharp said this in an email: "A co-worker of mine just finished reading The Preacher's Bride (on my recommendation) and said she loved it! I also gave my copy of The Doctor's Lady to a different co-worker/friend . . . These ladies are not writers, just readers, and I was talking about your books (at different times to each of them) . . . neither one of them had heard of you before I mentioned your books. So it looks like you got some new fans!"

I could list example after example of other online friends who have done the same thing as Lydia—passed along the word about my book to the people in their circle of influence whether online or off. I’m absolutely thrilled and incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support and the friendships that I’ve been able to make.

But how does a writer gain those kinds of connections? Like me, you’ve probably run into people online that you thought held out the hand of friendship. But it didn’t take long before their spam and requests made you feel used, as if you were just another pawn in their effort to play the publishing game.

As we strive to build a wider online presence, how can we make friends without making them feel used? Here are some principles I’ve tried to live by in my online interactions:

1. Form connections early in your publishing journey. I always encourage beginning writers to spend the majority of their time learning and growing as writers. But I also don’t advocate waiting until right before publication before jumping into social media and attempting to make connections.

2. Show genuine interest in other people. Yes, numbers matter (to a degree). But let’s never lose sight of the fact that every name and face we come across belongs to another human being with real joys and sorrows just like ours. They have dreams and aspirations, families and pets, and health issues and stressors the same as we do. They are more than just another number to help us rise higher and instead deserve our respect and basic consideration.

3. Ask for little. I rarely ask any of my friends for favors. For example, I don’t ask for guest blog posts, book reviews, retweets, or any other help promoting my books. On a couple of occasions, I’ve put out the word that I’d needed volunteers. And in those cases, online friends could email me if they wanted to participate in a blog tour or influencing for a book.

However, the large majority of support I receive from friends is freely given without any cajoling, spamming, or pleading on my part. In fact, I’m honored that people come to me on a regular basis and ask for interviews or guest posts.

But, you may be asking, how do you get to the point where people ask how THEY can help YOU and not the other way around? (See the next point.)

4. Give a lot. Become known as a giver in the writing community. But also make sure to give without strings attached. A surefire way to lose friends is to do something nice but then turn around and ask for a favor in return.

There are countless ways to give: encouragement, blog advice, retweets, reviews, etc. I’m continually amazed by the many generous writers I meet on the internet. They’re the kind of people that I want to rally behind and see succeed, not because they’ve asked me to, but because I’ve grown to respect and admire them.

Summary: The bottom line is this: To have friends, you have to be a friend--especially the kind of friend worth having. That’s the way it works in real life. And that’s the way it works on the internet too.

What about you? Have you ever made an online friend only to later feel used by that person? What are some ways you've had success making online friends?

40 comments:

  1. Great post, Jody. I love making new friends and spending time sharing with old ones. It's so important to treat even online friendships with the same care and giving nature we do in the real world.

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  2. Paul's comment is spot on. For me, I think the hype has to come way later than the writing. Once someone is hooked on your writing, it really is a natural progression to want to tell others about it. I have noticed recently a lot of people offering things totally unconnected with the book in order to help spread the word and I think that is a shame. If you like someone and/or their book you are already invested in wanting to help them. I think you handle it spot on Jody. No hype just a love of a good read.

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  3. Jody, great advice. And it is something we build up to, this creating of community around us to inspire our peers to help us as we help them. I have found a great camaraderie amongst writers, like no other. I want other writers to succeed as its make our industry stronger! We are all in it together.

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  4. Jody, your blog posts are so wonderful and insightful. I do not always comment, but I do always read. I've made invaluable connections in this blogging community and I'm happy to call them friends. It's all about helping when possible and encourage with positivity.

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  5. This one is gold. Another reason why I love you.

    And it can certainly be applied in all areas of life as well.

    ~ Wendy

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  6. I totally agree. The friendships I've made online are real. If I saw these people in real life, I'd hug them. But I've gotten many Twitter direct messages after I follow back someone that just make me feel marketed to, not friended. I don't want to be treated like that, and so I don't treat others like that.

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  7. I like what you said about giving with no strings attached. I had a critique partner who read my entire MS in two nights. She did not expect me to get hers back as quickly. But I felt so grateful and wanted to do something for her. So I put critiquing her MS at the top if my list. Since then I have tried to follow her example.

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  8. Pointed post filled to the brim with wise advice. Thank you!

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  9. Great post! Thanks for the shout-out. :-)

    That copy of THE DOCTOR'S LADY is still being passed around between friends and family members of the woman I gave it to. They said they're looking forward to your next book, too! :D

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  10. Thanks for this post...the idea of marketing and asking favors is scary to me...making giving the priority makes sense.

    A little karmic attitude could also help as I've found that you don't always give and receive from the same sources.

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  11. Hey everyone! Loving your comments today! You're bringing up some great points!

    Catherine, I think you landed on something very important. We can form those friendships prior to publication. BUT ultimately we have to write a book our friends can feel GOOD about supporting and shouting out about. If it's not a well written book, then they aren't going to want to share it within their circle of influence no matter how much they like you as a person and friend. So, along with being good friends to each other we can't forget to write good books! :-)

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  12. Priceless post, Jody!

    I love making new friends, and it never occurs to me that someone might have less than honorable intentions. I've found that I've become a bit more cautious in accepting friend requests on my personal FB page because of this, and I rarely follow folks back on Twitter if it appears that I'm just another "number" they're wishing to add.

    While marketing and "putting ourselves out there" are imporant, maintaining genuiness in our friendships is moreso.

    Great words today! I think I'll have to RT this! :)

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  13. I completely agree. It can be a really fine line to not make your friends feel used. It's one of the reasons I love Keli Gwyn. She gives and gives and gives. So when it's time to celebrate with her, she doesn't ask, we just want to give BACK! But I know she doesn't do it to get our help later in promoting her books. She does it because of her kind and giving heart.

    Great post, Jody!

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  14. Great post. I had so many wonderful people help me through writing and publishing that I tend to want to help everyone now. This has actually caused me to get behind on my writing. So I'm sure we have to learn balance too. When to say yes and when to say no.

    I did ask for reviewers once, but only after my book was self-published, and because it was going to the investor of a traditional publisher and they asked for reviews. I was amazed at all the willing hearts that reviewed my book. Sure there are some out there who are only for their gain, but I think the majority really do want to help in return.

    BTW, my hubby bought me Doctor's Lady for Christmas. I can't wait to read it! Blessings on all your writings:)

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  15. Love this post, Jody!

    For me, growing up reading all the fiction I could get my hands on, authors were such a distant thing. In this beautiful day and age with social media and such interactive author websites, it is a really cool thing to allow the readers to truly connect with the writers.

    Though I've been writing forever, when I first got involved in a writers group and met *gasp* published authors, it was a little unreal. It is still unreal to me to get a Twitter follow notice from an author I've read for years. (It makes me giddy for a week, actually.)

    This creates such a fun dynamic and the give and take between author and reader is important.

    Thank you for this post! (And for all your time that you invest in readers and wannabe writers like me!)

    :-)

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  16. The idea of trying to market myself gives me hives. LOL. And I'm not an extrovert either. However, I've been blown away by the community online. So many people willing to encourage, inspire or just chat. It's made all the difference for me. And now I love to reach out to writers that are even newer than me. And I love being able to read books by bloggers I've come like and admire. I'm not ready to publish yet but all of the friends I've made in the blogosphere have already helped me to grow tremendously.

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  17. The connections I've made online have been stellar. The highlight of ACFW was meeting so many of my online friends face-to-face -- you included! (Although you were a tough gal to get to! You are so well liked. No surprise.)
    But, there was one writer I know locally who only connected with me when she wanted something. Needless to say, I limited my interactions with her. I am all for helping someone, but I don't like to be used.

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  18. Fabulous post, and I think I'm living to those guidelines. I hope I am. Thanks for this. I think this is very helpful to all of the rising writers...and there are so many of us! It's exciting, and it's such a great community. There's so much opportunity for us out there, but it won't do us any good if we take advantage of those opportunities.

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  19. Great post, and so very wise, not just for on-line friendships, but for real time as well. Thanks so much for the wonderfully expressed insights.

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  20. True, true. And I wonder if the fact that we're not face-to-face when we're online makes people more pushy with their products than they would be otherwise? Maybe some of the etiquette surrounding online relationships is still being formed, leaving us floundering at times.

    I think the advice to be a friend is best; thanks for another great post!

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  21. This issue worries me the most in the opposite direction: not that people will use me, but that I will somehow let others down. This has been especially difficult in the last six months as I've been meeting some grueling deadlines that had me at the end of my rope both emotionally and logistically. I worried that my writer friends and readers would think I had abandoned them or grown snobby, which I assure you was the opposite of what was happening during my rewrite! But in the end, we just have to trust that those who know us will understand the pressures we may be under. It's inevitable in life that people may judge one another for the wrong reasons, and so we just have to let it go and do the best we can, day by day.

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  22. This is so, so true. I've been amazed by the number of bloggers I've made a real, genuine connection with, and I honestly think of them as friends. They enrich my writing journey and I'm very happy to support them. It's easy to tell which bloggers have a genuine interest in you and which are just after something from you. Great post! :-)

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  23. Jody, this hit home for me. Many times my feelings have been hurt when I've realized someone wasn't really that interested in my blog or what I had to say as to what I could do for them and if I couldn't I never heard from them again. We need to remember to treat people with respect, whether online or in person. I love getting to know new people through social networking and feel so blessed to meet so many wonderful people. I hope I always remember to treat people with respect and hope no one ever feels used. Another awesome post!

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  24. Excellent blog, Jody and so true. I shall pass it on to my writerly friends who'll appreciate it too. :)

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  25. Sheryl did pass it on and that's How I ended up here.Whether it's on line friends or in our ordinary life, I think the principles are the same about being a friend.

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  26. So far I've never met an online friend that tried to abuse me in the way you mentioned.

    Maybe that makes me lucky, or maybe it's because I willingly help everyone I can, so no one feels the need to spam me. Still, I do feel less than stellar about people who want to guest post on my blog without even interacting with me beforehand.

    Still, if they have something to share, I let them on. To me, my blog is about my readers to a large extent, so if I think they're going to gain something from a person's post, I'll put it up, even if the person was less than subtle in their approach to me.

    Besides, the way I see it, one day I will need to ask for help and then I will reap (in some form) the seeds that I've sown.

    :-)

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  27. I've appreciated all of the discussion on this touchy issue! Thanks everyone for jumping into the conversation! :-)

    Thanks for passing along the link, Sheryl! And thanks for stopping by as a result, Dale!

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  28. I so agree it is important the friendships we make are genuine, and not about the numbers. It takes time to cultivate relationships. Great post Jody! So far I have not felt like I've been used. If promoting someone else, I always get back more than I give!

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  29. Jody, These are terrific points. I completely agree. My debut came out this week and I was truly stunned and overwhelmed by all the kindness I've received from my online and in real life friends. So many people who don't even read my genre are buying the book and spreading the word. It's been humbling and amazing.

    I am so so glad I started blogging early and discovered this network of fabulous writers and readers. Forget worrying about book sales and all that hoopla, this week wouldn't have been half as cool if I hadn't had so many great friends to share it with. Made every minute of all the social networking totally worth it. :) I feel truly blessed.

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  30. Jody thanks so much for this post, it says so much, so simply. I am grateful you didn't title it "4 Ways to make friends . . ." I don't think I would have bothered to follow the link from twitter. I am so glad I did. I am looking forward to reading more from you in the future.

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  31. What wise words, and I am taking them to heart. Writing is so solitary, but it really is about others. We write for readers, and encourage one another along the journey.

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  32. Friendship is a two way relationship. Likable people are easy to befriend but we tend to step back a bit from those who seem to have a one-sided, personal agenda. Twitter and Facebook are places where I most notice people reaching out to 'friends' and then using the relationship to promote themselves and their books.

    The plus side is this marvelous online community of writers that really have become genuine friends. Although I'm not in the situation of having deadlines yet, I recognize what Rosslyn says about having so many cyber friends that sometimes it's hard to be available to all of them and still meet our own writing commitments. But I think, as fellow writers, we all understand those demands and remain supportive anyway. Also, it may be times like hers that "separate the wheat from the chaff" among our online associations! :)

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  33. I am only just beginning my journey [newbie visiting from WU] but I think the best on-line friendships are formed [grow] through a common interest or a shared perspective. Sometimes it's the very smallest or quirky connections that really form a lasting bond. I don't think you [me!] can ask for much more than that.

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  34. Mainly, I think we should make friends because we WANT to make FRIENDS. The best rewards come from just being yourself, giving as much support to others as you can, and not expecting anything in return. And sometimes the greatest reward is being able to offer help to someone who really needs it. Great post, Jody!

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  35. Jody, I couldn't leave your site without telling you how much I enjoyed your post! You are so right. We need to be friends to others first, put others before our needs. Or in Modern terminology, pay it forward. Being superficial is not my cup of tea. People can tell if your sincere or not. And you can't build on friendships without supporting others. Love this. I'm bookmarking this! Thanks!:)

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  37. What a kafaffle! (The joys of two log-ins, right?) Anyway, excellent post! Thank you so much!

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  38. I like your post about "Making online friends Without Making Them Feel Used".........Thanks very nice post....

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  39. Hi Jody. A fellow Twitterer shared a link to this post and I'm so glad she did.

    I've "been online" for years now, but only began to connect with other writers via the 'net in the past year. It's a different - but good - experience. The writing community I've had the good fortune of finding is so supportive. Some of the resources (and advice) people freely share have been priceless. There are many good people behind blog profiles and Twitter icons. :)

    Thanks again for your post!

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