Monday, November 24, 2014

Yes, That's Spam; No, Don't Do It: How to Avoid Alienating Readers

We all hate SPAM. Every author knows that spamming potential readers is a surefire way to alienate them (RIGHT?) - so why do some insist on invading your online space with their advertisements?

It turns out, based on some conversations I had this week, some authors don't believe what they're doing is SPAM. So here's my handy-dandy, not comprehensive guide, called "Yes, that's spam."

1) Direct Messages

Unless you are having an actual conversation (not argument) or the person has asked you to DM her some information, resist the urge to send a private message on any social media site.

The absolute fastest way to get someone who may have been interested in your books to unfollow you is to send one of those gross "thanks for following messages" immediately after they follow you. Bonus points if it's obviously automated.

For ex:

Thanks for following me! Check out my newest release Stupid Book on Amazon! (service of @tweetspammerco)

*yes that is a link to my alter-ego's book. Hey, I needed a link for my example. And you're in my space, after all.

This is not limited to sales links! Telling people where to find your website or other social media, or even messages without links are still considered spam. Private messages are a place for conversation, not for promotion of any kind.

It's like: Those obnoxious phone calls just as you're sitting down to dinner

2) Posting on Someone Else's Virtual Space

Posting about your book on someone's Facebook Wall. Promoting your book on a FB group that has not specifically invited you to do so. Using the comments of another person's blog post to link to/talk about your book. Posting about your book in forums not specifically intended for that sort of thing.

Really, posting about your books on any online space that you do not "own" and you have not been specifically invited to use for that purpose is always a big no-no.

It's like: Walking around a book festival, slapping stickers of your book cover on people without asking.

3) Goodreads "Events" and "Book Suggestions"

I know that someone is telling you to use Goodreads Events to announce your book launch and that someone is telling you to use Goodreads Book Suggestion feature to suggest your own book to anyone who's naive enough to friend you.

Someone wants people to hate you. I want people to like you and I'm saying: don't do this.

Events should be an actual event that someone can attend (virtual events are a thing!), not just an announcement of a book launch. And the Book Suggestion feature's intended use is for people who actually know each other (again, online friendships are a thing!) to suggest books they enjoyed to other people they think might also enjoy them.

It's like: Those pieces of mail that make it look like you're going to get in trouble with the law, but really they're just trying to make you sign up for a loan.

4) Tags

Tagging people in a picture when it's just a promotional image for your book. Mentioning people in a tweet that is promo for your book (or even tweeting a bunch of usernames with something impersonal). Using hashtags meant for communities in promotional posts.

It's like: #2 on this list and also implying that the tagged person endorses your product.

5) Repetitive Promotional Messages

If you tweet the same message about your book every day with a link, rethink that strategy. Also, if you post only about your book and nothing else, mix it up. You may think this is ok because those people have chosen to follow/like you, but you're not building your readership this way. Either your readers are going to unfollow you, or your message becomes background noise.

It's like: a preacher giving the same exact sermon every Sunday.

If you are doing any of these things, you are without-a-doubt alienating potential readers. I know some authors will argue with me, but you're deluding yourself if you think these things are a good use of your promotional time. I promise you the number of books you may sell will never outweigh the books you will never sell because you made someone feel like a customer and not like a person.

Yes, that's spam. No, don't do it.


  1. Lessons we can all take to heart.

    (Me included. Haha).

  2. Thank you for writing this post. All of your points is what I've been saying all along.