Monday, 10 February 2014

Author Etiquette 101

by Narelle Atkins

We are now living in a world where the majority of author-reader interaction is taking place online. How can authors negotiate this new world and the expectations placed on them? 

Imagine an author is walking along the street, or at an in-store book signing. If a reader approaches the author by name, says hello, how should the author respond? Good manners dictate that the author will greet the reader and possibly have a short conversation. The author may apologise if they’re in a rush and can’t talk for long. 

If the author ignored the reader and kept on walking along the street, how would the reader feel? Embarrassed? Slighted by the fact the author ignored them? And, what if there was a crowd of people on the street who were watching the author-reader interaction. What would the crowd think of the author who ignored the reader? 

Let’s transfer this example to our online world and social media eg. blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc. Readers who comment on blogs are looking for interaction with authors. They are the readers who are walking along the street and calling out the author’s name. The blog visitors who read the blog posts and don’t leave a comment are the crowd on the street. They will all form an opinion of the author by watching the author’s interaction in the blog comments. 

What if an author is a guest on a blog? They may have written a guest blog post or are being interviewed by the blog owner. What happens if the author no-shows and doesn’t respond to any of the comments? This is kind of like an author not turning up to their birthday party that someone else has hosted. 

I asked the ACW blog members and the awesome Australasian Christian Writers Facebook group for their thoughts on author etiquette. The Facebook group includes authors, reviewers, bloggers and readers. I’ve summarised their helpful feedback below. 
  • I like authors who personally interact with readers on blogs and Facebook, and share some of their real life. 
  • It’s not nice being ignored by authors and it doesn’t inspire a reader to buy the author’s book. Authors should respond to reader letters and emails. 
  • Subscribing readers to email lists without their permission is annoying and prohibited by law. 
  • I’m a reader and I’d like to attend Christian author retreats for readers. eg. A group of authors could organise a retreat for one or two days that is specifically for readers. Love Inspired recently organised a reader luncheon in Florida. 
Blogs: 
  • Authors should give as well as receive. eg. Commenting on other people’s blogs, guest blogging. 
  • It’s bad when an author asks for promo on your blog but doesn’t have the good manners to acknowledge blog comments or emails from the blog host. 
  • Authors need to ensure the blog prize that is promised in a giveaway is actually delivered to the winner. It’s helpful if all giveaways state if the giveaway is worldwide/international or limited to certain countries. 
  • Recent ACW blog guests Julie Lessman and Laura Frantz are an excellent example of authors who interact with all the commenters. Dotti mentioned Mary Connealy visited her Ink Dots blog and was amazing in the professional way she conducted herself. 
  • Interacting with blog commenters can foster a family relationship, and readers can become friends with the author. 
  • Readers feel good when their blog comment is acknowledged by the author. But, it’s important authors reply to everyone who comments so none of the readers feel slighted. 
Facebook: 
  • It’s a big turn-off if an author only posts self-promo and book information. For example, spamming Facebook groups with book sales links or like my Facebook page requests, and never interacting with the group in any other capacity. The same goes for personal Facebook status updates that are always about self-promo or buying the author’s book. 
More specific information on annoying Facebook behaviour can be found in this article. 
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wait-but-why/annoying-facebook-behavior_b_4081038.html

Goodreads, Amazon and review sites:
  • Authors should never respond to reviewers on Goodreads, Amazon, or other review sites. Authors need to resist the temptation to defend their work in a public forum. 
  • Goodreads is a site for readers, not a place for authors to market their book. 
  • Don’t recommend your own book on Goodreads. Instead, let others recommend it for you. 
  • Most readers on Goodreads don’t want authors making any comments on their reviews. Goodreads author groups are the place where readers want to interact with authors. Eg. Love Inspired Historical group. 
Authors interacting with other authors: 
  • It’s good when authors are interested in promoting other authors eg. sharing links, reading and recommending other author’s books. 
  • If someone has helped an author in any way with their manuscript, good manners dictates that the author gifts them with a copy of the book when it comes out. It’s extra nice if it’s autographed and accompanied with a personal thank you. It’s even nicer if the author spells their name right. 
  • Another way to thank authors who have helped you with your book is to endorse, recommend or review their books. 
The following quote summarises the essence of our author etiquette discussion. 

Grace and gratitude should go hand in hand. 

If another writer gives you the gift of time, it should go without saying that you should thank them. It doesn’t matter how busy you are. All too often simple courtesy falls by the wayside. 

If that gift of time involves a couple of dozen hours of beta-reading or proofing, an email ‘thank you’ probably isn’t enough. In fact, if that’s all you ever do, it’s pretty close to an insult. It devalues the sacrifice, trivialises the gift and sends the subtly arrogant message, ‘My time is more precious than yours.’ 

If you are blessed by another writer, returning the blessing should be an automatic response. In a world where it’s increasingly about you as much as your writing, little things matter more than ever.

What are your thoughts on author etiquette? Do you agree or disagree with any of the points mentioned? Iola will talk about reviewing and author etiquette in more detail in a future post. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.



NARELLE ATKINS writes contemporary inspirational romance and lives in Canberra, Australia. She sold her debut novel, set in Australia, to Harlequin's Love Inspired Heartsong Presents line in a 6-book contract. Her first book, Falling for the Farmer, is a February 2014 release, followed by The Nurse's Perfect Match in May 2014 and The Doctor's Return in August 2014. 

Narelle blogs regularly with International Christian Fiction Writers. http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com/ 


She is a member of the new Inspy Romance blog for contemporary romance readers.
http://inspyromance.com/ 

Narelle is a co-founder of the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (ACRBA). http://acrba.blogspot.com 


Website: http://www.narelleatkins.com 
Blog: http://narelleatkins.wordpress.com 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NarelleAtkinsAuthor 
Twitter: @NarelleAtkins https://twitter.com/NarelleAtkins

36 comments:

  1. Thanks, Narelle--a great summary for sure. And I'm not just responding to do the courteous thing! I personally am encouraged when others comment on blogs and Facebook posts and I try to do the same in return, but sometimes other commitments just have to take priority. The more authors we get to know, the more hours we could spend reading and commenting on blogs etc! So we have to draw the line somewhere. But just to end with a funny experience I had re not being acknowledged for hours and hours and hours of help I gave an author with editing her life story. It still needed lots more work, but not long after I told her I couldn't put any further time into it, to my horror, I heard she had had it printed as it was and held a book launch and all. Just one instance where I was SO GLAD not to be acknowledged in any way!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jo-Anne, I agree, we could spend all day blog visiting, Facebook commenting, tweeting and still not cover all the social media connected to our writing friends. Michelle Evans, at the CALEB Conference last year during our social media panel, talked about how she prioritised visiting one or two different blogs each day. I thought that was a smart way to interact and support other writers without it feeling burdensome.

      Jenny is right, and the blog commenting I'm talking about in today's post relates to an author being featured on a blog. With group blogs, there's also an expectation that group blog members will comment on each other's posts. Each group blog will have different expectations. On ACW we've asked blog members to try and comment on at least one post each week. We don't see that as a big time commitment, and the ACW blog members have agreed to try and meet this expectation.

      LOL about not being acknowledged in that book! It's sad and disappointing when authors are ungracious and unappreciative of the contribution others have made to their books. Sometimes I wonder if it's ignorance? Or, just plain selfishness?

      Delete
  2. Jo-Anne, I think the thing about blogs is more if you are a guest on a blog to acknowledge comments from people. I have had people ask me for a spot and have then interviewed them and when it comes time for the post they never visit the post and they dont acknowledge the emails I have sent to let them know they are being featured with the link. Its worse when they have asked to be featured. When I have done the asking I accept it much better.
    I don't go to that many blogs, I have my favourites that I go to most days and a few I have subscribe to and if the post is relevant to me I will comment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jenny, I'm sorry to hear that a few authors have let you down by their lack of good manners. It's particularly bad if they have asked you to visit your blog. I think the vast majority of authors do the right thing, and understand the importance of interacting with readers on blogs.

      Delete
    2. I have found the same ones seem to do it on other blogs they are on too. They tend to be very friendly til they are featured then you never hear from them again.
      I was going to say often its people who are self published but then I have had a couple who have asked me to review there books and have been very interactive on the blog when they are featured. It may be a small amount but it is frustrating.

      Delete
    3. Jenny, this is frustrating and disappointing. I really hope these authors don't turn around and ask to come back for a second visit when their next book releases.

      Delete
  3. I really like your analogy, Narelle. Too often our interaction on the internet can feel surreal and perhaps as if we are sending out posts into empty space. But that is not the case, especially if you are the guest on a blog; I fully agree the author should be commenting. Real life readers are out there listening and we want to present our best manners, give them the courtesy we would a reader on the street.

    I received a thank you for a review on Goodreads that posted, and I felt that was acceptable. It was only a three star review, but the author thanked me anyway. However, I wholeheartedly agree with you that we should not be defending ourselves after a negative review in a public arena.

    Interesting quote. I feel challenged to find varied ways to show my gratitude to those who have helped me in my journey. Great post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Cat, I'm glad my analogy was helpful :)

      Goodreads is a tricky space for authors. The very clear input I received from non-writers when I was putting together this post is they don't want anyone liking or commenting on their reviews, irrespective of whether the feedback is good or bad.

      Delete
    2. I don't necessarily mind if an author comments on one of my reviews on Goodreads ... but I wouldn't recommend people do it, because an annoying minority of authors see comments as a way of arguing with the review. That's inappropriate, and it's better not to comment.

      Goodreads recommend authors don't respond to critical reviews - I'm told there's a pop-up "Are you sure?" box so they can't do it by accident. Goodreads don't have a policy on responding to positive reviews - it's neither recommended nor advised against.

      Delete
    3. Am wondering if it is okay to contact a reviewer privately about something mentioned that might puzzle the author. I believe I will never stop learning and trying to improve my writing. This inter-change could be one way of doing that, and dare I say it may work both for the author and the reviewer?

      Delete
  4. Great thoughts, Narelle. I've been blogging for nearly 5 years. I interview an author every Monday. I promote their work, but I don't always endorse it. I think readers are smart enough to know if they'd like to read more, based on what's offered in an interview and book blurb. But it's the conduct of the author which I believe SELLS the book. When authors don't show up to thank a reader for their comments, and answer any questions (even after I've sent them a private message and linked the post onto their facebook timeline) ... they lose not just a sale, but a valuable chunk of their reputation.

    Rose Dee was wonderful earlier this year when she appeared on my blog for the New Resolution Blog Tour. When a reader asked a question, she returned to answer, even though she'd already visited Ink Dots that day. I was very impressed, and I know the reader was too because she messaged me privately to say so.

    No author can afford to ignore the public places where they're invited to feature. And I guess the same works in reverse. No author can avoid to crash a forum where it's 'reader only.'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Dotti, Thanks for sharing your experiences on your own blog. I agree, authors need to be wary of crashing reader-only spaces and marketing their books in inappropriate places.

      Delete
  5. Loved the thoughts expressed here. I review books, and I did have an author refute a point I made in a public review. I have to say it didn't put him in a positive light for me. He went on to more deeply describe his characters faith. I felt it was lacking in the book so telling me outside the realm of the book was pointless. Thanks for the article.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts :) You have provided an excellent example of why it is pointless and self-defeating for authors to defend their work in public forums. Authors need to remember that reviews are for readers. They are a tool to help readers make a decision on whether or not they want to buy or read a book.

      Delete
  6. Like others, I really like the analogy of the author walking down the street being unresponsive. It's something we all should remember. I've thought a lot about author etiquette. One recommendation which I've taken on board is not to respond to any reviews, even the positive ones. Reasons have been given for why that's wise. But having been brought up to always say thank you, that's one that I still find difficult to swallow, and I wonder how others feel about it. I think it's good to contact the reviewer privately, if possible, to express appreciation, since they went out of their way for me. I know I've always been happy when other authors have done that for me. It's only been a few, so I haven't expected it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I dont mind a private thank you I just prefer not to have a comment on the reviews. The same with liking reviews. I dont mind a comment from an author on the blog and most reviewers are the same on their blogs (not the comments that R Merr is referring to but the thank you on a blog is ok)

      Delete
    2. I agree with Jenny that a private thank you message fine, as is a blog comment. What's not fine is disagreeing with the reviewer (as R Merr said). If they've not managed to make their point in a 80,000-word book, a short email isn't going to help.

      Delete
    3. The thank you I received was a private message and I felt that was appropriate. Like Paula, I just like to say thank you. But I can see now how it's not absolutely necessary from the reviewer's point of view when the review copy was from NetGalley and such - reviews are for readers - as I've learned the last few weeks on our blog :)

      Delete
  7. Hi Paula, I'll let the reader-reviewers answer your question on thank you's to reviewers. How do reader-reviewers feel if an author, especially one who they don't know personally, thanked them privately or publicly for their review?

    This is another tricky area for authors to negotiate. One thought I have is that reviewers are blessing our potential readers by providing their opinion on our books. A review shouldn't primarily be motivated by the desire to do a favour for the author. I also think it's different if someone reviews your book and contacts you privately or publicly to tell you about their review. In this situation, you should thank the reviewer because they've initiated personal contact with you.

    Retweeting a review, especially if it's on the reviewer's blog, is one way you can thank a reviewer. The retweet provides additional promo for the reviewer's site.

    It's been mentioned before in one of Iola's excellent reviewing posts that thanking a reviewer for a review on their blog is okay, but it's not encouraged or considered appropriate to thank reviewers on any of the reviewing or retail sites.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I've been approached by an author to review their book, then I appreciate a quick email or blog comment as thanks. A tweet is great as well.

      But if I've got the book via NetGalley or one of the reviewer programmes, then no thanks are needed. Reviews are for readers.

      Delete
    2. Iola, I think this is a helpful approach for authors to follow. If an author asks someone to review their book, it's good manners for the author to follow up and thank the reviewer for taking the time to read and review their book.

      Delete
  8. I find it's easier to be asked and help others than to ask for myself.

    Thanks for the summary of responses to this topic, Narelle. I guess we all need to make sure we use our manners and common sense when participating in the round of social media, blog post and marketing events that we must participate in these days.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Elaine, I agree, common sense goes a long way in helping us make wise decisions. Thanks for stopping by :)

      Delete
  9. Such a helpful post and reminder about common courtesy, Narelle. Before I'd even heard of Goodreads, I had some reviews on my second book. It was only months later that I discovered them and I was so surprised. There's so much to learn on this writing journey, isn't there?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Rita, Yes, there is so much to learn :) And, so many ways we can accidentally trip up without even realising it. It's lovely to hear that your potential readers were being blessed by reviews on Goodreads that you didn't know existed.

      Delete
  10. An excellent and practical post, Narelle. Do you think it could be added to our ACW facebook group somewhere for future reference? I found it most helpful.

    I must confess, I had no idea how to respond on a blog tour as it was all foreign me back then, so this is extremely helpful for any new authors.

    I've also interacted with a Goodreads reviewer because the lady commented on an aspect of my book we had in common - adoption. A very interesting discussion followed. But no, I wouldn't comment on a negative review. Just not worth it. Thanks again, Narelle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Andrea on blog tours its encouraged for authors to post a note on all blogs where the html is posted especially where this is an interview or review.

      Not all do but it encourages the blogger.

      Delete
  11. Hi Andrea, Yes, that's a great idea :) I'll add a link to this post in the ACW FB group files.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I agree with so much you said, Narelle. We need to be supporting and encouraging each other as writers and as readers and good manners and gentle thankful responses, no matter how short, never go astray.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Dale, yes, this is very true :) The writing world is a better place when we're encouraging and supporting each other.

      Delete
  13. Thanks Narelle. As a new writer, it's great to have this kind of info available. I'd hate to make a newbie blunder and annoy my followers!
    Also, I keep hearing so much about GoodReads. I think I'm going to have to check it out...

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi Jessica, I'm glad the info in this post is helpful. Goodreads is definitely worth checking out. Thanks for stopping by :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. I so loved this article and printed and saved it for my writing tips binder, its a binder i am making to glean from in the near future....well now !!! Narelle, you are a wonderful Author, can't wait to read your newest book !!!!
    Blessings to you
    Linda Finn
    faithfulacresbooks@gmail.com
    http://www.faithfulacresbooks.wordpress.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Linda, I'm glad you've found the information in this post helpful, and I'm happy my book will be arriving at your home very soon :) Thanks for stopping by and blessings to you.

      Delete
  16. Narelle, Wonderful post - and a thank you to Carole Jarvis for flagging me about it. I really appreciate you for being such a proactive author and encourager - both are gifts. Your mention of me here alongside Julie Lessman and others is also a gift. One of the biggest blessings of publishing has been all the people who've come into my life. It's a real privilege to connect with them in various ways and then, sometimes, meet them in real life. I would love to meet you, too, Narelle. I sense a kindred spirit in you:)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi Laura, Thank you for your encouraging words :) I really hope this post and all the comments will be a blessing to many writers. I'd love to have the opportunity to meet you one day, maybe at a US conference? I'm going to RWAmerica this year, and probably ACFW next year. Many thanks also to Carole for sharing the link to this post :)

    ReplyDelete