Literally Speaking; Author Etiquette 101

CC3_6888We all know that authors are in the business of writing books that they’d like to be sold.  However, there are a few things to keep in mind as you navigate the waters of increasing readership and making alliances with others.  Below are some common mistakes authors make that turn off would be buyers and others who are positioned to help advance their visibility.

  1. Pay attention to who is supporting you.  This is very easy to do now through social media.  Don’t take those Facebook LIKES and congrats for granted.  Know that people do not have to take the time to notice anything you are doing and they certainly don’t have to give up precious time to acknowledge your successes.  While you may not have the time to say “thank you” to everyone, a group “Thank you” will suffice and be greatly appreciated.
  2. When a book club contacts you wanting to feature your work, the worst thing you can do is ignore them or send them a note back asking how many members are in the group.  Remember, you WANT to have your works featured by book clubs.  Two things will happen: if they like your book they will tell everyone and if they don’t like your book, the will tell everyone.  Whether there are only two members or hundreds of members who chime in with the latest reads online, each one is a potential sale….not only now, but in books to come.  Don’t offend them.  You never know who people know.  Please do not make the mistake of thinking that you are so successful you can make it without them.  Pride always comes before a fall.
  3. When joining groups, take a moment to thank the admins for adding you to the group.  They didn’t have to include you.  These groups are a valuable asset to you.
  4. Which brings me to my next point.  Take the time to learn how the group functions before you just start bombarding the newsfeed with information about your book.  Some admins think that’s a perfectly acceptable way to promote yourself.  Others want to use their groups for more than just shameless self promotion.  Trust me when I tell you that you will have your time to let people know about your books….and when done in taste, will not offend anyone.  Side note: there are READERS in those groups who want to know that they mean more to you than just a potential sale.  Readers like to know the authors they support and feel a sense of connection with them.  Read through the newsfeeds and see their comments.  Notice what they like or don’t like and take heed.  It will serve you well to know your audience.  Communicate with the group from time to time with something other than your purchase links.  One more point about the groups, there are valuable resources there to glean if you spend a little time there.  Most authors seem to belong to more than one group.  If you make it a point to spend a few minutes in all of your groups over the course of a week, people will get used to seeing you.  They may also keep you in mind when new opportunities come around.
  5. Although the road to publication is different when it comes to indie and traditionally published authors in terms of who is actually doing the work, the need to make (and keep) relationships is the same, regardless of how your book came to be in print.  Don’t blow off someone whose journey may have been slightly different.  The two of you are more alike than different.  Learn from each other.  After all, you are both authors who want to be successful and reach the world with your masterpiece.
  6. There is always a right and a wrong way to do something.  When someone has joined a group and makes their introduction, do not bombard them with your requests for them feature you, read your book or invite you on their show.  Make your personal notes of who is doing what.  And in a private message, politely ask the person for their guidelines and if they might consider working with you.  Nothing is more offensive than for someone to force their agenda down your throat.   Simply informing someone what you are doing and leaving the option of working with you in their court will go far.  You want to leave the impression of being capable and professional, where even if what you are doing doesn’t fit the host’s agenda currently, they will remember you and be open to working with you at a later date.
  7. When someone is doing a group or online interview, do not take their author spotlight and make it about you and your book.  Give that author the same courtesy you’d want if the tables were reversed.  Remember, there is a polite way to ask for sales…and it is not to keep plugging that your book is on special during this person’s interview.  If you’d really like them to consider reading, featuring or reviewing your book, send them a private message asking them to support you and include the purchase links.  Don’t follow up with them about it.  That only comes across as being pushy. You never know what is going on in a person’s financial life…especially for indie authors who are many times pouring every free dime they have into their projects.  Writers were first readers and the desire to read good books never goes away.  Writers may not be able to support everyone they want to at that moment, but they are making a list of people’s books they intend to purchase.  They are also sharing those lists with other readers that they know.  Be patient and courteous, your time will come.
  8. Pay attention to submission guidelines.  Nothing turns off a potential lead faster than someone who doesn’t follow instructions.  Submission guidelines and criteria are put in place for a reason.  It is a waste of your time and the person receiving your submission if it’s missing information that has clearly been asked for.  Do yourself a favor and read the instructions thoroughly, read them again if necessary and submit exactly what has been required.  These are people who you are ultimately asking to support your work and create new opportunities for you.  Incomplete submissions get ignored or trashed and you are remembered as a person who does not follow instructions, which may close more doors for you later on down the road.


The flip side of this coin is the person who is asking others to participate in blog hops, cover reveals, contests, etc.  Do not assume that everyone who has agreed to help you knows what you know or has done this before.  Take the time to make the instructions detailed and clear and all necessary links are easy to access.  The participants are trying to help you, but should not be left guessing what is required or inconvenienced to have to ‘find’ the necessary information on their own.

  1. And finally, remember, that in order for you to have gotten as far as you have, someone helped you.  Someone took the time, made sacrifices, opened doors, took a chance on you while  you were yet unknown; purchased your books; shared resources, and even called in favors to have someone help you make your dream come true.  You didn’t do it all on your own.  The same opportunities that have been afforded to you, be willing to pass the opportunities forward to help someone else realize their dreams.  It costs you nothing to post on your page for your fans to support a new author.  Despite popular belief, we are not in competition with each other.  Readers read.  Period.  It’s kind of like love, the more you give, the more you have to give.   The more readers read, the more they want to read.  We (and yes, I am including myself because I am an avid reader) are always looking for a new author, book or series to love…and we will spend the money for it.  So be prepared to honestly answer questions to those who venture out, risking rejection, to ask for help.  When asked to give advice to those wanting to come into the business, give answers that will really help.  To whom much is given, much is also required.

Tumika Patrice Cain is an award-winning author, publisher, book reviewer and media personality, as well as a contributing writer to B.L.O.G. & PEN’Ashe magazines.  Her works have been published in a number of anthologies, magazines and periodicals.  She is also the founder of Say What?? Book Club.


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