Three Ways Author Behavior Drives Away Readers

I talked about something like this a little bit before, but I want to approach your author image from a different angle today.

As authors, we already know that our name is our brand. And that means the way we communicate is directly linked to our name…and our sales.

You see, I’ve been observing other authors online for a long time now, following stories of authors behaving badly, and reading posts like this one about how your behavior affects your sales and connections to readers. I’ve seen authors who get their fans to attack people who don’t like their work, authors directly attacking readers who leave bad reviews, and authors who do nothing but lament about their lack of sales and complain about all the reasons why they think their book isn’t selling (hint: those authors usually blame everything outside of their control).

Unfortunately, what some authors fail to notice is that their behavior is directly affecting how potential readers view them and their work…meaning they are losing sales by the way they are presenting themselves.

Let’s take a look at some of these examples.

1.Authors getting their fans to attack the “haters.” This is when an author will lament about how someone’s poor review or disinterest in their work personally hurt them, and their fans jump to their defense.

The problem with this is that they are manipulating the system. They give themselves plausible deniability, but everyone can see the melodrama and their behind-the-scenes approval of this behavior as their fans rip people to shreds.

For potential readers, this is incredibly off-putting. It can be downright scary. I’ve stopped reading authors and gotten rid of all their books for behavior like this. And so have plenty of others.

2. Authors attacking readers who leave bad reviews. Much like point #1 above, this is another case of authors behaving badly. Many times, these authors have a sense of self-importance, thinking that the reader couldn’t possibly have understood the bigger, deeper message they were trying to portray. Sometimes they even personally attack the person.

But the truth is that the author is unwilling to admit they may not have a perfect book. They would rather argue with their “haters” than admit any shortcomings in their writing.

There’s a reason authors are told not to read reviews. Besides the potential for reviews to be completely demotivating to an author, it’s really hard not to defend yourself. But when you respond to these kinds of comments, you may be opening yourself up to an argument.

Nothing good can come of this. The reader walks away, but the author is left just looking bad.

And it is never okay to personally attack anyone when critiquing a piece of writing, including a book review.

3. Authors constantly lamenting their lack of sales or success on their public platforms. This one drives me nuts. By constantly complaining, you are giving your followers a negative view of you and your brand.

Don’t let on if you aren’t selling well. Let people think everything is normal. When you constantly complain, you’re creating an atmosphere of guilt and pity from the reader, and even if they buy your book out of that, they are probably prepared to hate it…or they may never read it. They may start to feel manipulated by you into buying a book, and that can lead to resentment or loss of followers.

Act like you’re a success, whether you feel like one or not. You wrote a book! You published it! That IS a success! Be positive, have an optimistic outlook in your interactions with readers, and generally be kind, and people will follow you. And the more people follow you, the more likely they are to buy your book.

And even if you are seriously upset about your success or feeling like a failure in your writing…don’t say so. You can say that in the privacy of your personal relationships, but don’t complain to your fans. That’s not why they’re there.

They are there because they want to interact with you. And they will leave if the interactions are draining, negative, or a waste of their time.

Long story short, readers follow authors online and leave reviews because they want to. How we as authors interact with readers can really boost us or it can ruin our fanbase.

So don’t let yourself get in the way of your success. Remember that you are a professional. Make sure that everything you say online reflects that. Because, and this is so cliche by now but still fits, the internet is forever.

Make your social media accounts positive experiences for your followers. Don’t engage with negative comments.

And absolutely keep writing, friends.

Why I Love the Author Community

Life is full of competition and people who only look out for themselves. It’s dog-eat-dog, every man for himself… or so it seems. There’s competition for jobs, for acceptance into a program, for tickets to events, even for something as small as that last bottle of your favorite drink at the store.

But you know one place that doesn’t feel this way? The writing community.

I don’t know if any of you have experienced this, but other than the occasional bad egg (looking at you, arrogant person on Twitter obsessed with telling people how stupid they are), I have never felt more supported and encouraged than when I talk to other writers online. I’m not exactly sure why this is, but I have theories.

Writers, especially those going into traditional publishing (even self publishing), know how hard this life is. They understand the rejection that lurks around every corner. They know how difficult it is to “make it.” And they know the trials they went through and are still going through and will be coming back tomorrow.

And you know what? I think that makes them some of the most empathetic people I’ve ever met. Well, that and jumping into a new person’s head every day they write.

You see, there’s enough hard stuff in this industry, and writers remember how it was starting out, how intimidating and big and scary the industry seemed (and still is, to many). They know what it feels like to feel insufficient, like you’re not good enough, like your work isn’t good enough, and not even knowing the first step to take to tackle a mountain-sized project.

And they don’t just stop with the empathy.

They help.

Like, actually help. Got questions on minor details of a formatting issue? Post it in a writer’s group or on Twitter, and someone will come to your rescue. Feeling the burn of a rejection? You can find sympathy, empathy, and encouragement from any one of these people! Confused how to start editing your book? There are so many editors out there who hang out in forums and hashtags and just answer people’s questions.

And what’s more, these people very rarely say anything negative to you. They build you up. They encourage you. When you query, they cheer you on. When you get an agent or a publishing deal, they dance and celebrate with you. And that is such a rare thing in a professional world, to have your peers celebrate your successes with you.

Sure, there are things I encounter in certain groups or threads that burn me up or hurt my feelings, but the frequency of this kind of encounter is so much lower than all the positivity I have found to radiate from the writing community. It truly is like nothing I’ve encountered before, and I am in love with it.

In a career filled with negative things, let’s keep this positivity going.

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What about you? Do you participate in any writing or author communities? What have your experiences been like? Do you agree with me? Why or why not? Let’s talk about it in the comments!