As with everything about the online book community, many of us have learned good and bad etiquette through trial and error. Aside from plagiarism, stealing covers or images, and scamming the system, there are a number of things that are frowned upon in the book community that drive many authors (and some readers, bloggers, etc.) nuts. As with all of my posts, these aren’t written in stone, but they are things I’ve seen many authors (and others) complain about over the years. Quite a few of the perceived faux pas will get you unfriended and possibly blocked.
1) Don’t add anyone to a Facebook group without their permission. This is one of the biggest etiquette complaints out there. Feel free to share the link on your wall or send it through Messenger to people you have some sort of a relationship with. In other words, don’t just randomly contact people, who you’ve never interacted with before, asking them to join your group or another group you’re a member of. There is a new feature on Facebook that people have been noticing lately (FB rolls out features so some people get them before others). If you invite someone to join a group, through the group itself (either by sending an invitation or clicking on some friends FB suggests you invite), they’ll get notification. If they click on that notification, it sends them to the group as an accepted member. This is not the fault of the person who invite d you, and it doesn’t happen to everyone. This is a FB issue, and one I hope they get rid of because I’ve seen many complaints because people think they were “added” by the other person instead of “invited” by them.
2) This is the second biggest complaint (and some days it tops #1) on Facebook. Do not private message someone or post on their wall, within seconds or minutes of them accepting your friend request, and ask them to either A) buy your book, B) accept a free copy of your book for a review, C) ask for a review swap, D) ask them to vote for your book in some contest, E) share your book on their wall, E) ask them to put your book in their newsletter, F) well, you get the picture. Ninety-five percent of the time, you’ll be ignored and probably unfriend and blocked. If one of those five percenters reply and decline your request, do NOT say anything other than “Okay, thank you.” There have been numerous posts about people going off on an author or blogger because they declined to “help out another author.”
Cultivate a relationship with someone (over days, weeks, or months) before approaching them with any of the above requests. Most authors are not your target audience. I went from reading 12-14 books per month to 1-3 books per month after I became an author. I have a long list of favorite authors who are constantly coming out with new releases, and I don’t have time to read them all. I’m not going to drop everything and read a book by an author who couldn’t bother taking the time to develop some sort of relationship with me before bombarding me with a buy/read/review request.
3) Don’t go to another person’s friend list (especially that of another author), scroll down, and send a friend request to everyone on the list. Find your own friends through author takeovers, author/reader groups, blogs, etc., or people commenting on the same posts as you. I’ve seen people complain because their profile has a combination of book community friends and real-life family and friends, and those real-life people contact them asking why this person from the book community is friend requesting them.
4) Try to avoid hijacking another person’s post in the comments. While it does happen and some people don’t mind, it is annoying when someone else goes completely off on a tangent that has nothing to do with the original post. If you find it happening, then move the conversation with others to a private chat or create a new post for the different subject (you’ll probably get more responses if you do that too).
5) If you’re in another author’s group, make sure it’s okay with them before you post anything that doesn’t have to do with their books—i.e. your new release or a shout out for another author or subject that tends to be controversial. Most authors won’t mind the first two as long as you ask.
6) Don’t post complaints or drama in any group that has a high volume of readers in it, including your own. They don’t want to hear it. Posting on your wall or in a group for authors about something that affects other authors is fine, but leave it out of the reader groups.
7) Read the rules of groups you join before posting! Don’t just say “yes” to questions posed to requesting members about whether or not you read and understand the rules. I’m in numerous author-only groups which do not allow self-promotions. Almost every day, someone joins at least one of them and immediately posts a promotion for their book. It’s the fastest way to get you kicked out of the group and blocked from trying to join again.
8) Think before you respond to another person’s post. There is no sarcasm font or a “just kidding” font on most social media sites, so many times comments are misinterpreted. You’re an author, so make sure your response to someone’s question or request for advice properly conveys what you want to say. If you can’t respond to a question or advice request without being snarky, then keep scrolling. Let people who want to help the person respond. Your way of doing things is not always the best way of doing things for other authors. All we can do is give our interpretation or experience, so the author looking for advice can make an informed decision for what is right for them. Everyone was new to this book community at one time or another, so remember how you felt when you went looking for advice as a newbie. There should be no “stupid” questions.
9) Don’t be offended if an admin deletes your post or comments in an author group. Sometimes comments get out of hand and the arguing and mudslinging start. Admins may delete the post or remove comments that are inappropriate. Remember, this is their group, they make the rules. If you don’t like it, leave and start your own group. Most admins have worked hard to make their group a happy and informative place for authors to communicate with each other, so drama is to be avoided at all costs.
There are other things some people in the book community frown upon, but these are the ones I see the most often. As always, if you’re not sure about something, ask in one of your favorite author resource groups!