by Sophie Perinot
You know what drives me crazy (currently)? How much of what passes for author interaction at social media sites these days resembles spam.
I made the connection a few days ago while clearing out the spam comments at my blog. They almost all start out the same, with a sentence that looks like the writer (probably a bot) might actually have read my blog post—“I enjoyed this post. This topic is really very intesting...”—then they turn into self-serving sales drivel. And while I was gleefully emptying the spam filter it occurred to me that I’ve been seeing lots of this same sort of “let me say a polite thing about you so I can talk about ME, ME, ME” stuff on twitter, in on-line writing groups, and on facebook lately.
Frankly, it’s cheesing me off.
It’s gotten particularly bad in writing and reading related facebook groups. When I join a group devoted to say “Lovers of Mysteries with Dogs as Their Main Character” (okay I made that one up, but I don’t want to point fingers at actual groups or communities), I expect folks therein to share information on good books with doggy detectives, or links to websites to help me in researching or writing same. Instead what I am getting these days are nearly naked advertisements—“My book ‘It’s a Dog Eat Dog World’ just got a super-duper review at ‘Dog books R us!’ Read it here. Or better still buy my book here, or here, or here.” Come on fellow writers, if I want advertisements there are plenty running along the top or side of every darn website I visit. You’ve got a personal facebook page, probably an author FB page, and doubtless an author website to share good reviews and “buy it now” links on. You can even directly and unabashedly promote your book at those locations (though the jury is out on how effective that will be for you). But the essence of communities/groups (even in the virtual world) is dialogue.
A hybrid of “boast posters” are the folks who share EVERY blog post they’ve ever written or will ever write to a facebook group, or to twitter for that matter, irrespective of whether it’s on topic. Sure, if you (or if I) have written a post that is germane to the topic of a group or comment thread (or touches on one of the subjects that you assume people follow you on twitter to hear about) then posting your link is a worthy public service. But if you are just slapping up everything you can think of to increase your name recognition then spare us and save yourself the time (because pretty soon I for one am going to stop even looking at your posts because I already KNOW what they will say—some version of “look at me.”)
As writers today there is a great deal of pressure on us to market our own work, and very specifically to have a presence in the virtual world. But I presume that an annoying presence seldom sells a book. If you join any community of like-minded people as part of your “building an internet presence” campaign, you should try to interact with fellow members in a genuine, non-agenda-driven, manner. And just for the record the interaction is neither effective nor genuine when it amounts to commenting on topics started by others in true spam form (“I am fascinated by cocker spaniels but for a really great blog on poodles, more specifically MY poodles, click here”).
People can smell a fake a mile away—just like I can pick out the spam comment at my blog even when they are cloaked in an attempt to look like a genuine response. And if you are a spammer not a genuine community member you are wasting your time. Because the truth is I buy two kinds of books: 1) those receiving notable reviews or buzz from reviewers I trust (whether that’s a “R”eviewer in the print or digital media or the guy I sit next to on the bus every morning and discuss books with); and 2) books written by friends (folks I’ve gotten to know through writers conferences, through on-line communities and through their blogs). You are no friend of mine if you spam me.