Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How Not to Spam: An Etiquette Guide for Authors

By the awesome Anne R. Allen!

Most marketers don't tell you the biggest secret about social media:

It should be used for making friends, not direct sales.

Direct selling on social media is spammy. Spam is not friendly. And vigilante groups can be cruel in enforcing anti-spam rules.

So what's the line between "savvy marketing" and spamming? Unfortunately, rules are different for each site:


1) Don't link to your blog/site more than a few times a week or they'll put you in Facebook jail (freeze you out of your page). I learned this the hard way. (But they have no problem with links to your buy pages on Amazon—go figure.)

3) Don't friend too many people in a day. Yeah, they hound you to "friend" people, but if you friend too many, you'll land in FB jail.

4) Don't post a promotion in a group without checking rules. Many will kick you out.

5) NEVER post promos on somebody else's page. It's invading personal space.

6) Never market through a DM.
 If you're not friends, it will go in the "other" folder nobody sees. Plus it's guaranteed to annoy.

7) Never add somebody to a group without permission.

1) Don't send those automated DMs that say,
 "Now that you've followed, subscribe to my blog, like my Facebook page, buy my book and pick up my dry cleaning, minion! Mwahahah." Creepy.

2) Don't send direct messages unless you have a prior relationship.
Thank for a follow in a @Tweet. Or better, not at all.

3) Only tweet your book a few times a day (or less) and never in a @ message.

4) Don't tweet everybody else's book 
just because they ask. Spamming for somebody else is still spam.


1) Don't link to your book in a review. You can put a title in your signature: "Susie Scrivener, author of Scribblings," but without a link.

2) Don't mention your book in the Amazon Forums. Better yet, don't go: it's troll habitat.

3) Link to your blog ONLY in a designated thread in Kindleboard forums.


1) Never subscribe to a newsletter or blog and hit "reply" to send the blogger an ad for your book.

2) Don't link to your buy page from a comment.
 I don't mind links to a blog—in fact I find them useful—but some bloggers don't.

3) Don't pitch your book or blog in a comment unless it's relevant.
  • "I respect your opinion on adverbs, but I've got testimonials from 101 adverbophiles on my blog." is fine. 
  • "This discussion of Marcel Proust reminds me of my book, Fangs for the Memories, a vampi-zombipocolyptic romance, $3.99 on Smashwords." Not so much.

1) Lurk. Don't speak until you've hung out and learned the rules. Most ban book-pimping.

2) Beware "share" buttons. I made the mistake of sending blog links via the "share" button Blogger provides. This sent them to Reddit forums where I got flagged as a spammer.


1) Don't join a group to promote your book. Take off your author hat and discuss books you've read, not ones you've written.

2) Don't send mass friend requests. 

3) Don't thank a reviewer or someone who has "shelfed" your book. The new Goodreads author guidelines prohibit it.

4) NEVER engage with somebody who's given you a bad review or put you on a hate "shelf."
 Goodreads reviews are notoriously snarky. We live with it.


1) Don't post a link on multiple community pages
without separate introductions.

2) Try to post links with at least 100 words of introduction. They want more content written exclusively for Google+.

What about you, IWSG? Have you ever been criticized or punished for spamming when you didn't realize you'd broken the rules? What kind of spam bothers you the most? What can you add to the list? Can you offer rules for sites I don't know about like Pinterest or Tumblr? 

Anne R. Allen is the author of the bestselling Camilla Randall Mysteries and comic novels Food of Love, the Gatsby Game, and The Lady of the Lakewood Diner. She collaborated with Catherine Ryan Hyde on a guide for writers, How to be a Writer in the E-Age: a Self-Help Guide (new edition due out this month).

Anne R. Allen's Blog…with Ruth Harris was named one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers by Writers' Digest and one of the seven "best resources for writers" by Indies Unlimited. Find Anne on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Goodreads, or her Amazon Author Page.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks again, Anne!
Everyone, Anne is having dental surgery today, so she will answer comments and questions as soon as possible.

stu said...

It feels like the general message here is to focus on the conversation, not the selling. And indirectly, it has led to me working out how to synch my blog to Goodreads, which is good.

Anonymous said...

I love this post. I have a decent number of Twitter followers and a blog with good traffic. As a result, I am approached a lot by authors wanting me to promote them. Hello, who are you again? Yet with people I've come to connect with via Twitter or my blog, when they are in a position to have a book promoted, I do so with great enthusiasm. It's all about relationships, virtual included.

Pat Hatt said...

Some great tips indeed and yes, avoid those goodreads review haters, they are some of the worst around.

Liz Blocker said...

Great tips, as always, Anne! Your posts here and at your blog are always smart and helpful.

Christine Rains said...

Excellent tips. I see so much spam every day. If only everyone would adhere to these rules. :)

TL said...

Words of wisdom. :) Those Twitter DM's have the reverse effect I think people are going for--at least with me. They feel so, so impersonal.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Those are great tips. I don't think I ever spam because I'm reluctant to push my books too hard anywhere.

Anne R. Allen said...

Alex--I'm just popping in on my way to the periodontist. Not my favorite way to spend the day.

stu--Yes--It's about engaging with people, not blasting spam at them. And yes, linking your blog to GR is a good idea

artists--So true. I'm happy to promote somebody who's work I know, but if all I know is they followed me on Twitter, it's not okay to ask favors.

Pat--Avoiding troll habitat can be hard, but do run when you see them.

Liz--Thanks a bunch. Glad to hear you read my blog. :-)

Christine--So many writers have become spamaholics. It's not going to sell books.

Tara--the Twitter DMs are a pet peeve of mine.

Anne R. Allen said...

Susan--The great thing about being an "Insecure writer" is we tend to do things right by default. We don't push our work and sell! Sell! Sell!!! because we're shy persons.

Turns out all that selling just drives people away anyway. Coming here and networking with other writers--that's a great way to raise your profile. When you launch your book --look how many people will be supportive!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Social media is all about networking and building relationships - not about marketing and promoting.

Can't even thank someone for a good review on Goodreads? I really wonder about their policies sometimes.

Anne R. Allen said...

Diane--I agree on both counts. Goodreads harbors and coddles bullies and does everything it can to make authors unwelcome.

They refuse to take down reviews that say, "I'm giving this one star because I hate Goodreads." True story.

I don't ever go there any more. I feel so sad for the real, honest reviewers who post there. Most of them are lovely. But the trolls are allowed to run roughshod over everybody. And their "reviews" are full of obscenities. I would not want a kid going there.

J.L. Campbell said...

I've learned lots here. I don't use social media enough to commit any offenses, I think.

Since I'm not around the Fb groups I've joined much, I resist the urge to post on promo days.

fOIS In The City said...

Hi Anne, saw the link to this on Facebook so I popped on over. Another helpful post for sure. I have seen the logo and know three people who used to do the Insecure Wed postings, but I never saw their sight. Interesting to be sure and lots of helpful resources. It gives this neurotic Italian food for thought. Either that or I'll eat another loaf of bread with sauce :)

Oh, hope you feel better. The dentist is worse than having a baby !!

Rose Lamatt said...

oh boy.... I better get my books off writers groups on facebook. I thought when you have a book counting down price it's good to let people know they are getting a good buy. Boy was I wrong. Thanks Anne

Anonymous said...

Great post! Regarding posting blog links on Facebook, I'm assuming that rule doesn't apply to your actual author page, right? If so, I definitely broke that one during my recent blog tour for 18 Truths. Wait, did I just break one of the rules by mentioning my book? Hahaha . . . just having some fun! I do hate the direct messaging on Twitter, and I can't believe how many people still do it!! And also, I'm so sick of authors just adding me to their street team without being asked first! I can't devote that level of promotion to everyone--wish I could--but I'd lose all my friends on social media.

Anne R. Allen said...

J. L.--I think not paying so much attention to social media may be the ideal way to use it in any case. Better to breeze in and be interesting than a spammer who won't go away.

Fois--Thanks for stopping by. This is a great group of writers. Supportive, kind and troll-free. And hand me some of that bread, will ya?

Rose--Don't panic. Some groups are fine with the promos. If there are other promos posted there, it's probably fine. If it isn't the moderators will let you know in no uncertain terms.

jami--FB love you to link to your FB author page or Amazon author page. Just not your website or blog. If it's corporate, it's not spam. Go figure. Mentioning your book title is fine. No worries. It's a way of identifying yourself and that's okay in my book.

But oh, getting added to street teams and launch parties and book pages..hate it!

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Wow, lots of great info. I didn't realise it's prohibited to thank a reviewer in Goodreads. Good to know!

Melissa said...

This is a great list. The thing I see most often is auto-DMs when I follow someone on Twitter. I just delete. I sometimes get spammy comments on my blog. Sometimes I let them stay, sometimes delete. Depends.

I agree with not selling/spamming on Twitter, but I don't begrudge someone tweeting & re-tweeting promos on reveal or release day to celebrate, especially if they're a friendly, non-spamming Tweep the rest of the time.

Hope you're feeling better. :)

Anne R. Allen said...

Lynda--A lot of this stuff is counter-intuitive, so it's good to check. They'f really prefer to see no authors on Goodreads, so the best way to go there is with a "reader" hat instead of your "author" hat. Don't let on that you write books.

Anonymous said...

Great post and yes those DM's on Twitter that basically are asks for likes, follows or whatevers on other social media sites as well as the go and check out my book get a standard reply. "Wow, I'm on there too!"
That's it, no elaboration, because I know that they're probably not interested anyway.

Anonymous said...

I hope your surgery went well, Anne and you're on the mend.

I don't like when I get DMs from people I don't normally talk to. It's strange.

Anne R. Allen said...

Melissa--Tweeting deals and events and good reviews is fine. Tweeting your book line by line, not so much. Same with accounts that do nothing but tweet the same book info over and over.

As far as spam on my blog: I've got zero tolerance for comments with links to shady web pages and "buy twitter follower" link farms. It's fine to mention a book title or link to your blog, if it's relevant to the discussion IMO.

Elsie--Thanks. I'm feeling better today. I agree on the DMs. I think a good rule is "don't DM anybody you don't know." And following somebody isn't the same as knowing them. You have to establish communication in public before you go to a private DM.

Anne R. Allen said...

Lucy--I've tried doing that too: "Liked" somebody's FB page just to see if they'd like mine back as they'd promised. They NEVER do. These days I often unfollow as soon as I get one of those DMs. I find them so offensive. Also people who say "Want to know how to be a published author? Follow my blog." Auto DMs make you look like a selfish, ignorant doofus 99% of the time.

Anonymous said...

I am good at lurking. Anne, I've been lurking on your blog for so long I never even think about commenting. I should fix that.

Glad you came to visit at IWSG - in fact, you're the reason I found this site.

Leanne Ross ( & @LeanneRossRF )

Anne R. Allen said...

readface--So glad you unlurked enough to let me know you enjoy the blog! I know we have a lot of lurkers--and sometimes it's not your fault. Blogger makes commenting difficult for people who don't have a Google Plus ID.

This is such a great bunch of people. They're so supportive of each other. Good place to hang out. And Alex is the best!

Emily Ever said...

These are some great rules! I wish everyone would read these. I can tell that it's hard for people who don't spend a lot of time on social media to pick these up, because they're more or less unwritten, but it doesn't make their ignorance any easier to take.

I guess the moral of the story is approach any new media with caution, lurk until you know the rules, and post with caution.

Thanks for the lovely blog post.

Anne R. Allen said...

Emily--Thanks! Yes. Lurking is GOOD. People put down lurkers as if there's something wrong with learning the ropes before you jump in.

Anne R. Allen said...

EVERYBODY--Three days too late, the new version of HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE: A SELF-HELP GUIDE
is now out in ebook from Fast Forward publishing. Only $2.99! Superstar author Catherine Ryan Hyde (#1 on Amazon last summer with a new huge deal from Amazon) get together to tell everything you need to know about building platform and using social media without going nuts, plus tips about querying, choosing a publishing path, self-editing, writing a great opener and how to stay safe online. The reviews haven't migrated over from the earlier version, but we have some great ones.

Zahid Hussain said...

Thank you for writing this, Anne. Insightful, pithy and precise - as usual. My head is unfogged now that I have your guide to steer me through choppy social media waters.

And your emphasis on curbing the desire to stun everyone with the latest publication hits the mark. The constant pressure to do this social media thang is...unsettling.

So, I shall continue lurking (mostly) and avoid shooting links at people and return to the, erm, dangerous art of Writing.

G. B. Miller said...

I still get caught by the CAPTCHA police if I put more than one link in a status update. Beyond that, I've had no other problems with FB.

Unknown said...

This is such great blogging and social media etiquette. I wonder if i mogt be allowed to reblog and link back

Greetings from Johannesburg, SA:

Wendy @ Wendy @ Join This Hop

Julie Musil said...

Anne, excellent advice! It's all about relationships, for sure. I totally ignore spam, so their efforts are wasted on me. I'm on social media to connect.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Love these tips! Most of them made me laugh - especially the twitter message one about minions. :)
Although there is one that I am guilt of on goodreads. In a moment of desperation in marketing, I actually started a group and stuck my book in it and nominated my book for a couple of groups . . . sad, I know. But, I've learned so much since then, right? I hope. I don't want to do the walk of author shame for anything else like that.

Jackie Castle said...

This was really helpful. I'm going to share the line with my Indie Writer's group. Thanks for the tips.

cleemckenzie said...

fb slapped my hand once for friending. I was over-exuberant. Now I know better.

Thanks for the great how not to spam list. Super resource.

Nana Prah said...

Wonderful tips. Now how to get everyone to follow them.

Michelle Wallace said...

Geez! One has to really tread the social media landscape on tip-toe... it's a mine field!!
But great tips here! The Twitter auto-DM's are really annoying...

Anne R. Allen said...

Zahid--So glad to help lift the fog :-)

GB--I had those CAPTCHA Police after me for six months. Finally I'm free of them, but I'm sure if I post more than one link a week, I'm back in FB jail.

Wendy--Of course! Backlinks are good for everybody. Thanks!

Julie--The thing is, everybody ignores spam. So I cannot for the life of me figure out why there's so much of it.

Tyrean--How do you think I learned these rules? By trial and error. Lots of error!

Jackie--Thanks for spreading the word!

clee--It's kind of a shock when they slap you for something they've told you to do, isn't it?

Nana--Ay, there's the rub! The people who need to read the rules, don't.

Michelle--Yea, it's kind of a minefield. I wish they'd post the rules more prominently.

Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks everybody! I've been offline this week celebrating my birthday. Needed some real-people time. But I'm back. Come and visit my blog. I'll be giving Alex a shout-out on Sunday!

I just wrote comments to everybody and Blogger ate them, but I'll write them again when I can get back. Sorry. That's so annoying. I need to write long comments in Word and then paste them.

Unknown said...

Worthy post for sure.! Good one.

Nas said...

Great post and wonderful tips. Thanks for sharing.