Monday, September 19, 2016

Blogging Etiquette for Writers and Authors

If you are writing, you fall into one of two categories - you’re either a writer who hopes to be published one day or you are an author with one or more books already published. In both cases, you are trying to establish and further your platform. You’re trying to build appeal to readers and network with other authors.

At this point, it’s all about behaving properly and with integrity. It’s your reputation you’re building. A good reputation takes time to build and mere seconds to destroy. A minor misstep will probably be overlooked or at worst ding you for a moment. But many social blunders over time will reduce your platform to rubble. A big mistake will destroy you completely. The last thing you want is the Author Behaving Badly label.

In the blogging world, there are unwritten rules you need to know and follow. A large percentage applies to all who blog. Call them rules, guidelines, or just really good suggestions, they will place you in a favorable light.

The basic rules:

Commenting -
  • Remember you are a guest. You have entered the home of another blogger. You wouldn’t walk into someone’s house and immediately begin criticizing the decorations or the homeowner. Be respectful. It’s all right to disagree, just use some tact. Stay on topic. Respond to what that person has written. (Which means you have to actually read it.) This is not the place to respond to a comment on your blog or go off on a tirade about something else or toot your own horn.
  • Don’t turn you comment into blog post. A thoughtful, detailed comment is good. You start requiring several paragraphs to respond, then your comment would be better suited as a blog post or a direct email to the blog host.
  • No personal attacks. Again, it’s all right to disagree, gently and with tact. But don’t attack the host or those leaving comments. Don’t get into a hot debate. If the blogger has asked for a debate and opposing opinions, then engage in a respectful manner. Offer persuasion not argument, solutions not problems. But don’t condemn or ridicule.
  • Don’t hog comments. Don’t jump in with your own agenda and leave long comments. Don’t keep coming back just to reply to comments left by others. This is not your blog, not your house. Let the blog host reply and stick to your own comment thread.

Posting -
  • Be respectful of others’ time. People are busy. Impatient. They want you to get to the point and quickly. Two thousand words just because you like to hear yourself talk will not endear you to others.
  • In general, stick with a theme. What’s your blog about? Your personal life? Writing? Inspiration? Information? Are certain days devoted to certain topics? For the most part, stay within your personal guidelines. People are creatures of habit and like to know what to expect.
  • Be consistent. Pick your day(s) and time and stick with it. Sometimes you have to skip or post at a different time, but if every time is different, you’ll lose the readership that comes from establishing a pattern.
  • Respond to comments. Interact with those who took the time to leave a comment. Show you are involved. And visit those who visit you.

Those are some of the basics. There are also rules more specific to writers and authors:

Don’t be a commercial -
Unless your books have sold millions and your royalty checks are also in the seven figure category, don’t toot your horn all the time. People aren’t coming to your site JUST to see what you are doing and when your next book will be out and what your sales figures are for the month. Yes, share your accomplishments. But share other things 90% of the time. Otherwise you’ll come off as self-centered and out of touch with reality - and your blog nothing but a billboard.

Do onto others -
Just like the Golden Rule. Treat others as you want to be treated and show respect and consideration. What we dish out will come back to us, whether positive or negative. This business is tough enough. Sabotaging it with our own negativity is just plain dumb.
  • Support - don’t be stingy with supporting and helping other writers and authors. We can’t do this alone. We need the support of family, friends, readers, and our fellow authors. The greatest giver will receive the greatest support and without even asking.
  • Reviews - be mindful of book reviews you post online. There are several camps on this subject. Rather than settle in one, I’ll offer this word of advice: what goes around comes around. You are not just a reader anymore. You are a writer or an author with published books. Not only do you understand the struggle, but you also know that bashing other books is a sure way to invite others to bash yours. Don’t lie in reviews, but don’t set out to destroy an author. Again, use tact. And if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.
  • Comments - when it comes time for our cover reveals, release announcements, guest posts, and personal posts of insecurity, we want positive feedback. We don’t need critics. Most of the time, by the time our books hit the blogging world, they are set - cover art complete, book formatted, synopsis written, blurbs finalized, etc. We can’t change things. And often it’s up to the publisher, not us. Keep that in mind when commenting on cover art, new releases, new authors, a guest post, etc. No one cares about or wants to hear your negative comment. Being critical just invites the same treatment when your next book comes out. Build up with your comments, don’t tear down.

Negative comments? We got them! Below are some recent and genuine blog comments. (Name removed to protect the guilty.)

In response to a video about an author who is a veteran and lost his limbs:
Veteran LOL, more like foreign invader and aggressive terrorist

In response to cover reveals and release announcements:
can't say I like that cover, doesn't look professionally done to me
a nice cover with very badly positioned lettering
highly inappropriate cover

In response to a moving book about counseling veterans and the military:
American warriors LOL, more like American terrorists and invaders

Don’t be a troll online! There are enough of them already. This is your career as a writer. Aim to be the most respected, genuine, gracious, giving, and admired writer. And how do you accomplish that? Through your words...


Christine Rains said...

Excellent post! Blogging etiquette is so important. I like that you included commenting, because I've seen some super long comments, and of course, the negative ones.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I never thought of commenting on someone's blog as entering into their online home and treating it as such - love it!

I usually try to keep my blog posts on the shorter side, but of course today I have a long one! :o Hopefully there's enough helpful information in it to make up for its length. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Diane - it's essential in life to be polite and thoughtful ... the same should apply to our comments - so your ideas make absolute sense ...

Cheers Hilary

Bish Denham said...

Someone really wrote those comments? How sad. It's so much easier to be nice, to be compassionate. Spreading/sharing the love only makes all of our lives just that much easier and more joyful.

Mason Canyon said...

Great advice, Diane. It's sad when someone only seems to have harsh things to comment.

Thoughts in Progress
and MC Book Tours

Lynda Dietz said...

Nicely covered topic! I especially like the comparison to entering someone's home and criticizing the decor.

I've had the occasional person who tries to take over the blog comments—never maliciously, thank goodness, but it always made me want to say, "Just shut up already. It's my blog and I'll answer my commenters, thank you."

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

This is a very valuable post. Thank you, Diane!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Christine, those really bug me.

Bish, it was one someone and all within the last 6 weeks.

Lynda - yes! LOL

Juneta key said...

Good post with excellent points and advice.
Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I've seen troll comments on other blogs but only ever received one on mine. I've also had people comment to advertise or promote their own book. If only everyone knew and followed these excellent guidelines.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I always try and support others. Great check list.

Pat Hatt said...

The cat has those unwritten, now written, rules down indeed. Being a douchebag like those last three is never a good thing.

Jen said...

Marvelous post! I love the analogy of visiting a blog is like visiting someone's house. Behave accordingly. And those Just. Wow.

~ Jen

cleemckenzie said...

Very thorough and very good advice, Diane.

LuAnn @ BackPorchervations said...

Good advice, regardless of the setting.

Anne R. Allen said...

Excellent advice! One thing to keep in mind--if you find yourself writing a long comment, you probably have material for your own blogpost. So cut it short and say "I'll continue this on my own blog tomorrow!" Great way to get traffic.

Also, saying "I agree with Alex about hard SciFi" or whatever--you may just have made a friend. Alex might just check out your blog or even your books. Being agreeable pays off.

Thanks for the great post, Diane!

diedre Knight said...

Great blogger etiquette points! Now, if someone would just call the blogger bouncers for that mean-spirited commenter ;-)

Ann Bennett said...

Lots of good commonsense written. It's a shame some of it needs to be pointed out. With authors working to sell their work as hard as they work writing it, everyone is a potential customer.

The Cynical Sailor said...

Great tips! Thinking about someone's blog as their home is a great way to look at it. It's a shame that there are trolls out there who leave such horrible comments :-(

Michelle Wallace said...

Thanks for the reminder, Diane!
I always say that there's enough negativity out there so we don't need to add to it.

Pat Garcia said...

Excellent! It is best to keep your mouth close if you can't find anything good. Just move on. It's not your beer to judge.
Shalom aleichem,

Misha Gerrick said...

I might be lucky, but I've never ever really encountered rude comments on my blog.

Just spam. Ugh.

H.R. Bennett said...

All great rules that I always try to live by. Given I never had a written list, I like to think a lot of them are common courtesy. The only one I'm bad about is direct response to comments. I always visit those that visit me, I'm just a knucklehead about direct responses. haha

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Anne, being agreeable does pay off. Besides, unless it changes the world, why disagree?

Robert, I don't always do direct responses either.

Toi Thomas said...

Nice list and good advice. I find that people with positive things to say are a bit shy while some people only comment to be mean. It's odd. I do however believe that some people and bloggers just don't know better, so a post like this is useful. Thanks.

Sherry Ellis said...

Excellent post! All of this should be common sense stuff, but surprisingly, a lot of people don't follow the rules.

Sandee said...

The blogging world can be cruel at times. Sometimes people here are just bullies and if you don't do what they want you to do they jump down your throat. Being kind isn't all that hard and if someone rubs you the wrong way be quiet about it and move on. Don't engage with folks that are looking for a fight.

Excellent advice here.

Have a fabulous day. ☺

Denise Covey said...

Ah, if only everyone applied these unwritten rules, but this is the real world and there are many disagreeable people in it. There are always insensitive comments out there made by insensitive people. But blogging is an open, public space (unless we restrict comments), so we have to take it on the chin and try not to take it too hard when someone leaves a cruel, thoughtless comment. The old adage 'do unto others' still applies.

Thanks L Diane, for a thoughtful post. :-)

Lux G. said...

I'll never understand trolls. If you don't like what you see, you can always opt not to leave a comment or send a direct message expressing what bothers you in a diplomatic and educated way. No need to bash or make the person feel bad for what they do.

Then again, we can never control another person's character.

These are amazing tips for writers. It would be a more fun atmosphere if everyone's aware of this and would follow so.

Lori Sizemore said...

Excellent post! I've never seen anyone address these unspoken rules before and I'm glad that you did.

It's such a great analogy, like being in someone's else's house.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Yes, great advice. So far I've been fortunate not to have to deal with negative comments on my blog.

Sandra Cox said...

Great post, Diane.
I think our blogster buds are great. A very supportive group.

Melissa Sugar said...

Excellent post. I've only had one troll on my blog, but it was an awful experience. I'm often guilty of writing lengthy comments so thanks for pointing out that unwritten rule. Good to know.

Yolanda Renée said...

Too bad the political commenters don't have an etiquette. Those comments are beyond the pale!

Great tips and reminders!

Jemi Fraser said...

Excellent post, Diane! I don't truly understand negativity in general, and I definitely don't understand those who are always looking to put down not build up

PJ Colando said...

Thanks for this thoughtful and thorough list of dos and don'ts -