It seems like every week or so, there’s another flare up on twitter about some author behaving really horribly to other authors or their readers. Type “Authors behaving badly” into google and a whole litany of jerks come up. Maybe we can call them “Misguides by social media experts” if we’re feeling generous. The whole idea of someone’s job being a “social media expert” is laughable to begin with, but I’m sure there are some trusting and otherwise normal people who are genuinely duped by them.
Google’s top result of bad behavior has an author talking down on her fans because she was only number two on the NY Times list. There’s the book agent who was physically attacked by an author she passed on. There’s book reviews for sale. The best selling Brit who got caught sockpuppeting his own books and talking trash on rivals. And let’s not forget the ridiculously misguided people with the Goodreads Bully crap who think that any review less than positive counts the same as actual bullying. I’m not even going to dignify those people with a link.
This is all just the stuff that comes to mind in the last couple weeks. The Goodreads thing is the only one in that last paragraph going back farther than August. Hell, I even read a book where the protag was an author that spent half the introduction bitching about amazon reviews. I won’t drop names because I’m trying to do the exact opposite of spreading smack, but suffice to say, I’ll never read her books and I get miffed when I see people RT her into my twitter feed.
Even if there’s not outright controversy and assholeness, I know I can’t be the only one who is inundated with followback accounts on twitter which amount to nothing more than advertising. “@JoeBlowAuthor is following you! He follows 32k people and has 31k followers! Read his book! Read it faster! I won’t tell you anything about it tho or even talk about anything other than screaming Read it now!”
That’s what I get for using common hashtags like #writing.
So if we’re being constantly thrashed with bad behavior, where the deuce is the good?
I dropped this on twitter today…
These guys aren’t the only authors behaving well, I just happened to be on ye olde twitter around the same time of day as them. Authors behaving well include Madaline Ashby (
@MadelineAshby), Peter V Brett ( @PVBrett), Seanan McGuire ( @seananmcguire), Cat Valente ( @catvalente) and a lot of others who’s twitter handles are quite obvious.
So what do the people of my twitter feed do that makes them well behaved. Ima gonna break it down!
1 – Promote your stuff a little bit.
I know I said it was lame to be a walking advertisement on twitter a few paragraphs ago, but that doesn’t mean be silent about your work. I follow authors because I’m interested in what they write. I want to read Chuck Wendig’s latest blog post. Absolutely I want to know about Tobias Buckell’s kickstarter collection. Cat Valente’s last short story available online is one of my favorite short stories of all time and I never would have known about it if she didn’t drop a link on twitter. Celebrate your happy bookday. Drop updates on the current project. I’m interested in this.
There are authors I follow on twitter before I even buy their book. Of the eight people I’ve mentioned so far, I followed six of them before I bought the book. I’ve even follow people like Wesley Chu (
@wes_chu) who aren’t published yet, but will be by publishers I love to read. Usually this sort of follow comes about by recommendations from other authors, seeing good things about their book, or one of the magical Scalzi Big Idea Posts. So by all means, link to reviews of your stuff. When I write a blog post about the book I just read, one of the primary reasons for it is spreading the word of awesomeness. Authors should know that they might have new and/or on the fence readers following them so they can find out if they want to read you.
2 – Promote the stuff of others a little bit.
Talk about your friends, your comrades, your fellow wordsmiths. One of the best things I get out of twitter is new books to read! I refuse to go to B+N so I don’t actually have a real live bookstore to go to in Rhode Island any more. I get so many of my new books to read from other authors. Chances are, if I’m interested in your stuff, and there are others who you enjoy as people and respect as writers, even if they’re not in our circle of F-SF genre, I’ll give them a gander. Benjamin Tate (
@bentateauthor) reviews books on his LiveJournal. (Seriously, ever time I type LiveJournal, I think I travel back in time to 2000 and high school) Chuck Wendig interviews artists of all types. I happily recommend books to friends and there is no reason not to for the Well Behaved Twitter Author who has a willing audience that likes to read the same kind of stuff as they do.
3 – Be an awesome person the rest of the time
Finding out about the person behind the book cover seriously makes me giddy in a non-stalker kind of way. As a kid before the internet was running rampant with our lives, all I ever knew about an author was that little page in the back. “Joe Blow Author lives in a state with a family and some animals and has written a few other books.” I recognize the names in the Acknowledgements page now! In Kelly McCullough’s (
@KellyDMcC) Broken Blade acknowledgements I recognized some of the names as Neil Gaiman’s dogs. They live near each other and he jogs with the dogs. Holy crap that’s cool. It’s not something you’d ever get years ago.
I have a dumpster cat named Mr. Pibb. I enjoy seeing the pictures of so many cats. Seriously. So many. It’s almost a cliche now, internet and cats, but everyone’s got them. Kylie Chan (
@kyliecchan) and Seanan McGuire and Cherie Priest ( @cmpriest) have awesome cats. Scott Lynch ( @scottlynch78) is a firefighter. Greg van Eekhout ( @gregvaneekhout) grows vegetables and fights off bugs on what I presume is a porch. Jennifer Pelland ( @jenniferpelland) is a belly dancer. When Chuck Wendig or Tobias Buckell or Saladin Ahmed or Lauren Beukes ( @laurenbeukes) talks about their kids doing something cool or weird, I can relate cause I’m a dad too. I won’t stop reading your books if you’re a good writer but boring on twitter, so don’t feel the need to preform either. Just be a regular person.
The internet has made authors into real live people. I get some sort of weird encouragement out of seeing people deal with sick kids or days when the word count just isn’t there or day jobs really really suck. They’re real people doing the same kind of crap I am and they made it. That means when I’m having tough days in the wordmines or the submarines at work are kicking my ass extra hard, I think “Hey they’ve got crap to deal with and got some damn good writing done anyways. I’m gonna do it too.” Solidarity man.
Don’t censor yourself though. It’s ok to get angry at something that sucks or be a little bit political. I’m not going to bandstand my own politics here because I don’t enjoy doing that kind of stuff, but in this day and age, most people are a little political especially during voting season. Don’t be a froth-at-the-mouth kind of political person and I can respect you even if I disagree with you. China Miéville and Orson Scott Card have famously controversial political views. They’re still considered luminaries of our genre regardless (I don’t think either use twitter though). Saladin Ahmed is the perfect example of this in my twitter feed. From reading his tweets, I’m pretty sure we’re not going to vote the same, but he’s being respectful so he can go right on disagreeing with me all he wants. Doesn’t bother me one bit. Frankly, I tend to skim over politics if I agree with you or not.
Really the most important part of the three points is moderation. Consider it a subpoint to all of them. Moderation in all things and there’s nothing to worry about.
So yeah. I think I seriously linked half of my twitter feed today. But I also think this has been my favorite blog post to write because it’s all about being part of a positive community. It’s certainly ended up being my longest blog post ever. But I’m not scrubbing for attention. I want to encourage people to be awesome and tell people about others who are already awesome. Play it forward. Good karma. There’s no need to candy coat everything, but foster that community damnit. Because seriously, it’s easy to forget how spoiled we are to have such a vibrant and well connected community. It’s easy to forget how easy it is to type out a “Hey I loved the shit out of your book! Digital air high five!” We didn’t have this kind of stuff twenty years ago or ten years ago. Hell, it wasn’t like this even five years ago.
Let’s make Authors Behaving Well a thing. It’ll cancel out all those who are behaving badly.