Being a Successful Author Using Social Media, Plus Online Etiquette, Spamming, Cyber-bullying, and Avoiding the Dangers of On-line Particpation

19 Jun

Life Is Rough: Being a Successful Author Requires Skill. (Please note that I'm crying about Elvis Presley's biography, on the table before me, not anything to do with books.)

Skillfully using social media is a major key to an author’s success. That’s what all the book industry marketing experts an book publicists say––and I know people who have parlayed on-line eBook and print book sales  into contracts with major publishers and top literary agents. They’ve created the top-selling literary careers that other writers, indie press owners, and self publishers want. Careers that even bestselling authors who have literary agents and are published by traditional publishers want.

How? I have no idea. I know how to win book contests––twenty-one of them to date––and produce exquisite books that get five star reviews. I’m working on sales. (Ahem.)

OK. Let’s drop the search engine optimization-laden verbiage and get down to it. (And that intro and article title are about as SEO sticky as you can get. SEO is my latest thrill. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Google analytics come out. [2 years later: They came out just the same as usual. No change.])

This blog post has been grinding around inside me. I’ve been trying to distill what’s bothering me and what I want to say. I’m going to put it out as a series of articles, the first one centering on on-line participation and getting mangled, which happened to me recently. is about achieving success and sanity as an author or writer.

In the publishing world, success is measured by two things: the number of books sold and the amount of money made selling them. If you want to test this, go anywhere that authors or writers congregate. Check out my Facebook wall (or yours). Authors crow about their book sales and big events and triumphs as they happen. In this world, life in its complexity, beauty and richness is compressed into an obsession with Amazon sales.

Sanity is harder to define. If  you want to get picky, you can always take the MMPI, Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (or have it administered by a clinical psychologist). The MMPI is a great tool to determine what type of psychopathology the taker has, and how much. How crazy you are, in other words.

My less precise but way more illuminating definition of sanity is contained in a series of questions: Are you happy? Not the kind of manic, hysterical happiness shown on TV quiz shows. Are you really happy, deep-in-your-gut happy? Do you feel your life is meaningful and that you are traveling in a direction which is taking you closer to the person you were meant to be? Do you feel in communication with God, if you believe in God, or whatever you consider the source of the universe? Your Higher Power? The Great Bazonga in the Sky? Are you in touch with That?

So here’s the question: Is it possible to be successful and sane in the writing profession? Writing is hard. Getting published in a professional manner is harder. (Whether you self-publish or go the traditional route.) In my experience, marketing is hardest of all.

I’ve talked to other writers about this. They say the same thing: “I dunno. I’ll tell you when I figure it out.”

One of the personally/spiritually positive things about writing is the fact that it continually challenges you to do terrifying things. And learn stuff that you never, ever would have thought about before.  Or wanted to. Like search engine optimization. And leading. Do you know what leading is? [The distance between the lines of print in a book.] Do you know which printer gives you the best price on copies of your book and the best distribution? How to set up and write a blog? Establish a web site. You learn things like this as your career progresses.

OK. What happened to me on-line the other day? I have certain terrors, like everyone else. Things that are hard and scary that I have to force myself to confront. We all have such things. For some of you, running into the creature below would be terrifying. Getting up close and personal with him might put you into intensive care:

Capoeira BSN, a Peruvian Paso Stallion

Capoeira BSN, a Peruvian Paso Stallion

Working around Cappy does not bother me, particularly. (Especially since he’s in Australia.) You have to pay attention when you’re around a stallion, but he’s manageable. This is my personal source of terror, what makes my knees go weak and my eyeballs shake:

The Kindleboards Homepage

Kindleboards Home Page

One of my friends, an extremely successful author, gave me clear instructions on what to do to succeed in internet marketing.

“You have to get on the Kindleboards. Go out, introduce yourself, make friends. Don’t talk about your book much. Get to know people first. Establish a presence on-line. People will get to know you. Then they’ll buy your book.” A couple other people said the same thing. And I’ve heard it on-line.

I gave it a shot. Opened the Kindleboards site and was confronted by the biggest, most  complicated and (to me) least user friendly web site I have ever seen. I managed to sign up, stagger into the writers’ area, and attempted to register my books. It took me maybe five tries. I did it wrong––putting my books on separate pages, which seemed to be what other authors were doing. That was wrong: All books were supposed to be on one page. I finally mastered listing my books, with various emails from the moderators. I was ready to leap into the 500 million forum threads, all with different rules.

Lord, have mercy! I haven’t been back, even though I suspect worlds of meaning or something exist on the Kindleboards.

After that experience, I thought I’d try Goodreads, another big site for readers and authors. I have over 1,300 friends there, somehow, but I’ve not been on their forums (or any forums) much. I was delighted to see that they had reader groups with subject areas like those of my most recent book, The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy, which can be put in the  science fiction, visionary fiction, or fantasy slots.

I carefully read the posting instructions and put notes in the forums for the three categories  The Angel fit. “Hi, I’m Sandy Nathan, I wrote The Angel. It’s about . . .” And then I set up a page for the book itself. I immediately forgot what I’d posted and where. It was late and I was exhausted. But I was delighted that I’d gotten that far and thought this on-line stuff would be clear sailing from now on.

The next morning, I was greeted by a politely stated, but pointed, email from someone who said I’d spammed him the night before with 6 emails into his box. That people found that offensive and that I should post once and repeat with weekly or so intervals. Although the note was polite, it hurt. I was stung. Shaking. [Since posting this, I’ve heard from another author who said the same thing happened to her. It took her two days to stop shaking. All is not friendly in cyber-space!]

I was upset because I’d followed the rules, I looked them up, read, and followed them. I wrote back to the spammed man, groveling, and he wrote back. Then other people on the forum wrote about what happened. Turned into quite a lively discussion. It turned out the fellow who thought I’d spammed him was on a number of groups, the same ones I was on, and since I’d posted to those, a separate email had been sent to him from each by Goodreads. I hadn’t done it.

So the culprit was Goodreads programming, not me. The group decided I was innocent and would not be executed. That was the feeling I had.

Lord have mercy, again!

This situation got handled. The guy who wrote the email and I have communicated. He even bought The Angel. Things are cool.

But is this anything for a 66 year old woman with two master’s degrees to be doing with her life? I ask myself this all the time. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings and adventures in the world of on-line marketing. And writing in general. Blogging.

I’m going to have articles on the psychology of the internet, success, and more later.

All the best,

Sandy Nathan

Sandy Nathan is the winner of twenty-one national awards, in categories from memoir, to visionary fiction, to children’s nonfiction. And more.

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link to the left for more information. All links below go to Kindle sale pages.)
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy
Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice

Two sequels to The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy are in production with a 2012 release date. If you liked  The Angel you’ll love Lady Grace and Sam & Emily.







3 Responses to “Being a Successful Author Using Social Media, Plus Online Etiquette, Spamming, Cyber-bullying, and Avoiding the Dangers of On-line Particpation”

  1. Katie McGuinness June 20, 2011 at 7:44 am #

    Your points are excellent — and chilling. As I struggled through the latest revision of my novel, Terminal Ambition, I’ve consoled myself with the notion that I can self-publish if I don’t land an agent and a traditional publisher.

    After sending twelve queries in the last two weeks, I have one request for a full and two rejections. The remaining recipients are silent — either because they’re too busy to send a rejection or because I’m still in the slush pile. This is relatively good news, but as the prospect of self-publishing becomes more real, I’m miserable.

    The seeming complexity and time commitment of marketing a self-published book is daunting. I’ve found myself wishing I’d never wanted to write a novel in the first place, thinking of all the other things I could have done with the thousands of hours I’ve devoted to this book.

    And, like Sandy, wondering if publishing success (whether traditional or indie) will bring me happiness. Is there a rehab program for writers who wish to turn away from the driving desire to be published?

  2. Deborah Hughes February 21, 2012 at 11:29 am #

    I found your blog on Twitter. I scroll through the Tweets several times a day and you have to catch my eye in two seconds flat or I’m going to keep scrolling (I think about this as I do it…what caught my eye, why did I click the link, what key word made me stop scrolling) and try to keep it all in mind when I tweet something myself. Just so you know, it was your “shelflife” that caught my eye. I used to be in the military, shelf life to us was how long something could be on the shelf and still be good (explosives wise!). I figured your shelf life was referring to books and was intrigued by the “life” part of it. So anyway, just thought you might be curious as to what drew me to this post.

    I started reading it and totally identified with you (as an author trying to make her way in the strange new world of social media!). I also have read where authors gave advice about joining Kindleboards and I too found it confusing and unhelpful. Really, you are literally buried in there! How is anyone to find anything? I didn’t find anything useful and obviously no one else found me to be so either!

    I haven’t had any bad experiences with Goodreads but I don’t see how it’s helpful to me as an author trying to get her books known. What it does do is help me keep track of my own books…those I’m reading, those I want to read, and how I felt about the books I did read. I’ve joined several groups but all I find is they clutter up my email. Most of the conversations are either other people hawking their books or a private conversation going on between a couple people that have nothing to do with books. I might be approaching the whole thing wrong, but I just don’t have the time to figure it all out.

    What I do find helpful is Facebook. People actually comment on my updates and things I share. Twitter is helpful, people retweet my stuff and I retweet theirs and I am building relationships slowly. Although I have over 2000 followers and don’t know any of them very well, I’m still beginning to recognize them and know if they usually Tweet something I’m interested in. I also am finding Triberr to be very helpful in getting my blog out into the world at large. LinkedIn has some great groups but I don’t know that it’s been all that helpful to me in my marketing efforts. I do learn a lot from other people’s posts there so there is that. I need to learn things. Being a member of the World Literary Cafe has been quite helpful (they help with book promotion and have great blog posts about the book world). Recently I’ve discovered Pinterest and what I like about that site is it keeps all the interesting sites I’m finding on the web in one place…not only for me to find again but other people who might be interested. I haven’t fully explored this avenue yet but I think I’ll like it more and more as I go on.

    Sorry so long! Thanks for sharing this post. Nice to know I’m not alone in feeling a tad overwhelmed. Good luck to you. Look forward to your future posts.

    • admin February 28, 2012 at 10:17 am #

      Hi Deborah!
      Sorry it took me a while to get back to you. I’m (still) on the verge of getting two books out. If I live. I never thought of shelf life in terms of its military application. Fits for writing too: How long will your words pack a wallop? The whole idea of Shelf Life came to me through a story I relate on the About portion of the site. One of the introductory pages.

      I’m still feeling overwhelmed, but I am getting somewhere. And I think I’ve found a real, living person who can help me. Yay! I’ll report on that as time passes.

      You give a nice summary and evaluation of the various social media. I’d never heard of Tiberr or Pinterest. More to explore. I’m going to print out your comment and check out your resources. I think LinkedIn is really good, except that it drives me crazy. Somehow I got 3 accounts, all with different emails and passwords. If I get something from them I’d like to respond to, I’m invariably on the wrong account and can’t figure out which is the right one. Grrrrr…..

      Thanks for writing. Please come back often!

      Sandy Nathan