To Follow Or Not To Follow

I would like to touch on an issue that has recently come up in my efforts to promote my novel Knightfall. It doesn’t have anything to do with the actual promotion of the book, but with the branding of me, the author. I’m sure most other authors, especially those of the indie persuasion, have come across this situation. I’m also sure some would disagree with what I’m about to say and they can feel free to leave a comment. But since this is my blog, I get to go first.

I am a member of various groups on various social media platforms. One particular group on a particular site (I won’t get more specific than that since those details are irrelevant and would be more destructive than necessary) offers its members the opportunity to share their Twitter handles and extends an open invitation for new followers. I thTwitter logoought this would be a good opportunity for me to spread my name around the Web and hopefully reach more potential readers and fans.

Here’s the issue that has popped up and now disturbs me.

One group member voiced his dismay about the followers he was not receiving. He was dutifully going through the posts and following all the members that had given their handle. I’m the type of person who gives others the benefit of the doubt until they prove to me they don’t deserve it, so I will assume he was truthful in the comments he recently posted. Even if he is not, I’m sure someone else feels as he claims and I would still be irked at the situation. Those recent comments of his were about his annoyance at the fact all those people he was following were not following back. He has now decided to not follow anyone until after they follow him.

What the hell?

I’m sorry, buddy, but I won’t be forced to follow someone I’m not interested in. I’m on Twitter hoping to connect with readers that like fantasy novels. That’s what I write. I may branch out into other closely related speculative fiction genres, so I’ll also want to reach those fans as well. But what good will it to do me to clutter my list of followers with DIY landscapers who only read historical romances? (This is not this particular disgruntled author’s niche, if you’re planning on trying to figure out who he is. I don’t mean to bash him on a personal level. I don’t know him and have no problem with him. My problem is with the attitude he displayed and views already displayed by others.) What good will it do you to have hundreds or thousands of followers if none of them will ever consider buying your books? All you’ll get is a flood of tweets you’ll never read. Worse than that, said flood will inundate your feed and you won’t even see the posts you really want to read.

So, my friend, please tell me what your goal is. Do you want to reach a thousand followers on Twitter, or do you want to sell a thousand book? I wish for the latter. I write because I have stories to tell and wish to share them with the world. I wish to entertain them with a good read, not mere sentences every other day about how things are going in my life. For that reason, I am one of those people that is currently annoying you. I will not follow you just because you ask me to. I will follow you if we have something in common or you have something to say I find interesting and think others in my circle will enjoy reading. But I will not waste my time with those that will only hinder my progress. It’s all good to have thousands of followers, but they don’t mean much if their interests are all over the place, everywhere except your particular niche in the literary world. Just being an author is not enough, in my books. A self-help guru specializing in nutrition is worlds apart from a novelist who writes about a mass murderer terrorizing a steam-punk infused dimension still in its prehistoric era.

I’m sure most of your mothers have told you something along these lines: “If all your friends jump off the bridge doesn’t mean you have to jump off too.” Following just for the sake of following doesn’t help in this case. In fact, all it will do is hinder you in your efforts to promote yourself. Of course, this is the opinion of an author just starting out. But it still makes sense to me, so I’ll keep doing it until proven otherwise.

Any professionals out there willing to share their insights? Any amateurs who want to add their two cents? Please feel free.

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~ by Marc Labelle on September 18, 2012.

8 Responses to “To Follow Or Not To Follow”

  1. Building a platform is NOT about the numbers. It is about interaction and hopefully connecting with people who will want to hear more of what you have to say because of the quality of the content and the consistency of your engagement with others. You are 100% right on by my estimation as the desire to merely make it a numbers game is more about stroking your ego than marketing your writing or building your air of authority on whatever topic that you would like others to relate to you as an expert. Also whining is NOT “winning”. This is actually something that I tell my kids. I tell them that “whiners don’t win” themselves many friends. I understand he might be frustrated but merely complaining and making ultimatums probably brings the opposite result to what he was hoping for.

    Sorry, buddy!

    On a certain professional social media platform that rhymes with “Winked Win” (heh) , we were exchanging Facebook Author page addresses but I became so inundated with requests to like various pages that I really couldn’t ever keep up. At some point, I decided to only “Like” the ones that I actually…well…liked. It is just pretense otherwise.

    • It’s nice to hear I’m not the only one in this particular predicament, that being inundated by these requests. I am a member of but a few of these groups. I look at other members’ profiles and see the list of their memberships and gasp at their lengths. I have no idea how they can manage to participate in all of them on a daily basis, even if it was only to respond to one post per group. One would be stuck at home, on the computer, 24/7. Putting it off would be out of the question, because the workload would just pile up to astronomical proportions!

      But one doesn’t even need to be a member of a few dozen groups to be overwhelmed. This one particular group to share Twitter handles does enough damage. I find myself going through at least 50 new messages from members wanting to network. And I do this twice a day! Granted, some of these members constantly reply to others stating they are now following them (and repeating their own handles, just to make sure we don’t forget them). So not only do we have to sift through a sea of new names, we also have to wade past those we have already checked out. What’s worse is checking them out again because one can’t expect to remember all these names.

      Sometimes I feel like just giving up and ignoring all these messages. But I know if I do that, I will miss out on some legitimate followers and authors I would truly enjoy connecting with. Guess I’ll just suck it up and keep drudging through the mire until I find the gems.

      And…

      (close your eyes, Sean, this last statement is not directed at you in the slightest bit)

      …once again, sorry friends, if I don’t find you up to my standards. It’s not that you’re not worth following (I’m sure you are), it’s just that you and I are heading in different directions.

  2. I think you’ve hit the proverbial nail on the head here. I think we all know the site where these swaps are happening. All great, but like you, I am not following everyone back or ‘liking’ everyone, as some are not in my interest area. I too now get swamped with emails with mostly useless messages that don’t have links, or the same person answering someone else. I do follow back other authors in Twitter as I hope that some will RT my posts that link to my blog or book. I created a list for people who regularly RT me so I can RT them, then they RT me and so it goes on. This widens my reach as an author but so far, I haven’t seen any real result in sales of my book, but I will press on. Maybe it’s all a case of reaching ‘critical mass’ then it will all happen (lol). Anyway, back to the flood of emails. I skim through them and delete most of them. Some I will click on and check out, if they fall in my area of interest (mainly fantasy). Thanks Marc for following my blog. I will follow yours because you are also into fantasy. I’m also happy to interview you for my blog author interviews. Have a great day.

    • I hope all your efforts do provide that wonderful windfall we all wish for, Paul. And when it does and you finally discover the secret to massive book sales, please pass it along to this humble struggling artist.

      But until then, know that it is my pleasure to follow a fellow author who likes to lose himself in make-believe worlds we can mold to our liking.

      I would be honored to be featured on your blog. Please send over the interview questions and I will endeavor to entertain and enlighten your readers. I do not publicly display my email, but you can reach me on any of my pages or sites.

  3. My thoughts exactly! I am happy to share links and cross-promote other authors, but since there are so many of us, I will narrow it down to those whose books I actually want to read (even if it takes me the next 10 years to get through my TBR list!) Of course I want lots of followers on my social pages, but I also want lots of book sales as a result. Too much to ask? Probably…

    • It actually isn’t too much to ask, Catherine. In my opinion, it’s precisely what we should be asking for. These social media sites are there for us to network with potential readers and mingle with other writers. We chat with these other writers to better our craft. We reach out to the readers to hopefully entice them to read our books.

      With the nearly astronomical amount of authors networking out there, we need to be picky and stick with like-minded individuals. Otherwise, we’ll find ourselves perpetually responding to these emails and never get any writing done. Not only that, whenever we actually find the time to squeeze in a message to our followers, it would surely be swept into obscurity by everything everyone else is posting over you.

      This is simply a situation where quality outweighs quantity by a vast margin.

  4. Hey lovely from a young womanreader contunue the stupendous posts

  5. I am in these same groups and can only do so much per day. One thing that irked me was being told after I returned a like via my author page that I MUST like it again from my PERSONAL page. Go. Do it now.
    Nope. Some things can remain separate. As an author I can try to help another author reach some more folk, but do not require me to make your beliefs force themselves into the lives of my friends and family.
    It was cheeky…

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