Writers, social networking sites and entitlement. Some thoughts in progress.

Was Facebook created so that authors—and anyone else with something to sell—could use it as free advertising space? There’s been some consternation lately, about posts on Pages not always showing up to people who Like that Page—unless the Page owner pays. Authors (and others) have reacted with outrage. But are they entitled to? An author Page is advertising things for sale. Advertisements usually cost money.

FacebookAnd Facebook is in the business of selling advertising. It’s funded by people who buy advertising. (And they are its customers, not the ordinary user. The ordinary user who is paying nothing to use Facebook is not the customer, they are the product.) So why should Facebook give us authors free advertising space just because we’re selling books, rather than coffee or cars or pet food? Isn’t that a bit entitled of us?

Writers attend courses and panels devoted to how to use social networking sites for promotion, but we never seem to ask the question “should we use social networking sites for promotion?” Who invited us to pimp our books on Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter etc? Do we think we are special snowflakes because it’s books we are trying to sell, rather than some other kind of product? Does what I’m saying here apply as much to bands, artists, actors, film-makers and so on? Most of us can’t afford paid advertising, but then neither can many small businesses.

Goodreads LogoGoodreads is a very tricky case. It’s a site about books, so it feels natural to promote books on there. But there are problems inherent in putting readers and authors with their differing agendas in the same space. And those problems are spilling over from Goodreads in places.

I’m not saying it’s time for authors to get the hell off of social media (you’ll get me off Twitter when you prise my phone out of my cold dead hand, etc.) My thoughts on this are still evolving. If we can somehow use it for non-obnoxious promo, maybe that’s okay. But I do think we need to stop making the assumption that every site is a promo opportunity and is advertising space that we are entitled to use – without ever paying a penny for it.

We need to stop getting into a frothing rage when a site initiates a change that happens to make it harder for us to use that site for free advertising. The site was not built for us to promote our books.

And when some new website comes along, then before we invade it in a frenzy of entitlement, we need to stop and ask if we are hijacking a space we have no divine right to be in.

As I say, my thoughts on this are still evolving, I love to hear what others think. Are we muscling in to places waving our books without an invite?

12 thoughts on “Writers, social networking sites and entitlement. Some thoughts in progress.

  1. Yes, I think we probably are. I know that I have unfollowed a couple of people whose tweets were too frequent and too demanding. But then I unfollowed someone this morning whose tweets solely consist of links to his tumblr showing piccies of naked girls, posted 8 or ten at a time. I guess it depends how it’s done.
    I did some tweeting last night on behalf of other authors. This was due to a ‘twitter party’ organised by the publisher who encourages us all to help each other out. We are also expected to spend a certain amount of time everyday going “buy my book” in whatever social media forum is available. In fact, I’d have to check, but I think it’s part of my contract that I do it. I don’t do it very well and I think a good review is worth ten times any number of hectoring tweets.
    But still – while the opportunity is there, while #MyWANA is popular and while publishers request it some authors are going to flood the social media sites with advertising.
    If my friends have had a story accepted i want to know. A nice cover – fine I want to see it. If you have a book out I want to know about it so i can get it and read it. But I don’t want to have to scroll past 20 almost identical posts from the same person in the space of a morning.
    i guess advertising is a bit like adverbs?

    1. “i guess advertising is a bit like adverbs?”

      Indeed. A few non-obnoxious ones are fine. And good point about the review. At least that’s someone else saying “Buy this book, it’s good.” rather than the author.

  2. I don’t think it’s just authors who have that feeling of entitlement as far as freebies on the internet. Just about everyone seems to think their use of the internet for whatever purpose should not only be free, but unrestricted (ie, “I can say whatever the hell I want about anyone!”). I do think way too much emphasis is put on social networking for authors – there are, after all, a lot of readers (and heavy readers) who aren’t on those places (too busy reading ;)). I know I would never sign a contract if that were required, unless the publisher knew it would consist of “a” post with a link to where to buy my book. That said, if the publisher requests/requires/demands a social media presence, and social media places are requiring payment for business sites – guess who I think ought to be footing said bill? But if the author decides to do it for added ‘insurance’ – keep track of the costs and take it off your tax bill.

    1. Good point about people assuming everything on or about the internet should be free. I try not to moan too much about ads on site I use for free, since obviously that’s what’s making them free for me! I don’t like them, and there are some sites I’m happy to pay a fee to, to make ads go away and get extra services. I do that with Live Journal. I’d happily do it for Twitter.

  3. So agree with you, Becky. The rise of social net sites has paved the way for lazy, sloppy promotions from a lot of places, for sure. But there have always been sloppy promoters, the internet just makes it ‘easier’ for them! ❤

    1. Sorry, Melanie! WordPress put your comment in the spam! The nerve. I shall have a strong word with it.

      Ah yes, the internet means one can mess up faster and in front of a much bigger audience than ever before.

  4. A good question. 🙂 I think that there’s just a heck of a lot of entitlement going on everywhere… I’m Facebook- and Twitter-free and plan to remain that way, so I can’t comment on those spaces. The only really bothersome promo-ing things I’ve encountered on GRs involve getting messages about new books based on books I read four years ago, from authors I’ve never heard of in genres I no longer read. Or invites to events (promos, contests, etc) – those annoy me no end.

    1. Entitlement does seem to be everywhere on the Internet. Gotta watch out for it in myself as well as others. Ooh, Goodreads. There’s nothing I like less than when authors recommend their own books to me, especially if said books are really nothing remotely like the kind of books I normally read. Same goes for rating ones own books. No! Don’t do it!

  5. You’re right actually, and I think we need to remember why we’re there. It is a social network. If a reader wants to ‘socialise’ with the author that’s fine… Isn’t it a little bit about showing how nice you are, so they’ll go buy your books without even you asking them to do it? lol!

    Oh, Goodreads, yes, I’m getting lots of friending there, then bloody messages about their book and would I buy it and review it? NO! The spamming has spread to Goodreads 😦

    Interestingly, I had a author friend on my blog a little while ago, and asked her if she had an author page on FB. She has chosen to use her personal page as her author page, as she feels it’s all the same thing. Readers = friends. I must admit I can’t stand following an author page, and then find they’re posting stuff twice, on their personal page as well as author! Argh!

    I follow pages like Adam Levine, David Tennant (for obvious reasons) on Facebook… but are they not ‘fan pages’? Just the sharing of pictures. Gosh, I think there is a thin line between promoting your ‘work’ and sharing with your fans in all categories.

    (Sorry it’s taken me so long to read this post! And it’s such a good one!)

    1. Just slap me if I start doing that on good reads. It’s fine to say “thanks for friending me” without spamming them too. They’re not idiots, they can find your books through your profile.

      I guess a lot of it is about treating followers with respect and not assume they are sitting around all day waiting for some spam from an author so they can go buy their book.

      1. You won’t ever do that! One friended me, sent me a message which was blatant spam – especially as I had to buy the book – I naively thought she’d give it to me for free if she was ‘asking’ for a review – so I removed her. A few weeks later, she tried it again. And sent me the same message, as I friended, not quite remembering if she’d been the spammer or not.

        I physically can not read every book by every author I know or friend. It’s impossible. I’d never write myself.

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