Social Media Etiquette for Authors and Readers

Dear Lord, please guide my words on this.

The world of social media can be a nasty place to navigate. People often think that, just because their face is hidden behind the protection of a screen, they can say or do whatever they want to online and will have no consequences. Even the online book community has had its fair share of hateful posts between readers, between authors, or even between authors and readers. How can we in the book community put an end to this madness?

It’s simple, really. Be kind online (and, I mean, be kind in person too. Don’t be a jerk. The real world needs less of those too. :P).

Authors and readers, if you’re not sure how to navigate the nasty trenches of social media, allow me to help. Today, we’re discussing social media etiquette for authors and readers.

Readers: Consider The Golden Rule Before You Tag Authors in Negative Reviews

I’ve seen a lot of discussion about this topic on Instagram. Sure, if the negative review was presented to the public in a not-so-negative way, such as the reader mentioning some positive aspects of the book, explaining why the book wasn’t for them, and not dissuading others from reading the book, then I could almost understand why anyone would tag an author in a bad review. On the other hand, the act of tagging authors in scathing negative reviews…

Yes, I’m a published author, but I’m also an avid reader. I’ve come across 1-star reads that have made me want to throw the books in a bonfire and loudly rant after I read them because they were that terrible. Before I launched my author career, I left some less-than-nice 1-star reviews on Goodreads, but I’ve since taken those down, because I don’t want to be an author that hates on other authors’ work. Yes, there are still books I absolutely loathe (from my private reading notes, I’ve already had four 1-star reads this year), but I’d rather keep my opinions to myself than hurt a fellow author’s feelings or discourage them from writing anything else.

Readers, your opinions are 100% valid, and you have the freedom to express them; however, please consider the Golden Rule whenever you’re about to tag an author in a negative review… treat others like you want to be treated. Just think about this: if you were an author, would you really want readers tagging you in reviews of the book you’ve poured your blood, sweat, and tears into where they’re saying the ugliest things about you and your book? If you want that, kudos, my friend. You’ve got some thick skin. But most of us wouldn’t want those problems. Just please be empathetic before you start tagging others in negative feedback!

Authors: If You Are Tagged in Negative Feedback, Don’t Be Quick to “Clap Back”

Last year, a reader contacted me with multiple messages of negative feedback on one of my published books. Before they had even finished my book, they had previously messaged me and made snide comments because when they asked if I had paid for a developmental edit for the book, I said I hadn’t. For whatever reason, they thought that if the book hadn’t gone through a paid developmental edit, that it had not been “professionally edited” at all, when in fact the book has been professionally line-edited. I even credited my editor (who is amazing, by the way!) at the beginning of the book.

When I received the first few snide messages, I responded and remained kind to this person; however, when the seven or eight consecutive messages containing even more negative feedback flooded my inbox later on, I took a step back, prayed about it, and then asked my peers in the author community for advice on how to proceed. The majority said to not respond, and block the sender. That is what I did.

Moral of the story is, authors, if you end up being tagged in negative reviews or are personally sent negative feedback on a published book, you’re better off not to engage with the person. If you try to defend yourself, this person may decide to post your messages online without context, making you look like the bad guy. They may be trying to bait you. Don’t give them the satisfaction of dragging you down to their level. Put a pin in the conversation and leave the chat. And, most importantly, don’t let their opinion bother you or discourage you from publishing more books. This negative feedback is just one person’s opinion, and they are not God, and their opinions are not the gospel. Keep doing what God has called you to do, my friend.

Readers: Don’t Down Others for Having Different Bookish Preferences. Celebrate Reading Instead!

Here in the 2020s, the world of social media is already divided enough as it is. Do we really need to start social media wars over something as subjective as book preferences?

Readers, I know how angry or confused it may make you if you see someone trashing your favorite book. Whenever I see someone hating on Nicholas Sparks (even though all his books haven’t been 5-stars for me), I silently question their judgment. XD But, like you and I, every other reader is entitled to their opinion, and that’s okay.

On the other hand, please don’t shame other readers for enjoying books or genres that you aren’t a fan of. Just because you didn’t like the book, it doesn’t mean other readers are “stupid” or “mislead” for enjoying it.

This also goes for forms of reading. On Instagram Reels, I’ve seen a lot of people argue that audiobooks either do or don’t count as reading, or that eBooks are inferior to paperbacks or hardcovers. To this, I say, GUYS. We’re all in the Book Community. We’re not here to celebrate the formats we’re reading, we’re here to celebrate the STORIES we read! Let people read however they want. My goodness. No one is getting a crown or a big bag of money for being the Ultimate Reader just for reading a certain format. Just be happy that people are indeed reading!

Authors: Don’t Trash-Talk Other Authors’ Books. Be Community-Minded.

I’ve talked about this subject a few times here on Authoring Arrowheads, but it’s a good fit for this post too. Authors, while yes, a lot of us are also readers who are entitled to our own opinions, opinions of which we have the freedom to discuss online however we please, if we make a post about a book we don’t like, we should show decorum and grace when we mention it and try our best not to trash-talk the book, nor the author.

Why? Well, it all goes back to the Golden Rule again: treat others how you want to be treated. Imagine this: what if your favorite author read your book, ended up hating it, and then went on a hostile tangent about it on all their social media platforms. How would you feel about that author from then on out?

Personally, I’d lose all respect for that author and never read any of their books again, even if I have previously enjoyed them. In contrast, if they had been more kind in their explanation on why they didn’t like the book, I would’ve gained respect for them and would still be a fan.

Sometimes, saying nothing at all is the best route to go. If you can’t express your thoughts about the book in a kind way, then you may just need to keep your opinion to yourself.

Readers: Don’t Bully Authors Because of Their Publishing Speed

While I haven’t experienced this myself on social media, many authors (especially indies who often do rapid releases) receive comments and messages from their readers where the readers are fussing about the author not releasing their books fast enough. By “fussing”, I’m not meaning that the readers are saying encouraging things like “I NEED book three now!” or “I can’t wait until book five releases!” I’m referring to comments like “Why is this book taking so long? You’ve kept us waiting for six months!” or “Other authors in Kindle Unlimited are releasing the same kind of books two months apart, and you’re taking forever to get your next book out. You’ve lost a fan.”

Readers, I know that, if you love an author’s work, that you want to read more of it as soon as possible; however, please don’t rush authors, or down them, for taking time with their releases. Because I guarantee you:

1) The author is already downing his or herself for not releasing as fast as they once could.

2) The author is going through a season of life where they can’t publish as fast as they once could.

3) The author is struggling to write their book.

4) The author is struggling to edit their book.

5) The author is having trouble with their editor or cover designer.

The list goes on and on!

Readers, you don’t know the ins and outs of an author’s life, and you don’t know what they’re currently going through. Writing and editing are tasks that are brutal on one’s mental health, and making comments like that will not help the author publish a quality book any faster. Please be patient, and show grace.

Authors: Don’t Belittle Other Writers for Their Writing Speed

Lastly, authors, please don’t down other authors for the speed at which they write.

While I haven’t seen this issue come up a lot on social media recently, it’s still something that lurks in the author community.

Don’t get me wrong, if you can write thousands of words a day and end up writing a quality book, that’s awesome! But at the same time, it doesn’t mean that an author who writes one book a year is “less than” just because they write slower. The end result could be a book that is just as good as the one that was written at a faster pace.

Some writing advice on social media tells us that in order to be a successful author, we must write every day. There are books on how to squeeze out the most words we can each day, preaching it’s something you have to do to be a best-selling author. And while it may work for some authors, it’s not a one-size-fits-all method. Many authors, including myself, need time to think through our stories, and it may take months or years to do so. Our books are still as valid as anyone else’s.

On the flip side, authors who write slower often down those who are able to write a book a month, saying that it’s most likely of poor quality. While that may be the case sometimes, it isn’t true for all books. An author who writes faster than you isn’t “less than” because they didn’t spend as much time writing the story as you.

So, authors, please don’t try to discourage anyone if they don’t write at the same speed you do. Instead, encourage other authors to write!

Talk to Me, Arrowheads!

Authors and readers, what other social media etiquette tips do you have in mind? Drop them in the comments!

Aim high, stay strong, and always hit your mark.

-Allyson 😀

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As an author and blogger, my goal is to teach writers that there is a way to write realistic, thought-provoking, redemptive Christian fiction that honors God while not sugarcoating the realities of the world. 

3 thoughts on “Social Media Etiquette for Authors and Readers

  1. Great post, Allyson! And love what you wrote about “writing every day” that some think ought to be done. Considering when I started writing my first book in The Prodigal Band Trilogy (that is, “Battle of the Band”) I was raising and home schooling two kids, I’d say it was a bit unlikely I would be able to “write every day.” And considering it took me about twenty years to finish the trilogy….Plus I worked as our POA Office Manager for a few years when the kids went off to college… Keep it up, Allyson!

    Liked by 1 person

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