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Author Etiquette

I have a question for all the experienced authors out there. What are your rules on responding to customer comments?

 

Since publishing my first book at the start of this year, I have worked hard on marketing. I make sure my website is up to date and that my Facebook page has new posts a couple of times a week. I tried Amazon Ads for a while with some success (although found it too expensive) and now, like others on ASPA, I have discovered Facebook Ads which work well.


All of this is brilliant news, of course, and I am far from complaining. But I have found it does bring with it a certain level of anxiety about how I should interact with readers who get in touch with me.

 

I can talk all day about my topic of interest, and so instinctively imagine that everyone

who shares the same love will be my friend. But that is a naive viewpoint and sets me off overthinking what to write back to them.


To put this into context, I am thinking of my Facebook Ad. When people started reaching out to say they had bought my book I almost burst with pride. I had reached random strangers from faraway places, and I could not have been prouder. Without trying to appear too gushing or too grateful (we are professionals, after all!) I considered that if I liked their comment and said words to the effect of ‘I am pleased you are enjoying it’, then that should hopefully cover it.


But still I was uneasy. Should I be thanking them for their custom or did that sound too desperate? Should I be aloof and press ‘like’ with no comment, or was that too cold? Should I ask them what they thought or was that too needy?


After much deliberation about what to do, I built up a reasonable blend of polite but neutral comments which ping ponged back and forth and seemed to hit the right level. But then came a new comment which set me worrying again.


I had replied to one person who said my book was on order. I sent back a cheery hope that they would enjoy learning more about my world when it arrived. The next day they replied to say that they had studied the time period already and knew a lot about it. That threw me as to what to do next.

 

I wondered if I had offended them in what I had said? I wondered if the word ‘learn’ was too condescending when the truth was, I was just searching for a different way to express my gratitude and making sure all my replies did not sound the same.

 

I told myself they were they just being polite and purely replying to me as I had replied to them and there was no follow up necessary. Then I convinced myself that they were trying to show me that they were an expert in the field and felt patronised.

 

Of course, there may have been nothing more to it than that they were an individual who routinely likes to be the one to end a message exchange, but as I did not know them and as I suffer from the perpetual writer’s trait of insecurity, I still remained uneasy.

 

With my own friends and personal contacts, I understand when to stop with the messaging on a particular day. I know the ones who I can leave an unemotional comment with, and I know the ones who will never fail to send back a suitable emoji as a cue that we have said all we need to for now.


But social media is a whole new beast in an anonymous world. It has taken me decades to figure out the body language of colleagues and how to read the room in my career. Now, it’s like I’ve opened the door to a brand-new office block on a different planet.


Some forums (like here on ASPA) feel very safe where we are supportive and respectful in a shared community. But some social media platforms can be brutal and leave you with the sensation you have been stung. I never want to give that impression to anyone, no matter how unconsciously it was done.

 


So that is why I am appealing to you. What are your rules regarding interaction with people you don’t know?  Are you a simple ‘like comment’ kind of person or a brief ‘thank you for your interest’ kind of person. Perhaps you are you a full-on friendly ‘let’s have a conversation’ kind of person and have made many new friends.


I would love to know your experiences and what works for you.

 

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14 Comments


I’ve been in customer service most of my employed life. (I freelanced for the other percentage of it :-) I really don’t think you need to engage with readers who leave comments. Respond/ reply yes. Engage no. In other words, a friendly “thank you, I hope you enjoy” kind of reply will do fine. Keep it warm, but keep it brief, polite & impersonal. The last thing you need is to trigger someone’s ego or defensiveness & get drawn into a debate that will live on in screenshots forever. The communication that matters is in your book. One random reader’s opinion of the content won’t change the content for all other readers now, so there is absolutely no need to…

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You sum up the situation very well and I appreciate your experience. All of the comments on this post have reassured me that engagement is a definite no, which has helped a lot. Brief, polite and impersonal I can do - and leave it at that. Thank for your advice.

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Dear Diane,

It sounds to me as if you are doing well. I publish my work on Amazon to a deafening silence. I haven't tried any form of marketing. I'm just writing for the fun of it.

If you are trying to get a serious income from writing (tax declarations and all that) then, I think, you'll need to find a well-published author and ask for their advice.

One thing is certain, writing is the easy bit; marketing is the game changer.

I think it's great if someone cares enough to comment, but don't get too engaged is my advice.

I say I do no marketing but I sign off this comment with a link to my Amazon page (sorry,…

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Thank you for your comments. 'Don't get too engaged' has definitely been the message today and helped me understand the industry better. And there's nothing wrong with a discreet Amazon link - 9 titles - a whole series - impressive!

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Most of the comments I get are, where do your ideas come from or how did you work out that plot.

A short note is the best response, and depending on the comment thanks for your interest.

Negative comments, I have had a couple, I responded with, Thank you for your comment, I have noted it.

😀

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Thanks. I am fast learning that brief and polite is the best way to go with genuine enquiries. No lengthy interactions.

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When I first self-published my memoirs, many of the comments and reviews were positive so I got in the habit of thanking the writer, keeping the comments to the point, short and simple. Later, I received the odd negative review/comment. Some were simply nothing to do with my books (e.g. commenting on delayed delivery from Amazon), others went into detail, picking faults with specific words (UK 'v' US), or blatantly stating that I had made up the entire story (bare in mind, these were my life story books, so I know they're true). I made the mistake of writing replies to the writers, on Amazon (as I was ex-forces, ex-police, and couldn't sit back and ignore them), going into detail…

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Thank you for this - it's very helpful. I also have an email address on my website that people can contact me directly, but so far it has only been used by scammers. Occasionally I receive a direct Facebook message from people who appear to be genuinely interested in my work - or at least my topic. It is the public forums that are proving problematic and I take your point that if people really have something important to convey then they can do it via the invited route, thus saving the situation where they are only doing it to prove they are 'the winner' in front of everyone else.

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I use Facebook groups, but they also come with problems.

Dodgy marketing put nice comments then if you like them they start harassing you to market with them.

Most are scammers asking you to pay for things you can do yourself without spending money on things that 99% don't do anything.

I have now got to the point where I ignore.

I think unless we employ a big marketing group with a good reputation we're going to be fighting a loosing battle.

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That is good advice. It helps to remember that not every member of a Facebook group is as good or as genuine as we like to believe.

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