The 10 Commandments of Social Networking for Writers

  1. Do It Thyself: don’t hire outside marketing firms or let your publisher maintain your Facebook and Twitter pages. Readers want–and expect–up close interactions with their favorite authors. They don’t want to interact with someone their favorite author hired to preserve the illusion of interaction. And yes, they can tell the difference.
  2. Be Not a Used Car Salesman: it is expected that writers will promote their books via social networking, but if you devote all your posts to your books and Blatant Self Promotion (‘Here’s a link to buy my book’, ‘Here’s a great review of my book’, ‘my book is out, please RT this to all your followers’) people will tune out. We watch television expecting a certain amount of commercials, but don’t make your feed a never-ending commercial. Besides, if you’re interesting enough online, people will buy your book without you having to ask.
  3. Make Thyself Present: it’s not enough to have social networking pages–you have to use them. Get involved in conversations. Answer questions from readers. Give interesting insights or facts about one of your works. Link to your favorite videos, songs and websites. Offer irreverent asides and observations. Promote other writers and books you’ve enjoyed. The best feeds are a reflection of their creators’ personalities.
  4. Thou Shalt Think Before Thy Posteth: While Twitter and Facebook give writers a chance to have their thoughts seen by thousands of people…they also give writers a chance to have their thoughts seen by thousands of people. Look at bestselling author Alice Hoffman, who angrily posted the phone number of a reviewer. The resulting backlash cost her credibility, and likely fans as well. We want to know what you think–but be smart about what you say.
  5. Thou Shalt Limit Thy Number of Invites: nothing gets you defriended or unfollowed faster than spamming people with an inconsiderate number of invites to your fan page or entering them into groups without asking. If we’re a fan, we’ll respond the first time. If we’re not, convert us. But don’t stand on a corner handing out leaflets.
  6. Thou Shalt Get Personal (If Appropriate): you can divulge as much or as little about your personal life as you choose. If you’re writing a book in which your experiences are the backbone of the material, some personal anecdotes will offer insight into your mind and processes. But see Commandment 4: thousands of people might see your post. If you’re cool with that, we’re cool with that. But you might want to make sure your inhibitions (and family members) are too.
  7. Thy Networking Shall Support Thy Writing, Not the Other Way Around: social networking is a great way to raise awareness of yourself and your work. But it should never take precedence over your work. You’ll have many opportunities to post thoughts OUTSIDE of your work times. How much time do you spend in a given day waiting on line? On hold? Commuting? Use your down time to post. And never ever post while driving or operating heavy machinery, or the lord might actually smite thee.
  8. Act Thy Age: if you’re a fifty year old writer of literary fiction, and your posts are filled with OMGs and TTYLs, you’re going to have a hard time being taken seriously. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have a sense of humor, but irony can be lost in 140 characters. Don’t take yourself too seriously–but do have respect for yourself and your audience.
  9. Thou Shall Not Engage in Flame Wars: the moment you put your words into the public arena, there are going to be people who dislike what you have to say. If you’re going to have a career as a writer, having a thick skin is a necessity. This means the high road is always the writer’s best friend. Deal with hateful/mean tweets and posts like a professional. If you want to respond, respond. Keep in mind, though, you’ll be doing it in public. And remember the adage: Never wrestle in mud with a pig–you’ll just get dirty and the pig will enjoy it.
  10. Thou Shalt Have Fun: the best writers who use social networking clearly enjoy it. And if you use it right, you will too. It combines the best aspects of a blog, a panel, a conference, reader email, promotion and irreverence. It gives you access to unlimited readers, and them to you. If it’s a chore for you to stay active, people will see that. If you enjoy it, post regularly, interact with your readers and offer them some insights into your life and work, they will support you, promote you, and your following will grow. Like any endeavor it will take time to build a following, but like any endeavor, the work will be well worth it.

Jason Pinter is a literary agent with the Waxman Agency, and the bestselling author of the Henry Parker thriller series, as well as the upcoming Zeke Bartholomew series for Middle Grade readers and the Great Divide trilogy for Young Adults. You can follow him on Twitter at



35 Responses to “The 10 Commandments of Social Networking for Writers”

  1. Great post, and miraculously, I am apparently “Social Networking Virtuous.” Just as well you didn’t post an blog commandments. Sins of omission, you know…

  2. Excellent list. I remember a few years back on Twitter, I had a similar conversation with a writer on Twitter, but all he did was promote his book, he never engaged. I dropped him as a follower. You are correct that authors need to engage their readers themselves, because it makes the experience so much better for the reader and can create true fans.

  3. “Thou Shall Not Engage in Flame Wars” Darn … flame sword down, professional smile on….

  4. Terrific list. But people take some writers seriously? Who knew? My sin is probably that I don’t mention often enough that I have books out there. Too busy w/ #10.
    TTFN! (Pushing 50, but not quite there yet, whippersnapper!)

  5. Nice one, Jason. How about the 11th commandment:
    though shall be a beast only on the basketball court with a few other writers. Reserve thy Beast-ness for the court.

    At least that’s where I hope it’s OK to unleash it.


    Or, to be serious, how about “Though Shalt Google-Alert Your Name Online” ?
    I find keeping up with where i’m posted/blogged/mentioned is a very helpful way to keep my iron(s) in the fire.


  6. Great tips! I’ve become interested in a number of writers through their tweets about other writers, places, news, events, etc. They make themselves sound so interesting it leads to curiosity about their writing.

  7. I totally agree with not being a commercial. I’ve stopped going to blogs where all the author does is talk about their book.

  8. 9 Erin

    Excellent points. I’d add to the first just that a personal Facebook account is different from a Fan Page–and smart authors have both, the second of which can be effectively managed by a savvy (read: not formula-following) marketing person 😉

  9. It’s good advice. I know some of the self-promotion on Facebook is just over the top. It’s wince-inducing after a point.

  10. Brilliant! INQ hath taken your words into account and will furthermore put them into practise

  11. After pondering for a while, I think I might add: Don’t assume your reader has the same politics you do. Stay professionally neutral. I think it’s great when writers bring issues to the fore, but when they start suggesting how people should vote, or make fun of groups of people they disagree with, I’m irritated to no end. You’re liable to piss off half of your readership/potential readership. Unless your work is non-fiction or openly political, I think it’s best just to shut up and write!

  12. Excellent post! I find #4 the most important, but I think the bottom line is to treat your social networking contacts as you would friends. Pretend you’re at a book club or a cocktail party. Keep the pitching to a minimum and be real. Like-minded people will gravitate toward you, others will fall away, and conveniently, weird-o’s can be blocked.

  13. I think every writer should have this printed and stuck to their wall. Or at least bookmarked.

  14. very good tips indeed and I feel quite virtuous now.

  15. #7 strikes a chord in me but I wont tell you my sins just in case you become my agent.

  16. I love these! They are SO true! Social networking is still a social interaction even if it isn’t face-to-face.
    Thanks for this.

  17. Great post! Thanks for all the good advice.

  18. Balancing the time between writing and networking is still the hardest part for me. Do you suggest limiting it to an hour a day, or is it better to squeeze it in here and there? How can you tell when you’ve done “enough”?

    I suspect there are no easy answers to those questions….

  19. Shalt thou ever preacheth thine own political views, be not dismayed if thine readers reject thee and thou loseth half thine multitude.

  20. Great list! Very comprehensive!

  21. Excellent tips. Thank you!

  22. This post is so helpful! I’m certainly not new to having my picture books published, but I’ve always done it the old-fashioned way. That is–assuming the publisher would promote it. Not so there days! Knowing how to best make use of social media networks is very, very important, and your rules are thought-provoking and valuable.
    Many thanks!

  23. Great commandments! I think you have thoroughly and cleverly covered it all.

  24. Wow! #9 makes me think of my job as a mother of 5 children. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times a day I say the words, “Please keep a civil tongue when speaking.”

  25. What a great post! You covered the topic every which way it goes. I discovered, upon reading your blog, that I don’t do too bad following the rules. Although I might have a couple areas that could use more effort.

  26. Great list and will doeth!!! :O)

  27. Love your list. like this one – “Thou Shall Not Engage in Flame Wars: the moment you put your words into the public arena, there are going to be people who dislike what you have to say. If you’re going to have a career as a writer, having a thick skin is a necessity.” – You cannot please everybody. There will always be criticism not only to writers but to almost any kind of work. Just be cool about it and move on. It will do much better for you.

  1. 1 The 10 Commandments of Social Networking for Writers (via Waxman Literary Agency) « michellegilstrap
  2. 2 Social Sharing – November 22nd : Catepol 3.0
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