Help Me Understand Why Writers Still Do These 3 Awful Things

Why is this still happening?

Hey, writers.

First off, if you’re reading this, you’re doing a good job. You probably don’t hear that enough. A lot of the time, nobody sees the hard work you’re putting into your creations, and that makes it feel less fun and pretty lonely.

Second, I appreciate and empathize with writers at all levels. Like all of you, I started out with nothing, just a blank notebook and a gel pen (ah, the late ’90s). I’ve learned a lot since I started out. I’ve learned what works for me, and what doesn’t. I’ve learned how to step outside my comfort zone without psyching myself out too much.

I’ve also learned the writing strategies that don’t work — for anyone. They’re the things I see writers doing all the time, things I’m sure I did at one point without realizing I shouldn’t. And I thought I’d share some of my concerns with you. Maybe someone out there can help me better understand why these things are still happening, and what I can do better to teach newer writers why doing them doesn’t work — and what to do instead.

1. Commenting on random blogs with links to their blog without any context

Okay: *after commenting on the actual content of the post* Hey, I’ve shared my thoughts on a similar topic to yours in a separate post. Feel free to check it out.” *link to relevant post*

Not okay: Hey check out my blog *link to homepage*

I love when fellow writers reach out, engage with my content, and join in discussions with me and other readers. I do not love when random writers “drop by” just to promote their own work without adding anything to the discussion. It does not impress me, it does not make me want to “check you out,” and I really wish people understood the concept of “relevant yet subtle self-promotion.”

2. Only promoting their work on social media instead of their personal/professional brand

Listen, if I had a book out, I’d promote it, too. But that’s not all I would post about on Twitter multiple times a day until I published another book. People don’t follow writers just to see links to their work. They want to follow WRITERS — real people who post about relatable things, give snippets of advice, maybe crack a joke every now and then.

I’m not interested in your work if all you do is remind me it exists. To be invested in your work, I need to know a little about you — not that you’re a writer or that you’ve published x number of books, but that you love Grey’s Anatomy, that you’re a mom, that your dog is named Cheeto. I’m attracted to personalities. I know I’m not the only one.

3. Begging strangers to read their work for free

There are a few instances in which this might actually be acceptable. For example, if someone comments on one of my blog posts that they’re working on finishing a project (a goal), and they ask for advice on how to stick with it and I offer what I can, and they finish it and share that info with me (and a link inviting me to check it out) I just might have a look.

But this constant “hey you’re a writer can you look at this thing I wrote even though we’ve never spoken before” nonsense has to stop. I’m all for trying to get your work out there and being proactive, but there are good and terrible ways to do it. This is not a good way to do it.

I get it. Most writers really are doing the best they can, and I know there’s a lot of advice out there on the internet for what to do to succeed.

Here’s what I wish: I wish more writers were interested in connecting with other writers, instead of just promoting themselves all the time. I wish it were easier to exchange writing samples so everyone could get something out of getting their work read by people at their level. And I wish me saying all this didn’t sound like I know all and everyone else sucks.

Writing is hard. Not just the actual writing, but the trying to be a person who writes. If it were easy, we wouldn’t all have to try so hard. But we do. And it does pay off.

Maybe the best we can do is just to be good people who also write things. Doing our best to be less selfish, kinder, more patient. It’s what I’m trying to do. I don’t always feel like I’m succeeding, but those days will come, as a writer. You just have to keep pushing through.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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28 thoughts on “Help Me Understand Why Writers Still Do These 3 Awful Things

  1. Agreed. It sucks when you come across someone that seems interesting at first and you follow them on twitter, or their blog and you follow them only to find that every other post is a promotion to buy their book. I mean, what happened to the person behind the book? Did they just disappear?

    1. EXACTLY. I’m genuinely interested in people’s lives. I want to know the person behind the stories I love. What inspires them? Who are they??

  2. Really great post. I’ve known for a while that I need to improve my social media content, but this post really hits home. Will start sharing more about me today. Thanks!

  3. My idea was that if I engage with someone reading their blogs, and they find what I had to say interesting, they would click through to my blog and have a read on their own. Makes sense right? Keeping things as naturally progressing as possible?

      1. Both of your comments align perfectly with my philosophy – interact, make your presence known in a relevant way, but don’t shout at every person you see to read your stuff. You wouldn’t do that at an in-person networking event, would you?? Hope not!

  4. Wow, I thought the self-promotion thing was only on sites like Wattpad (where votes and comments get you the opportunity to be featured – and/or – discovered). I didn’t know it happened in the real world!

      1. Hahaa!! I was thinking username and password requirements. I have writer friends who won’t join Wattpad because the sign up requirement. At the same time, I was nervous starting the blog because there wasn’t one.

        One of the constant themes I’ve seen on Wattpad has been people advertising their books on other people’s books. It never bothered me much, but some people take serious offense.

      2. Oh, yeah, Facebook… jeez. *thumps head* I forgot about Facebook as a writer’s tool! That’s because I don’t do a lot on Facebook. It’s more of a general info posting thing for me.

      3. I run/admin a few writing groups on there, and am in a few more. I may have overdone the social media aspect of that whole “create a writer’s platform” thing…

  5. “And I wish me saying all this didn’t sound like I know all and everyone else sucks.”

    That is not what I heard. You didn’t sound like a know-it-all; you sounded like someone who is genuinely interested in helping new writers learn what does and doesn’t work. That’s being kind, not stuck-up, which is why I liked reading this post so much. ;)

  6. I’m always leery of posting links on someone else’s blog in general, unless invited to, particularly since WordPress already links my comments to my profile.
    I feel like it’s important to respect a person’s site as “their space”, much like a guest in someone’s home. If you know them it’s all good, but when I don’t know someone well my first priority is to be polite, and not too forward.
    And it is nice to just dive into a really good conversation, and let the rest come with time.

    It’s all about approaching every interaction, first and foremost, with the goal of earning another. Symbiosis.
    I think a good practice is to start with an offer, see if/how you can help them, and if they accept, then, maybe, down the road, you might ask them for help in turn. The key, in my mind, is offering while accepting that they might not reciprocate, and accepting that that’s okay. And either way you’ve learned something.

    And I also tend to think that anyone who worries about being a good person is a good person.

    Thank you for sharing.

    1. You’re welcome. :) And I agree. If someone likes a comment I’ve left on something and they want to click through to my site, that’s my way of inviting them to do so. There are some cases where it’s appropriate to invite more directly, but most of the time, I’d dare to say it’s almost rude. People tend not to like rudeness very much (not that I know that from personal experience haha….).

      1. It’s remarkable sometimes, in both ways. The internet is often a place of intense rudeness, but I must say, among the blogging community, there are many kind souls, more than willing to offer advice and encouragement. And, since each person runs their own blog their way, rude people rarely last long. :-)

  7. I didn’t even realise people did the first thing, I thought everybody would realise that their presence on another blog comes across as insincere if they just leave a link and move on. I really agree with you on 2 and 3, I’m more likely to invest in someone if I know a little bit about them, I prefer to buy into the character more than the content purely because I remember characters more than the things they produce. Sometimes when it comes to people promoting their work, I feel there’s a mentality of receiving without giving even if people are unaware that they’re employing it.

    1. I definitely agree. And I also try to remember that there does come some level of excitement with being able to promote a thing you wrote. I highly doubt anyone ever means to bombard their followers with constant messages of “look at me! look at my thing! sell sell sell!” But learning better approaches to marketing is a skill, and it takes time. I’m as patient as I can be. :)

  8. Great post, and spot on. The things guaranteed to make me not read an author’s work are websites, blog posts, etc. that say nothing but ‘buy my book!’. Heck, I also avoid reading books where the blurbs and author descriptions are full of exclamation marks, but that’s more of a pet peeve. You know…when their blog or Amazon book screams ‘A Gripping Emotional Page Turner!’

    1. Haha right?? I’m all for the subtle approach. Like, (and I swear this is just an example!) there’s a link to my Patreon page at the bottom of every post. Very rarely do I directly ask anyone to look at it in my actual posts. It’s there, if people want to click on it, they can. But I’m not going to repeatedly beg anyone to do that because as a reader, I’d hate it.

  9. Hi Meg, I hope it’s okay with you that I am providing a link to this post in today’s post on my site. If you would rather I don’t, let me know and I will remove the link from the post. Thanks!

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