There’s no simple yes or no answer. Unless a writer has a very strict “read no reviews under any circumstances” policy, most writers are likely to welcome being tagged in a positive review. However, if someone has written a savage review and tags the author in the hope of getting a reaction, no writer would welcome that tag and the tagger needs to ask themselves if this is the best way of getting a point across (hint: it isn’t). It’s also a question of numbers. Getting one or two tags occasionally doesn’t feel too onerous, but getting thousands in one day feels overwhelming because each one is effectively a demand on a writer’s attention. Even just to read the post and decide not to respond takes time away from actually writing.
Why Tag Writers on Social Media?
The reasons for tagging writers on social media generally fall into one of the following categories:
- You want the author to know you’ve bought their book
- You’ve posted a photo of a book or books and want the author or authors to see
- You’re participating in a blog tour or have received a guest post and want the author to know it’s live
- You’ve written a post or reviewed a book and want the author to see it
- You’ve seen a post/review/article about the author or a subject they write on and think they need to see it
- You want to ask the author a question and, since you follow them on social media, that seems the easiest way of going about it
Do You Need to Tag the Author?
- It’s great to know someone’s bought your book and a tag in a brief, tweet-length post doesn’t take that long to read.
- Again, it’s great to see books being read and a tag in a brief post that doesn’t link elsewhere doesn’t take that long to look-up. If you’re posting one platform with a link to another, check your post explains why followers need to click your link. Just posting the link with no explanation looks like spam. Please only tag an author once. If you’ve tagged an author in the original post, don’t tag them in posts that link back to the original.
- It’s polite to let authors know that you’ve completed your section of a blog tour or their guest post has been used, but, again, please only tag an author once. If your post gets shared, the notifications start to get numerous and potentially overwhelming.
- Some authors don’t read reviews and don’t want to be tagged in review posts. Reviewers won’t know which authors have this policy though so tag once and include the publisher so the author can see that the publisher’s been informed and they don’t need to do anything.
- If you’ve seen a post/review/article about the author or a subject they write on and think they need to see it, don’t tag the author. Chances are the author’s seen it or knows about it. Writers research. Many do searches on their names or book/poem/story titles to check for pirating/ plagiarism. Following through on you tag is wasting their time and giving them less time to actually write.
- You want to ask the author a question: don’t do this on social media unless the writer has agreed to take part in a question and answer session online and only ask questions during the session.
Why Should I Not Tag the Writer in a Question on Social Media?
A question is rarely a simple yes or no (even if you think the answer is yes or no) and it may take time to provide an answer. Leaving an unanswered question on social media makes it look as if the writer is tardy in providing the answer whereas in fact it’s the questioner’s fault for asking an unsolicited question in the wrong medium at a time that makes it difficult for the writer to answer.
If you’re asking an author to do something for you, use a private channel. If you can’t find the author’s contact details, approach via a publisher. Tagging is lazy and says you couldn’t do your research, so why should the writer bother to respond? Responses may also encourage others to follow so suddenly one request, which might have been manageable, becomes ten or more, which isn’t manageable and public refusals may reflect badly on the author even though the fault lies with the requester for not making a reasonable approach.
The other problem with tagging a writer in a request (to comment on your review/post, to write a review, look at your manuscript, etc) on social media is that you have made that request public and your request has an audience. The writer’s response therefore is also public and also has an audience.
It is very difficult to tactfully turn down a public request even if the writer has painstakingly explained why they can’t comply with the request before turning it down. Making that public request looks like a form of bullying or blackmail since your audience are expecting a positive response and may draw negative conclusions before considering whether the original request was reasonable or not. I blogged about Social Media Bullies here. Don’t be one.
Emma Lee’s The Significance of a Dress is available from Arachne Press. The link also has a trailer featuring the title poems and samples of some of the poems from the collection. It is also available as an eBook.
Social Media and PoetsOctober 3, 2012 — emmalee1
Use of blogging and other social media by writers seems to be under fire at the moment. Sir Peter Stothard, former editor of “The Times” newspaper and one of the judges of the Man Booker Prize has said, “as much as one would like to think that many bloggers’ opinions are as good as others… People will be encouraged to buy and read books that are no good, the good will be overwhelmed, and we’ll be worse off.”
Fiona Sampson, former editor of “Poetry Review”, has written in an article for the “New Statesman”, “The development of open-mike [sic] evenings, increasingly competitive in format, runs alongside the way emergent poets use Facebook and the blogosphere to broadcast poetry ‘achievements’.” I’ll leave aside the apparent confusion of open mic evenings with poetry slams, and the question of why the word achievements is in inverted commas.
What both seem to be complaining about is a perceived lack of quality control: that anyone can set up a blog or promote writing (theirs or someone else’s) via social media without years immersed in the experience of literary criticism or a stamp of approval from a literary editor or gatekeeper. Is this such a bad thing?
I’d argue not. What makes a good book or good literature isn’t an objective measure. You can create a tick box with values like good characterisation, shows knowledge of writing craft, keeps the reader hooked, but not every piece of writing that conforms to that criteria will be an enjoyable read. You can put a spirit level on a book, but not its contents.
Furthermore, setting criteria will favour certain types of writing over others. When did a genre novel win a literary prize? Why do readers need the Hugo Awards, the Edgars and the Man Booker Prize? Name a national newspaper that gives as much space to poetry as novels in its book pages. When VIDA’s statistics show that male writers are more frequently reviewed, are editors and literary critics selecting purely on the standards of writing or is some consideration of who the writer is creeping in?
In poetry most reviewers are also poets. There are many more people who want to write poetry than people who read poetry – poetry magazines struggle to get subscribers but are overwhelmed with submissions of new poems. Most of those readers are looking for outlets for their own poetry alongside reading to enjoy poetry. Consequently the available pool of readers who can also write about and review poetry, tends draw out poets.
This does have an impact on reviews. Poet-reviewers are aware that their reviews are read by editors and publishers so may affect their own chances of getting published in turn. Every poet-reviewer will eventually review a book from a poet they have met or are friends with. Poetry needs more reviews so one individual voice does not dominate the reception of a newly published collection.
Poetry publishers need poets to promote their own books and those of others. Most book stores do not stock poetry and most newspapers give poetry scant attention. It’s not unusual for poetry to be self-published, but few magazines and newspapers review the self-published. Therefore it is critical that poets do take to social media to promote not only their own poetry but that of others.
If I see a status update or tweet from a poet I like mentioning one of their poems has been published in a magazine or included in an anthology, I’ll follow it up. That publication has at least gained one extra reader.
By Emma Lee