Should I Tag Writers on Social Media?

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:

  1. You want the author to know you’ve bought their book
  2. You’ve posted a photo of a book or books and want the author or authors to see
  3. You’re participating in a blog tour or have received a guest post and want the author to know it’s live
  4. You’ve written a post or reviewed a book and want the author to see it
  5. You’ve seen a post/review/article about the author or a subject they write on and think they need to see it
  6. 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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

book table at 14 March launch


To Read or Not to Read

Reviews, that is. All writers should be reading. I’m biased but I thoroughly recommend reading reviews too. However, should authors read reviews of their own work?

Yes, because

  • A good reviewer will pinpoint strengths and weaknesses whilst remaining respect and constructive to what the author was trying to achieve
  • Reviews can be useful sources for marketing blurb
  • Reviews can be an ego boost or at least a fairly permanent record that an author’s book was read at least once
  • A review may detect a trend or unintended consequence, in a good way, that an author wasn’t aware of in writing and editing their book.

No, because

  • A reviewer may take their role as critic too literally and not say anything positive
  • A reviewer may not be the author’s target market so may not understand the book.
  • Although that’s not a bad thing – the book was not intended for this particular reviewer – it feels like a negative
  • An author’s ego can take a battering
  • Unintended consequences identified by a reviewer may undermine what the author was trying to achieve
  • If an author struggles to separate themselves from their work, any negative comment may feel like a personal attack if when the reviewer only commented on the work. A personal attack that insults the author as a person and is not focused on the book is not a review.

Reading reviews of your own work is an individual choice. There’s no right or wrong answer, only the answer that’s right for you. I recommend writers find their own community, a writers’ group (on or off line), a mentor, an editor, a workshop, who can provide feedback and constructive criticism before publication who can take the sting out of reviewers’ comments, especially if carpingly critical or a reader is using a review as a platform to complain about the writer’s work rather than engage with it.

Should a reviewer tag an author when sharing a review on social media?

Some authors have asked on social media not to be tagged in bad reviews. But what is a ‘bad review’? A badly written one? A negative one? Is a review where the reviewer didn’t like the book but wrote engagingly and constructively a bad review? How does a reviewer decide whether their review matches the author’s definition of a bad review?

Should a reviewer play it safe and never tag an author at all?

I will always tag both author and publisher so at least the publisher will see the review. An author has the choice of clicking and reading or ignoring. A tag isn’t the same as forcing you to read the review. I don’t think that “authors shouldn’t respond to reviews” is an absolute rule: more a guidance that authors shouldn’t engage in a public argument with a reviewer. A “Thanks” or “Thanks but I don’t read reviews” is a good neutral response.

I’m also a writer and I do read reviews. I’ve thanked reviewers directly or via the publication, never on social media where a share does a similar job. I understand that social media makes it easier for readers to directly engage or try to engage with writers and, when you’re tagged, it’s difficult to know to whether the review is written by an experienced reviewer or an amateur who just wants to make a personal attack. On a bad day, it can feel as if you are being goaded or baited into a one-sided attack where you cannot mount a defence. But you are not obliged to respond or click through. A bad review often says more about the reviewer than the writer under review.

However, you can be a writer and keep everything in a journal or you can be a published writer which means accepting that once your work is in the public domain, readers will react to it. Some will write reviews and you have no control over how people will react.


Social Media and Literary Legacies

Writers are constantly urged to set up a social media platform, create an online presence and help publishers’ promotions. But what happens to these when a writer passes on?

People, including readers, are increasingly turning to social media to not only voice condolences but to re-read status updates and look again at photos left on social networking sites as part of the mourning process. I’ve written about why writers need to make a Will before. It’s important to protect your literary legacy and ensure that copyright is passed to someone who will carry out your wishes with regard to granting permission for use of your work, withholding permission where appropriate, organising posthumous publication(s) and caretaking.

I’m not suggesting writers need to treat every photo upload or tweet as if it might be their last, but have you given any thought as to whether a literary executor should also have access to your social media accounts? Should they be able to manage your online reputation as well as your copyrighted works?

There are apps available that can analyse the vocabulary and syntax from a writer’s existing tweets and construct sound-a-like new tweets so a writer can appear to be continuing to post. Memorial sites are available which will collect and store digital data in the hope that future intelligent software will be able to analyse the store and re-create the user’s online presence – a virtual cryogenic freezing. Whether this appeals or not, does your literary executor know how you feel about them and what your wishes would be?

How can a Writer protect their Social Media Platform?

  • Whether you want someone simply to check your accounts haven’t been hacked and/or that spam has found its way into your comments sector, or whether you want someone to keep your profiles or blog ‘live’ by adding updates or posting guest articles, choose someone who understands your aims.
  • You needn’t make a formal arrangement or just appoint one person.
  • List your accounts and passwords somewhere safe but accessible, eg with your will or with other important documents
  • Consider if you’d like a final message to appear on your profiles and, if so, keep a draft with your passwords
  • Take care not to leave a restrictive or rigid set of instructions behind. Current social media sites evolve and new sites are always being developed. If you would like your social media presence to continue in some form and draw up a list of restrictions, you may prevent your social media executor taking advantage of a brilliant new site that hasn’t been created yet.

In the meantime, continue to develop a social media platform worthy of being archived.