This is Why I Don’t Follow Authors on Twitter

A friend got a private message on Twitter this morning, and after she unfollowed the guy and reported him for spam she then forwarded the message to me.  I’m sharing it with you today because I find it a particularly spammy form of marketing.

Hi, this is a survey of sorts, by me, not a bot. Have you read any of my books? If not, why haven’t you? If you have, what do you think?

Okay, it might not come across as all that spammy, but the thing is my friend is a pro in digital publishing. She isn’t a friend of that author, she is not a member of his fan club,  nor did she decide to join a feedback group.  So sending a bald faced query like this via a conversational channel like Twitter is at best questionable. (Oh, and the answer is obvious; I haven’t read his stuff because there’s so damn much other content to fill my time. So it is spam.)

And it’s not the first unwanted tweet I’ve gotten from an author. In fact, if you’re an author who follows me on Twitter and I don’t follow you back, this is why.

I’m sorry to tar all authors with such a broad brush, but the reality is that there is a small fraction of authors who spam on Twitter. The infractions range from using bots to send a “buy my book” private message to new followers to entreaties to retweet a sales pitch to folks who jump into conversations with references to their books.

Okay, I do understand that self-published authors need to do their own marketing but that doesn’t mean Twitter is the right place for it. The point of social media in general and Twitter in particular is to have a conversation. This same rule applies to Facebook as well as any other social media site. If all you’re saying is the same shit over and over again then you’re not actually conversing with me.

And that is why I’ve stopped following authors on Twitter (with a few exceptions). While I know it looks like I’ve made a poor decision the fact of the matter is a lot of people will do the same. Oh, they might not swear off all authors, but they will unfollow the spammy ones so that kind of behavior is self-defeating.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. cookie1 September, 2012

    I don’t tweet or follow tweeters, and probably never will, so I don’t have much of an opinion. However, is there not directed advertising now using this service? I mean, Twitter is a business, so I assume that is how they are making money, no.

    I realize the tweet by this woman is different. That is more like somebody spamming in a comment section, in order to get somebody to click your link.

  2. carmen webster buxton1 September, 2012

    The wording of his spam is particularly revealing of his attitude. The guy thinks the world owes him something and he wants to know why it hasn’t paid up. This attitude is not unique to writers, but once someone like this writes a books, it’s bad news.

    1. Moriah Jovan3 September, 2012

      That’s what I find offensive about it, too.

  3. David Thimas1 September, 2012

    This criticism is from a source that is guilty of over promoting themselves and their opinions on Twitter? Very nearly the pot calling the kettle black.

    1. Nate Hoffelder1 September, 2012

      I don’t see how I’m over promoting myself. Yes, i tweet links to blog posts, but so does everyone.

      And if you think i am overpromoting myself, you should follow my advice and unfollow me.

      1. David Thomas2 September, 2012


        Btw, I did a rough count of the past week, and you’re running 2 to 1 against Paid Content, which has significantly more writers. Its a quantity vs. quality thing. I gave NTG a chance for a month, and now its going away.

        1. Nate Hoffelder2 September, 2012

          So you’re saying that I tweet twice as many post related tweets as paidContent? I’m fine with that.

          The thing is, I bet most people want to see those tweets. Even if they’re not going to read the post, they like being updated the moment the post is live. It’s far faster than RSS feeds but still not overwhelming.

          1. Mike Cane2 September, 2012

            Hey, David Thomas. What’s your Twitter handle so I can pre-emptively BLOCK you?

    2. DavidW2 September, 2012

      I don’t use twitter but checking it out I see a feed for the digital reader that looks like it could be identical to an RSS feed. And I don’t see Nate pushing himself onto anyone but Mike Cane, who doesn’t even count. Clearly there is a huge difference between the usual feed and uncalled for self-promotion. It’s obvious even to me, someone who doesn’t use twitter, so perhaps you should just step back and think about what you’re saying.

      1. Mike Cane2 September, 2012

        >>>And I don’t see Nate pushing himself onto anyone but Mike Cane, who doesn’t even count.

        Oh go ahead, bring up my inability to do math. You mathist!

  4. DavidW1 September, 2012

    “Oh thanks for telling me, I’m so interested in your books now!” REPLIED ABSOLUTELY NOBODY.


  5. Tonya Moore2 September, 2012

    Personally, I take no issue what people post to their Twitter timelines. I follow a lot of authors and if they tweet something that I feel is share-worthy–I’ll happily re-tweet. The problem lies with getting direct messages from authors (and others) and @mentions to click or promote their links–some of these @mentions from people who haven’t even bothered to follow me.

    Of course, this excludes the people I communicate with–whether via Twitter or other means–on a regular or even occasional basis. If we have built up some semblance of a rapport, I definitely won’t take exception to getting these kinds of messages.

    It’s natural to take exception to being arbitrarily sent these things, especially from people who haven’t bothered to have any other kind of interaction with you. That’s just plain rudeness.

  6. Dionne Lister2 September, 2012

    I totally agree with you. I am an indie author and I would never spam people. I also hate it when authors have an automated DM that asks you to buy their book, or even tells you about their book, when you follow them. I find it irritating too, however, most of the my writer friends on Twitter are very interesting and know how to have a witty conversation (they can even spell, imagine that). So I think your comment is a generalisation and even thought you’ve qualified it, it’s out there. Anyway, I have to go now, I have some Tweeps to spam…

  7. Smith2 September, 2012

    Word of mouth advertising is not about the words that come out of YOUR mouth. It’s about what CUSTOMERS say.

  8. Sunita2 September, 2012

    I found you on Twitter first, then finally subscribed to the feed because I often miss your blog-related tweets (contrary to popular belief, I’m not on Twitter 24/7).

    Unlike I lot of people I follow, you don’t seem to have a policy of tweeting your links more than once. You have a lot of content, so I suppose it’s possible that someone who doesn’t ever click through (and isn’t paying much attention) thinks you’re tweeting about the same posts all the time.

    Just another perspective.

  9. This is Why I Don’t Follow Authors on Twitter | The Passive Voice2 September, 2012

    […] of social media in general and Twitter in particular is to have a conversation.Link to the rest at The Digital ReaderClick to Tweet/Email/Share This Post wpa2a.script_load(); Social MediaNo Comments to “This is […]

  10. Melissa Webster2 September, 2012

    I agree, to an extent. I use Twitter almost exclusively for getting word out on my articles, blogs, etc… focused primarily on music, so I get a lot of follows from authors and musicians. If their profile and tweets interest me, I’ll follow back, but the moment I get one of those automatic bot-like direct messages, especially with a link attached, I unfollow and/or block the person. Sometimes, however, I’ll get a direct message from a musician or band asking me to check out their music that is simply an honest request via the only resource they have, so I’ll give them a shot.

    I guess what I’m saying is it really is about the approach, and I have no problem with artists self-promoting, because I know how hard it is and have had to do it myself, and marketing doesn’t come naturally to most creative people. So maybe an article about building relationships and credentials so the approach is more effective would be really helpful in preventing the spam?

  11. XerXes Xu2 September, 2012

    It may be that some people use Twitter to have a conversation, most don’t. E-mail and IM fill that niche. Twitter is a vehicle for mass communication for all sorts of information, much of it commercial. People read few of the thousands of tweets they receive each hour, and people in different time zones use twitter at different times, which makes repeat Tweeting a necessity if you want your voice heard.
    You have the ability to follow and unfollow, use it like planting a garden. Scatter seed, see what grows, pull out what you don’t like, scatter more seed. Soon you have a garden in which you feel at home.

  12. Louis Shalako2 September, 2012

    It’s really tough to strike a balance on any of the social media. When I write new and original content for my blog, I want to get the most mileage out of it that I possibly can. So I post it more than once, and in fact I put fiction on there, knowing that in six months or a year I will re-post it. As for conversations on Twitter, when I had maybe three hundred follows and followers, it was possible to get to know some of them. With a few thousand followers, the posts just fly by. It’s like I don’t even bother to look anymore, so what I’m doing is just posting links to relevant topics and advertising in some broadcast sense. In the social media, I’m very much curious as to what comes next.

  13. Julia Rachel Barrett2 September, 2012

    I’m an author, both pubbed and indie pubbed. I enjoy twitter for reasons other than marketing. While I may upload a book cover, announce a release or re-tweet a review, I don’t market via twitter and I certainly don’t spam. Occasionally an author will follow me. If he has an interesting bio, I’ll follow back. Within minutes I receive a PM telling me about his book, asking me to check out his book, offering me a link to his book or the first chapter… free! I immediately unfollow.
    He may call it marketing, I call it annoying.

  14. Rayne Hall2 September, 2012

    If you don’t follow authors, it’s your own loss. You’re missing some stimulating conversations and valuable information-sharing.

    Yes, there are spammers out there. Yes, some authors spam. But there are more non-spamming authors than spamming authors, and more non-author spammers than author-spammers.

    May I suggest you revise your police from “I don’t follow authors” to “I don’t follow spammers” ?


  15. Melba3 September, 2012

    I follow people on twitter but if all they tweet are promo-snippets of their books then I unfollow straight away. People who send DMs, I just ignore but don’t unfollow. But as soon as the sales push bleeds into the twitter feed, they are gone. I’m a writer, I write books but I don’t talk about it like that on twitter, it’s not the place.

  16. Keith Dixon3 September, 2012

    I find myself in a dilemma here. I’ve been self-pubbing for about six years now but only recently have actually done anything about marketing. All the advice you get (and I’m looking at you, John Locke) suggests that Twitter and Facebook are essential tools in the armoury, as well as writing your own blog.

    So I went about amassing a number of Followers, all of whom are writers or writing-related (which is why I’m on this board right now), but of course the audience for my tweets is now people who are trying, mostly, to sell their own work, not buy mine!

    In the end I’m working on the principle that – as someone above said – it’s about a conversation. While mass-marketers work on the basis of 2-3% return on junk mail, I think that spamming other tweeters is verboten, so I don’t do it. I DO post tweets that are intended to build intrigue around my books’ character and, of course, the books themselves, but I also tweet when there are new posts on my blog and when there are articles I come across that I think will be of interest to other writers.

    Do you get the sense yet that I’m conflicted? It seems you have to play the numbers game – build Followers, tweet your book title ad infinitum – but I know that doesn’t work for me in terms of what I might investigate or buy.

    I think I’ll stick to the conversations instead …

  17. Violet Graves3 September, 2012

    I followed-back an author and his account immediately sent me a reply that said, “Thanks for the follow! Here’s a link to the first 3 chapters of my book [Whatever, Buddy]. Read them and tell me what you think!”

    I was like, huh? Since when did I agree to be your beta-reader? I’d much rather be entertained by interesting posts and provided with a simple link to your website. I may be cleaning up my own twitter flock soon.

  18. Xyzzy4 September, 2012

    This seems like a deeply strange statement:

    “I’m sorry to tar all authors with such a broad brush, but the reality is that there is a small fraction of authors who spam on Twitter.”

    If it’s a *small fraction* (which in my mind means it’s 10% or fewer), then it doesn’t make a great deal of logical sense to treat the others in that category as if they share the bad behavior. Consider how rational the statement sounds if simple changes are made:
    “Why I don’t follow men on Twitter: I’m sorry to tar all guys with such a broad brush, but the reality is that there is a small fraction that are narcissistic liars.”

    I do think that author’s behavior was unacceptable, and unless he was a favorite of mine, I would’ve unfollowed/blocked him right away as well — but ditching that overwhelming majority over the one jerk’s behavior wouldn’t hurt them, it’d just deprive me.

    I’m also slightly confused about a pair of statements you made between the article and then in the comments. On the one hand, you seem to emphasize that Twitter is for conversations rather than self-promotion, but then on the other, you mention posting links to your articles on it? I don’t see anything wrong with posting links to one’s articles for the people that don’t use RSS for some reason, to be clear — I was just tripped up by the seemingly odd combination. (Considering I make all kinds of strange slip-ups when writing anything online, I’m in no position to judge if it was an error, either.)

    1. Nate Hoffelder4 September, 2012

      I don’t see the conflict between the links and conversing on Twitter.

      I converse with people on Twitter, but I also tweet links to my posts because I know that some of my followers will want to be told about them. They will also want to share the links with their own followers.

  19. Kevin Eagan21 April, 2013

    I agree with you. Direct messages on twitter that ask me to do something for someone I don’t know is obnoxious. I tend to unfollow people who do this. I still follow many authors because I’m interested in what they have to offer, but automated DMs are the devil, and DMs like the one you shared here are worse.

  20. Dan Meadows22 April, 2013

    You’re one of the people I keep an eye out for when I’m scannng through my feed because I get quite a bit of good information through the links you tweet out. Please don’t stop. Anyone who thinks what you’re doing is a problem may not really understand Twitter. This writer, though, is pretty clueless. Just the fact that he felt the need to explain he wasn’t a bot shows he knew what he was doing was shaky at best. There’s too many people out there shouting about social media marketing as the key and, unfortunately, that’s led to a big number of folks who don’t seem to get the value of unobtrusive marketing. I don’t mind folks sending a shout out if they’ve got something new out there or they’re having a sale or something, but I only follow people who’s feeds I find value in. “Look, I have a book for sale!” is about the least valuable thing. someone can tweet, in my opinion. Keep up the good work!

    1. Nate Hoffelder28 April, 2013

      Thanks, Dan.


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