QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Friday, February 28, 2014

Publishing Pulse: February 28, 2014

This Week at Query Tracker
The profiles of several agents were added and updated this week. Please make sure you double-check every agent's website or Publisher's Marketplace page before querying.
Ready to write your own success story?
Remember--you'll reach success when you find the agent who is perfect for your work. Be sure to read each agent's profile carefully and visit other links such as company websites and blogs. Follow them on social media sites and get a feeling for what they really want. The better you know the agent, the better you will know if they are the right representative for your work. Blindly querying agents without regard for their guidelines or repped genres only delay the process--not only for you but for other writers.

Using QueryTracker.net will help you become a well-informed querying writer. Use the resources to your advantage and seek the fastest, straightest path to finding your ideal agent today.

This Week In Publishing
Time again for IndieReCon! The annual event was held this week, featuring webcasts, chats, and blog posts from Indie favorites JA Konranth, Susan Kaye Quinn, and Lara Perkins from Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Notable topics included promo tips, building resource lists, using KOBO, building readerships, hybrid authors…I could go on but you can just visit the link  and read through for yourself. The site, once again, is bookmark worthy and is already pinned to my Start screen.

Although this article on becoming a best-seller is geared to the self-publishing author, I think there are several good points here for any author, including those who wish to submit their work to traditional publishers. Many of the tips in this article build your brand as an author and help to improve the quality of your manuscript, both of which will increase your chances at a traditional publishing deal. (More on building your author platform from Haiku Deck here)

I’m a huge fan of writing contests but this article regarding literary awards garnering more negative reviews provided serious food for thought. What it comes down to, however, is the phenomena of fame building a more diverse audience—not necessarily a target audience, but a larger percentage of readers drawn to the book only because of the award attached.

Good news for writer’s who want to produce serial fiction! Are readers craving the Netflix Binge Effect* when it comes to books? (*A time-suck phenomenon during which a viewer decides to watch one episode of a TV series on Netflix and shuts the TV off after 14 consecutive hours of viewing because she HAD to finish the series, i.e. my typical Wednesday.)

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who, despite having a Time Turner under her couch and three different sonic screwdrivers in her purse, still encounters difficulty with time management. Visit Ash at www.ashkrafton.com for news on her urban fantasy series The Books of the Demimonde (Pink Narcissus Press) or stop by the Demimonde Blog at www.ash-krafton.blogspot.com . WOLF’S BANE (Demimonde #3) is forthcoming mid-2014. Yay for serial fiction!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What Kind of Writer to You Want to Be?

At at pivotal point in my writing career, my agent posed the question that serves as the title of this post: What kind of writer to do you want to be?  The answer was easy.

More than twenty years ago my brother handed me a book of short stories called Bad Haircut. “You have to read these,” he said. “My friend Tommy Perrotta wrote them.”

I hadn’t known Tom at all, but I vaguely remembered my brother hanging out with a bespectacled, red-headed kid who was whip smart and the bane of many a teacher in our school. He was also a feisty football player, despite being one of the smallest kids on the team. And he’d done the impossible for a kid from a blue collar area like ours—he’d attended Yale and taught at Harvard.

When read the stories, I was struck by the authenticity of Tom’s voice and the accessibility of his work. They were about people like my mom and dad, my classmates and friends, the people who ran the small businesses in my tiny home town. They featured teachers and postmen and a guy who drove a hot dog truck. They were characters I knew and recognized; they lived in houses like mine and had jobs like my Dad’s. They were stories about me.

I’ve been following Tom’s career closely ever since, ridiculously proud of this home town boy who showed me how it’s done. Part of the reason I finally sat down and wrote my first book was Tom’s example. If Tom can do it, I thought, so can I.

Several years ago the librarian in my home town convinced Tom to come back and do a reading. She had planned and plotted for a year, and kept the whole thing under wraps until the very last minute. Seats were at a premium, but they weren’t filled by literati. Instead the audience was made up of senior citizens, Tom’s old friends from high school, his former football coach, and a few starry-eyed teenagers, my son included. He read from Little Children, answered questions about the movies, and reminisced about eating Italian food from the local deli. It was hard to reconcile this funny, self-deprecating man with the famous author who writes for the Times magazine and rubs elbows with Kate Winslet. For a couple hours that night, he was just Tommy, back home to hang out for a while. 

Sure, I'd love to emulate Tom's career. Who wouldn't want such extraordinary success? But more importantly, I'd also like to emulate Tom's sensibility--eyes on the stars, feet on the ground, heart in the right place.

A previous version of this post appeared on Red Room.

A Jersey girl born and bred, Rosie Genova left her heart at the shore, which serves as the setting for much of her work. Her new series, the Italian Kitchen Mysteries, is informed by her deep appreciation for good food, her pride in her heritage, and her love of classic mysteries, from Nancy Drew to Miss Marple. Her debut novel, Murder and Marinara, was selected as a Best Cozy of 2013 by Suspense Magazine. The second book in the series, The Wedding Soup Murder, is scheduled for release in September. An English teacher by day and novelist by night, Rosie also writes women’s fiction as Rosemary DiBattista. She lives in central New Jersey, with her husband and two of her three sons.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Book Review: The Naked Truth about Self Publishing, by The Indie Voice

If you type “self publishing” into Amazon’s search engine, you will get about a kagillion hits. Since self publishing is a kind of postmodern gold rush, it only stands to reason that the topic itself would draw so much attention.

Among the articles, blog posts and books on the subject, one stands out above the rest. The Naked Truth about Self Publishing is an anthology of essays by ten New York Times bestselling authors (all women!) known as The Indie Voice. The book is unique for several reasons. In the first place, its authors are all successful enough to take on the topic credibly.

Secondly, they do so in a technical and practical way, providing so much information that it’s almost overwhelming. Almost.

The first part of the book argues the wisdom of self publishing. (And since so many of the authors have tried life both ways, their thoughts on the subject feel solidly ground in experience.) The second part of the book explains the nitty gritty.

My One Complaint

Many of the women who wrote this little gem are romance authors. So the book is full of goofy double entendres, and has a cover which makes the book a little hard to carry on the bus. The chapter headers include: “Tips for Virgins,” “Multiple Positions” and “Are You Ready to Go All the Way.” That’s clever and all, but I found that the silly chapter titles make it difficult to remember which chapters are here. Maybe I’m a dull person, but I would have preferred titles like: “All That Valuable Stuff About Metadata Is In Here, Stupid.”

For similar reasons, my other beef with this book is the lack of an Index. Since I ponied up for the paper version (I’m a margins scribbler) I don’t have the option to search the book for tips I’ve misplaced.

So Much Good Stuff

Both my complaints are relevant only because there is so much here worth finding! I particularly enjoyed Denise Grover Swank’s chapter about writing a business plan. There’s no fluffy, pie-in-the-sky hype here, only solid advice for how to proceed. E-book pricing is discussed, as well as what to expect in the way of costs.

Jana Deleon’s chapter demystifying best seller lists and sales ranks is unparalleled. And Tina Folsom’s short chapter about maximizing profit on a single book is thoughtful and persuasive. Truly, there’s something here for everyone. Liliana Hart taught me the secret for tagging my e-books on Amazon, and the difference between "categories" and "tags" on Amazon. It's clear from the text that the authors of this book practically live on Amazon, teasing out its secrets, whispering in its ear. And they've compiled much of this wisdom for the taking.

It’s clear from page one that The Naked Truth about Self Publishing is written by competent pros. If you’re in the business of self publishing, ignore it at your peril.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Publishing Pulse for Friday, February 21, 2014

Around the Internet

In the world of Indie authors, data on success is a scarce commodity. So whenever some data emerges (usually from some hardworking and insightful person who went to a lot of effort to collect it,) there is always a lot of chatter. Author Hugh Howey published a lot of data nine days ago. And the interwebs lit up with discussions about whether his analysis was good or misleading.

There were some skeptical reactions, like this one from Dear Author.

And this week brings us a reaction from Mark Corker (the Smashwords CEO) which basically states that the numbers don't matter, as long as you've got the trend right.

And don't miss this cool story about how James Patterson is supporting local, independent bookstores. Awesome.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Interviewing The Terrified (or, how to fall in love in one easy step)

There I was, seven months pregnant, sitting with a pad and a pen in a room full of construction workers and terrifying every one of them. 

Writing down what they said. And gestating. Two things these guys found incomprehnesible and terrifying.

I was writing the text of my first business website, promoted suddenly from database manager after my boss had me throw together some ad copy and the client loved it. ("Hey," my boss exclaimed in the middle of presenting it to the client, "This is good!" Professionals all the way, that was us.)  But in order to get material for twenty pages on a website, I needed to interview them, so the owner invited every department head into his office and had them talk. I copied every word, and I learned something important: writers can scare non-writers.

Sometimes it's good. I've maliciously sat in a hallway (maliciously!), writing in my journal as a means of making people leave me alone. Writing in a journal is subversive: I could be putting anything in there (particularly with my handwriting, sometimes incomprhensible even to me.) But when you as a writer want information, it's bad. When you're trying to write your client's advertorial and the client won't talk, it's bad. When you're conducting a newspaper interview, it's even worse.

Me: "I'm calling from the Local Paper because I'm writing an article about the food pantry, and they said you've been wonderful to them."
Business Owner: "Oh. Yeah?"
Me: "So how did you come to support the food pantry?"
Business Owner: "I don't know. I just did."

Me: "Tell me a bit about how you support them."
Business Owner: "Stuff. You know. Whatever they need."

Clearly I'm not getting a quote from that guy. 

You're thinking, "But I write novels," and I'm going to tell you this: at some point, you'll need to talk to someone about her job or her experience, and you'll need that information to create a well-rounded character. I've ended up talking to auto mechanics, fire marshals (no, seriously, the top guys in two states ended up talking to me!), and so many others just listening to their impressions of their own professions or their own experiences. It's invaluable in creating your character, but first you have to get the person to talk.

They won't talk if they're terrified of you, strange wizard with your magical writing powers. So what do you do?

I end the interview. No, really, I've discovered that as soon as the terrified person feels she's no longer being interviewed, she starts to open up. So I'll thank the person for talking to me, explain why it was so important, and then suddenly, with the spotlight off, they relax. 

When they relax, they stop giving me what they think I want (well-formed sentences with words they haven't used since their SAT prep) and give me what I actually want: themselves.

"My friends call me a color-coating technician!" quipped the painting specialist. Or the business owner: "Oh, those folks at the food pantry, they're so nice. They're not just doing it like a job. They really care."

These are professionals but they don't have media experience and they're afraid you're going to destory what they love, so it's up to you to take it into the arena they're familiar with. Oftentimes, they're very comfortable selling themselves or their business. Most of the time, someone's doing his job because he loves it. There's some spark in that industry that attracted him to it, and it's kept him there. You can find that spark, hold it right in your hand, and ignite your character. 

But to do that, you need to loosen up your interviewee. Sometimes, the way to do that is to say, "I'm so glad you spent the time talking to me," and then, "It sounds like you really love what you do." Because they do -- and once you love it, your character will love it, and your reader will love it too.

You might call it falling in love. I call it research.


Jane Lebak is the author of The Wrong Enemy. She has four kids, three cats, two books in print, and one husband. She lives in the Swamp and spends her time either writing books or knitting warm socks. At Seven Angels, Four Kids, One Family, she blogs about what happens when a distracted daydreamer and a gamer geek attempt to raise four kids. If you want to make her rich and famous, please contact the riveting Roseanne Wells of the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

5 Easy Steps To Surviving Your Release Day

You worked hard writing the love of your life and your big day has finally arrived. Here are five tips to make your release an epic success:
1. Don’t worry about sleep. You won’t need it: It’s not like you’ll need the energy for all the tweets, Facebook posts, emails you will be responding to throughout the day. I mean, sure you’ll want to thank everyone who congratulates you and let them rejoice in your big day, but isn’t that what an adrenalin rush is for? Unfortunately, the adrenalin rush won’t last long into the afternoon, but that’s okay, tip #4 will get you through the downward spiral.

2. Obsess over your rankings: Nothing makes your release day more complete than checking your ranking on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Chapters-Indigo (Canada), iBooks, every five minutes. Who cares if they are only updated hourly? You wouldn’t want to miss it when the numbers change. Right?

3. Prepare your acceptance speech for hitting the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists: It doesn’t matter that your publisher didn’t give you the PR support it gives its bestsellers. It doesn’t matter that bestselling authors aren’t tweeting and posting on Facebook that your book is better than anything by J.K. Rowling and Stephen King, combined. It doesn’t matter that no one has heard of your book before today, it will hit #1. Guaranteed. So instead of working on your next book (because really, who needs to write a second book anyway?), research the Academy Award winning actors you want to star in the movie adaptation. That is a much better use of your time.

4. Stock up on wine and chocolate and caffeine: Since you’ve skipped on the goodnight sleep, OD’ing on chocolate and caffeine will keep you awake when your adrenalin levels crash. And because you will be experiencing an emotional rollercoaster over the next few days, where one minute you’re happy and the next you’re weeping*, the wine and chocolate will help balance out your mood swings. 

5. Don’t do anything to prepare for your launch date: Or better yet, spam like crazy. Tweet every five minutes about how awesome your book is. Start doing this a month before your release day. Tweet EVERY SENTENCE from all your positive reviews. This way, readers don’t have to go to Goodreads or Amazon to read the full review. Tweet teaser pictures with pornographic photos. Mom’s just LOVE IT when those show up in their feeds as their kids walk into the room. They’re bound to buy your book after that. Tweet every link to every post that mentions your book, and do this at one-minute intervals. When conversing on Twitter with friends and other people you follow, make sure you slip in your title in every tweet. And while you’re at it, DM everyone you can about your new release. Repeat the same on Facebook. And don’t forget to mention your book on every blog and Facebook post you comment on.

*While the post is mocking what you shouldn’t do to celebrate your release day/week, the part about mood swings is true. I talked to several authors and they agreed that it happened to them, too. If we had known about it ahead of time, we would have known it’s normal to feel this way, and we wouldn’t have let it stress us out. 

This is your big day, enjoy it. Go out for dinner or do whatever it takes to make it special. You deserve it!

Do you have any advice for surviving the release day/week (both the dos and the don’ts)?

Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes Young Adult and New Adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and can be found at her blog/website.  She is represented by Marisa Corvisiero, and finds it weird talking about herself in third person. Her debut New Adult contemporary romance TELL ME WHEN (Carina Press, HQN) is now available.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Publishing Pulse for February 14th, 2014

New At QueryTracker:

Happy Valentine's Day to all from QueryTracker! As you know. Saint Valentine was the patron saint of beekeeping, epilepsy and fainting. And something else too, but it's so elusive. Maybe they know at Hallmark.

This week we've added two agents to our database. Please make sure you double-check every agent's website or Publisher's Marketplace page before sending your query.

If you're a QueryTracker premium member, then you can be notified whenever an agent or publisher profile is added or updated. If you're not a premium member, you can just check for yourself.

Publishing News:

Simon and Schuster reported record profits for last year. 

http://hiveword.com is a search engine geared toward writers. I'm not sure yet how much more helpful it will be than Google, but I'm passing it along.

Around the Blogosphere:

What happens to a retailer more secretive than the NSA? Amazon and the perils of nondisclosure.

An author explains that segregating boy stories and girl stories is a disservice to both.

An editor discusses what happens when a writer won't listen.

NPR talks about self-publishing. Meanwhile, one writer's lessons learned from self-publishing.

Literary Quote of the Week:

"To set a forest on fire, you should light a match. To set a character on fire, you should put him in conflict." ~James Frey

Thanks for stopping by, and keep sending those queries!

Jane Lebak is the author of The Wrong Enemy. She has four kids, three cats, two books in print, and one husband. She lives in the Swamp and spends her time either writing books or swatting mosquitos. At Seven Angels, Four Kids, One Family, she blogs about what happens when a distracted daydreamer and a gamer geek attempt to raise four kids. If you want to make her rich and famous, please contact the riveting Roseanne Wells of the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Conference DOs and DON’Ts

As we approach conference season, many of us are ordering promo materials and making travel plans in the hopes of furthering our careers at professional conferences. As they are not cheap, it’s important to make the most of your time at conferences. So in the spirit of Miss Rosie (but without the proper nouns and scolding tone) I’d like to provide some guidelines for making the most of your conference experience:

1. DO attend workshops; that’s the reason you’re there. This may seem witheringly obvious, but once inside that hotel it becomes all too easy to skip the workshops and hang out in the Starbucks—or the bar—instead. There will be plenty of time to socialize later. Get a schedule and mark the sessions that seem most pertinent to you, and then go to one that doesn’t. You’ll learn something.

DON’T be “that person” in the workshop audience. You know the one I’m talking about: she uses the Q and A part of the session to discuss her magnum opus or to impress everyone with what he thinks he knows about publishing. If you have a valid question, ask it. But save the networking for lunch or cocktail hour.

2. DO dress appropriately. Again, this seems obvious, but you would be surprised. Business casual is the way to go, and unless you’re wearing sequins or a tuxedo, slightly overdressing (a day dress, a skirt and cardigan, a shirt and tie for the guys) is rarely a mistake. Donning your yoga pants or sporting your kid’s college wear IS, however. And have a lightweight jacket or sweater handy—hotel air conditioning tends to hover between freezing and Arctic.
Dress like the professional you are!

3. DO be prepared for the cliques, especially if you’re a newbie or attending alone. No matter how welcoming an organization might be, there will always be those few (Miss Rosie would capitalize here) who need to prove that they are in the know and/or running the show. Now and then a friendly advance by an attendee meets with a rebuff, and it can be a bit demoralizing. If that happens to you, take on the chin, smile, and graciously excuse yourself with these words: “Thank you. You’ve been very helpful.” And they have: because now you know whom to avoid.

4. DO reach out to others, particularly those attendees who appear alone or lost. Making a friend is the quickest way to get over feeling lost yourself, and now you have someone to sit with at lunch. (And after you are a famous author, that person will be the first one to buy your book, after telling everyone how kind you were to her at her first writers’ conference.)

5. DO volunteer if the opportunity arises. It’s the best kind of networking there is. I attend a local conference yearly, and long after I already had an agent, and even after I had a contract, I continued to volunteer for the pitch sessions. I help organize the flow of traffic, soothe nerves, and time sessions. I offer to fetch water or coffee for the agents and editors in attendance, and cheer writers on when someone asks to see their work. It’s very simple—people remember kindness. And sometimes they ask for your card as well!

6. And speaking of agents and editors, DON’T pitch an unfinished project. Please. You’re taking up precious minutes that could have gone to a writer with a full manuscript to sell. And you’re asking for trouble should an agent or editor demonstrate interest, because not everyone asks for a partial. Just how fast can you bang out those last 200 pages?

7. DO network wisely. Start by chatting and trading cards with other hopefuls like yourself. Ask others what they are working on before you jump in to talk about your own project. And for heaven’s sake, don’t make a beeline for the NY Times bestselling author or that agent from Writers House. If you can work your way over slowly, go for it. If you can introduce yourself, even better. But wait until they ask about your work.     One last word: the ladies room is sacrosanct. No one wants to hear a pitch delivered over a toilet stall.

8. DO have a drink at cocktail hour. You deserve it.

A Jersey girl born and bred, Rosie Genova left her heart at the shore, which serves as the setting for much of her work. Her new series, the Italian Kitchen Mysteries, is informed by her deep appreciation for good food, her pride in her heritage, and her love of classic mysteries, from Nancy Drew to Miss Marple. Her debut novel, Murder and Marinara, was named as a Best Cozy of 2013 by Suspense Magazine. An English teacher by day and novelist by night, Rosie also writes women’s fiction as Rosemary DiBattista. She lives fifty miles from the nearest ocean  in central New Jersey with her husband and two of her three sons.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Book Blogger Tells Us How It Really Is

Since I write frequently about book publicity, I'm sent a number of links on the topic. But none of them has been quite so useful lately as Barb Drozdowich's eBook, The Author's Guide to Working With Book Bloggers.

Whether or not it will be your own job (or your publicist's) to set up a blog tour, the book will help you understand what to expect. In the first place, the author is a book blogger--therefore she's seen every author blunder first hand. From the cover copy:

Do you feel out of your comfort zone when dealing with book bloggers? They are the New Gatekeepers to book publishing success – but how can you tap into that source of free promotions by putting your best foot forward? 

The Author’s Guide to Working with Book Bloggers combines the advice of 215 blogging professionals collected in a survey covering all aspects of communication between authors and Review Blogs. Whether you are a new author, or have many titles under your belt, let us demystify the promotion of your book on a book blog.

You’ll learn about whom and where book bloggers are, and the following: 

The Query, The Review,The Giveaway,The Author Interview, The Guest Post, The Book Blurb Excerpt and Cover Reveals and more

When the author mentions 215 bloggers, she's not kidding. That's how many responded to the survey she put out. Their quotes add depth and useful examples to Drozdowich's no-nonsense how-to manual.

There is technical information here: the uses of Triberr, the various databases of book bloggers just waiting to be explored. Then there are the more philosophical topics. Chapter Three is all about the etiquette of interacting with bloggers. And etiquette is ever-shifting, lately. Auto DMs for new followers are passe, as the author points out. Also, she points out how tiresome Goodreads "events" invitations have become. (In short, hearing the politely stated pet peeves of a real life book blogger is darned useful.)

Chapter Four covers the query letter, and includes a perfect check list of all the info you need to provide a blogger in order for her / him to decide whether or not to cover your book. Even a seasoned self promoter will find useful tips here.

There are also guest post ideas, and lots of thoughtful advice about offering giveaways. Chapter Eleven helps authors understand and utilize a blog tour.

Yet it's Chapter Twelve which is worth the price of admission alone. The author asked the bloggers she surveyed, "if you could give an author one piece of advice about promoting their book, what would it be?" Hearing their thoughts and motivations is excessively helpful!

If you have a blog tour coming up, it's worth a couple hours of your time to devour this book. An Author's Guide to Working With Book Bloggers is available for Kindle, Nook and at other major eBook retailers.

Disclosure: I received an epub copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

This review first appeared on Blurb is a Verb, the book publicity blog.

Sarah Pinneo
is a novelist, food writer and book publicity specialist. Her most recent book is Julia’s Child. Follow her on twitter at @SarahPinneo.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Publishing Pulse: February 7, 2014

Around the Web

It’s February, and this month, our thoughts naturally turn to love. At the Bookpage Blog, Love is in the Air with some favorite romantic titles.

In the latest news around the web, PW’s offers some picks of the week.

Flavorwire adds to the list with the ten best books of February.

Simon and Shuster reveals a new sci-fi and fantasy imprint.

On the HuffPost blog, A.J. Walkley explains why she welcomes query rejections (yes, you heard that right).

At Writers Digest, Chuck Sambuchino provides advice about pitching editors at conferences.

And at Digital Book World, Dana Beth Weinberg releases the results of an author survey that attempts to answer the question: how many authors actually publish?

A Jersey girl born and bred, Rosie Genova left her heart at the shore, which serves as the setting for much of her work. Her new series, the Italian Kitchen Mysteries, is informed by her deep appreciation for good food, her pride in her heritage, and her love of classic mysteries, from Nancy Drew to Miss Marple. Her debut novel, Murder and Marinara, was named a Best Cozy of 2013 by Suspense Magazine. An English teacher by day and novelist by night, Rosie also writes women’s fiction as Rosemary DiBattista. She lives fifty miles from the nearest ocean  in central New Jersey with her husband and two of her three sons.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

SAY NO TO SPAM! Twitter Messaging Do’s & Don’ts

Let me start by saying that I really don’t want to write this post. I don’t. I want there to be no need for it, because people are using their common sense and applying restraint regarding what they share in DMs. Sadly, this is not the case, and as the barrage of spam splatters my DM (direct message) box with increased fervor, I feel COMPELLED to write this post.

Okay, Direct Messages. Shall we start with the Don’ts?

DON’T... use autoresponders (DM greetings to new followers). All social media is about connection, and autoresponders are static shortcuts. Worse, they have become a misguided tool for promotion. “Thanks for following! Check out my Facebook Fan page!” or “Appreciate the follow! My latest release, Zombie Cowboys In Space is available HERE (link)” and even, “Are you looking for a MARKETING TEAM? Let us help you reach your customers (link).” Pretty much any link you put in an autoresponder makes the user think SPAM when they see it, so just...don’t.

IF YOU MUST use autoresponders, use it to start a relevant conversation. Ask a question that encourages them to engage, like: Thanks for the follow. I’m a big reader and like to discuss books on Twitter. What  genres do you read? and then of course, respond to people who answer to keep the conversation going. Don’t promote yourself or your books/business/expertise, just interact and get to know them better. Use it to show who you are, giving them a sense of your personality. 

DON’T...offer Unwanted Promotion.  Ever. A DM box may only allow for 140 characters, but that doesn’t make it any less an email box than your actual email. Direct messaging  is for reaching out to people in a PERSONAL way, not to talk AT them, especially to SPAM them about products or services. If people have asked to be updated via DM, that’s different. But just going through your contact list to let every follower know about a book release or sale...NO.

DON’T...send generic notes with a link. The fact is, twitter accounts get hacked. Then hackers like to send out DMs to people on the account’s follower list, usually a lame “Hey is this you?” note plus a link to a porn site, malware or something unsavory. So if you send a DM like: “Look at this--I totally LOLed + a LINK, the receiver will think it’s Spam and not open it.  

IF YOU MUST send a DM with a link, make sure your accompanying note makes it clear it’s you to the person you’re sending it to, and what the link goes to. 

All right, now onto the Do’s.

DO...send a DM if you’d like to find out more about someone, like if they are on Facebook, or if you can send them an email about something that those 140 characters just can’t cut. Connection, remember?

DO...send a DM if you want to offer a personal response to a tweet, rather than a public one. Sometimes you’ll see from someone’s tweets that a calamity has happened. Sending a DM to say, hey “I’ve been there too, and don’t beat yourself up about it” is a nice thing to do. Or maybe you have a private experience you’d like to share with them offline.  Those kind of DMs are totally fine. Of course if the person doesn’t want to talk about it, then respect their privacy. 

DO...send a DM if you want to find out more information about something. Maybe you caught a tweet exchange where people were discussing a resource but not the link. Or you found out someone’s doing a book signing in your city but need the time and date. It’s totally okay to DM someone to ask for info.
EXCEPT...if you’re just being nosy. If you get a whiff of gossip on the Tweet vine and want to know more, don’t pressure people to spill unless YOU KNOW they will be okay with it. A good friend who tease-tweets that he has some good news? Sure, ask about it in a DM, but respect it if he isn’t ready to share. But an acquaintance you don’t know well who is ranting and causing drama in tweets while not naming names? NO. Don’t DM them, prodding for details. When that person is thinking clearly again (twitter drama almost always leads to twitter regret) their opinion of you will lessen because you tried to milk them for information that didn’t concern you.

DO...send a DM when you haven’t heard from someone in a while and want to catch up. People like to feel valued. Reaching out this way shows you care. :)  

DO...send a DM to thank people for following if you like. Use their name in the DM so they know it’s you, not an autoresponder. 

DO...send a DM to someone if you want to help with a special project, but you don’t know them well enough to email. A simple, “Hey I saw on your blog that your book is releasing soon. If I can help in any way, let me know!” is totally okay. 

Honestly, I don’t think most folks want to SPAM other people. Likely, they are not even aware they are doing it. Maybe they see everyone else firing a Spam Cannon and think, Well, I guess that’s what I should do. Or maybe someone gave them bad advice on using twitter to reach their audience.
Do you have any do’s and don’ts to share? And if you’d like to apply some gentle “re-education” that will hopefully lead to less SPAM,  please share this post! 

ANGELA ACKERMAN is a writing coach and co-author of the bestselling writing resource, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression, as well as the newly released Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Attributes and its darker cousin, The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook and at Writers Helping Writers (formerly The Bookshelf Muse).