How NOT to be a bad author.

Jeff Potts

Well-known member
Apr 5, 2019
I think I may make a blog post about this tonight.

This isn't what you think. It's about being a good author in front of your fans.

When you have to promote your books, you'll inevitably have to interact with fans. I had my experience last weekend at BasedCon, though, because I'm a pretty minor author, I interact quite a bit with people who are fans of my books. So, this is a cumulation of what I've seen from other authors, and what I do personally.

Last year, at the same con, I sold maybe a handful of books. This year? Nearly triple that amount. I had people from the prior year who had bought my book, coming up and telling me how much they enjoyed it. Likewise...the bought the next one. It's clear I made an impression.

So, here are my observations.

1) Maintain a distance but interact with your fans.
At my core, I'm not a people person. I don't like crowds. But, if you're going to be a serious author, you need to put on that interested mask, and engage in conversation with a fan, even if they end up maybe overstaying their welcome. But, talk with them. Answer their questions, and act like they're your favorite aunt or uncle. Don't hide in a corner or preoccupy yourself with your phone or laptop. Engage. Don't stray into things that maybe you'd only tell your wife but keep the conversation going.

2) Don't be negative.
Anyone who is skilled at doing interviews for jobs knows that this is Rule #1. Positive people impress other people. Constant griping about the venue or the food, or whatever is bugging you isn't a good look. An even worse look is complaining about readers and authors (and I could easily complain about other authors). Avoid getting into controversies in mixed company. Talk about things you like as opposed to those that you hate. You may put off someone who likes those things, but hasn't said so.

3) If you have a chance to read from one of your books, do it.
If the venue gives you an opportunity to read an excerpt from your book, do it. I was going to pass, but at the last moment decided to read. Before I started, however, I talked briefly about three different groups that I participated in (WriterDojo, IronAge and PulpRev), because I knew that audience would be interested in knowing these exist. Then I read the book.

I had a couple of people say they wanted my latest book based on the reading alone. One of them said it sounded, "delicious." Boy, was the good to hear.

4) Be grateful.
I'm one of those guys who has never been comfortable with compliments. And when someone says, "I really loved your book," my standby is to merely say, "Thank you." That being said, a "Thank you," not only shows gratitude, but a little humility without saying anything negative. Thanking the fans for buying your book, and offering some free swag with a purchase? That also builds a good relationship with the reader, even if it is just a pen and a bookmark.

These people are taking time out of their lives to read your work and paid their hard-earned dollars to buy it. The least you can do is be appreciative for that expenditure and effort.

5) It's never about you or your book.
Don't make every conversation about you or your book. You don't have to mention your book or your "writer's journey" every five minutes. Talk about the weather, maybe your favorite game, or music. Hawking your wares in every conversation or interaction gets really tedious, really quick.

6) Be entertaining.
At some point, you'll be on a panel. Try to engage with the audience in a way that keeps them interested. Be witty but also be respectful. You'll always get a few people who start nodding off in the crowd - this is a given. But, if you get a laugh or two, people will take notice.

That being said, there is a fine line between being witty and being obnoxious. Avoid dominating the conversation or acting like an unimpeachable source. The information you provide is often absorbed better if it is presented in a humorous way. But you can overdo that too.

7) Every author is a fan of someone else. Don't be "that guy," that you don't want talking to you.
You'll meet authors who are more famous, or more widely read than you. Don't be annoying to them. It's great to converse with them, but you're not there to go all fanboy / fangal with your favorite author. You're there to expand YOUR readership and interact with YOUR fans. Don't ignore them - the fans - because they may eventually ignore you. Likewise, interacting with bigger authors is a chance to network and expand your influence. That's not going to happen if you act like an unhinged or clingy kook.

Fame and recognition aren't destinations. They are tools. Misuse your tools and you won't have any after a time.

And that's it.

Some of these seem obvious. Oddly enough, I've seen some established authors breaking these rules, in one form or another, at some of the gatherings I've attended. In some instances, you can get away with breaking a few of these rules, based on the company you're in. But in mixed company, always put your best foot forward.


Write well, edit often.
Oct 8, 2012
Good points.

I met regularly with a small group of authors for a couple of years. Some were very good at interacting with fans, while others struggled. But as a whole, I found authors to be a strange, introverted bunch.

A couple of suggestions based on my experiences:

1) Maintain a distance but interact with your fans.
I would add don't be a "stalker." It can be very uplifting to meet fans and get good review. That dosen't mean you have to become their best friend and invite yourself over for dinner. And that goes doubly so for dealing with bad reviews. Curb your defensiveness. You should NEVER rebut or comment on a bad review. Nothing good will ever come of that.

3) If you have a chance to read from one of your books, do it.
I think this really depends if you're truly comfortable doing this. Sadly, I'd advise most authors (including me) to avoid it. We're people of words, not performers. That's what audiobooks are for. ;)

I'd attach this to #3. An awkward public performance can be a real detriment. Most writers dislike putting on a public performance. They let their words do the work.

Overall, I think it comes down to understanding your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to these opportunities. Sometimes taking a "pass" is a wise choice.

Darrel Bird

Senior Member
Oct 3, 2008
I'm so terribly introverted I don't have to worry about any of that stuff except maybe the grateful part. I'm grateful the Lord has allowed me to share my books with whosoever might enjoy them.