How NOT to Build Your On-Line Following

Last week on my radio show (Friday Night Writes, co-hosted by Armand Rosamilia) we discussed two separate topics which I’m going to fuse into one for the purposes of this blog post.


The two topics were Twitter Tips for Authors and Authors Should View Each Other as Teammates Rather Than Competition.

I’ve been on Twitter since 2010, but I really didn’t start using it regularly until 2012 when Armand gave me a crash course – so I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, an expert.


There is one thing about Twitter that is, to me anyway, common sense. It also applies to Facebook, Pinterest, Blogging, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.

It Doesn’t Cost You Anything to Follow Back.


As Independent Authors, we rely on social media to expand our audience and reach out to potential readers. Unfortunately some authors treat it like a competition…like we are all fighting over that one reader.

On a typical day I will follow anywhere from 10 to 50 new people. Many of them are other authors, but not all. Generally, about 75% of the people I follow will return the courtesy and follow me back. Most of the people who don’t are usually large entities who can’t possibly follow every one of their followers.

twitter followers

For example, this morning I followed the Library of Congress (@librarycongress). They have over 550,000 followers, yet they only follow 7, and 3 of those are other branches of the LoC.

I truly don’t expect a return follow from them.

At the same time that I followed the LoC, I also followed several other people, and within 2 hours almost all of them had followed me back.

There were 3 (all Independent Authors) who sent me direct messages.

The messages were worded differently, but all said basically the same thing…

Thank you for following me, let’s connect on Facebook too.


Okay. No problem.

I’m all about the networking…

I proceeded to click the link they so thoughtfully provided to their facebook fan page and give it a like.

I then tried to send a reply to them saying I had connected with them on facebook, and I also provided them with a link to my facebook fan page.

I hit send and got a red flag saying I was not allowed to send a direct message to this person because they do not follow me.

This happened for all three of them.


You took the time to send me a message asking me to like your facebook page, but you can’t follow me back?

So guess what I did.

That’s right. I unfollowed them.


This is the way I see it…

You are an Independent Author…I am an Independent Author and we are both trying to succeed in a pursuit where the odds are decidedly against us.

I can’t speak to your reasons for not wanting to follow another author, but I can give you my reasons for doing it…

Authors read too…yeah, that’s right – not only are we writers – we are also readers. So every time you don’t return a follow you have alienated both a colleague and a potential reader.

Authors have readers…think about it – establishing a two-way connection with other authors opens the door to attracting some of their followers.

You might learn something…at the absolute minimum; you should view connecting with other authors as a chance to learn something new and helpful. None of us know it all, but all of us know something.


Being an Independent Author is not for the timid. It’s long hours and hard work for very little money. On a dollar-per-hour basis, we’d probably do better flipping burgers.

Doesn’t it make more sense to work as a team, rather than trying to fly solo?

If we all help each other we all win.

People buy lots of books. I know people who read as many as five books a week. It’s not like buying a car or a house…we are not salespeople competing for that one buyer’s money.

book salesman

So when another author follows you on Twitter (or any social media platform), take a few seconds to follow them back…it costs you nothing and you’re helping all of us.


As always – thank you for reading


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33 responses to “How NOT to Build Your On-Line Following

  1. Reblogged this on Armand Rosamilia and commented:
    Great insight from Tim Baker about too many authors not thinking smartly when it comes to other authors… great post!

  2. Reblogged this on Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing and commented:
    This is a great post from Tim Baker. I will add that recently I have been doing exactly as Tim does – if an author I follow on Twitter sends me a direct message but does not do me the courtesy of following back, I unfollow. The worst was an author I followed because I had enjoyed reading her book. She direct messaged me with a link to where that book was being sold – but no return follow. For some people who use social media, it’s all about the numbers they accumulate and not the content and connections they get through participating.

  3. Anthea Redmond

    Excellent blog, Tim, and I agree 100%. I managed to get over 3000+ followers on Twitter merely by following back, as I thought it the decent thing to do. I recently subscribed to a monitoring service which tells me which accounts have deactivated or have lain dormant for over a year, so I have the choice to >unfollow< these if I choose in order to have an active following.

  4. good post, i have to confess i am awful at social media i don’t do twitter,facebook, in fact the only place i actually visit is here, i love my bloggy world and my bloggy friends but i don’t follow automatically i never have the way i work is i will see someone followed so i pop over to their place if i like then i follow luckily i have liked a heck of a lot, thank you for sharing this and i hope you have a nice evening/day take care

    • Thank you for the feedback Kizzy.
      Even though you don’t follow back automatically, you at least visit and have a look. That’s much more than some people do!

  5. So true! One more thing that just irks me are the True-Twit validation messages you get when you follow people…. Why? Why?? It’s Twitter!! You can block people if you need to!

  6. Reblogged this on Official Site of Alex Laybourne – Author and commented:
    Some very good pointers here

    • Alex,
      There are some books here I’ve never heard of, which i added to my “To be Read” section in my head.

      Your review of “The Taken” made me want to go out and buy it for my Kindle right away.

      Alas, I have to wait to read it, because I’m finishing up “Odd Apocalypse” this week sometime, and then moving on to Koontz’s new book, “Innocence.” I will certainly male “The Taken” the third book I read. I will let you know my thoughts on it when I finish.

      If not for your terrific write-up, I never would have found out about this book. Thank you, Alex!

      Warm Regards,
      Robin Lindzer

  7. Shared, liked, tweeted, sent by carrier pigeon to my distant cousins.
    Loved this article & couldn’t agree more with everything you say.

  8. great post! i think i’m going to stop writing for awhile since it’s not quality work in my eyes. i will just follow for awhile and post a few shout outs to post i follow. thanks for the tips.

  9. The only people I don’t follow back are: religious zealots, political whackos, and those that promise me thousands of followers (but curiously usually have less than 1000 themselves). It seems as though some people believe that their worth is defined based on the difference between the number of followers and the number they actually follow.

  10. Todd Brown

    Spot on, Tim!

  11. Amen, Timmo!

    Julianne, I get “Your post is awaiting moderation” a lot on this site and I’ve been on WordPress for over a year and a half. What’s up with that?

  12. I have to moderate my coments somewhere, and I just do it. It does enable me to filter out the spam. And I have trouble with Direct Messages, as do other people, but one saw where she went wrong–not that I have a clue about that… Thanks for sharing your experience!

  13. Kev

    I know, been there, done that…What is that all about? I’ve always found the “red warning alert” somewhat taking me for a spin.

  14. Yeah – it kind of hurts!

  15. Pingback: Twitter Etiquette For Authors | blindoggbooks

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