I moderate over on SFFWorld.com. It’s a place to read and talk about genre (Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror/Speculative/Whatever-You-Want-To-Call-It) fiction. Many of the moderators, and members, review books, conduct author interviews, and do shout-outs about upcoming books hot in the genre industry.

It also has a discussion forum that has run for decades. I think it started sometime in the mid or early 90s. That’s like…forever in the land of the interweb.

Anyway, many of the site moderators have been there a very long time and they have seen it all come up in the forums. No matter how clever (not) the disguise, trolls, spammers, and bots are quickly recognized and destroyed by the volunteer moderators who do their best to keep the place clean and on target.

There’s also something else we regularly have to trash – your dreams.

Yes, you, I’m talking to you spanking brand-new, desperate writer.

We know what you have been told. We know that some writer guru has said to visit forums and tell everyone about your new book. We know that they also said to post a snippet of your work and put it up for free. We know they said to use a link back to your book at every opportunity.

We know.

Know this, dear writer, you are not the only one to have just finished your masterpiece. You are not the only one that is desperate for feedback. Your ranks are legion. And, no, you are not special.

But, you say, how do I find readers! I didn’t take the time to improve my craft enough to attract an agent! Nor did I build an author platform to launch my self-published career! I can’t afford advertisements! Spamming discussion boards is the best way to reach readers!

Wrong.

Here are three simple guidelines to help you, shiny new writer, politely engage potential readers on a forum:

  1. Don’t spam the writer’s forum of a general fiction forum. Definitely don’t spam the reader forums either, but the writer’s forum? Why on earth would you do that? That’s where the writers go. They are just like you. Yes, writers are readers too, but do you think another writer will look kindly at the claim that your vampire/steampunk/young-adult/werewolf story is the next big thing? Just don’t spam.
  2. Learn the tools and etiquette for each forum. No two forums are alike. Some allow signatures with links. Some allow you to announce and post just about anything. And others don’t. Forums are like communities, each with their own social norms and taboos. SFFWorld.com is one of those forums that want people to come to the site to, you know, discuss books and stories. But, even there we have tools that authors can use to let potential readers know a bit more about your work. Learn how to use a site’s built-in features to promote yourself. Yes, it takes time, but it can be well worth it if you gain a few dedicated readers who spread the word, rather than spamming hundreds that will ignore you.
  3. If you have just joined a forum, join in on one (or two) of the discussions. Get to know folks, engage them in a conversation or two. Find out what they are about and what their likes and dislikes might be. You might even make new friends. Hell, you might even find a few things to read. If folks sense your sincerity and you happen to say something profound or interesting, don’t be surprised when they look you up.

Until later, noobie, keep writing and stop spamming.