The Writing Rules That Were Made to Be Broken: Authors Need a Huge Following

There's a distinctly rebellious air about the Muse and the Marketplace Conference this year. Come April 6-8 at Boston's Park Plaza, #Muse18 presenters will be letting loose on the writing rules that have held our manuscripts hostage for far too long. To kick off the conversation ahead of the Muse weekend, this year's Muse series explores the writing, publishing, and workshop rules, conventions, and accepted norms that authors, agents, and editors at the Muse love to hateand why they'd love to see them broken. Some presenters will also offer their own rules or conventions that they want to see adopted in writing and publishing spaces. This installment comes from Fauzia Burke, author of Online Marketing for Busy Authors. Fauzia will be leading the Muse sessions The 3-Step Formula for Building an Author Platform and New Digital Tools for 2018: Make Your Social Media Marketing Easier and More Effective.



Long ago, in the early days of social media, an unofficial rule was created: the more followers and “friends” an author had, the better. It was also widely believed that readers made book-buying decisions based on the size of someone’s following and not on quality of their content or the level of engagement among users. An author with 20,000 Facebook fans must sell more books than an author with 2,000 fans, right? Not really.

Having been on the front lines of social media and web marketing for over twenty years, I can honestly say authors who have tens of thousands of followers don’t necessarily sell more books than authors who have a few hundred. It’s as simple as that.

Large followings aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but the metric to watch is the level of engagement you have with your followers and the frequency at which it happens. To make sure your interactions are headed in a positive direction, stop searching for more followers and ask yourself the following questions instead:

  • Do your followers comment on and share your posts?
  • Are you familiar with your super fans?
  • How many people are you connecting with on a weekly basis?
  • Are you able to respond to everyone who engages with you?


As you think about your social media presence, keep these tips in mind:

  • Focus on growing your interactions, not your followers. An engaged follower has a much higher chance of converting into a book buyer.
  • Make sure you’re providing valuable content for your followers. It will help keep your network coming back to your page.
  • When someone engages with you on social media, make sure you engage back, whether it’s a comment on a post or a direct message. A follower feeling a true connection with you as an author is invaluable.




Fauzia Burke is the founder and president of FSB Associates, an online publicity and marketing firm specializing in creating awareness for books and authors. She’s also the author of Online Marketing for Busy Authors (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) and Chief Marketing Officer of Pub Site, a new, easy-to-use platform for building author websites.


Break all the writing rules: Click here to register for #Muse18!

About the Author

As Editor of GrubWrites, GrubStreet's popular blog, Sarah serves the Grub community a daily dose of literary goodness. Book lovers can find reviews, news, recommendations, and conversations with exciting new authors to stay up to speed on all things lit. Writers, GrubWrites is your go-to spot for expert craft talk, thoughtful discussions on how writing is learned and taught, and essential publishing and publicity advice. Sarah is also a GrubStreet instructor and consultant specializing in the novel.


Sarah is Writer-in-Residence at Wellspring House and a recipient of the work-study scholarship for the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. Her creative work has appeared in Solstice Literary Magazine, The Conium Review, Poetry and Audience, and other places, and her essays have featured on Dead Darlings and elsewhere. She's served on the editorial team for Post Road magazine and The Conium Review and is currently Fiction Editor at Pangyrus. A graduate of GrubStreet's Novel Incubator program, for which she was awarded a scholarship, Sarah is at work revising her first novel. She was educated at Leeds University, where she received her BA hons in English Language and Literature (International), with stints at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Kansas State University’s Graduate Creative Writing Program, where she was awarded the Seaton Graduate Fellowship in Creative Writing. Most recently, Sarah completed an MA in English Literature at Boston College, where she was awarded a tuition fellowship and the Henry Blackwell Essay Prize. Hailing from Yorkshire, England, her life's mission is to introduce the word "sozzard" to the American vernacular. For a full list of publications, projects, and other services, including copy editing, please visit

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by Sarah Colwill-Brown