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!

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About the Author

Colwill is an instructor and manuscript consultant at GrubStreet, an associate editor at Bat City Review, and an MFA candidate at the University of Texas at Austin. After graduating a scholarship awardee of GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator program, Colwill found representation for her first novel, Before We Tear Our Selves Apart, with Robert Guinsler of Sterling Lord Literistic, which is currently on submission to publishing houses. She is the recipient of the Wellspring House Emerging Writer Fellowship, the Henry Blackwell Essay Prize, and a Crawley-Garwood Research Grant, and has received fellowships and support from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, The University of Texas at Austin, Boston College, Kansas State University, the Anderson Center for Disciplinary Studies, and GrubStreet. She was a finalist for the 2019 Tennessee Williams Fiction Prize, the 2019 Reynolds Price Award, the 2019 Far Horizons Fiction Award, the 2019 Disquiet International Literary Prize, and the 2019 Lit Fest Emerging Writer Fellowship. Colwill’s fiction is forthcoming in Granta and is anthologized in Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet (Press 53). She has served on the editorial team for Post Road magazine, The Conium Review,  Solstice Literary Magazine, and Pangyrus magazine. Colwill is a founding member of the  Back Porch Collective, a Boston-based group of writers. With members connected to Cuba, India, Albania, Atlanta, Bosnia, Miami, Jamaica, and the UK, they bonded over a common passion for global narratives and literature’s potential to create empathy and understanding across all geographical, political, and cultural borders. Hailing from Yorkshire, in the north of England, Colwill is determined to introduce the word “sozzard” to the American vernacular. For a full list of publications, projects, and services, please visit

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by Colwill Brown