Five Tips to Author Success on Reddit

Reddit and the Single Scifi Author

This post is based on an experience on Reddit this week. I’d like to use what I’ve learned there to share five tips to author success on Reddit. As Reddit pertains to the Single Scifi Author, it isn’t as simple as ‘having an idea’ and sharing motivational memes. No, Reddit wants more. As a social media platform, Reddit will challenge you, turn your brain into a pretzel, drive you crazy, and free your mind. You need to develop a thicker skin, or at least understand where your skin might be tender. I cover a lot of this in the Glass House Life series.

I’m still learning and growing on Reddit. I don’t have it all figured out. I firmly believe that Reddit can be one of the strongest supporters that an author will ever know. At the same time, Reddit filled with some toxic people. For example, I have no doubt that Redditors will line up to tell me why I’m wrong as soon as I post this and I’m an idiot for writing it. It may sound counterintuitive, but that’s actually a good thing: I welcome the feedback and the chance to learn.

But having spent over five years on Reddit, I’ve learned a few things when it comes to engaging with Redditors to discuss a new scifi or creative project. To make this relevant and actionable, I dispensed with the standard ‘follow these steps’ process and focused on ideas and principles, making these five tips to author success on Reddit.

  1. It’s about how you come across – Reddit prides itself on showing empathy (“Come for the cats, stay for the empathy”) and this is a two-way street when it comes to e-interactions. I’ve learned – the hard way, many times – that how I think I’m presenting myself is not how I’m coming across. Similarly, if there’s any daylight between what you intend to communicate about your topic or your audience and what you’re actually communicating, you’re gonna get called out. This leads me to a second point …
  2. Ride the Wave – If you think about human interaction like surfing a giant wave, one easy-to-answer springs to mind. Do we make the wave, or do we ride the wave? Naturally, the answer is ‘we ride.’ We’re not strong enough to make our own waves, so we learn to watch the waves and ride along. So too, with Reddit. You’re dealing with the social inertia of the sum total of human attention. Look for ways to interact with what they’re already thinking about. At the same time, what do you do if the wave is sucking you under? At that point, you recognize your limitations and get out of the water. There are no Internet lifeguards on Reddit. But don’t get cocky …
  3. Confident, but relatable – Remember how everyone used to say ‘confidence is key?’ The new advice is ‘confidence is key, but nobody likes arrogance.’ The thin line between the two is humility, and humility helps people relate to you. It is possible to hold yourself high without putting people beneath you. ‘But wait,’ you’ll say. ‘I’m just trying to be confident and hold myself high without putting people down!’ I hear you. What I had to learn – and am still learning – is how much of my own insecurity translates to arrogant or off-putting behaviors (see Tip #1). It’s a humbling, yet illuminating experience.
  4. The three variables – A good Reddit thread has an equation (Relevant + Authentic + Shareable) and anything you want to share has to score very high on those three areas in order to achieve success but more is needed. You need to ask yourself “How is this relevant to that subreddit?” For example, I wouldn’t share a /r/funny post in /r/scifi and expect much traction. You also need to ask “How is this authentic?” Are you coming across as a social media flunkie because you read an article on Hubspot? Yeah, that doesn’t work for these folks. They quickly find daylight between real and fake, so you need to eliminate anything that ‘comes across’ as fake, even if that isn’t your intention.
  5. It’s a tough crowd – If you envision a Reddit thread like a tough standup comedy audience, everything makes more sense. They’re there for their own reasons, they love to heckle, and they have a “go on – impress me” attitude. Is it right, is it wrong? Who cares? You walked into their kill-zone, and you’ve got to be prepared for anything. ANYTHING. Don’t believe me? Ask Woody Harrelson. Nobody’s above an internet butt-kicking on Reddit.

To wrap this up, because I can already sense this turning into a broader topic, remember that Reddit is a big place. Some parts are good, others bad. Like the Internet platforms that came before (Usenet, anyone?) it can be a blessing or a curse depending on where you land. If you plan on sharing your work on Reddit, do your homework! Find a subreddit of people that share your interests, and look to see what they’re into. As you get more popular, you’ll get recommendations (“This is awesome, you should share it on …”) and that type of feedback is worth its weight in gold. Put the work in, put the time in, Reddit will teach you more about yourself than you ever wanted to know.

But Wait, Jackson – You’re Wrong!

I hear you. Come tell me what I’m wrong about: Discuss this post on the /r/inkican subreddit – tell me what I missed, or need help figuring out.