Promoting a book can be a confusing, demoralizing process. Many authors spend a lot of time and energy and money crafting a comprehensive but affordable book promotion campaign, only to feel like they’re shouting into the wind, and no one is paying any attention to them. Some spend a lot of money and feel similarly, wondering why some books seem to just get a lot of attention naturally.

Along the way, you’ll no doubt play around with various free modes of book promotion, because why not? If it doesn’t amount to much, it was free, so nothing lost. And with social media platforms it’s pretty easy to do some basic book promotion using just your personal accounts and a little mental elbow grease.

But how do you decide what’s worth doing? Every week finds another social media trend, after all, another viral quiz or game that everyone is passing around, or a sudden wave of rhetorical tricks that other authors are suddenly engaged in. How do you decide if something on social media is worth jumping onto for the sake of maybe selling a book? You could use my simple guide, which pretty much serves me well in every situation: Simply don’t do things that make you feel like a jackass.

Jackassery: The Problem of Our Time

Look, social media can be fun. Dumb quizzes, memes, and trending hashtags can pass the time and connect you with your audience—that’s more or less the whole purpose of social media. Great! But sometimes people start doing things just because everyone else is, and then they try to layer on their own special brand of arch sarcasm, or ironic appreciation, or just general assholery, trying to simultaneously engage with the viral moment and be above it. And sometimes you’ll be tempted to do dumb things on social media that make you feel like a bit of a jackass, and my advice is: Don’t.

Everyone’s Jackass Limit is different. What you might see as jackassery of the highest kind might seem like hilarious clean fun to someone else. Don’t worry about everyone else. When you see all the other authors in your social media garden doing the same trendy thing, something likely born in a book promotion listicle the week before, don’t worry about whether they’re being jackasses. That’s between them and their readers. Worry about yourself. If you feel like a jackass just thinking about it, then the answer is simple: Don’t do it, no matter how many other people are.

Because, for one thing, if every author is doing it then people are gonna notice that it’s just promotion, artificial and grasping. For another, you can’t differentiate your brand by doing what everyone else is doing. And finally, feeling like a jackass is never going to be the right decision. Take it from someone who spent about 10 years in his youth being a jackass: It’s no bueno.

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