(From one of our publishers)
We are encouraging you all to get connected online. Social media is, by definition, social. You link up with friends. Everyone says nice stuff. It’s great.
BUT WAIT. Just like the dark days of school, just like unpleasant and toxic workplaces, the internet can also be a cruel place. And when you’ve relaxed and made “friends”, it hurts double to be stabbed in the back by them.
The advice below is for people with Facebook profiles that also serve as their author promotion. If you are a “normal” person on Facebook, you’ll have your circle of friends, and that’s great. Once you are an “author”, you might feel obliged to accept every friend request that comes your way, because they might be potential authors, audience, fans, anything. Facebook authors using profiles can end up with huge lists of “friends”, and here is where the problem starts…
- Unless you have met the person in real life, been around their house, eaten their biscuits, you DO NOT KNOW THEM. We humans have a tendency to see similarities and then assume that person is alright. “She’s got a picture of a dog! Anyone who loves dogs, can’t be bad.” The more information someone presents about themselves online, the more we are fooled into thinking we know them. We don’t and we (maybe) never will.
- Do not make yourself physically vulnerable. It’s basic – don’t post up your address or phone number. Check your privacy settings. It’s worth checking every few months. If you run a mailing list, to adhere to anti-spam law in the US, you need a mailing address at the bottom of your email newsletters – consider a PO Box. These are cheap at rural POs in the US but horrifically expensive in the UK – alternatives are the online mailing address/virtual address services. We can’t recommend any specific ones – research.
- Do not make yourself emotionally vulnerable. I think this is hugely important and I’ve seen too many sad, distressing and unnecessary public meltdowns. If you are a bit low, posting an update asking for help on Facebook is fantastic. You’ll get lots of sympathy. BUT if you are in a very bad place, then consider reaching out to a few select friends, not publicly. If you struggle (as one in four of us do, at some point) with mental-health issues, it can impair one’s judgement and there are always sharks out there, watching to exploit others at times of crisis. You can tailor your Facebook posts to a custom audience (the little button to the bottom right), so make yourself a support group to post to. I’m not saying “keep it all in” but I am saying “be selective.” (Obviously if your Facebook profile is just your real friends, this advice does not apply.)
- On Facebook and also, more particularly, on forums such as kboards, be VERY circumspect about sharing detailed sales data. There has been a hoo-haa recently on kboards with some well-known authors speaking opening about sales and income, and they are always subsequently hit with a rash of one-star reviews. It’s sad. Popular authors sharing their success is incredibly motivating for the rest of us, but it opens up to all those jealous haters too.
- Learn to differentiate between the different types of criticism – that which is offered to help you improve, and that which is simply a reflection of the critic’s own character. That said, anyone who offers you “help and advice” completely out of the blue is somewhat dodgy. Or at the very least, rude. That works both ways. If someone posts up a link to their blurb, but they have NOT asked for input or feedback, then don’t wade in with criticism. Yes, it’s tempting. If there are typos, send the author a private message. But avoid giving unasked-for feedback, because the recipient isn’t prepared for it. And it can lead to fights online as everyone else wades in with an opinion, and it all gets very circular and everyone wants their own say. Can of worms.
- As soon as you publish a book, as soon as you create a profile, as soon as you make a remark online, you are public property. You have lost a little control. Just as when you walk down a street you cannot control how someone judges your footwear – when you are online, you are judged, rightly or wrongly. Regardless of your privacy settings, it is worth bearing in mind that you should not type anything—on Facebook or wherever—that you would not be happy seeing on the front page of your local paper.
- You can block people on Facebook. Have no hesitation in doing so if someone’s posts constantly upset you. Why listen to it? Life is short, and don’t waste it getting caught up in petty online arguments that seem dreadfully important when you’re sitting at the computer. Walk away, go outside, see things that are real and meaningful and permanent.
- Ultimately, social media is a tool – do not let it control you.