Social Media can be a blessing for publishing of all varieties–self publishing, traditional publishing, anything in between, etc. In fact, it might even be a necessity if you’re in the business of writing non-fiction. (But I’ll get to that in a different post.) The point is, utilizing sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc, can have a great effect on marketing you and your books, and potentially raise sales.
We’re not talking about the positive right now, though. Instead, the post today is about how to keep your image classy on social media, and not succumb to the pitfalls of posting to the internet where literally everyone in the world can see.
You might consider yourself a pretty cool-headed person in everyday life. Maybe you scroll past those posts on FB that talk about not ‘Feeding the Trolls’ and give a small chuckle, unable to imagine anyone having an argument online. This is a more likely scenario if you yourself just skim the surface of the internet and don’t venture deeper into the murky depths–in which case, hey, good for you, having a life! But at one point or another, every author–especially those who are self-publishing–will find themselves plumbing those depths out of necessity.
I am here to tell you that not everything you find will be double-rainbow videos or fifty billion pictures of cats with cheezeburgers. Because the more intimate you get with the internet, the more likely you are to come across trolls.
For those of you who really are just dipping a toe into this whole process–because I’m trying to help YOU, too–here’s the idea: there are lots of people out there who get their kicks ‘trolling’ the internet, just hoping to provoke fights and antagonize the average surfer. They will post things that are intentionally provocative or controversial, or will outright spam articles/sites/certain unlucky individuals into submission with noxious and often atrociously-spelled messages.
Trolls are an awful reality of the interwebs. Can we get rid of them? Sadly, not without a long-reaching genocide. (Which I certainly don’t condone! These are the same kinds of people as those who make retail worker’s lives miserable, who stick gum on the undersides of chairs, or who blast their music next door at 2AM. You can’t eradicate them all–they are everywhere. They are legion.) So what do you do? Well, as those FB posts suggest–you take the high road and ignore the shit out of them.
‘Oh, but I’m sure I won’t get any of these awful trolls,’ you might be saying to yourself. ‘Why would they come after me and my self-help book/personal memoirs/mermaid romance/dinosaur in the West novel?’ That could be true! Maybe you will be the lucky 1% minority that perhaps will never have to deal with anyone not liking your work ever… Oh wait. That’s some kind of fantasy world you’re living in. The fact is that if you ever want any kind of popularity for your books, you have to accept the terrible truth; that there will also be people out there who hate what you write. Even worse? They’ll tend to be the most vocal about disliking it. They will leave comments on your Amazon/Twitter/Facebook/Blog. These comments could range as anything from ‘U Suk’ to long-winded diatribes about your lack of English language education and/or adventurously sexual activities your mother could engage in with a Shetland pony and a shovel.
I know, it’s not pretty out there. Like I said, murky bottom, remember? And there really isn’t anything you can do about it.
But for God’s sake, and more importantly YOURS, do not give them anything to feed on.
To acknowledge a troll in ANY way is to let them win, and add more fuel to their hate-fire. Think of them as the Gremlins–except instead of turning sweet, cuddly guys into awful jerks, they’re ALREADY the awful versions–and if you throw water on them, oh dear God, the results will be 10x worse. No joke.
Everything lives forever on the internet. That’s as true for all these celebrities and their nude photos as it will be for anything you post in response to antagonizing trolls. You might think that it is harmless to try and correct a dissenter about the point of your book–maybe he or she just didn’t get it on the first read, right? Maybe you can help them come around. You’ll start out thinking that, and then before you know it, you’re suddenly involved in an online argument–one that, depending on how popular you are/might get in the future, could significantly damage your reputation later.
That’s of course not saying that you shouldn’t (or can’t) engage in online discussions about your writing at all! But take caution. Answering a question or having a conversation is different than responding to those comments obviously designed to get on your nerves. Those you should just delete–if you have the power to do so–or ignore if you can’t.
There are more than a few cases of authors who forgot these rules of etiquette when dealing with social media, and it is quite easy to look up the results with just a few clicks and a Google search. For some–again, this is especially relevant to self-publishers–it totally ruined their image and negatively impacted their sales.
For example: You self-publish your baby novel. It is a labor of love, years in the making, and you aren’t used to negativity. (Get used to it! Develop a hard outer shell!) You get your first awful comment, and you’re heartbroken. Desperate not to let other commentators see this bad review, you try to convince the poster that what they thought about your book is not actually the case. They respond with more degradation. Suddenly, before you know it, you’ve posted some things you yourself aren’t very proud of. Worse yet, this troll has found a few friends–and now they are systematically ruining the rating of your book on Goodreads and tanking its star-rating on Amazon.
What can you do? Absolutely nothing, short of changing your name and moving out of the country. (Ha ha, just kidding… Although not about the changing-your-name bit. You might have to publish the next novel under a pseudonym. Seriously.) Does the above scenario sound ridiculous? Yeah, but the scary part is that it is all too common. Authors with big publishers behind them have the advantage of having someone to clean up these kinds of messes–or at least the funds to fix these faux-pas so that they don’t impact sales TOO drastically.
Chances are, you don’t have those kinds of people or funds at your disposal.
So the end of the story is, make sure that you are utilizing Social Media in the RIGHT ways. Do not accidentally make one ill-considered post on Facebook the downfall of your whole fledgling writing career. And secondly, don’t ignore EVERY negative comment as a troll looking for attention–if a certain comment seems to repeat itself or sticks out to you, it could really be an opportunity to fix your novel/s and make them better. So make a mental note and move on.
But never feed the trolls.