Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen I’m still here and this post is all about etiquette/netiquette. As authors we live and breathe our brand every day. It’s important that we remember that once we’ve posted something on the internet it never truly goes away. So for this post I am going to give a few hypothetical situations and the good, bad, and ugly of possible responses. Some of these occurred to me on my personal page, some in various groups, some I witnessed but had no part in, what they are is examples of how we should behave when on social media and the potential implications of not learning to control our fingers.
Scenario 1 – Political Discourse – Don’t share controversial opinions on your author page, under your author twitter handle, etc. I understand that you have an opinion, but like all opinions there are people who are guaranteed to disagree and it can have a negative impact on you. I don’t care how much you despise (fill with whatever your major pet peeve is), walk away, take a few deep breaths, meditate, punch a wall if you have to, but whatever you do don’t write that post, tweet that tweet, etc. Remember every mistake you make online is magnified. Every typo, every sexist/racist/political comment, every joke that falls flat, they all exist in the ether and will come back to bite you in the end.
Scenario 2 – Trolling. We all know what it is and what kind of drama it brings, but what do you do when you’re the target of trolls whether it be in writing forums, groups, or even reviews? Nothing. Take this saying to heart at all times when dealing with trolls. “Please don’t feed the animals”. Giving them a response is a validation of their behavior. Yes, ignoring them can make it worse, but try to always rise above and not stoop to their level. It is the only thing you can do. However, if someone is deliberately posting negative reviews via multiple profiles on a website (i.e. Amazon) you could always gather the proof you have and send it into the customer service abyss and hope for positive results. Remember that if the trolling gets to be too much for you, block the person and watch for sudden appearances of another troll when you’ve blocked the first. Keep a list of the names they use. You can always report them and hopefully it will stop problems even if only for a little while.
Scenario 3 – Review Swapping – This is something I see a lot. I’ve had authors that I beta read for ask me to post reviews on Amazon and Good Reads for them. I’ve had authors offer to review my book if I’d post a review on theirs. This one is an entirely personal decision, but I will tell you how I decided to deal with this. If someone I beta read for asks me to leave a review and I intend to purchase the book to read the final copy, I will leave an honest review (notice I didn’t say a good review). I will do this only after I have purchased and read the book and I leave a review as a reader/customer not as a beta reader/friend. As for review swaps, I will never do it. First of all, it’s misleading the customer. Second, it’s dishonest because you don’t want to leave a bad review in case they decide to retaliate (see trolling). Third, it’s a mockery of the review system. Customers read those reviews and make decisions based on what is written. Giving great reviews when one isn’t deserved insults the reader and authors alike. That’s just my two cents.
What should I do? In simplest terms, don’t do anything that will damage your reputation as an author and tarnish your brand. Don’t feed the trolls, don’t go on tirades about your opinions with regards to politics, religion, sexuality, race issues, etc. Make a decision about whether or not you’re going to do review swaps and stick to it, don’t make exceptions for friends. Most importantly remember that everything you do is very public and the person responsible for your brand is you. Don’t play the blame game, just accept that you will make mistakes and be ready to apologize.
Homework: Next post will be about blogging, what to post, how to post, and the etiquette of comments and follows. You might want to consider whether or not you are planning to blog and consider which platform you’re going to use. This homework is about experiencing the available options for blogging. It’s time to start getting your hands dirty, ladies and gentlemen. So get out there and explore the internet. Explore author pages in your genre see what works, what doesn’t, and start to create a mental image of what you want on your page.