The DOs and DON’Ts of Social Media

DOs and DON'Ts

Thanks to the internet, there are now a wide range of social media celebrities all seeking their claim to fame. With this influx of authors, YouTubers, podcasters, and bloggers, social media as a marketing platform has become more important than ever. Unfortunately, most people are ill-equiped to handle the attention and backlash that can come from posting their thoughts and opinions. In fact, these internet sensations can quickly lose followers and supporters with the most innocent of comments. I’m not afraid to say that I have stopped supporting a huge chunk of indie authors based solely on how they behave on FB.

With that said, below is a short list of basic DOs and DON’Ts when it comes to posting on social media. Most of these are geared more towards writers, but the basic principles still apply to most artistic mediums across the board. This list is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but will give some basic guidelines.

DO “like” other people’s posts, share posts, comment on posts, & be social with your network.

DON’T expect other people to “like”, comment, & share your posts when you can’t be bothered to do the same. Social media is a two way street. These days, people expect everyone in the entertainment biz to not only be accessible, but also to be socially involved with their audience.

DO celebrate your milestones & accomplishments with a happy dance or a quick status update.

DON’T keep a running tally on FB of your current Amazon ranking. Seriously. When was the last time you saw Anne Rice screenshot her Amazon ranking?

DO excuse yourself from social media when you have a family emergency or just need some “you” time.

DON’T use said emergency or hard times as an excuse to guilt-trip your audience into buying whatever it is you are selling. If you want a guaranteed way to cause people to black-list your ass, then start using a sob story as a business ploy.

DO get a second, third, or fourth job to help pay your bills.

DON’T use your passion as another business ploy to sell crap. Seriously. We all have bills to pay and we all want to use our talents & passions as a way to pay our bills. Even the brightest of celebrity stars had to work outside their passion to keep food in their stomachs while they pounded the pavement during their off time.

DO listen to veterans who have been in the industry. They are a wealth of information & can really help you along the way.

DON’T assume you know everything. Even veterans can learn something new.

DO treat others with kindness.

DON’T be a total jerk when you disagree with someone. You never know who is actually behind that computer screen or how much pull they have in the real world.

DO help others out.

DON’T be a jackass & only help those who help you first. You never know when that person you helped might suddenly have some serious pull in your industry & can in turn help make your dreams a reality.

DO share content from 3rd party sources.

DON’T make self-promotion your only interaction.

DO post your material in FB groups & communities according to their guidelines.

DON’T post promotional links to your own material on other people’s FB walls without asking permission. Their FB wall is their space. It’s considered rude and greatly frowned upon.

If you do not want links and tags to appear on your wall without checking them out first, DO set your FB settings so link posts & tags will have to be approved prior to them appearing on your FB wall.

DON’T go psycho on someone when they post a link on your FB wall. Quietly remove it if you don’t want it there and adjust your FB settings. Going off the deep end will only cause people to stop supporting you.

DO set up auto-replies on Twitter, but DON’T include a promotional link unless you are offering a freebie. In the case of bands, DON’T have every band member using the same auto-reply.

DO thank your audience and your followers. They are the only reason why you are still participating in your chosen line of entertainment.

DON’T be a jerk to your fans and ignore them. Again, these days people expect celebrities to be accessible and to actually converse with their audience. Nothing will cause supporters to turn against you quicker than for you to act like your fans owe you something.

DO share your opinion with tact and respect.

DON’T attack someone for sharing their opinion. Better yet, don’t share any type of hot-topic opinion at all. It’s safer.

It Only Takes ONE

For the last three years, the VP of my department at my Evil Day Job has been forwarding newsletters from motivational speaker Jon Gordon. Every time one of these newsletters comes into my email box, I eagerly read it from beginning to end. While most of what Jon writes and speaks about does not translate well into the publishing world, I always strive to find that one kernel of truth that holds even in this fickle industry. In fact, Jon’s ideas and words of wisdom have sparked more than a few blog posts of my own, and today’s is no different.

I have noticed a very distinct increase in the number of self-published “writers” over the past two years. I have only to scroll through my FaceBook newsfeed to see that approximately half of the 4000 people on my friends’ list considers themselves a writer, most of which have at least one novel self-published through Amazon or are working on their first novel that they plan to self-publish. One would think that being around that many creative minds would be conducive to helping a writer stay on track and do what they do best – write.

Unfortunately, as I have discovered so many times in the past, being around writers is actually counterproductive for a lot of us. We tend to measure our own successes by how much other writers have accomplished. It’s disheartening for most of us. Who wouldn’t be discouraged when they have a half-dozen projects going at once with no tangible goal other than to actually get one of them finished sometime in the next six months, while their newsfeed is filled with writers who have churned out their fifth book in as many months. Sure, we all know that we shouldn’t measure our own successes by those of others’, especially when we know what type of quality most of these “writers” are producing.  But when you are bombarded by this information in virtually every other post in your newsfeed, it makes it extremely difficult to not feel at least the tiniest twinge of inadequacy creeping in.

Then today, I had this wonderful piece of advice from Jon fill my inbox, and I realized that what I have been telling other writers for so many years still rings just as true not only in the writing world, but in the business world as well:

Sell without selling out. Focus more on your core principles and customer loyalty than short term commissions and profits.


For years I have told budding young authors that they don’t want to write a word-vomit book, the self-published equivalent of a mercenary writer, those writers who focus more on quantity than quality. A word-vomit book is just that, a book that someone vomited words onto a page without so much as a single rewrite and little to no edits.  These types of books are generally seen the most in categories that contain a propositionately  larger number of sales than other categories, such as erotica. These types of writers will churn out large quantities of sub-par reading material in an attempt to keep a steady stream of royalties in their bank account. These types of writers rarely make any type of real name for themselves.

As I like to say, such writers are “selling out” their readers by offering them mediocre plotlines when they could have just as easily spent the required time to polish it to perfection. Consider this, Harper Lee only ever published one book in her life, and that book has become one of the single most read books of all time. It is a timeless classic, required reading material in half of the nation’s schools and banned by the other half. That is no small feat, especially these days. And while no one may know the author’s name, they have most definitely heard of the book.

I remember a fellow author friend posting on FB that in this day and age, a writer cannot just produce one book a year and expect to make any money. You have to keep churning out dozens of books to keep your name out there.

I find so many faults in this statement. It only takes ONE really great book to make a name for yourself in the writing world. And you have to ask yourself, do you want to be remembered for producing thirty mediocre books, or for producing that one book that is read for generations to come, the type of story and characters that stay with your readers regardless of how many other books they read? There are over 1.5 billion English speaking readers on this planet. You will make more money by selling one really great book to a few million of them than you will trying to market dozens of crap-tacular books that will only sell a few dozen copies each at most.

This is another reason why I love this wonderful piece of positive wisdom. So many writers are focused only on getting the next book out, to do a massive launch and sell as many books as they can the first week or two. And once they see their sales start to tank, they immediately start writing the next mediocre piece of word vomit and wonder why no one outside of their base 100 fans are buying. It never occurs to them that there are literally MILLIONS of readers out there that have yet to be exposed to their works. And if they did not spend the time and energy to produce the absolute best piece of literary work they are capable of, it does not matter how many books they produce, it only takes a reader getting hold of just ONE badly written book and they will never read another book by that author again.

The good news is that it only takes a reader getting hold of just ONE really great book by an author to keep that reader coming back again and again, even if it does take you a year to produce your next book. It is for this reason that while I continue to write and do a bit of marketing for each new release, I only really do heavy marketing for ONE of my books. Those who already know about my work stay in touch and eagerly snatch up the next release, but for those who have yet to discover my vivid imagination, I try to captivate them with only ONE book, and once they take a look around, they will see that I offer a wide range of books and adventures.

It only takes one. This is my motto for everything. It only takes ONE good book to make a name for myself. It only takes ONE reader talking about my book to spread the word. And it only takes ONE badly written book to turn off a reader forever.

My advice to authors is to start using this same philosophy. Stop trying to churn out an endless stream of sub-par books. Concentrate on creating just ONE really awesome book, and market that book far and wide. And once that ONE book has become a household name, you can start working to make another one of your books into a household name. Keep writing, and treat all your books as if it is going to be that ONE truly great book. When you do this, one day you will realize that you have a half-dozen really great books, and any ONE of them can help cement your name in the history books.

Tearing Down the Walls – Privacy in Writing

A reader of mine, who is also a writer, brought up a very interesting point.  He said, “When I tell someone that I am a writer, there is an instantaneous loss of privacy.”  Those words really struck home for me.  As a writer of erotic fantasy, there is a reason why I do not tell people that I am an author.  (see article “Why People Don’t Know that I am an Author” )  For me, it is really hard trying to explain to people exactly what I write about (mostly taboo fantasy fiction) and how/why I got started in this particular genre.  Reading those words of a fellow writer made me start thinking about all the reasons why people don’t want to confess their profession/hobby/passion, and why, once they do, they no longer have any type of privacy when it comes to their writing lives.

I cannot speak for all writers, but I can give you the rundown on how I lose privacy when I admit that I write.  First off, for some reason, people have a tendency to look at me funny when I say, “Yeah, I write.”  It’s almost like they are sizing me up.  I can almost see the gears turning in their heads.  What does she write about?  Does she do freelance from home?  How come I have never heard of her?  Is she any good?  It’s like they are trying to decide if they want to ask me anything about it or not.  If they are genuinely interested, then they usually ask.  It is these people who end up knowing a lot more about how my mind works than they really wanted to know, or that I wanted them to know.

The first question out of a person’s mouth is, “What do you write about?”  Well, if you happen to write news articles or fashion articles or articles on money or just about anything in the nonfiction genre then you will not likely have the scenario I am about to describe.  But as soon as I tell them, “I write fantasy fiction” they look at me like I had not gotten the memo that I was an adult.  In other words, people seem to associate “fantasy” stories with children and teenagers so obviously anyone who writes about fantasy is nothing more than an overgrown child.  They may be thinking that I am not that smart since I write about things that are not based in reality.  Now if I had told them I wrote children’s books they would want to know where they could pick up my latest creation.  But as soon as they heard the word “fantasy” they started making the following associations:

1.  She’s not very smart since she writes about things that do not actually exist.

2.  If she’s writing about make-believe things then she’s obviously immature and acts/thinks like a child.

3.  She’s not that talented because if she were then she would have a respectable job at a magazine or newspaper.

Already I have people making judgments about me based solely on the genre I choose to explore.  Now imagine the looks on their faces when I tell them the rest of the story, “Um, yeah, I don’t just write fantasy fiction, I actually write erotic fantasy fiction.”

Two things will now happen.  First, I went from being an addle-brained nitwit without any talent and a Peter Pan complex to being a sexual deviant who needs to be locked away in a jail cell for the next fifty years.  Now they really think that I have no talent because no one in their right minds with any talent what-so-ever would ever voluntarily write anything erotic, right?  Next they are going to start telling everyone who will listen to keep their kids away from my kids and to stay away from me because obviously anyone who writes about that stuff thinks about it all the time.  So now I’m not just a no-talented nitwit, but I’m a perverted, sexually deviated no-talented nitwit. 

Second, if the person who finds this out is male, the first thing that pops into his mind is that I must be a slut and will want to have sex with anyone at anytime.  After all, anyone who writes about it must think about it all the time and obviously must want it all the time as well.  Not to mention that anyone with that kind of imagination must be into some really kinky stuff.  Cue the stares, the propositions, the “accidental” brushing against of parts of my body that I will not mention.  For some reason, when men hear the words ‘erotic writer’ they seem to think they are getting a green light to hit on me.

Well obviously people are idiots.  Okay, so not really.  But what they are is very judgmental.  It’s only natural for them to fear or avoid what they do not understand.  And unless you are a writer, you will not understand that writing erotica is like writing any other form of creative literature.  I’m always so wrapped up in trying to get the wording just right that I cannot just sit down and just enjoy the story for what it is.  Because, what it is, for me at least, is a piece of literary art. 

I think this bothers me the most.  If someone goes to a museum and looks at a nude painting, they recognize it as “art.”  The same cannot be said if that same person then reads an erotic fantasy story.  They do not recognize, or understand that, for the writer, what was created was art.  To put it into everyday terms, an OB-GYN stares at female genitalia every day, but they certainly don’t go around being sexually aroused 24-7.  Why?  Because they look at it not from a sexual point of view but from a scientific point of view.  The same can be said for a photographer or painter who is capturing the nude form.  They look at it from an artist’s perspective.  Writers are no different.  Our medium of creation is just a little bit different from a painter or a photographer.

Letting others know that you are a writer means you have to let them into your world.  You have to try to explain to them that writing is an art form.  Then you will be judged based not only on what genre you choose to explore, but also on the simple fact that you are a writer.  They will gain insight into how your mind works and how you view the literary world.  They will almost certainly see you in a new light.  For better or worse, once people know you are a writer, your writing world and the creativity behind it will no longer be a private thing shared between you and your fans. 

If the person in question should happen to actually read something that you wrote, then they will have even more information about how your mind and creativity work.  Which is scary for me, actually.  On second thought, them thinking that I am a no-talented nitwit is preferable than what they may think of me after reading the filth that I have created.

And then again, they may become my new best friend.

Why People Don’t Know that I am an Author

Another blogger brought up a very interesting point.  She pondered the question of why writers have a tendency to freeze up, lie, stutter, or, in essence, deny that they are writers. 

When someone asks me what I do, I don’t immediately shout “AUTHOR!” because of two very important reasons.  First, I have an evil day job.  Writing isn’t a “hobby,” it’s my life’s calling.  But since I have bills to pay, a roof to keep over my family’s head, and children to feed, I cannot rely on my one true passion in life to keep my family from starving.  So I just don’t bring it up.  And the 2nd reason why I don’t shout it to the stars, and perhaps the most important reason, is that all my published works have been written under a pen name.  Most people don’t even know what a pen name is.  I’d have to start off the conversation explaining what a pen name is and why authors use them.   And if I said, “Oh, yeah, I’m an author!” instead of saying, “I’m the manager for XYZ Company” then I have people wanting to know what I write.  So the explanation begins all about how I write erotic fantasy.  Cue the funny stares.  Questions continue about if I have anything in publication, what did I get published, what is it about, etc.  And finally I have to explain why they have never heard of my pen name, etc. 

Then there is the fact that I live square in the middle of the bible belt.  Somehow I don’t think telling people that I write erotic fantasy fiction is going to go over too well with the neighbors.  It brings up the problems of parents not wanting their children near my house because they, the parents,  cannot seem to separate fact (what actually does go on in my home) from the fantasies that I write about.  Let’s not leave out the problems it would bring up for me at work since I actually do have an evil day job.  And I’m not even going to get into the whole thing about how men seem to think that a woman writing erotic fantasy fiction is an open invitation to hit on them.

I see being an author as a lot like being a spy.  I wouldn’t announce to the whole world that I am a spy.  And as a writer who publishes under a pen name, I am not going to try to explain to perfect strangers what my pen name is, what I write about, and give them a detailed list of what is published where.  The only people who matter, my friends, family, and most importantly, my fans, already know who I am and what I do.  Trying to convince someone outside that loop that I am just as good as I say I am (and not in any way morally damaged) is pretty redundant.  It’s just easier to leave it out of the conversation.  And if I think that I absolutely have to explain myself to them, it’s much more rewarding to pull out my latest novel, autograph it for them, and hand it over with a smile.