I find myself hesitating to write what happened next in the Saga of SquirrelTerror. I don’t know if I’m ready. *looks thoughtful* It’s a sad tale, but I guess I should have thought of that when I started writing about the little fuzzballs.
Anyway. It’s Friday, and I haven’t done a Five Things post for a while. Here’s three things I wish aspiring authors wouldn’t do on social networking, and two I wish they would. All usual disclaimers and mileage-may-varies apply. Let’s start with the DO NOTs. (They’re more fun.)
Please, for the love of Crom, don’t:
* List yourself as “Author” in your name field. When I get a Facebook/Goodreads friend request from JANE SMITH, AUTHOR, or AUTHOR JOHN SMITH or JANE SMITH, WRITER, I wince and die a little inside. It has everything to do with my experience of 95% of those requests that I approve inevitably end up with me being spammed, repeatedly and at great length, with desperate self-promotion. It’s unprofessional and just plain annoying. So you’re a writer? Great. You’re newly-published? Double great. You’re self-pubbed? Okay. You don’t need to put it on that particular billboard. Put “writing” in your interests, put a link to your website in your profile, and start interacting like a human being instead of a marketing machine. Hysterical insistence that everyone call you AUTHOR X is not going to gain you an audience or endear you to other professionals. Interacting like a human being and sharing neat things takes you further in the long run.
* Hard sell or spam. I’ve covered this before, but it can always be said again. Spamming me with fifty links during the day about your NEW BOOK OMG, especially when I’ve just approved a friend request, is the way to get yourself unfriended in a hurry and put in that little mental drawer of “Oh, God, I never want to meet this person IRL.” I try to keep to 5-10% marketing at most on my social networking streams, with the rest being interaction and fresh content. I am willing to say one can go as high as 15% without driving away potential readers and professional acquaintances screaming. The trouble is, I see a lot of new/aspiring authors reversing those percentages, and then getting frustrated when they don’t see a return from all this effort. When it comes to this sort of thing, bigger is not better.
* Monopolize the conversation. This falls more under interpersonal faux pas than marketing disaster, but I’ve seen it so much I figure it counts. Even if you’re excited to be in a Google+ hangout or a Twitter conversation with another author, one you might be a fan of or who you might think is a potentially good contact, try not to make everything about you. Do not keep bringing the conversation around to You And Your Hobbyhorses. Don’t try to one-up with better stories. Don’t, for the love of Henrietta, talk over other people who might be shyer than you. Do not lecture, and do not get invested in “getting the last word.” Interact, certainly, but try to interact on the principle that you are interested in what the other people have to say. Not only will this make you look good, it gives you a higher chance of people wanting to talk to you more than once. They won’t run the other way when they see your name pop up onscreen. You will acquire precious reputation as someone who is actually fun to interact with, and that goodwill is worth GOLD.
And now, the Two Dos!
* Start as if you are a professional with a reputation to lose. From the very instant you step into the wide carpet of kittens and rainbows that is the Internet, you need to be prepared for the fact that it is public. Not only is it public, but if you make a misstep, it lingers. Everything you have written on the Internet is on someone’s server somewhere, and you do not have any goddamn control over it. Solution? From the very beginning, act as if you’re a professional, and think before you hit “send.” There may be things you feel strongly enough about to risk offending people over, but you want those things to be chosen with care and thought, not just mushrooming because you opened your stupid mouth one day and something fell out. If you have Silly Internet Things in your past, it’s never too late to say mea culpa, tighten your belt, and make the commitment to act like a reasonable professional from this moment forth. Also, remember: pseudonyms do not make you anonymous. You are NEVER really anonymous on the Internet, most especially if someone really truly wants to find you.
* Chill. You’re going to find things all over social media and the Internet that make you want to vomit. People will say things that make you want to scream. There will be so much stupid your eyes will bleed and it will BURN. But if you get all het up over every little thing, you will burn out your emotional insulation, your emotional energy, your stomach lining, and quite possibly fuse a couple synapses. There is stupid and nasty and bigoted all over the Internet, and you will not be able to slay that hydra. Plus, sooner or later someone is going to get pissed off and troll you. It is unavoidable, especially if you are a “public” person. Your best defense is to chillax and practice the art of Just Not Engaging, with a side order of Banning Where Possible. Not only will it save you a pretty penny in ulcer medication, but it also makes you look like the Bigger Person and makes the trolls writhe in agony because they’re Being Ignored. And really, what better revenge is there? (Answer in comments. Cheap story prompts FTW!)
There it is. Three and two make five, and I’m done dispensing Possibly-Useless Advice for the day. (Well, not really, but it sounds good.) Stay cool, my chickadees.
Over and out.