The Great Culling of 2017

By John Gilstrap

I came to an interesting realization this week: I’m afraid of my own Facebook Timeline.

Over the years, I’ve accepted friend requests pretty much as a matter of course, and now the majority of my “friends” are in fact strangers, among whom most are fans, or aspiring writers or friends of others who are.  It’s a little like walking out of your bedroom and finding the hallway populated by people you don’t recognize.

I’ve inadvertently allowed my Facebook Timeline to become a marketing platform for my books.  Consequently, I need to be circumspect about everything I post there, for fear of affecting my brand.  I don’t post adorable pictures of grand-nieces and nephews because it’s wrong to invite strangers into the lives of other family members.  It’s crazy.

I have an Author Page on Facebook for fans and potential fans, and it is designed to be a marketing and writer-education platform.  That’s where I post relevant items about my books and other projects, and a controlled stream of personal information about myself and my family–just not everything about us.  I try to display the me-I-am, but with some of the sharp edges dulled.

So, I have begun the Great Culling of 2017. My plan is to work my way through my Friends List and un-friend anyone whose hand I have not shaken, or with whom I have not had a personal conversation.  There will be some exceptions, of course, because I have become quite close with a number of online correspondents whom I’ve never met, and I welcome those people into my life.  Before un-friending them, though, I will send a message explaining why, and I’ll provide them a link to my author page.  I’ve already heard from a few “friends” who are pissed at being eased out of my house and into the yard, but most seem to understand.

What do you all think?  Is this a rude thing to do?  Is there a gentle way to tell loyal fans that as much as I love them, I don’t necessarily want them hanging out with the family and me?

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About John Gilstrap

John Gilstrap is the New York Times bestselling author of Lethal Game, Blue Fire, Stealth Attack, Crimson Phoenix, Hellfire, Total Mayhem, Scorpion Strike, Final Target, Friendly Fire, Nick of Time, Against All Enemies, End Game, Soft Targets, High Treason, Damage Control, Threat Warning, Hostage Zero, No Mercy, Nathan’s Run, At All Costs, Even Steven, Scott Free and Six Minutes to Freedom. Four of his books have been purchased or optioned for the Big Screen. In addition, John has written four screenplays for Hollywood, adapting the works of Nelson DeMille, Norman McLean and Thomas Harris. A frequent speaker at literary events, John also teaches seminars on suspense writing techniques at a wide variety of venues, from local libraries to The Smithsonian Institution. Outside of his writing life, John is a renowned safety expert with extensive knowledge of explosives, weapons systems, hazardous materials, and fire behavior. John lives in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

21 thoughts on “The Great Culling of 2017

  1. I don’t think it’s rude You’re being courteous in writing to people and explaining why they’re being unfriended – and you still have a professional page for people to maintain a connection with you as an author.

    That’s a great analogy about walking out into the hall and finding your house full of strangers. Your personal family life is different to your professional life and you’ve got every right to keep that private.

  2. I think a better way to meet your objective is to create a new “personal” Facebook page and start building a circle of family and friends who you actually know and have met (you do the friend requesting). My circle of friends include family, co-workers, folks I knew in high school and college, and folks I’ve met through the course of my life.

    If you do it that way, you don’t stand to lose anyone in your fanbase!

    It’s no different than someone who has opened up too much on their personal Facebook page and don’t want to interfere with their professional persona, so they create a business Facebook page and only post things about them which don’t include drunk photos from last weekend’s frat night. lol

    • I’ve already changed the name of my personal timeline to my initials instead of my name, but that doesn’t seem to help much. Thing is, I don’t want to have a John Doe page because I want to be visible to childhood buddies and former coworkers, etc. who haven’t found me yet.

  3. Do what you gotta do. I first unwillingly joined FB with the intention of it being an author based avenue, but ultimately, ended up loving FB as a way to stay in contact w/friends and family. At some point, when I’m actively authoring, I’m going to have to clean it up, but all my ‘friends” are people I know so I’m ok in that respect. But at some point, I’ll have to separate the 2 lives, just as you are doing.

  4. I write with a pen name and I have a Facebook fan page in that name. I have a profile under my real name. Most of my fans know my real name and have found me and become Facebook friends. Why and how? Because, the author side of me participates in Facebook groups of readers and authors including a few that are very active and not just places where authors post their books for sale. You can’t participate in groups from a fan page.

    I’d thought about creating a profile for my pen name, then I could move the fan ‘friends’ there but oh what a time suck that would be, having two profiles to maintain, plus the fan page and the other social networking I do.

    There’s no easy answer, is there?

  5. On my personal FB profile, I have a banner with clear instructions for readers who wish to ‘friend’ me, to follow me on my author profile where I talk books and fun stuff, with the link clearly visible. That seems to work.

    I culled my personal profile last year – and did the same to my author pages of people who had no interest in buying my books – and had immediate improved reader engagement on my posts.

    On my author pages I never talk religion or politics – it’s all about the characters in the books – and is a safe space for my readers and I to engage.

  6. I have a personal FB page as well as an author page. I simply set my personal page to custom posts, allowing only family and people who would help me hide a body to see anything I post on my regular profile. I do everything on my author page, with only the occasional “appropriate” posting on my personal page.

    When I get friend requests, I’ll usually accept them (getting close to the 5K limit, though) and send a message telling them they’re not going to see anything on that page, and to please like my author page to see what’s happening.

  7. I’m not a fan of Facebook but joined at my family’s request to share photos, etc.
    I don’t believe it’s rude to do some “spring cleaning” and have Facebook become a more meaningful tool for family, reserving the author portion for separate viewing.

  8. John, I’ve found myself in the same predicament, and thus far have dealt with it the way I sometimes deal with other thorny issues–by ignoring it. Despite my best efforts to direct fans who ask to be my Facebook friend to my fan page on FB, I still find my personal and fan page populations about evenly divided. I continue to post “writing stuff” on the fan page, and “non-writing stuff” on the personal page, afraid (or too lazy) to go through what you’re doing. But let us know how that works out. You may inspire some of us to go through the winnowing process.

  9. There is also an option to simply “Unfollow” someone, which keeps their posts from being surfaced so frequently, and reduces the visibility of your posts to them. I started unfriending people massively in 2016, but only in response to unpleasant or uncivil content in their posts.

  10. John – not rude at all. It’s very reasonable, actually.

    But perhaps consider viewing it this way, which is also reasonable: this is a bit like someone who puts up a billboard ad next to a freeway, with a phone number. The vendor then decides he/she won’t do any business with folks who haven’t called the number… yet. All of those who have noted the number, and are considering calling or using the service, or are simply liking the billboard (really, what harm is there in just that?) are now out of luck, seemingly discarded.

    So the question is: what is the objective of the FB page? If it is truly and solely to “be in relationship,” then fine, but realize you’ve put a timeline and criteria in place for doing so. Yours, not theirs. But if it is to allow people to discover you, learn about you, we aware of new stuff (new books, signings, etc.) and thus, become a fan or reader, you might be cutting off that access because they might not define the criteria for continuing “friend” status as you do.

    For people with a brand, FB is advertising. Pure and simple. Not a dating service. From square one, it’s there and available to connect with potential readers. It’s a win-win in that regard: new people find you, and readers find new authors to follow. All our readers don’t need to be interactive personal friends. Part of being a public “brand” includes revealing and sharing about yourself and your life (let’s just say, you know more about David Beckham, while he knows nothing at all about you… and that’s fine with both parties to the deal).

    Hope this helps, by at least putting forth another point of view.

    • Thanks, Larry.

      Historically, that’s exactly how I thought of my timeline. It was a socially acceptable way to yell, “Look at me! Look at me!” In fact, I try to be as open and honest as possible in all my public, whether real or virtual, and I’m willing to lose that degree of privacy in return for meaningful interaction with as many people as possible.

      The first inkling I had that there was in fact a line between real friends and virtual ones came this past January, after my wife had fallen and broken her wrist, and I posted pictures and an X-ray of her injury to my timeline. (We are blessed with a fairly extensive network of friends and family, and I knew they would want to be kept in the loop.) Among many well-wishers were a couple of people (fan-friends, not friend-friends) who took me to task for posting “gruesome” pictures (they weren’t), and making it clear that that’s not what they wanted from my timeline.

      The natural response would be, “Then why the hell are you on my timeline?” but I couldn’t do that because they had every right to their opinions, and they were, in fact, following me because they enjoy my books. Why do battle with a fan?

      In thinking this through, I realize that I’m the one who erred through this process. Over the past few years, I have been posting relevant book stuff not to my author page, but to my timeline. I made my timeline the more interesting place to go. I’m changing that now. I’m working hard to make my author page a go-to resource for people who want to know more about the writing side of my life, but who don’t need to see X-rays or pictures of little ones’ birthday parties that friend-friends would be interested in seeing.

      • First… so sorry to hear about your wife’s injury. Of course you’d want to keep friends and family posted. And anybody who would throw shade at you doing that… well, they’re out there, we’re stuck with them. Same folks who post 1-star reviews of the very best books out there.

        I’m taking a page from your book here. You’re spot-on: Writer page, personal page. Use personal page, in addition to being personal, as a place to refer “fans” of the work, where that’s the focus there. I’m fairly lame at FB, and not a huge fan (frankly, I’ve learned that FB is really a pretty lame place to promote anything; I have over 4000 “friends” and get maybe one or two “likes” when I post about a new KZ or Storyfix entry… I find myself sweating “likes,” but when I think about it, I’m embarrassed by even admitting that. So thanks for the counsel here. And best of luck with your new FB strategy, may it serve you well on both sides of that coin.

  11. It’s a slippery slope. I think you’ll anger more people than those who’ll understand. It’s only natural for a fan to become curious about their favorite author’s life. By cutting them off you’ll risk losing them as fans. Just my opinion, of course, but I wouldn’t dare do it. That said, unless someone specifically tells me they’ve read my books, or we have several people in common, I don’t accept their friend request. There’s too many lonely men on FB, who use it as a dating service.

    • Years ago, I did some work with Thomas Harris, of Hannibal Lecter fame. Over breakfast, we discussed a number of things, and when the time felt right I asked him why he chose to be such a recluse. Even in the height of his fame, he famously refused to be interviewed. His response was that mystery sells books, and by being reclusive, he made people more curious about him. He recommended that all thriller and mystery authors do the same.

      I often wonder what he thinks of the world’s current obsession with social media.

  12. I don’t think it’s rude at all. In a world of social media we need to separate our private lives with our writer lives. I think most readers/fans will be understanding of this.

  13. John,
    I think you’re doing the right thing. My day job is in the music industry. I know many very well known artists that all must have a Facebook page in 2017. Most of these artist’s pages are run by their management. For Instance, I doubt any fan of Adele is thinking they are going to personally interact with her on her official Facebook page. She may have a private page just for her family, but in her case I doubt it.

    If you have a professional page as an author or as any artist releasing creative work, fans should not be thinking they are going to engage in your personal life on that page. Engaging your writing or asking questions about your professional work etc. That is one thing, the level of which every author must decide on his/her own. That is a privilege for your fans, the level of which you decide. In essence It becomes a strategic or tactical marketing decision.

    I can’t stand the thought of having a personal Facebook page and don’t. It would not benefit me in any way.

    When my book is published I’ll have to decide how to proceed with a professional FB page and indeed all social media. It will be much more in line with how Adele’s is run.

  14. Another thing you might consider is creating a ‘restricted’ list which is a list where all friends in the list see the same thing as anything you post as “public”, therefore you will have a public filter and a real “friend” filter. Just move everyone that is not a “true” friend into the ‘restricted’ list. Problem solved. 🙂

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