Social Media Etiquette: 15 Dos and Don’ts for Authors

by Anne R. Allen

Note from Jodie: I’m just heading home from presenting at Word on the Lake Writers’ Festival all weekend (2 workshops, panel, blue pencil sessions), so humorous author and award-winning blogger AAnne Allen_e-agenne R. Allen has graced us with her wit and wisdom today. Take it away, Anne!

Thanks, Jodie. It’s a pleasure to be a guest on TKZ.

“Authors behaving badly” tends to be a hot topic on booky forums and blogs these days. A lot of people blame the indie movement, but some of the worst social media behavior I’ve seen comes from traditionally published authors who are following the dictates of their marketing departments.

Unfortunately, a lot of marketers seem to have studied their craft at the “let’s cold-call random strangers just as they sit down to dinner” school of salesmanship.

As a general rule, I feel if someone has the social graces of a rabid squirrel, he’s probably not the guy to listen to on the subject of winning friends and influencing people—which is what social media is all about.

We need to keep in mind that social media isn’t about numbers, no matter how numbers-oriented your marketing department squirrels are. Social media is about making actual friends, not about mass-“friending” a horde of random strangers.

You’ll make a lot more real friends and sell a lot more books in the long run if you heed the following dos and don’ts.

1) DO remember Tweets are casual: Never tweet a query—not to an agent, reviewer, blogger or editor.

2) DON’T post advertising on anybody’s Facebook “wall.”  A person’s wall is how they present themselves to the world. When you plaster the cover of your book on their timeline you seriously mess with their brand.

Posting on somebody’s wall is like putting a sign in the front window of their house. Don’t do it without permission. This is true for pleas to sign petitions or donate to charities, no matter how worthy the cause.

3) DO use social media to interact with people, not to broadcast a never-ending stream of “buy my book” messages.

People whose Twitter stream is the identical promo tweet over and over look like robots with OCD. They will only get followed by other compulsive robots.

Twitter is a place to give congrats to a newly agented writer here or a contest winner there. It’s a wonderful vehicle for getting quick answers to questions. Or to commiserate when you’ve had a disappointment. Or if you’ve found a great book you love, tweet it.

Social Media is a party, not a telemarketing boiler room.

4) DON’T put somebody on an email list who didn’t sign up for it. ONLY send newsletters to people you have a personal connection with, or who have specifically asked to be on your list. Lifting email addresses from blog commenters without permission is considered especially heinous. Cue Law and Order music…

5) DO use Direct Messages sparingly. And never automate DMs. Private messages are for personal exchanges with people you have a legitimate connection with—not for advertising or begging for money. The fact somebody has followed or friended you back doesn’t give you license to send them advertising through a private message. This is especially true with “thank you for the follow” messages that come with a demand to “like” your author page, visit your blog and buy your products.

6) DON’T forget to check your @ messages on Twitter several times a day and respond to them. It only takes a moment, but those are people reaching out to you. Ignoring them will negate what you’re doing on Twitter in the first place.

 7) DO change the Facebook default “email” address to your actual email address. You are on social media to connect with people. Post a reliable way to connect—which that Facebook address isn’t.

8) DON’T forget to check your “Other” Folder on Facebook regularly. People who want to contact you for legitimate reasons may contact you through a Direct Message, but if they’re not on your “friend” list, the message goes into your “other” file.

A lot of FB users don’t even know it’s there.

If you’ve never heard of it, go to your home page and click on the message button on the left side of the toolbar (It’s the one in the middle, between friend requests and notifications.) They’re semi-invisible if you don’t have anything pending, so if it’s all blank up on the left side of that blue toolbar at the top of the page, move your mouse slightly to the right of the Facebook logo in white and click around.

Mostly your “Other” file will be full of spam and hilarious messages from guys with poor language skills who think Facebook is a dating site. But nestled in there you may find a note from a fan or a fellow author who wants to co-promote or is asking you to join a blog hop or something useful. So do check it once a week or so.

9)  DO post links to your website on all your social media sites. And have your contact info readily accessible on your site! Being paranoid on social media makes your presence pointless. Even if you’re on the lam, incarcerated, and/or in the Witness Protection Program, you need to be reachable if you want a career. Use a pen name and get a dedicated email address where you can be reached at that Starbucks in Belize. 

10) DON’T “tag” somebody unless they’re actually in the picture. This is an unpleasant way some writers try to get people to notice their book or Facebook page. They’ll post their book cover or some related photo (or worse, porn) and “tag” 50 random people so they’ll all get a notification.

But here’s the thing: a tag means a person is in the photo. Full stop. Yes, you may get a person’s attention with this—but not in a good way. Remember you’re trying to get people to like you, not wish for you to get run over by a truck.

11) DO Network with other writers in your genre. Joining up with other authors to share fans and marketing is one of the reasons you’re on social media. You’re not here to sell to other authors, but you are here to pool your resources.

12) DON’T thank people for a follow, especially on Twitter. It may seem like bad manners, but the truth is most people on Twitter and FB would prefer you DON’T thank them for a follow. That’s because those thank-yous have become 99% spam. If your inner great aunt won’t let you rest without sending a thank-you note for every follow, send it in an @ tweet.

If you actually want to show gratitude, retweet one of their tweets. Then maybe they’ll thank YOU and you can get a conversation going. 

13) DO talk about stuff other than your book. Yes, we’re all here because we want to sell books, but social media is not about direct sales. It’s about getting to know people who might help you make a sale sometime in the future. Consider it a Hollywood cocktail party. You don’t launch into your audition piece every time you’re introduced to a film executive. You schmooze. You tell them how great their last picture was. You find them a refill on the champagne. You get them to LIKE you. Then you might get asked to audition in an appropriate place.

14) DO Read the directions. If you’re invited to join a group, and you’re instructed to put links to your books only in certain threads, do so.  Anything else will be treated as spam and you could get kicked out of the group. And don’t dominate any site with your personal promos, even if it isn’t expressly forbidden in the rules. Taking more than your share of space is rude. People don’t like rude.

15) DON’T ever respond to a negative review or disrespect a reviewer online.

  • Not in the Amazon or Goodreads comments.
  • Not on your Facebook page
  • Not on their blog.
  • Or yours.

And especially don’t Tweet it.

If you get a nasty, unkind review, step away from the keyboard. Go find chocolate. And/or wine. Call your BFF. Cry. Throw things. Do NOT turn on your computer until you’re over it. Except maybe to see these scathing reviews of great authors. Getting a bad review means you’ve joined a pretty impressive club.

If you break this rule, you can face serious consequences. So many authors have behaved badly in the past that Amazon has sprouted a vigilante brigade that can do severe damage to your career if you get on their poop list.

In my forthcoming mystery novel, SO MUCH FOR BUCKINGHAM: The Camilla Randall Mysteries #5, an author breaks this rule and ends up being terrorized—online and off—with death and rape threats, destruction of her business, hacking her accounts, and other horrors.

This isn’t so farfetched. I know authors who have gone through this, for much smaller offenses than my heroine. There are some terrifying vigilantes in the book world who don’t just fight fire with fire. They fight a glow-stick with a nuclear bomb.

So ignore these rules at your peril, or you could be designated a “Badly Behaving Author” and become another of their victims.

What about you? Have you been making any of these faux pas? (I’m not going to claim I haven’t. We were all newbies once.) Do you have any funny “Other” folder encounters you want to share? Any do’s and don’ts of your own would you’d like to add? 

Anne R. Allen is an award-winning blogger and the author of eight comic novels Anne Allen_ARA roseincluding the bestselling Camilla Randall Mysteries, plus a collection of short fiction and poetry. She’s also co-author of How to be a Writer in the E-Age: a Self-Help Guide, with NYT bestseller Catherine Ryan Hyde.

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Loose Lips

It was revealed this week that a mystery novel titled The Cuckoo’s Calling and written by Robert Galbraith was in fact authored by someone named J.K. Rowling, whose name in the author’s slot on a book has been enough to cause children and their parents to line up in front of bookstores at midnight. The news leaked as the result of a Twitter tweet and spread very quickly. After the dust settled and the smoke cleared a book which had sold a few hundred copies since its publication in late April 2013 suddenly became very much in demand. Rowling, her publicist, and any number of people were accused of having leaked the true identity of the author to the world in an effort to boost sales of the book. It was revealed yesterday, however, that the cause of the leak was an attorney in the employ of the law firm which handles Rowling’s literary business. As an attorney myself, I’m embarrassed.

One of the things that is drummed into young skulls full of mush in law school, and thereafter in countless continuing legal education courses, is something called “client confidentiality.” Most people are familiar with the concept, at least in passing. It’s simple enough: if you tell your attorney something they take it to their grave. Believe me, attorneys hear some very interesting things. Not all of us represent someone on the order of J.K. Rowling, but there are any number of times that someone has told me something within ten minutes after sitting down in front of me that they’ve never told anyone else. What I’m told often comes under the heading of “too much information,” and occasionally I pray for selective amnesia, but that’s the way it goes.  Whatever I’m told,  however, stops with me, even in general terms. For but one example: if one practices family law and the next door neighbor comes to the office to discuss a possible divorce action, one does not go home and tell their spouse, “Guess who came in and talked to me today!” and give the spouse five guesses where the first six don’t count, all the while gesturing toward the house next door. The confidentiality, by the way, belongs to the client; to continue with the example, if the next door neighbor wants to tell the world who they consulted about a divorce, and what was discussed, that is their privilege. It doesn’t release the attorney, however, from the obligation of client confidentiality. Only the client can do that at their discretion and pleasure. Client confidentiality obtains in the state where I practice whether the prospective client ultimately retains the attorney or not. The “give me a dollar and I can’t discuss this with anyone else” is a great device to build suspense in a book, but it doesn’t apply in the real world. This makes sense. A prospective client has to be able to speak freely — spill their guts, as it were — so that the attorney can properly evaluate the case, make recommendations, and decide whether to represent the individual or recommend that they go elsewhere.

In Rowling’s case, the firm handling her legal matters with respect to her publishing — Russells — issued a terse though ultimately self-serving statement to the effect that Chris Gossage, a firm partner, had disclosed the information about Galbraith’s true identity to his “wife’s best friend” who ultimately tweeted her newly found knowledge to the world. Russells additionally stated that Gossage had made the disclosure “in confidence to someone he trusted implicitly.” This is a round-about way of assuming responsibility but not taking blame. It’s nonsense. An attorney receiving knowledge in confidence cannot subsequently disclose that knowledge to a third party in confidence. The information stops within the confines of the four walls of the office.

Rowling I am sure had her reasons for  wishing to preserve her anonymity with respect to her authorship of The Cuckoo’s Calling. I don’t know what they might have been, and though I’m curious, it ultimately makes no difference. She doesn’t even need a reason. If you make a disclosure to your attorney the walls go up. That increase in sales of The Cuckoo’s Calling which occurred after Rowling’s confidentiality was breached is irrelevant. My gut instinct is that Rowling would have been much happier if the sales of the book had remained where they were and the secret of her identity had been preserved.

I’m unhappy about this, for so many reasons. So please. Make me laugh. Tell me the best lawyer joke you know.

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Like Sugar on a Sidewalk

I’m still in the process of digesting Jordan Dane’s excellent tutorial on using Twitter as a publicity tool and raising one’s profile. I recently witnessed the end result of how all of this — Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook, oh my — works, and it was a sight to behold, believe me.
My daughter is a huge fan of the British boy band One Direction. If you are older than fifteen, you may not have heard of them, but the band is huge: they sold out their 2012 tour in around an hour, and they weren’t playing coffeehouses venues, nor were the ticket prices of the “one dollar and a can of food” variety, either. 1D, as they are affectionately known to their fans, skipped Columbus, Ohio this year (they’ll visit during their 2013 tour, which, btw, is also sold out) so we obtained tickets to the Charlotte, NC performance and tacked it on to the back end of a family vacation. The Family Hartlaub stayed at a Hyatt next to the venue, so that daughter and mom could easily walk to the concert without the assistance of their slovenly father and husband. I also thought that there was a chance that the band might obtain lodging at the same hotel; alas, such was not to be. But, but.
On the afternoon before the evening’s performance someone posted a photo at Tumblr and Twitter purporting to show one of the 1D lads in the lobby of a Charlotte hotel with yellow walls. I started googling and was able to narrow the locale down to four hotels in the immediate area, including the Charlotte Omni, just up the street. We headed out about 3:00 PM and started walking up the street when two jet black buses pulled up in front of the Omni. My daughter yelled, “IT’S THEIR TOUR BUS!” and went running up the street, tweeting madly as she ran. In seconds, and I mean seconds, what had been a quiet and relatively deserted intersection in uptown Charlotte became a mob scene of screaming teenage girls. It was as if someone had dropped sugar on a sidewalk in the summer: every ant in the vicinity immediately gets the message. I know, I know, John Gilstrap gets that reaction everywhere he goes, but still. It was unreal, and all because my daughter, and no doubt, a few others, sent the word out to all of their sister fans that 1D was in the Omni and would be exiting shortly. They eventually did, and it was tumultuous.
But wait, there’s more. My daughter posted one of the two thousand or so pictures which she took during the 1D concert and posted it to her Tumblr account. Someone blogged about it, and someone else tweeted about it, and by day’s end her picture had five thousand hits. The count has been increasing exponentially since then.
Your results may vary. I would love to see an author (in addition to the aforementioned John Gilstrap) get such a result from their fan base (“Jordan D. just wlked out 2 get hr mail! LOL!”). We don’t live in a world where authors are subjected to that sort of mob adulation for the most part, and more is the pity; but in these days where more and more authors are going it alone, it is certainly an effective way to get the word out about anything.  I’m going to spend the rest of this weekend working my way through Jordan’s directions; if you’re at all interested in using this tweeting tool as a means of self-promotion, you will want to do the same.
A postscript to the trip: in the middle of all of the chaos outside of the Omni my wife found an sD data card on the sidewalk. I loaded it up, hoping for…well, never mind what I was hoping for. What it contained were what appear to be vacation photos of a trip to Mexico and involving two families. The pictures were taken in December 2011; the families look like they might be linked by two sisters; and I would love to get this card back to the rightful owner. I have already posted this on several sites designed for reuniting lost cameras and such with their owners, and thought I would try this as well. If you’re reading this, and you know of someone who has been on vacation six months ago or so and lost their photos of the trip, send them my way @josephhartlaub or josephhartlaubatgmaildotcom.  I might be able to make them happy.
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Essential Twitter Hashtags for Authors, Readers and Publishing Industry Professionals

Twitter can feel like screaming into the void until you get a feel for the Twitterverse. If you tweet using a link to your blog post or website to draw traffic, you can check your blog or website stats to track the traffic from that link. Using Twitter in the right way can enhance your promo, but if you aren’t maximizing your tweets with hashtags, you’re not being as effective as you can be. That’s a waste of your precious time that you can’t afford. Here’s why:

It can take time to build Twitter followers. You can have 100 followers, but if you understand the use of hashtags, you can get beyond your followers to a much larger online community. By using the Hashtag symbol #, you can connect with readers, tap into people following a particular topic, search for the latest in a book genre, look for industry advice or read about book recommendations. Even if you have many followers, by using the right hashtag, you can target your post to a specific audience that’s looking for what you have to tweet about.
Hashtags can also be used to promote a certain product brand, like #Kindle or #Nook. It can also be used to tap you into certain experts, like #AskAgent or #AskEditor. A fun way hashtags are used is punctuation to a joke or use of sarcasm, like tweeting ‘Snooki did another beach face plant #awkward.’

To keep up with the latest in hashtags or look up ones you don’t understand, go to #TagDef. Below is a really good list to start with hashtags geared for authors, readers, and industry topics.

Target Other Authors

  • #AmWriting
  • #AmEditing
  • #BookMarket (Every Thursday, 4 PM, ET)
  • #IndieAuthors
  • #LitChat (Every M/W/F)
  • #MemoirChat (Bi-weekly Wednesday, 8 PM, ET)
  • #WordCount
  • #WritersLife
  • #WriteChat
  • #WriteTip
  • #WriterWednesday (or #WW)
  • #WritingParty
  • #WritingTip
  • #YALitChat

Target Book Genres

  • #RomanceWriter
  • #SciFiChat
  • #KidLitChat
  • #RWA (Romance Writers of America)
  • #ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers)
  • #MGLit (Middle Grade Lit)
  • #SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators)
  • #MemoirChat

Identify Industry Information

  • #AskAgent
  • #AskAuthor
  • #AskEditor
  • #GetPublished
  • #PromoTip
  • #SelfPublishing
  • #Publishing
  • #EBooks
  • #IndiePub (or #IndiePublishing)
  • #BookMarketing

Goals Setting Specifics

  • #WritingPrompt
  • #StoryStarter
  • #WordAThon
  • #Creativity
  • #WIP (work in progress)
  • #1K1H (write one thousand words in one hour)

Target Readers

  • #FridayReads
  • #BookGiveaway
  • #Giveaway
  • #Kindle
  • #MustRead
  • #Nook
  • #Ebook
  • #LitChat
  • #StoryFriday
  • #MustRead

After this TKZ Twitter Tutorial, I thought it might be fun to launch a Twitter FollowFest. If you are interested in building your Twitter Followers, use the LINKY TOOL below and enter your twitter account for others to follow. Anyone wanting to participate can enter their Twitter link and auto-follow those on the list we’ll create. This link will only be open for a limited time.
Support your fellow TKZers.

Here is the Linky Tool:

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See Me, Touch Me, Feel Me


Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits. I was doing the former on the Thursday last, wondering how I was going to fill my Saturday space, when my UPS delivery man (one of God’s truly good people) provided me with the answer. It came in an over-sized black padded envelope, and didn’t feel quite like a book, even though it bore a return address from the fine folks at HarperCollins. I was able to open it after a bit of struggle and the deployment of a knife, scissors, and a flamethrower (in that order). Demonspawn, our family cat, immediately appropriated the envelope, and was last seen attempting to contact his darkworld masters through the closed end; I took possession of the contents. These consisted of an oversized milk carton and a mass market paperback titled “and she was” by Alison Gaylin. The milk carton is a four-sided advertisement for the book.  My initial reaction was, “What the fu-heck is this?” My second was, “This is pretty cool.” I have been described as easily amused, and hard to impress. This little bit of advertising slight-of-hand, worthy of Donald Draper, managed to do both.
The conventional wisdom is that you’ve got to get out on social networks, groom and cultivate your website,  and make friends with a fourteen year old to show you how to use Twitter if you want your book to have a chance of getting noticed, let alone of selling copies.  And it’s probably true. But this milk carton as marketing tool is retro thinking out of the box. “and she was” concerns a missing child, and indeed, there is a picture of the child on one side of the carton. The other sides contain blurbs from Harlan Coben, Laura Lippman, Lee Child, and Lisa Gardner; an essay from Ms. Gaylin about Hyperthymestic Syndrome, an element which figures prominently in the book; and some bullet-point marketing information with a photo of the book cover.  
Expensive marketing? Sure. But. The milk carton is our new kitchen table centerpiece. Unlike Facebook and websites and Twitter and the like one can pick it up and touch it and be reminded of the fact that the book is out there and for sale and there’s a copy of it sitting nearby, waiting to be read.  No one has asked me to review the book, but of course this is what the whole package is all about. And the premise certainly looks intriguing. Hyperthymestic Syndrome involves the ability of a person so afflicted to remember, in full, any given day of their life, with all five senses. If I had learned of the book via e-mail there is a 50-50 chance I would have read it. Send me a milk carton, and I’m your loving baby boy.  I’m going to read “and she was” and I’m going to review it.
Am I old-fashioned? Or is there a marketing genius at HarperCollins who is taking us back to the future? If we all are using Facebook and Twitter and e-mail blasts to hawk our wares, are we making their particular needles stand out? Or are we all busily building a brand new huge haystack in cyberspace? And does it mean that to really, really make your book stand out, it is going to take more money than ever  to do so?
0

See Me, Touch Me, Feel Me


Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits. I was doing the former on the Thursday last, wondering how I was going to fill my Saturday space, when my UPS delivery man (one of God’s truly good people) provided me with the answer. It came in an over-sized black padded envelope, and didn’t feel quite like a book, even though it bore a return address from the fine folks at HarperCollins. I was able to open it after a bit of struggle and the deployment of a knife, scissors, and a flamethrower (in that order). Demonspawn, our family cat, immediately appropriated the envelope, and was last seen attempting to contact his darkworld masters through the closed end; I took possession of the contents. These consisted of an oversized milk carton and a mass market paperback titled “and she was” by Alison Gaylin. The milk carton is a four-sided advertisement for the book.  My initial reaction was, “What the fu-heck is this?” My second was, “This is pretty cool.” I have been described as easily amused, and hard to impress. This little bit of advertising slight-of-hand, worthy of Donald Draper, managed to do both.
The conventional wisdom is that you’ve got to get out on social networks, groom and cultivate your website,  and make friends with a fourteen year old to show you how to use Twitter if you want your book to have a chance of getting noticed, let alone of selling copies.  And it’s probably true. But this milk carton as marketing tool is retro thinking out of the box. “and she was” concerns a missing child, and indeed, there is a picture of the child on one side of the carton. The other sides contain blurbs from Harlan Coben, Laura Lippman, Lee Child, and Lisa Gardner; an essay from Ms. Gaylin about Hyperthymestic Syndrome, an element which figures prominently in the book; and some bullet-point marketing information with a photo of the book cover.  
Expensive marketing? Sure. But. The milk carton is our new kitchen table centerpiece. Unlike Facebook and websites and Twitter and the like one can pick it up and touch it and be reminded of the fact that the book is out there and for sale and there’s a copy of it sitting nearby, waiting to be read.  No one has asked me to review the book, but of course this is what the whole package is all about. And the premise certainly looks intriguing. Hyperthymestic Syndrome involves the ability of a person so afflicted to remember, in full, any given day of their life, with all five senses. If I had learned of the book via e-mail there is a 50-50 chance I would have read it. Send me a milk carton, and I’m your loving baby boy.  I’m going to read “and she was” and I’m going to review it.
Am I old-fashioned? Or is there a marketing genius at HarperCollins who is taking us back to the future? If we all are using Facebook and Twitter and e-mail blasts to hawk our wares, are we making their particular needles stand out? Or are we all busily building a brand new huge haystack in cyberspace? And does it mean that to really, really make your book stand out, it is going to take more money than ever  to do so?
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Thanksgiving Supper Rules for Social Networking

by Michelle Gagnon

Clare’s excellent post on Monday discussed what not to blog about. I thought I’d add an addendum to that, based on something I read recently about employers Googling prospective employees and checking their Twitter and Facebook feeds. It got me thinking about crafting an online persona, and how the list of “do’s” and “don’ts” is basically the same as our family’s Thanksgiving dinner table commandments.

I don’t know about you, but we have a wide and varied mix of relatives huddled around the turkey every year. There are aunts and uncles who define themselves as Tea Partiers, liberal cousins who spent a significant chunk of the past few months hunkering down at various Occupy demonstrations, and everything in between. To maintain the peace and insure that stuffing doesn’t start flying across the table, we established these groundrules:

  1. No discussion of politics. This includes snide and offhand references, thinly veiled metaphors, and oblique asides. I realize that at times, this can be a tough rule to follow. After all, we are in the middle of a run up to a major election, and the national discourse has become increasingly polarized. But based on past experience, finding a middle ground for a free exchange of ideas is challenging when everyone has had a couple tumblers full of Aunt Millicent’s Magic Punch. Not everyone might agree with me on this, but I feel the same way about posting on social networks–staking out a soapbox can lose readers, which as an author is not a good thing. Even if you aren’t a writer, do you really want a future boss to reconsider hiring you based on the fact that your political views diverge? If you just can’t resist reposting that link to the latest outrageous act by Congress/police/protestors, do what I do and set up a separate, private Facebook account that is limited to people you actually know and trust (of course, those constantly changing privacy settings still make this a potential minefield, so proceed with caution).
  2. Ditto for religion. I respect the right of everyone sharing my cranberry sauce to worship whom or whatever they want. But things tend to get sticky (no pun intended) when you try to explain to Grandpa that he’s been wrong all these years, and the true savior is Lord Zod. Again, this is the sort of thing you can put on a private page, if you feel so inclined. But this is another hot button issue that could alienate more followers than you end up gaining.
  3. Swearing. Don’t do it. I have a friend (in real life, and on Facebook and Twitter) who has been known to put sailors and truckers to shame under the right circumstances. This same friend will instant unfollow anyone who uses offensive language in a post. There’s an impact to words in print that shouldn’t be underrated. And really, it’s generally unnecessary. You can always resort to $%#^&.
  4. Embarrassing Stories. The worst part of social networking is that these can be accompanied by actual photographic evidence of said embarrassing moments, which is always the kiss of death. So if you wouldn’t tell your five year old nephew about spending the weekend passed out on the floor of a train station, why would you broadcast it to the world?
  5. Cats. Okay, this one isn’t necessarily on our Thanksgiving tablets, but I’ve learned the hard way that any negative comment about felines will result in an instant loss of roughly 5% of your followers. It’s true–try it if you don’t believe me. So I call this the “Rita Mae Brown” rule. Be nice to the kitties online. You don’t need to go so far as posting adorable photos/videos of them, but it’s also a bad idea to share one of a cat falling out a window.

In a world where we live increasing portions of our private lives online, the line between what gets shared and what doesn’t has become blurred. It’s remarkable that some people tell utter strangers tidbits about their inner thoughts and prejudices that they probably wouldn’t share with close friends. Many people mistakenly believe in the illusion of anonymity, assuming that a post about the awful mistake you made last night will soon be forgotten. The truth is, years from now that same nugget could be unearthed, with embarrassing consequences.

Just for fun, here’s Stephen Colbert’s take on it. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Social Media Marketing Made Easy


Since the launch of my e-books I’ve been getting emails from author friends, some of whom are flummoxed or annoyed about the whole social media marketing thing. These are established writers, too, who feel under pressure to Tweet this and Facebook that, and blog the other thing. All of which takes time away from what they want to do most — write fiction.
And then there are the newbies, who are being told You have to have a platform even before you have a book, which always seems like telling a Sea Scout he has to build a boat before he can go to the beach.
It’s a real concern, because too much stress and attention put on self-promotion and marketing can actually have an adverse affect on your writing, and even your personal life. You can take away some of this pressure away if you look at options that will enable you to have a large following on platforms like Instagram such as using the help offered by Buzzoid. Going to https://buzzoid.com/buy-instagram-followers/ could prove to be a fruitful venture for you. OTOH, an author does need to get in the game in some way. There are of course ways you can streamline the process – we’ve all spent countless hours choosing the perfect character name, but luckily that doesn’t have to be the case for social media. Tools like this instagram username generator can streamline the process, so you can get back to worrying about the umpteenth supporting character you’re just about to introduce.


So what’s the balance? What follows are some tips for getting a foothold in social media marketing. They seem to work for me, so do with them what you will.
1. Specialize
Don’t try to be active on every possible platform. You’ll end up diluting your effectiveness in each. Instead, choose two or three and get really good at it.
For me, it’s primarily blogging (here at TKZ) and Twitter. I find the substance of blogging once a week, and the real time of Twitter each day, the perfect blend. On occasion I drop into other blogs and comment if I feel I have something to add to the discussion. I do have a Facebook author page.
I do an occasional video, like this one on writing advice.
The smartest social media guy I know, Thomas Umstattd of Author Tech Tips, says, “It is much better to specialize. Seth Godin does not do Twitter or Facebook. He just has the most popular blog ever. Be faithful in a few areas and then you will be ready to be faithful in many areas.”
2. Don’t Be Like Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross
Remember the famous Glengarry Glen Ross speech delivered by Alec Baldwin? “ABC – Always Be Closing!” The hard sell, all the time.
Not in social media. If it’s always about you and your books, it gets tiresome fast. You may think you’re doing a numbers game, like sales folk, who cold call with the same script over and over until they land a fish. At the very least, use a service like Just Deliver It to streamline the process.
In social media, the key word is “social” as in “relating to or designed for activities in which people meet each other for beneficial exchange.”
Don’t be repetitive, sending the same tweet or message over and over again: Please follow me on my fan page. Followed a day later by, Please follow me on my fan page. You might as well type Apply directly to the forehead because that’s what people will want to do with the headache you’ve given them.
Try to give each message a unique spin or angle. You’re a writer, aren’t you? Prove it.
3. Use the 80/20 Rule
Spend 80% of your social media time focusing outward. Interact with people. Provide good content. Link to other sites and articles of value. Be personable. Make people glad they have you on their list of people to read.
Use only 20% of the time to “sell” something. And even when you do, don’t make it a generic “Buy my stuff” (BMS) kind of thing. If you do BMS over and over again, people are going to tire of you and find ways to avoid your posts.
Instead, always provide some sort of reason people should buy your stuff. Maybe it’s the launch, which you can announce winsomely and with a little panache. Or a contest. Or you’re providing some proof of value (such as a clip of a review). You can be clever in how you word things. Anything but “Buy my stuff!”
4. Don’t Hurt Your Writing Time or Your Life
If you find your social media presence detracting from your writing time and your ability to produce quality words, cut back. If you’re on Facebook more than you’re with your family, check your priorities. This stuff isn’t as important as either of those two things.
5. Don’t Sweat It
No one knows what works. In fact, even the stuff that works doesn’t work all the time. This is a fluid and un-measurable sea we’re in. So find a good balance, provide quality, be consistent and be patient.
Most of all write great books. That’s the key to repeat business, which is what makes a career.
So what about you and the social media scene? What are you doing that works? What frustrates you?

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Procrastination Day

James Scott Bell



It is my pleasure to introduce a new feature on TKZ, Procrastination Day. A time to get away from that novel you’re writing, or that task around the house you’ve meaning to finish, and get down to some serious wasting of time.


Forget Spider Solitaire. Put away Endless Zombie Rampage. Let’s use our literary lights instead.


Let’s play the Less Interesting Books Game.


I found out about this one on Thursday, via Twitter. I was checking in and saw the hashtag #lessinterestingbooks. And it was exploding. I started in and couldn’t stop. For an hour I was chugging out less interesting book titles along with what seemed like a million other procrastinators.


Here’s how to play: You take a well known book title and tweak it a bit so it comes out as “less interesting” than the original. Here is a sampling of what I came up with in the heat of the moment:

Paradise Misplaced

The Puce Letter

The Naked and the Bruised

As You Consider It


The Seven Pillows of Wisdom

Kon Tiki Barber

Mein Kramp

Get the idea? 

Now it’s your turn. The only rule is: One title per comment. If you want to leave another title, leave another comment. 

So what books sound a little less interesting to you?
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You mean this does that, too?

It was a day of extremes.

I went yesterday to our local senior center to drop off some books for their library. I had a conversation with the ladies at the reception desk. Neither of them had heard of Kindles, or e-books in general. I directed them toward the Amazon home page, which for years has had that huge Kindle feature that kind of smacks you in the face and almost makes you forget why you arrived at Amazon to begin with. They looked at it, took the electronic tour, and decided that nothing beats a book.

I returned home later and another country was heard from. My daughter walked through the door after a day at middle school and advised that students, who cannot have cell phones with them during school hours (they have to be stored in their lockers), are now permitted to bring Kindles to school to use during study halls. And indeed, her fellow students are taking advantage of this policy Are they reading? Well…yes, reading what they are happily tweeting back and forth on Twitter and commenting on Facebook. I’m sure that this was not what the administration intended. In fact, it is quite possible that the school officials are unaware that Kindle is not just for reading anymore. It can be used for web surfing, listening to music, and yes, tweeting back and forth to keep one’s friends up to date on what is happening (“How R U I m soo bord!”). This hasn’t exactly been trumpeted by Amazon, but if you have a Kindle 2.0 or later, go to the home page, use the menu to go to the “experimental” link, and take a look. If the school thought that their charges would use this tool to catch up on their Cormac McCarthy or Robert Louis Stevenson (okay, or their Stephanie Meyer) they are about to be kissed by the goddess of disappointment.

As someone noted recently, the rate of change is accelerating everywhere, it seems, except at your local Bureau of Motor Vehicles office. Take phones, for but one example. Every time that I have been tempted to trade in my weathered but still functional Blackberry Pearl for the cellular equivalent of a trophy wife I have backed off. It seems that each day brings a new phone with a host of new functions. There are things that I could probably do with the Pearl — Jack Bauer used to download schematics of nuclear power plants with his — that I not only don’t know how to do, but also don’t know that I can do. Better to keep the less attractive but comfortable and familiar companion I have than to have to learn the bells and whistles of a new model. My son threatens to buy me a Jitterbug, which would be okay, actually. As far as technology in general is concerned, however, the demographics seem split into three groups: one that does not even know what technology is available; one that is aware of it but underutilizes it; and one that takes the potential to its designed limits, and even beyond. And that is true of the Kindle as well. There are still folks who think a Kindle is something you do to a fire. The majority of people who know it as an e-book reader may be unaware that you can do more with it than read on a sunny beach. And then, of course, there are the younger whiz kids. If that son or daughter of yours has suddenly seemed to acquire a newfound interest in reading which is manifested by taking a Kindle to school you might want to quiz them on what chapter of what book they’re reading. DY feel me?

* * *

What I’m reading: THE FALL by Del Toro and Hogan. Not that it’s scary or anything, but I’m on my second box of Depends.

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