In the article Social Media for Authors, we discussed how authors can use social media to build their platform. However, in light of recent events, we thought it was important to discuss how to prevent a social media downfall. On June 6th, 2020, author JK Rowling released a series of transphobic tweets, which resulted in a firestorm of cancellations from long time fans and everyone from Jonathan Van Ness to Daniel Radcliffe speaking out in opposition of her comments.
On Monday, Book Riot announced via Twitter that they would “no longer be covering her or any of her products” and instead provided a list of 50 LGBTQ fantasy must-reads.
In a response posted to her website yesterday, Rowling addressed her tweets and outlined her objectives for why she is “worried about the new trans activism.” It’s a lengthy essay and not something I personally agree with.
Yet there was one sentence in Rowling’s manifesto that caught my attention: “I forgot the first rule of Twitter – never, ever expect a nuanced conversation.” If we can learn one thing from Rowling’s activities, is that while social media is a great tool for authors, it can also be an instrument of destruction. Therefore, we’ve created a list of four guidelines to help authors use their social media to provide a personal, meaningful connection that doesn’t waste your time or blow back in your face.
DON’T BE A BIGOT
It sounds really easy, but in today’s society bigotry is running rampant. It begs the question, were people always this bigoted? Yes. But with the prevalence of social media, bigots have a larger platform than ever before. While not all authors reach the same stratosphere of fame as JK Rowling, many do become public figures. Becoming a public figure carries with it the expectation that you will address your community of followers on important issues. As Ben Parker once said, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Although it is not always necessary for authors to weigh in on every current event, you do want to be sensitive to the things that are happening in real time. And should you choose to comment, please have someone else–preferably your publicist–read it before hitting the tweet button.
If you do feel that you want to join the conversation in a way that is contrary to the current zeitgeist, and you aren’t going to let any publicist talk you out of it, be sure you understand that those tweets could have consequences. If you are a bigot and you know it, I am sorry for you and recommend you consider keeping any thoughts that may alienate you from your audience to yourself. Also, consider going through your account and purging it of anything that may be dug up from the past and reshared for the world to see.
STRIKE A BALANCE
Social media is like a digital highwire act. You have to find the perfect balance of self-promotion while not being too self-aggrandizing. Tweeting about how/where/when to buy your book everyday is not going to endear you to your followers. However, tweeting what you have for lunch each day isn’t going to do it either–unless you’re a cookbook author who is sharing glossy foodstagram photos. Finding the right balance of content to post is tricky and honestly comes with practice. However, one of the best ways to start is to plan on posting five times about content unrelated to purchasing your book for every one time you post a sales pitch. These unrelated posts could be about you, your family/pets, politics (cautiously), your publishing journey, your writing process, etc. Just be sure to have a consistent voice/look to your posts no matter what the topic is. Here are some of our favorite authors to follow:
- Rick Riordan (@rickriordan)
- sarah maclean (@sarahmaclean)
- Celeste Ng (@pronounced_ing)
- Jason Reynolds (@JasonReynolds83)
- Victoria/VE Schwab (@veschwab)
KNOW YOUR LIMITS
*Many* authors tend to be fairly introverted people. And while social media can be a great way for introverted people to interact with others, opening yourself up to strangers online can be daunting. For new authors, if you’re not comfortable sharing too much personal information, but need to have content to post aside from promotional material, share something you enjoy doing—like cooking or knitting. Hobbies are a great way to give readers a small peek into the window of your brain! If you want to get a little more personal, pets and family are a great way to connect. If you’re willing to share stories about your kids, but not their names/faces, that’s totally cool! Your fans will appreciate the little glimpse into your life that you are comfortable providing. If you don’t want your fans to know anything about your kids, that’s fine too. In this day and age privacy is sacred and something we all deserve. Knowing your limits does not just apply to what you post, but also when you post. Just because you may be a public figure and have thousands of followers, you are not obligated to keep them entertained and feed them content daily. Sure, posting regularly helps keep your audience engaged, but your mental health and overall well being are important as well. If you need to take a break from social media, take a break. Again, know your limits and do what makes you comfortable and safe.
BE A GOOD CITIZEN
One of the most important aspects to building your social media presence as an author is community. At their core, social media sites are online communities. If you are going to be a member of an online community, then it is imperative to give to that community. You don’t have to reply every time someone tweets at you, but engaging with your followers builds goodwill and keeps them engaged. However, being a good citizen on social media is also about connecting with your fellow authors online. Build friendships, engage in conversation, retweet their tweets, comment on their photos, and evangelize their books. One of the great things about the online book community is the ability to share what we’re reading and what we’re excited to read with our fellow book nerds. Authors who engage with their fans and fellow authors show us that they are invested and that they care.
To paraphrase Sarah MacLean, a book isn’t a book until it’s in the readers’ hands. Readers are the anchor of the publishing industry. We wouldn’t publish books if people didn’t read them. And authors should want as many people as possible to read their books. Our hope here at Three Houses Press is that you can use these tips to build a better online community for your readers because they deserve your support for supporting your work.
Our world is chaotic, ever changing, and full of old tweets that will haunt us. Though this is a frightening picture of social media, there is also so much good being done on these platforms to lift, inspire, and share stories that change our view of the world. Take some time to make sure you and your social media are on the right side of history and you’ll find it to be one of the most powerful tools in moving your career to greater heights.