Social media and the spotlight: Advice for new authors

Social media is a necessary evil.

As an author, I rely heavily on social media to reach out to readers. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are my preferred sites, but there are others that occasionally visit. Anyone who is friends with me on Facebook will know that my page is open all day, hovering in the background, distracting me from writing. Publishers suggest that authors, particularly debut authors, set up social media accounts so that we can interact with the public, and put ourselves in the spotlight. They also strongly suggest that you use a Facebook page rather than an account, so that your account can remain personal. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work like that.

Once you put yourself in the public eye, your life is under scrutiny. I’m not a best-selling author (yet), and I am by no means famous or have celebrity-status of any kind, but I still have to be careful about what I post on my personal pages, because it can come back and bite me in the backside. And that’s exactly what happened yesterday. Not to me, but to another author.

This particular author made some hateful comments regarding the LGBT+ community, saying she’d “beat the gay” out of her sons. She bragged about how she was raised by a racist, homophobic member of the biker community, and that’s how she’d raised her sons – to think that it’s wrong to be in love with someone of the same gender, or a different race. This is a woman who also calls herself Wiccan with Native American blood. She made all of these comments on her personal page.

I’m not friends with this woman, in fact I blocked her as soon as her name came into the light because I have no time for hate like that. The only reason I found out about it is because someone who was friends with her took a screen shot of the comments and posted them publicly.

This woman, an author, has now lost numerous “friends”, contacts in the industry, and readers due to comments she made on a private account.

I have no sympathy with her. We must all pay the price of our actions. However, it made me think…

My publishers have said use a page to connect with readers, keep your account private. Do not make statements on your page that could deter readers, keep it on your private account. Yet, there is nothing private about social media. This woman made those comments on her private account, and readers still saw them.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. I’ve blocked other authors who have made similar comments. I know of other authors who have had their careers destroyed because of one status update. I know of authors who have lost traditional publishing contracts because of rants on social media.

So, my advice to any debut author is this: Make those accounts. But don’t for one second think that your private account is private. Be mindful of the comments you make. Anyone can take a screenshot and share it. We all have bad days. We all have days where we need to rant. But, it will only take one inappropriate status update to label you as a “badly behaving author” and ruin your career.

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