by Will Viharo
If you’re an independent author or publisher, you most likely have several social media platforms to promote your books – Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube, Instagram, etc. They all beat a bullhorn as a method of communication. Plus they’re free.
But one thing to keep in mind is that the opinions, attitude, and tone you express personally on your various accounts ties in directly to your professional image. You risk alienating potential readers if you aren't careful.
Ever since the dawn of the Internet, disgruntled trolls everywhere have exploited the anonymity and accessibility of this technology to vent, rant, rave, abuse, stalk and otherwise misbehave with virtual impunity.
Most of us aren’t like this. In fact, we’re more than likely the targets of this random vitriol. If you have any type of social media account, you’ve most likely either been a victim of some unwarranted and unwelcome hatred from a total stranger, or you’ve at least encountered it while browsing the pages of others, in a comments section of a controversial post, etc.
Many of us use Facebook and Twitter for both professional and personal reasons – to connect with friends and family for purely social reasons, while networking with people that share common interests, even if you’ve never met in person, but also to promote your work.
Many writers choose to separate the two agendas by maintaining a profile page strictly reserved for personal posts, including political opinions, and then a fan or community page dedicated to their identity as authors, and maybe one for each of their books.
This is the smart way to go. However, there’s no way to separate the two if they’re both set to “public” view, meaning anyone, not just those on your vetted friends’ list, can read your posts, both as an individual, and as a “public figure” with products to pitch.
This means emotionally charged, contentious posts on your personal page will reflect on your overall public persona as an author, and could create negative impressions in people, particularly those that are not familiar with you either as a person or as a writer, that may prove detrimental to sales down the line.
Co-Existence, Not Conformity
Of course, as anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, my first and really only piece of advice to anyone is to be themselves, meaning stay true to your ideals and goals regardless of adversity.
But there is a fine line between honesty and self-indulgence, and in the literature business, as in any other industry, perception is a large part of audience outreach, and reaction.
I certainly don’t exclude myself from making this widespread mistake. There have been many times I posted a long diatribe about my depression, frustrations, and overwhelming sense of futility regarding my writing career, only to delete it after some more prudent deliberation. Maybe too late.
We all feel it at one time or another, and many of us feel compelled to share these emotions in public. It's just part of being human in the digital age.
Depending on how you put it, it may inadvertently be a backfiring turn-off, even to people that already know you personally and can give your self-defeatist comments a compassionate context. Total strangers may not be so forgiving.
If you feel like a total loser, that’s fine. Everyone does sometimes. But best to keep it to yourself, or within your private social circles. I know how hard and lonely that can be. But nobody wants to buy anything from a self-professed loser. We live in a society that celebrates winners, or at least survivors.
So if you really feel compelled to bare your heart and soul to the cold, cruel world, be prepared to deal with insensitive comments from people trying to make themselves feel better about their own sad situations by attacking your vulnerability, or else politely accept a bunch of well-meaning but perhaps ultimately useless platitudes from genuinely concerned friends, many of whom can probably empathize with your plight.
And that’s the key here: inspiring empathy, not pity. Everyone loves a winner and a survivor, but they also love the underdog, because that’s what most of us are, anyway. People will respond with much more positive expressions of support (as opposed to solicited sympathy) if your post is not a complaint per se, but a defiant call to action against overwhelming odds.
You Are What You Write
Think of your posts as magnets, or boomerangs. Bitterness and anger will only attract the same. But hopefulness will not only inspire others, but perhaps invite uplifting inspiration to you as well.
The same goes for your opinions about hot button issues involving unavoidably divisive subjects like politics and religion. On the one hand, you should never feel the need to self-censor yourself on your own platform (in keeping with Facebook’s strict if nonsensical rules regarding displays of nudity).
But if your public profile page exists mainly to promote your “brand name,” as opposed to daily pictures of your lunch, you need to maintain the same kind of shrewd self-awareness and professional decorum as you would posting as an employee of a respected, established company.
Never embarrass or humiliate your boss, or you'll likely get fired. And if you’re your own boss, you’re only hurting your own business if you needlessly and pointlessly engage in hostile exchanges in a public forum. If confronted by a troll that tries goading you into a cyber-fight because that’s all they have to do with their time and energy, you have the power to immediately shut them down by blocking them completely.
Otherwise, avoid online conflict whenever possible. If you’re expressing political opinions, particularly in our current cultural climate, keep them as civil and respectful of opposing views as possible. Focus on shared interests and concerns instead.
This careful balance will not only build respect for you as a person, even from equally mature folks that don’t happen to share your worldview, but it may go a long way in selling some books, especially if you’re presenting yourself as someone who shares the basic human interests of potential customers, both in art, and in life.
PHOTO: OLGA LEDNICHENKO