Monday, December 12, 2011

The Indie and The Internet

No one can dispute that the internet has changed all our lives. From MySpace (yes it’s still out there) to Facebook, to twitter, and others that pop up regularly. These ‘social medias’ have changed not only the average casual computer user, but the way we now read books, and the way those books are written and promoted. The world of social media has taken a wide swooping world and brought it into our living rooms or at least wherever our laptops go, which can be almost anywhere. As writers, it has made it easier to research locations and storylines. There is no doubt; the internet has changed everything about writing and those who pursue a career in the world of books. Indie authors especially rely on the internet. We don’t have a large publisher to help us out with endless promotional tools. It’s all up to us, and the internet is our brass ring.
But-the internet can be a dangerous place for anyone. Anything that goes out there, in the form of e-mails, on-line comments or gossip stays there forever. Not long ago an author engaged in a very public on-line argument with a reviewer of her book. The result, it stalled her career. She was forced to take down her website and books because of the backlash and fall out. From what I understand it turned into a very nasty war of words.  The reason this happened, was because it was so public and because we use our computers as buffers against a hidden foe. We all feel just a little safer with the computer between us and an intended target. This is where that big, but-comes in. The problem with engaging an argument on-line, it stays there, FOREVER. It doesn’t go away into the annals of the rumor mill or idol gossip. It’s a proven fact as to what was said. And if it’s disparaging or hurtful, it can damage the author more than the receiver. For one simple reason, someone out there in the cyber world is not going to appreciate it and will pass the word to others who are like minded. And those others can amount to a very large group of others.
Employers are now scanning Facebook and twitter for comments and pictures made by potential employees. Recently, a young law graduate was turned down by a prestigious law firm interested in her, because of comments and pictures on her personal FB site. The same goes with twitter, tweet something hurtful, and it might just come back to bit the sender somewhere down the line.
What does any of this have to do with an author? Everything. As authors, not only does our reading public have to like our books, but a large percentage have to like us, as a person. If they go to our FB or follow us on Twitter and find comments unflattering about another author or their work, it might be the author of the comments who will see the drop in sales. I’ve seen this happen more than once and can only say before you hit the keyboard, beware, be very aware. Psychologists will often advice a client to write a letter to someone who hurt them in the past, with the intention of destroying it. Never send what you can’t take back. Anyone in the psychiatric field will strongly impress upon anyone this mode of healing. The same goes for the internet, never send what you can’t take back even if you really do mean it.
The internet is the best promotional tool any author has to get their name and book out to potential readers.
My advice to newbies:
1.     Never respond to reviews. Take them with a grain of salt and move on. If they are saying the same thing, such as comments about flow or editing, listen.
2.     Never respond angrily to e-mails that might come to your website. Ignore them. If the emails continue and you find them insulting, block the individual address.
3.     Never make disparaging comments on FB or twitter about anyone! Never, never do anything hurtful to anyone on-line. Don’t say anything that will stay on your or other’s computers for a very long time. Always be professional, better yet ignore them, say nothing and move on.
Always remember, there are tools set up on FB, twitter and in computers in general with the ability to just block someone, unfriend them etc. You don’t have to engage in bad behavior, remember it will ruin your reputation as much as theirs. It’s a small cyber world, and as authors we need to put our best foot forward and dress to impress, even if you can’t be seen.

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