As agents, so much of our time these days is spent helping our authors navigate the constantly expanding world of Social Networking. No sooner are we all sure we know what we are supposed to do on Facebook & Twitter, than Pinterest comes on the scene and Fan pages arrive. The rules keep changing.
So we meet with professionals who offer advice on how to make sure that our authors’ names and titles show up front and center on Google searches, and who share their tricks to achieve the best placed facebook and blog ads etc…
We encourage our authors to blog, to put themselves out there whenever they can, and to be genuine.
But there is a downside to all of this. There are the authors who, in their efforts to connect with readers, reveal too much about their publishing process and end up unintentionally offending editors, publishers and publicists. Some leap into cyberspace and disclose information better left confidential, and we spend more and more of our time putting out cyber-fires. The positive in all this is that a well educated author can quickly learn the do’s and don’ts of web-communication. In offering cyber advice, I always strongly emphasize that they are as exposed as if they were shouting their words from the rooftops and then passing out flyers afterwards, regardless of the fact that they may be typing away alone on a computer in the bowels of their basements. Actually,hard as it is to imagine, they are even more exposed than that. No private chat rooms or other cyber enclaves are immune to exposure and all words typed should be written with awareness that they could end up in anyone’s hands eventually.
And now come the bullies. In much the same style as the reported school cyber-bullies, there are blog and author bullies out there as well (known as trolls, a very apt name). I have seen authors post sweet blogs about their families (with photos) only to get horrific comments from readers whose only goal was to be as offensive as possible. Bloggers who support writers by reviewing their books are being attacked by nasty out of control writers.
I have also seen groups of jealous or spiteful authors target other authors by posting one-star reviews on important sites, and spreading specious rumors.
How do we help our authors combat these kinds of problems? Sometimes the best advice is to ignore, and wait until the storm blows over, but I worry. I worry, because I have had authors tell me that they would not engage on the web anymore, because of being targeted. I worry, because I have seen the same groups attack one author and then another, with impunity, because it is so difficult to prove who is behind harassment when screen names are used.
Sadly I do not have a solution to these problems we are facing and one vindictive person can do massive amounts of damage. I do feel that this new area of concern would benefit from brainstorming. Sharing solutions would be an excellent way to collectively help our authors.
If you have methods that have worked for you and/or your authors please let me know via @digitaar and/or @jvnla on Twitter.