Author protocol is a scary thing! I say this as someone who has, um…committed more than her share of social faux pas, both online and in person.
That’s why I thought I’d take some of those experiences to compile this list!
1. Respect personal boundaries.
This is a whole lot harder than it might sound.
I definitely wish it always worked like this…
Even online friendships take time. Tweeting fifteen, “follow me, please!” messages isn’t really the way you want to get someone’s attention. Trust me on this. You want your favorite author to follow you because they want to chat, not because they feel guilty. The best way to make this happen is to have conversations with them, not at them.
2. Accept that personal safety trumps EVERYTHING.
*Marni quakes with fear*
I’m not going to tell you where I live. I pay for a P.O box. for that very reason. Most of my author friends are parents who take both their personal safety and that of their childrens’ very seriously. Everyone sets their limits differently. I personally have reached the point where I’m just not comfortable Facebook friending my readers. It’s not because I don’t love you all (I do! I totally do!) but if you’d like to interact with me on FB, I sincerely hope you will “like” my author page.
I enjoy being accessible to my fans. That doesn’t mean I forfeit the right to personal space.
3. Don’t ask questions that sound identity theft-y.
It’s not uncommon for authors to hear from teenagers who have been assigned a list of questions. Now while I think that it’s great that teachers are encouraging their students to engage with the literary world…some of these questions are inappropriate.
You don’t need to know my mother’s maiden name. Details about my first pet, my first job, my high school mascot…
(Teachers: Please revise this questionnaire!)
These questions put authors in a really awkward situation. We don’t want to come across as rude or standoffish, but if we give out that information to the wrong person–even once–our bank accounts could be emptied.
Which wouldn’t be good for anyone.
So here’s a good rule of thumb: If you think somebody could make trouble with the answer, don’t ask the question.
Oh, and please check out the author’s blog/Frequently Asked Questions tab. Usually you can find what you want to know right there!
4. NEVER quote a bad review at an author!
Not even when you want to know what they think about that really nasty one-star review someone left on Goodreads.
Resist. The. Urge.
a) Bad things happen when authors respond to reviews. In fact, some careers have very publicly imploded this way. Even when an author doesn’t publicly get in trouble, they are often privately reprimanded by their agent, editor, friends, colleagues, etc., who say something similar to this…
Or at least you shouldn’t share those feelings. Go back to discussing stickers and stop-motion animation book trailers!
My feedback doesn’t matter. At best, I’ll look defensive. At worst, condescending, snide, rude, arrogant, over-entitled…yeah, not good. The solution to this might seem easy: Don’t be a jerk about it, Marni! But it’s always hard to hear mean things about yourself. No matter how well-intentioned the bearer of bad news, that information hurts.
That also leads me to the biggest reason why you should NEVER quote a bad review at an author…
5. Remember that you have NO IDEA how they are doing.
You don’t. Even if their Twitter feed is all happiness and hedgehogs, that doesn’t mean they aren’t dealing with crippling self-doubt/depression/anxiety, etc.
This is very true for writers.
Someone very important to me is bipolar and she can’t openly discuss it because of the stigma attached. She is horribly, gut-wrenchingly afraid that if anyone discovers it, her career will go up in flames. Nobody would suspect that anything was wrong just by scrolling through her Facebook feed. Myself included.
So, I repeat: You can’t draw conclusions about someone’s mental health from their online presence.
That’s why I highly recommend airing on the side of compassion and kindness. And leaving bad reviews where they belong–buried deep in the bowels of Goodreads.
That’s my advice for the week!
Stay awesome, friends!