Friday, January 14, 2011

Three Topics for Writers to Avoid on Social Networks

Facebook. Twitter. Blogs.

I love interacting on each of these social networks. When I meet new people either through friend requests or new twitter/blog followers, I subconsciously form a mental snapshot of them based on their profile, picture, and their posts.

Writing is a tough, competitive business, but it's also full of some of the most generous people you could ever meet. We encourage each other through the bumps, offer virtual coffee and chocolates during the rough patches, and shout congratulations at good news.


If you're a writer, consider only sharing certain information with your entire social network. You can e-mail or direct message news to your close friends.

I suggest avoiding the following three categories when posting to everyone.

1. An agent or editor just requested material from you.Why not shout this out to the world? You may have a rejection in your e-mail the very next day or you might not hear anything for months. People will wonder what happened with that submission, and it might not be news you want to share.

2. An agent or editor just rejected you.Why not shout this out to the world? If you're querying other agents and editors, do you really want them to know someone passed on your book? It doesn't help your cause. And under no circumstances post who rejected you. Believe it or not, agents and editors don't like to reject people. Be courteous and keep that information private.

3. You haven't touched any work-in-progress in months.Why not shout this out to the world? Your social networks consist of people who have never met you and who are forming an opinion of you based on what you say. This downgrades your image and doesn't make you look serious.

I won't get into obvious posting no-no's like trash talking other authors or industry professionals, or oversharing your party habits. I think we all have common sense about that!

Before you post something, think about possible consequences. Also, ask yourself if the post was written by a stranger and you read it, what would you think of the person? You don't have to be cavity-inducing sweet online. It's okay to whine and need coffee, just as it's appropriate to pat yourself on the back about finishing a chapter or exercising the night before. The key is to remember who your audience is.

Do you agree with my three topics to avoid? Why or why not? What do you think is appropriate to share with the world online?

Have a fabulous weekend!


  1. Jill, I agree with you completely. Very wise advice! I try to be careful with what I share to the whole world and what I keep private among friends. Sometimes "send message" is wiser than "post"!

  2. Agreed! I actually have an FB pet peeve. When people post status that resemble something along the lines of: 'OMG I've had the worst day of my life.'

    Of course all their friends are going to comment: Oh no! What happened? Are you ok? etc etc.

    Blech ...

  3. Good Morning!

    Jessica P.: We should have post-it notes with that saying, "send message is wiser than post." :)

    Jessica B: Funny, that irritates me too! And have you noticed the same people repeatedly have "the worst day ever"? How many worst days can one person have?

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  4. I know social networking is important. If posting daily, even every several hours on fb and twitter, people must be 'positively' chatty, witty, and finding out new information constantly. (I haven't yet mastered that skill.) But on 'off' days, I agree that it's better to be quiet than to shout out something that might ruin credibility.
    I'm glad you narrowed down to just three simple rules!

  5. Totally with you on this, Jill!
    Great advice.

  6. Yep, I agree completely. I'm careful with what I put out there. Once it's out, it's out.

    ~ Wendy

  7. I LOVE THIS! Great post. I agree. Practice caution. I wish I watched myself even more sometimes.

    Have a great weekend, Jill!

  8. Totally agree and so beautifully summed up. The other thing I've decided not to talk about socially is politics and religion. Those seem to be touchy subjects for most and engender the most heated discussions (though wonderful topics to be sure). I'm looking for support and friendship on the social network...not an argument. :) Nice post!

  9. Lynn: I agree. Our moods affect our words. On Mondays, I don't usually post much on FB, Twitter or blogs because I'm tired and crabby. I know this, so I give myself permission to stay quiet!

    Paul: Thanks!

    Wendy: Yeah and there's no way to shove it back in!

    Bonnie: Nothing wrong with throwing our personalities out there!

    Carrie: Oh yeah. I agree. I love talking about politics and religion--but only in person. I'm not social networking for a debate!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  10. Good list and I probably didn't think of those. Makes total sense. :O)

  11. Interesting. I didn't expect these three things at all when I saw the post title, but they all make sense.

    I did a blog post after getting a rejection, but I waited about a month (after I'd processed it) and kept it anonymous and positive, focusing on how it represented a graduation of sorts for me and how it gave me feedback to make my story better. I actually sent the link to the rejector, and they had nice things to say about it. So I think it's okay to talk about rejection, as long as it's kept anonymous and done in generalities, and not whiny but focused on what you can learn from it. :)

  12. I'm with Sarah, I didn't expect these three when I saw the post title, but they totally make sense.

    I thought it was going to be something like don't talk about religion, politics, or your kid's potty training... :)

  13. Diane: Thanks!

    Sarah: There's a big difference between writing a post about how you handle a rejection and sending a post on twitter that you just got your fifth rejection in a week. I love when bloggers share their experience with rejections. I cringe when I see a random rejection tweet by a stranger. If I were an agent with their query on my desk, their rejection tweet would influence my decision about requesting or not.

    Susan M: You're so smart. :)

    Erica: Writers want agents, editors then readers. Ultimately, our biggest filters should reflect these three things. Religion, politics and potty-training aren't my personal tweet topics, but I don't think they would affect an agent's decision to take a writer seriously or not.

    Love these interesting comments!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  14. Yes, I totally agree! And I second what Jessica B. said. I don't mind if people have rough times they want to share once in awhile but not all the time. Good news or a positive outlook on bad news is more appreciated and definitely more encouraging.

  15. Oh, wise advice! Some things aren't productive nor necessary to put out there. We can work through them in other ways, I'm thinking.
    Blessings for the weekend,

  16. Erica - I had a whole post planned on those very three topics. Now I have to delete it. ;)

    Okay...I'm on the fence with 1 and 2. I'm just on the fence. Waffling. I can understand why it's a bad idea to keep quiet about these things. And of course, NEVER mention names. But I think, if handled in the right way, numbers 1 and 2 could work. Like once, there was this post from this author out on submission about her crazy up and down journey. She still hadn't been picked up from a publisher yet, but shared her struggles with rejections and it was really well written and very encouraging and if anything, confirmed that the girl can write. So I don't know. I'm on the fence.

    Great things to consider, Jill!

  17. oops! Meant to say "I can understand why it's a GOOD idea to keep quiet about these things"

  18. Jill, I think it's wise to remember that everything we post on a public forum is just that--public. Some things are best shared with close friends.

  19. I don't know if you heard of this lady called the Rejection Queen who was blogging about her rejections very publicly. It was bad enough that she was mentioning the agents and editors by name, but even worse was the fact that she was badmouthing them, announcing that they didn't know what they were doing, they were missing a great chance, etc. I think commenters did try to warn her that she was screwing up her chances of ever getting published by being such a bad sport.

    It didn't help that she had her name up, and it was easily searchable... but your post made me think of her. Great tips!

  20. Well, I'll agree--but maybe #1 is iffy. I do like to cheer people on or hear good news. I rarely remember to ask to follow up on that news because I can barely remember what I had for dinner last night. LOL
    Another topic that completely turns me off from a blog is POLITICS. There is no room in my social networking time to hear an author get on that kind of soapbox. (Just my 2 cents) :)

  21. Cindy: Absolutely. I want to share my friends' struggles, but when they "struggle" every day for a year, I start to lose sympathy. We all have bad days now and then, but 365 in a row?

    Karen L: True and a good way to put it!

    Katie: I agree with you. If we're sharing a thoughtful blog post on our rejections, it's useful to other people. There's nothing wrong with that at all.

    That being said, tweeting about "another rejection" or posting on Facebook "Three rejections in my in-box this morning," aren't helping us.

    Keli: Some news IS best shared with close friends!

    Abby: I've heard of her but never checked her out. You nailed your analsis. What kind of reputation does that portray?

    Jennifer: Good point. I'd still be wary though. Writers aren't the only ones paying attention to Twitter and FB. It could help your cause or it could hurt it--why take the risk?

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  22. I agree with these 3.

    Am I alone in getting tired of so many, "I finished chapter 14 today in 30 seconds and worked out for 3 hours yesterday--let's see what I can accomplish today!" type of posts? It comes across as boasting, especially when it's a pattern in someone's FB page or blog.

  23. I think it's fabulous advice! and something different from the "usual" ones you hear.

  24. Excellent! Thankfully I never fell into those blunders (I've created a few of my own though;) It's amazing at the stuff I've read people write that have been cringe worthy. I think this is a great reminder to keep ourselves professional at all times. (Now I've totally blown my post for Monday. It was neither professional nor clean. *sigh* when will I learn? Sad thing, I'm probably going to post it anyway.)

  25. Definitely agree on 3. Doesn't bode well if you look like a slacker. As for 1 and 2, as long as you aren't naming names, I don't think it's that big a problem. It's nice to sometimes get the cheers and commiseration to go with the ups and downs. However, you don't really want to be telling the world, and agents who might be looking, that your query has just suffered its 87th rejection. Keep it general and leave the damning specifics out.

  26. I feel like a good rule of thumb for this is to sleep on it and then decide in the morning if you should post it. Because many times, what seemed like a good idea in the heat of the moment will seem like an obviously bad idea after you cool off. Great post.

  27. My Facebook is only for friends and other writers, so I say pretty much whatever I want there. My blog is a different story. But at the same time, I want people who read my blog to see the real me.

  28. This is great advice for a newbie social networker like myself. :) Thank you!

  29. I saw the tweet about this and just had to chime in. The advantage of public media is its immediacy; the disadvantage is also its immediacy. Not only do we participate without giving much thought to what we're saying, or who might be reading in addition to the target audience, we say things in haste that might be better left unsaid. Whether it's blogging, tweeting, DMing, or e-mailing, it's *way* too easy to type a quick thought or retort and hit 'send'. I tend to remember my mom's admonition about crossing streets when I was very young: "Look, listen and think twice before racing into the traffic."

  30. 100% agree!! I think people forget that their tweets are public on Google (at least the most recent ones) even to people who aren't on Twitter.

  31. All excellent points, and not so obvious so thank you!

    Question: What do you think about book reviews in authors' blogs? We need to read and we like to write, so it seems like good blog content. But if I criticize a book, I risk alienating fans (and especially the author!)who might be part of our online writers community. On the other hand, if I review your book and give it even a partially positive review, I am probably doing you a favor. What are your thoughts?

  32. I totally agree, especially with #1. It's hard enough dealing with rejection. You don't want to have to rehash it days later on Twitter! But I do think it's important to have a small group of friends you can share everything with (requests, rejections, writing woes, etc.) It helps to know there are people rooting for you. But that's what emailing is for!

  33. Excellent post, Jill, because by now, I think most people know not to trash-talk other writers, editors, agents, (or they should by now!). But these topics should also be taboo for widespread posting. Thanks for the tips!

  34. I would have to agree with you, though I think I've made all these mistakes in the past. Except I never stop working on my WIPs (that I have hope for), so saying I have would be a lie. :)

  35. Good points! Maybe the sidebar widget I have that tracks my progress on my WIP isn't such a good idea. Although that does motivate me to keep that number climbing upward!

  36. I definitely agree with the three you listed.

    The blogs I enjoy following are those that are upbeat and informative. :)

  37. I totally agree. In fact, my facebook page consists mostly of close friends or family for that reason. It's my place to not worry (too much) about what I say. I think I need another facebook page for "Writer" Kara, where I can connect on a more professional level:)

  38. Hi Jill -

    Maybe we need to write our posts ahead of time and let them sit. The worst thing we can do is dash off a post in the heat of emotion.

    There are many things I only share in personal messages or my private email update.

    Susan :)

  39. Jen: I know. It's hard enough to feel motivated some days without the added pressure of thinking everyone else is flying along with no problems!

    Lisa G: Welcome! And thank you!

    T. Anne: I'm very skilled at blunders! And I'm very skilled at forgiving myself. If we make an online oops, oh well. Just move on!

    J Duncan: #1 isn't a deal-breaker but #2--I just don't see how it helps a writer's online platform. Even if we aren't giving the number of rejections, people remember if we shouted out rejections a dozen times in 2008, a dozen more in 09, every month in 10, and we're still letting the world know yep, another rejection in 2011. It doesn't paint a positive impression, but I agree with you that we should use our own discretion.

    Icy Roses: I think that's a great policy. :)

    Melissa: Good point. You're already using a filter with FB, and your blog should reflect the real you.

    Angela C: Thank you and good luck!

    Carol: Your mom is a genius! I'm writing that one down!

    NinaB: Welcome! And that's a very good point. Ancient tweets still pop in a google search. They never go away!

    DaleRW: Welcome! I do have an opinion (shocker!) about author reviews, but this is simply my opinion, not a hard and fast rule. If your blog is a review site, then be honest. Readers are coming to your blog for advice on what to read. If your blog is an author blog and you review books, only review books you genuinely like. One great example of a positive review site is Romance B(u)y the Book no longer active, sadly. Michelle Buonfiglio started it with the intention of only reviewing books she liked. Great example of supporting authors.

  40. Natalie: You and I are a lot alike. We need to share all the details with close friends and yes, that's what e-mails and DM's are for!

    Patrice: I agree. We're savvy enough to figure out not to trash talk, but other topics are a gray area. It's hard to know what to put out there!

    Jill: Not a big deal. I'm not trying to make anyone worry or feel bad about their tweets--just trying to bring awareness about how we come across to strangers.

    Steph: Oh, I didn't think of that! Good point!

    Kathi: I do too! Upbeat and positive are great selling points!

    Kara: I think that's an excellent idea!

    Susan JR: Kind of a thirty-second rule on twitter and facebook? Love it!

  41. Thank you all SO much for stopping by and chiming in. It's been fun reading your opinions!

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  42. Nice post. Not at all what I expected.

    On the first one, I'm kind of up in the air. Letting people know I submitted also shows I'm trying and taking risks. However, your second point is eye opening. And ties right in with the first.

    Great thoughts! When I get to the point of submitting my book, I will be remembering this post.

  43. Yes, I agree with you. But I do follow writers that share that information. I congratulate them all the same, even if I don't share information like that. :)

  44. I'm sorry but I don't agree with the second point fully. I think in such a case it would be a situation of how you say it not what you say. The other point are fabulous though and for me those things were just common sense but I was surprised by how many people who do those things anyway lovely post and see ya around.

  45. Dear Jill,
    I'm a new GFC follower who just found your site through Twitter, and what a find! You're right on the button about what not to share, and I see so many people posting these types of things to social media sites. I find that there are also a lot of other categories of things that writers shouldn't share on social media sites, but that's something for another post ;-) Thanks for this post--very insightful!

  46. What a great issue to tackle! Rachelle also had a great post on what to avoid re posts!


  47. That's a very good list! :) I also have to say that I love the Bible verse in the "picture window template" below.

  48. You are right!

    We live in an age of self-disclosure, especially in publishing arenas. That's how we can get into trouble -- by sharing too much or in an inappropriate setting.

    It's tricky. We need to share from our lives as writers, but too much or something that hurts another person -- these are going to carry a penalty. We may be paying it for a long time.

  49. Diane J: There are no hard and fast rules. This is just my opinion. I do have more reasons about not shouting out #1 and I will post on them next week.

    Laura P: I'm all about supporting authors--no matter what!

    Jane: Welcome! Given all the tweets I see proclaiming both #1 and #2, I'm not surprised you disagree! It's a personal preference!

    Darkeva: Welcome! And I agree there are many things we should think about before posting!

    Patti: I'll have to check it out!

    CMOM: It's one of my favorite verses. :)

    Cassandra: It is tricky. And sometimes I joke around, but it doesn't come across that way online.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  50. Jill:
    I have seen a few facebook posts that should have been rethought before they were posted. These weren't from writers, mostly teens.
    Because I am trying o build a platform through my blog and through facebook, I have the blog connected to my facebook account.
    I know I have to be very careful of what I say in my blog because those words can be accessed by friends on facebook.

    A friend and I had the conversation about 'once something is on facebook, it's public knowledge.'

  51. I completely agree. I have also heard it isn't. Good idea to fet much in depth about health issues. What are your thoughts on this?

  52. Great stuff. Sometimes I think there ought to be a timer built in to blog programs. You press "publish" and after ten minutes your computer says "Now you've had time to think it over, re-read your post and make SURE you want to say this to THE WHOLE WORLD!"
    Either that or life should have a "rewind/edit" facility...

  53. Great idea, Damian! I also wish there was a button my kids could press when I add a photo to an album that they find embarrassing (that I thought was adorable).

    Anyway, thanks, Jill. Lots of good, nutritious stuff to chew on here!

    (I might have a new identity, but am Patti Mallett. I'm having a time deleting a new secondary gmail that has taken priority on everything Google.)


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