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Anne R. Allen's Blog


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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The 10 Commandments of Social Media Etiquette for Writers

When I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the importance of commenting on blogs to raise your social media profile, I forgot to say one essential thing—probably because I figured it's something your mom told you—but for those who've forgotten, here it is…

If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it.

That's true even in a thread where a lot of people are being snarky and you're simply going along with the crowd. I've done it myself and ended up hurting good people's feelings. Remember when you're online, you're "in public" and anybody can see what you've written. 

If you're planning to publish traditionally, the reason to follow mom's rule is simple. Editors and agents will Google you (often before they decide to read your pages) and if they find a bunch of nasty Tweets, forum flames, and bullying blog comments, your career is going nowhere.

Why do they Google you before reading your writing sample? The same reason any prospective employer Googles you. Most people prefer to work with level-headed, rational human beings who are not prone to drunk-posting, dissing their co-workers, or dancing naked with tighty-whiteys on their heads. Just the way it is.

Remember, "free speech" means you have a right to say what you want in public (not necessarily on private property) but it does NOT shield you from the consequences of what you say. 

Even if you self-publish, or are planning to—establishing a reputation for being nasty, closed-minded, or self-centered can still damage your career. The indies who do best are the ones who respect fans, guest blog, do joint promotions, and generally play well with others.

It's fine to disagree and/or add new information to a discussion—in fact, that's a great way to raise your profile—but do it like a grown-up, civilized human, not an entitled adolescent with a vocabulary limited to barnyard words.

The tech world was invented by young, rule-breaking types, mostly males. So an early Internet culture evolved that tended to be adversarial, snarky, and intolerant of newbies—more like posturing teenagers than adults doing business.

But the publishing world is the opposite. It's a business that has always been powered by the gentlemanly art of the schmooze.

Making people angry may drive people to your blog, and you may hear that "troll posts" and creating controversy is a way to get traffic. But it's probably not the kind of traffic you want, even if you self-publish.

Remember everything you do or say online is public. That includes your snarky @tweets to your BFF (DM instead) and those party photos your idiot friend took at the Mardi Gras party and posted to FB (ask him politely to take down that tighty-whitey photo, or "untag" you.)

So here are ten tips for online behavior for people planning a writing career. (Unless your life goal is to be a professional extremist ranter—then ignore everything here. Being a person people love to hate can make you rich and famous—if you want that kind of fame.)

But for the rest of us, here are 10 basic rules: (This is not meant as dogma. My Moses impersonation is done with tongue firmly in cheek):

1) Thou shalt not spam.

I realize I'm repeating myself, and some authors will continue to post endless book spam to every social medium until the whole thing has gone the way of MySpace, but here I go again:

What is book spam? 
  • Repetitive links, blurbs, and quotes in your Twitter stream.
  • Compulsively posting your book blurbitude in 100s of FB, GR and Google+ groups and forums.
  • Putting somebody's address on your mailing list when they haven't subscribed.
  • Posting endless, non-news, non-informational promos for yourself or other authors. A little promo is good. Nothing but promo...is nothing but annoying.
People want news and personal connections on social media, not robotic advertising.

But I realize some anti-spam rules can be tricky and counter-intuitive. For more here's my post on How Not To Spam

But here's the short version: if you'd ignore it in your own inbox, FB page, or Twitter stream, it's probably spam.

2) Thou shalt support other authors.

Your fellow authors are not "rivals".  Authors who band together do better than antagonistic loners. In fact the number one thing a beginner should be doing on social media is getting to know other authors in your genre and subgenre and making friends.

One of the hottest sales tools in the business right now is the multi-author bargain boxed set with several titles by different authors. These boxed sets are getting on to the bestseller lists and raising visibility for all the authors. Yes. The NYT and USA Today Bestseller lists. 

Another is the joint 99c sale. I participated in a 99c sale with other chick lit authors last year and it got my boxed set on the humor bestseller list where it stayed for 8 months.

Authors who band together get their books in front of the fans of all the authors in the group. Supporting each other is fun and profitable. 

But note: "Support" does NOT involve demanding that other authors market your book for you by spamming their Twitter stream or FB or Google+ page. There's very little evidence that spam sells books anyway.

It also does not mean tagging other authors as members of your "launch party" on Facebook or asking them to play moronic games. (If you let people know you have time to waste on FB games, you're saying you're not writing. You might want to keep that under your hat.)

It also should not include begging for a "mention" on somebody's blog or other social media if you have no relationship with them. And it doesn't mean trading reviews and "likes". Review trading is unethical, and fake likes are pointless.

I've seen indies whine that their fellow authors weren't doing enough marketing for them and hadn't bought their books. That's not asking for support—it's being a brat. Unless you have a "how to write" or book-marketing title, your fellow authors are not your audience. Go find your own readers. 

3) Thou shalt practice tolerance.

The Internet is global. That means primitive, insular thinking will only drive away most of your potential audience. Within a few years, experts predict most ebook sales will be outside of the US.

Hurting people because they have different customs or beliefs from yours has been a human pastime since Zog bonked Gog on the head because Gog's fertility goddess had bigger boobs than his fertility goddess. 

But guess what? Zog couldn't actually make own his beliefs "more true" or Gog's "less true" with violence or cruel words. And neither can you. 

If you're insecure in your own beliefs, go talk to your pastor, shrink, precinct coordinator, Belieber club president or whoever will guide you back to the light.

And if you are secure, other people's belief systems won't affect you one bit, so they're none of your business.

But remember tolerance isn't just about religion, ethnicity, or politics.

Saying rude things to writers who choose a different publishing path from yours is just as ridiculous. Want to prove your path is better? Go write a bestseller, and stop wasting time being snarky on the Interwebz.

I realize this stuff happens because primates are tribal. We instinctively fall into us/them, black/white, either/or thinking.  It's easier to demonize the "other" than to understand them.

Plus we feel safer if we're part of a tribe. Especially if the tribe has a strong leader.

But no matter what chieftain/dear leader/blogger you follow, you'll be happier if you accept that people are different. Some are independent jacks-of-all-trades who can do it all. Others prefer to work as part of a team. Saying one is more "correct" than another is like saying chimpanzees are more "correct" than baboons.

Evolve. I promise you'll find better ways to spend your time.

4) Thou shalt not whine about the stupidity of the reading public, your lack of sales, or the unfairness of the industry.

If you constantly go on about how stupid romance/paranormal/fantasy/chick lit readers are, or how ebooks are the worst thing that ever happened to civilization, be aware you're alienating a huge segment of your potential audience.

Yes, you have an MFA and you've read Proust in the original French and you're furious because you're flipping burgers even though you've written the next On the Road/Ulysses/Work of Staggering Genius. But putting down readers won't change that. Save that stuff for the local coffeehouse where you can commiserate with your fellow proto-post-post-modern-neo-Beats.

This caveat includes detailing rejection woes. I see lots of writing blogs that chronicle the writer's history of rejection. Guess what? Agents see them too. That can be an automatic reject. You'll look like a potentially troublesome client. 

And if you end up self-publishing, that stuff will make you look as if you chose your path because your book wasn't good enough, not because you embrace entrepreneurship.

This is a tough business, no matter how you publish. Most authors go through 100s or even 1000s of rejections before they get a book deal, and most self-publishers spend years building a substantial readership.  

Whining will not sell books. Get off the Internet and go write.

5) Thou shalt remember: "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog".

That quote is from the 1993 New Yorker cartoon by Peter Steiner, the most reproduced cartoon in the magazine's history. 

It became iconic because it speaks the basic truth of Internet culture:  you never know who you're actually interacting with. 

This is not only because some people/dogs are masking their identity.

It's also because humans tend to assume others are like ourselves unless we have information to the contrary.

So if you're a fresh, eager newbie, you'll assume everybody you meet is new to the writing profession, too. Or if you're a jaded system-gamer, you assume everybody is gaming the system right along with you. And trolls see other trolls under every cyber-bridge.

This can lead to lots of embarrassing faux pas and unpleasant encounters, especially since superstars and/or newbies can show up commenting on a blog thread along with the regulars.

You really don't want to find yourself telling @Neilhimself Gaiman that when he grows up and publishes a real book then he'll understand why all agents are useless parasites.

And you might look bad putting down a Christian grandma for being naïve about BDSM slang. Or a 12-year-old in Mumbai for not getting your references to 1980s US TV shows.

So look before you snark. Pay attention to the person you're communicating with. 

Otherwise, you're only revealing stuff about your own faults and failings you probably want to keep to yourself.

6) Thou shalt not respond to reviews.

No matter how unfair. Just. Keep. Quiet. You can't please all the people all of the time.

We need reviewers, so treat them with respect. Even if you've paid for a review on a blog tour and were led to believe the review would be positive and it isn't. Honest reviewers can't guarantee a rave. (And BTW, the blog tour organizer may be paid, but the reviewer isn't.)

Everybody gets rotten reviews. You have just joined a club that includes every successful author who ever lived.

So go read the rotten reviews of great books and hilarious one-stars of the classics. Then go offline and do your mourning in private. Go to the gym. Buy chocolate and/or wine and call your BFF. Go out to your local pub and imagine the reviewer's face on the dart board—anything but respond online.

You'll not only embarrass yourself, but you may attract vigilantes who will try to destroy your career if you complain—even if it's on your own blog or FB page. The review community has its own brand of extremist ranters who demonize authors and keep honest reviewers in a state of terrified paranoia of the dreaded "badly behaving author."  (Authors can be bullies too. Don't be one of them.)

And yes, we even have to put up with the sadistic trolls who call themselves "reviewers" but don't read anything they "review".

Unfortunately, there's a gang of sock-puppet bullies who play Amazon reviews as if they're a video game. They set up thousands of accounts under fake names so they can leave hateful one-stars of books they haven't read. They often buy an ebook and immediately return it so they can get an "Amazon verified purchase" seal of approval. And they usually know how to keep inside Amazon's guidelines, so Amazon seems to feel helpless to stop them in spite of pleas from publishers and bestselling authors.

It's got so bad that some authors are quitting the business. The Good E-Reader reported the growing phenomenon this week in their piece on "The Bullies Win". Let's not let them. Hang in there and keep reporting these people to Amazon until they put a stop to it.

A new retail site called Screwpulp is trying to combat the Amazon troll culture by offering books free until they collect 25 HONEST reviews. They have a vetting process that claims to be able to detect when a reviewer hasn't read the book. (Great idea, although I'm not in love with their name.)

The best way to fight troll reviews? Write an honest review yourself! Big-name authors get troll reviews even more than indies and newbies these days, so even somebody famous can be helped by your review. Go write one for your favorite book right now!

If the troll makes a personal attack—dissing the author rather than the book, report it. Goodreads has done some housecleaning and will promptly remove ad hominem attack reviews. (Thanks for getting it together, Goodreads!!)

Amazon, not so much—but do report obvious sock puppets. Or sign an anti-sock puppet petition. There are a number in circulation. If the reports reach critical mass, maybe the Zon will finally crack down on them, the way they did with paid reviews a couple of years ago.

If a reviewer obviously got a bad download of your book, you might contact him/her privately and offer a better copy. But even there, you're treading on dangerous ground, and it may be a trap. I almost offered a reviewer a new copy, since a bad download was her only reason for a one-star, but then I saw she'd left the identical review on dozens of ebooks. Either she's  troll or she doesn't know the difference between a book review and Kindle tech support.

Most reviewers are hardworking, helpful people who genuinely love books. (And reading books takes time!) We can't survive without them. Don't confuse the sock puppet trolls with real reviewers.

7) Thou shalt not badmouth beloved authors.

When you diss Stephen King or J.K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins online, you are alienating a huge percentage of your potential readership. These authors are successful because lots of people love their work. When you call these people bad writers, you're criticizing the taste of all their fans. They won't reward you for it.

If you're also a book reviewer, you certainly can say King's latest book isn't up to his usual standards, or Divergent is no Hunger Games—that's your job. But if you're thoughtful, you'll realize you don't have to say it in sour grapes terms that make you seem like a whiner and a wannabe.

8) Thou shalt check facts before you share.

If something going viral on social media is so outrageous your emotions get triggered, take a deep breath and go to Snopes.com and check news sources. 99% of the time it didn't happen or it's been twisted to make you react.

And no, Bill Gates is not going to give a charity a billion dollars if you "like" some picture of a dying child or an abused puppy. That child and puppy have been gone for 20 years and you cause pain every time you share those pictures.

I have to admit I've fallen for a few scary, untrue Internet memes and I've shared or commented posts that were based on false accusations. I seriously regret that.

Now I avoid blogs that tend to make over-the-top accusations of "bad behavior" or "piracy" and I always check Facebook's watchdog pages like Facecrooks and  Check Scam and Spam on Facebook before I share any of those hysterical "protect your privacy by blocking all your friends from seeing your pages" posts.

I repeat: anything done online is IN PUBLIC. Do not expect privacy here. 

9) Thou shalt not feed trolls.

Trolls are part of Internet life. Kind of like those bloodsucking black flies (midges) in the Maine woods where I grew up.

Why are there trolls? A new Canadian study finds that trolls are "everyday sadists" who get pleasure from other people's pain. They're the people who like to torture kittens and abuse small children. Trolldom is less work than going the serial killer route. It's also equal-opportunity: the report found as many female trolls as males.

The anonymity of the Internet allows these otherwise closeted sociopaths to revel in sadistic behavior. It is simply fun for them.

YouTube and the Huffington Post are battling trolls by banning anonymous comments. Let's hope some more of the big sites will follow suit.

But remember that trolls feed on attention the way black flies feed on blood. So the only way to get rid of a troll is to give it no attention whatsoever—no matter how obnoxious and wrong he/she/it is, because your attention—good or bad—is its food. You must starve it by ignoring anything and everything it does.

Don't think of a troll comment or "review" as an exchange with a fellow human capable of rational thought. Think of it as a pile of poo you don't want to step in.

Unboot from the Interwebz and phone a friend, read a book, or walk the dog. Anything you say online will make things worse.

10) Thou shalt follow Wil Wheaton's Law.

Actor Wil Wheaton first coined the dictum, "Don't be a d**k" at a gaming conference in 2007. He was talking about interactive online game etiquette, but it is a good rule for anybody using the Internet.

In fact, it's a good rule for anybody participating in life itself.

In more polite terms, it can be called The Golden Rule: have empathy and don't do stuff to other people that would feel bad if it were done to you.

What about you, Scriveners? Any commandments to add to these? Have you ever fallen for an Internet meme before checking it out? Have you been a victim of the Amazon trolls?


No Place Like Home 
99c this month on Amazon USAmazon UK, and Amazon CA, and Nook

"A warp-speed, lighthearted comedy-mystery"...Abigail Padgett
"A fun, charming novel about the rich and less so" ...Karen Doering
"A cross of dry British humor and American wackiness, and it all adds up to a fun read." ...Deborah Bayles.


Narrated by award-winner C. S. Perryess and Anne R. Allen (as Camilla)

Set in San Luis Obispo. Great for that morning commute...

$17.46 for the audiobook or free with Audible free trial. Download of Audible is free for your PC or Tablet. Nearly 8 hours of hilarious entertainment!
Available at Audible  and iTunes


The Literary Hatchet: Paying market for Dark Fiction and Poetry - Pays $15 a story. They welcome prose and poetry that scares and shocks readers. Open to horror, paranormal, and speculative fiction. Word length: 500-3000 words/story, and under 100 lines per poem. $15/story, $5/poem. Deadline is July 1, 2014 for the August issue. Read guidelines here - See more at: http://writingcareer.com/

The Saturday Evening Post "Celebrate America" fiction contest. $10 ENTRY FEE. The winning story will be published in the Jan/Feb 2015 edition of The Saturday Evening Post, and the author will receive a $500 payment. Five runners-up will each receive a $100 cash payment and will also have their stories published online. Stories must be between 1,500 and 5,000 words in. All stories must be previously unpublished (excluding personal websites and blogs). Deadline July 1.

The Golden Quill AwardsEntry fee $15. Two categories: Short fiction/memoir (1000 words) and Poetry (40 lines max) $750 1st prize, $400 2nd prize in each category. Sponsored by the SLO Nightwriters and the Central Coast Writers Conference. Entries accepted from April 1-June 30th.

E. M. Koeppel Short Fiction Award: Entry Fee: $15 A prize of $1,100 and publication on the Writecorner Press website is given annually for a short story. Submit a story of up to 3,000 words. All entries are considered for publication. Visit the website for complete guidelines. Deadline April 30th

Amazon’s literary journal Day One is seeking submissions. According to Carmen Johnson, Day One’s editor, the litzine is looking for “fresh and compelling short fiction and poetry by emerging writers.” This includes stories that are less than 20,000 words by authors that have never been published, and poems by poets who have never published before. To submit works, writers/poets can email their work as a word document, along with a brief description and author bio to dayone-submissions @amazon.com.

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Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The Golden Rule attitude is the best one to possess.
Dissing the industry or dissing other authors, even big name ones - I know people who do it. It's so negative, and as you said, people are watching.
Pile of poo - nailed that! Just don't step in it.
And bottom line, I'd rather talk about the accomplishments and books of others than my own anyway.

April 13, 2014 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger AD Starrling said...

"That's true even in a thread where a lot of people are being snarky and you're simply going along with the crowd. I've done it myself and ended up hurting good people's feelings."

Oh boy did I wince when I read that! :( I commented on a blog last year where an author appeared to have gone to great lengths to try and impress a group of reviewers, who then alleged that she had lied her way into their good books to gain favorable reviews. I said something to the effect that it was appalling for an author to have behaved that way. Following on from that blog post, this author ended being "blacklisted" by many reviewers. As the drama continued, it dawned on me that what the author was alleged to have done was dishonest, sure, and she will no doubt learn from her mistake, if she was indeed at fault. But the "hate" campaign directed against that author was no better.

Love those commandments Anne! :)

April 13, 2014 at 11:01 AM  
Blogger Tamara Marnell said...

Corollary to #4 -- If you self-publish and have been successful with it, don't brag about how much smarter you are than the MFA-holding burger-flippers and how much more money you make than the dinosaurs in the publishing industry.

"The Big 5 and their minions remind me of an old lady clutching her pearls in disbelief while the house crumbles around her. The idiots in trad-pubbing can squawk about 'prestige' all they want; I'll be laughing all the way to the bank with my monthly check from Amazon. Here, take a look at all the rejection letters I got from clueless gatekeepers for my book, which sold a billion copies in its first week on KDP...."

Talking like that will get you LOLs from a very small group of fellow self-publishers and alienate everyone else.

April 13, 2014 at 11:13 AM  
Blogger Linda Maye Adams said...

Own your words. Don't just check the box for social media. It's going to show up in the way you are interacting. I'm in the A to Z Challenge, and I keep running into people who are posting to simply check the promotion box. It's clear they don't enjoy what they're doing and are only doing it because someone told them they needed to do it.

Some of the above issues though are because most of the social media tips are given with the assumption you're trying to promote a standard business. A fiction writer does not fit into that mold, and unfortunately, what works for a standard business can go really wrong for a fiction writer (reviews). But people also keep looking for shortcuts or tips, or anything to make it quick and painless. Plus there's the expectation that if they send out a tweet or blog a post, "they will come" and start buying books. It's only a secondary source to keep your name visible.

April 13, 2014 at 11:16 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 13, 2014 at 11:21 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

4) "Thou shalt not whine about the stupidity of the reading public."

Nothing like insulting the people you hope will like your book, is there?

Do people really do that????

Duh, me. Of course they do or you wouldn't have had to issue the warning.

Shakes head in despair.

April 13, 2014 at 11:22 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alex--I see that kind of negative stuff all the time, and I realize these are probably nice people venting or going along with the crowd, but that stuff nearly always backfires. Your successful career proves that promoting others works to promote yourself, too.

April 13, 2014 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

AD, that's the kind of thing that happened to me. I felt so awful. There are some bloggers who like to distort the truth to make people believe the worst about other bloggers or writers (and get lots of hits.) I avoid them now. I wish more people would catch on. Those online attack mobs are usually made up of good people led astray by a rabble-rouser who doesn't check facts--or ignores them on purpose because she/he is a troll.

April 13, 2014 at 11:42 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tamara--You're so right. Those people are a pet peeve of mine. I didn't want to hit them too hard since I addressed them in the "tolerance" section, but they sure aren't making any friends outside their little clique. Sales can fall off a cliff for any number of reasons. They may have a rude awakening one of these days.

April 13, 2014 at 11:46 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ruth--I'm afraid I see it all too often on newbie blogs, especially from recently graduated English majors. They paid a whole lot of money for an education that isn't doing much for them but letting them feel a little smug. But smug doesn't belong on a blog. It's great to network with other people who love literary fiction, but not to put down those who don't.

April 13, 2014 at 11:49 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Linda--You've hit on such an important point! Fiction writers are listening to people who are using social media for marketing, but writers need to use it to be SOCIAL. I'm going to be talking about that in a post later on next month.

"Own your words" great advice. And yes, if you're phoning it in, you're going to come across as a spammer. Great comment.

April 13, 2014 at 11:53 AM  
OpenID jennifertanner said...

Hi Anne!

I'm always amazed at some of the stuff people (authors) post on line...everything from pics of their pedicure to announcing they're getting a divorce. Do readers, prospective publishers and agents need to know that? Boundaries, please.

April 13, 2014 at 11:59 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jennifer--Social media invites boundary violations, unfortunately. Lots of online habits come from the early days of tweens on MySpace, where pedicures and boyfriend woes were common subject matter. But when we're on social media wearing our "author hat" we need to remember we're representing a business and a professional persona. News of a divorce isn't always oversharing. It might be important to fans. I remember when Nathan B. got a divorce and we all hurt for him, and it did impact his professional life. But he was of course very classy about mentioning it on his blog.

April 13, 2014 at 12:19 PM  
Blogger Sarah Brentyn said...

#7... I read (and love) some of those books people say are trash. And I'm not the only one. Obviously. With the big sales and movie deals and such. ;-)

Also, love #8 (check it out before you spread it out) and #10 because it's funny. And true.

April 13, 2014 at 12:37 PM  
Blogger Sarah Brentyn said...

I've been wanting to ask about this.

Thing is, I have a difficult time with the TMI thing on Twitter. I like when people share personal stuff as long as it's not TOO personal. It makes them seem more real, funny...social. Having a glass of wine? I love wine. Had cake for breakfast because it was easy to reach while holding your screaming kid? Kinda funny. (This is part of the reason I didn't want to join Twitter in the first place, BTW. People talking about what they ate for lunch or what color their new dress is.)

As long as it's mixed with other stuff, I like personal. I often wonder if I go overboard with it. I post personal stuff more than some, less than others. ???

April 13, 2014 at 12:41 PM  
Blogger Wendy Jones said...

This has been really interesting. I agree with everything you say here. Some of the best advice around. Thank you.

April 13, 2014 at 12:58 PM  
Blogger David Rheem Jarrett said...

Great post, Anne! Your advice is always on point and well taken. Thank you!

April 13, 2014 at 1:20 PM  
Blogger Liz Crowe said...

Yep, I'll admit to violating about 80% of these commandments in my early days and yes I was "twitter flamed" after one of my books came out and let myself get drawn into a weepy "discussion" with some "readers" who were very very very nasty about how "bad" that book was (Paradise Hops, my single best selling stand alone novel). It took the sage intervention of one of my most trusted advisors (the 13-year-old daughter who said and I quote "God mom. They're just jealous trolls. Ignore, block and move on") Bless her. Thank for this Anne. GREAT Advice as always. (still working that medical thriller/reverse dystopian/strong adult female hero/psycho-sexual romance for the agent hunt!)

April 13, 2014 at 1:23 PM  
Blogger Wm. L. Hahn said...

Anne, I hope you don't mind offline publicity! You are absolutely bulls-eyeing the things I want to talk about next month at the local university writers' day. I'm pretty sure it will be undergrad author-hopefuls and new authors, and I want to give them just this kind of advice about how to and how not. Your name's going to be all over the place!
I fall down all the time on being drawn into discussion- it's in my blood! My parents gleefully argued about what day it was, I taught history and engaged in debate with students and peers for my daily bread. I know, there's no "me" separate from the author anymore, but I see someone make a statement on FB and- well, my opinion's out there, nothing I can do about it now. I hope to keep it civil and to argue to the point, not the person- of course I never curse. But- :: breaks into song :: "I gotta' be MMeeeeee..."

April 13, 2014 at 1:26 PM  
OpenID paulfahey said...

Anne, so much of this seems like common sense but I have to admit it's easy to get drawn into bad behavior when it's directed at you. Getting a one star review for your book when all the others have been positive is hard to take and the first thing you want to do is strike back. It happened to me and I…took a deep breath, talked to other writers, and then did nothing. Zero. Taking a minute or more OUT, getting good advice from other writers, as we do every week on your blog, just might keep you safe from trolls…and save our online rep as well. Great post and I'm sharing.

April 13, 2014 at 1:36 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sarah--I have mixed opinions about the personal stuff too. Facebook is a place people share with IRL friends and family, so I think mentioning medical and family crises and other things that have a big impact on your life is okay. Small things too, if they're interesting and positive (especially if there are photos.) I think what Jennifer is talking about in her comment above is the whiners. Nobody wants to hear the details of a difficult divorce or your colonoscopy. But polite personal sharing is fine, IMO. Especially on FB or a personal-type blog.

As far as dissing "trash" books, I'm simply tired of it. I read literary fiction and I read chick lit and weepy women's fic. It's not smart to assume people only read one type of book.

April 13, 2014 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks, Wendy!

April 13, 2014 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks, David-with-the-memorable-middle name! I'm glad you stopped by.

April 13, 2014 at 2:04 PM  
Blogger Pamela Mason said...

All excellent, all true, and all amazingly simple.

April 13, 2014 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Martha Reynolds said...

Love this Palm Sunday post, Anne!
I know how annoyed I get with authors who only promote themselves. I'd be happy to do it if they weren't so "out there." ;-)

April 13, 2014 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger LucyLit88 said...

Anne, great post. Once again I'm like a bobble-head doll, nodding in agreement. I'm confused over one point though. I started out writing reviews because I read a ton of romance. After I self-published my first book, I read where authors should not review other authors in their genre. Is it a conflict of interest? I still read for my own pleasure but no longer post reviews. Any advice?

April 13, 2014 at 2:07 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Liz--"Ignore, block and move on." Out of the mouths of babes...Actually, a lot of tweens are savvier about the Internet than we are, so we should listen to their wisdom. Sorry you were targeted by trolls. I have been too and it's awful. Best of luck on that book. It sounds so exciting!

April 13, 2014 at 2:08 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 13, 2014 at 2:17 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Wm--How cool that you'll be quoting me at the university! Thanks.

Debate is fine, as long as 1) You are polite and respectful. 2) You're debating somebody sane. If you see any sign the person is irrational, click away. I happen to have seen you debate somebody who was dead wrong (influenced by a notorious ranter) and I stopped the discussion because I could see the other person wasn't making sense because she was under the spell of a rabble-rousing lunatic.

On the other hand, I've had people comment on this blog and tell me where I'm wrong and I've learned a lot from them. Debate can be helpful and constructive when it's done with respect. I appreciate all the people who have taught me in the comments here.

April 13, 2014 at 2:20 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Paul--It does seem like a no-brainer, but as I said, adolescent behavior seems to be the norm on the Interwebz, so sometimes we have to remind ourselves we are grown-ups. Thanks for the share!

April 13, 2014 at 2:22 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Pamela--Deceptively simple. It's like the Golden Rule itself. So simple, but so hard...

April 13, 2014 at 2:22 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Martha--The authors who self-promote all the time have been steered wrong by marketers and other indies who act as if it's "what everybody does" and worse, pretend that it works. The spammiest people seem to be the ones who are loudest in complaints about lack of sales. Yes, you get talked about, as in "I'll never buy a book from Susie Spammer, no matter how good her book is." Not what most of us want.

April 13, 2014 at 2:25 PM  
Blogger Anastasia Vitsky said...

I've been absent from commenting but not reading. It's such a treat to read sensible, professional, grown-up words on writing. I particularly can sympathize with the advice to stop publicly complaining about reviews, rejections, sales, etc. Sometimes it reminds me of a new Ferrari owner complaining at having to pay sales tax on the purchase. It's part of life as a writer.

About spam: I'd like to add, "Don't ask people not to spam you." I made the mistake of doing that once or twice and was soundly chewed out for "not knowing that's how everyone does it." Even if it's a brand-new author spamming me, I don't ask them to stop. I block/unfriend/unfollow instead. It feels callous, but I've learned that people find it offensive to be asked, "Please don't post advertisements for your book and blog on my social media every day." Have you run across this?

April 13, 2014 at 2:27 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Lucy--That is an issue, although I've heard Amazon has backed off from that requirement. They don't want us trading reviews, but I think they've realized that the best reviews come from our peers in our own genre. So go ahead and start reviewing again. As long as you don't mention your own book, I think you're fine.

In fact I saw a one-star yesterday on a historical romance that said "this book is horrible. If you want a good book on this subject, read my [title]". Terrible misuse of Amazon, but it had been there several months. I think they left it because the "reviewer" didn't link to his own novel. So I don't think they're policing reviews much any more.

April 13, 2014 at 2:32 PM  
Blogger Jean Joachim said...

Great post!!

April 13, 2014 at 2:44 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Anastasia--I understand. I read lots of blogs, but only have time to comment on a few.

Very good point about blocking instead of asking a spammer to stop. I get lots of newbies asking us to promote their books, and I usually tell them it isn't appropriate and we don't do book promos. But I got a reply this week that was full of vitriol (from a vanity published newbie). I should have just blocked and deleted. Some people are too clueless to be helped.

April 13, 2014 at 2:45 PM  
Blogger fOIS In The City said...

Great advice, Anne. Yes, I am always mindful to follow those rules. There is no need to be negative. As Thumper's mother said, "If you can't something nice, don't say anything at all."

About bad-mouthing certain authors, we need to remember, that everyone's success makes what we do more possible. Rowlings revolutionized YA and made the thousands of new titles in that genre more possible than 15 years ago. Bad vibes can come back and bite one in the tush :)

April 13, 2014 at 2:53 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks, Jean!

April 13, 2014 at 3:06 PM  
OpenID fornow said...

I certainly tried to engage trolls at first. Sometimes they're just angry people with an agenda. But sometimes they're true trolls that distort what you say etc. Leave it alone is great advice.

I've seen sites taken over by them. One blog closed comments and set up a forum to move the "dialogue" away from the articles. A clique had developed that largely ignored the content (video interviews) and carried on chatting, dissing anyone who came along to say anything else. Legitimate comments were lost in a sea of drivel. The site made several attempts to control it but the sense of entitlement was appalling. Another well-known blog simple closed its forum entirely for similar reasons.

Moderation is a great idea but on large sites can be a massive job. Thats where it gets troublesome.

April 13, 2014 at 3:06 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Fois--You're so right about being bitten on the tush.:-) Also that the biggies paved the way for the rest of us. I'm not a big fan of James Patterson, because I don't like gory thrillers, but I've got to admire the heck out of the guy as a storyteller and a businessman. All of the biggies have succeeded for a reason. We'd do best to learn from them rather than diss them.

April 13, 2014 at 3:10 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Anastasia--Your reply is below. Blogger is being a brat about replies today. :-)

April 13, 2014 at 3:11 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

fornow--How awful for the blogger who had to close comments. Definitely we need to keep on top of things and delete the trolls immediately before discussions get heated. I know the Passive Guy has had to delete whole stories when a clique of notorious bullies came by and started to wreak havoc. Sick people..

I haven't participated in many forums, but when I do I'm usually glad to leave. The mean-girl snark seems to dominate so many. I prefer FB or G+ groups or blogs. If you want a forum, I think the best are small and well-moderated like Kristen Lamb's WANA.

April 13, 2014 at 3:21 PM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

I've had my fair share of bullying/stalking/harassing etc. etc. etc. over the years, so I've made sure not to inflict that kind of behavior on others. While I do moderate my blog, the original reasoning behind it was to get rid of trolls that were following me over from elsewhere. I don't even allow anonymous comments due to the amount of spam I was having to purge from my moderation queue.

Basically I go by the philosophy of treating people the way I want to be treated, especially on FB. It has gotten to the point for me that I practice a particular brutal form of self-censorship on FB, simply because 1) I'm getting tired of listening to certain people who claim to be open minded but really aren't and 2) I'm getting tired of reading a perpetual litany of rah-rah-rah-look-at-me-I'm-fantastic style of posts that an ex-group of mine was posting.

April 13, 2014 at 3:42 PM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

Excellent. I agree that along with the Wheaton Rule, these are good guidelines for anyone -- author or not. Thanks again.

April 13, 2014 at 4:14 PM  
Blogger A. A. Palmer said...

Hi Anne.
Common sense, no rocket science, and yet you see these rules broken all the time. Blogs, forums, twitter - what about email? I mean I understand that one ought to be nice anywhere, but I'm just curious about chances of one's personal emails going public. Is email relatively safe or should we just write letters the old fashioned way and burn all the correspondence once it's read?

April 13, 2014 at 4:29 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

GB--I've changed my mind on moderating comments too. I used to lean more toward "open discussion" but now I delete anything that looks as if it's from a troll. Spam too. I figure I have a duty to readers to keep this a safe place.

And I'm with you on the bragging. FB can be like a daily dose of those dreaded Christmas letters about the perfect children, the awards won and the dream vacation where nothing went wrong. Yuck.

April 13, 2014 at 4:39 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

CS--I found out about Wil Wheaton's rule from somebody on Twitter. It's the perfect rule for the Twitter age. Simple and to the point.

April 13, 2014 at 4:40 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

AA--I get a certain amount of angry email. I used to respond to every one, but I don't any more. Delete, delete, delete. And mark as spam. My alma mater has been spamming me recently. I wrote to the alumnae fundraising people and told them they were about to be blocked permanently. Alums should be treated with respect, not like prey.

As far as our emails going public--we know marketers monitor them--and so does the NSA, I don't think we should expect any privacy. I mentioned a friend needed a new refrigerator in an email to my sister. Suddenly I was followed all around the Internet with refrigerator ads. They read everything.

And email can be subpoenaed in a court case. Snail mail is still safest.

April 13, 2014 at 4:46 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

What a great, informative post. I'd love to repost/condense this with full credit to you and a link back to your blog one of these days. Great conversations and advice. Thanks!

April 13, 2014 at 5:26 PM  
Blogger A. A. Palmer said...

That refrigerator story is scary. Truly, there is no privacy. Snail mail is bound to see a huge comeback one day.

April 13, 2014 at 5:26 PM  
Blogger Kelly Byrne said...

It truly is frightening that nothing is private online, not even our email. Scary story about the fridge, Anne. Freaks me out.

Great post and advice. I'm sure I've fallen for a meme or two and back in the day I most definitely fell for the Bill Gates email being sent around the Interwebs, but generally, these days, I try to verify with snopes.com. Thanks for the other sites as well.

I'm trying to reach out to other authors as I'm fairly new on the social media scene, or new again I should say. Do you have any suggestions about where to find people? I have a few friends on FB and Google+ and I post and chat with people in the Twitter #MyWANA quite often, but I'd also like to find, as you said, authors in my genre, and I'm wondering a bit about how to do that.

I'm certainly happy to make friends with whomever will have me, but I'd also like to find writers in the women's fiction arena as well. As you are in that arena (and others), I figured you might have some suggestions. Perhaps you've already written a post about this and I missed it. Forgive me if that's the case.

Also, just wanted to tell you, again, how great your book (How To Be A Writer In The E-Age) was for me. It really helped me solidify what direction to take my blog in which was great. And so much more... So thank you! And thanks for any tips in advance. :)

April 13, 2014 at 6:10 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Beth--Feel free to repost. As long as you link and spell my name right :-) , I'm more than happy to share. Spread the word!

April 13, 2014 at 6:51 PM  
Blogger Julie Musil said...

Excellent advice! Just be nice. Even with its pitfalls, I'm so thankful to be a writer in the digital age. I'm way more outgoing online than in person :)

April 13, 2014 at 7:23 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Kelly--Thanks so much for letting me know our book was helpful to you. That's what we're working for, and it's great to know we've helped people.

As far as privacy--it's the way it is. We can't blame the NSA entirely. Google and Facebook and all the other big tech companies have been mining our information for a decade and a half at least.

The best way to find friends is blogs, in my experience. Go to the big blogs like Kristen's and if you see somebody whose comment resonates with you, go follow their blog and start commenting. Another place is the Insecure Writers Support Group run by Alex J. Cavanaugh. As far as women's fiction, there's a women's fiction group I used to follow and I've lost the url, but Google around and you should find it. Also, go to your favorite writers' sites and see who you find there. A lot of major writers have blogs these days. Best of luck and thanks much!

April 13, 2014 at 7:58 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Julie--You're right that this is a great time to be a writer, in spite of trolls and all the rest. I'm much more shy in real life. too. :-)

April 13, 2014 at 7:59 PM  
Blogger Nina Badzin said...

YES!! You nailed every one of these!

April 13, 2014 at 8:12 PM  
Blogger Kelly Byrne said...

Thanks so much, Anne. Great advice. Will do. I just joined the Women's Fiction Writer's Association and became a member of WANA International as well. I'm on Kristen's blog a lot, (that sounded funny, lol) so I'll search there as you suggested.

I've bookmarked The Insecure Writers Support Group and a bunch of women's fiction author's blogs as well, so I have A LOT of reading to do. :)

Thanks again. Enjoy your night.

April 13, 2014 at 8:19 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Nina--Thanks much! I learned some of this stuff from your great blogs on how to use social media. You are the "Miss Manners" of Twitter!

April 13, 2014 at 8:20 PM  
Blogger Anne OConnell said...

Can I hear an amen and a hallelujah?!!

Anne, I think you should make this into a poster and sell it. Better yet... two posters that look like stone tablets. I sometimes see things getting nasty in LinkedIn group discussions. I just leave the discussion rather than fueling the fire or giving the trolls any more attention.

How to be a Writer in the E-Age sounds like a great book. I'll definitely check it out. Thanks for bringing it up Kelly. If you're looking for fellow authors to connect with who write women's fiction, feel free to contact me :)

Anne, I'd also like to re-post on my blog (with full credit and link) if that's ok. I think these 10 commandments should go viral!

Happy Writing,

April 13, 2014 at 8:43 PM  
Blogger Anne OConnell said...

Liz, your daughter is very wise... maybe this should be an extra commandment (or just an amendment)! "Ignore, block and move on." Love it!

April 13, 2014 at 8:54 PM  
Blogger BECKY said...

Fabulous post, as always, Anne! As a person who was raised to be nice and polite to everyone, it really amazes me that there are so many ignorant people in the world. It's really sad, too, that 99% of the people who NEED to read this, probably won't. I'm shaking my head along with the other commenters!

April 13, 2014 at 9:23 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Anne-I left all LinkedIn groups a while ago for just that reason. There seem to be way too many trolls there. I love the idea of putting these on a "stone tablets" poster. Maybe somebody who's good with graphics can come up with a design.

Do connect with Kelly. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about! Connections that happen organically are always the best.

And re-post away. I love to have people share my posts and link back here!

April 13, 2014 at 10:12 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Becky--Unfortunately, you're right. No troll would ever read a post like this. Their whole lives are about making other people hate them. Isn't that just plain weird? They wake up every morning and say "Gee, I wonder how many people I can get to hate me today?" I can't even write villains with that little motivation. I find them totally unbelievable. But according to the psychologists, they are out here, doing nasty stuff every day--just because it's fun for them.

April 13, 2014 at 10:24 PM  
Blogger Claude Nougat said...

A very necessary reminder nd so well done, a delight to read, congrats! I do hope it helps to clean up and pacify the Net...

April 14, 2014 at 3:08 AM  
Blogger Eileen Goudge said...

Excellent advice. Seems like a no-brainer, but those who don't know what's common sense or what's not should take heed. I make one exception in responding to negative comments: If the commenter has a valid point and/or feels unfairly dissed by my representation, in the form of a fictional character, of some deeply held belief of theirs. One reader sent me a flaming-mad email remarking on what she saw as my biased portrayal of a character with alopecia. Apparently she was a sufferer and saw hair loss as no joke (Nor do I, my character was anything but humorously portrayed). Though the most number of negative comments I ever got was in response to a blooper: I had a male calico cat in one of my novels (apparently they do exist but are extremely rare). Never get on the wrong side of a cat person!

April 14, 2014 at 3:53 AM  
Blogger Pip Connor said...

Great post this week Anne. I never knew that Wil Wheaton coined the phrase for Rule #10 as it is one I try to adhere to myself. Thanks for the great advice. Look after yourself but above all, stay cool.

April 14, 2014 at 4:04 AM  
Blogger Kamille Elahi said...

Fantastic post! I don't think some people realise something they write on the internet is going to stay there forever. That makes having proper etiquette even more important.

Thanks for the post. It was a fun and helpful read.

April 14, 2014 at 4:18 AM  
Blogger A L Parks said...

Unfortunately, I've seen it mixed with the "whine about bad reviews." It boggles the mind that a writer would actually think everyone will love their books. But to then tell a reviewer how wrong they are in their review, when you have asked for people to read AND review a book? Makes no sense. Read, take what you can from the review that will help you in the future, and disregard the rest. AND keep your mouth shut on social media about it.

April 14, 2014 at 4:36 AM  
Blogger John Wiswell said...

It's always disheartening to me when I read successful bloggers and authors violating Commandments 4, 6 and 7. Those of your suggestions speak loudest to me as I don't get much out of complaining - I learn much more from writers who detail what speaks positively to them, as in Jo Walton's blog series for Tor.com. Yet there are people who build cults of personality around themselves proclaiming the evils of the publishing industry, demanding it be torn down, and by iconoclasm against popular writers. What makes me avoid them has helped attract them lucrative crowds of anti-something or anti-something-else.

April 14, 2014 at 7:14 AM  
Blogger Tam Francis said...

I LOVE all these suggestions, and have been guilty of some when I first started down this path.

This one really spoke to me: "Your fellow authors are not "rivals"...But note: "Support" does NOT involve demanding that other authors market your book for you by spamming their Twitter stream or FB or Google+ page. There's very little evidence that spam sells books anyway."

I think it's hard not to envy other's success and wonder why you're not achieving the same level when you've done all the same things. It's equally hard not to want reciprocation when you help your writer or comment or go out of your way. It's so important to stay positive, not feel sorry for yourself and give in to negative, competitive thoughts. Even though you might not get the reciprocation, keep putting the good and positive out there, being generous in spirit is never wrong.

And as you said, even if you do FEEL that way and are tempted DON'T put it out there in comments or on FB or anywhere!

Sometimes I write a fictitious email to myself expressing some of the negative feelings and then delete it. It keeps the negative from ruminating in my mind and saves me from embarrassment :)

Thank you for the wonderful reminder.

April 14, 2014 at 7:33 AM  
OpenID ilanasou said...

I also think that with a lot of 'trash' books, if people were to look at them closely enough with an open mind, they'd see WHY so many people fell for them even if they weren't to their own tastes.
Honestly, I think I've learned as much about 'good writing' from books that people love to hate on, by looking at what story elements they contained that made it work.

And I do think it's a shame that 'chick lit' has fallen out of favour - there's nothing wrong with a light, humorous read, nor are good ones that easy to write.

April 14, 2014 at 8:43 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Claude--I have no delusions that anything will really change, but if I can help a few writers spam a little less, disengage from trolls or avoid provoking an attack by the review vigilantes, I've done my job.

April 14, 2014 at 9:10 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Eileen--I didn't say we shouldn't respond to negative comments on a blog or email! That's only for a review. I make a distinction between civilized debate and troll comments. As I said above, disagreeing with a blogger is a good way to raise your profile and exchange information. I think we should all welcome civilized debate. Even if there's a little anger, you can tell the difference between that an an obscenity-laced personal attack. Debate is great. Verbal abuse is not. Usually we can tell the difference.

April 14, 2014 at 9:16 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Pip--I heard about it on Twitter. I can't remember who told me, but it's a great rule, isn't it? Simple and to the point.

April 14, 2014 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Kamille--You're right. Good manners are MORE important on the Internet, but many people act more reckless online. The Internet feels impermanent and ethereal, so it's hard to remember it lasts forever. It's so easy to say something in the heat of the moment, but unlike a verbal rant you make at a party or in a bar, Internet words will be there the next morning. And all the mornings after that.

April 14, 2014 at 9:22 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

John--Unfortunately, negativity is a powerful force. Hating on something and appealing to people's anger can draw crowds, and a lot of bloggers have made use of that. (And obviously it's the staple of talk radio.) But we each can choose to take the high road if we want. I think when we do, our lives are generally happier and we're more likely to find success.

I didn't know about Jo Walton's blog. I'll check it out! Thanks for the tip.

April 14, 2014 at 9:28 AM  
Blogger Eldonna Edwards said...

Anne I don't know what I'm enjoying more--the great post or the ensuing conversation. I'm learning so much about social media from you and your commenters (but still just don't GET Twitter!) . What I have always tried to do is imagine myself sitting across the table from someone before I reply to a post. It helps to take down the illusion of separation and requires humility and kindness. Thank you for yet another provocative and educational tool for writers.

April 14, 2014 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tam--I think writing letters and emails that express our anger is a great way to get out those feelings, as long as we NEVER send them. I think composing in Word rather than email is a little safer. You have to get the address and find a stamp and an envelope. More steps to keep you from sending it.

I think the best way to help other authors is to use the "Pay it Forward" principle. Don't expect to be paid back by the author you help. But if you're generally helpful, the community as a whole will reward you. Catherine Ryan Hyde (my mentor who also wrote Pay it Forward) has done more for my career than I could ever repay. But if she asks me to help a struggling writer, I'm happy to do so. Mostly I like to do "random acts of kindness" rather than tweet books I haven't read because somebody's demanding it.

April 14, 2014 at 9:38 AM  
Blogger Eileen Goudge said...

Absolutely. Couldn't agree more. As for responding to negative reviews, the one comment I would make to the "trolls" were I to deign (which I would not!) is: "Get a life." Seriously, don't they have better things to do?

April 14, 2014 at 10:59 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 14, 2014 at 11:00 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Eldonna--We do get great comments here, don't we? Twitter takes some getting used to. I find I mostly just check my @ messages and don't try to deal with the whole Twitter stream on most days. But when I have time, I look for links to good articles. I also check #s for breaking news. Catherine and I both have chapters on how to use Twitter in our book How to be a Writer in the E-Age.

Yes, picturing the person you're talking to helps. That's why I recommend using a friendly, professional photo of yourself as an avatar, rather than a cartoon or a photo of your pet.

April 14, 2014 at 11:18 AM  
Blogger Baxter said...

Thanks, Anne. I once made the mistake of responding to a bad review and wish now I could take it all back. The reader was entitled to her opinion, no matter how much I disagreed, and all I did by responding was fuel more criticism. That's the bad news. The good news is, I learned just to live and let live on the Internet. (By the by - lovely to have finally met you at Coalesce!)

April 14, 2014 at 12:13 PM  
Blogger Emerald O'Brien said...

I really like 7. I've been turned off of authors who've publicly put down other authors. It's got to be one of the least classy things an author can do (among the others you've suggested). These are people who most likely have a passion for writing who are trashing other writers when they share a common passion. Just disrespectful. I think instead of pulling people apart, sharing a love of writing should encourage a respectful attitude amongst peers. You hit the nail on the head when you said it is alienating. As a reader, you can't trash authors I enjoy, and expect me to support your opinions. I think this post will help other authors.

April 14, 2014 at 12:42 PM  
Blogger Barry Knister said...

I am new to your site, and I thank you for this detailed, useful post. I will keep it for future reference. But I am given to speaking my mind (always, I hope, in level-headed, rational terms), and must add something mildly at odds with what you say. Something, I should add, that doesn't seem to much apply at your site.
From what I can tell, most of those who leave comments on high-profile websites do so for the sole purpose of distributing links to their own sites. The comments themselves abide rigidly by the say-nothing-if-you-can't-say-something-nice dictum. More often than not--as far as I can tell--the great bulk of such comments take the form of boilerplate compliments, with little or no evidence the commenter has paid much attention to the post. You speak of the publishing world as one "powered by the gentlemanly art of the schmooze," but the current online etiquette seems to be very different. True, "most people prefer to work with level-headed, rational human beings." So do I. But when I read something that strikes me as being at odds with what experience has taught me, I think of it as a kind of dereliction to say nothing. Even so, I understand you (and others) to be saying that any such comment will be read by gatekeepers and seen, not as evidence of someone paying attention, but as an indication of someone to be avoided.

April 14, 2014 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger Carmen Amato said...

Such words of common sense. Even something as seemingly innocuous as a comment left on a blog is all part of an author's reputation and "platform.' Spam and trash-talking will never help sell more books.

April 14, 2014 at 3:06 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Baxter--Great to meet you, too! It's natural to want to respond when somebody obviously read only the "peek inside" or didn't notice the word "comedy" on the cover and blurbs. I've had several people say my boxed set is "too long and disjointed" because they didn't realise it's three separate books. I'd love to point that out, but after seeing what's happened to other authors,I know it's never a good idea.

April 14, 2014 at 4:24 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Emerald--I've been seeing a lot of that recently, which is one of the things that prompted this post. Hating on successful people mostly looks like sour grapes. Not everybody has to love every genre. There are certainly some I stay away from. But bestsellers have to be doing something right. We should try to learn from all of them

April 14, 2014 at 4:32 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Barry--Welcome! You're right that we have great discussions here. Commenters don't usually "phone it in."

And I'm not saying everybody has to agree with me. As I say above: "It's fine to disagree and/or add new information to a discussion—in fact, that's a great way to raise your profile—but do it like a grown-up, civilized human."

April 14, 2014 at 4:37 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Carmen--Exactly. Everything you say online is part of your platform. So show integrity. I'm not saying you have to be "nice" in the sense of mindless people-pleasing, but that you need to be civil and honorable. Correcting people if you know them to be wrong or you feel they have been misinformed can be "nice" too. Lots of people have done that here and I'm grateful to them for it.

April 14, 2014 at 4:41 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

Yup, yup and yup! Another good top 10.

April 14, 2014 at 7:09 PM  
Blogger Icy Sedgwick said...

Writers always complain about how solitary writing is...why would you risk alienating potential sources of support by being a moron? Being nice and friendly is a good way to build a network of people you can discuss writing with...but it's also nice to do because then you get to know some lovely people! By taking an interest in other writers as people first and writers second I've met some genuinely awesome people who I now consider friends. Yes it's a bonus that they then help me to promote my books but first and foremost I enjoy talking to them - and being mean on social media would have been both counter productive and unnecessary. It's not just about platform building - it's also about being decent!

April 15, 2014 at 2:14 AM  
Blogger sue mcginty said...

I try to follow fellow Sister in Crime author Marilyn Meredith's advice and not comment on posts if I'm in a bad mood.

April 15, 2014 at 7:22 AM  
Blogger Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Everything you said was right-on. I can't believe how some people shoot themselves in the foot when they say derogatory comments about people. Believe me, there are some authors' books I will no longer buy because of their snarkiness. about all kinds of topics.

April 15, 2014 at 7:26 AM  
OpenID emmameade.com said...

Hi, Anne,
I've been reading your blog for months, but only getting around to commenting now.
Just wanted to say quickly that I appreciate your insightful advice each week.

PS: I love the cover for No Place Like Home. The colour red of the shoes pops.

April 15, 2014 at 9:06 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...


April 15, 2014 at 9:10 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Icy--Some people are born provocateurs, and we need them to inject some conflict into a discussion, but I don't understand the motivation of people who do it in a nasty way on a regular basis. It must work for them, or they wouldn't keep doing it. But for the rest of us, it's good to remember not to rise to the bait. And yes, social media is, first and foremost, social. We should be making friends, not enemies.

April 15, 2014 at 9:14 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sue--You're right about commenting when in a bad mood. I just heard on NPR this morning that low blood sugar makes almost everybody angry. So we should remember to eat first and comment later!

April 15, 2014 at 9:15 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Marilyn--I'd like to think I can separate somebody's work from their behavior, and I can kind of do it if they've been dead a long time, like Charles Dickens :-), But for contemporary authors, I have to admit I'm less likely to read a book by somebody who's a jerk or has put down other authors in public.

April 15, 2014 at 9:18 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Emma--Welcome and thanks for commenting! I love that cover too. It was designed by Laura Morrigan, who's so good she's usually booked about 6 months in advance. I told her I wanted Dorothy-type ruby slippers and she got them perfectly, didn't she?

April 15, 2014 at 9:20 AM  
Blogger Lynn said...

Excellent resources and ideas. Thanks for sharing. Take a look at www.writeradvice.com if you have time.

April 15, 2014 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Lynn--Thanks! Writer Advice looks like a great resource for writers. Lots of contests and literary magazine opportunities and a full range of author services. Check it out, scriveners!

April 15, 2014 at 11:47 AM  
Blogger Charley Robson said...

Marvellous commandments all round, Anne! Bit sad how some people think the internat can be a free for all to disregard genral politeness, but heydiho, like you said - nobody knows you're a dog. Or a troll. Or a toaster.

April 15, 2014 at 12:04 PM  
Blogger Melissa McPhail said...

Oh Anne, I just love your good sense. Thank you for being such a regular voice of reason among the madness.

April 15, 2014 at 1:29 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Charley--Yeah, I gotta get my toaster to stop spamming people while I'm asleep. :-)

Great to see you here! I hope our publisher is healing well and will be back to business soon.

People disagree on why the Internet is so conducive to rude behavior, but I think it's the combination of a bad-boy tradition and anonymity. (Not that all rude people are anonymous. Some actually seem proud of it.)

April 15, 2014 at 2:41 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Melissa--Thanks much. We always appreciate your RTs of our posts. Maybe it's easier to be reasonable when you're older. We know that things usually work out, whether or not you get all riled up about them.

April 15, 2014 at 2:46 PM  
OpenID tracikrites said...

I couldn't agree more.

April 15, 2014 at 4:07 PM  
Blogger ryan field said...

This is one blog post where I actually agree with everything. My big problem is always trying to find a way to separate myself as blogger and author. Not always easy when commenting on something slightly controversial. I just try to be objective most of the time :)

April 15, 2014 at 9:04 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...


April 15, 2014 at 9:37 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ryan--I'm not saying we have to agree with everybody, just that we have to agree to disagree in a civilized way. I recently asked a blogger to guest who disagrees with me on a number of things. But I respect her opinion and know the logic and reasoning that brought her to it.

But on hot-button issues, like some political hate speech--no matter what political flavor--I think it's best to back down when wearing one's author hat. I belong to a demographic that gets lots of hate speech and sometimes my blood will boil, but I step away. People who hate aren't rational, so there's no purpose in responding. But we can decide to delete, block and remember their names. :-)

April 15, 2014 at 9:45 PM  
Blogger Dr Rie Natalenko said...

All excellent advice, Anne! I wish all "reviewers" (and I use parentheses advisedly) would heed Mum's rule, though. That would make our lives so much easier, and our tongues wouldn't get bitten quite as hard and quite as often.

April 16, 2014 at 4:11 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Dr. Rie--Unfortunately, there's a long tradition of reviewers being snarky and cruel. I just read one of the fabulous film Authors Anonymous where the guy eviscerated the screenwriter--simply because the reviewer hates comedies. Some people are born without the capacity for empathy. And there's no target easier than a creative person who has put his soul into a work of art.

April 16, 2014 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger Rosi said...

Another great post, Anne. Thanks for all these great reminders.

April 16, 2014 at 6:28 PM  
Blogger LD Masterson said...

Number three should be apply to all parts of our world - not just cyberspace. Thank you for an excellent post.

May I add that using Snopes.com before forwarding the accusing e-mail of the day to everyone in your contact list is also a good idea.

April 17, 2014 at 7:55 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks for stopping by Rosi!

April 17, 2014 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

LD--You're right about tolerance. Intolerant bigots are going to have a hard time no matter where they go. And oh, those awful emails! I don't get as many as I used to, but I have an elderly neighbor who falls for them all the time and of course has to send them to all her contacts. She won't go to Snopes because she's afraid if she uses the Internet for anything but email she'll get a virus. I'm sure she read that in one of those emails. Sigh.

April 17, 2014 at 9:34 AM  
Blogger Teresa said...

I recommend having two Facebook accounts - one professional and one personal. Yes, you can mix the two but putting too much out there in your professional life can be embarrassing. I always think - if I had an office, would I just blurt what I'm going to post right out loud? If not, I log out of my professional account and sign into my personal FB. Great tips, Anne!

April 17, 2014 at 2:55 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Teresa--If you want to keep family and friends stuff private on Facebook, it's best to form a closed group. Anything on your "personal" page comes up with a Google search and anybody can see it. But a closed group is pretty safe. Although Facebook can see everything, of course. And no doubt the NSA, too. :-)

April 17, 2014 at 3:35 PM  
OpenID jomariedegioia said...

Very insightful list! A good reminder about common sense and the golden rule. Thanks so much!

April 18, 2014 at 8:25 AM  
Blogger Laurin said...

Thank you for the excellent list of rules! I am a newbie blogger and I appreciate the sage advice. I have never seen the internet as a place were I am anonymous. To me it is a large village and now part of "Real" world now. I have met so many wonderful people via the internet. If I was to make a rule (suggestion actually) it would be "keep it real and be your true self" I believe what goes around comes around....

April 18, 2014 at 12:04 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

JoMarie--It really is about the Golden Rule. But when people are dealing with tech, they sometimes forget we're all actual humans out here.

April 18, 2014 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Laurin--I'm going to be talking more about blogging on Sunday, so do stop by. I'll be talking about the nuts and bolts things that will bring traffic. You're right that the Internet is a big old village and "keeping it real" is as important here as it is in real life.

April 18, 2014 at 12:30 PM  
Blogger A.K.Andrew said...

Excellent points. We really have to be social with each other which means playing nice. Be reciprocal, build relationships, and say no to snark! Thanks so much.

April 20, 2014 at 8:53 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

A.K. "Say no to snark" is a good rule. It's so easy to be snarky, and any 2-yr old can say "no". It takes a little more work to be useful and kind, but I think it's worth it.

April 20, 2014 at 9:15 AM  
Blogger Melanie Gabbard said...

This is great information. Thank you. I am curious how you feel about an author giving a book they read two stars if they really believe that is what it deserves. Should I just steer clear of rating books I don't like? Overall, I really like most books I read, but I noticed on Goodreads that my average rating is 3.58, so now I'm thinking that's low, and I should go change some of my ratings.

April 22, 2014 at 9:39 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Melanie--That's a question a lot of us wrestle with. I have given 1 and 2 star reviews when I think the book or product deserves it. Goodreads considers a 3-star "average" while Amazon considers a 3-star to be "critical". But I'm careful not to give bad reviews to books in my own genre. That could come across as a conflict of interest. Goodreads ratings are considerably lower than Amazon's so you're probably fine.

April 22, 2014 at 10:06 AM  
OpenID misfortuneofknowing said...

These are all seem like very good points, particularly for authors who plan on attempting the traditional publishing route at some point (I am not one of them, and so I feel free to speak my mind about the industry).

I wanted to respond to your point about the anti-sock puppet petition on change.org (which is the one you've linked to). I happen to disagree with it, even though I sympathize with those authors. As I wrote on my blog on March 14, 2014 in a post entitled, "Anonymity Doesn't Only Protect The Trolls" (copying is easier than paraphrasing!): "Anonymous speech encourages debate and allows us to speak our minds more freely. Removing anonymity on a major reviewing website would have effects far beyond trolling, harassing, or defamatory reviews. It could decrease the prevalence of honest negative reviews (which is good for authors, but not so good for readers trying to avoid books they won’t like), and, indeed, it might reduce the number and enthusiasm of positive reviews. For example, people might not feel comfortable admitting publicly that they read books in certain genres (erotica? self-help? romance?), about certain subjects (AIDS? sexual assault?), or by certain authors."

In the end, I think forced attribution on a reviewing site like Amazon has the potential to hurt indie authors.

Anyway, I just wanted to add my two cents on this small point. Thanks for a great post!

April 23, 2014 at 7:02 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Misfortune--I agree that we need negative reviews, or the positive ones mean nothing. But negative reviews have nothing to do with sock puppets. Sock puppets leave positive reviews too (usually for a fee).

Amazon could restrict the number of aliases a person can have and that would end the worst abuses. Nobody needs more than three or four aliases, it seems to me.

And I also think reviewing is hard work and good reviewers are proud of what they do. I think the best ones prefer to be recognized for their work. Protecting sock puppets and trolls is not in the interest of honest reviewers.

April 23, 2014 at 9:00 AM  
Blogger Von Rupert said...

Thank you for compiling this list. It's a must-read for all writers.

April 23, 2014 at 9:34 AM  
OpenID rightinkonthewall said...

This is fantastic… Wil Wheaton's Law needs to go up on some people's walls - but the main thing is to follow it ourselves :) thanks for a brilliant post! Sara

April 23, 2014 at 1:09 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks for stopping by, Von!

April 23, 2014 at 3:01 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sara--I love Wil Wheaton's Law too. Found out about it on Twitter. And yes, you hit on the most important thing about these commandments and all those religious ones too: They're for YOU to follow. Don't worry so much about what the other guy is doing. People think rules are for them to monitor other people's behavior. No: they're for you to take care of your own business. :-)

April 23, 2014 at 3:04 PM  
OpenID misfortuneofknowing said...

Thanks for the response!

I agree that sock puppets produce both negative and positive reviews, but the ones that seem to anger authors the most are the negative ones (the ones that the petitioners have called "harassing" and "bullying").

I'll have to think more about the implications of your suggestion that Amazon restrict the number of aliases a person may have, but that's not what the petition linked in this post seeks. They believe that "by removing [reviewers'] anonymity and forcing them to display their real, verified identities... that much of the harassment and bullying will cease."

As for good reviewers wanting attribution for their work, that may be true for many, but certainly not for all. Under the current system, anyone who wants attribution may have it and the rest of us aren't forced to reveal our identities. It would certainly be strange for an author to be permitted to publish a book on Amazon under a pseudonym (which many do, despite being proud of their work), while a person wouldn't be able to review it under a pseudonym.

On my blog and on reviewing websites, I always use a pseudonym (though keeping only a very light degree of pseudonymity) because I don't want my hobby (reading, reviewing, writing) to interfere with my job (lawyer). I'm not ashamed of any of my work, whether on my blog or elsewhere, but I'd just rather keep these facets of my life separate. I would stop reviewing on Amazon if I they instituted a policy of forced attribution. Such a policy wouldn't only prevent sock puppets and trolls--it would likely reduce honest reviews overall.

Anyway, thanks for the discussion on this topic. It's a tough one, and I hope there's a good middle ground (perhaps your idea of a limited number of aliases is it!).

April 24, 2014 at 7:22 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Misfortune--I'm glad you agree. There's a world of difference between an author or reviewer using a pen name for legitimate reasons (writing in several genres, conflicting professions like yours, or maybe their parents named them "Pookie") and sock puppets who use a bunch of fake names to hide their identity because they're doing nasty, unethical things.

The Passive Guy blogs under that name because he, too, is a lawyer and wants people to know he doesn't blog while wearing his lawyer hat. But he makes it clear who he is and isn't HIDING anything.

Sock puppets ARE hiding--and that's the whole point.. Comparing them to authors who use pen names is comparing apples and oranges. No legit reviewer should side with sock puppets. They're doing harm to the entire literary community--especially legit reviewers.

April 24, 2014 at 9:39 AM  
Blogger Nina Badzin said...

SO many good nuggets here. I kept highlighting my favorite lines to tell you and then would lose the copy/paste when I highlighted a new one. So here is my ABSOLUTE favorite: "Unless you have a "how to write" or book-marketing title, your fellow authors are not your audience. Go find your own readers. " People do not talk about that enough. There is for sure a difference between support (relatively easy to do for others) and BEING the reader for every writing friend. It would be impossible to keep up!

April 24, 2014 at 2:30 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks so much Nina! I agree. We need to get the word out more on the subject. I'm so tired of writers whining that their writer friends aren't buying their books. Hey, our Kindles are already full of friends' books! Only so many hours in a day!

April 24, 2014 at 3:45 PM  
Blogger SarahC said...

Two-plus weeks later, I'm finally figuring out how to comment here (I don't have a WordPress.com address, just a stand-alone WP.org ID). I love this post, specifically because you pinpointed something I've been thinking about: how the Internet got its snark. I've been online for 20 years, and at some point, the predominant tone went from being smart and funny to mean, which makes me inclined to spend as little time online as possible (difficult to do, if I'm trying to gain visibility, right?). (Also, I love #8. Snopes is the only source I trust.) Cheers!

May 1, 2014 at 7:00 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sarah--I'm glad you could jump through Blogger hoops. I forgot to say that anybody with a gmail address has a Google ID--they're the same.

I think there's probably been snark on the Internet since day one. I remember early writing forums I visited in 2001-02 where people posted poetry and other people said cruel things about it. But the more people on a site, the bigger the chance of meeting a sociopath (and we want a bigger audience for visibility, of course). Unfortunately some shrinks say they are 4% of the population.

Don't you wish more people would check Snopes?

May 1, 2014 at 7:24 PM  
OpenID keithchanning.com said...

This is good stuff. Thank you for posting and sharing.

September 29, 2014 at 6:32 AM  

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