5 Steps to Internet (and IRL) Safety and Privacy for Writers

There are many ways to think about internet safety, but with the fall publishing season book launches coming up I wanted to take the time to share my thoughts about staying safe when you’re used to interacting on the web. I consider safety physical or intellectual.

I definitely think everyone clearly knows how dangerous the web can be, but sometimes we all think we’re immune to it and take risks when we don’t know we’re doing so. It’s the thing that happens to *someone else* not us.

5 Steps to Internet (and IRL) Safety and Privacy for Writers:

Tweet or post when you’re leaving somewhere, not when you’re getting there. DM the people you’re meeting up with at the book launch instead of broadcasting it to the world. Instead of tweeting on the way to an event, why not tweet after you’ve gathered your thoughts and maybe taken a picture or two? If you are going to post in real time, don’t take pictures from the same location all night. It seems silly, but if you’re prone to over-sharing make sure you’re keeping people on their toes.

Think twice about geo-tagging. (This is when your location is attached to your social media post.) Especially if you pair it with photos. It’s easy for anyone to connect the dots if you’re posting every day or multiple times per day. When in doubt (like me), follow tip 1: geo-tag after you’ve left. I don’t need to recount all the horror stories about geo-tagging for you to get my point. Don’t forsake safety for social currency.

Check your settings. Do you know your privacy settings on all your devices? Believe it or not uploading from your phone vs. uploading on your computer require different privacy settings on Facebook. Knowledge is power. Don’t regret things later; get ahead of your privacy issues and learn where you might have cracks.

Keep your book ideas close to your chest. One of writers’ big worry is that someone will steal their idea. Journalists know to keep their stories to themselves, so writers need to think carefully about this too. If you’re doing book research keep it to private messages and open ended social media questions. I’m not saying people will steal anything, but why give yourself the opportunity to worry? Share your ideas with people you trust: writing circles, agents, and editors. Ideas also change; slow down on blogging through the details of your latest book. Give yourself freedom to make changes and add a little bit of mystery.

Remember: the trolls only win if you feed them. The internet breeds animosity. There are many opinions out there, some of which it’s hard to agree with. It’s tempting to fight back at the trolls, but all it will do is make you mad. It’s hard to change anyone’s mind, especially when you add in limited characters and a social platform. Internet fights can follow you around for a long time. Not all of us will get our Twitter spats featured in major news outlets, but blogs live on–and bloggers don’t have to fact check. It’s best to let things breeze by. No one wants to be Googled and found that their online fight has followed them around for years.

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I love social media for the way it brings us together, but be wary about your privacy. Most book publishing people are great people! But social media is available to everyone.

Your life belongs to you, not the web. So be careful about what you decide to share. Privacy is important and you control the message. Even if you’re not thinking “privacy” at the time of posting, remember that people can connect the dots across social media platforms and days or weeks at a time. Patterns are there whether they’re intentional or not.

Lastly, if you’re into Cons, or all things amazing, grab Sam Maggs’s book FANGIRL’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY where there is information about staying safe at big fan events.

Q: What do you think about when you’re planning your internet safety as a writer?

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7 Ways To Build a Platform Through Your Online Community

Social MediaI wrote a bit about platform last week. It’s not the end of the world for fiction writers if you don’t have one. (What is platform? Let Jane Friedman tell you.) However, it’s great if you do by the time your book is on the market. Not necessarily at the time of querying your book, but coming up to the publication of your book. Once you have your publication date, something you can work towards to build momentum is your platform which in turn will be your readership.

1. Be sure to follow lots of people. The chances of them following you back are high. It seems like a simple tip, but if you want to get more followers, extend a hand and follow more people. No need to be a perfectionist about being online; it’s called social media for a reason. The best way to find followers that you might like is to go to the account of a writer you enjoy, and is active online, and look at their lists.

2. Once you start following someone on Twitter or Facebook, @-reply to something they say within the first 3-5 days. It’s a simple gesture that says, “I’m not a spambot. I think we have a lot in common.” That starts the dialogue early and increases your chance of people following you back as well as recognizing your image and name.

3. Started a blog, but not sure what to write about? This is NOT to say that you must blog. It’s certainly not. But many writers start their online identity with a blog and then run out of steam. Here’s a handy guide of 52 (!!) blogging ideas based on your book’s content. Now you can’t say you don’t have things to write about. The most important thing about a blog isn’t always the content (it should be good) but the consistency. Make sure people know when they will receive things from you or can check in: weekly? bi-weekly? daily? There is no right answer. It’s about what works for you.

4. Don’t be afraid of hashtags. Yes, too many are confusing, but just one can make all the difference. Do you post to your blog on Mondays? Use #MondayBlogs. Do you engage with other writers? Use #WriterWednesdays. On Instagram they are essential so use #amreading #booksofinstagram or others that relate to your topic. That’s how people find you. You can make up your own hashtags but you have to use them frequently enough for them to gain traction. For general posts, you’re best to join in with another hashtag that already exists and people recognize. Here are 100 Twitter Hashtags Writers Should Know. And a scientific guide about when to use those hashtags.

5. When you talk about your book–leading up to publication–you must use a hashtag that captures the title. There are no excuses on this one. If you want to connect your readers to you and each other, you must be providing a link of communication. A hashtag of your title is that link. Readers want to socially engage with each other. They want to share quotes, reviews, and more. Give them that opportunity by leading with example. It’s not cocky to give your book a hashtag, it’s a reality of social media.

6. Once you have built a community, it’s not the time to spew links. You did the hardest thing, you build a nest egg following! Now, in order to keep them, you have to keep the promotional link spewing to a considerate amount. The point was to lead up to your publication date, right? Well, now that you have their trust you also have to respect their feed. Things like Goodreads copy giveaways and quote graphics are two good ways to keep things aesthetically pleasing. Think about it: what’s in it for them? Marketing is a call to action. A barrage of links isn’t what people want, but a free copy or story told in GIFs is! If you build it, they will come. i.e. If you have succeeded in creating good relationships they will support you when the book comes out because they like you not your links. Invite people to engage, don’t threaten them with spam.

7. Be memorable. What is it about your online persona that will keep people coming back? Are you an authority on something? Have a hobby other that writing? The best way to be memorable is to be you. If you feel like you’re putting on a hat when you do it then it’s not coming from an authentic place. Growing a following is a slow process, so it has to come from a place that you know. And that’s usually yourself and your writing.

Q: What are some surprising ways that you’ve connected with like-minded people online?

6 Ways Social Media Doesn’t Help You Get Published

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 5.33.11 PMDoes social media help or hinder the creative process?

So many writers are on Twitter and Facebook chatting with other people in the same position. Everything from sharing common experiences, information about who to query, and joining critique groups are part of the wonderful things social media can offer. There are a number of things not to share on social media and ways that social media interferes with your goal of getting published.

Many agents, including myself, look for writers on Twitter once we’re wowed by your query or writing samples. What we’re looking for is daily posts, something funny or intriguing and a voice that we want to get to know. Twitter is only 140 characters, but that’s ample room to show your chops as a writer and get your unique voice out there.

However, there are many cases where social media isn’t helping you:

1. You are over-sharing

I mentioned above some things we like to see in Twitter. Here is something we don’t like to see: confessions about your writing that raise some red flags. Such as you’re not sure you have another book in you, you’re not sure what genre you fit into, you don’t actually read at all or see why writers need to read. Believe me, I’ve seen this all on Twitter before. Think about what is appropriate to share and if a potential agent or editor was watching, what voice would you want to project?

2. You are sharing information that is actually private

Submission lists, number of agents you’ve queried, full manuscript requests, phone calls and meetings with agents–are all things that you need to keep to yourself for your best interest. You want to be a hot project and you want to keep your cards close to your chest. Don’t give everything away on platforms that are public. Agent Sarah LaPolla tweeted this sentiment last week and it caused lots of discussion!

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3. You are wasting time instead of creating time to achieve your goal

We’ve all had days where we’d rather check Facebook and Twitter than work, but it’s important to know when it’s social media time and when it’s writing time. If you think that fiction authors need to build their platform more than they need to perfect their craft you’re wrong. Writers need to write in order to get better and in order to accomplish your goals. Finishing a 80k word novel isn’t easy. It takes great time management skills, and social media management skills.

4. You are building a platform in the wrong direction

If you are a non fiction author you should be targeting your social media towards your market and your potential consumers, not fellow writers. Find your niche and engage in social media within it. Join Facebook and LinkedIn groups. Add people to your Twitter Lists.

5. You are creating an online identity that isn’t desirable

Negativity, over-sharing, spilling details that are private are all social media habits that are not desirable for a business partnership. Yes, Twitter is a place to vent and share common anxiety in the publishing process, but you should be thinking about the end goal. Fake it ’til you make it. Be the persona on social media today that you want to be when your book publishes.

6. You aren’t engaging with all that social media can do

One of the wonderful things about social media and blogs is that agents and editors share their likes and dislikes, what they’re looking for and what doesn’t work for them. Engage with the platforms, comment on blog posts, get your name out there in a positive way and pay it forward. Find the social media platform that best suits you and dig out all the useful information.

Pinterest: A Tool for Writers?

What do writers need to know about Pinterest?

Pinterest is the fastest growing social media site ever.

Over 65% of users are women (i.e. potential book buyers).

Pinterest users spend more time on the site than Facebook and Twitter combined.

The most common age demographic is 25-34 (25%).

So how can you make Pinterest work for you as a writer?

You don’t have to be on the site. Yes, it’s just another social media tool, but it’s a highly visual one, one that’s growing fast, and one that’s keeping women glued to their computers and driving traffic to purchase items they see. It shouldn’t be seen as merely a promotional tool, because if you approach it that way you’ll be disappointed. It’s for sharing. It’s visual. It’s for you as much as it’s for other people. It’s about like-minded communities.

What do writers ‘pin’ on the page?

Setting: Use the visual opportunities that Pinterest gives you to bring your story to life. (i.e. maps, landscape, buildings)

Characters: Do you have someone in mind that you would ideally cast in the film version of your book?

Videos: You can pin book trailers or author interviews. Continue reading Pinterest: A Tool for Writers?