Book Promotion, Marketing, Social Media, Writing Business

How To Handle Online Trolling & Harassment: Author Edition

Image by Geralt via Pixabay

This post is based on a chapter in my latest book: Social Media Hacks: What The Other Authors Already Know. I plan on discussing this book and more with author Marsha Casper Cook, on her podcast: Michigan Avenue Media – World of Ink, Tuesday, May 7th, at 4 p.m. (EST). Join us and learn the real deal about marketing books on social media.  

It’s a sad fact but according to a 2017 survey taken by the Pew Institute, 41% of U.S. adults claim to have been victims of online harassment. Respondents also said the most common forum for it to take place is on social media.  Case in point, in June of 2015, E.L. James, author of the bestselling novel 50 Shades of Grey, held a Twitter Q&A session where she received an avalanche of verbal abuse.  Surprisingly, several of the disparaging comments didn’t just come from random trolls but from those within the publishing industry!              

Though a few authors did come to James’ aid, it did little to slow down the insults and vitriol.  In fact, this Twitter Q&A was such a disaster that it made the news!  Media outlets such as; USA Today, Time Magazine and Us Magazine all covered the Twitter fiasco.        

So How Do You Prevent A Disaster Like This?

Sadly, there is no way to prevent trolling 100% but there are ways to be prepared in the event that anyone wants to hijack your online events.  One tip an author shared with me was to invite your family and friends to your online events just so that there is at least one friendly face in the crowd.  Also, an important fact to remember is that trolls generally attack in groups and responding to their comments just keeps the altercation going indefinitely.  That’s why you always hear the advice, “Don’t feed the trolls” all over the internet.  Now would this have helped in E.L. James’ case?  Probably not, but her situation was very different.  E.L. James is an international star as well as a controversial figure in the publishing industry.  This type of individual will always attract trolls.   

The Why Behind It All: The Psychology of a Troll

Most trolls are trolling because of their ego, while some trolls are part of a greater trolling community and are encouraged to do as much damage as possible.  Trolling can include anything from lies, insults, and even humiliation.          

Internet trolls were the focus of an article in Psychology Today where a Canadian study focused on profiling internet trolls.  It was discovered by scientists that people who troll are generally sadists that enjoyed making others suffer.  The study also implied that many trolls fell within the; Machiavellian, narcissist and psychopathic range.  So there’s a wide spectrum of trolls who lie, insult or actively try to do damage to random people they find on the internet.               


Who’s At Risk?

As I revealed earlier, 41% of U.S. internet users reported having experienced online harassment.  The main forms of harassment include things like; name-calling, intentional humiliation, stalking, and threats.  The biggest groups to experience online harassment are young people 18-29 years at 67%.  Men are more twice more likely to experience general harassment while 53% of young women (18 – 29) reported being sexually harassed.  Another interesting thing to note is that half of the participants of the survey claimed they didn’t even know the person harassing them.  So this isn’t personal, at least not for the troll.                   

What To Do If You’re In the Crosshairs     

If you are the target of trolling on social media there are several ways to deal with it.  For example Facebook, Instagram and Youtube allow you to moderate the comments of a post.  If someone is sending you direct messages privately, you can report those as well.  The good news is that almost all of the major social media sites allow you to block an individual completely so don’t be afraid to use any of these features if you need to.   

But what if you’re facing a more organized attack?  What if you have several people trying to get your social media accounts banned or taken down?  Like it or not, this is a popular method of trolling where multiple people will repeatedly report an account or page.  They’ll falsely report that a page or group is posting offensive material or is even linked to terrorism!  The most popular accounts on social media have had this issue at one point or another.  Sadly, it can take days or weeks to get the account back after an investigation.  If you find that the trolling is too intense, you may want to step back and set your account or page to private on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter until the smoke settles.           

Going on the Offense

If you’re truly afraid of stalking, and trolling the wisest thing to do is to pick a pen name.  Many online writers do it to protect their privacy as well as their egos from the insanity of the internet.  It creates a mental barrier from the praise as well as criticism that some authors find intrusive.     

To take things a step further, and remain anonymous to even agents and editors is to create a company and sell your intellectual properties (books) to publishers through it.  Some of the really crafty authors go further and hire a trust company then, put all their assets into the trust for further anonymity so that nothing can be traced, not even their copyright registration.                

Monitoring Your Reputation

Even if you manage to remain anonymous you are still responsible for maintaining your image especially, since you’re considered a brand.   There are a lot of tools available to you to monitor what’s being written about you online.  I don’t recommend it to people who are sensitive or highly anxious.  However, if you’re a masochist like me and are curious enough to brave the unknown you can gain insight into what readers really think about your work.      

Free Tools

To Respond or Not To Respond?

So what happens when you find something like a negative review or a scathing article?  Do you defend yourself or walk away?  Believe it or not, most situations don’t require a response.  If someone is just saying mean things then, it’s best to let it go.   However, if someone is spreading lies and making untrue allegations which is considered libel language or even slander under the law, then you may have to act.  That could mean anything from sending a cease and desist letter or even an email demanding corrections or retractions be made. Just remember to keep the tone professional and not whiny or childish.    

Now before you start writing emails to all your haters (reviewers) just remember that they are allowed to have their opinions about your book.  They are allowed to hate the book, heck, they’re even allowed to hate you!  Just because they don’t like your work that doesn’t make them tacky or stupid, it just means they don’t like your book.

Wrapping it Up   

Okay, I know that was a lot but tomorrow, I’m going further into this topic and give you tips on how to defend yourself from online abuse and harassment. Trust me, it’s not what you think, there are ways you can manage your online reputation like a pro and they don’t include you giving up all human interaction.   

Book Promotion, Social Media

How To Get Featured On Goodreads

image via Wikimedia Commons

Just mention Goodreads to some indie authors and you may get a hostile response. There’s no doubt that there have been several nasty author vs reader fights.  But there is no reason to treat Goodreads like a social media ghetto.  Seriously, you don’t need to clutch your books tightly to your chest every time a reader passes by!  Yes I’ll admit, there are trolls who wish to ruin your day, but on the flip-side, there are also authors harassing people on the site.  In fact, it’s gotten so bad that several groups on Goodreads have banned misbehaving authors like this one called, Anti-Asshat Indie Authors.

You see, it goes both ways.  My advice for social media has always been avoid drama, by having nothing to do with the people who cause it.

Things to do on Goodreads

Your first mission on any social media site is to claim some space of your very own. That means creating a profile and joining the author’s program. You have to do this in order to add your books and hold giveaways on the site.

Once you’re done with all that, you’re going to want to build up you fan numbers but before you go spending all your efforts on that, you might want to consider jazzing up your Goodreads author page. That means posting videos, creating quizzes, and sharing quotes from your book. Remember what I said about arranging your social media pages like a website?

Make Friends with the Cool Kids

If you’re going to follow someone, follow the people who are the power users. These people generally visit the site daily and sometimes have hundreds if not, thousands of reviews to their credit. Goodreads helps you find these folks using their People feature. It can help you find the most popular reviewers, and librarians who review books your genre.

Getting in the Goodreads Newsletter

Did you know Goodreads has a newsletter? Actually, they have two, one for adults and another for the young adult crowd. Though indie authors aren’t likely to get interviewed or reviewed unless, they buy one of the advertising packages, there is still a way to weasel your book into that newsletter.

Every month, the kind folks at Goodreads select the most popular Q&A sessions and put them in their newsletter which goes out to thousands people. If you can pull off an awesome Q&A then there’s a good chance you can wind up in their newsletter. However, you must contact them well in advance before your Q&A is scheduled.

Here are suggestions from Goodreads’ own website: “Create a special group ‘Ask [Author Name]’ or ‘[Author Name] hosts a Q&A.’ Make sure to categorize it as a ‘Goodreads Author’ group. The group description should clearly state what time range the author will be available to answer questions—we recommend running your group for a single day.”

You can contact them about it here and select Author Program in the question type drop down box.

Another Approach:

The editors at Goodreads are open to book submissions from publishers (which you are by the way) so why not? Keep in mind, it’s very competitive, there are tons of authors and publishers submitting and wanting in, but it’s worth a shot.

Here is the list of the editorial team, as well as the instructions as to where and how to submit your book.

So there you have it, yet another book promotional hack for indie authors.  Next week, I’ll talk about social media influencers and why Facebook may be the next big target for indie authors promoting their books.

Book Reviews, Marketing, Networking

Secrets Of The Publishing Industry: The Soft Book Launch

Image via Pixabay

It ended up being one of my biggest regrets as an indie author.  Two small words that could have made my life so much easier, of course, I’m talking about a soft launch.  For those of you not familiar, a soft launch is where you put your book on sale, but tell only a select few like; reviewers, members of the media, and even newsletter subscribers.  Why?  Read on…

I Might Have Found Annoying Mistakes and Formatting Issues

I’ve probably told you before, but it’s worth repeating.  When I published my YA novel, I found a grammatical error on the first page.  Needless to say, I was very upset.  I worked so hard on that darn thing and still I missed things.  Obvious things.  If I had done a soft launch this wouldn’t have happened!

If I could do it over again, things would’ve been so different…

I Would’ve Started Collecting Reviews

This is the secret that most successful authors don’t talk about.  Ever wonder why when a famous author releases a book, there are already 200 glowing reviews on Amazon?  It’s because the book was already available for sometime but kept on the down low.  A release date doesn’t really mean, a book was actually published that day.  A release date is more like a push date, where the author and or publishing house are starting their marketing bonanza.

I Might Have Scored Some Blurbs

Blurbs are different from reviews, blurbs are a seal of approval from someone significant in your genre or within the publishing industry.  Blurbs almost legitimize your book if you’re an unknown.  This is important for indie authors since the self-publishing stigma is alive and well.  Finding a big name who is willing to give an opinion on your book is hard but worth it.  Check out this post written by Marcia Yudkin on how to get started.

Would’ve Created Media Kits

Creating a media kit would have helped me and those curious about who I was.  If you’re going to query book bloggers, journalists, or podcasters it would help if you gave them a link to your media kit.  This helps them find out who the heck you are and what you do exactly.  Here’s a good article from the gals at Duolit on how to create a sweet media kit for your website.

Should’ve Schedule Social Media Posts

If you don’t have Hootsuite or Buffer I don’t know what you’re doing with your life.  These two services offer the ability to auto post during peek hours on your social media accounts.  Currently, Hootsuite can link to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, MySpace, Foursquare, WordPress and LinkedIn.  They even have an app so you can include more of your accounts.  Priceless, for the author who is short on time and energy.

Needed to Secure Interviews, and Features From Media

If you didn’t read last week’s post, I suggest you do so.  It’s imperative that we get our work in the public view where other people outside of our circle can see.  Getting in front of other people’s audience is wise for marketing.  If they don’t review your genre or anything indie, offer to do a guest post and make sure your book is the first thing mentioned in your bio.

Schedule a Blog Tour & Advertise if You Must!

I’m not against ads or blog tours even though research and my own experiences have proven they just don’t work.  But to have a successful blog tour, or ad blitz you’re going to need to schedule things so when your major launch happens, things will smoothly fall into place.

I hope I showed you in this post, that there is no magic or luck in the publishing business, just planning and hard work.  These techniques I’ve shared with you are the very same ones used by the NY big six publishers and we indie authors would do well by observing and taking notes.  That’s so you don’t end up writing a could’ve, should’ve, might’ve blog post of your own!