Book Promotion, Marketing, Social Media, Writing Business

How To Handle Online Trolling & Harassment: Author Edition

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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.   

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Advertising, Book Promotion, Marketing

The Indie’s Guide to Researching Potential Book Promoters

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In the age of the indie author it’s pretty cool to have multiple avenues to promote our work. However not all services are created equal and sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s on the up and up when it comes to value and integrity. Today, I hope to show a few techniques that I’ve used to check out services claiming to promote books to the moon.  Whether it’s advertising, newsletters or blogtours, I’ve got you covered.

Newsletters

In my opinion newsletters are the hardest to research because many promotional sites won’t reveal their numbers. Those that do, only reveal the total sum of their subscribers however, that can be problematic if they have multiple newsletters. For example, if a site claims to have 20,000 subscribers but has 10 newsletters, then that 20,000 becomes a very small number when you divide it by 10.  Also, you have to take into consideration that not every subscriber opens every single newsletter, some are likely getting deleted.  In fact, a great deal are being deleted.

So how do you get the stats? You can obviously email the site personally and ask, or Google the name of the site as well as the words; reviews, or complaints. But if that doesn’t turn up anything, I’d type the question: Has anyone used (Insert name) Promotions? Half of the time a conversation on the Kboards or Absolute Write will pop up.  You know we authors just love to dish! 😉

Online Advertising

With advertising it’s a little easier, you can always gauge activity by looking at their rankings on Alexa, Google Analytics or Clicky. But what is a good number? Let’s try to put all of this into perspective, Google usually has an Alexa ranking of 1, while Goodreads has a ranking of 125.  A small blog like mine, has a ranking of  43,000 on a good month and 90,000 on a bad one.

Alexa Stats for Writing By The Seat of My Pants
Alexa stats for June

However, I’ve seen sites with rankings worse than mine charging hundreds of dollars for ads.  This blog gets a few hundred visitors on a good day and half of them don’t click anything.  That’s why I don’t allow advertising on this blog because it won’t work.  And  despite what you may have heard, the numbers do matter because a site needs significant traffic just to get a few clicks.  More importantly, a site needs a loyal following just to get a few conversions (buyers).

Now here’s an interesting fact, Publisher’s Weekly Select, (the indie version of the website) has a ranking of 3,087 and they seem to charge more for advertising than Goodreads. Does that make sense to you?

Social Media Promotional Sites

There are many authors who want nothing to do with social media and prefer to farm out

this aspect of their marketing to a social media promotion site and that’s totally cool. But not all sites are created equal and here’s how you can investigate whether a service is worth your money.

• Investigate their followers by clicking on their profiles and check to see if they’re all authors or spammers.  If so, run away!

• Check out the interaction on their pages, if they have 10,000 fans but there’s no conversation going on then it’s time to move on.

• Look at how their social media pages are arranged, are their header photos professionally done? Do they collect emails? Also, if they’re not actively reaching out through promoted posts and ads then they aren’t the social media superstars they would like you to believe.  In other words, if they’re not promoting their own page why would you trust them to promote your book?

Blog Touring Services

This one is super easy, if you can not find any authors who’ve worked with them previously, don’t do it.  A service like this should have some sort of testimonial to speak of.  Another way to investigate is to check out their previous tours by Googling their name and see what kind of interaction the bloggers had with their fans.  If you see no comments or shares, then this isn’t the place to put your money in.

I hope I gave you something to think about before you pay for that ad or Twitter blast.  Next week, I’ll be talking about how to get featured on Barnes and Noble.