Monday, November 21, 2011

What not to Blog About

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

I came across a blog post by literary agent Rachelle Gardner on 'what not to blog about' and it prompted me thinking about social media in the new age of publishing and what is and is not 'off limits'.

Rachelle's list of what authors should not blog about includes:
  • contract provisions (including advances, royalty rates etc.);
  • status of your manuscript being shopped;
  • unhappiness with your publisher, agent or publicist;
  • extreme social or political opinions; or
  • basically venting or ranting ad infinitum on pretty much anything:)
I think what should or should not be included in your blog depends on your aim and focus for blogging in the first place. At TKZ we pretty much focus on the craft of writing, the writing life, and the publishing industry. As such we tend to steer clear of political/religious or social discussions outside that (admittedly pretty wide) remit. I think one thing we all strive for is to appear professional about our writing and this is where I think Rachelle's blog post provides a timely reminder to be careful about crossing the line when it comes to social media.

What do I mean by crossing the line? - Saying anything that might negatively impact your writing career. In this era of digital publishing the rules may be changing but the need to appear professional remains the same.

In addition to Rachelle's list, I would also hesitate to disclose too much about your current WIP (apart from generalities), status of your discussions/contracts with an agent, or anything that your publisher may regard as confidential. In addition, I think authors need to be cautious about what material they self-publish when under contract (witness the controversy when Kiana Davenport lost her traditional deal after refusing to pull a self-published work). While it is fine to blog about the challenges of writing, it is also important not to appear negative or unprofessional or to disclose too much about particular people or publishers involved (after all, you never know who may be reading what you post...)

Now perhaps some of you think I am too cautious, but I worry that there are so many mechanisms for authors and readers to reach a 'personal connection' - from blogging to Facebook and Twitter - that sometimes the line between personal and professional gets blurred. Rachelle's blog post was a great reminder of this for me.

So what do you think? What things do you think authors should not blog about? Have you ever blogged, tweeted or posted on Facebook anything you later regretted?


15 comments:

  1. I think sometimes if a blogger isn't careful, a blog becomes a substitute for a personal journal. I know I usually read my blog post a couple times before I hit publish so I can make sure I understand how it will read to others.

    I still have to watch though and try not to post late at night when I'm exhausted--and the judgement is skewed.

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  2. BK - good point - posting late at night is never a good idea (whether facebook, blog or twitter!) I also hesitate if it is something I am really riled up about as that clouds my judgement.

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  3. Clare, I TOTALLY agree with you. A couple of years ago a well-known author who has never been a shrinking violet aired some grievances about their domestic and foreign publishers with respect to book cover art decisions. It was cringe-inducing.

    May I add "domestic problems" to the list? Ouch. It could be included under the fifth item on your list, but arguably deserves a listing all its own.

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  4. Nicely said, Clare. For me the biggest no-no is politics. I'm constantly amazed at some authors who never hesitate to express their opinions on current political issues. Our country is split 50/50 on so many issues. Even though there's a chance a writer could attract positive attention doing so, I always fear there's an equal chance of turning off someone about how I feel politically and causing them to never give my writing a chance because of my personal views.

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  5. Once you realize that your words out there forever...I think you bite your tongue and be nice...

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  6. If done the right way, I enjoy learning about an author's personal life including their struggles with relationships and maybe their politics (as long as there's a respect for other opinions). It all depends on the focus of the blog and the audience.

    Personally, I wouldn't reveal a lot in a blog if I participated in one because that's not my style. But I don't think it's necessarily a no-no.

    Having said all that, I really like killzone's focus on the craft and business of writing.

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  7. No drunk blogging, that's one ironclad rule...

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  8. On a daily blog, it's possible to accidentally tread on someone's political, social or religious toes. People have closely-held personal beliefs about a wide range of issues, so it's easy to inadvertently trigger a response. On this blog for example, one time I hosted a guest blogger. He blogged about a somewhat racy topic related to his book. The post had been scheduled in advance. It was only after it posted, and I woke up to a firestorm of outraged comments, that I realized it appeared on Easter Sunday. I didn't know in advance that it was Easter, or even so, that people would be so offended. It just didn't occur to me.

    Whenever we've accidentally overstepped the bounds at TKZ, we forgive each other, and vow anew to keep discussions nonpolitical and nonreligious.

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  9. Frank Miller did a post a couple of weeks ago anti-the Occupy Wall Street movement. As of today, he's gottn over 8000 comments! A huge number of "you're dead to me now" and "!@#$!" types, others in support, and lots of intra-comment squabbling.

    Another author posted a screed against his own, contracted publisher (a Big 6) saying they had made him their "bi***." It went on and one, with numerous F bombs.

    Now, these have generated plenty of attention, but at what cost? There are people who say you have to be "controversial" to get attention, but is attention the main goal? I say no, it's credibility and maybe even trust.

    I don't mind an occasional rant that is supported by fact and comes from the heart. But I also believe in civility and common sense.

    Use the "cocktail party" rule. Would you spout this way at a cocktail party? Would you risk becoming persona non grata? Then why do you think it doesn't matter in cyberspace?

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  10. After a particularly disappointing rejection I took the margarita cure and wrote a post to a writer's group about why you always bring your best game to submissions (definitely not an anti-editor rant). It turned out to be one of my best received posts. However, that was my free one. Drinking and social media rarely mix.

    I've been more political on my blog lately, but steer clear of "I'm right and you are all stupid rants." Just my observations about the moments of history we are currently experiencing.

    Blogging about the publishing industry? a mine field unless you stick straight to facts. As always Ms Gardner gives good advice. However, I also see writers so afraid of controversy that they bland their blogs down into vanilla pudding. I don't like vanilla pudding. TKZ is a nice mix with so many different personalities and variety of experiences. Y'all are not afraid to express yourselves and spark a debate.

    As to avoiding all controversy, I leave you with this cartoon that is permanently on my bulletin board (caution, the punch line has bad language):

    http://xkcd.com/137/

    Love TKZ! Terri

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  11. Terri, yes, it is a fine line between non controversial and just plain boring! I hope we strive for the right balance and as Kathryn says sometimes things happen but we are all only human so we don't worry about it too much. That being said I think domestic issues and politics are no-nos and as for blogging while drunk...I think the result would be pretty noticeable!

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  12. I have seen posts on the web that I put out more than fifteen years ago still surfacing every once in a while. Definitely be careful, and whatever you do...no late night posts from the webcam enable laptop while sitting around in boxers after a few beers...that little button may not be as secure as one would think.

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  13. Basil...now you're scaring me!

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  14. Uh....that wasn't my story...honestly

    :-}

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  15. I'm trying to talk less about my chickens. We sold two dozen of their eggs at an SPCA charity function for $85.00 per and after I tweeted it, we had orders for fifty dozen eggs. The chickens went on strike wanting better conditions and to be called by celebrity names and that their eggs be called Fowl Caviar.

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