Mind your manners – How not to be a troll…

I guess it was a milestone of sorts. After all my time and effort to get myself and my books recognized, another author hijacked my Facebook author page to post promotion for their book with a link to their page, cover and blurb. I’d never met them or spoken to them. They apparently thought it was perfectly fair to sell their book on my page.

Really? DELETE.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to support other writers and in fact I do. Usually I invite them. This was like someone walking uninvited into my home and sitting down at my table to eat dinner. I worked hard to gain recognition and respect and you’re going to try to take advantage of that without even a ‘by your leave’? I don’t think so.

Of course I’m not the only one this has happened to by a long shot. There was a recent post online about a writer who said this – “OK, I did a promotional thing this AM which may or may not be right. I posted on the FB page of a well known writer that I was a fan (true) and asked him/her to read my book. I posted a link to it on his/her FB page, which seems to be easier now that Facebook has created these Timeline pages. As you know links on Facebook show up with thumbnails of the book and the synopsis. Facebook hasn’t figured out how to adapt these pages for businesses yet which is a promotional opportunity for us. So a link to my book is on his/her Facebook page which must get thousands of hits from readers interested in that genre. I’ll let you know if I get a push from it.”


Apparently this writer felt entitled to hop onto that author’s Facebook page as this writer had on mine, taking advantage of their hard work without even a ‘how do you do?’ first. If I’m going to be screwed, I really want an introduction. (S)He was probably following the principle that it’s better to apologize than to ask permission. Nope. Sorry. Wrong. I didn’t know the quality of this writer’s work and I wasn’t about to let my fans think I endorsed him or use me to legitimize his writing. And that ‘well known writer’ probably felt the same way. With those kinds of fans who needs enemies? Once one does it, his/her page would have been swamped in promotion. If (s)he was smart (s)he probably also reported him for spamming, which cut his Facebook career a little short. Until he created a new Facebook identity.

So here are the basic rules on netiquette:

  1. First, it’s not all about you. It’s not all about your book. You may have written the next best thing to War and Peace but that doesn’t entitle you to anything. Don’t be a putz. Remember the golden rule. Do unto others, etc. And don’t lie to yourself. You wouldn’t like it if they did it to you so don’t freakin’ do it to them. Really.
  2. A Facebook Author/Fan page is like someone’s home. They’ve carefully constructed it for their books, their fans. Have a little respect. Some authors will let you post on their page – find them and spam them. Don’t spam me. (Those others will stop after a while, it won’t take them long before they find their author page swamped by a long list of promotions by authors other than themselves. I’ve seen several authors/groups making the announcement that promos just have to stop.)
  3. Do not post your promo on someone else’s comments. If they’ve posted a giddy “I just received a Five Star review from “Stellar Review Site” do not step on their pleasure by adding your “oh, check out my book” with the accompanying link and cover. Just don’t. It’s like walking into their party and blowing out the candles on their cake. Let them enjoy their pleasure/triumph. It can be so brief. Let them have their moment in the sun, it doesn’t take one iota of light from yours. (I don’t frikkin’ care if someone did it to you. Two wrongs do not make a right. EVER. Grow up. Be someone you’d respect.) On one post where the writer announced their rankings I did post mine – sans title or link and a few comments afterwards.
  4. If there is a link on a post, read the link first and then comment. Don’t assume you know the topic just from reading the title. There are a good number of writers who understand and use irony and/or satire. And if the post isn’t about promotion, don’t promote on it – even if it has something to do with your book. The post was for information, not for you to use to promote. Share it and your link on your own page.
  5. Respect the Rules. (Of course, it might help if you read them. It astonishes me sometimes how bad writers are at reading instructions.) Whatever site you’re on, wherever you are…scan the page, learn the ins and outs. Read the Mission Statements, Charters, Rules or whatever. Respect them. Those things were written for a reason. Don’t like it? Go somewhere else. There are lots of other groups. If one site doesn’t fit, another might. Oh, and by the way, if all you’re doing is drive-by promo, you’re wasting your time. A lot of admins/moderators waste their time deleting your posts as soon as you’re gone. (Bet you wondered where they went.) If you’re not getting that many sales, that would be why. Oh and don’t repost pretending it’s an accident. We’re really not that dumb.
  6. No one on Facebook except the employees of Facebook get paid. The rest are unpaid volunteers. That includes all admins/moderators, etc. of any sites you’re on. They give up their personal lives/time/writing to give you the best experience they can. There are times most would cheerfully walk away but they don’t. They want to help you, the author, the reader. Show some freakin’ appreciation for the time and effort they put into these pages. Don’t private message them unless someone is dying or breaking the rules. Leave a message and then let it go. If you don’t like the decision they make only you can decide if it’s worth it to stay or go. Don’t get snarky or whiny. Don’t argue and debate.
  7. Personal stuff on personal page.  ‘Nuff said.
  8. Don’t ask anyone to vote a bad review down. Although it’s tacky some folks will be glad to help. Others will see you as someone who needs to cheat. (BTW, if it is a truly bad or mean review –  as in ‘Worst Book Ever‘, etc., then report it to Amazon as abusive. That’s different thing altogether.) Don’t ask or even hint to your fans/friends/followers to post negative reviews of other authors. If you think that one is right, you need more help than I can give you. (And yes, it’s been done.)
  9. Always, always, think about what you say. I don’t care how much coffee you haven’t had or how much wine you have. Words hurt. Even inadvertent words hurt. As writers we should know this. Words can also be misconstrued. (I’ve been guilty of this.) There was a recent post on one site along these lines ” Note on a change with XYZ – oddly enough an XYZ employee was killed – co-incidence?” Imagine how that poor man’s family would have felt if they’d seen that? There were a number of inferences that could have been drawn from that. Many made them. A fairly large number of people who had either dealt with depression or suicide were offended. There was no evidence that it was anything other than an accident. I understand that wasn’t the intent. Still it came across to many as callous and unfeeling.
  10. Oh, and if you do make a mistake, don’t make excuses. Man up.  Pull your big girl panties on. Apologize. Two words. I’m sorry.  Which takes us to….

Want to be respected? Respect others in return. Be professional. Think first. Yes this is ‘social media’ , even so, grow up. Seriously. Mean grrrls/guys bite the big one. That’s high school stuff and ridiculous outside of it. Don’t ever forget there’s a real world out there where the people you interact with have to live/survive. Put things in perspective, people. You don’t know the history of the person with whom you’re talking, you don’t know their skills, their background or their intelligence level. (It annoys the heck out of me when someone talks down to me.) Someone may actually have it worse than you. Always assume the best – better to be wrong on the high side than insulting on the low. Is your book really worth trampling over others? What does it say about you when you act badly toward them? Even worse, what does it say about your book?

Oh, and always, always remember, never drink and drivel… on Facebook or anywhere else. (Note to self – take your own advice. *facepalm, wry grin*)

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Valerie Douglas is a contributing Author for Indies Unlimited and the writer of the epic fantasy series The Coming Storm as well as the contemporary romance series The Millersburg Quartet. For more information please see the IU Bio page, her blog http://valeriedouglasbooks.blogspot.com or visit her web page http://www.valeriedouglasbooks.com/ .[subscribe2]

42 thoughts on “Mind your manners – How not to be a troll…”

  1. I echo the sentiments of your post totally. Manners and courtesy are everything.

    I knew someone who committed a lot of those faux pas and had all his posts deleted one after the other off FB and was really dismayed by it. He'd posted cold, not participated in any of the pages prior to posting and just assumed people would be up for what he had to offer. I wrote to him and explained what he'd done to merit that. Though his offering were relevant to the FB pages, he just went about it in a very self-absorbed way. He never extended me the courtesy of thanking me for taking the time out to point out his error or the advice on how he could try and do it differently next time. Says it all really!

    Thanks for this excellent post! x

  2. Excellent – shared. 🙂

    There's a group I follow on Facebook that posts about different authors and their work, and they allow authors to post about their work as well. Thing is, they have guidelines they want followed. I see a post nearly every day in which the owners of the group remind people to follow the guidelines. Amazes me that they have to delete as many posts as they do and post reminders so often, when simply paying attention would solve the problem!

  3. OK Valerie, I was the person who put that post on Facebook and wrote that post about it on LinkedIn. I told the author I was a fan of hers, was eagerly awaiting her next book, which was totally true. I also wrote that I gathered she was Jewish (my book is Interview with a Jewish Vampire) and asked her to read my book. And yes, a thumbnail of the book and a description popped up automatically with the link. And, guess what, she wrote back to me a very nice note and said she would like to read my book but she's busy writing another book at the moment. So there was no downside to this. The key is I wrote her a personal note showing I knew her books and her background. Therefore what I did was perfectly kosher. Don't be so quick to judge.

    1. Erica, I was careful to remove any particular references to anyone in particular out of respect for the writer (you). I was also hardly the first person to note it, I saw it on several other writers' sites where it was being debated. As a fan I would have written her the personal note first before posting anything, but that, like this column, is my opinion. My perception came from the last part of the post, where you commented about getting a boost from it. (Although I changed the language.) So you did anticipate being able to profit from it and that's where I had a problem. I'd also say that while this writer may not have had a problem with it (have you considered she was just being polite?), not all may or will welcome having their pages bombarded by Indie writers. We have a bad enough reputation as it is, according to some.

      I intended no insult, and deliberately tried to insulate the writer (who I did not know before now).

        1. LOL Valerie. Hope you enjoy it. But look at it this way. We Indie and non Indie writers are always out there looking for famous writers to blurb our books. At least I am. I think it's an effective sales technique. And it's amazing how many will do it if you just ask. So I was also trying to get a quote from her about my book, which would have been terrific. I had to include a link to get her interested. AND hopefully some of her followers saw it. Killing two birds with one stone kinda thing. Of course she was being polite when she turned me down. Hey, Anne Rice didn't respond at all when I asked her. She doesn't have to be polite anymore.

          1. I'm really looking forward to it… in fact I made a comment somewhere wondering how you would manage that. How does a vampire keep kosher? If they do keep kosher. Very cool….

            On the situation at hand though….

            My concern is that if too many people do it, we'll see a major uprising on the part of traditional authors as their pages are flooded with requests. Indie writers are already taking major hits for their marketing methods. I hardly imagine you're the only one who has done it – and you say yourself that you got no response from Anne Rice. Like everything else though, there's the risk of a backlash. Many traditional writers are already not too fond of Indies, how many more do we want to risk alienating if too many of us do that sort of thing?

            You did it and it worked for you… sort of. I really am glad for you. You didn't get the endorsements and no one is visibly unhappy with you. With luck for the rest of us they're not going around at conventions complaining about pushy Indie writers.

            We Indie writers can be our own worst enemies sometimes (and I'm not saying you are) when we market our books too aggressively.

  4. Part of the problem is related to "like fests" that invite authors to like everyone's author page, when as we know, in order for that "like" to add to the tally, only our personal pages can be used for that purpose. Authors who are happy to collect "likes" from those who are directed to their page often don't bother to reciprocate. How rude is that? It's too much trouble to go to a personal page, find the link to that person's author page, and like it.

    Facebook pages are set up quite differently. When there is no option to leave a message, that individual whose page you just liked, does not have a link to your own book or author page.

    Authors who join "like fests" often don't read the rules of the like fest, and when asked to post a link (one link) add several, instead.

    It doesn't surprise me when authors unintentionally post a link or a blurb on my author page, when they believe they are following instructions set forth by some moderator. Facebook and other social media sites are becoming more complex, and the rules are not always clear. What horrifies one person may be just fine, with another.

    This list of rules might be p.c., but it reads more like a scolding from a nun with a ruler. "Be careful what you say and how you say it," whap!!

  5. Good rules. I really like the your explanation for the netiquette rule about reading an entire post before commenting because I use satire and irony in my blogs all the time. Thanks for sharing. Your awesome!

  6. Valerie, that was right on target. There have been a few times that I've thought of changing the access level to keep others from posting ads on my fan page. It does take some nerve. I think the next time it happens I'll just delete it, then go to their page and post a link to this article. Cheers to you!

  7. Great post, Valerie. You have made some excellent points.

    I have only twice asked someone for an endorsement, one a well-known author who said he doesn't have time to do that any more, and the other, not an author and less well-known, but who did agreed to do it. But the difference was that I e-mailed the one and asked the other in person, I didn't do it publicly on their Facebook page or anywhere else. A friend of mine who asked a well-known author for, and got, an endorsement actually found her phone number and called her. I think this is a much more courteous way to do it.

  8. Some good common sense advice in here, Val, but I do think the title's wrong. This isn't about trolling, it's about spamming, yeah? A post condemning trolls would be fairly useless, when you think about it, since attention is their primary motivation; you've already given them what they want as soon as you acknowledge their existence! Which I am now gonna call the Great Troll Paradox — Seethe with frustration at their antics, they win. Call them out as a troll… and they still win.

    1. And I should add that "common sense" isn't me damning with faint praise; this is some solid "how to get along with other humans" stuff and it's almost worrying that it needs to be pointed out. I mean, I love to rock boats and push envelopes and stuff, from time to time, but there comes a point where rebel or maverick becomes royal pain in the ass and everyone tunes you out, you know?

  9. Valerie, thank you for telling it like it is. While I am glad that Erica's chutzpa did not backfire ( mean that Erica), it was a risky thing to do and if we all follow that example I fear the backlash will affect all Indie writers. When one pushes an envelope and succeeds, the next will push just a bit further, until it clearly passes the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. Some rules are meant to be challenged but the rules of courtesy never should, IMHO.

  10. I agree, Valerie. I see authors sharing one another's work & supporting each other quite often, which is absolutely wonderful. Therefore, I don't see a need for folks to simply intrude on the pages of others. It's rude & unnecessary.

    By the same token, authors (it's only happened to me once, thank goodness) should not demand someone who has reviewed their book favorably to join/like over a dozen new pages in order to spam those pages with the book and/or the review. I fell for it once, it made me feel dirty, & turned me off of reviewing (other than star ratings) for a while. I can assure you I won't be begged/guilt-tripped/commanded to do it ever again. It was horrible.

  11. I don't think of myself as an "Indie author," I'm also a New York Times essayist, HuffPo blogger, writer for many major mags, author of successful traditionally published non fiction, and ASJA member. I guess I feel entitled to ask authors for blurbs. For my non-fiction book on divorce (trad published but not by a big house) I asked some hotshot authors and they all said yes. That empowered me. I would NEVER call anyone up. That is really intrusive. Email if possible, or send a message on Facebook. Actually I didn't post on Anne Rice's Facebook page, I sent her a message. My motto: Ask and ye shall receive. Don't ask and you'll get bupkis.

    1. Congratulations, that's wonderful! You actually have an established reputation. This post was intended for Indie writers who face a larger uphill battle. And, I'll say again – while I used the general format of your post as a example, it wasn't targeted at you.

      Among those that ARE Indie writers are a good many who would follow your tack, without your reputation, and many who still need to work on their writing. Which would result in a lot of authors' pages being deluged with 'please read my book, please look at my book requests' . That's what I meant to prevent.

      Personally, I don't think anyone is entitled to ask for blurbs but you certainly may. Are you prepared to advocate that the vast majority of Indie writers – and there are thousands, of varying quality – should follow your lead?

      1. Valerie, not sure what I'd recommend for new Indie authors. Just because I'm a professional writer didn't really mean a whole lot for promoting a novel but it did help get blurbs, and also give me chutzpah. I think if you don't toot your own horn no one will and it's better to go overboard and offend, than underboard and lose out on opportunities. But that's just me. I've never been known for my excessive tact and politeness. I really don't see anything wrong with messaging well known writers on Facebook or Linkedin and asking for help, blurbs, whatever. Advertising on their pages is a bit pushy, but if there's a good reason go for it. Oh, and the absolute best way to get attention from well known authors is go to take their workshops or classes. Once you become a student of a well known writer you become their protegee and they will help promote you.

        1. Hurray, we're in agreement! I'm not saying that people shouldn't toot their own horn. Messaging well-known writers gives them the option of yes/no. What I'm afraid of is that advertising thing – and there's a number of Indie writers who really don't get how to do it in a good way. (If you don't believe me, read some of the rest of the responses here.)

          Most unknown writers can't always get to seminars or workshops, they don't know where to find them – although sites like this are trying to help.

          Thanks so much for commenting!

          1. Re workshops, you don't have to go personally, there are online workshops led by known authors. SheWrites has a couple, MediaBistro has a lot. Once they critique your work you're a protegee. It may be worth the money.

  12. I’ve read Valerie’s post and the comments following it with growing trepidation. I’m relatively new to the Indie scene, Facebook and the whole social media thing too. Until just recently, I pretty much avoided that whole social media trip because to be honest it scared the hell out of me. The origins of my aversion, I suspect, were due to never having really recovered from reading George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ when I was sixteen years old (don’t ask, it was a long, long time ago. No… not that long ago! It was published the year before I was born).

    Eventually though, just last year actually, I thought that after making the commitment (leaping into the void, sword in hand, so to speak), all would be revealed and it would turn out to be not as scary as it first appeared to me. Anyway, starting my writing career so late in life, what choice did I have?

    It seems to me that the rules change continuously and you need to be constantly checking that they, whatever it was you thought those rules were, are still applicable. However good manners, a common sense thing that once upon a time was something to take pride in, and etiquette, something you learnt in regard to a chosen pursuit, should be taken for granted as the general guidelines.

    But then again maybe I’m just an old coot.

  13. Valerie, thank you for this post. Some things just need to be said. And really, if you are out in public, would you rush up to someone and shove your book in his or her face? I am NOT pleased when I post a promotion for my book and someone I don't know pops in with "Oh, yeah, then maybe your fans will like MY book!" It's different if I know you or if I've invited you. Reminds me of when I worked in advertising. Someone looking for a roommate posted a notice on the company bulletin board. Under that, someone had written, "Me, too!" with a phone number. Beneath that, the original poster wrote, "Hey, buy your own media space!"

  14. Great post. There are some authors using the friendship connection to post 'support their causes' on your facebook author page, too and I think that is wrong, too. I have been deleting them, but wondering how to go about telling them to please don't abuse the friendship by thinking I support the same causes you do or try to guilt me into supporting your cause. I support causes that directly affect my family and close friends.

  15. I have to add one thing as an example of the insanity of some writers:

    Yesterday President Obama was in Columbus OH (my city) where he had one heckler – A person shouting "Read my book". *facepalm* True story.

    To shut him up the President of the United States said something along the lines of "Okay, I'll take a look."

    The book was promptly handed to a Secret Service Agent. Does anyone really think its appropriate to interrupt the President of the United States in the middle of a speech to hawk his book? Does anyone think he has time to read some unsolicited book by an unknown author? Or that the Secret Service won't be taking a hard look at him?

    All I can do is hope and pray that absolute moron who thought his actions were appropriate is some mid-level and desperate traditionally published author and not some equally desperate independent writer.

    1. That Obama story is hysterical. Do you have a link to the story? I'd like to post that on Facebook. Too bad he didn't get in a few more words, like "Rick Santorum loved it."

  16. I don't know, I asked God to read my book the other day, right in the middle of a meeting with all the Archangels about whether to turn down the climate by a degree or two or just let us all boil in a stew of our own making. He actually winced. And He said "Son, you got moxy. But really, dude, come on! Imagine if everyone did that. I'd be doing nothing but reading crappy ebooks for all eternity. What do you think social networks are for?" Chastened yet wiser, I returned to hawking my book on Facebook.

  17. I really enjoyed this article. As one of the newer kids on this block, I found this informative. It seems like this should be common sense to me but I have seen some "interesting" marketing practices.

    Indie writers from what I can see are not a bad bunch. Like Teen-agers, indie writers as a whole get a bad name from a few "bad apples" or those who don't know better (yet). I like it when the community takes the time to police itself on marketing, editing, and overall PR.

  18. Thank you SO much for this article. I think we need to talk more about manners or Netiquette. Things that the average person wouldn't do in person, they find acceptable on the internet. Isn't this just another version of social interaction? Shouldn't the same rules apply?

    I'm a book blogger and I can't count the number of times I've had someone comment on a post with "great post! My book is similar – here is a buy link and you should really review it" or "great post, I also have a giveaway on my blog that is for a similar book – everyone should go to (insert link here) and enter my giveaway also".

    As someone pointed out – there is a delete button 🙂

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