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Social Networking Abuse

We all know that the Internet is a great way to “get out there.” Get known. Put yourself in people’s sightlines in a new way. This can be intimidating, but it’s also inspiring. Shy people become less so online. Connections and friendships and business relationships are forged. More people know about you than ever before. But the kind of “shoot for the moon” attitude that social networking sometimes inspires also has a bad side. Sometimes people do things to get noticed that they wouldn’t ordinarily do, all because the Internet makes them feel bolder.

Here are some things that I absolutely hate when people do to me on social networking sites*. Just because I accept a friend request on my public agent profile (I have two Facebooks, one for Agent Me, the other for people I actually know from high school, etc.), just because it’s easy to find me and add me, that doesn’t mean you now have an open channel to do whatever. My colleagues at ABLA or other agencies may feel differently, but here are the social networking moves that I consider a faux pas:

Queries via Facebook and Twitter

Don’t do it. Just don’t do it. Don’t ever do it. Don’t ask me if I want to read your work via a Facebook or Twitter ping, either. Follow submission guidelines and get your work to an agent or editor the way everyone else does.

Obnoxious Wall Posting

I welcome posts to my profile thanking me for the add or talking about a conference where you just saw me speak or about a book I’ve represented or whatever, but leave it at that. Don’t post things to my wall about your book. The thinking is probably this: “Lots of people visit this person’s wall, so I can generate some extra traffic to my blog/ebook/whatever. It also looks like this person is endorsing my thing. That’s great!” I pick the things I endorse, whether for my Resources for Writers page or things I mention via social networking very carefully. I’ll either review something or retweet it. In fact, earlier this year, I retweeted a contest and it turns out the company running the contest was claiming rights ownership for things submitted, so I deleted my Tweet and didn’t recommend the contest anymore. I take whatever I mention seriously.

Don’t use an agent or editor’s page as a billboard for your stuff. Not only is it annoying, but I guarantee that any such posts to my page will get deleted, which takes time, which will only make it even more annoying. And forget about those quizzes or game invitations — we may be “friends” on Facebook but we’re not that kind of friends, and my real life friends know better than to waste their time (and mine) with that nonsense.

Invitations

There are a few blunders in the invitation arena, too. Don’t invite me to Events unless I actually know you. No book signings if I’m not a real friend of yours, no virtual launch parties, no poetry slams or what have you.

No group invitations, either. There was this one writing group that I was invited to a few months ago. My name was added to this group without my knowledge or permission. Members of the group started posting their writing samples. I’m guessing a lot of agents and editors were added to this group because the leader thought it would be a great and creative way to get some work noticed. Since I don’t join groups, I had no idea that my mail settings for Facebook sent me an email every time someone posted. The day some random person added me to this writing group, I got over 200 emails from people posting. All for a group I didn’t want to be in. I was traveling that day, and couldn’t figure out how to leave the group from the Facebook app, so I had all this spam in my inbox and I was ready to kill someone.

The new thing people are doing is adding me as a co-worker. They click that they work as “Writer” or “In publishing” or whatever, and they mark us as working together. Then I have to go to my profile and say to ignore this work information. Please stop doing that. It started happening like two weeks ago, for some reason, and it’s maddening. I work alone at home and I know, for a fact, who my co-workers are. These people adding me as a peer on Facebook are not them.

Mailing Lists

Another abuse of the Internet is adding my email address to mailing lists and newsletters. I’ve had authors do this. They will add me to either their newsletter or add my email to another social networking site where they want to connect with me, and I get deluged in emails that I didn’t ask for. Do not sign anyone up for anything without their permission by using their email address. This should be common sense but you’d be surprised at how often it happens.

The bottom line is: there’s a right way and a wrong way to get attention. There’s also a right way and a wrong way to get your work noticed. Don’t try and catch my eye through tricks or overstepping your bounds on the Internet. Catch my attention with the strength of your work and through official channels. All of the scenarios I mention above annoy me. And when I’m grumpy, I focus my frustration on the source of the social networking error: you. You may be trying to expose me to the coolest event, newsletter, query, game of Angry Birds ever, but I am never going to notice it because I’m too busy thinking you’re rude. If you really have something wonderful to show me, just show me like a normal person, don’t resort to Internet gimmicks.

* I make it sound like this stuff is the bane of my existence but, really, it’s pretty low on the totem pole. I don’t sit around all day crying about people abusing my profile. There are bigger fish to fry. But I do want to get my point across here, so I invoke emotion a lot.

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  1. Jenn Thorne’s avatar

    Small aside: Do you think it’s worthwhile for writers to include their twitter name in queries if they’ve had above-board interactions with agents on there?

  2. Jenn Thorne’s avatar

    And by the way, I’ve deleted ACTUAL FRIENDS from Facebook for doing some of the things you mention above! :)

  3. Janice Gable Bashman’s avatar

    Excellent post, and one all writers should read and follow. Just because social networking is available to all it doesn’t mean business sense and etiquette should be discarded. Some writers forget (or choose to ignore) that publishing is a business and that relationships (or potential relationships) with agents and editors are business relationships. They can be friendly relationships but they are still business relationships.

  4. Mandy Hubbard’s avatar

    Jenn, I’m not Mary, obviously, but I see twitter handles in query signature lines all the time (you don’t need to be like I AM @COOLWRITER ON TWITTER!) and sometimes I do remember them, becuase I’ve chatted with them. Doesn’t hurt. Include it as you would your email, website, etc, on the signature line.

  5. Beth’s avatar

    I want this post to start with: * I make it sound like this stuff is the bane of my existence but, really, it’s pretty low on the totem pole. I don’t sit around all day crying about people abusing my profile. There are bigger fish to fry. But I do want to get my point across here, so I invoke emotion a lot.

    But I’m still feelin’ ya.

  6. Quentin’s avatar

    LOL. I should post something like this for my (extended) family, but I just chicken out and hide the annoying game or quiz. I’ve had to hide the posts from several relatives (the aunt who just can’t stay away from every new game, and the teenage nieces — just how many posts can someone do in a day?).

  7. Rick Walton’s avatar

    I think if we writers spent more time thinking about how effective our writing was instead of how effective our social networking was, we would all be better off.

  8. Shannon’s avatar

    If only one could say such things to their grandmother.

  9. Jamie’s avatar

    O-M-G WHAT is that stupid we work together business? NO, random person, I don’t even know–we don’t work together. I’m sitting on my living room couch in my pajamas RIGHT NOW– if you’re not sitting in here WITH ME then guess what?!? Don’t make it out on Facebook like we’re bestie working partners FOREVAH!

  10. Meredith Barnes’s avatar

    I agree with Mandy! I like to see all forms of contact in a querier’s signature: blog, twitter, facebook (if it’s an author page, not a personal profile), tumblr, etc.

    You just never know what might be the thing that makes us click. But I also agree that you don’t have to make a big deal about it. Just include it in your signature as you would your phone number.

  11. Greg Pincus’s avatar

    Ah, yes. It is easy to make these mistakes. You don’t even mention combining mistakes like the automated Twitter Direct Message that serves as a query or pitch!

    I’m curious, though, about the “invitation” thing. Not to groups and such, but to events. Sure, it’s great to target locally, but sometimes you want to invite broadly to capture the viral nature of Facebook: everyone sees your RSVP (yes or no) in their ticker and on your wall (formerly in the news feed where, I think, it mattered more). That captures new eyeballs. That’s the way FB can be used to create buzz, and I think that’s the motivation behind sending such an invite. (Admittedly, I don’t like FB much and rarely see all those invites or RSVP! But those things don’t bother me as much. Local events I’m less fond of, but even then… if I know the author, I’m okay with it cuz I’d stop by if I could). This issue, in particular, is less annoying to me now that Facebook no longer sends emails about each such invite.

    You didn’t mention one of my pet peeves, by the way: egregious name dropping/linking to get someone to notice a post! Oh. Bad. Bad.

  12. Ronni’s avatar

    I am always happy to welcome authors and writers to my FB friends. Although I wonder WHY they request me because I really am nothing in the publishing world at this point.

    What I don’t like is when an author spams me with requests to “like” their page. It’s only happened with two authors, and I ended up having to delete them as friends because it was excessive. I’d get the request, and I’d ignore it. Not even an hour later, there’s a new request. And on and on and on. Annoying potential readers is a fantastic way to turn them off in my opinion.

  13. Jennifer Jensen’s avatar

    Well, DUH!

    My jaw dropped farther and farther as I read. I can’t conceive of anyone doing these things, let alone to someone you don’t know, that you’d like to make a good impression on.

  14. Franziska Green’s avatar

    Cripes, I didn’t realise FB groups can add you without your permission. Eek. I’m so glad I’m not having to deal with this kind of thing!

  15. Julie Daines’s avatar

    You’re just too popular. It’s hard to be a celebrity!

    And I agree with Rick Walton’s comment. Social networking is great, but spending too much time on it means less time on perfecting our craft.

  16. Elen C’s avatar

    I’m not defending this kind of behaviour. However, the new FB (as of two weeks ago) makes it very hard NOT to share stuff with everyone. For example, I created an ‘author’ list and FB took this info and ran with it. It suggested to everyone on the list that they become authors too. These were all people in the industry (who I was trying NOT to bombard with photos of my pets etc) It was very embarrassing.

    I have since changed my FB settings – but they are well known for changing them back without telling you.
    Just saying, with FB it might be worth cutting people a bit of slack as it MAKES you share, even when you don’t want to.

  17. Jennifer Estes’s avatar

    I really can’t believe that some people think it’s okay to do these things, but I hear agents and editors say this all the time. From the writer’s perspective, it’s annoying to think that agents/editors have to spend *any* time dealing with it all, which then cuts into the time they could be reading the work of writers who actually follow the proper channels and don’t cyber stalk, not to mention everything else they need to do. Mind-boggling.

  18. Catherine Johnson’s avatar

    I didn’t know the whole world could see your RSVPs – Awkward! I expect you get enough emails without all that to deal with.

  19. Buffy Andrews’s avatar

    Thoughtful post, Mary. It’s funny because I’m active on several social media platforms (my writing blog, my social media blog, my magazine blog, corresponding Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, etc.) and when I am out in public, people respond to me as if they “know me.” Because of the Buffy’s World campaign via my newspaper, I’m connected to a lot of people in a lot of different ways. And while I’m very open and loving and all of that, it still is a bit unnerving sometimes when someone acts like they’re my best friend and the only way we know one another is via the virtual world. I get invitations to all sorts of things from people I really don’t know that well. I’m feel honored and flattered that they think so much of me, and yet it’s a bit odd and sometimes overwhelming. Anyway, great job of summarizing your thoughts. Have a super week!

  20. terry aley’s avatar

    Reminds me of supermodels complaining about how bad it is they have to pose on a tropical beach all day. If you have people coming to you, you’re ahead of 99% of the other people in the game. Gratitude. The problem is for every 10,000 manuscripts that are sent in, there are 9,999 rejection letters sent back with your SASE. It’s beyond hard work for many writers to keep going year after year. Then the idiot who is a D List celebrity gets a hefty book deal and the person who’s slaved away for years does their ghostwriting. I say be glad you’re not on the side of constant rejection and simply reply with a link to your submission guidelines. I’ve personally gotten some brilliant ideas and story suggestions from people directly sending Tweets to me.

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