Social media is a gift and a curse for writers. On one hand, it allows people to see if creations work when tested against a large audience in either the general or niche sense. On the other, people also see if you fall flat on your face.
The big problem with social media is, speaking from experience, that if you stick your foot in your mouth, hundreds if not thousands of people will notice. In the best case, people will forget it after a couple of days and you will just feel a lingering sense of shame. Then it can ruin your reputation, even if you make an honest mistake and you’re not a jerk like certain white supremacists we could mention. This applies even if you’re not a writer; Justine Sacco lost her job and her career over a tasteless joke; and spent years trying to recover from the aftermath.
On that note, my brother and I have been watching The Good Place on Netflix. The show talks about how afterlife morality’s rules seem arbitrary; being a Red Hot Chili Peppers fan, for example, can land a person in the Bad Place or the generic version of Hell that captures everyone’s view of the afterlife. If Michael or the Accountants were in charge of judging writing behavior online, then we would have a very interesting view of what is or isn’t arbitrary.
- Harassing reviewers that don’t like your book – There will be people that do this, and we see receipts of this. Don’t. Just don’t. People will always dislike your work and post about it for various reasons. Keep any conversations private and polite, and be nice. Authors have more power than reviewers do, and if a reviewer is marginalized then they may be disproportionately targeted.
- Having a hot take on a sensitive topic that is not your lane – You may mean well, and you may be a marginalized writer with intersectional experience, but we don’t have a universal human narrative. I’ve seen a tweet thread go viral for all the exact wrong reasons from a debut author. Even though she was genuinely apologetic afterward and willing to learn
- Making threats against reviewers and journalists or acting on those threats – Don’t. Even if your industry will protect you, as the comics industry has, just don’t. This will automatically send you to the Bad Place. And it will lead to someone else getting hurt. Literally!
- Reposting people’s fan-art without crediting them – Don’t. There are talented fan artists out there, and they should be credited because the fan-art they do can lead to them developing long-term careers in art, or getting good press.
- Sending your fans against critics of your book or fanfic writers – I see you, authors, and it is not cool. Not naming names but Tumblr may provide a search of authors who have sent cease & desist letters against fanfic writers who are not turning a profit on someone else’s copyrighted work and minding their business. Fandom is created out of love. You turn on that love and make kids and adults who love your work scared. And fans are not your weapons or soldiers to be used in a fake battle.
- Tagging authors in negative reviews – This goes for everyone, not just authors. It’s mean and hurtful. We can find negative reviews independently.
When I asked my writer friends or other rules that may lead to losing morality points, I got some gems from Brandon Chimm:
“Don’t subtweet or start drama against another author. If you have a problem, hit DMs first or otherwise keep it private. Don’t drag all of writing Twitter along into your pettiness unless it’s a deep, legit problem like racism/bigotry/etc.