When Authors Make Social Media Blunders

social media for authorsSocial Media for Authors — Use it Wisely!

Most authors are well meaning souls who pay it forward by sharing their stories. The world is better for it.

But a few make regrettable mistakes. The creator of Lemony Snicket, Daniel Handler, misspoke terribly while hosting the National Book Awards, and later apologized for remarks that smacked of racism. He paid the price. The Internet is forever.

No one wants to be in the news for this sort of blunder, right? Well, there seems to be an exception. One polarizing author recently used Twitter to attack a child. What? you ask. A children’s author attacking a child? You heard correctly. This same author also mocked people with disabilities. I can’t make this stuff up. Keep reading the precautionary tale below.

Think Before You Pontificate

We all hold political views. That’s fine, and we should.

But when your political ideology is not central to your book, the best advice is to leave it out. Some authors gratuitously transfer their political beliefs to a character and use their novel to push a personal agenda. That is fine IF you don’t care about the “other half.” The nation is politically divided (hello!), but people of all persuasions read books. They are your potential customers, so why insult those who hold an opposite view? Why pick a fight with half your readership? Again, unless politics is part of the plot, think before you pontificate.

The same goes for social media. Share your political beliefs on your personal profiles if you must, but keep them off your official social media pages. Unless you are an incredibly popular author who can afford to alienate readers, just don’t go there. Focus on marketing your book to the broadest audience possible. You need those book sales!

Social Media Blunders

One of the most avoidable social media fiascos of 2017 involves author Ken Jennings and his official Twitter account. You may remember him as the Jeopardy champion who famously scored more wins than any other contestant in the show’s history. And he writes children’s books.

     What the heck?

This author landed in hot water a few years back for tweeting a disrespectful comment about handicapped people: Nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair. I’m sorry, but anyone with a special needs family member would understandably feel triggered by this comment. I did. 

Jennings is a genius, a Mormon, a father, and a writer of children’s literature, so how could he be so craven? He caught some backlash, but no real consequences—his books are published through Simon & Schuster.

Some People Never Learn

So this particular author is a gift that keeps on giving regarding what NOT to do to in the literary world. Authors should keep out of the political minefield, and here’s why. Fast forward to late May and early June of 2017.

Jennings stepped in it again, this time for cyber bullying an 11-year-old child. At least this time we know why. Jennings is on record as not liking the current POTUS — again, everyone has a right to their personal views. Should those views be publicized? Probably not, if you want to avoid angering readers who disagree.

But this author’s sentiments were not targeted at the POTUS. Instead he targeted elementary student Barron Trump in a tweet (shown here). The inspiration seems to be Kathy Griffin and her beheaded depiction of the POTUS (shot by photographer Tyler Fields), which cost her a New Year’s Eve on CNN with Anderson Cooper.

When the First Family explained that the beheading image traumatized their young son, Jennings was less than sympathetic. In fact, he piled on: “Barron Trump saw a very long necktie on a heap of expired deli meat in a dumpster. He thought it was his dad & his little heart is breaking.”

Ewww. Bad form.

Backlash

Oh, I hate this stuff. It’s unprofessional behavior on a whole new level. Cyber bullying the most defenseless among us—children—is never okay. We worry when kids engage in online cruelty, so imagine the outcry when a grown man says such things.

Thousands of angry people have weighed in on Jennings’ Facebook and Twitter page. A great many have contacted Simon & Schuster, as well. Not surprisingly, many liberals and conservatives have found common ground denouncing Jennings’ tweet. Jennings, however, has refused to remove his tweet or apologize (at the time of this article’s publication).

Lesson

Author Ken Jennings has provided a teachable moment. Provoking his target audience (children, their parents, and at least half the nation) is a terrible marketing strategy. We can learn from this. Being an author puts you in the public eye, so make good use of that platform and throw positivity out into the universe. Your readers will thank you for it.

Questions? Comments? Contact melanie@melaniesaxtonmedia.com

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