Career

Caution: Loose Platform Planks

I love learning about authors on the internet. And as a literary agent, I enjoy the internet and find connections there that would be otherwise difficult to find and maintain. But as professionals, we must be cautious about what we share on any level.

One reason is that we all know the internet is forever. Consider Blake Shelton’s recent woes over old tweets. He is not alone. When I was investigating new insurance agents last week, I found comments posted years ago. I shy away from reviewing books (“Wow, her agent gave her book five stars!”) but have posted other reviews. These tidbits of information seem harmless enough. Although I do have to say, one site listed my shoe size for all to see. That factoid is insignificant, but I didn’t care to publish it. Otherwise, what harm can it do for someone to discover that I loved the women’s trousers I bought in 2009?

Well, maybe not harm; but it’s one tidbit of information. And sites usually ask for an age range and perhaps a description of yourself, such as sporty, curvy, classic, etc. Then you might jump onto another site that asks for a different set of information. Some inquire about income and other facts that we shouldn’t share. Without thinking, survey responders provide snapshots of their households and themselves. Individually, there probably isn’t much harm. But by piecing together details, a hacker can produce a complete profile. At the very least, a nosy neighbor can track your habits.

And what if you had a terrible experience somewhere and want to get revenge of sorts through ranting online? I was tempted to trash a business after several bouts of incompetence but ended up pretty much being forced to return to them a couple of years later. If I had fumed, I couldn’t have done so. At the very least, if I had read the tirade five years later, I may have been embarrassed by how my outburst made me appear. I tell everyone never to post when livid.

Another reason? Some business owners decide to sue.

We all want a tribe; but as an author, finding political allies online isn’t the way to go. Don’t you want readers of all political stripes? I never tell pollsters how I plan to vote. Answering means that rich friends of the candidate will invite me to barbeques where we can meet for $500 or more. Not only does that amount place me in the small potatoes range, anyway; but I don’t have any issue I need to pay $500 ($1,000 when I include my husband) to discuss. I’ll just vote.

And by keeping a cheerful but closely guarded online presence, readers are more likely to vote for you by reading your books!

Your turn:

Have you been turned off by an author’s comments online?

Have you stopped following or reading an author because of their online presence?

Has an author’s online presence caused you to be more of a fan? Why?

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