30 May 2010

My Shame: A Writer's DOs and DON'Ts of Social Media

by Carrie Bailey

My humiliation will be shared momentarily, but first I will explain why.  In life I hold one obsession above all others, and not the written word.  It's coffee.  When a friend phoned and suggested I submit my "Ode to Nescafe" to a contest to be published in a coffee table book about coffee, I jumped, hit the send button, and tweeted my submission...a few times.  And then a few more.  And...

Writers must promote their own work.  Dispense with any delusion that one day a publisher knocks on your door, asks you if you happen to write, and offers to publish your work. 

Comments surged on my poem and the feedback was all positive.  But then in a sad twist of fate, a close relative of mine, whom I've always admired, made some poorly timed meant-to-be-private comments which worked their way back to me.  Whether in a Freudian way he meant for me to hear it, I cannot say, but the message was clear and it hurt.  My work wasn't the issue either; I was.   To compound my humiliation, I signed into the website offering the contest with disqus and all my "HEY - READ MY POEM!" tweets were instantly posted below the original comments about the poem itself.

In fact, you can see them all here at A Word With You Press

From the moment I submitted, I knew the editor wouldn't choose based on comments or even popularity alone.  I promoted my poem, because I love my poem.  When I lived in Santiago, I drank dainty cups of instant Nescafe coffee until the wee hours at my friends' homes and then snored my way back to my apartment on the public transportation-ah, fond memories.  And as a revered poet from Chile wrote odes about mundane objects such as tomatoes, I followed his example.  The result was an ode that shares my uncommon love of instant coffee.

All said and done, you must self promote if you want to put your work in the hands of readers and social media offers an excellent platform to achieve this.  I've laughed many times at people tweeting for followers on twitter.  Self-promotion I'm not interested in, I ignore.  I would never advise anyone to stop having a silly night begging to round off your follower number to the nearest hundred or letting people know that no one read your blog post *hint, hint.*.  That's priceless and endearing behavior to some of us.

After my relative took offense at my coffee poem, his mother gave me this advice: don't worry about what others think.  This advice balanced with the ever timeless advice, DON'T SPAM, reveals a golden mean of social media wisdom.

Her reminder also prepared me for another phenomena.  Tweets and messages about spelling and grammar errors.  I went six months without a single one once...

I have enough experience to know that some mistakes are actually INVISIBLE.  I know the grammar rule and I'd see it when I read other people's work, but on my own it's INVISIBLE.  My eyes pass over it and it does not register.  LIKE MAGIC. 

Though I consider this coffee poem experience my personal shame, I wasn't deleted, blocked, or reported for spam.  I just annoyed someone who mattered and I embarrassed myself.  Now wiser, I can speak from personal experience both as the victim and the perpetrator of shameless self-promotion.

And I will share my DOs and DONTs of promoting yourself on social media:

  • DO use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to promote your work
  • DO start promotion BEFORE any work is complete
  • DO tell friends and family about your work
  • DO ask for feedback, reviews and comments
  • DO allow the people you know to invest in you
  • DO reciprocate
  • DO keep track of how frequently you post

  • DON'T use social media ONLY to promote your work
  • DON'T promote where the receiver cannot delete or unsubscribe
  • DON'T forget that different generations use social media differently
  • DON'T take most correspondence personally
  • DON'T forget that anything you post online can and will be seen by everyone.  

Not everyone you care about will be supportive.  When they see your tweets... or receive a bulk message... They may feel less important to you.  That can be the unintended consequence of having your family, your former classmates, and your online contacts communicating through the same medium.  But don't stop sharing your work over negative feedback, it comes with the territory and only makes you a better writer.   

By the way that contest ends this week!   ( ^_^)o自自o(^_^ )


  1. Wonderful post, Carrie. I especially like the invisibility of your own mistakes. Funny. I can't see mine either!

    Self-promotion and using the social media are things I'm still learning. I stink at Twitter, get a kick out of Facebook and wonder how to have time for the multitude of other sites I belong to and still be able to work!

  2. Thx! This is very timely for me, having recently come out of my shell as a writer. I started a blog about writing and also got the Twitter bug...however, it took some courage to 'put myself out there' & 'shamelessly self promote' with blog updates...it still is not all that comfortable for me...but I do want to share my ideas so I make myself do it and it's good for my confidence to do so...

    I think you are right in saying that no one likes a salesperson (ie: tweets just to self promote/sell) but rather prefers seeing more of that person, which is how most people use twitter, I think, in multiple ways...the connections made there are just so valuable...I know I have become a great twitter fan because of the community.

    But in the interest of shameless self promotion... here's my blog! busywriting.wordpress.com which is all about the funny side of writing life and has comics I've created too!

  3. Very nice post! I also laughed at the invisible mistakes - That has happened to me!

    And yes, unfortunately when we are out there, the negative has to follow.

    Good for you for continuing to put yourself out there despite the negative. It is amazing how much weight we can put on 1-2 negative comments when there are dozens (or more) of positive sitting there.

  4. My Dear Ms Bailey. I loved your poem, and others on our site did as well. AND MY OPINION COUNTS!!!I'M THE BLOODY EDITOR!! I do hope you will keep writing, and sharing them with us. After all you are one of our "Centurions" the first hundred people to enter our contest and help build our site. Post something more than poetry if you like, or post as much poetry as you'd like on our new feature, "A Word from You."There is a whole community of writers waiting to see what you have to write. Keep at it.
    A Word with You Press.

  5. Linda, with twitter, it's sort of made up as you go along and people use it differently. I would never have known you weren't a pro :).

    Julie, YAY! good for you. I'll check your blog out now.

    Anne, I completely agree. Before writing, I never opened myself up to rejection to quite the same degree. And learning to take the few negative comments makes a world of difference.

    My Dear Mr Sully, Editor-in-Chief, I'm honored by your encouragement on my poetry of all things. Besides the humor and community on your site, I'm glad for your appreciation of the centurions such as myself (I feel special!).

    I don't know how you found my post so quickly, but reading your comment has put a smile on my face that's lasted most of the day. Thanks! You'll be seeing more of me at A Word with You Press for certain.

  6. It's very human to become exuberant over a literary piece, Carrie, and this enthusiasm, once spread throughout social networks, will inevitably invite some negative reaction. The 'physics' of the internet are much like those of a gun; once the bullet is fired it cannot be returned. That said, you displayed a human trait in your exuberance but a higher quality of spiritual growth in learning, admitting and advising others how to best negotiate the 'internet landmines' you encountered. As a guide for others, you set the example of what defines a true writer in the giving of yourself without fear of judgment. Negative opinions are irrelevant on the path a writer has chosen. Staying true to this path is all that matters. And through self-promotion, allowing others to hear your written calling.

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