Twitter Don’ts

Or how not to win readers or influence people…


Totally, I’m telling you what not to do.

Generally, I try not to. I often *fail* at that endeavor, but I do try.

But this time? Oh, yes. Straight up, Imma tell you what not to do on Twitter. (And probably FB, as well, but YMMV.)


Stop with the non-stop self promos. That’s job 1, and you know it. Everyone keeps telling you to not do this, and every day I open my Twitter feed and start muting new followers because all I can see for the first screen-and-a-half is the same one or two promos (which their mom dutifully retweets immediately) (and that part I completely get, because what else are moms for?) five times for five minutes, before they go off to work or brunch or whatever.

Many experts have done the math for you. Bad Redhead shows it all here:

And I know most of you have seen this and/or similar articles…and yet…

It doesn’t work. It doesn’t. The numbers tell you: Twitter is to build relationships and name recognition. Twitter doesn’t get you sales.

And doing it for someone else? You think somehow that’s going to work better?

Frankly, there’s a strong chance that when it comes to the annual Twitter cull (come on, you know you do it, too) you’ll be on the block, because when you do this for someone else, the immediate assumption is that you are a bot.

People want to follow other members of their own species, not some algorithmical construct formed solely for the purpose of begging for spare change on the corner of Bits Avenue and Byte Street.

I’m not saying you cannot ever post about your work. You absolutely should have your header and a pinned post that reflects your status as an author, and showcases at least one title available.

And occasionally, a cute or clever promo is no bad thing.

Even better are very infrequent “progress reports”, RTs of good reviews, and perhaps an announcement of a new release.

But note the caveat: “infrequent” means that AT THE VERY LEAST, you let a week or six go by between promos.

Because I swear to Cthulhu, if I have to scroll past 47 identical promos of your paranormal romance thriller with a hot sex scene concerning three government spies more than once in the same 24-hour cycle, not only will I mute you forever (I never block unless you suggest you are a Nazi I need to punch) but there is now no way in twenty-six separate hells that I will ever RT anything about your book.

And still less chance I will buy it.





It’s all over on the social media front.

On the one hand, there are all the news stories, memes, and personal posts that imply that the western world is under siege from nefarious people from “other places” – that violence is stalking us and that we must do unpalatable things to keep ourselves “safe”.

On the other hand, there are the news stories, posts, and memes,  warning us that our worst enemies are domestic: this marginalized group, or that one, ready to tear our lives asunder out of jealousy or rage or just plain sadistic glee.

And then (on that third paw) those self-same people posting the dire warnings and the consequences of inattention constantly also forward us their motivational words of wisdom…

Do what you love.

Be true to yourself.

Never let go of your dreams.

You have to wonder, some days, whether these people have minds arranged like a modern call-in centre office: every thought neatly placed in its own discrete, self-actuated, and wholly private cubicle, where nothing from any other cubicle even gets a glimpse of another thought, let alone allows those thoughts to touch.

This world is not safe… but it never has been.

This world is many things… but it is not risk-free.

You can fail… and that’s okay.

You can die… and all of us will, sooner or later.


But instead of meeting these things with fear or overconfidence, we need to learn to weigh the costs, and do the right thing.

Not the easy thing.

Not the “sure” thing.

And definitely not the thing that makes someone else pay for our mistakes.

All Publicity is Good Publicity?


When commercials like these come out, no matter how hard the company gets slammed, they mostly keep the commercial on for the length of the planned campaign. They rarely knuckle under to angry responses immediately.

They obviously know from the start that they’re going to get some push-back, and they seem okay with that.

How interesting it is, don’t you think, that when a company runs an egregiously outright racist/sexist commercial, or is caught perpetrating outmoded and offensive stereotypes, they act all surprised and “innocent”, and claim it was a “mistake” in judgement?

And yet, those ads, too, generally run for at least part of the planned campaign. They don’t disappear immediately.

I think that in both cases, the companies know exactly what they are doing, and have no illusions about the reactions they will get. It seems very unlikely that they wouldn’t: they all hire professional advertising agencies with decades of experience, and they do masses of market research before they ever book the airtime.

I think in the first instance, the company believes strongly enough in at least this much: that the bulk of their market will respond positively over the long haul to anti-racist/pro-equality messages and will associate the brand with their own core values.

It’s entirely possible that some of these ads are even less cynical than that, and that the people running these companies do, in fact, care about these issues, and are willing to publicly support them for purely ideological reasons.

It’s okay if it’s both.

The point is: they are doing it on purpose.

Which means, logically, that the companies who spend their advertising dollars on racist, anti-equality messaging also do it on purpose.



Additional Note: This, too, is part of the issue (pay attention to the presentation of both the fact and the wording of the “apology”… “some” call it offensive? That, in itself, tells you a lot right there.):

#NotAll fill-in-the-blank

Or: Whose ox is being gored here, anyway?


Have you ever had a FaceBook friend or Twitter follower who seemed to share your values, speak your “language”, and agree on the nefariousness and malice aforethought of some particular subsets of humanity…?

You think they’re cool. You think they’re on the same wavelength. You think they “get” you…

Right up until the moment you make a passing, mildly amusing generalization about some other subset – moms, or men, or deciduous trees – and all of a sudden, they are mortally offended and taking it all personally and serious, as if you had called out their mom, their husband, or the maple tree in their front yard: explicitly and by name.

It happens to me about once a month. I’ve tried to sum up a general economic problem like the foreclosure debacle of 2008, calling attention to the ways in which many people contributed to the bubble that inevitably burst by acquiring property with the full intention of doing cosmetic renos and then flipping that property just to make a few bucks…

And wham! Someone I respect and love goes ballistic about how *they* went under and were bankrupted and lost their home because of trusting the real estate agents and the banks and how dare I imply that their misfortune was in any way their fault?!?

I lost longtime and valued friends because I once used the @yesallwomen hash-tag to discuss the many, many ways in which women in western European cultures are dishonoured and robbed of their essential agency as human beings, every day, in small but significant ways that open the door wide open to the more egregious and frequently violent actions that destroy them.

A wardrobe-mistress of a ballet company, someone I had been close friends with for nearly two decades, unfriended me almost immediately,  because apparently, according to her parting DM, she had never once been disrespected by anyone identifying as male in her entire life, and that was proof positive that I was a hatemongering feminazi.

Because #notallmen, right?

The woman who loved my memes and snarky comments about “husbands” went ballistic on me when I made a similarly generalized comment about stereotypical toddler behaviors and the over-the-stratosphere reactions that their mothers frequently resort to.

“Not my child” and “How can I possibly understand how hard it is to raise a child in this world?” was the least of it.

It’s totally human and it’s everywhere, all the time, and I’m willing to bet that even a lot of people who pride themselves on being uniformly positive, empathetic, and kind 100% of the time have still, occasionally, met this reaction to what they thought, sincerely, was a mild and affirmative post or tweet.


As writers, we’re taught to use our knowledge, understanding, and experience of the world and its inhabitants to bring realism and believability to our work.

But if we had a character that did this in a novel, the editors and the readers would flag it IN NEON LETTERS A MILE HIGH as completely inconsistent, unbelievable, and wrong.

Go figure.


Fame from an Unfamous Person’s Viewpoint

I don’t get it.


I really don’t.

What is it that makes people want to get up close and personal with celebrities? What is it that urges people to collect autographs, or meet, in any way possible, a famous person?

How do they justify interrupting a total stranger’s date-night with their need to tell them what a wonderful, lifelong fan of theirs they are?

Why do they read about these people’s personal habits? Why is it so needful to track every rumour, and devour every paparazzi photo of someone they don’t know’s intimate moments?

It weirds me out.

I mean, I get that you join a Facebook page, and enjoy what an actor, a musician, or a writer says about their work. I even get why when they post about their lives: it’s amusing and heartwarming and fun.

I do actually follow some writers, artists, film-makers, and musicians on Twitter and FB – it’s fun to know what Neil Gaiman thinks about a review of American Gods, or why the writing team of Ilona Andrews’ novels are behind schedule – but those are controlled by the people involved: they tell you as much or as little as they feel comfortable with.

Interviews: sure. The famous person in question can refuse to allow certain kinds of questions, or simply decline to answer.

PR pix – ditto.

Bu think about how you’d feel if someone burst into your room at 6 a.m., snapped a picture of you in your raggedy-ass PJs and messy hair, and then put it up on the public bulletin board at work for everyone to criticize or chuckle over.

Think about going into a performance review and salary negotiation with that as common property, and ask yourself if that isn’t a violation.

People will say that if they didn’t want to live in a media fishbowl, they should have stayed in a dead-end job and out of the public eye – but that’s really the most selfish, obtuse, and unfeeling answer of all.

Would you prefer only self-centred, talentless show-offs to be the creators in this world? Really?

I think it’s really important not to overestimate what people making the art and entertainment you crave actually owe you.

They owe you the very best their talent can provide.

But they don’t owe you one nano-second of their lives outside of that, and expecting more than they are willing to give is unreasonable.

And let’s dig deeper.

What does it say about you, that you want more?

What does it say about you, that you avidly suck up their every action and thought without respect to them as fellow-humans?

What does it say about you, that you are willing to believe the worst of them, that you, in fact, crave visible evidence of their shortcomings splashed across your newsfeed every day?

If a close-up of a zit on Beyonce’s face fills you with ecstatic glee, this says an Encyclopedia Brittanica volume’s worth about you…

And less than nothing about Beyonce.

Words are not enough.


I appreciate the meme going around, where people are telling others that their door is open, that they are there for them when depression and other hardships in life seem to be getting to be too much.

I know you mean it. I know your intention is not only to open up the dialogue, but to offer safety and acceptance to people who are at the edge of the abyss.

But one of the problems with this mental state – the one that pushes people who are in pain to that edge, and over it – is the inability to reach out.

And even when they think they are reaching out, it’s usually not as clearly a sign for “I need help” as you or they think it should be.

So I’m asking all of you to not just copy and paste, but to listen. To read between the lines.

And then, get up off the couch and go to them, whether they outright ask or not.

Don’t wait for them to come to your door.

Because by the time they realize how deep into the abyss they are, they probably won’t be able to do that.

Be active. Be physically present in their lives.

Be there for them.

It could be the difference between life and death.

“I’m Sorry” is Not Really That Hard to Say


This was the simplest and most casual search I did, because lately there have been a lot – a whole lot – of news stories about perfectly nice public persons saying things that have been seen as racist, or sexist, or just generally clueless and wrongheaded.

I’m not talking about the KKK here. I’m not talking about those weird people over on 4chan.

I’m looking at lists of people who have supported equality, who have gone on record as allying themselves with important causes, who are even members of marginalized groups themselves, who are trying, in big ways and small ones, to level the field, or at least, to not help create more bumps at the opposing end.

And when they fail, even for a nano-second, they feel persecuted and react in ways that compound the problem.

A woman who stands up publicly for other women, then turns around and casually fat-shames some other woman.

A white person marches for BLM, then casually co-opts the language of the marginalized, of PoC, in a throw-away comment that suggests they are faking it.

A self-identifying male “feminist” who tweets a misogynist slur at a conservative female politician to score points for the “progressive cause”.

There have been so many instances of people in the public eye, people who seem like good people, people whose core values seem to be on the side of justice and equity, making statements that get them called out – and called out HARD – for racism and sexism and able-ism etc.

And then they try to excuse it, and we jump all over them for that, too.


But here’s the problem.


It happens to every one of us, and it’s not precisely all our own fault. Viral culture creeps into our voices, and it is why we unconsciously co-opt minorities/marginalized people. It is why we default to mentioning appearances as if genetic features or extra poundage were a divine signal of unworthiness. It’s why so many of those we admire in music, film, or literature seem to always have feet of clay.

And yet we don’t even “hear” it when we do this ourselves.

We – the unwashed masses in the street – differ only in the scope of our audience.

The media, the very fabric of our culture, has woven this all so deeply into our souls that we cannot even recognize what we say.

We can hear it when others say it.

We are deaf to our own voices.

And the root problem is that our own identities and self-images are so bound up in both our culture and our egos, that we literally freak, when we’re told off for what we cannot hear in our own voices.

We need to break this habit. We need to untangle our need to be seen as “good” from our inevitable conditioning to parrot the things we are daily subjected to, and consider our words before we say them.

And we need to learn that instead of that freak-out, our best and most unifying response would be a heartfelt “I am sorry. I spoke without thought. Let me rephrase that in a less harmful way.”

I mean, seriously: we are all dismayed/depressed/incensed at the number of politicians currently unable to admit that their revolting words might cause harm to the entire world, and we publicly excoriate them for not measuring their speech and admitting their faults.

But how are the rest of us any better, when we leap to the barricades against those in the public eye when they offend us, but excuse ourselves and deflect all critique when the words are our own?