Seven Ways to Shut Down Online Bullies and Protect Your Author Brand
by Kristen Lamb
Publishing has entered The Digital Age and bullies abound more than ever. The Internet gives psychos access to torment us 24-7 no matter where we go. There are people who are simply made of spite and hate and they will spread misery and pain as far as they can for no reason other than to make others suffer.
On-line bullying is a concern for regular people using social media, but it can be particularly distressing for authors who want to use the Internet to build a brand and cultivate a fan base. I’ve had hysterical authors contact me for help because they’ve been targeted by bands of feral Goodreads or Amazon haters. I know writers who retreated completely off-line, who shut off comments or even took down their blogs after being victimized by trolls.
Authors can feel particularly vulnerable, but don’t fret. Bullies only have as much power as we’re willing to hand them.
Bullies never go away and when we become published authors, just expect to run into them (especially if we enjoy any amount of success). Remember, bullies are small petty people who want to hurt those brave enough to do what they’re too chicken to attempt. Trolls often can't be completely stopped, but writers can be prepared and we can also make it tougher for them to spread their cruelty.
What To Do
One—Be YOU—Don't Let Bullies Steal Your Peace or Your Book Sales
First of all, use the name printed on your books. A moniker or a pen name won't stop haters or mitigate the pain if you happen to end up in a troll’s crosshairs. It's still you. If someone called me names and ruthlessly attacked my character it wouldn't matter if it was Kristen Lamb's Blog or Penelope Fluffernutter's Blog. It's still me behind the computer.
When we try to hide behind a moniker to protect against the inevitable, all we do is make it harder to sell books. The bullies win. They can steal our peace and pick out pockets by taking book sales, too.
When we evacuate the Internet because of these cretins, they win. It's a "blaming the victim" mentality. If your skirt wasn't so short blog wasn't there, you wouldn't be raped harassed by trolls. This is why I DO recommend a WordPress based site. There is this marvelous TRASH function.
Illegitimi non carborundum...
If you receive violent or threatening messages, take screenshots. Save e-mails. If the troll is motivated enough, they can easily slip into an area that can give you legal recourse. Proof is what will help your case.
Three—Manage Your Platform
I don't allow hate on my blogs or my social sites. PERIOD. I’m always open for respectful disagreement, but if someone gets out of control? I delete their comments. Others need to feel safe to comment on my blogs/threads (and yours), and bullies will shred the fabric of our community if we let them. It's our job set boundaries and refuse to tolerate abuse.
Think of your social media platform like a cocktail party. If someone escalated out of control and began verbally assaulting other guests, would you permit them to stay because they have First Amendment rights to freedom of speech? No. You would and should show them the door.
Four—Stand Up for Friends
If you have a writer friend who's being bullied, gather together and, when Amazon asks if a review is helpful? Click NO. The WANA Community is massive. Let us know. We are happy to stick up for you. A troll might be able to harass one or two pals who come to your aid, but a few thousand is a tougher challenge.
Five—Report and Block
I’ve had trolls latch onto a comment feed and unleash venom onto others in the thread. My first recourse is to delete the offending comments. Then, I privately and politely send a message asking them to stop. If that doesn’t work? Un-friend and BLOCK. Depending on how out of control the person is, we might have to even report them to Facebook.
Six—DO NOT ENGAGE
Don't feed the trolls. Negative attention is still attention. Often trolls will leave seething comments to upset our readers so much that they have to go to their blog/website to see WHO this JERK IS. The only way these lowlifes can get hits and comments is to upset others. They feed on negativity.
Never shut off comments to your blog. On a WordPress blog, we can set comments where they must first be approved before going live. If someone misbehaves? Trash the comment. Why deprive yourself of the joy of community because one person can’t behave?
Seven—Hire a Professional
If you're worried about your safety or your family's safety because someone has gone THAT nutso? Seek professional help. I always recommend TechSurgeons. Jay Donovan, the founder, has years of experience doing corporate Internet security. He's a computer genius who can have said troll chasing his own butt down The Hole of Frustrated Nothing.
Even if you don’t yet have a problem and simply want to take some preventative measures, talk to Jay (or a similar pro).
A Caveat—Trolls and Pen Names
I am not a fan of pen names. What you may not understand is I'm not a fan of pen names, because a different name alone isn't enough.·Worse, it can provide a false sense of security. Writers are locking the digital screen door thinking that's going to keep out the motivated ax murderer.
There are sound reasons for having a pen name. I advise against pen names most of the time because friends, schoolmates and family can be powerful mouthpieces and very helpful.·A pen name limits how much of that energy we can harness and dilutes focus. But, if you DO need a pen name for safety, security, etc. talk to a professional.
A different name alone isn't enough to stop motivated haters.
The Good News
In the end, trolls (sad to say) are often a sign we’re doing something right. Get ten trolls and I think we are officially a celebrity. Learn to un-see. Focus on those who love you. Refuse to feed the trolls your peace, success, happiness and sales. They exist, but together we are stronger.
Kristen is the author of the new best-selling book, Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World in addition to the #1 best-selling books We Are Not Alone: The Writer's Guide to Social Media and Are You There Blog? It's Me, Writer. Kristen is the founder of the WANA movement, the CEO of WANA International and creator of WANATribe, the social network for creative professionals. She's a contributing humor blogger for SocialIn, a blog that reaches 2.5 million. She also blogs for The Huffington post. Feel free to follow her on Twitter at @KristenLambTX and on Facebook.