Social Media: Topics That Should Be Off-Limits for Authors

By J.J. Hensley

As we all know, social media continues to play a big role in the way authors interact with readers and market their work.  However, sometimes writers are tempted to get entangled in subjects that are polarizing and elicit strong emotions.  While there can be some benefits to an author taking a stance with an emotionally-charged topic, one runs the risk of alienating readers—or potential readers—who have differing opinions.  Here are some subjects authors should avoid in blogs and posts:

  1. Politics: There may be places on the Internet where political discussions involve scores of reasonable people who present rational arguments and are respectful to those with opposing views.  I say may because I have yet to find any of these places.  It is far more likely that the author will get pulled into a heated exchange and be labeled (justifiably or not) as a staunch supporter or opponent of a particular viewpoint.

I have a background in law enforcement and I admit I have occasionally written about policing.  While I attempt to be objective and not take sides in any controversial matters involving law enforcement, there are always some who infer I am a police apologist regardless of the actual content of my posts.  When that has happened, I have been respectful in my reply and then ran away from the discussion faster than Raymond Chandler from a temperance meeting. 

  1. Criticizing Other Authors or Books: I’m always amazed when I see an author make highly-critical statements about another author’s work in a public forum.  I won’t even give a poor review or bad rating of a book on Goodreads, much less write a scathing blog post.  The way I see it, there is no upside in bashing another author.  The chances are, you will end up coming across as someone who is either jealous (if the writer is more well-known than you) or pretentious (if the writer is not so well-known).  If you feel like you have to post a negative review, do it under another name or keep your comments on your personal pages, not your author page. 
  1. Your Gallbladder Surgery (or kidney stone issues, or infected toenail, or whatever ailment is plaguing you): So, you post, “I’m fighting a terrible cold” or “I’m recovering from minor surgery.”    It’s nice that you have kept your readers in the loop.  But, then you post a two page description of your latest medical procedure, complete with photos.  Stop.  Just stop.  There are plenty of people in your life who care deeply about you and want to know every detail about how you are doing.  Most of the people following your newsletter can do without the gory specifics of your knee reconstruction.  It’s not that most of your readers aren’t sympathetic; it’s simply that they don’t care. 

Actually, I guess that means they aren’t sympathetic.

  1. Telling Authors What Topics Are Off Limits: Hey, what the heck do I know?  Every writer is different and has her own unique approach to communicating with the public.  If you write political thrillers, then maybe politics is exactly what you should be discussing on your blog.  If your readers love it when you pick apart a book you just read, then so be it.  If your audience goes nuts every time you post the x-rays from after your spine was fused together… your audience is weird.  But, whatever.  You have to find what works for you and develop a rapport with those who follow your pages.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go.  I have a terrible sinus infection.  I’ll post the details later.   

J.J. HENSLEY is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.  He graduated from Penn State University with a B.S. in Administration of Justice and has a M.S. degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Columbia Southern University. Hensley’s works include the novels Measure Twice and Resolve; the latter was named one of the BEST BOOKS OF 2013 by Suspense Magazine and was a finalist for Best First Novel at the 2014 Thriller Awards.

To learn more about J.J. Hensley’s novels, click on the covers below: