What Not to Share
Blogger: Wendy Lawton
I cringe when I see authors sharing inappropriate or proprietary information on social media or with friends. I know many argue for having nothing to hide but in business (and as published authors, we are businesspeople) that “openness” doesn’t work.
Here’s a quick checklist of what not to share and why:
Contract Details— Your contract may or may not have a non-disclosure clause. This means you are legally bound to confidentiality about the terms and details of the contract. Even if your contract does not call for non-disclosure, it is understood that professionals do not share this information.
Amount of Advance and Royalty Rate— I’ve heard writers call for the widespread sharing of author financial details. The reason cited is like the old union arguments of early last century. Solidarity. Openness. Once we know what others are getting we can force publishers to pay fairly. That’s nothing more than nosiness cloaked in fancy rhetoric. Any employee knows, you never share what’s in your pay stub. It’s unprofessional. The same goes for these financial terms on your contract. There is no valid reason to share them since the numbers do not tell the whole story. There are so many elements that go into deciding what is a fair offer– previous sales, strength of book, strength of publisher and on and on. And I’ve heard writers bragging up an advance that is made is made of bogus elements like bonuses. Trying to collect data and make some kind of comparison is like trying to compare apples to oranges to grapes to pears to kumquats to tomatoes. There is no valid reason to ever share this. I cannot think of any way it can help the writer who shares.
Details of Book Just Contracted— It’s tempting to tease with the storyline or share tidbits about the content of your newly contracted book. Don’t do it. Keep it under wraps until the publisher is ready to announce the book or until it goes up on online sites. For all you know, the publisher might feel this book is so hot he’s trying to get it out there before anyone else jumps on the bandwagon. In our industry we are all friends and so we think we can share freely. We lose sight of the fact that we may actually be friendly competitors. Let your publisher lead in when to share details.
Auction Information— If your agent has had multiple interest in a manuscript of yours and has scheduled an auction or is holding an informal bidding session, your job is to zip your lips. It’s so tempting to brag this up a bit. “My agent just called and my book is going to auction. Squee! Please pray.” No. No. No. Do not share a word about this. We work so hard to keep auctions fair but, of course, those taking part in the auction are desperate for information about which publishers are in the running and any other tidbits that can help them formulate their bids. An author with loose lips can sink an auction.
Publisher Interest— In the same way if your agent tells you about publisher interest in a new book, this falls into the what not to share column. Early interest is so very tentative and so fragile. At this point of initial interest the editor is combing your social media sites to find out more about you. If they find themselves discussed on your site they are going to cringe. It’s unprofessional and publishers are always aware that when they link their name with yours, you reflect on them in a roundabout way.
Sales Numbers— Never share your sales numbers, good or bad. Your numbers are only meant for the publishing house, your agent and you. I’ve heard so many silly number brags. Never believe them. Some authors talk about cumulative sales instead of first year sales (which is how we normally talk about numbers). Or they may be sharing anecdotal evidence given off-hand by their marketing team which includes a huge big-box sale (like Walmart or Sam’s). We know that a large percentage of those books usually come back. Or you hear mass market authors cite huge numbers of “books in print.” Mass market publishers print tons of books to get them out there knowing a good many will return unsold. Books in print and books sold are two totally different tallies. And when authors brag up sales numbers they may not mention that they are writing category fiction for houses that direct market those books to long-established lists. Category sales numbers and regular fiction sales numbers are, again, apples to oranges. Bottom line: Don’t do it. Don’t share. And don’t pay attention to any numbers you hear– there are so many ways to tweak statistics that what you hear is meaningless.
Inside Publishing House Info— When you are talking to one of your contacts in your publishing house, he or she may inadvertently let inside information slip. Or may just trust you enough to confide in you. Might be about job changes, direction shifts, new emphasis, anything. They are trusting you with inside information. Don’t share. It’s always tempting to be the one with the inside scoop, but nothing good can come from divulging it.
Disappointing Numbers— I’ve seen countless discouraged authors sharing disappointment via social network. I can’t tell you how dangerous this is. If you are having a tough time getting a foothold as an author share it with your mother, your spouse or a trusted confidant. Do not brand yourself as a failure on social media. Even if it is temporary, the sense that you are not a much-desired author sticks. Info like that takes hold and becomes anecdotal. I’ve heard whispers like, “I always thought she was a bestselling author, but her numbers are terrible. She’s not sure she can get another contract.” News like that is “comforting” to other struggling authors and is repeated over and over. “I’m not the only one. She’s won three Christys and still has terrible sales.” Editors always seem to get wind of it, and pretty soon your agent finds he can’t sell your next book.
Details of Agent/Author Conversations— We talk honestly to you about so many things, always assuming you know our conversation is confidential. But how many times have you seen an author’s status that reads something like this: “Just talked to my agent. It’s so good to hear that blah, blah, blah. . ..” Eek! Don’t do it.
Pre-pub Cover— I know there are two schools of thought here, but at Books & Such we don’t believe in sharing your cover until the reader can click a link and buy the book or pre-order the book. But what about the all important “cover reveal” on social media? Authors believe that it is a way to build excitement for their upcoming book. I maintain that we only have so much brain power. I cannot see a cover three months in advance and maintain an intent-to-buy that long, even if it’s one of my favorite authors. You know what happens when the book comes out? I look at the cover, and it looks vaguely familiar and I think, “I believe I’ve already read that book. It looks way too familiar.”
There. I’ve given you ten things not to share. There are so many others. Authors need to hesitate before posting anything about careers or books– think twice or three times before hitting that “share” button. We want to always be truthful in what we share, but silence is often the wisest choice. Not everything should be shared publicly.
So. . . your turn. Agree? Disagree? What did I leave out?
Social Media for Authors– What NOT to share. Click to Tweet
When silence is the right choice for authors on social media. Click to Tweet