Politics (or “How to anger your readers”)

Should writers avoid discussing politics and religion and other controversial topics in order to not alienate potential readers?

At the recent Mysticon convention, I was on a panel about using social media to promote yourself (something I have written about here before). The rest of the panel agreed that avoiding such things was important.politics

I disagreed.

If you follow my political blog or are a friend on Facebook, you know that I don’t shy away from giving my opinion. It’s who I am. I think it’s more important to be true to yourself and let people see you as a real person as opposed to a bland guy with no views on anything important. Yes, my political views may challenge you. So may my books.

Have I lost friends on Facebook because of it? Yes, I have. But from what I can tell, I have added many more than I have lost. People read my comments, share them, discuss them, and that attracts other people who then check me out.

The point of social media as a promotional tool is not to use it as a constant advertisement for your books. It should instead be used to make potential readers like you and thus want to read your work.

So here’s how you do it (not that I am always successful at it):

Be entertaining. That’s always your goal when posting. Share a joke or a cartoon or a thought that is entertaining; that other people want to read. If you’re going to talk about politics or religion, offer an insight or a witty comment and not just say “Obama sucks!” or something on the level that any idiot could say. You’re the thinking writer. Show off your damn writing skills. Be eloquent and say something that no one else has said.

Don’t be insulting. I mean, sure, calling a politician an idiot is an insult, but you shouldn’t be insulting merely for the sake of being insulting. “Ben Carson is an idiot” is something a 10-year old could have posted. “Ben Carson is an idiot because he has said the following stupid things” offers something of substance to back up your insult. (And is it really an insult if it’s true?)

Don’t be stupid. Don’t fall for every internet meme you see. Do your research. Chances are Sarah Palin didn’t say that we shouldn’t have ended slavery and Obama didn’t say we should hand Iran a nuclear weapon for free. Make sure everything you post is true and verifiable through reliable sources. Your reputation is important, isn’t it?

Set the rules and don’t let people push you around. My Facebook page is open for anyone. You can read everything and post a reply at any time. However, it’s my page. If we’re having a discussion on gay marriage and some troll comes in and wants to change the subject and complain about how a Kenyan Muslim in the White House is destroying America, I will tell him to stop and if he doesn’t, I will delete the messages.

It’s my house. You are invited in as long as you remain polite and not try to change the subject of the discussion to whatever you feel like ranting about.

I’ve had that argument more than once with people who wander in after reading something and then try to take over, and when I tell them to stop, they complain that I am “censoring” them. No, I am editing them. It’s my page. You don’t have a right to post on it.

I’m never going to stop talking about controversial subjects. It’s who I am. It will anger some people. The people it will anger will probably also be angered by my latest novel BLOODSUCKERS. So screw them. Read something else.

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