Welcome to the Stifyn Emrys blog. Visit this site to stay updated on the latest news and releases from author Stifyn Emrys, along with serious, silly and occasionally sarcastic observations about the world around us.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Publishing at a Crossroads: Beyond the Print-on-Demand Revolution

When does a good thing become too much of a good thing?

That's the question a lot of people in the publishing business are asking themselves right about now.

The publishing world has undergone a tectonic shift in the past decade, one that has left authors trying to stay ahead of a tsunami that just keeps coming: a tsunami of books. The print-on-demand revolution gave virtually anyone with a keyboard and some extra time the opportunity to become an author. Never mind that a large number of these "anyones" didn't know how to develop a plot, create compelling characters or even write a cohesive sentence.

Now, there are so many books hitting the market that no one has time to sift through them effectively, and little-known authors' works are lost in what my wife refers to as a cacophony of "white noise." To put it another way, it's virtually impossible to stand out from the crowd when the crowd is so immense it reaches farther than the eye can see.

Before all this happened, the tsunami was a bit smaller, and it never reached the reader. Standing in its way was a barrier as formidable as the Wall in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire - the bulwark of traditional publishing. The process was so effective at keeping bad books out of print that it became almost a running joke: Of course, you were going to get dozens or even hundreds of rejection slips before you got a publishing deal (if you ever did). That's just how the system worked - and still does.

John, Paul, George and Ringo

A brief but pertinent digression: Back in 1963, a young band no one had ever heard of auditioned for a recording contract with Decca Records, which took a pass in favor of an act called Brian Poole and the Tremeloes. It went down as perhaps the biggest mistake in recording history: although the Tremeloes charted with a handful of hits in the '60s, the band that didn't get the gig was none other than the Beatles.

The thing is, this happens all the time in traditional publishing. J.K. Rowling received something like a dozen rejection slips for her first Harry Potter book. Stephen King got 60 of them. William Saroyan reportedly collected thousands (yes, thousands). There are stories of authors who wallpapered their bedrooms with these suckers - not second-rate wannabes, but talented authors who ended up on bestseller lists. Stephen King is like the Beatles of the publishing world. Now, imagine if the Beatles hadn't been rejected once, but 60 times. Excuse me, but isn't there something wrong with this picture?

Clearly, a system that overlooks that kind of talent on a routine basis needs some fine-tuning. Part of the problem is the sheer volume of work that was submitted to traditional publishers - the tsunami. Acquisitions editors didn't have time to read it all, so they developed a system to weed out a large volume of manuscripts before they even opened the envelopes. Many refused to consider submissions from writers who didn't have agents and from authors who hadn't been published previously.

The tsunami got a little smaller because some writers got discouraged and stopped sending in manuscripts after receiving a certain number of rejections. Who knows how many potential Kings and Rowlings were among those who just gave up? A few - who could afford it - went an alternate route and published their works via the so-called "vanity" press, but without any promotion or distribution backing, these books never stood a chance at any kind of mainstream acceptance.

Personal Choices

I discovered writing in high school and soon decided I wanted to be a novelist. During my spare time, I worked on a fantasy novel I called "There Shall Arise an Eagle," which I imagined would be a little bit Tolkien and a little big George MacDonald with, of course, my own personal touches.

It was something like 600 pages, had an interesting premise ... and, in retrospect, wasn't very good. I sent it off to one publisher, got a rejection notice, and never tried again. The truth is, I was worried. I'd heard all the horror stories about publishers tossing manuscripts from the inbox to the trash can sight unseen, and I didn't particularly want to bet my future on that. I knew I could write, but I wanted a steady paycheck, so I went to college, graduated and became a journalist. I figured I could pursue a career I could count on and write fiction in my spare time.

Somehow, though, it didn't work out as planned. After roughly a quarter-century as a reporter, columnist and editor - and 15 years at my most recent stop - I got laid off. I had a job as a substitute teacher, but it wasn't enough to make ends meet. During the course of all this, I met the woman who would become my wife, and whose dream was, coincidentally, to become a novelist.

This coincided with the print-on-demand revolution and gave me what I thought was a brilliant idea: I'd start doing what I'd set out to do in the first place - write books. Only this time, I could send them directly to print, bypassing the traditional publishing "machine." Between the summer of 2012 and the spring of 2013, I churned out seven books (an eighth is near completion), and found an audience for my work - though not a huge one. Seeing my books in print was, to say the least, a dream come true, and independent publishing made it happen.

(As a side note, I was fortunate enough to find another job in journalism, but don't look for the Stifyn Emrys byline anywhere - this is a pen name I adopted, in large measure, to keep my two careers separate.)

The Downside

I'll always be thrilled with the fact that the tectonic shift in the industry that is print-on-demand enabled me to get my ideas into print without navigating the arcane obstacle course that traditional publishing had set before me.

But that shift also set in motion a series of troubling changes - changes that didn't occur only in publishing, but that were mirrored by similar events taking place across a vast spectrum of communications media.

Books, once funneled through a limited number of publishers, were now provided by a nearly limitless number of independent authors. Radio and television "channels," formerly confined to perhaps a few dozen frequencies on AM, FM, VHF and UHF (remember those?), proliferated to hundreds and even thousands of choices via cable and satellite. When it came to delivering the news, the Heralds and Gazettes of the world found themselves in a battle royal with online providers such as The Huffington Post, Yahoo and Google news.

Virtually everywhere you look, the old feudal barons are being supplanted by what appears to be a new direct democracy in which media outlets appeal directly to the people, and the middlemen - the gatekeepers - be damned.

But appearances can be deceiving.

The Communications Reformation

For one thing, the old gatekeepers are still there. The old television networks and media empires haven't disappeared at all. They're still there, and they're still powerful. They've just had to adjust to a world in which they aren't the only game in town.

In a sense, the world today is in the midst of a communications reformation not unlike what occurred when the Protestant Reformation changed the cultural face of Europe four centuries ago. The Catholic Church's monopoly on power was shattered, but it didn't disappear. Instead, it launched a counter-reformation and adjusted to the new world order in a largely successful quest to remain a potent political and monetary force. Worldwide, the Catholic Church still counts something like 1 million members, more than twice as many as all Protestant groups combined.

The Catholics were the old gatekeepers, the priests who stood between humankind and the Christian god. The Protestants, on the other hand, offered direct access to the divine via Martin Luther's "priesthood of all believers."

In the same way, the traditional media empires continue to be a potent force, but they're challenged by a vast array of self-appointed "alternative" gatekeepers who have taken advantage of the recent media explosion. Where Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley reigned unchallenged on the airwaves, their successors must compete with the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and a host of others. Each represents, to his or her particular audience, a sort of populist voice against the establishment (though most actually work for "the establishment," in one form or another).

The Battle for Books

The exact same sort of scenario is unfolding in the publishing world: an old-line establishment is intent on retaining its power against a new and insurgent "direct access" approach.

On the one side is traditional publishing, which is quickly consolidating into fewer and fewer meaningful players. The so-called "Big Six" publishers is becoming five with the merger of Penguin and Random House.

On the other side is Amazon, the gatekeeper for the indie authors, along with (to a lesser degree) Barnes & Noble and a few others. There's consolidation going on here, too. Rumors had Barnes & Noble selling its Nook division to Microsoft - which has since said it's not interested. Regardless, however, the behemoth Amazon is positioning itself as the 800-pound gorilla on this side of the fence, especially with its recent acquisition of reader fan site Goodreads.

At the dawn of the Renaissance, the Catholic Church stayed relevant in part by launching a counter-reformation. It has, over the years, retrenched and rethought its approach to religion (even going so far as to virtually abandon the traditional Latin Mass). More recently, the old-line media empires have kept some of their status by expanding into online, cable and other venues to challenge the insurgents on their own turf. In both cases, the establishment learned something from the upstarts and adapted, largely by adopting some of their challengers' strategies.

What remains to be seen is whether this will happen in the publishing world and, if so, what it will look like.

Looking to the Future

The Big Six (or Big Five) haven't done much so far, to my knowledge, in the way of adapting to the emerging new order. They continue to rely on their big-name stable of authors and their ability to offer big contracts to authors they think can move large numbers of copies. In a way, their jobs are easier now. The print-on-demand industry has begun to serve as a sort of minor-league farm system, churning out "prospects" who have already shown they can sell books.

But in another way, their jobs are a whole lot harder. The sheer volume of works being produced by independent authors threatens to saturate the market so much that everyone's piece of the pie will shrink dramatically. When supply exceeds demand - if it hasn't already - the Stephen Kings, J.K. Rowlings and George R.R. Martins won't suffer - but if you aren't a household name with a large following, you might find it a lot harder to make a living, whether you're traditionally published or not.

If the traditional publishing houses don't watch out, they may find their deep pockets growing increasingly shallower, and pretty soon they may no longer be able to offer the kind of incentives needed to lure an already successful indie author into their fold. If they don't think they're susceptible to this kind of money crunch, all they have to do is ask the newspaper industry, which has faced heavy contraction as a result of declining ad sales and profits. Large numbers of employees have been laid off, and more still have abandoned the industry for more secure or better-paying careers.

Indeed, the Penguin-Random House merger may be an attempt to combine resources in an attempt to better continue the fight against Amazon and its hordes.

When the Dust Settles

What has to be troubling, from the traditional publishers' perspective, is that they haven't done much to adapt to the changing landscape. If they don't, they face a far more formidable foe than the Catholic Church did in Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and Henry VIII. Amazon is probably already more powerful than the traditional publishers; it's better funded and certainly more diversified.

If Amazon succeeds in fully vanquishing the old order, expect it to use the resulting virtual monopoly to enrich itself by taking a bigger cut of authors' profits, increasing fees and setting stricter pricing standards. This certainly wouldn't be good for authors and could end up becoming the next thing to a vanity press, making it economically prohibitive for many authors to write for a living. Under such a scenario, pure economics could dictate what works reach the public.

Another possibility is that the traditional publishing houses will, in some way, adapt to the changing landscape. It remains to be seen how they would do this, but they might pursue (for example) using their remaining financial clout to strike some sort of preferred distribution deal with Amazon.

In the meantime, many indie authors are likely to find it harder and harder to get noticed among the growing, discordant din of choices. Readers inundated by book ads, reviews and blogs are likely to, increasingly, tune out the "white noise" and stick with authors they already know. Even offers of free books require an investment of time, and if the reader is confronted with a series of wannabe authors who can't write their way out of a wet paper sack, they're unlikely to bother after a while. All this could end up thinning the ranks of writers in the same way rejections slips once did, and we'll be left with a mix of established, self-funded and stubborn authors - pretty much what we had before.

Agents of change?

The people with the greatest opportunity in the midst of all this might be the ones you'd least expect: the agents. Until now, they've had a virtual guarantee of work, courtesy of publishing houses that refuse to accept work from unagented authors. If the publishing houses decline in influence, this guarantee will disappear. But that doesn't mean agents are out of luck. On the contrary. Traditional publishers are already putting less money into promotions and marketing, leaving those tasks increasingly to the authors themselves. Beyond monetary advances and placement in the dwindling number of brick-and-mortar stores (Barnes & Noble and ...), they have increasingly little to offer.

This is where the agent has an opportunity to come in and do what the traditional publishers themselves have, so far, failed to do: adapt. Their role as a middleman between author and publisher will diminish, but they will have an opportunity to expand into roles such as publicist and marketing director. Authors need time to ... well ... write. And they'll find people to help them do what the traditional publishers are, increasingly, not doing: legwork and promotions.

I can tell you from personal experience as an independent author that I'm spending more time publicizing my work at this point than I am actually writing - and with the increasing competition from other indie authors who are discovering print-on-demand, I doubt it's going to get any easier. I'm not a bad salesman, but it's not what I was born to do. I was born, I think, to write - and I suspect most other authors feel that way.

That's why so many of us are, I'm sure, eager to see how this all shakes out. I can't tell you how it ends, but as of now, it sure is a helluva show.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Facebook Follies: Why Social Media are a Minefield for Communication

I'm becoming more convinced every day that the social media, and Facebook in particular, is a double-edged sword when it comes to communicating with others.

On the plus side, Facebook allows us to connect with people we'd never otherwise meet.

But then, there's the downside. Sometimes, it brings out the worst in us. I consider myself pretty diplomatic, for the most part, but I've noticed myself - in hindsight - typing things on Facebook that I'd think twice before saying in person, and I've noticed the same tendency in others. How does this happen? I can think of a few reasons, off the top of my head.

Disposable friends: Facebook gives us "disposable friends." Did someone offend you? No worries. You can always ban, block and make a dozen new "friends." A lot of Facebookers will post glowing remarks about how they're very close to online acquaintances they've never met in person. Some will even say they're closer than in-person buddies. That may be true for some, but the fact remains that they're a different sort of friend. Here's why ...

One-dimensional communication: Communication online is much different than real-time communication. For one thing, you're not generally talking, you're typing. What you see are letters on a screen, minus any vocal intonations, facial expressions or whispered asides. Our online interactions are, relatively speaking, two-dimensional or even one-dimensional. They don't show us the whole picture, but the problem is ...

We think they do: We're treating two-dimensional communication as though it were three-dimensional. Instead of taking into account the absence of non-verbal cues, we act as though they're there. As a result, we're prone to taking things out of context and jumping to (often erroneous) conclusions rather too quickly.

Fights to the finish: Facebook allows people to "gang up" on one another. Comments on a Facebook wall - especially when they involve hot-button issues - turn into popularity contests, with each side trying to shout down the other. In real life, most conversations are one-on-one; on Facebook, many turn into verbal jousts or gladiator matches in front of crowds that jeer, cheer and hurl rotten tomatoes (figuratively speaking) at the computer monitor.

Making permanent waves: Something written on a Facebook wall stays there. In verbal conversation, someone might say something that strikes you a little funny, but you're likely to brush if off and go on about your business. Even if it sticks in your craw a little, you'll probably forget exactly what was said, and the issue will be forgotten. On Facebook, by contrast, you can go back and view the same comment over and over again, ad nauseam. You can analyze it, overanalyze it and get all worked up over it. Even a comment that might seem fair or benign at first came seem offensive if you're defensive.

Ripe for abuse: The flipside of this is that there are social media abusers out there who know this and try to take advantage of it. They cajole, provoke and mislead us into thinking they're something they're not. This, of course, makes us even more wary and less liable to give well-meaning folks a chance to add the context we need to truly understand them. Here are some typical abusers who pop up frequently on Facebook:

  • Stalkers. Follow you from one page to another, leaving comments to whatever you post. They're attention seekers who need others' responses to feel validated.
  • Lurkers: Closely akin to the stalkers and often the next stage in their evolution. Having been banned or blocked, such people generally stay quiet and hide behind bogus profiles as they engage in a form of online espionage. They feel they're entitled to a place at the table, even after they've been asked to leave.
  • Imposters: Critics who masquerade as a member of a certain group, wait until the time is right, then blast members of that group on an open forum. Religious fundamentalists seem prone to this tactic.
  • Ranters: Air their dirty laundry to the world, often while slamming a spouse, relative, "friend," boss or some other third party who's (conveniently) not around to defend him/herself.
  • Know-it-Alls: Pose as authorities to gain "minions" or "clones." Like stalkers, such people are seeking validation; they just go about it differently. Instead of targeting a single individual, they seek to build a cult-like following. Ironically, they're usually not authorities on much of anything. Still, they enjoy pontificating at length on their favorite subjects - and just as the pontiff is infallible, they tend to view themselves the same way.
  • True Believers: The aforementioned minions or clones, who follow Know-it-Alls pretty much blindly.
  • Button-Pushers: Likes to get a rise out of people by posting uncompromising positions on hot-button issues. On the one side, such people get a lot of attaboys; on the other, they receive plenty of criticism (often spiced up using colorful language). Either way, they're out for attention, same as the Stalker and the Authority. 
  • Victims: These are often Button-Pushers who pretend to be persecuted for their beliefs. One favorite tactic: saying something outrageously offensive, then crying "censorship!" when the owner of the wall or page removes their comment.
  • Advocates: People who take up a single issue or slate of issues and make it a life-or-death line in the sand, then dare others on Facebook to cross it ... which, of course, they do. 
  • Devil's Advocates: The people who fuels the Button-Pushers' fire. Their goal is, like most of the others, to gain attention - but their method's a little different.. They're counterpuncher. They wait for someone else to state an opinion, then look for a weakness and pounce when they find one. It's a pure game of one-upmanship. The Devil's Advocate who can beat the Know-it-All in an argument has pulled off an effective Facebook coup and can build a following of his/her own.
  • Grammar Nazis: Operates similarly to the Devil's Advocate in that s/he waits for someone else to show a weakness, then points it out in order to look superior. There are Math Nazis, Science Nazis and History Nazis out there, too. None of them, however, serve up tasty fare like the Soup Nazi.

This isn't to say that all these folks are monsters. Heck, at one time or another, I've indulged in several of them - probably each of the last four, actually. If you're honest with yourself, you might have, too. I'm pretty sure a lot of it has less to do with the people than with the mode of communication itself. The social media give rise to and encourage these sorts of behavior.

A few months ago, I recognized I'd begun to play the role of a Button-Pusher too often, so I stepped back from talking about controversial issues quite so much. I still believe strongly in many of the positions I held then, and I'm not ashamed of any of them. Ask me, and I'll be glad to tell you what I think. But I'm not going to set out with an agenda of getting people all riled up over something that gets my goat (not usually, anyway). That didn't do my blood pressure any good, and it probably wasn't a lot of fun for those who read my posts, either. Mostly, it just attracts a bunch of Devil's Advocates who were more interested in trying to one-up me than in listening

More recently, I found myself playing the role of Devil's Advocate, which I decided wasn't worth it, either. I'm not out to build an army of minions, and I don't have anything to prove, really, so there's no point in acting as though I do. 

I'll probably remain a Grammar Nazi, simply because I'm an author/editor by trade and I've been working with words all my life. But I'll do my best to be a gracious Grammar Nazi ... and I hope the Math Nazis out there will show me the same forbearance.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Follow Reviews of 'Identity Break' on CLP Blog Tours Through May 27

I'm off on my first book blog tour over the next couple of weeks, and I'm eager to see what everyone thinks of my action-adventure novel "Identity Break." If you have a chance, please stop by one or all of the tour stops and check out what people have to say.

"What's a book blog tour?" you ask.

It's a modern innovation that allows indie authors such as myself to put our books on the hot seat for various reviewers, who give their objective opinions about the stories. Some are editors, but the vast majority are people who just love books. That's what makes it exciting when you get a good review: It's from one of the people you're trying to reach: readers.

The tour also includes book excerpts; my answers to interview questions; and my own guest posts providing insight into my writing process and the story behind "Identity Break." I even have a couple of guest posts from the two main characters' perspectives. The entire experience is new to me. My wife has done this more than once, and the tour facilitator I'm using - CLP Blog Tours - has been very professional and gracious about the entire experience.

In conjunction with my blog tour, I'm giving away Kindle versions of "Artifice" - my novella in the same series - all this weekend (Saturday and Sunday, May 18-19). That will give you a taste of what you'll read about in "Identity Break" and, hopefully, whet your appetite for more. 

If you want to follow my blog tour as it progresses, just click the CLP site for "Identity Break" or keep track using the list below. Crossing my fingers and holding my breath with anticipation to see what the reviewers will be saying.

May 14 – The Book Fetish Blog – Review

May 15 – Blooding Book Reviews – Q&A

May 15 – Ruby’s Books – Review & Guest Post

May 16 – Lavender & Camomile Press – Q&A

May 17 – Storm Goddess Book Reviews – Review & Guest Post

May 17 - Escape Into a Book - Review & Guest Post

May 20 – eBook Addict – Guest Post

May 21- The Phantom Paragrapher – Review & Guest Post

May 22- Chick Lit Plus – Review

May 23 – Every Free Chance Book Reviews – Review

May 24- Samantha March – Q&A & Excerpt

May 27- eBook Addict – Q&A

Friday, May 10, 2013

Public Figures and Social Media: Some Guidelines and a Little Advice

Who is a public figure?

When can you quote something a public figure posts online?

These are two legitimate questions, and I'd like to tackle the second question first, using a recent example. The San Antonio Spurs recently swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the NBA playoffs. But was this the big news? That's debatable. Many media outlets made a bigger deal out of injured Lakers star Kobe Bryant's tweets from the sidelines.

Most of Bryant's tweets involved analysis and tips for the team. Here's a sampling (misspelled words are sic):

  • "I love how Nash is moving so far. Both teams a lil out of rhythm to start."
  • "@nabarocksstc I agree. Lethargic start for us. Gotta minimize little mistakes like giving the middle drive on close outs"
  • "Nothing worse then watching your bothers struggle and u can't do crap about it #realtalk"

Bryant was obviously frustrated that he couldn't be out on the court with his teammates (a torn Achilles' tendon saw to that), so he was trying to "play" vicariously through his Twitter account.

Bryant certainly knows he's a public figure, and he must have realized that the media were going to see his tweets. Still, he didn't seem to realize how heavily the media were going to emphasize his comments, and he eventually decided to stop tweeting: "I see my tweeting during the game is being talked about as much as the game itself," he wrote.  "CHOOSE not [to]. Focus should be on the team not my insight."

Now to the second question: Who is a public figure?

There are two ways one can qualify for this label: First, you can become a public figure by becoming famous.  But famous people aren't the only public figures. You can also become what's called a limited purpose public figure. According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, this is "someone who is not so famous as to be a household name, but who has become well known with regard to a particular issue."

People who seek the limelight often fall into this category. Authors Tad Crawford and Kay Murray put it this way in The Writer's Legal Guide: "Private individuals can become 'limited purpose public figures,' when they actively, voluntarily or willfully seek the public eye."

This applies perhaps no more clearly than to people whose name is their franchise. Artists, authors, solo musicians and some athletes fall into this category. Names like Kobe, Tiger, Madonna, Stephen King and Taylor Swift come to mind. If you're marketing your name, you're a limited purpose public figure. If you're marketing your name and you're famous (such as the above folks), there's nothing limited about it. You're a public figure, period.

One must assume that a public figure speaking on a public forum such as Facebook or Twitter is making what amounts to a public statement. Is it OK to quote one? Sure, it is - unless the person being quoted can demonstrate the other person 1) is guilty of defamation and 2) has "actual malice" toward him or her.

Bursting the bubble

So, how should a public figure act on Twitter or Facebook? And how should other social media users behave when quoting public figures (beyond the obvious of avoiding defamatory and malicious statements)?

If you're a public figure posting on Facebook or Twitter, make sure your posts are something you'd be proud to have repeated. Too often, people on social media act like the driver who rocks out to his favorite tunes or flips off a police officer from behind the wheel, assuming no one else can see him. He's wrong. The privacy bubble he thinks exists within the confines of his Fiat or El Dorado is an illusion. The roadway is public, and so are the social media.

In fact, Facebook and Twitter are both actually designed to make quoting people as easy a single mouse click. Each has its own handy dandy tool: On Facebook, it's called the "Share" option; on Twitter, it's "Retweet." Don't want to be quoted? Simple. Keep it off your Facebook wall or Twitter feed. Both services offer private mail/messaging features that are easy to use, perfect for more confidential interactions (but be careful: nothing online is entirely confidential).

Show some respect

So, if you want to quote another person's post on Facebook or Twitter, you don't have to ask. But you shouldn't use their posts as an excuse to excoriate them in public. It's better to treat people with respect than think you can act with impunity. You're not in a bubble, either.

Never quote someone's Facebook or Twitter post out of context. Make sure you're fairly representing what the person said, not twisting it to fit your own agenda. Don't make someone appear to agree with you or support your position by manipulating their quotes. That's flat-out unethical.

It's also unethical to pass off someone else's words as your own. That's called plagiarism, and it's just as unacceptable online as it is on a college term paper. If you're quoting someone, include attribution.

One more tip: Be sure you're quoting the person you think you're quoting. There are any number of people out there who think it's fun to impersonate public figures - especially on Twitter. If you don't believe me, try doing a search for Rowan Atkinson on Twitter and see how many results pop up. Is any of them the real Rowan Atkinson? When in doubt as to someone's identity, don't quote the person. It's better to follow the account for a while, crosscheck it with other facts you find online and make sure the person is the genuine article.

Exposure has its price

If you're a public figure posting something on Facebook or Twitter, every post you make is an official statement, as surely as if you'd sent out a news release. Are you a public figure who uses social media largely to promote yourself? Do you have a banner on your Facebook page that promotes your latest album? Does your Twitter account identify you as "the author of ..."? If so, you're using the social media as a marketing tool, and its contents must be viewed as representing the product: you. You have an obligation - not only to your potential customers, but to yourself - to represent yourself with dignity.

If you're debating something, whether on Facebook or blogging back and forth, don't get drawn into heated arguments, don't make it personal. Keep it about the issues.

That doesn't mean you should be afraid to be passionate. If you believe in something, say so. For instance, I believe strongly in equal rights, same-sex marriage, freedom of (and from) religion, and standing up to bullies. If I post something about my beliefs on one of my social media sites, I shouldn't have a problem being quoted. In fact, if I really do believe in it, I should be proud of the stance I've taken and should be glad when others share my words. That said, it's in my own interest not to come off as shrill or defensive. When that happens, the tone overpowers the message.

And finally, if you're a public figure and someone quotes you fairly and accurately from the social media, with attribution and respect, don't complain about it. Go with it. Even if the person disagrees with you, it's free publicity, and that never hurts. Besides, you might just learn something.