Posted On October 26, 2009 by Print This Post

Staying Out of Hot Water: Developing an Appropriate Online Presence

buonfiglio-1Today’s visiting professor is well known among the romance community because she truly cares for and champions this genre. Michelle Buonfiglio is best known for founding Romance B(u)y the Book and her romance blog on the Barnes and Noble site. We are delighted Michelle was willing to share her incredible knowledge about the online world with our readers.

Good morning, Michelle!

Thanks, Kelsey, for allowing me to visit today, and to learn along with the rest of your RU students.   

Kelsey: Lately, I’ve seen advertisements for media liability insurance. What is MLI and should authors take out this type of insurance?

Michelle: Now, this’ll sound like a commercial off the bat, but whether you’re a blogger, site operator or author, discuss the need for media liability insurance (MLI) with your attorney. Please don’t make a decision based upon my info/opinions.  Now, the quick/dirty. MLI started out as what it sounds like: policies purchased by traditional broadcast/print media companies to protect them/their employees, etc., against legal allegations which include, but aren’t limited to, libel, copyright infringement, defamation of character, erroneous/under-reporting, or info dissemination that leads to financial loss.  

With the advent of new media – for our purposes, digital forms of networked communications for info sharing like blogs, websites, social media platforms – MLI has become even more important. Wildly simplified for sake of space, this increases the potential number of online viewers of digitized trad media publications who could bring suit.  Large-scale new media companies need MLI because of this potential. 

Now, you’re a blogger with a small book-talk site, for example.  Do you need MLI?  Probably not, especially if your M.O. is writing your opinion about books, the industry, etc., and you’re sticking to facts and your creative, subjective thoughts. However, if you decide you want to brand yourself as the Perez Hilton of romance commentators, for instance, and choose to create content that regularly includes commentary which might be viewed as arbitrary, in which you play fast/loose with facts about authors’ success or, heaven forbid, launch what seems like a campaign to discredit an author/book, you might consider MLI.  Just because nobody’s taken a rom blogger to task for something like this, doesn’t mean they won’t.  Do I suggest you should rush to score MLI just in case that happens? Nah. But it might not be a bad idea to give your attorney a ring, or get yourself one to talk to about it.

Should authors buy MLI?  Pubbed authors should check contracts and w/publishers to see what they cover in terms of copyright infringement, IP challenges, etc.  Then, if you’re driven to blog about or lay down commentary for posterity that could fall into the latter area of the last graph, have a chat with your attorney.  You’re a businessperson in the public eye and will want to protect yourself. But the best way to protect one’s self is to make decisions as part of your marketing plan about what kind of commentary you’re going to produce online, and get right with in advance what you’re prepared for in response to any piece of info you publish online.  If you think you may need to prep for suit based on your comments, you might want to decide whether it’s worth it, and whether that kind of commentary will further your career as a writer.

Kelsey: Do you recommend that authors maintain separate personal and professional presences? For example, on Facebook, Twitter, etc.?

Michelle: I’d suggest yes, but it depends on your goals, how much time you spend banging on social media, and how strongly you try to separate your personal and professional lives.  First, if you’re using social media as part of a marketing strategy for your career, then you probably should be thinking, well, strategy, as in: How do I want potential and current readers/industry professionals/colleagues who want to be my friends/tweeps, etc. to see the brand that is me? And what do I want them to know about me?

In that case, you’ll probably want to gather and accept into your community folks who are likely consumers of your product, who understand or will enjoy how you see the world, and are comfortable with the information you’re going to disseminate.  Whether you’re an author of Christian novels or erotic romance, ‘know your audience’ is a better phrase to keep in mind than ‘Can’t wait ‘til I have 2,000 friends!’  Through response to what you’re posting, you’ll figure out what the community expects from you, whether it’s down-home quips, direction toward content you produce or something else that engages them.  There is no hard/fast rule on this, despite the latest survey you may read.

If you simply adore spending time communicating via social media and feel you’re killing two birds, etc., then combining personal/professional contacts may work for you.  If you don’t care whether your editor/potential editor/publicist/agent knows that your sister is pissed off at your mom, by all means, invite your family into your community.  And, yeah, your readers will enjoy every bit as much as you do those photos of you from high school posted by that best friend you haven’t heard from in 25 years.    

Kelsey: Should pre-published authors try to incorporate a “brand” into their online presence? What if s/he is still developing that brand?

Michelle: Absolutely. But again, what’s the initial strategy?  She’s not published yet, but she wants to take advantage of the community of industry folks who gather online, who read blogs and participate in social media.  And she wants to forge relationships with potential consumers and connected super-readers.  I’ve seen many women move to published status with a small fan base in place because of “smart” time spent online.

Any author’s name is her brand, and her brand is her business.  While I’m a believer in vigorous promotion, I’m not fond of gilding the lily, so I want to see an unpublished author’s site be clear about the fact that she’s “on her way up.”  The goal of developing a pre-pubbed brand is to build excitement about your talent and potential, and to encourage folks to come along for the ride – the “I knew her when” reward.  

Kelsey: What’s the best use of an author’s time and effort when it comes to online presence/promotion?

Michelle: I think the lion’s share of an author’s time should be spent writing a great book.  That said, hanging online can be fun, inspiring, educational… It also can suck time, distract and – perhaps worst for many writers – be terribly ego-debilitating. Have a plan re how much time you’ll devote to online brand building and where/why you’ll spend it.  Create your discrete brand presence by slapping up a free/inexpensive, self-maintained blog or site.  If you do nothing else to promote online, you must do this.  Make sure it has your contact info and book-purchasing info.   Then, observe various online communities and find a few to become part of daily.  Do not believe for a second that all authors who are everywhere on the web are dynamos of successful promotion; they just spend a lot of time online.  Successful online promotion is concentrated, methodical and should energize you and your work, rather than sap your energy.

Kelsey: Do you recommend authors develop relationships with certain online “personalities” (such as you or others)?

Michelle: I can only speak for myself and say, sure. I’ve been pleased to watch women who became RBTB community members four years ago move into published status, and impressed to see some of them move easily back/forth between roles as author and community friend.  I’m always happy to make professional connections with authors at any career point, and jazzed when I can give somebody ink for a great book I might not have known about if they hadn’t reached out.  But here’s something good to remember: It’s important not to treat any blogger or member of the media – no matter how large or small the blog/site – as if they’re your flack or promo secretary.  And certainly understand most of us in the media don’t for a second believe you’re our new best friend; be honest about the relationship you want to develop, and try to offer symbiotic support in return for what we’re fronting  you.  If appropriate, friendly relationships develop in the process, that’s icing.

Kelsey: We often hear that what “goes on the ‘net, stays on the ‘net.” What can authors do to keep themselves out of hot water online?

Michelle:  Seems some folks don’t want to accept the reality of the indelible digital. You simply can’t retract once you publish online. For example, I recently hired an editor who googled me before our interview not only to see what I’d written on the record, but what’s been written about me. It’s all there, ad infinitum.

How do you want your current/potential readers, editors, agents and the publishing community to see you as a commenter and commentator? Do you care? Can you afford not to?  Think about that when you plan your professional online presence, because I assure you most everybody in the industry reads blogs and facebook and tweets, etc.  You want to stay out of hot water?  I believe most everyone knows in her heart when she’s heading there and must decide whether she wants to be “heard” in the moment – or to write and sell books. Step back and accept that your online presence furthers your career most when you stick to the business at hand – building your brand and professional persona. 

Kelsey: What should authors do if they find themselves in trouble with something they’ve done or said online?

Michelle: Depends on what you mean by trouble.  If someone’s threatened or brought suit against an author because of something she’s written online, the best first step – before making any comments on- or offline to anyone — is to consult an attorney, preferably one who specializes in new media.

If “trouble” comes in the form of hoards of villagers at the gate demanding you respond to their anger over something you responsibly blogged or commented about, I suggest sitting by the fire with a favorite re-read until they go home or their rush torches burn out.  That said, some folks feel their voices are silenced if they don’t fight back or at least make a statement, and they should do so, understanding they’ll sustain the drama and may end up feeling frustrated. I believe greater power is shown and retained when one chooses not to respond and simply finds the courage to stand by one’s opinions.

My best advice: As with all online communication done in your professional persona, understand your goals for communicating online before you begin, or go further.  Put the pencil to paper and sketch out ideas about whom you want to communicate with and, especially flippin’ important, why.  Plan how deeply you’ll delve into  your personal opinions at your site/blog/s and others’ site/blog/s concerning hot-topic issues like criticizing your fellow authors’ work, politics, industry dilemmas, etc. – and how much you want to encourage others to do so.  Decide whether you’re spending time online in your persona for entertainment or branding, because the latter can be fun, but it’s really about business: If you work it right, everyone will want to get right in yours, and have a great time doing it.

Michelle, we appreciate the time and effort you spend promoting romance authors, in addition to your useful advice on how to develop and maintain a professional online presence!

RU crew, do you have questions for Michelle about the dos and don’ts of blogs, websites or social networking?

Michelle’s Bio:

Michelle Buonfiglio created and writes’s “Heart to Heart” romance blog, and contributes weekly to’s genre-fiction blog, “Unabashedly Bookish.”  She’s a nationally recognized columnist and advocate for the romance fiction genre, its authors and readers.  Since 2005, she’s worked to “define, not defend” romance by bringing it before the broadest audiences possible, syndicating her features at 80+ TV websites like, and Lifetime TV’s myLifetime. A summa cum laude grad in Writing/Fine Arts – as well as a former Miss PA and Top Ten Miss America finalist – Michelle draws on her diverse life experiences in her work, especially as the founder and creative force behind

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35 Responses to “Staying Out of Hot Water: Developing an Appropriate Online Presence”

  1. Hi Michelle,

    Thank you so much for joining us today! I’m pleased to have been able to see you in action at Lori Foster’s Get Together and, then later, at RWA Washington DC. I was fascinated by your professionalism and focus, especially when you had 20 Bookjunkys talking and laughing while you were trying to get your thoughts in order. 🙂

    I agree that some folks aren’t as careful as they should be on the Net. I’ve seen some really explosive conversations on a few of my loops. I’ll watch the tableau for a day or two, then “turn off” that group for several days. The sight is on one hand engrossing and on the other disturbing.

    Thanks for the great tips regarding online presence!

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | October 26, 2009, 5:20 am
  2. Michelle –

    Beaucoup thanks for being at RU today! Can you think of a mistake many pre-pubbed authors make when it comes to developing a positive online presence. (And yes, I want to make sure I avoid whatever it is :)!)


    Posted by Kelsey Browning | October 26, 2009, 6:38 am
  3. Excellent blog, Michelle–and a good reminder that when we are on the internet, we are “out in public,” always.

    Not that some of us aren’t occasionally willing to misbehave in public…

    Posted by Keri Stevens | October 26, 2009, 6:46 am
  4. Good morning, RU profs! Thanks again for inviting me to write treatises on these subjects. Tracey, the bookjunkeys — and you all simply were enthusiastic, which it’s hard not to be at that gathering — are an example of a group that includes yet-to-be-pubbed (ytbp) authors building brand through the simple act of interacting while having fun w/in communities they enjoy. It’s also a case of ytbps having opportunities to make connections w/pubbeds willing to offer help/connections. Similar to my point about bloggers/media online, I think authors understand pretty quickly if ytbps are trying to get close to ‘use’ them. Conversely, mentoring relationships formed online often turn into strong friendships/colleague relationships.

    Your point about the engrossing/disturbing dichotomy is a very important one, and an observation not many are willing to articulate or “stare in the face.” If they do, they often do it with a laugh. Authors have said to me, “It’s such a trainwreck, I just can’t help watch it unfold!” And my response always is, “Enjoy. Do you feel it’s an ‘all’s fair’ process, and if you were being shredded online you’d shrug your shoulders and say, ‘ah well, have at my blood/sweat/tears’ work; it’s only fair because I enjoyed watching my colleagues’ being dissed?” If someone’s ok with that, have at it, I say. But I admire folks willing to support their colleagues and our genre by finding entertainment online that’s not at the expense of our friends/colleagues.

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | October 26, 2009, 7:52 am
  5. Message to all: This woman’s words are gold! Thought provoking post, Michelle. Your emphasis on strategy is important, and one that all too often is overlooked.

    Posted by Blythe Gifford | October 26, 2009, 7:59 am
  6. Thank you, Kelsey. Clearly, while I write very ‘tight’ online, I can’t seem to comment that way! yikers. I think ytbps are doing lots of things very, very right, actually! First, so many are concerned with presence before they’re pubbed and spend time online learning what others do well. Next, they’re learning the ins/outs of soc media and applications and various platforms that may help them sell their books as publishers have less resources to apply to new authors’ marketing.

    Clearly, I think pre-pubs should learn early on not to get embroiled in cyber-crap as a way to get noticed or gain favor with online ‘personalities.’ It may win notice of one blogger, but turn off a host of media professionals. Also, words laid down in ugc or a blog/tweet, etc., in the heat of the moment can/will come back to haunt you and we’ve all seen it happen. You do not know who’s reading what you write, and if your goal is to get pubbed while building a brand, watch what you do.

    And I guess I could give the advice that if you want to freely offer opinions or be able to dig into cyber attacks on colleagues, etc., for gawd’s sake, register under an assumed name. Creepy, but much better than shooting yourself in the foot.

    Finally, limit time spent online. It will suck you dry at the least because of how much fun it can be, and, at its most debilitating, because it can mess w/your sense of self if you’ve got any insecurities. Not that I’m saying writers are plagued w/’em, but occasionally, creative types can experience a little self doubt…

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | October 26, 2009, 8:04 am
  7. Here’s the most important reason authors might want to be careful about time spent online: What you see online isn’t always reality. You can hear news in a chat room about what a publisher is looking for, but by the time you hear it, it’s already distorted in a ‘whisper down the alley’ sort of way.

    Keri Stevens, above, is a big twitter girl. She can explain it herself, but she’s told me she likes to follow folks in the industry, agents, publishers, pr folks, because then she gets info from the “horse’s mouth,” as it were. I find that incredibly wise. I believe one always should double check info one finds online, even mine.

    Also, things that look like a big, hairy deal online, most of the time are tiny little blips in the cyberverse and will pass. One little trip up will not ruin your career, especially if you work to develop strategy and perspective before you jump in with both feet.

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | October 26, 2009, 8:11 am
  8. Great post, Michelle! I have found myself tangled, err, at the front of the pack, once in an online email discussion, but I do my best to behave while on Twitter/blogs/ect, but it can be hard when news flows through as fast as it does to not spit out your immediate thoughts.

    I’d never heard of MLI before today. Up for less than an hour and I’ve learned something. today is marked as successful.

    Posted by Keri Ford | October 26, 2009, 8:14 am
  9. Morning Michelle…excellent post!

    I’m always amazed at how things can get “out of hand” online…in a forum or what have you…someone’s ‘innocent’ comment can be taken and twisted in such a way that the original author never intended…tempers flare and smiley faces just don’t cut the mustard. =)

    I myself have tried to keep a clean online presence, mainly because two of my other businesses are that I’m trying (really hard) to be an author, I’m really glad that I’ve done so.

    Is there anything that can be done though if you have gotten into “trouble” online? or just brazen it out if it ever comes back to haunt you?


    Posted by carrie | October 26, 2009, 8:29 am
  10. Thanks for the great post, Michelle! I, too, had never heard of MLI until today, and it has never occured to me to check my contract very carefully re: these types of issues.

    I really take your point about the trains wrecks that can happen in the blogosphere – they can, at first, seem very entertaining, but it’s too easy to forget that human beings are involved in the discussion. I often come away from those types of threads feeling very disheartened.

    I also agree that spending a lot of time on-line can be debilitating, especially if one feels a little insecure about her career. The boundaries between personal and professional lives seem to be dropping at an alarming rate.

    Posted by Vanessa Kelly | October 26, 2009, 8:37 am
  11. Morning Michelle!

    When I think of how you present yourself online I remember that quote by Henry James, “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind, The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”

    Watching how you conduct yourself and how you dealt with swirling waters taught me a lot. You really shifted my paradigm when I first started in this biz, and I’m glad for it.

    Posted by Eva | October 26, 2009, 9:56 am
  12. Hi Michelle,
    Hi Romance University regulars. This topic has become one that fascinates me, being pre-pubbed as I am. And I’ve always loved and respected your take on Internet “etiquette” Michelle, not to mention the practical advice you’re giving today on staying out of hot water.

    I got into Facebook early this year and it’s been a growing experience for me. At first it was a shiny new toy and I played some of the game apps, took the quizzes, and wasn’t shy about making my views known. Fortunately, I didn’t ever get involved in “trouble.” But, wow, did I let it become a time suck. Then I started paying attention to some of my fave authors and decided one reason I admired them was that they were “classy” in and out of cyberspace. Eloisa James, Barbara Samuel, Liz Bevarly, SEP … to namedrop a few, have pages and comments that are fun and funny and, yet, welcoming to all.

    I’d like to brand myself as equally classy one day. Great advice, Michelle! Thanks.

    Posted by Lizbeth Selvig | October 26, 2009, 9:57 am
  13. Hi Michelle,
    Being pre-pubbed as well, I wish I could re-do my facebook account — I would make two accounts — one for family/non-business friends/highschool friends and one just for professional purposes. I think if I really took the time now, I probably could separate them, do you know of anyone else who’s tried to separate them after the fact?

    Posted by Amy Kennedy | October 26, 2009, 11:54 am
    • Amy, there is a way to create a “fan page” on Facebook, but I’m not sure how it’s done.
      I’m about to go in and figure it out myself! LOL.

      Posted by Adrienne Giordano | October 26, 2009, 1:13 pm
      • Amy and Adrienne,

        When on your FB profile, look to the bottom of the page (you might have to scroll down). You should find a button labeled “Ads & Pages”. Click on this button. On the next page, at the top, you’ll find a link titled “Pages”. When you click on this link, you’ll have the option of creating a Page.

        Getting folks to you page is a whole other story. 🙂

        Good luck – email me off-line if you need more help.


        Posted by Tracey Devlyn | October 26, 2009, 1:27 pm
  14. Hi, Michelle and thank you for being with us today. Great post! I couldn’t agree with you more about the amount of information out on the net. I am sometimes amazed at the things (personal and professional) people will put out there.

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | October 26, 2009, 1:15 pm
  15. Thanks for your very nice praise, Blythe. The Inet looks so spontaneous, and can be, but we can plan/strategize w/out being stilted or too commercial. Having a framework in which to creatively promote is no different from doing the same w/writing a novel.

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | October 26, 2009, 1:53 pm
  16. Keri Stevens, you’re a twitter maniac (twaniac?), and you’re really generous w/helping other prepubs — and pubbeds — tweet. You’ve taught me a lot. One of my fave things that you say is basically, don’t worry about being a cool kid; if you don’t follow, how’re you gonna cull all that great twinfo re the industry that’s being tweeted?

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | October 26, 2009, 1:58 pm
  17. Hi, Keri! Probably everyone’s been stuck in some kind of online mess — or seen one unfold — on a loop, blog, etc. So much is pure misunderstanding. But truly, what you say is the reality: It’s hard to take a breath and count to ten, sometimes wait until the next day to respond to something that strikes something emotional for us, even if it’s business related. Always a huge mistake, I think.

    It never occurred to me that authors would worry about MLI until I saw it advertised on Publishers Lunch. I figured it might stir up some concern, so I was glad Kelsey asked about it. Like the recent concerns with the FTC and bloggers, I’d always rather find lots of info and hang back, rather than get reactionary. RU seems to ask the right questions and get folks here to talk about stuff that we might not think of otherwise, and I like that, it’s comforting.

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | October 26, 2009, 2:04 pm
  18. Hi, Carrie. Like you, I approached online presence the same way I’d always approached business. It never crossed my mind not to use my real, full name as my brand — though I understand why authors use pen names, of course. If my brand is ‘hanging out,” I can control only one thing: What I publish and produce. That’s it. I can’t control how people interpret what I write or say, nor how they write about those things.

    However, if I feel I’ve offended someone I’m interacting w/at my site or a blog I’m writing at — and I think it’s because I could have been more precise in my communication — I’ll try to work it out then and there. Yeah, it can get a little girlie. “Oh, no, I didn’t think you meant that! I’m sorry!” “No, I’m sorry!” And I’ve definitely contacted viewers offline to check in with them. Whether we simply end up agreeing to disagree, I appreciate someone who takes time to visit and comment in a reasonable way whatever their opinion. But I don’t want them to feel crappy about visiting w/me if I can help it.

    As I said above, if you can’t control reaction to what you’ve written — and you’re absolutely positive there’s no factual correction that should be examined/made — stick by your guns. Or stick by em no matter what, which really is your Free Speech prerogative. But if you care about how your brand is seen, which I think is where you’re coming from, I think the “fix your errors, but don’t fold under pressure to apologize for imagined transgressions or respond to allegations concerning them” is the way to go.

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | October 26, 2009, 2:18 pm
  19. Hi, Vanessa! Ugh, soon after I started working online four years ago, I found I hated the way some sites/loops left me feeling, so much so that I totally forbade myself from visiting. I simply found the places that made me feel good; time/energy are too precious in my life to waste that way. When you speak about boundaries dropping, you remind me about the thing that most makes me uncomfortable about the Internet: Its boundary-lessness. It’s a word if I say it is!

    The Inet gotcha culture has dragged the idea of being “in the public eye” to the ground level, so that simply registering to comment somewhere opens you to the same possibility for attack we used to think only celebs “asked” for. I buy that I open myself to whatever anyone wants to dish when I become a brand and ask folks to follow/support me. I don’t buy that anyone who wants to can attack my viewers, for instance, because they sign onto That’s insane.

    Yet folks have the choice to leave a place online that upsets them, where they’re treated poorly and never return there. If we stay after the point of discomfort, when we see something really bad going down and, while we aren’t participating, we’re not helping the person in trouble, the question becomes: Are we part of the problem?

    We may not be able to help someone in the midst of an online crisis on a loop to which we belong. But one can be brave and contact someone offline to try to help w/advice or information or even a pat on the back. It’s way more courageous than going along with the crowd, and we can form strong bonds, too.

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | October 26, 2009, 2:55 pm
  20. Thanks, Eva. That is very lovely to hear. I suspect you knew where you were going to begin with.

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | October 26, 2009, 2:56 pm
  21. Thanks for having me here, Adrienne! You know,I’m completely convinced that some folks think the Internet is anonymous. It’s like kids who close their eyes, cover their ears and sing My Country Tis of Thee; they think if they can’t see/hear you, you can’t see/hear them.

    I’ve heard folks at conferences complain about their blogging having lost them job opportunities, grumble about how it affected divorce or custody cases and have been astounded by how they are struck dumb by the simple question, “What made you believe the Internet was anonymous?”

    Maybe not everybody feels this way, but at least once a day I stumble across something a published author’s written online and think, “Gosh, I could have gone through the afterlife w/out knowing that about you.” I think we all find ourselves endlessly fascinating, and when pressed to find something to blog/tweet about, assume the minutiae of our lives is ‘quirky’ and ‘bold’ instead of mind numbing embarrassing.

    A good rule of thumb: Even when you’re being yourself, be your persona’s self. I’m going to share a lot with my viewers, and am willing to be brutally honest about myself, especially for a laugh or to fall on my sword. But if I choose to share something important or intimate, it surely isn’t going to be on fb, twitter, or even RBTB.

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | October 26, 2009, 3:07 pm
  22. Hi, Amy. Yeah, I wish I’d have started w/separate accnts, too. The author I know whose separated friends/business is Megan Hart. As you’ve remarked, ,any authors are switching to the fan pages because of the number of friends they’ve accumulated.

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | October 26, 2009, 3:13 pm
  23. Lizbeth, you’ve chosen authors who’ve created, as you say, very classy online personas. They’re all about creating community and entertaining first, selling books second. They may have strong opinions about many things, but you don’t generally see them getting in the mix. Of course, some authors love stirring the pot. But of the ones you’ve mentioned, there are women with a knack for helping direct the tone of their communities, and redirecting it when crud starts to bubble up. That takes lots of work and diplomacy and, believe it or not, is much more difficult than riling up folks. Maybe that’s a post for another day…

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | October 26, 2009, 3:20 pm
  24. Interesting post and pinters Michelle thanks for your time and effort on here. I work in the public and everybody shares everything with everybody nowdays. I often stand at the cash register scratching my head going and I care about this because? I hear your whole life story while you check out, boy I could really do truth stranger than fiction. So perhaps the net is similar people pop off with things and later go oh that’s not what I meant. But unlike real life you can’t take it back and see a face to apologize to for the error. Everyone sees it and you could do major hurt or harm to someone more than in real life.

    Posted by Kathy Crouch | October 26, 2009, 5:09 pm
  25. Michelle –

    Thanks so much for hanging out with us today and answering all these fabulous questions. This topic is a little different from some of our other career posts, so I’m delighted, but not at all surprised, that it generated so much interest.

    I’ll see you over at RBTB soon!

    Posted by KelseyBrowning | October 26, 2009, 10:20 pm
  26. Great interview, Michelle! This hits home with me in many ways. When I started to write fiction, I was already multi-published as a garden writer and as the landscaping industry is still male-oriented, I didn’t want to get laughed out of my job if word got out that I was writing contemporary romance. With that in mind, I started a Facebook account under my pen name. It’s gotten confusing now, since no one seems sure which name is which. It’s made me hyper-conscious of the fact that anything I post online is visible, and is going to stay visible, and not just to people in the writing world. It’s a scary thought, and one none of us can afford to forget.

    Posted by Becke Davis/Martin | October 27, 2009, 5:35 pm
  27. Great information, Michelle! Thank you, RU! I am so in over my head when it comes to all of this. I want to do it right because of the “public” aspect and because one’s reputation can fall on a word. Scary!

    Posted by Rosie Murphy | October 27, 2009, 8:29 pm
  28. Thanks, Cathy! I missed your comment, and it’s true. Sometimes it’s a good thing when something online ‘takes off,’ but at other times can get kind of out of hand.

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | October 27, 2009, 8:32 pm
  29. Kathy C, you’re so right, and I can only imagine what you hear! I feel the same about things I read online. And it’s so unfortunate that we often hurt folks online when we have no intention of doing so. I remember in the early days of RBTB when so many of us were learning how to communicate, we were afraid to comment, were painfully aware of how what we wrote might be construed. I heard privately from so many folks who wouldn’t comment because they were afraid others would make fun of them or attack them. That was four years ago, and I think more folks who might like to be heard are more concerned now with being smacked down.

    I’ve been humbled and amazed by the intimacies so many viewers/friends have shared online among themselves at RBTB, and shared appropriately. But I do note a wariness in commenters in the last couple years, and that’s unfortunate, because it was really nice to connect so freely before. And I’d read your “truth is stranger than fiction” if you wrote it!

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | October 27, 2009, 8:36 pm
  30. Becke, I thought about you as I was pondering some of these questions, as you’re in such a unique position: already branded as published in non-fiction, and branding now for a career in romance fiction. I believe if pre-pubs and even pubs looking for a model studied the way you ‘do business’ they’d note why you’ve had such a long career already at in online education, board moderation and now blogging, as well as your expanding fb and twitter presences (and work at RBTB). You definitely understand how to build and direct community, too, and take pains to be appropriate and stay in touch with viewers/commenters. It’s a lot of work and energy, but it certainly pays off on many levels.

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | October 27, 2009, 8:42 pm
  31. Hi, Rosie! I know you’ve got a new contract, and are putting all your ducks in a row. Congrats! All this can seem scary, but really, it’s fun stuff, and new authors are doing a great job learning the ropes of online promotion, asking questions and implementing fresh approaches to soc media, etc. It’s very exciting.

    But to maybe add some perspective, I don’t believe a rep can be trashed that easily, though I know there are folks out there in cyberspace who love for authors to think they’ve got the power to destroy careers. I keep hearing from authors, “I’d say something to stand up when I see bad stuff happening online, but I’m afraid for my career.” Hmmm. I think there’s more to whether books are bought and sold than what some blogs and their commenters say about a book or author. Do not buy it.

    The good news is that any real mistakes can be weathered, and there’s no error a sincere acceptance of responsibility can’t help turn around. But a caveat to that is don’t be too willing to throw yourself on your sword before you’re certain you’ve made an error. Could be just a big ol crap storm of nothing that somebody’s trying to make your problem.

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | October 27, 2009, 8:55 pm
  32. RU Crew –

    Sara Megibow has some additional words of advice on this topics in the Nelson Literary Agency’s October newsletter. You may have to scroll halfway down the page once you follow this link:

    Happy reading,

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | October 28, 2009, 7:08 am

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