Notes From a Hired Pen

She tweeted what?!

Two weeks ago, I had stories published in The New York Times and Zelle, which is Runner’s World’s new(ish) women’s-focused website. For both stories, the publications put my twitter handle in their tweets sharing the stories.

I was ecstatic – of course! What great exposure! Maybe I’d pick up a few followers who would eventually buy my book! And more book sales means maybe I get to buy a nice cover for that single-engine boat I could go out and buy with my advance!

And then the replies started rolling in.

I didn’t say anything to people who called me a snob, or frivolous, or what have you. I didn’t look long enough to remember their exact words, and as a writer who is fiercely Don’t Read the Comments, I won’t go back and look.

But it did raise a question I asked back in the fall when I taught a class at Temple University about journalism: what are freelancers to do in such occasions? Reply? Say nothing? Usually, I’d ask the publication, but neither have social media policies for freelancers (though I think that will change now that social media is a part of every good publication’s publishing plan).

I didn’t say anything back because I was on vacation, and for the same reason I don’t read or reply to comments: the arguing wasn’t worth my time (I don’t think some of those who tweeted thought that there was an actual person reading the tweets other than the publication’s social media person, even though my handle was clearly in their response).

The only rule that I use (and teach in my class) is to not put a publication’s name in my Twitter bio in case someone finds something unrelated I say objectionable – like when I curse about flight delays. I don’t want someone running off saying “WRITER FOR PUBLICATION ABC SAID XYZ AND NOW THAT BRAND IS TRASH.”  Though this is an extreme case given the objectionable tweets, it is an example that it has happened.

I also don’t sign contracts that make requirements of my personal social media accounts. I turned down an assignment that required minimums of tweets and Facebook posts, and also approval of the verbiage used in both places. No thanks.

Freelancers, do you have any policies for social media in relation to your stories? Has any publication shared one with you? I’m teaching that class at Temple again in the fall and would like to present a bigger picture about this to my students.

P.S. If you want to follow me, I’m @byjenamiller

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