Monday, March 12, 2007

The Dangers of Blogs

I’m sitting here enjoying a nice cup of tea and thinking about the dangers of blogging. By now most of you are probably aware of Jason Pinter’s reported firing from Crown for a posting he made on his blog. If not, take a look at what Galleycat has to say about the situation. While I can’t say anything specific about Jason or that situation, I can say that he is not the first to be fired because of a blog and he definitely won’t be the last. As writers, and members of the publishing industry, we should know better than most how powerful words can be. We should also try not to forget that blogs are a public forum, and when choosing to post in this public forum you need to be cautious about what you are saying about whom.

As an agent I think about it every day. After all, I might be a part owner in BookEnds, but it surely doesn’t mean I can’t be fired. What do you think would happen if I started openly sharing confidential client information? It wouldn’t be too long before those certified letters started flooding my office.

Whether or not you agree with Jason’s firing, the truth is that blogs are a public forum and companies have the right to fire employees if they feel confidentiality has been breeched or if they feel an employee has acted in a way that’s contradictory to the company’s image. That means you can’t get up in front of a roomful of people and share confidential information, you can’t streak naked while representing the company at an event, and you can’t blog about anything (company-related or not) that the company feels goes against the image they want to present.

When sitting in our pajamas, in our homes, writing blogs, we forget that hundreds of people read them—including agents, editors, other authors, and even our mothers. Do you think that as a writer you can’t be fired for a blog? See what happens when an agent or editor interested in your work does a Google search and finds the things you had to say about her, other industry professionals (her friends), or the industry in general. Trust me. She’ll get nervous and that book better be darn good for her to decide to make an offer despite the fact that she might end up on your blog someday.

If you’re unsure about what to say or not say in your blog, think about it this way: If you were being interviewed by a reporter for the New York Times, would you say the same things? Would you be willing to have those words in print and dropped on an editor’s or agent’s doorstep?

Blogs are new, fun, and a fantastic way to help publicize your work or even let off a little steam. But it’s important to remember that they aren’t the diaries of old, the ones we hid so Mom couldn’t find them.

—Jessica

17 comments:

jolinn said...

it's amazing what some people put on their blogs. And dangerous. It's a real small world and after awhile we all know each other.

Kimber An said...

I always try to stay positive on my own blog. Even so, I still worry in the back of my head while I write. It's one thing to offend someone unintentionally, but some issues really ought to be no-brainers.

December Quinn said...

It stuns me what people put on their blogs, as well. I'm outspoken but I try to make it discreet, and I don't blog about people I know.

I saw a post a few weeks ago by a random blogger who discussed the sorry state of a certain publisher's books, how she'd bought a few because she just sent her book to them, and how stunned she was by the way only a few of the books were good and the rest stunk.

I wasn't at all surprised to see her work was rejected a few days ago.

She was.

Duh.

1blkquill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
1blkquill said...

You addressed something that needed to be said. I know not everyone is perfect but I have seem some behaviors of those in the publishing industry blogging who totally turned me off from ever picking up one of their books. But I know they are people too with moods but you got to keep in mind when you're out in the public representing a work you want to sale, you gotta think of your imagine that goes along with the book or you going to lose some consumers based upon some unethical behaviors.

I'm learning by observation and the mistakes of others. Again, great point you brough up and one that needed to be addressed.

Christie Craig said...

Great post, Jessica! And so true. While blogging is supposed to feel as if you are sitting across the table having a one-on-one chat, sharing thoughts and secrets, you are actually being recorded and anyone interested can tune in and listen. We need to remember that.

CC

Anonymous said...

Interesting timing. I was just talking with my agent last week about starting a blog to help publicize an upcoming book. I was leary about doing it because of just this reason.

I believe that the best blogs (like this one) convey information to a target audience. I read your blog nearly every day and I've learned a great deal from it. But many blogs are just self-indulgent musings, and you're right, people tend to forget that the entire world has access of their private thoughts.

Kate Douglas said...

One thing I've learned to do with blogging is to imagine myself in front of a classroom when I post. I was a substitute teacher for many years and I always watched what I said, knowing any mistakes would get carried back to the REAL teacher. Keeping that image in my mind keeps my posts a lot safer--I imagine they're not nearly as interesting as if I were to say EVERYTHING I'm thinking about some subjects, but I'd rather err on the side of safety to my career!

Dan said...

The personal nature of what people post amazes me. Aren't they concerned about who reads this stuff? And not just their bosses or publishers.

Because it's a new area, we're still finding our way. E-mail is "personal," because it's addressed to a single individual. Some people tend to see blogs as e-mail, and include some of the same sort of information. TMI a lot of times.

I have had friends lose potential jobs because of their pages. You are absolutely right in that these days you are totally checked out: not only your credentials, but your jerk-potential as well.

Sam said...

Actually, I don't agree about Jason Pinter's firing. It seemded a flimsy excuse, at best. But it was used as an excuse, wasn't it, and that is the point of your post.
I do agree that a blog is a public insitution and should be treated as such. It's akin to standing on a soapbox in the park, with your family, boss, and friends all within hearing.

So I think the best uses of a blog are (in my case, for example) promotion, keeping in touch with my family and friends from overseas, and posting my photographs so that people can get a glimpse of life in France.

Anonymous said...

After reading galleycat and such, I still don't get it. What was the big deal here? Pinter wasn't being inflammatory or even putting down Random House. It seemed he was merely pointing out an interesting publishing fact with a unique market, i.e. Starbucks. It's one of those apples and oranges sort of things. You can't even legitimately compare a bookstore with a venue like starbucks. Interesting and curious obviously, but something to be fired over? I hardly think so. Honestly, it makes me not want to buy anything published by Random.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, too many people forget how wide read the Internet is. More people get their news from the Internet than the television or the radio. More people communicate via the Internet than any other way. When a field is this large, but yet you can access it from the comfort of your own home, it's far too easy to speak your mind. It's a little like writing in your journal -- only, thousands of people have access to it.

I feel for Mr. Pinter and don't believe he should have been fired over this. However, as a full-time writer, I truly believe he'll find the rose garden within the layer of crap used as the excuse for his firing.

I wish you the best of luck and can't wait to read your book this summer.

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for Jason Pinter. However, if he signed an employment agreement that contained clauses that limit his right to talk about company matters (however that's defined in his contract), and he violated this agreement, he suffered the consequences.
The one post earlier said this is new territory. To that end, we must exert caution and be smart enough not to cause ourselves problems.
It was probably done more as an example than for cause, but they had their cause and went with it.
He was also in a sticky situation, a kind of schizo existence. I hope he's able to hit one out of the park with his books and never have to look back.

Anonymous said...

It's great publicity for his books. First time authors are hard-pressed to get so much attention.

Anonymous said...

I've always wondered why writing a blog is so alluring?

Personally, I don't want to have to sit down and spew out my thoughts about anything or anyone on a daily or even weekly basis.

Too much like work.

I'm glad some do, like these people and Miss Snark and Evil Editor and ...

But for me, I can't see it.

Mary Alice Pritchard said...

I have to comment on this one because it is soooo true. I am very aware of others reading my blog and hope they will, but I forgot about my parents. blush

Mom reads my blog fairly often and I got caught when I posted that one of my feline muses had been staying in the "big house" with me at night. Not a big deal, but to my mom it was LOL She fusses that I sleep with one cat, I should sleep with two as I have asthma.

So.. she commented back that she caught me having a visitor in my bedroom that wasn't supposed to be there. Imagine the hemhaws from my readers when they read THAT comment sans reference to it being a FELINE visitor. :-)

Cate said...

I'm always amazed by the amount of personal information people put out there on the blogs. I'd like to think that they just get so wrapped up in their writing, that they forget about the audience and that they don't know who's out there. I always think of it in terms of ... is what I wrote ok for a potential employer or my mother to read (especially since both cases happen regularly!). Assuming it passes that test, then I'm good. ;)