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Opinion: Why Indie Authors Need To Stick By Facebook’s Rules

Opinion: Why Indie Authors Need to Stick by Facebook’s Rules

Karen Lotter Social Advice for Self Publishers

One of the many joys of being a self-published author is the facility to run your business your way – but there are times when you just have to play by the rules, and using Facebook to raise awareness of your books is one of them. Social media expert Karen Lotter gives a helpful reminder of exactly what the rules are and why they are so important.


Using Facebook to Promote your Books 

When you are a self-published writer you will need to promote your books.  Facebook is the ideal marketplace – if you follow the rules.

Let’s have a look at some of Facebook’s recent stats:

  • Facebook has 1.44 billion monthly users ( more than ten percent of the whole world)
  • The total number of daily active Facebook users 936 million
  • Country with the most active Facebook users – Canada
  • Average number of Facebook Friends for US Women is 250

So I think we can agree that writers want to be on Facebook to expose their books to old and new readers and to build their brand. But you need to remember that Facebook, just like any online eco-system, has rules.

Stay out of trouble, folks

Stay out of trouble, folks

Understanding Facebook's Rules and Regulations

In many ways the World Wide Web may seem like the Wild Wild West – a bit lawless, but there are plenty of sheriffs with shiny badges patrolling certain web properties.

Child grooming and trafficking  and catfishing scams have brought the heat down on social media platforms like Facebook to be more regulated, which is why users can expect a more stringent application of the rules and regulations.

Facebook recently updated its community guidelines, spelling out in unprecedented detail what constitutes unacceptable behaviour. And they take their rules pretty seriously, especially the so-called “real name policy”

“It’s a challenge to maintain one set of standards that meets the needs of a diverse global community,” Facebook executives wrote in a news release announcing the update.

Real Name Policy

In response to an uproar about the “Real Name” policy last year by drag queens, Facebook has relented and says users are free to sign up with their “authentic identities,” or the names they go by on a daily basis. And yet, just as these rules are adjustments to past policies, they too, will likely be subject to adjustment down the line.

Ever had a look at Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities? Few people read any of the legalese when they sign up to social media platforms; they just scroll through and tick the boxes.

The Salman Rushdie Facebook Incident

Talking about birth names/pen names/ID document names, remember the Salman Rushdie incident in 2011?

Facebook, he wrote in the New York Times, had deactivated his account, demanded proof of identity and then turned him into Ahmed Rushdie, which is how he is identified on his passport. The social network told the author that he would have to use his first name on his profile.

“Dear #Facebook, forcing me to change my FB name from Salman to Ahmed Rushdie is like forcing J Edgar to become John Hoover,” Rushdie sounded off on his Twitter account following the incident. Facebook later restored his profile.

Authentic Identity

The fact is that Facebook insists on what it calls authentic identity, or real names. Not only for itself, but also for its reputation.

How many other sites can you sign into with your Facebook identity?

According to Facebook, the real-name policy stems from the position “that way, you always know who you're connecting with”. This helps keep the community safer.

Likewise per this policy, a “real name” is defined by “your real name as it would be listed on your credit card, driver's licence or student ID”.

How Does This Affect Self-Published Authors?

I don’t think authors read the rules on social media platforms – in fact I am often quite amazed that people will invest time and energy into Pages and Profiles on third party platforms without finding out what they may or may not do.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc are businesses that allow us to put up our tents on their cyberspace properties if we live by their rules. If we don’t , they remove us.

This underscores my cornerstone philosophy for life on the Web – create your own self-hosted website (where you have control) and put most of your energy into it.

Social media platforms are there to expand your reach, build your brand and drive traffic to your website.

You can have a long and happy life on Facebook if you read the rules and stay out of trouble.



Have you any top tips to share on staying out of trouble on social media? Conversely, have you any horror stories you'd like to share? Join the conversation via the comment box!

Why indie authors must obey #Facebook rules by @Ethekwinigirl Click To Tweet

Author: Karen Lotter

Writer, photographer, workaholic info-junkie, Wordpress fan, blogger, aging geek, toyi-toying optimist, social media trainer, web writer. www.ethekwiniweb.co.za


This Post Has 14 Comments
  1. Practicalities, practicalities – FB in particularly not just ‘periodically’ change rules but on a regular basis – if you have the time and space to go through folios verbatim, read what it says, understand what it says, then move onto your page(s) to then redo settings – you will never have time to write a book. Who has not downloaded a piece of software where as part of installing it asks you to scroll or tick acceptance of terms & conditions – we just tick, or do we spend time reading most or all of it?? Yes, we should but we do not – not for want of neglect but as a time management issue. I tend to monitor any highlighted blogs or FB posts because alas there are people who do go through each FB rules change with a fine tooth comb, (and bless them for doing this), and then they flag up so making us aware of anything we need to do, change, or review.

    Focus is on FB but in fact other social media sites adopted the same stance. In the case of LinkedIn they have a zero tolerance and will not just close but ‘ban; people from having a site f this happens. I had considerable reciprocal communications with them who eventually recognised that it was a genuine scenario and reinstated but had to restart via my main verified account again losing not only volumes of links and supporters but more valuable hundreds of testimonials, refers etc. They were helpful in backing up my main data from the back office so that I could use to create company and group pages but could not save all the comments, testimonials etc so that was lost.

    Having had much communications with both FB and LinkedIn on the subject they bot were responsible and to some extent helped with guidance for transition but all within the framework of their criteria and rules so no dispensation because you are genuine, and use pen pseudonyms names common to the fields of authoring. If they make allowances for one it opens the floodgates and the risk of those who abuse filtering their way in.

    As I have said in other posts, let us be clear so that there is no misconception or panic over the issue – ‘pseudonyms’ and ‘pen names’ are OK! They just have to be done as group/business/author separate pages via your own main verified identifiable name so as to be accountable for those pages beit in FB, or another similar situation with LinkedIn. So please do not become over concerned and react by closing accounts – that is counter productive to the Author – It is best that over time you begin to transfer to a new page so that it not lost and when ready inform your supports/readers/fans so they begin to move over. Some will be lost, but not in huge numbers and the exercise gets rid of dead wood!

    1. They most certainly do, Christopher. Quick rollcall of “serious” authors whose social updates I enjoyed over past day: Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Alain de Botton, Irvine Welsh, Gary Shteyngart, Eoin Cofler, Joyce Carol Oates, — and Salman Rushdie, mentioned by Karen in the article. Not to mention the hundreds of ALLi members who take their writing very seriously indeed. Take a look at #talesontweet — enjoy!

    2. How serious is serious, Christopher? No matter how popular and well known the product, one still needs to keep your name/brand top of mind.

  2. Thanks for covering this, Karen. I worked in law for years before I started writing full time, so I’m a stickler for ‘going back to the rules’. This doesn’t, however, make me the popular kid in the sandpit when I try to politely point them out to others.

    If you want to play in FB’s back yard, then you have to play by their rules.

    All joking aside, it’s great to have people sharing information and trying to keep us all safe in cyberspace.

    Toni 🙂

    1. I’m also not a very conventional – go by the rules – kind of person, but I’m careful on social media. I think it is just because I’m old and I’ve learned to pick my battles 🙂

  3. I think this is a timely reminder for *all* authors!
    All social media platforms are commercial organisations. Being free to us is a concession, not a right. But, of course, they are harvesting names and information for marketing purposes…

    1. Of course it is a business and they are harvesting much more than our names – these social media platforms “profile” us. But we are there for free as long as we abide by their rules. And I know the rules are dreary to get into, but for writers, it is worth to spend a bit of time becoming familiar with the rules, after all it is your business.

  4. Useful and timely, thank you Karen. I’m caught by this as I use a pen name on my books … but have have at least not tried to use it on FB as must’ve read the rules some time whenI was signing up! Makes a lot of sense, seeing ‘sign in with Facebook’ etc now exist.

    In fact using a pen name as a writer is a real nuisance with social media now become so important: before that, it was useful as it meant I was not going to get ‘shelved’ at the end of the alphabet!

    1. Clare – I will speak to Orna about ALLI sending a message to Facebook to try to establish how the pen names for authors issue can be resolved. I think that you would be relatively safe if you didn’t call yourself “Author Clare Weiner”.

  5. I was badly burnt by this same scenario a few years back. I had a policy of keeping my personal social media separate from everything else so on Facebook, LinkedIn etc, I would have a separate registration for me personal, and independently one for each of the rest. Security issues arise a few years back, not least following the riots where it was established that the extremist perpetrators who caused the problems were using social media as their vehicle to mobilise, broadcast, and incite. Tracking of these sites by the powers that be revealed that the sites were bogus and setup under false ID’s making tracking them was not easy. Some people who linked and posted on these sites were caught but some of the main perpetrators could not be discovered, or at least discovered easily. The net result of this was that Facebook, Twitter were compelled by the powers that be to close down any of their sites were not through the identity of the originator was established, (hence being asked for your facsimile of your passport etc). By default genuine site users who legitimately had separate sites for innocent reasons, e.g. pen name, pseudonym, etc found themselves caught up in this and systematically had these sites closed. I challenged when t first happen as I was doing this in the same genuine way and you.

    Facebook were engaging on the subject and did go to some lengths to explain but bottom line it meant that independent sites which were not linked to identifiable sites where the originator could be verified were closed, period not argument. Some time later the same happened with LinkedIn where I had Independent sites but they also have a similar system so that you can through your already approved login site can setup a group or company page(s). As an option, genuine sources were invited, like you to go to the page you mention via your existing logging from where you can open a group or company page and then re-establish that way. I had to do the same as you. The major down side is that I first established the previous site in 2004 and amassed (not by buying or other similar means), and ‘like’ audience of in excess of 300k. Once the site was closed all of this was lost. On one level there would have be a significantly amount of ‘dead wood’ almost this but none the less still generate high visibility and profile. More importantly for me is that similar to nuggets of invaluable posts collated by groups, it became a ‘problem/solution; page where matters relating to fundraising and governance in particularly were being posted and help, support, and solutions were being uploaded in response which made this an invaluable resource that was permanently lost and I had to start again.

    Ironically the former site counter widget which was on my website site I never took down and is still seemingly working, (curiously in ratio to the rate of new ‘likes’ to my current Company/Group page so I have left this for posterity even though I had to start again. The link you mention is well worth visits and setting up and over time will increased profile and visibility include even an App feature I use (freely available), where you can sell your books – no matter how many – though the ability of links to your sales site and where you can provide information and cover images of the book(s). So in all it is worthwhile in the long term.

    1. As society changes, the web changes to reflect social issues. When you operate on the Web you need to always remain flexible and receptive to change.

      It isn’t easy. But that’s how it is.

      This is the marketplace today and we need to have stalls set up and be ready to trade, so we have to make sure we are on top of things.

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