Blogging can be a fun, but necessary part of building an author platform. If you’re not careful, blogging can land you in a great big boiling pot of hot water! Fortunately, it’s easy to avoid trouble if you know what to look out for. I’ve compiled a list of the top five blogging hazards along with some tips on how to keep yourself out of trouble:
- Using images and photos improperly obtained from the internet. Photographs and memes can make your blog post look visually appealing, but did you know that you can get in serious trouble if you use images without proper attribution or permission? I know of one author who shut down her popular blog in response to “take down” notices she received regarding the photos used on her site. I also know of another blogger who was sued for an image used in one of her blog posts. Though she was not required to pay a huge settlement, it did cost her big bucks in attorney’s fees. How can you avoid getting in trouble? You can purchase stock photos from sites such as 123rf or Deposit Photos. Or, you can use free images from sites such as can stock photos or freedigitalphotos.net. Many sites allow you to use their royalty-free photos on your blog, provided you use proper attribution. Be sure to carefully read the terms and conditions for each site to make sure you are following their rules. To be doubly safe, you can use photographs you have personally taken.
- Using quotes or snippets of other articles or blog posts. Most writers are careful when using direct quotes from books or articles, but you need to make sure you are linking back to the original source. Long quotes or snippets of song articles can get you into trouble unless you’ve received permission from the original author or musician.
- Posting critical book reviews. There are many thoughts on how book reviews should be conducted, particularly when it comes to indie authors reviewing books by other indie authors. While some people say bloggers should write whatever they want in a book review, others say authors shouldn’t review books at all. Many author/bloggers take an “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t review the book” approach to book reviews. My opinion happens to fall somewhere in the middle – I think we should review books IF we are comfortable doing so and IF we feel like we can be honest in that review. Just be aware there are some authors who take critical reviews very personally. There have even been cases where the offended author has launched an online assault against the reviewer and has enlisted friends to participate in their anti-blogger campaign. If you want to post critical reviews, don’t let stories of a few crazy authors deter you. You should do whatever feels right for you and your blog.
- Taking on controversial topics. By no means am I going to tell you to avoid all controversial topics, but I will tell you that if you do choose to take a stand defending a less-than-popular opinion, you should prepare for some backlash. (I once saw a post about book reviews nearly ruin an author’s career.) Taking a stand can either rally the troops around you, resulting in a huge new group of like-minded fans and friends. Or it can backfire spectacularly, resulting in a huge new group of people following you from your blog to Facebook to Amazon, hurling insults and one-star reviews of your books. As writers and caring human beings, there are times when we simply must speak out, regardless of the consequences – just be prepared for less-than-supportive comments from readers, friends, and even your own family members.
- Engaging in indie author drama. Controversy in the indie author world has been around longer than I’ve been an author, and it will probably still be going strong long after I’ve written my last word. There are controversies surrounding book reviews (see #3), marketing tactics, bestseller lists, editing errors, piracy – you name it. In many cases, this indie drama has been centered around moral issues that could simply not be ignored. Some issues, however, started from minor controversies that snowballed out of control because some people love to feel outraged, angry, and self-righteous. Some people aren’t happy unless they’re fighting with someone, and when you have two such people taking a stand at opposite ends of the spectrum, you have the perfect recipe for Indie Author Drama. As I stated in #4, sometimes you feel like you simply must speak out, particularly if it is in your own defense or in defense of a friend. Sometimes speaking out can get you into serious trouble – not just in the form of angry blog comments and one-star reviews. Sometimes speaking out can result in legal trouble. Be careful what you say and how you say it. Are you accusing another author of doing something illegal? Do you have proof to back up your claims, or do you only have the word of one author against another? Are you engaging in name-calling? Are you strongly implying that an individual is a thief or crook? Are you taking screen shots of another author’s Facebook posts and sharing snippets of those posts on your own social media accounts to “prove” your point? I’m not a lawyer, so please don’t take any of what I’m about to say as legal advice. I’m just trying to encourage you to use some discretion so you don’t suddenly find yourself sitting in an attorney’s office, trying to plan your defense. If you end up getting pulled into Indie Author Drama and happen to get in way over your head, you could find yourself being accused of a crime (harassment, libel, etc), and though you may be able to prove that your comments were not libelous, do you have thousands of dollars to spend on legal fees? Most of us don’t, so it’s probably a good idea to think twice about what you write before you write it.
If you’re new to the blogging world, welcome! I hope you’ll stick around and enjoy what blogging has to offer. If you’re thinking about starting a blog, there’s no time like the present! I hope you’ll make blogging part of your 2018 New Years Writing Resolutions.
As a blogger, I’ve been fortunate to have met the most amazing, talented, supportive group of bloggers one could ever imagine. I’ve discovered incredible new books by authors I’d never heard of – authors who are now listed among my favorite all-time writers! Thanks to blogging, I’ve rediscovered my love of poetry. I’ve been exposed to new ideas and new ways of looking at the world. I wouldn’t trade my blogging experiences for the world.
Since this is probably one of my last posts for 2017, I want to thank all the bloggers out there who post thought-provoking, informative, and entertaining content week after week, month after month. I also want to thank everyone who has commented on my blog posts, offering words of encouragement or helpful advice. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season!