From The Heart Romance Writers Self-Promotion Criteria
At our recent board meeting we discussed some details about the self-promotion rules on the loop, our social media feeds, and our website. The following is a short write up about that topic to help our members weed through the in’s and out’s of what members can and can’t post. We understand that it is confusing and will do our best to keep our chapter rules as clear as possible for you. Please keep in mind that each chapter is a little bit different when it comes to the rules on each separate format (social media, chapter website, loops, etc.). So some of our rules will not be the same as they may be in your other chapters if you are a member of more than one.
Being aware of what drives the self-promotion rules may make them easier to follow. Again, there may be some differences particularly where social media is concerned among chapters. Occasionally, we have had to remove posts for violating our self-promotion rules. We always feel bad doing that since we all make mistakes and the rules can be vague, no doubt. So to help clarify, we are posting this sort of mini-class with a bit more detail than the standard loop rules message and including examples.
Let’s start with some back ground that might make them seem a little less random.
The bottom line is RWA and the IRS are the two main organizations that drive what is allowed on our website, loops and social media feeds in varying degrees. The driving force behind their mandates is that we have to maintain our nonprofit status and the IRS rules governing that are VERY specific. Which in turn makes RWA’s rules very specific. The IRS is very clear on the intent of all business communication within nonprofit organizations. As writers we are considered a business league by the IRS and (business leagues) “must be devoted to improving business conditions of one or more lines of business as distinguished from performing particular services for individual persons.” That last line is the source of all RWA and RWA chapter no self-promoting rules.
When asked to discuss it further, Allison Kelly, RWA Executive Director stated “The purpose of RWA member forums is networking and the exchange of business and organizational information. The purpose of member forums should not be to facilitate the sale of books, which clearly is a service for individuals. Individual authors have many online resources to promote their books.”
She also stated that she felt rules regarding self-promotion on closed, members-only loops/forums is not strictly a tax issue. It is also an issue of etiquette, and it relates to RWA’s brand; “Beyond RWA’s tax-exempt purpose, rules regarding self-promotion are based on the notion that members subscribe to RWA-sponsored forums because they want information about their careers as writers. Most do not want their inboxes or forums clogged up with a bunch of posts that could be classified as “buy my book” or “promote my book”. For many members, their knowledge of RWA and what it stands for is primarily based on their experience at the chapter level. Chapters are expected to be closely aligned with the parent organization in order to enhance members’ understanding of RWA’s mission and purpose.”
And so, here at FTHRW, we do just that. We align with nationals, which is based directly on the tax code. We have built and try to keep a running list of examples from various chapters. The chapters or the RWA national office gave specific permission for us to share these. We hope you find them useful.
The main thing to keep in mind is if the comment or post is something that benefits the group it is probably fine. If your post only benefits a single author or one or two authors it probably isn’t.
|Share new releases and blog appearances on the loop from the perspective or sharing your news not promoting the event or book.||Ask chapter members to DO anything about it. Come by, like, comment, etc.|
|Announce you started a newsletter and are excited to be getting readers signing up.||Ask people to subscribe to your newsletter or ask them to pass on your subscription links.|
|Announce you are doing a giveaway on FB or on your blog and ask a question about the process. For example, if you are asking for tips on how to maximize the promotional success of the promotion you are fine.||Ask members to visit, comment, share, enter, etc.|
|Chat about your new author page or website you just built and how pleased you are with the resulting product.||Ask chapter members to go like your page or project page or visit your website.|
|Have a signature line with some of your titles in it or best seller credentials.||Have a signature line with buy links in it. Two clicks away from buy links is OK.|
|Post that there is a cover contest open or that you are involved or a finalist or that you are excited you are doing well.||Ask chapter members to vote for you or your work in any contest. This includes private, event, social media, industry, and RWA contests.|
|Post links to articles you found helpful or entertaining that deal with publishing or writing in general.||Post articles that promote the sale of a specific author or blog guest’s product.|
|Ask for information or put out opportunities that can benefit everyone in the group||Ask for anything or put out opportunities that benefit an individual or small group of individuals. For example, signings (in person or online) with only a few authors or no opportunity for other members to join.|
|Post that you are having a book tagging party on Amazon or Goodreads and wonder if anyone has any pointers or experience with it.||Posting that you are having a tagging party and would love members to drop by and help.|
|Post you are thinking of doing a book signing at a local bookstore and give the specific time asking if anyone knows if that is an optimal time (you need to actually want to know, no cheating) and if they have any suggestions swag wise. Or ask if there is a local bookstore that is particularly welcoming for a signing.||Post you are doing a book signing at a local book store and would love it if members would drop by. The exception to this is if there is something like a workshop or discussion prior to the event that could legitimately benefit all chapter members if they attend but it must be stated clear enough that the possible chapter benefit is obvious and foremost in the post. So someone not in the chapter, like an IRS agent 😉|
Quick Recap: Main things you can’t do:
- Anything that can be construed as a call to action that does not promote the entire group. (Thunderclaps, Voting Contests, etc.)
- Have a signature line that says to go buy your book, vote for you or your work or provides buy links. Titles and things like awards and best seller list credentials are fine. Credentials and contact info is great, promotion isn’t.
- Generally using our or any RWA chapter loop as part of your promotional strategy as opposed to your networking/peer connection strategy will most likely violate Chapter/RWA/IRS rules and get your post deleted or a note from the loop moderator asking you to be more diligent (depending on the chapter).
- For FTHRW, our rule is all buy links must be two clicks away from the link you are posting. That also applies to the pins on our Pinterest page.
Website and Social Media:
RWA gives clear guidance on what we, as a chapter, are allowed to put on our website and which level of pages (landing, secondary and members-only) various information can be on. What is on each page and menu is not random. Only a small part of the type of content is decided at the chapter level. Please ask if you would like to see something in particular. We will consider all recommendations and requests, but also please be aware we are limited in some cases by nationals. We are happy to share why we can’t do something if it otherwise fits with our online brand.
Our social media:
Currently RWA says how social media feeds are handled is up to the chapter but that is on schedule to change in the next year or two. The social media pages will also eventually move to a no individual self-promotion status but currently that rule is not being enforced and while hinted at and chapters have been cautioned it is coming. It is not currently in place. There was a briefing from RWA the middle of last year that lined out this plan to chapter leaders so be prepared for that change to become more solid. FTHRW imposes the same non-promotion rules on our social media feeds as we do to our Yahoo Loop and RWA Discussions Loop (which we rarely use at this time), our two click rule applies but we do allow release announcements and self-promotion that is NOT a call to action (vote for me, buy my book, etc.). The main thing being to stay two clicks away from buy links.
We have recently set up a new Pinterest site for FTHRW. For those who have not seen it and wish to become involved the acceptable information for submission is: Your bio (as an attached Word doc file, 500 characters and spaces max) including ONE link to member’s Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter profile, or Author About page. Please provide the URL you want your photo linked to, but note all links need to be TWO clicks away from a buy link (your link is one click, then visitors have to click a second time before they can see a link to a retailer).
We try to stay as standardized as possible across our feeds. We do this to keep everything as consistent and clear as possible for our members. However, just like the website, we DO still want to be informed of milestones, sales, releases, contest success and bestseller rankings so we can post them and celebrate our member’s successes right along with them.
What we want you to do:
Post anything that is celebratory for you or craft or business worthy for the group. Those type of items are always welcome on all formats.
We hope those of you who have sent us questions are now more confident on this front. If you ever have questions about a post please feel free to contact the board at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Even after doing this for several years, we still get confused and have to double check sometimes so please don’t be shy if you have questions.
FTHRW Board of Directors