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Nuts & Bolts: Advice From Jonathan Maberry on Social Media for Writers


An interview series by Tom Joyce

Nuts & Bolts is mainly about people in the horror community helping each other by sharing their expertise and insights. So it was enormously gratifying, if not particularly surprising when one of the first people to respond to the social media team’s call for interviews back in December was Jonathan Maberry — a literary Renaissance man as well known for his willingness to help other writers as he is for his gripping thrillers. And fascinating nonfiction. And comics and anthologies and plays and … just read his bio. It’s quite lengthy and impressive. 

Jonathan generously agreed to share some advice with HWA members about using social media. What’s his prognosis for Twitter? What platforms would he recommend? How does he simultaneously maintain a social media presence and his sanity? Read on!

Do you have a good idea for a Nuts & Bolts interview? You can learn about this feature and the kind of material I’m looking for in the series introduction. And thanks for reading! 

Q: How do you think the situation with Twitter is going to affect the social media landscape?

A: It’s pitch and yaw and roll around. I think Musk is done trashing it as the public face. Most likely he’ll find someone to manage it in a saner and more productive way, if for no other reason than to pull the Tesla stock out of the septic tank. Turns out he wasn’t as charming and engaging as we all thought — or as he thought. From one angle, though, his tenure running Twitter from the front is a master class in what not to do. He accomplished nothing of worth, lost billions in stock value, and incentivized other social media platforms to suit up. But a year from now, I’d be very surprised if Twitter doesn’t look a lot like it did in 2019.

Q: What platforms would you recommend for authors, and how often should they be updated?

A: There are some basics. A simple website is key. Doesn’t have to be fancy, and I advise new writers not to get sucked in by all the shiny bells and whistles. Visitors go to a website for basic information, updates, bibliography, bio, and pics. That’s all you really need. Same with a basic newsletter — forget the long, well-thought-out verbiage because no one reads it. Newsletters are best when they are very brief — a short paragraph, a graphic, and links. Boom, done.

As for the social media platforms, each of the big three have their value. Facebook is a great place to have conversations. It’s ideal for it;  the tools allow you to edit your posts (which Twitter, oddly, does not), and past posts are easier to find. Instagram was always good for a graphic and some data, though lately it’s been trying to follow the TikTok model of video clips rather than static images. That has some amusement value (I personally love dog videos), but I use it mostly to communicate through images. And Twitter is the buzz machine. An image, some text, and a link. It’s there, it gets engagement, and then it vanishes into the feed.

All three have the added value of messaging functions. Facebook and Instagram are easy; Twitter requires mutual following and an archaic email function instead of private text — which explains why it’s the least commonly used message function of the big three.

As far as how often to use them, I try to post once a day. More often if there are cool, interesting or funny things; or if something career-centric needs a nudge. For example, today I posted something about an upcoming novel; then I posted a question asking if anyone knew a certain kind of scientist (I was gathering experts to help with research questions for a project) and then the audio producer of my latest book surprised me with shareable audio samples. 

Mostly, though it’s once, or maybe twice a day. Overall, maybe 75-85% of my posts do NOT relate to my own products. The last thing I want my social media platforms to be are sales floors.

Q: Where can authors find content?

A: Content is everywhere. Start by looking for memes that suit your sense of humor, likes, less-so dislikes, interests, etc. So, I prowl the feeds of other creatives for book releases or book latest reviews and amplify that; I grab cartoons (from the source, if possible; if not, cite the source); I may grab a graphic from a Net search to support a conversation I want to start (such as “what are your favorite werewolf movies” or “cute animal pictures”) or something relatable and fun. I follow the creators, writers, artists, actors, musicians, etc., whom I like, and repost their stuff a lot, again citing sources. 

One excellent way to find source material (other than talking about yourself) is to follow news feeds — for me it’s mostly entertainment, music, dance, comedy, comics, books, film/TV. Then I’ll repost a news story or image or trailer. 

The key here is to realize that you need to be part of conversations. You need to be “social” on social media. It’s not “mercantile media.” Selling/advertising is fine, but if it’s the reason you’re on social media, then it will show. You gain more attention, build followers, and make friends by engaging in conversation with other people about shared interests. 

Another way to find content is to post questions or requests. I often ask my social media followers to help me build playlists for an upcoming writing project; I will ask folks to tell me about their latest success (links always welcome), or about their current work-in-progress; or ask them something as simple as “Tell me something I don’t know” I’ll ask to see people’s Halloween decorations, pets, Christmas Trees, favorite weirdo shelf ornament, etc.

Content is everywhere. One trick is to pick five to ten of your favorite horror writers and follow their posts for a week or so. Then try to match the posts to the person; and draw inferences. Learn from those folks who make you feel comfortable coming to their page day after day, and from those who make you feel like you walked onto a high-pressure sales floor. Or into the middle of hate-infused political debate. Bottom line … what impression do you want to make, and what do you feel goes against the goal of your brand?

Another example: some writers use their social media pages to review other books in their genres. This is not only potentially offensive and even career destructive for the people who may have gotten spanked in one of your reviews, it’s also very bad form, deeply unkind, and career unwise. I believe that writers need to decide if reviewing the work of colleagues is at all in your best interests. It is usually not. Nor should it be. Nothing happens in a vacuum – the friends of the writer you slammed, the agent and everyone at the agency, all the folks on the targeted writer’s social media lists, and writers who see one of our own throwing punches at someone in the family. Absolutely no good can come of this. None. So, pick your lane: writer or reviewer. The writer is the one who should be on social media. 

Q: How should writers present themselves on social media?

A: Early on, people thought that since I am a former bodyguard and jujutsu master, a former college teacher, a former bouncer — and I’m roughly the size of Bigfoot — that I’d be all about martial arts, fighting, and overwhelming testosterone. Or I’d be doing a lot of show-off videos of me throwing people around or breaking lumber. And yet my dog Rosie appears on my posts far more than pictures of me throwing kicks. 

People know my martial arts background and the fact that I write edgy horror and weird science action thrillers that are all about guns, blood, death, and scary shit. In truth, my social media brand is somewhat of an affable pop culture nerd. Sure, the fact that I’m a moderately successful writer is referenced now and then, but the brand is about a person, not a product. The tone I chose for my social media presence reflects qualities that I try to embody, and that make the people around me feel comfortable and accepted. I am approachable, reasonably smart, not willing to talk politics or religion in a public forum, widely tolerant and inclusive, and I’m clearly having fun. I don’t b***h about things. I never throw punches at other writers, I don’t overshare about my family life; and although I love sarcastic humor, it’s never mean or cruel — and that’s a key distinction.

Also, don’t use failure as content. I know a number of writer friends who will go on social media to talk about rejection of everything from an article or short story to a novel or an approach to an agent. Okay, news flash, writing is hard. Rejections happen. Blah blah blah. How is that content that will sell you as a Writer with a capital W? I am occasionally asked about awards. Naturally I’ll mention genuine career highlights, like winning Bram Stoker Awards. Many friends talk about big awards for which they’ve been nominated — Stoker, Nebula, Hugo, Edgar, Emmy, Oscar, etc. — and that’s good. Talking about the nomination is grand; talking about the loss is not. But I won’t talk about the awards I’ve lost. I mean … I’ve won five Stokers. Awesome. Also lost easily as many. That sucked, but I don’t need to announce to the world that I’m sad about losing. 

You see, this is about perception. Partly, I want to share the things that make me happy, fulfill me, and validate what I do. But if the message is about the rejections, the lost awards, the tanked job interviews, whatever, then that becomes the message you’re putting out there. “Me, the loser.” Pity parties are best done with a few colleagues over beers at a con. They’re not for social media.

Q: To what extent is it possible to protect yourself from extreme negativity and harassment?

A: Couple things I learned the hard way. One, never, ever, EVER, argue with people online. You want a sane and mutual understanding of absolutes of right or wrong. All they want is the fight. You can’t beat them.

Case in point, one of my novels was getting customer reviews after being out for a few weeks. In one day, I got a five-star review and a one-star review back-to-back. One review said it was the best book ever. While that’s cool, it’s wildly untrue. Of course it’s not the best book ever — nor, I suspect, the best book that person has read. And it was not the worst book ever. If it really was, hell … I could do the talk show circuit as the author of the worst book ever written. Anyway, this caught me on a bad day and I told the reviewer that it was a silly review. Well … you might have thought I had spanked his puppy and offended the honor of his maiden aunt. He went after me with thunderbolts and lightning. The more I tried to explain, and even when I became conciliatory, he wasn’t having it. He had me and I was engaged — an addiction more vicious that crack — and he wasn’t letting go. This went on for weeks, which in turn made the conversation keep rising to the surface of the cesspool.

Finally, I came to my senses, I withdrew my comment and apologized (even though he was wrong). Then, alas, my dear friend Anne Rice decided I needed a champion and for three years she fought this guy on social media. I finally had to beg her to stop. In the end, the only person who won was the lucky schnook who got to argue (aka “talk online” or “communicate”) with Jonathan Maberry and Anne Rice. Moreso her. I bet he’s still dining out on that.

So, since then I have stopped responding to reviews. Unless the reviewer asks about book two and I can post a link in the response. More recently, I’ve even stopped reading reviews.

As for politics and social issues — and COVID/Mask Mandates/and different “opinions” about science — please, for the love of Cthulhu, just don’t. Not only can’t you win, but you will drive away potential customers of your book, possibly inspire the overly reactive people to try and do as much damage to you as possible (the way some bozos went after Chuck Wendig by bombing his Amazon page with thousands of one-star reviews because he dared to include a gay stormtrooper in a Star Wars novel). Almost everything is a hot-button issue. So, don’t press buttons. Have fun. Talk shop. Be a pop culture nerd. Be an out-and-proud book nerd; be a world-class horror fan. Stick to the things that give you joy … write about that, post memes about that, retweet that kind of thing. And every now and then talk about your books.

One last thing … occasionally include your social media followers in your writing process. Over the years, I’ve tried out title variations, released new book covers, vaguebooked about stuff in upcoming stories, asked folks to “dream cast” my latest book, and announced the start or finish of a project. Share oddball stuff on your bookshelves; show followers unusual books in your collection, and so on. All of that can be fun, and provides upbeat insight into you as a writer. And by you inviting them in, you are in the position of arbitrary authority. You become defined as “The Writer,” rather than the complainer, that political guy, the guy who does nasty reviews, etc.

Q: Any tips on not allowing social media to sidetrack you from writing? 

A: Social media can easily become a soul-sucking black hole of despair. After losing whole days to it, I now set aside 10 minutes out of every writing hour for social media. I use a timer. One 10-minute break might be Twitter. Another might be TikTok or Snapchat or LinkedIn or whatever. When the ten minutes are up, I’m back to my story. Hard and fast rule that I don’t break.

Q: Are there any resources you can recommend for staying updated on trends in social media?

A: Most of the news about social media is on social media. It tends to report on itself. The print media and 24-hour news cycles are always a few steps behind. As an example, on Twitter, check out what’s trending. Take note of a few items and check periodically to see how long they remain high on the list of what’s trending. You can use hashtags to drill down. So #facebook will bring up posts on Facebook; glance at the number of likes, comments, and retweets to get a sense of its performance and variables.

Q: Do you have any new books or other projects in the works that HWA members might want to know about?

A: I’m in an exceptionally busy phase of my career, chunking out about half a million words a year for publication. Next up for release will be Son of the Poison Rose,  a dark swords-and-sorcery adventure; then Alpha Wave: book one of The Sleeper Wars (science fiction about cryogenics, special forces, and alien invaders); then Cave 13 comes out, which is my 13th Joe Ledger weird-science thriller; then Long Past Midnight, a collection of short stories set in the haunted town that was the subject of my first novel (and winner of the Best First Novel Stoker) Ghost Road Blues. Plus, a slew of short stories. 

Already hard at work on next year’s releases — Dragon in Winter, the final book in my Kagen the Damned epic fantasy trilogy; Burn to Shine, a horror-infused spec-ops thriller; Necrotek, a deep-space horror novel with Lovecraftian overtones; The Sleeper Wars, book two (in collaboration with Stoker winner Weston Ochse); a collection of my Monk Addison urban fantasy mysteries shorts; and two anthologies as editor —  The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny: Tales of the Weird West, and Joe Ledger: Unbreakable, co-edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt.

As I said, a tad busy…

Q: Where can people follow you on social media?

A: I’m all over the place. The easiest starting place is my website, jonathanmaberry.com. But I’m also on Instagram and Twitter as @jonathanmaberry, and on Facebook. And I do a weekly Ask Me Anything on Facebook, Thursdays at 4pm Pacific Time.

The viewpoints expressed in this interview are the opinions of the individual being interviewed and do not necessarily represent the views of the Horror Writer Association.

Jonathan Maberry


Jonathan Maberry is a New York Times best seller and Audible #1 best seller, five-time Bram Stoker Award–winner, anthology editor, comic book writer, executive producer, magazine feature writer, playwright, and writing teacher/lecturer. He is the editor of Weird Tales Magazine and President of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers. He is the recipient of the Inkpot Award, three Scribe Awards, and was named one of Today’s Top Ten Horror Writers. His books have been sold to more than thirty countries. He writes in several genres including thriller, horror, science fiction, epic fantasy, and mystery; and he writes for adults, middle grade, and young adults.

Jonathan is the creator, editor and co-author of V-Wars, a shared-world vampire anthology from IDW Publishing that was adapted into a Netflix series starring Ian Somerhalder (Lost, Vampire Diaries).

His young adult fiction includes Rot & Ruin (2011; named in Booklist’s Ten Best Horror Novels for Young Adults, an American Library Association Top Pick, a Bram Stoker and Pennsylvania Keystone to Reading winner; winner of several state teen book awards including the Cricket, Nutmeg, and MASL; winner of the Cybils Award, the Eva Perry Mock Printz medal, Dead Letter Best Novel Award, and four Melinda Awards); Dust & Decay (winner of the 2011 Bram Stoker Award); Flesh & Bone (winner of the 2012 Bram Stoker Award); and Fire & Ash (August 2013). Broken Lands, the first of a new spin-off series, debuted in 2018 and was followed by Lost Roads in fall 2020. Rot & Ruin is in development for film by Alcon Entertainment and was adapted as a webtoon (a serialized comic formatted for cell phones), becoming their #1 horror comic.

His novels include the enormously popular Joe Ledger series from St. Martin’s Griffin (Patient Zero, 2009; winner of the Black Quill and a Bram Stoker Award finalist for Best Novel) and eleven other volumes, most recently Relentless. His middle grade novel, The Nightsiders Book 1: The Orphan Army (Simon & Schuster) was named one the 100 Best Books for Children in 2015. His standalone novels include Mars One, Glimpse, Ink, Ghostwalkers (based on the Deadlands role-playing game), The X-Files Origins: Devil’s Advocate, and The Wolfman (winner of the Scribe Award for Best Movie Adaptation).

His horror novels include The Pine Deep Trilogy from Pinnacle Books (Ghost Road Blues, 2006, winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel and named one of the 25 Best Horror Novels of the New Millennium; Dead Man’s Song, 2007; and Bad Moon Rising, 2008); as well as Dead of Night, and its sequels, Fall of Night, Dark of Night, and Still of Night.

His epic fantasy series, Kagen the Damned, debuts in May 2022, and he just signed to co-author (with Weston Ochse) a new series of military science fiction novels that launches the Sleepers series. Jonathan will also be launching a new series of science fiction horror novels for the newly established Weird Tales Presents imprint of Blackstone Publishing.

He is the editor of three The X-Files anthologies; the dark fantasy anthology series, Out of Tune; Scary Out There, an anthology of horror for teens; and the anthologies Aliens: Bug Hunt, Nights of the Living Dead (with George Romero), Joe Ledger Unstoppable (with Bryan Thomas Schmidt); two volumes of mysteries: Alternate Sherlocks and The Game’s Afoot (with Michael Ventrella); He is also the editor of Don’t Turn Out the Lights, the official tribute to Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. His next anthology will be Aliens Vs. Predator: Ultimate Prey (with Bryan Thomas Schmidt), debuting in spring 2022.

Jonathan was an expert on the History Channel documentary series, Zombies: A Living History and True Monsters; and he participated in the commentary track for Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated

His many nonfiction works include Vampire Universe (Citadel Press, 2006); The Cryptopedia (Citadel, winner of the 2007 Bram Stoker Award for Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction; co-authored by David F. Kramer); Zombie CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead (2008; winner of the Hinzman and Black Quill Awards and finalist for a Stoker Award); They Bite! (2009; co-authored by David F. Kramer); Wanted Undead or Alive (2010; Bram Stoker finalist; co-authored by Janice Gable Bashman); The Vampire Slayers’ Field Guide to the Undead (2001, written under the pen name of Shane MacDougall); Ultimate Jujutsu (Strider Nolan, 2001); Ultimate Sparring (Strider Nolan, 2000); Judo and You (Kendall Hunt, 1991); and many others.

He writes a variety of projects for various top comic book companies. His work for Marvel Comics includes Captain America: Hail Hydra, Black Panther: Power, Doomwar, Wolverine: Flies to a Spider, Punisher: Naked Kills, the NYT best-selling Marvel Zombies Return; as well as his own franchise within Marvel — Marvel Universe vs. the Punisher, Marvel Universe vs. Wolverine, and Marvel Universe vs. the Avengers.   

He wrote the vampire miniseries Bad Blood for Dark Horse, which won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Graphic Novel in 2015; V-Wars and Rot & Ruin for IDW based on his bestselling novels; as well as Road of the Dead: Highway to Hell,  a prequel to the last zombie movie script by George A. Romero, writer/director of Night of the Living Dead. Adaptations of his short stories have appeared in Evil Jester Comics and Grave Conditions. Jonathan’s latest comic, Pandemica, a bioterrorism thriller about ethnic genocide, debuted in 2019 from IDW and was weirdly predictive of the COVID pandemic.

Jonathan is a prolific short story writer and has sold more than 130 stories in a variety of genres including horror, thriller, dark fantasy, epic fantasy, urban fantasy, science fiction, speculative fiction, mystery, and western. A number of those stories were licensed media tie-in works set in the worlds of The Wizard of Oz, True Blood/Sookie Stackhouse, Hellboy, John Carter of Mars, Sherlock Holmes, Planet of the Apes, and others.

Prior to becoming a novelist, Jonathan sold more than 1,200 feature articles and 3,000 columns; as well as greeting cards, song lyrics, poetry, technical manuals, call-floor scripts, and two plays: Tales from the Fire Zone and Boundary Street. 

Jonathan created the Writers Coffeehouse, a free three-hour open-agenda networking and discussion session for writers of all genres and levels of skill in multiple locations around the country each month. Jonathan has opened Writers Coffeehouses in Willow Grove, PA; Philadelphia; Asheville, NC; San Francisco; Los Angeles; San Diego; and elsewhere. During COVID he switched to holding these online, the first Sunday of every month.

In February 2016 Jonathan had an award named after him and became the first recipient of The Jonathan Maberry Inspiring Teens Award, presented by the Canyon Crest Academy Writers Conference, the first free teen writers con in the country. Each year, this award is given to a writer or teacher whose work with teens is exceptional.

Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Jonathan worked variously as a bodyguard in the entertainment industry; an expert witness for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office for murder cases involving martial arts. He created specialty self-defense programs for women, children, the physically challenged, and the visually impaired. He taught martial arts history, jujutsu, and women’s self-defense at Temple University for fourteen years. In 2003, he was inducted into the Action Karate International Martial Arts Hall of Fame as well as the World Head of Family Sokeship Council International Hall of Fame, the latter based on his extensive writings on martial arts and self-defense for all of the industry’s top magazines, including Black Belt, Karate Illustrated, Inside Kung-fu, Official Karate, and many others. His first published book was Judo and You, written as the textbook for the Temple University judo classes. He retired after more than five decades as an active jujutsu master with an 8th degree black belt.

Jonathan and his wife, Sara Jo, to whom he dedicates all of his published works, and their dog, Rosie, live in San Diego, California. 

Visit his website/blog and sign up for his free newsletter at jonathanmaberry.com, or connect with him on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter (as @jonathanmaberry).


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