It has been a crazy, weird week in the literature world. Whether you are a published author or one seeking representation, social media and online presence is a part of the gig. But sometimes, it can be tricky to navigate your personal values and opinions and how those might be taken or misconstrued in public.
In light of both the Grisham interview and the Kathleen Hale incident, it seems even more important as an author to choose what and who you support with caution. As individuals, we have opinions and a voice. In addition, by nature, we writers have a lot of feels about things and try to articulate those.
BUT can we be too transparent? Too honest?
How do you balance your writer persona/authorial voice with your actual person? Once you are published, do you owe it to your readers/agent/publisher to censor yourself?
Hmmm, I don’t think my writer persona is that different from who I really am. I guess if I was more outspoken, that would be one thing. But I’m already cognizant of myself online because of my day job. Having said that, I think when you are published, you are representing more than just yourself. You are representing those who represent you. Whether that’s an agent, a publisher, both, even other writers you associate yourself with, etc–you are now a part of the publishing business, and it’s important to remember that in any sort of business relationship, professionalism is expected. In light of what’s sort of blown up over this weekend, I’ll say this much. My books are very personal to me. I pour my heart and soul into them. But once they are for sale–or even for preview on Netgalley or with bloggers–those books are no longer mine. They belong to the readers. You have to go into this business knowing that you will never write THE book that every single reader loves. And anyone who reads a book has a right to their opinion about said book. As the author, the professional thing to do is know and accept that there will be good reviews, bad reviews, and everything in between. It won’t be easy to read or hear that someone doesn’t like this thing you made, and you can react to bad reviews in the privacy of your own home with a good, long ugly cry, or sob on the shoulder of a trusted writer friend. Hell, have some wine AND chocolate–AT THE SAME TIME. But as far as professionalism and censoring my reaction, taking any sort of negativity public, IMO, is where I draw the line for myself. I have big time respect for readers/bloggers/anyone who gives my books a chance. I’m not saying I’m all zen if I get a bad review. I’m just saying I go the wine and chocolate route rather than lashing out in public. 🙂
I am always, always myself. I have no problem embarrassing myself or acting goofy, I have a potty mouth online and in real life, and I’m very transparent when it comes to my life experiences.
HOWEVER, when it comes to religion, politics — hot button topics, in general — I will always hold my tongue. Because, here’s my opinion: a) I think there are more important things to do in this world than sit online and argue with people, b) I don’t like to be “preached” at, so why would I do it to someone else, c) anything you say on the internet (or to the media, as in Grisham’s case) will be there FOREVER, and d) we, as a world, need to learn tolerance, kindness, and empathy — and we need to look beyond the text to the intent/meaning of people’s statements. If you flat out ask me my opinion, I will tell you. But I will not, ever, stuff my own thoughts down your throat. That’s just how I am. shrugs
In regards to the Kathleen Hale fiasco, there’s a reason authors are told NOT to look at their reviews. Because they do sting. I got a nasty one the other day filled with F-bombs. And I read it. Cuz I’m an idiot. But, like Amy P. said, when you’re a published author, people watch you. Which means your professionalism must be way above par. In situations like this, in my opinion, again, it’s best to hold your tongue.
I’m not a published author, so my online persona is very much personal and not as much professional, but I still try to stay away from hot button topics on social media. I do a lot of book blogging and reviews, so I also try to remain positive even when I don’t connect with a book. I don’t always give a great review of a book I didn’t care for, because I owe it to myself and my readers to be honest, but I’m always kind. I don’t have to love every book I read, and I’m entitled to share my opinion, but it is never okay to be unkind or demeaning. I think that’s my biggest aim in building a public profile- be kind, no matter what. As I move forward in my writing career and hopefully one day have readers of my own, I think I’ll be well served to keep that in mind
I think it is very important to think before you speak in any situation, but especially when doing so in any public forum. People will pay attention to what you say, particularly if you are well-known. Some will go as far a judging your work (stories, movies, etc., which has nothing to do with your life views) solely because you said something about which that person disagrees.
You can’t stop people from liking or disliking your work and when you put something out there, you need to own it and realize that you won’t make everyone happy. When it comes to a negative review, the author should always take the high road, even if reviewers push the issue by arguing on Goodreads, etc. Veronica Roth got death threats after ALLEGIANT and her response was something like (I’m paraphrasing) ‘as long a people have an emotional reaction to the book one way or another, I’m happy.’ She took the high road (and probably hired security).
In Grisham’s case, he said too much. I read the article. I think I get what he was meaning to say, referring to prison overcrowding, but the horrible examples he gave overshadowed his point and angered a lot of people. Damage done.
Will all of this blow over? Probably. I’m not saying you shouldn’t speak out if something is very important to you, but first considering the consequences of your thoughts and actions will help you decide the right time and right way to do it.
When I started out I had no clue about how my writing would eventually tie into social media. I’d already been writing a year when I started my blog and I went into it pretty clueless. What I did know was that I wanted to be honest about who I was as a writer. That meant sharing my worries, fears, and excitement about the entire process.
Things have changed for me over the years. I’ve grown and learned so much about the business, but one thing hasn’t changed and that’s how I want to been seen in the writing community: positive, persistent and supportive of my fellow writers.
I don’t know what will happen with my career, but I never see my outlook on things changing. There are so many negative forces out there trying to undermine what we do and reviews are only a small portion of that.
I truly believe that if you connect with the community and focus on the work, all the other stuff is noise you have to tune out. Sure, some people are not going to like what you write, but it’s not your job to convince them otherwise. Your job is to bring as many good stories to the marketplace as you can and entertain readers.
I don’t actively have a different ‘author’ persona to writing persona. I am careful what I post about online, partly because I want a level of privacy so there are certain details I wouldn’t want to give away, and also I agree with Vicki’s point re. preaching online or having it seen that way. The internet has a lotta people with opinions and I’m careful when I add mine to the fray or not (like with now, ha ha!!).
However that doesn’t mean I won’t express my view if I feel it’s warranted or not being said or worth adding my view in – sometimes it’s important!
I also think it is important to remember that being an author is a job and carries with it a level of professionalism in how you carry yourself the same as any day job.
Reviewers/Bloggers in no way owe anyone a positive review or anything other than honesty and however hard it is authors must rise above it and take their responses on the chin.
I completely admire Veronica Roth for rising above and having such strength of self and strength in her writing in her reaction (though I’d have thought judiciously blocking the odd person on twitter sending death threats would have been okay?!)
I’m always myself. Just like Vicki I love people to know me but not too much about me. I do try to keep my religion and politics out of it. I want to have fun and talk about books and anything that is great and important! I hate someone preaching to me so I don’t want to do it to anyone else especially if it makes matters worst. I do know that since I’m on social media people will be watching me and following me. I will have haters and people who dislike my writing. I will try not to read into it too much. It happens so hopefully I can hold my tongue when I become a publish author. People have a right to their opinions but not to the point where they hurt the author or blogger.