What does your author image say about you?
My dear author, there has been a lot of discussion about your image online lately. Recently, in direct response to Kathleen Hale’s essay accounting her reaction to one reader’s critique of her book, bloggers participated in a #BloggerBlackOut* last month to show their outrage at Hale’s behavior. Blythe, the blogger who was stalked, is no longer blogging or reviewing publicly due to this event. I know how she feels, several times I have almost quit all participation in the indie book publishing world because of authors losing it online in attacks on me, or reporting I was a troll for reviewing their book critically (that was a three star review, by the way). If you have not read about this event yet Hale, an author negatively obsessed with the reactions and commentary of a reader (Blythe) to her book, stalked Blythe for almost a year. A YEAR, how is this in anyway OK!?
What does this have to do with you, dear author? Probably a lot! I bet there have been times when you have read a review of yours and were upset, possibly even posting a tweet or a status update about it. Even with all these things, all of the incidents being reported on, I have faith in you to be a responsible member of the human race. I know you aren’t one of those indie authors who gives every indie author a bad name, right?. Sure, I realize this behavior is not just being done by indies, but those big names? They have people who field their presence and also attempt to fix their behavior in the public eye. This is not about the Stephen Kings of the world, this is about you.
It is your responsibility to behave like you would if you were standing in the middle of a public place. Dear author, take a deep breath, remember you wouldn’t show your ass in the middle of Walmart (ok well, bad example, but you get where I am going). By choosing to be in this industry, dear author, you have made an implied statement that you will be responsible for your actions. Especially if you are an indie, because each indie author represents all indie authors as a collective when you come face to face with your reader. Best advice? Smile, thank them at most, turn around and let it go! (yep, it never gets old, dear author, channel your inner Disney character)
You’re in the spotlight now, no matter how small or large your readership is (or want it to be), you have a responsibility. Everything you say online will be scrutinized, from your political beliefs to your insipid insistence of posting photos of goats all the time (what? #nohaters), you are all under a social media microscope. Don’t even think that your emails, your Twitter, or even your private Facebook page is a safe-zone, because they aren’t. The minute you stepped into the mix and decided to publish, you lost the privilege of pissing, moaning and stomping your feet in a irresponsible, reactionary manner where folks can see your ass.
Not one ounce of this behavior is OK. There is not one justification for behaving like a schmuck or threatening someone’s health, reputation, or their right to feel safe in their own home. Stop saying, “Ya but, all I did was comment and let them know they didn’t get my book“, guess what? You don’t have that luxury. You want to discuss it in what should be a safezone, such as in the privacy of your living room? Make sure no one is instagram-videoing your commentary or tweeting what you say. Yep, that child of yours may think he is clever, just watch out! My son has done it to me on more than one occasion. The minute you open your mouth or let your fingers fly at 120 wpm on the keyboard …you had better be OK with it, because once you put it out there, even deleting it won’t be enough.
While I believe that shutting down authors on your blog ruins the process and I supported the #BloggerBlackOut moment, I don’t think it is right to punish all because of the actions of one bent individual. You need to find a balance. The behavior is not just on authors, but on all of us who have online personas. I don’t care if your name is not real, it really is not the point. You are responsible for your own actions. Bloggers tend to have more flexibility because of their perceived power, not that this is OK either. Authors? You want people to buy your book? Dudes, stop being numskulls! Remember what your mother said?
Yep, I am telling you to be a bit Machiavellian with your social media. You are, after all, selling a brand…….you. Your book comes with that brand but it is not the brand. Do you want to be one of the 100K Chicken Soup for the Soul books? Or a snarky urban fantasy author who knows how to write about geeks and who posts awesome updates about their Magic Game on #FNM that week? Think about what I am saying before rolling your eyes. Would you support someone who, by their actions online, are perceived as a lunatic who will hunt you down and hit you over the head with a bottle of wine when you are trying to get some cereal for the house?
Everyone, let’s take a moment to appreciate the fact that this author found Paige’s address from WP, traveled to where she lived, and attacked her. JUST FOR THIS REVIEW SHE WROTE. – Goodreads member Tiara H. (in respondent on the The World Rose review by Paige Rollands)
** as of this, the reviewer has taken all but her tumblr down because she still is having issues**
Having been the target of attack, more than once from authors as recently as August and September, I know how damaging it is. The #HaleYes supporters say this is bullying, though I call it bullshit.
Sometimes the reviews are nasty and it seems like they are attacking you. Before you respond, ask yourself this: how do you feel when you see someone online complaining about anything loudly? You probably want to walk up and smack them and tell them to chill out! I feel the same way when I see an author complaining about the one star review,or any star they just got! Before you assume, I do feel bad when I see an author get a bad review, especially when I know them or I have read the book. But hey, reviews are subjective and you cannot write for everyone. But, I know that if I respond to said author, or even go crazy on social media as a rabid supporter, I will look like an asshole too.
It is pretty sad when reviewers, like myself, buy a book and find it not their thing, write a critical review and have the author lose their mind because they were feeling butthurt over the whole thing. If you see someone going on and on about your book and how much it sucks and want to get folks to buy and read your book? Walk away, hold your head up high, and let it go. Dear author, I promise, those reviews are not for you. Just…
Oh, and if they create a parody about your book for any reason, smile, they have invested time to make a statement. You inspired them to hate, that takes power.. remember, be Machiavellian … good or bad, it can work for you. It (again with the repetition, Kriss) is up to you to make it work, dear author.
One other thing, publishing online is publishing. It is subject to libel law, so be careful. Reviews are “fair comment”. The attacks are not. You cannot attack people or authors in a review because that is not a review of the work, but rather the person. That is not covered and you can be held accountable… legally. Think twice. I have two orders of protection against two Goodreaders who attacked me online, in the mail (they found my address) and broke the law. All of us need to learn to not take things so personally. Do you really want me to post another gif?? Didn’t think so!
I challenge you, respond on your blog, publicly on Facebook, or on twitter even! Post a link to your response in the linky and remember… your ass is showing so make sure you’re wearing clean underwear!