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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Should Authors Just Shut The Hell Up?

I decided to follow one of my favorite authors on social media to keep up with her news and book releases. We’d met at a Romance Writers of America conference after being introduced by a mutual acquaintance. Though I think I hid it well, I had a fan girl moment when we shook hands. She might never remember meeting me, but I was glad to put a face to the byline of the books I’d enjoyed so much.

To my dismay, the warm and fuzzy feelings I had about this author evaporated after only days of reading her personal pages. It turned out she had a cantankerous personality. Her negative posts on Twitter and Facebook turned me off so much that I stopped following her. My enjoyment of her books soured and the loss still rankles.

The same thing happened after a mid-list author trashed a few celebrity authors by name on her blog following the same RWA conference. She called some of the workshop leaders “stuck up,” “full of themselves” and worse. Her derogatory comments were so outlandish I decided I’d never read one of her books. Ironically, I don’t remember the names of all the celebrities she disparaged, but still remember hers.

Though I have definite opinions on just about everything, I hesitate to voice them on social media with my fans and author friends. I also refuse to get involved in attacks on authors and their work, publishers, and organizations, fueled by someone with an axe to grind who depends on the mob mentality to further her cause. It’s horrifying to watch these scenes play out and I avoid them like the plague.

In social media settings, despite good intentions, the occasional blunder is probably inevitable. But deliberate negative posts can ruin relationships and derail careers. I’ll never understand those who forget that our online personas leave indelible marks behind. But that’s just me. You might feel differently.

What’s your perspective regarding authors online? Should we speak our minds or just shut the hell up?

Best~ Adele Dubois

Visit Adele on her website at www.adeledubois.com


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33 comments:

Renee Vincent said...

Adele, you bring up a very good point. I'm always surprised by the amount of negative remarks made on social media by authors about various subjects, from the person in front of them in line at Starbucks, to the reviewer from a prominent online review site. I cringe sometimes when I read authors' tweets or FB posts.

Yes, I agree Adele. Sometimes authors need to remember that too much is not good. Just because we write books, does not mean we should be "open books." Some things are just better left unsaid.

I'm so sorry that one of your favorite authors let you down. I'm sure that was very disconcerting for you.

Karenna Colcroft said...

There's a time and a place for everything. For authors, whose careers depend on the good will of readers--and of other authors, and of publishers--that time and place is somewhere private, venting to a chosen close friend or spouse. Not out on the internet, where EVERYTHING is seen and often passed around.

Some things just don't need to be shared. And if you're publicly insulting people, you never know how it might come back to bite you in the butt.

Tina Donahue said...

I'm still surprised that fans want to know so much about their fav authors. Before social media (remember those days?), authors were more or less invisible (kind of liked that).

I recall falling in love with Stephen King's books when I first got into horror. I thought the man was a god he was such a great writer. None of his early paperback books had photos of him so I conjured up this image of King as tall, built, beautiful - sort of like a Greek god.

Then, I saw his photo on a hardcover at the bookstore. OMG. He was so far from what I'd envisoned I just kept staring.

Really burst my bubble. I still enjoyed his books, but somehow he'd slipped on his pedestal for me (okay, okay I was very shallow in those days).

Now, I don't want to know too much about the authors I like. I want to enjoy their work. What they do in their own time or what their philosophies happen to be are their business, not mine.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Adele,
Love the title of you post. I captured my attention as soon as logged onto my email.
I agree with you one hundred percent. I have very definite opinions as well, regarding the changes in publishing, politics and religion, but I try to keep it all off the internet.
It gets hard sometimes, especially in responding to someone's comment on facebook and I want to write some long scathing comment. I just try to remember that's my name out there and I only want puppies and kitties attached to it.

steph beck said...

Everyone absolutely has the right to say what they please...just as everyone else has the right to walk away and not listen! I think it's good advice to any author to keep things professional--which means not being a snide bitch, insulting or mean.

Nice blog :)

Stephanie Beck
(author who probably posts too much about cupcakes, but tries very hard not to be a cat online)
www.stephaniebeck.net

Debra Glass said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Debra Glass said...

Edited for typo. :-)

I agree, Adele! But I think this extends beyond authors, and also beyond simply expressing one's own opinion. Haters who use the Internet and social media in their own flame war against others, including celebrities and non-celebrities alike, is only showing their insecurity. It's that same mentality of a delinquent who keys an expensive car because they're jealous that they don't have one.

The Internet has certainly given such emotionally immature people license to behave in ways and say things that only make them look boorish and unpolished.

Not to mention, it's highly unprofessional.

We should all strive to be more like the admirable heroines we write.

Paris said...

I've never understood why trashing someone else would make anyone feel better. It's true that negativity has a way of turning around and biting you in the butt and who needs that?

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Any time your livelihood depends on fans and social media, an immediate need for decorum, honor and image is required.
No one likes it when actors make mean comments about their peers. It says something unbecoming about their personal integrity and character. Like Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donald--mean spirited commentary just turns me off.
Remember what your mama said, "If you can't say anything nice..."

BTW, Adele, Rev Me Up looks fantastic. All the best to you.

Zenobia Renquist said...

The title of this blog post definitely caught my attention. And I agree.

When I first started out and I went to my very first convention, I was on pins and needles. I would be surrounded by my favorite authors who are big time bestsellers. Total fan girl moment. And then the moment left me.

I have met hundreds of authors since that first convention and can safely say that a few of them (thankfully only a handful) will never grace my bookshelves... EVER. The personalities and attitudes of those women so turned me off that I can no longer enjoy their books. For some it was a matter of never picking up a book they had written. It saddened me to lose authors like that, but I knew I couldn't read their books with the same amount of enjoyment as before.

Everyone has to be true to themselves, but everyone also has to know when to hold a little back from the public.

Miriam Newman said...

I think most people have a sense of crossing the line in terms of writing something that is a personal attack versus a respectful difference of opinion. When in doubt, let a day pass before hitting the Send key. I'm sorry you were so disillusioned about a favorite, Adele. It's hard watching people fall off pedestals, I agree.

Nina Pierce said...

I've never strayed away from sharing my opinion on controversial subjects, but I'd like to think I do it professionally. (Though it has gotten me in trouble a time or two.) And I don't say anything online I wouldn't say face to face to someone.

I do believe that not enough people (in general) share their opinions because they don't care for conflict. I get that. But I've often been surprised when I share my feelings which seem to go against the grain and many people then agree, but hadn't wanted to say anything.

I do steer completely away from politics and religion. Readers don't need to know that much about me.

Great blog topic!

Luna Zega said...

Love this post! I spoke about this very topic recently at a conference. Authors need to understand that negativity will hurt their sales. I advise fellow writers to avoid trashing another person, posting political commentary (unless that is what they write,) controversial opinions and basically anything that can polarize their readers. Being pleasant, cheerful and kind will bring in a lot more readers.

Thanks for sharing your experiences. I know it's very upsetting to discover someone you really admire is a negative person.

Robin Kaye said...

What a great post, Adele! I'm always amazed by what some authors put on Twitter and Facebook. In my author persona, I stay far away from anything that has to do with Politics and Religion. No matter what your belief, half your readers think the oposite, so why take a chance on alienating them? I try never to say anything negative, if I can't be positive, happy, funny (like I hope my book are) I don't want to put it out there. I'm doing this to help my brand, not to listen to myself speak.

It all goes back to what my grandmother taught me, If you don't have anything nice to say, shut your mouth.

flchen1 said...

Great post, Adele--the title grabbed me right off and I hurried over to see what you were talking about :)

I do agree with you about judicious use of social media, whether you're an author or just a "regular person." I think that while I enjoy how technology has made it so much easier to get to know authors and others more easily, the ease of use has made many of us readily forget how widely we're broadcasting ourselves and our opinions. When we tweet or post, we aren't just chatting with our dearest friends--we're shouting to the world, whether it's what we had for breakfast or complaining about the wait at the drycleaners or whatever thought we found fit to post.

Some of us need a little help with the concept of personal filtering anyway, and if anything, social media tends to nudge many of us into leaving filtering off.

Um, just a super long-winded way of saying that while I love being able to get to know everyone more easily, I do think we can all benefit from remembering that basic courtesies still apply when we're broadcasting--maybe even more so! If you wouldn't stand on a street corner and shout it or in a crowded restaurant, then maybe you shouldn't post it either?

Vicki Batman, said...

Wow, you said it all. We always need to be careful, especially on the internet where everything is stored for forever.

Saying horrible things isn't good for one's soul anyway.

Adele Dubois said...

Thanks for your thought-provoking responses to my post, all! I'm blown away by the number of people who have responded here and on Facebook and Twitter about this blog. Several have shared on FB and responded there too. Obviously, this is a topic others have had on their minds.

So far, only one person has said that authors should talk about whatever they want and screw those who don't like it. Lol.

I offered my opinion today on FB for the first time about a reality show. Other than that, I try to keep my comments neutral. Take me out to lunch, though, and we'll chat for real. ")

Looking forward to reading more.
Thanks for sharing!

Best--Adele

flchen1 said...

Adele, I think authors as well as anyone else are welcome to share whatever they feel like--they just have to realize that such openness doesn't come without consequences. :)

Fiona McGier said...

I laughed at Tina's comment...that's why I don't want my picture on my books anywhere. I want the readers to imagine my characters based on my words. They don't need to know how old I am, or what I look like. I don't think I'm shallow, but when I read about heroines that are always thin and blond and gorgeous, then see that the picture of the author is nothing like that, I'm not inclined to want to read those books anymore. As authors we want to be judged by our characters and our words...but my private opinions are just that. Except when I blog, and I try to keep that related to my books!
Great topic!

Pamela Foster said...

This social media deal is like walking a tight rope. For a long time I censored myself strictly. The funny thing is, those posts that I've hesitated over, worried they might be offensive or alienate someone and then gone ahead with, are the very posts on which I've gotten the most positive feedback.
It's unrealistic to think that anyone can be happy and positive all the time and it's exhausting to held the pose.
I try to use common sense and tell the truth. That's about all I can do and keep myself true to who I really am.

N.J.Walters said...

Great post. Very though provoking.

Everyone is entitled to their opinions. That said, I think all authors have to realize that they are part of a profession and that means having some level of professional conduct. I love interacting with readers and other writers online and sharing snippets from my life. That doesn't mean I'm going to vent my frustrations there--I have a husband for that. *g*

The thing with social media is it is forever. Even if a comment or post is deleted, someone somewhere has read it. It's a tough line to walk sometimes.

And I've never understood being negative about other authors. I find myself shying away from people who are negative. Life will throw enough at you without actively bringing negativity into your life.

Adele Dubois said...

Yes, I believe we should remain professional online. There can be consequences to flame wars and negativity that are far reaching.

I attended a conference over the weekend and the editors and agents on the panels all agreed they visit an author's social networking pages, website, blog and then Google them before signing them to a contract. I know this is true because an agent I met with Friended me on Facebook a day later. I hope she likes sexy guys, since that's what she found there. ")

I'm so glad the response to my post has been postitive, because the topic has weighed on my mind. I'm a Libra, I crave harmony by nature, though I'm not shy or afraid to speak up at appropriate times. Thus, this blog post.

Best--Adele

L.M. Brown said...

Great post.

I tend to stay out of the various dramas online myself. I'll just reiterate what I posted on my blog during one of the recent(ish) dramas where I was frankly shocked by the online attacks - quoting one of my favourite Disney characters - "If you can't say something nice... don't say nothing at all."

Imagine here a cute picture of Thumper the rabbit :-)

On a side note, at least one author in that particular hurricane has lost me as a reader due to her online presence.

Shelley Munro said...

I don't know what it is about the Internet that makes some people think they can say anything they want. I step away when. I see stuff like this. Bad comments and missteps on the Internet hang around like a bad smell.

Ashlyn Chase said...

HI Adele,

I've never disparaged another author by name and can't imagine doing it.

However, I have a tendency toward snarky humor and indulge it opening in my blog, Ask Ash. It's an "advice column," but I make it clear it's for humorous entertainment only, and if I happen to give a smattering of good advice, it's a nice fluke.

I've addressed author's concerns in there, but no names are ever used...to protect the guilty. Here's one that might apply to your topic: http://ashlyn-chase.blogspot.com/2012/02/fellow-authors-friends-or-foes.html

Kate Hill said...

There's nothing wrong with having an opinion. Not everyone agrees about everything. If no one shared opinions, it would be a boring world. However there's a difference between sharing an opinion and deliberately trying to insult or harm someone. Personally, I don't think it helps to target someone and be nasty.

Tracey H. Kitts said...

I think we should speak our minds within reason. But I always do so with the understanding that other people WILL read it.

Seeing someone be a total jerk is a big turn off. I know what it feels like first hand to have your work attacked for no reason. I'll never understand the mentality behind that or calling people by name and then insulting them.

So, if people can't be respectful of others then yeah, I suppose they should shut the hell up.

Adele Dubois said...

I've gotten more email, Facebook shares and likes on this post than any other in my years of blogging. Wow! The topic truly resonated with authors, readers, and other publishing professionals.

While we agree it's our right to have opinions (and I do, believe me, on almost everything!)we also agree that meanspiritedness is repugnant and that there's a huge difference between meaningful discussion, polite disagreement, and flaming.

I've enjoyed the exchange with you all. Thanks for sharing!

Best--Adele

Marianne Stephens said...

Never write anything you don't want everyone to read.
Never write when you're angry.
Never name people if you're writing something negative, unless you're ready to face the consequences.
There's a difference between voicing an opinion and creating trouble for yourself by becoming too personal.

Treva Harte said...

Before you hit send you need to think: Why are you posting this comment?

Tielle St. Clare said...

I agree. Some authors (and people in general) forget that all their "friends" aren't really their friends. After receiving a couple of nasty emails at my other job (TV personality, comments that viewers didn't like my hair), it reaffirmed my conviction to never post or email anything that I wouldn't say face to face with that person. We're a lot more gentle when we can see the impact of our words.

Christine Ashworth said...

Nothing disparaging, nothing about religion, and nothing about politics. That's my personal motto regarding social media, and I'm doing my best to stick to it. Great topic, Adele!

Ann Jacobs said...

I believe in being honest, but that said, I try to temper what I say with a dose of good sense. They used to say, with category romance, that you shouldn't write about celebrity types, sports figures, religion or politics, and that may be good advice for authors digging in to social media. Sometimes I can't help commenting about what seems to be gross injustice or stupidity, but I try to remember not everybody sees things through my eyes--so I work hard not to diss anybody except just maybe the occasional far-off-center politician. I try hard to avoid controversial subjects that may be inflammatory with my friends and fans--and I'll never say anything about a fellow author or a book unless I can give an honest compliment. That's why I don't do reviewing, other than the fact that I hardly can keep up with my writing and the obligatory social media presence. :)