Monday, September 1, 2014

Author Behavior On Social Media And Its Effect On Readers

[This article originally appeared at the Erotic Readers And Writers Association blog.]

Have you ever quit reading an author because of the way that author acted on social media?

This question was posed on Facebook by several authors. I saw it on author Rachel Thompson's timeline, and I wanted to know if my readers and other authors had ever done it. I had read about allegations of child sexual abuse against Marion Zimmer Bradley and I was already familiar with charges of homophobia against Orson Scott Card. As I saw on Facebook and elsewhere, the news turned off many readers as well as writers. After all, writers are readers, too.

I asked the same question on m Facebook timeline and I received some fascinating answers.

In many cases, yes, an author's behavior may affect a person's desire to get to know their works. Diana Perrine noted that it's "sometimes it is hard to separate the Art from the Artist. Actors, Musicians, Authors, Painters and Poets. If I like the art, but if I find the artist to be particularly loathsome, I may not patronize him/her." Tess MacKall found certain criminal acts a deal-breaker. "If an author has committed a crime---and I'm not talking about income tax evasion or getting caught with a prostitute---but a real crime such as sexual abuse, murder, rape, etc., I'm never going to read anything by that author again." She said. "And I don't care how talented the author is. I will not put money in the pockets of a person like that." Darren Madigan brought up the career damage misbehavior can cause for an author or celebrity: "If you're really offended by some kind of behavior, then it will doubtless make you not want to have anything to do with the person associated with the behavior….  which is why celebrities lose endorsement deals when they get caught misbehaving. " He said. "It's normal and natural for people to feel alienated from everything they associate with a person when that person behaves in a way that offends them."

Some authors named specific writers. Karen Pokras Toz pointed out a fellow author had forwarded to her an interview by Nicholas Sparks where he puts down women authors. She said "Buh-bye." I've never read Sparks either, and now I definitely won't touch his books since I feel insulted. Jeanne Evans has never read, and will never read, anything by L. Ron Hubbard.

Not everyone agrees with these assessments, however, and these disagreements make some authors controversial. Still, It is helpful to separate the artist from his or her work. Devon Marshall said, "For me it's a case of don't confuse the house with the inhabitant. What an author (or an actor, director, or any creative person) does is create a fiction, whether within a novel or a role or a painting, or whatever. What they do with their creative fiction is not always who they are in reality. Liking a person's work doesn't obligate me to like that person in reality. And vice versa, I can like a person but dislike their work! It should also be borne in mind that what we read about people on social media (be they celebrities or not) may not always be either the whole story or even the truth."

Raye Roeske has had personal experience with poorly-acting or speaking authors. She said, "It's mostly been authors/artists/whatever who have personally been dickish to me or one of my loved ones." More personal experience from a reader: "I had an author follow me on twitter, then not long after they chatted/commented on tweets, even gave me a snippet of their book and once I said I'd bought the book they un followed me (keeping up their follower vs followed numbers) it irritated me so unfollowed them." Xenia Smith said. "They then commented on the fact I'd unfollowed them. Not really the way to keep new readers.

This distaste isn't isolated to authors. Dave Gammon said he was "very turned off a specific director that shall remain anonymous. This individual seems to relish in correcting other people who are simply stating their opinions and impressions and retaliating with his own opinions as abstract as they are as facts. I think its a sign of emotional insecurity to have to railroad someone else's opinion because it differs from their own. I think this individual has definitely tarnished my enthusiasm of seeing anymore of their films."

James Gummer was enjoying one particular author's works, but was turned off later. "I bought all of his books and listened regularly to his podcast," he said. "He acts and talks like he wants to interact with people. But he never responded to any of my emails or tweets when I had questions I wanted to ask." Authors really do need to keep up with their readers. It may be hard, but it's necessary. One key to success is friendly interaction.

One of the worst examples of author behavior I've ever seen was described by John Hancock, who pointed out a possible explanation for some of this behavior. He said: "I think the thing is that SOME authors are very solitary, lacking in social skills, so when they enter social media, they either think they can control or retaliate against fans or readers whose reviews they don't appreciate, or they simply come off as obnoxious jerks.
" He described a rather horrific personal experience: "I once wrote a negative review, in which I pointed out the misogynistic parts of the book I found repulsive (threats of cutting off a woman's breasts, and making her eat them, for example). The author, and a group of his friends hounded me and down voted all my reviews (even those for products unrelated to books) and bragged about targeting me. Eventually I told him enough, I'd remove the review if they'd stop harassing me. Simply not worth it. The sad thing is, everyone once in a while, due to his robo social media campaign, I get requests to follow him on Facebook or twitter. I would never read another book from this person. I wouldn't anyways, due to his repugnant attitudes towards women, but also because he's a bully to bad reviewers. God only knows how many bad reviews he forced to retract, like mine."

Some aren't affected by an author's actions or statements. "I feel missing a good book or movie because of that would just mean I can't keep my thoughts separated and distinct in my head," John Paradiso said. The opposite side would be readers who have picked up an author's books because of their pleasant social media personas. I doubt I would have read Trent Zelazny, Douglas Clegg, KD Grace, or Tom Piccirilli if I hadn't been exposed to them on Facebook. I'd never heard of them before social media, and due to my exposure to them and liking them as people, I discovered their works. John Ross Barnes said much the same thing: "I have bought quite a few books by authors I have discovered to be nice people on social media, and will continue to do so."

Some authors were exposed to new writers via different formats. Christine Morgan said, "I've picked up books I might not have otherwise just because the author seemed cool on a talk show or at a con or something, yes. And I've avoided books for the reverse reason." I recall about several decades ago hearing a show on NPR in which Donald Westlake discussed his new book "The Ax". Westlake was such a delight and the book sounded like such great fun that I soon after went to a bookstore and bought it. I later devoured his Dortmunder books with great delight. Some aren't greatly influenced by what they read online or hear elsewhere. Jenifer Baldwin Stubbs may "try an author because of social media...either I saw something I liked or someone I like recommends, but I don't let news, reviews or public behaviour really influence my reading or watching.

Author radio interviews, book reviews, and author profiles in newspapers and magazines are designed to sell books, but they bring the author into your living room in a very comfortable and easy-going way. You feel as if you're right there with the author. If the book sounds good, you're more likely to buy it if you get a feel for the author.

And finally, Shar Azade made the best point of all: "A lot of the authors I like are dead. So if they suddenly got active on social media ... I'd be a little weirded out, yes."

No comments:

Post a Comment