I spent the last few weeks finishing my latest novel. While I was typing away in my semi-isolated little world, I missed some really great drama over on Good Reads. Now I’m no gossip or drama lover…wait…yes I am, but regardless I still have a decent point to make. The “debate” which had nothing to do with the thread topic, developed over some potential bullying. There was aggravation, accusations, anger, and hurt feelings. The merits of the arguments against or in support of the accused blogger is immaterial to the real issue at hand—Author Persona.
We all have personas. Billy Joel called them the Stranger. It’s really a matter of adaptation. Across the various levels of social intimacy we portray different aspects of our personality spectrum. It’s not a question of being “fake” nor an indication of your sociopathic tendencies, but rather an unwritten cognitive and social agreement We play roles because different aspects of life call for us to highlight different qualities. For example “me” the father is different than “me” the vice president.
Okay, I can hear a few of you saying, “nope I’m me everywhere I go.” Perhaps you have that luxury, but I’m guessing even the craziest college partier (or mom) changes a bit when they sit down for a job interview. Being an Author or a Blogger is a persona. There is a really, really good reason for it. If we fall back on the psychological Laws of Influence, we remember that much of life is an exchange—one thing for another. That may be time, money, attention, love, favors or friendship. People exchange with who they like, they like what they know, and they tend to get to know those who feel most similar to them.
In the olden days an aspiring author was behind the curtain. Who they were and what they believed was communicated in very small and cautious bits determined by the public relations people. For good reason. Take a poll in the US (or most places) on any topic and you’ll mostly find a 50/50 divide. That means any opinion I voice will be well-received by half of you and ill-received by the other half. The more I point out “how different” you and I are, the less you will feel we are the same, the less you will feel you know me and…the less likely you are to buy my darn books.
Does that mean authors are liars? Well fiction authors lie all the time, but that’s different. Authors aren’t liars, but if they are smart they aren’t over sharing opinions on the topics that cause trouble—politics, religion and social beliefs being the Big 3. But it’s more than just about these opinions, it’s also about personality.
Which brings me back to the GR discussion. I won’t opine on whether the “bullied” author was or was not “bullied.” Most people don’t like bullying and most people will, especially in the virtual space, stand up for someone who is being bullied. The author in this case could have cited his concerns and moved on, but instead felt the need to continue to scream for admission or vindication. An interesting and very heightened response to a very small criticism that started the entire thing.
In the end, the author did receive his vindication. The commenter in question was removed/banned from the group. I hope the win was worth it. I don’t know what types of books this author writes. I don’t know if he is a good, bad or excellent writer. I do know I’ll never know. The persona displayed in the on-going thread appeared over-the-top to me. The response far more severe than the criticism that lead to the accusation. “Over-sensitive” is the description that comes to mind. I’m not over-sensitive, if I wade into the waters of public self-promotion then I’m going to have to take the good with the bad. More importantly, if an off handed comment offends me enough to draw my response, my response is going to be of an adult nature (or a slice and dice with my witty sarcasm). All these differences create a vast abyss between the author and myself. Enough that I wouldn’t read his work. He seemed immature and writing is a mature business.
Perhaps the author was correct to stand his ground. To insist on proving that he had been bullied (although anyone could certainly just read the thread comment and decide on his or her own). I make no judgement – go ahead and do you. But do so at your own risk. Social media and meeting is the Indie Author’s best marketing campaign. In that campaign there is a certain politic of persona. It may seem unfair but there is always a fine line between “being right” and the “cost of being right.” If you think being abrasive, or negative, or immature, or intolerant, or self-centered are going to help sell books and win friends and fans…then go ahead and do you.
Personally I prefer the same strategy I usually use whether I’m on line or in person. I like to be nice, to listen, to let others have their opinions and take a general interest in others before me. I have bad days, people piss me off, criticism hurts, dreams get delayed. That’s all a part of life, but as an author I don’t want any of them to be my public persona. Venting after all is one of the reasons I got married—I can be all of me and my wife is still gonna read my books.
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