We, as authors, have certain responsibilities–to our fellow authors, to our publishers, and to our readers. It’s never a good idea to attack any of these groups of people, yet for many they see no reason not to say whatever they want to say, with impunity–claiming it’s a free country and they can say what they want. Very true, of course, but when you are in the public eye, and you want to stay there and not be tarred and feathered, you have to be circumspect in what you choose to speak about in a public manner. I’ve been as guilty as anyone when it comes to popping off without thinking things through, mostly on my Facebook page when I’ve had to deal with one stupid comment too many.
Recently, events have made me re-evaluate my approach to “the public” and other authors. For my own peace of mind, and the preservation of my career options, I ask myself what any battle is worth to me. 99% of the time, the answer is nothing. I can stand up and shout down the house, or I can get on with MY business and remain outside of battles that aren’t mine to fight. So, I choose to put my energy where it will do me the most good, as well as those readers and publishers who have placed their trust in me and my talent to tell a story.
What many people forget is publishing is a division of the Arts and Entertainment Industry. When done well, writing IS an art. Public image does count here, and people don’t forget you if you shit-disturb, attack your fellow authors, or abuse your audience in any way whatsoever. Your opinion, as valid and worthy of respect as the next person’s, has to be tempered with awareness that what you say is going to influence strangers, as well as become a subject of conversation between you and your friends. So, public statements need to be non-judgemental, and more importantly, non-inflammatory about other authors or people in your chosen business.
I’ve had authors try to start arguments on my Facebook wall, and when told I won’t allow it to continue, I become the target of choice because I’ve dared to curtail their “freedom of speech” in some way. Really? If your battle with the publisher or another author is not my battle, why in hell should I have you posting your comments on my personal pages? What should end there has apparently then been taken elsewhere, where I get lumped into the problems they are enduring. How do you respond to that? In my case, being told I choose sides makes me laugh, because addressing it would only lend it credence and credibility. The only side I choose is sanity and professionalism. I fought my battles, winning and losing; the bullshit is over and is going to stay that way.
I’ve had my attention drawn to posts in forums where I’m labelled some kind of traitor, or idiot, for “supporting” the enemy–hell, I can tell you here and now, I don’t have enemies in the sense that I trash other people. On Facebook, no block list. I keep my pages open to everyone, but I do draw lines when it comes to respecting the fact that whatever your opinion is, it is YOUR opinion. I don’t have to agree with you, and I won’t be told I have to for any reason. I’ve said it many times, leave me out of your wars, they’re not mine.
Bullying comes in many forms, some subtle, some overt, and some with a punch to the head that’s physical. These are all hurtful and damaging things. Dragging an author’s reputation into the mud because you don’t like that they don’t support you–what is that if not bullying? Inciting your readers to boycott anyone who doesn’t jump up and scream support–what is that if not bullying? No one has to like everything another person does–this isn’t rocket science, it’s common sense. It’s life for God’s sake!
When I sign a contract with ANY publisher, I honour it to the best of my ability. When I sign on to do a job for anyone connected to my business, I honour it to the best of my ability. MY goal in this business is to succeed, and to do that, I try each day to be as professional in my approach and interactions as I can possibly be. I have my issues, but I recognize and accept them as MY personal issues. There are publishers, and more recently authors, I actively dislike for various reasons, but I’m not going to take those reasons public because someone else’s experience is very different than mine. If that’s an attitude worthy of tar and feathers, have at it. I still won’t address you publicly, and I’m unlikely to waste my time addressing it privately when it comes to that.
I know authors who keep every single email they receive, in case it’s needed later to support some claim or launch an attack of he-said, she-said, or you said. We ALL say things casually to people we are talking to, and in anger or frustration, those things aren’t always nice and pleasant. I don’t subscribe to the type of paranoia that makes it necessary to keep every word written to me, just in case it can be used to blackmail someone later, morally or in any other way. Sorry, I refuse to exist in that dark, narrow little place.
We are living in an age where every word we write, good, bad, angry or happy–it’s all out there–forever. Publishers don’t forget troublemakers, and readers don’t forget authors who attack them, or their fellow authors. Pause and think about that before you start your next assault on someone’s reputation. Who’s really going to look bad in the end? You, or the person you’re flinging shit at?