On Authenticity, Authors and New Rules for Social Media – Or, Cultivating the Happy, Productive Author Persona
A realization has dawned and a lesson has been learned.
It has finally occurred to me that authors are respected and revered entities—so much so, that we cannot “act” like the rest of the world on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or Google+ (and certainly not on LinkedIn!).
It doesn’t matter if an author like myself doesn’t place herself on a pedestal, doesn’t want to be looked up to and figures herself “just like everyone else”.
For some bizarre reason, public personas—and make no mistake, a persona it is—have certain expectations placed upon them. Those expectations may vary a bit according to genre—after all, readers don’t expect the same things from a Self Help author like myself as they do, say, a Horror writer--but demanding different standards of Authors, even if largely unconscious, still remains.
I have discovered that readers expect Body/Mind/Spirit authors to:
- Never write critical reviews of fellow authors. “The Public” think it’s awful for a author to do so (even if said author was a reviewer for years prior to becoming traditionally published). They don’t see reviews as a public service to consumers. No, once you become an author, you’ve signed on an unspoken dotted line requiring you to speak highly of all colleagues and competing titles—or, at the very least—remain neutral and say nothing at all. Naming names is anathema.
- Never display deep anger, hurt or despair. “The Public” expect you to be upbeat, resilient and strong at worst—and show them how to successfully navigate such difficult states with a step-by-step map at best. Having a really bad day? Save it for your real friends and family. Don’t post about it on social media. It will come back to bite you in the behind if you do.
- Never say what you think. Freedom of speech doesn’t apply to Authors on social media. Well, technically, yes, it does—but there will be a price to pay if you say what you actually think or know…especially if it’s an unpopular opinion. You will attract stalkers, gain haters and lose readers. Trust me.
And so, in light of this revelation, I present to you…
The New Rules for Social Media
- Never criticize a competing title, author or colleague. Absolutely do not name names. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. “The Public” doesn’t want to know. They only want to know the author or artist “Persona”…and they despise anyone who tries to move aside the “Persona Curtain”.
- Never show your dismay or disappointment, especially if it involves writing or publishing. There is a sparkly veneer covering the publishing industry—especially for hopeful would-be writers—and “The Public” doesn’t want to hear about your Publisher-from-Hell, shoddy Editors, absent Proofreaders or clueless Marketing “team”. You must pretend that your relationship with your Publisher is a match made in a New Age Heaven…or don’t say anything at all.
- Never show hurt or indignation at 1-star shill reviews, gossip, lies or slander against your name. You are an Author (capital “A”). You may whine and cry to your real friends and family—off social media sites, of course—but never, ever to your followers or fans. You may, objectively, correct a misperception—but you’re still treading dangerous waters here because you’ll be showing that you actually read your press. Which brings me to…
- Never let on that you read gossip, blog posts or reviews about you or your work. “The Public” expect you to be above that, toiling on your next magnum opus. Pretend that you’re oblivious to criticism. This will help contribute to your Happy, Productive Author Persona. The Public loves, and wants, a Happy, Productive Author to follow, read and enjoy. Nothing else will suffice. (Bonus Advice: Actually avoid reading your press. Remove all Google Alerts with your name and books. If you’re truly confident and happy in/with your work, you don’t need to know what readers think, anyway. If you really need to know something about your writing or work, get that information from your writing group, beta readers, fellow author pals, editor or agent.)
(Very) few of you may be wondering “Why?”
Why must it be this way?
Individuals are searching for—and clinging to—a sense of certainty and safety. For an Author—especially a Self Help or Body/Mind/Spirit Author—to show any weakness or “cracking” is to send existential tremors through his or her readership (mostly unconsciously). Authors tend to be viewed as gurus and are put on pedestals for this very reason.
To point out any cracking or misrepresentation in another author or artist is to do the same…with even more negative fall-out. This is because of the “Child” effect (Emperor’s New Clothes). If another person vocalizes what some suspect or fear could be true, it amplifies the existential “fear factor”. What is “real” for an individual may be fundamentally undermined when another points out an illusion or delusion.
In short, the Persona Curtain must stay firmly closed to ensure a delighted, loyal readership and fan base.
It’s not that readers don’t care about Authors. Quite the contrary, they do. Most will say they prefer when Authors share personal tidbits on social media—pics of the kids, the pets, the latest supper dish, daily struggles, etc. These types of postings make Authors more relatable, more “human”, readers say.
Like 98% of the population, readers prefer a lie that makes them feel good to a truth that makes them feel uncomfortable.
They do not want Authors who are thermometers, reflecting the temperature of the zeitgeist.
Oh, sure, it’s OK if our books are thermometers. That’s fine.
But authors themselves?
We set the desired temperature, maintain the anchor, pulse a steady beacon.
We give our readers hope. Assurance. Stability.
Thus, if you want to fall apart, rant about marginalization or point out falsehoods in your peers…do it behind closed doors. To real friends and family. Not on social media.
After all, you have an Author Persona to uphold.