The best advice I ever received from another author was to keep my mouth shut. Got a bad review? Don’t bitch about it. Complaining about poor sales? Don’t whine. And never, ever attack a reader. You know what? He was so right. Why this should seem so revolutionary to me, I don’t know. In real life I would never start up a discussion with a total stranger on hot topics like politics or religion. I don’t vent to my co-workers unless I know them really well. I would never go up to someone reading Fifty Shades of Grey on the bus and publicly deride them. So why would it be okay to do this on the internet?
I have opinions. I have lots of opinions, actually. I am quick-tempered, impatient and easy to piss off, but most people don’t know that about me, because for the most part, I keep it all to myself. I wish more people would follow this advice.
You might have noticed that I’m not very active on social media. There are a couple of reasons for that, but the big one is that I’m terrified of saying or doing the wrong thing. A simple mistake can turn into all-out war. The same applies to my real life, only in real life you’re likely to only affect a handful of people, and it’s much easier for them to see you’re joking, or sarcastic, or apologetic.
While I’ve fortunately never been the victim of “trolls” or “bullies”, since I joined Facebook last year, I’ve seen (and heard) a number of authors behaving badly—and not just in my genre. The latest occurred only recently, when an author on FB not only trashed Fifty Shades of Grey but proceeded to bash those who did nothing more than reasonably defend their choice in comments. Now, did I like the book? God, no. Have I privately mocked those who do? Yes. But I would never publicly attack someone for it, or shame them for reading it. Reading is good. Period. People in glass houses and all that… The fact this came from an author who regularly claims to be the victim of bully campaigns really upset me. I’m totally on board with standing up for yourself, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of others.
In the corporate world, everything you say or do can come back to bite you on the ass. You develop a reputation as a good worker or bad worker, a people-person or a complainer; and believe me, that gets around and can be impossible to shake. The same applies everywhere else in life. I don’t understand why we can’t grasp that in the web-o-sphere—is it because we think we’re protected by a fake name?
Fellow authors, every person out there is a potential reader and a gateway to many other potential readers. Above all else, remember that. They are human beings. They are entitled to their opinions, just as you are entitled to yours. In fact, that applies to life in general. I don’t know about you, but I want to be known for my writing, not how many people I can offend or upset. Disagreements and differences of opinion are fine, but if we all can’t do it in a mature and rational way, take the high road and keep quiet. Venting may make us feel good for a few minutes, but make sure those few minutes don’t hurt anyone else, or worse, stay with you forever.