Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Writing 101: The Politics of Being an Author

In case you've somehow been avoiding TV, social media and most public Internet sites over the past 10 months, it's an election year. Tensions are especially high during election season, when the news media is amped up on Red Bull and rhetoric, but some politician is always out there campaigning at all times. It's easy to get swept up in politics during any year, but you can't ever forget about the politics of being an author...particularly if you're a self-published author.


Politically Speaking

When you're a self-published author, you are your own PR agent. You're in charge of all your marketing and all your promotion, and it's a really hard job that takes up a whole lot of time. So don't screw yourself by actually being yourself in the middle of all that.

That's right. When your parents and your friends and your teachers were telling you to "just be yourself," they didn't count on you becoming a self-published author and your own best friend and biggest supporter. You can be yourself when you're at home, but you can't be yourself when you're in your author persona -- at least, not really

Politics are polarizing, and that's a real problem for you as an author. When you're presenting yourself to the world as a writer, the social media accounts you use to tout your books are no longer your own. That means you can't start screeching about politics in the middle of a bunch of tweets about your books. The minute you make your political or religious affiliation known, you're running the risk of turning off a large portion of your audience. 

I know it's true, because I'll hit my "block" button in less than 1 second if I see someone expressing a political opinion that's opposite my own...and I will not reveal on which side my bread is buttered, no matter how nicely you ask. Why? Because when you are a self-published author, like I am, you are neutral on any and all hot-button issues and political matters. Otherwise, you're going to be screwing yourself out of readers. Isn't it hard enough to get them already?

As a matter of fact, it's not even a good idea for you to have any sort of opinion except in a very specific set of circumstances.

Politically Correct

If you write about politics, then obviously you're going to end up tweeting about it, blogging about it, and what-have-you. If you write about politics, you're already targeting a specific group and that group is interested in politics. You're going to be using political opinions and rhetoric in your promotions, and it's totally appropriate to do so. But if you write about anything else, just stay neutral. Offensive subject matter creeps into books a lot, but your author persona should never be offensive or off-putting to anyone if you can help it.

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4 comments:

  1. I definitely refrain from commenting or liking status updates and tweets that are political or in any way controversial. I am very aware of how I will come across - we are so easily searchable that someone will always find something you regret saying, if you've let yourself say it!

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  2. Great point, Annalisa! Always err on the side of caution.

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  3. I really wish more people would be neutral. It annoys me so much that a few of my favorite authors on twitter are so vocal about their political beliefs. Sure, they differ from my own, but that is their right. What bugs me is that I want to get to know them and hear about their books. I don't care about their political and religious beliefs. I want to know other things about them. Politics and religion are just, hotbuttons. I don't talk about my beliefs with my closest friends for the most part. I've lost friends in the past over them, which is silly. But when an author pops around talking about them, it makes me question their work ethic. I'm one of those people who believes that you don't talk politics, religion, personal health, or allow curse words into your vocabulary when you are at work. So when people do those things, without meaning to, I lose a bit of respect for them. It's hard because I want to support their work, but it makes me want to unfollow their twitter accounts to avoid it.

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  4. Thanks for weighing in, Ariel. You bring up a lot of interesting points. I like how you equate it to being at work. Professionalism is definitely important.

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