2.15.2012

Trading the Knives for Kid Gloves: Indie Authors and Public Image

I was inspired to write this post after reading the article by Jairus Reddy over at the Hobbes End blog. It basically cautions authors, particularly indie authors, from being too forthright with controversial topics (i.e. politics and religion), or making asses of themselves in social media, because it can cost them book sales.

Anyway, this is a topic that has been on my mind for awhile now, and I think it's something anybody should have to consider when they start opening themselves up to the world, be it through books or music or any other trade by which you are using your name as your brand. It was something I even had to consider when I started doing freelance editing, because I didn't want to appear unprofessional to potential or current clients. How much of oneself is it prudent to share via Twitter and Facebook when you're trying to make a name for yourself in the world?

I'm pretty well aware that I've already opened Pandora's Box (aka "my mouth") a little too wide by this point. I've been online a long time. The internet, at least since 2005 when I started blogging, has always been an outlet of expression for me, and I'm a very expressive, "heart on sleeve" individual. I took really big advantage of that up until around 2008 or so. Hell, anyone who is curious enough about the sick and twisted inner-machinations of yours truly could spend a couple days rifling through my backlog of posts here, which I've since imported from the original domain. I've considered going through and deleting most of that, but seeing as how almost nothing is ever truly deleted from the internet, I've decided it's best to just own my past exploits -- for better or worse. Besides, I'm ashamed of none of it. Those are my words, and if anything, I think it shows a progression of a girl in her mid-20s still trying to figure out the world to someone who is perhaps still a little topsy-turvy, but is pretty damn sure of who she is.

But what about the now? I've always felt relatively "safe" from scrutiny until the last year or so, when I started branching into self publishing. Now that thousands of people have my work on their e-readers, I've started to feel more... Well, I guess paranoid isn't exactly the right word, but it's a close enough fit. Back in the day, I used to spend a lot of time on political message forums. I used to be very open with my opinions on  much any topic with which I had a passing interest. My bold and brash and irreverent self was ready to take on pretty much anybody in a rhetorical boxing match if need be. It was a sport for me.

But in the last year, I've found myself abstaining from being TOO provocative. Oh sure, I'll share some topical news articles or the occasional blasphemous or politically incorrect picture on Facebook, but not in order to start debates. Mostly to amuse friends whom I know share similar views as me. And those friends of mine who disagree still (I think) respect me as a person because I'm not a total asshole.

I've worked hard to cultivate healthy and friendly online relationships in recent years, with all kinds of people. I don't know that I've curbed my need to "vent" quite to the extent that I'd like, but I keep most of that under wrap at Facebook, where such "inner" thoughts are not available to the public. I don't know that I will ever be able to be completely silent on certain topics. I'm not nearly as into core politics as I used to be, but environmental and human rights issues are huge for me, and I believe my views are consistent among most people. My need to express myself outwardly and respond to social injustices is as much a part of my personality as my compulsion to laugh at stupid jokes, and it also feeds my desire to write fiction. I'm not sure I could have any presence online if it didn't contain at least some of my slightly acidic flavor.

I am interested in attracting readers from all walks of life, and I believe my fiction work is universally appealing to Democrats, Republicans, Christians, Atheists, and every stripe in between. I certainly welcome any and all comers, and although you may derive pretty easily the direction in which my values lie just by reading my old blogs and Twitter feed, I realize I have to be a bit more careful these days and choose my words wisely. There are other avenues of expression for my beliefs that don't include being a passive-aggressive whiny wank on Twitter. And even if I wasn't trying to cultivate a decent public image, that's probably a good idea anyway.

Being a passive-aggressive whiny wank is just not something I'm into these days.

However, I still reserve the right to swear. You'll find plenty of that in my books anyway. ;)