Posted By Stephen England on July 24, 2012
So, you’ve uploaded your finished and (hopefully) edited manuscript to KDP, PubIt, or one of the other independent publishers out there. Your book is now available for sale. . .
Congratulations, gentle reader! Now, before my voice becomes drowned out in the sound of corks popping and the backslapping congratulations of your fellow authors, let me give you a little admonition: this isn’t all fun and games. You are now a public figure.
But, wait, you say—my name isn’t Brad Thor or Stephenie Meyer! I’ve only sold five copies of my great American novel, three of them to Aunt Martha and Uncle Reese—what’s all this “public figure” jazz?
Sales don’t matter—it’s the simple act of publishing your book that makes you a public figure, in the same sense that filing for office makes a person a politician. So, yes, you are a public figure—now act like one.
By my estimation, 99.9% of complaints about “indie” authors could be resolved by this simple realization. Don’t release anything that is unpolished. Keep a professional image at ALL times. Just like a politician or a celebrity, you are always on. If you use social media to promote your book, don’t use that same(or any) social media to whine about your hangover or your ex-girlfriend. Never react. Anything you say can and will be used against you, as well it should. Because you are a public figure.
Unfortunately, although many independent authors have an innate understanding of this, there are also many who do not(both traditionally and independently published). I will never forget an author I met during a book festival several years ago. Her booth bordered mine and sales were poor as the day progressed. Unfortunately, she decided that the reason her “literature” wasn’t selling was because the festival-going peasants were too stupid to appreciate it—and began discussing the topic loudly with her booth-partner. Sales went from slow to no faster than you could blink.
Carried into the world of the Internet, I’ve seen this type of behavior repeated time and again, with all sorts of colorful variations. If a negative review is received(and let’s face it, no one loves them—it’s all in how you handle it), the reviewer is either: not part of their “target audience”, mean, stupid, guilty of felonious intent—or that classic: in need of an education on HOW to review a book. Which is the rough equivalent of complaining about a restaurant meal. . .only to have the chef come storming out of the kitchen to berate you for lack of taste.
But I’ve had authors tell me, “If they have a right to attack me, then I have a RIGHT to attack them!”
That’s very true. You also have the “right” to ceremonially disembowel yourself, but neither hara-kiri nor attacking your readers is an advisable course. This is where being a public figure comes into play. Any citizen can attack a politician, but for a politician to come down off his pedestal and stick his finger in the face of Joe Citizen is scandalous. Is this a double-standard? Possibly, but I couldn’t care less about the morality of your argument. The simple truth is this: whether you’re a politician or an author, going after the general public is a sure career-ender.
But-but-but, you say, this gives power to people who haven’t done anything to deserve it. I’m special! I wrote a book! They’ve done nothing! Now, settle down—you were happy to take their money, weren’t you? Now, don’t lie. You were. You took their money and they weren’t happy with what you provided in return. Responding, OR sharing that review with all your little author friends in hopes that they will respond for you, only reflects poorly on your professionalism. Or lack thereof. The customer is always right—because let’s face it, without your customers you are nothing. You heard me. Nothing.
Always be polite, always be professional, and always remember that you need your readers far more than they need you. Which is a topic for another blog post, coming soon. . .
The Rogue Writer