Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Regular blog readers know quite a bit about the Playfriends and our habits, likes, dislikes, pet peeves, etc. We’ve also learned a lot about you in the past few years. When we first started the blog, we did a lot of talking about what we’d put on the blog and what was off-limits or way TMI. There is a line – somewhere – between creating a community and telling everything about yourself in an open forum.

The idea behind any kind of online community is to create a connection and a conversation between us and you. From a marketing standpoint, it’s supposed to create a relationship between the writer and the reader so that 1) the reader will want to buy the author’s book , and 2) to keep from falling off the reader’s radar during those months that the author doesn’t have a book on the shelf. (What five unpublished authors hoped to accomplish by creating a blog is still up in the air. ~grin~)

But there’s always the question of How Much is Too Much? Long-time blog readers probably have a pretty good idea of what I’m like in real life – I’m neurotic about my weight, I talk too much, I preach the importance of good foundation garments, I’m afraid of storm drains, etc. And, presumably, because y’all keep coming back to visit, you kinda like me – strange storm drain neurosis and all.

But what if you found out I was an atheist? Or that I’d been to jail? Or that I fervently believed in a cause you’d give your last penny to shut down? What if I used the blog as a way to preach my opinions? It would probably keep you off the Playground, right? (Okay, the other Playfriends would have beaten me to death long before then, but let’s just keep going for the sake of argument.)

From a marketing/promotion point of view comes the big question: Would you quit reading my books?

I ask because of some things that I’ve seen on facebook recently. I’m friends with a lot of authors on facebook, and I’ve seen several of them post strong points of view in their status updates – things about politics (like health care reform, the conflict in Iraq, whether they like Sotomayer for the Supreme Court, if Obama should be drinking American beer), things about religion (existence and non-existence of a supreme being), things like that. Things that make me wonder whether I’d be this author’s friend in the non-facebook world. Sometimes, they’ve even started a spirited debate among their friends in the comment thread, with their facebook friends arguing both sides of the issue.

I’m all for healthy debate. I also know that authors, like everyone else in the world, have their own beliefs and values that may not line up with mine. For the most part, it comes down to “to each his own,” and honestly, I never put much thought into what the authors I loved to read were doing with their spare time.

But then their beliefs started showing up on my facebook news feed.

Any media figure takes a risk when they make a stand about an issue. They might lose fans (remember the Dixie Chicks debacle? Or the Beatles for that matter?), or they may gain fans (Jenny McCarthy – former Playboy model – gained lots of soccer-mom fans from her stance on the MMR vaccine-Autism link).

So where’s the line? Do you care if your favorite author votes Democrat or Republican or Independent? Do you care where they stand on Sotomayer’s confirmation or if they’re a Rush Limbaugh fan? Do you care if they like the Yankees or the Dodgers or if they yell “Roll Tide” or “Go Vols”?

Does any of that bleed over into how you view their books? Can you still love the author’s work, even if you found out they stood on the opposite side of an important (to you) issue? Or would you quit reading their books altogether? Would it have to be a big ideological thing (like gay marriage)?

Or can you just put it aside because the work is what really matters?

I’m serious. Enquiring minds really want to know. What do you think?

My facebook status might depend on it (kidding).



Jean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Linda Winstead Jones said...

I'd like to say it doesn't matter, but there are certain actors I can no longer enjoy in movies because when I look at them I can't suspend disbelief and make believe they're someone else for a while. I've seen them on TV expressing their opinions too often -- and sometimes too loudly. :-)

I don't think it's as much an issue for authors, because you don't have to see their faces and hear their voices when you read what they've written, but I have known of people who couldn't get past one issue or another. There's a line that shouldn't be crossed. I so often wish that I hadn't seen an actor I like on a talk show when they're just NOT as I imagined.

Thank goodness we have freedom of speech! But no one ever said freedom of speech would come with no consequences.


Christine said...

I have a FB but it's mainly for my friends--who do know me and accept me for who I am. I wanted to start a professional FB for my writing friends, but it's getting harder to set one up. I suppose I should have it all separate as I do occasionally post a link (usually a funny one but on occasion a news link about something I am passionate about). Now I have a few writers (some published) who are my FB, but I don't think I would let my future readers, editors, agents be on my FB as friends. That's a personal thing I set up to stay in touch with my long distance friends all over the world. If they don't like my opinions, they just tell me.

And freedom of speech is a good thing. But like Linda, I wish certain actors hadn't jumped on couches and made disparaging comments about women or jumped on political bandwagons to influence the way their fans think about a candidate. But that's their choice. And, for the most part, I can separate their work from their actions.

I don't agree with all my friends' choices and decisions either, but I have one mantra in my relationships with others: judge me by how I treat you and others.

Playground Monitor said...

Many times I've seen someone's status and I really wanted to comment either in agreement or to disagree and state my own opinion. But there are just some topics that invite controversy and as a hopeful, future published author I don't want those controversies hanging in someone's mind when they're reaching for my book.

Yes, we do have free speech, but we also have free will. Both freedoms come with consequences and ya gotta remember that.

And what about "War Eagle!"? ::grin::

Smarty Pants said...

Go wildcats! :)

I think there are areas better left untouched. Religion, politics, and in the south, college football. Just keep it to yourself in that sort of arena. I think it is worse with actors, but it also would effect my ability to separate the work from the author. I've dropped FB and Twitter people for that very reason. I didn't friend them to hear their philosophies of life.

Personally, I have separate accounts for this reason. If I get on a grouchy bender about something, I don't need the authors, agents and editors I'm friends with knowing about it.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

I've thought about this too. My opinion is that those who know me well pretty much know how I feel about politics, religion, etc. But as a public figure, i.e. an author with a book to sell, it's not really my place, IMO, to talk about those things in the public arenas I choose to frequent.

Because I do think it affects how people view you. If I knew someone, one of my favorite authors, was a rabid something or other that was totally at odds with my beliefs, I might have trouble putting them in the background enough to enjoy their books. Doesn't make it right or fair, but it's the way my mind works.

OTOH, even when I agree with someone's position, that can also get too distracting. Using your public platform to further your views is fine if you realize there are also risks attached. Especially when what you do and what you believe aren't related. (It's not like being a politician or a lobbyist who's written a book; we're fiction writers, and I think our views come through in our fiction anyway if anyone cares to read deeply enough.)

For the most part, if the views aren't rabid, I can ignore them. But there are some things that would be too much for me. And if I told you what they were, I'd be outing myself as a this or a that. So I won't. :)

Bottom line, unless you are Seriously Big & Famous, don't take the risk. (And maybe not even then.)

Angel said...

I wouldn't have this problem in terms of what I say on Facebook, because I fervently avoid discussing politics with anyone (a hangup from childhood) and only discuss religion with the Playfriends, usually. I have a personal, separate facebook page simply because I come from an extremely conservative religious background and as those people from my past started to make contact with me, I realized my people weren't going to mix well. ;)

That being said, it bothers me a lot when people post fanatical views on anything. FB is like your blog. I don't have you as a friend to hear about your political views, I'm there to learn more about your writing and your writing journey. I can overlook it on occassion, but persistent posting of uncomfortable material will cause me to drop you. And any disparaging comments of the opposite side, even in joking format, will result in the same. I have a pet peeve about putting other people down and resent people who, for example, dump on republicans just because they are republicans. Or diss on pro-Obama people without understanding why they actually support him. If you have to talk politics on a professional site, do it in a professional manner, without mudslinging.


Liza said...

I'd like to say it doesn't matter to me, but I no longer watch movies from an actor because I think he lost his mind. So far I haven't been so offended by any author to stop reading their books, but I'm not saying it won't happen at some point in the future.

I personally support everyone's right to their own opinion. I'm not always going to agree with them, but as long as there is no mudslinging going on, I'm fine with a healthy debate.

Go Vols! (I had to do it)

Christine said...

FB is mainly for my friends. But there are privacy settings. I actually block some people from seeing my status reports (my BIL for one), but it's my blog that I guard more righteously. I try to keep it about the process of writing and the writing world--no politics or religion (other than the OMG I accomplished something monumental squeals) and no negative waves.

I did try to do a separate, Professional FB, but I never kept up with it. And I think having a webpage with a blog will suffice should I have need of internet PR.

Maven Linda said...

Have I stopped reading someone because of his/her political/religious/football views?


But not because they hold those views. What I object to is when those views show up in their books, because I read to be entertained, not to be "educated" or harangued. I've also stopped reading authors who, in blogs or loops or whatever, have Behaved Badly. I don't believe in rewarding bad behavior. The writer may never know and certainly may not care that I don't buy her books, but she'll go through life without my contribution to her royalties. I also don't go to movies featuring actors who have behaved badly, including using really foul language in public. I CARE what people say in front of children. Get some class, people.

Freedom of speech is a great thing, but so is personal responsibility, dignity, honor, good manners, and a bunch of other old-fashioned concepts.

Christine said...

My BF and I say if your grandmother can't see it, don't post it.

Problem Child said...

Yes, Liza, GO VOLS!

And I think this is an interesting conversation -- no one here wants to trample on anyone's right to free speech or their right to say it. We just seem to really like our right to not listen to it or support it with our book-buying/moving-going dollars.

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with all comments so far. But most especially with Maven Linda regarding showing class. And yes, I have and would stop watching and/or listening to music if I couldn't agree with said person.

catslady said...

I agree about actors - I can't searrate what I consider bad behavior. Not with authors though. I was raised never to bring up anything of importance such as religion, politics, sex etc. I really think those topics can be discussed intelligently but unfortunately some people don't know the difference between discussing and arguing. I really think you can agree to disagree. How else can you ever learn anything if you are afraid to talk about everything. I think the problem comes when some people can only understand people who think just like them. It's sad really.

Now I have quit a blog or two because they were constantly spouting opinions and there was no give and take.

catslady said...

I also can't type - "separate" lol

Kathy said...

Ditto what Maven Linda said. ;)

I love to debate politics, religion and various other issues, simply because I love to hear how other people think, and I want to know what they are passionate about. People in the public arena, however, (and I've had to watch this as a commander's wife) have to realize that they are scrutinized for everything they do or say. Once they realize that, and want to use their support for 'positive' results, I think they will be highly respected by those who hear them speak and view them. There are some who go off on others, accusations flying, 'acting' as if they are an authority on the issue. Maybe they are, but that is not the way to go about expressing your opinions. And, that is not the way to convert others to your way of thinking. Can we all not agree to disagree? :D

Opinions are like a*#**, everyone's got one. LOL!!

But how we use our opinions to influence others... now that's debatable.

Kathy said...

I must be ancient. I don't Twitter or use FB. Interesting that the use of technology has enable society to drop the veil of discretion so easily.

(Grabs chin) Hmmmmmm...