On Wednesday, we talked about the evolution of the writer. As the paradigm is shifting, writers must evolve or they simply will not survive. Those who want to moan and wish for the gone-by age will be replaced by writers who are hungrier and better trained and who are willing to outwork the competition.
Evolution of the Brand
One of the reasons writers have so much more power these days is that the definition of an author brand has changed radically. Until a couple years ago, an author brand could ONLY be created by books. Readers’ only interaction with an author was through her works of fiction.
These days, the Modern Author is much more dynamic. She can write in different genres and experiment with different types of writing. There are more and more Hybrid Authors emerging in the new paradigm–writers who have NF, short fiction, different genres for sale some traditionally published and some indie or self-published. Writers have a LOT more flexibility. How did we gain this flexibility?
Writers with a social media platform have a far more dynamic platform than the writer that is relying solely on books to construct the brand. This is because readers (followers) interact with the author daily and real-time, so the brand becomes the person–the author. Thus every tweet, every status update, every picture, every comment, every blog post and finally every book are all part of our brand. Think of it like adding bricks of all different sizes to construct a massive wall–the brand. Yes, the books will likely be larger bricks, but this doesn’t mean the other stuff doesn’t add up.
It All Counts
This brings me to what I want to talk about today. Sacrifice. The Internet and social media offer us tremendous power and control over our author career, but with great power comes great responsibility. Sometimes we need to make tough decisions. We must remember that everything we say and do on-line serves as part of our brand. Social media is a loaded gun that can be used to feed our family or to shoot ourselves in the foot.
When Are We Getting in the Danger Zone?
All of us have a faith and a political affiliation, but unless we are a religious or political writer we need to be VERY careful. We are counting on our fellow writers to help us, to share and RT and they are less likely to lend support if we spend half our time calling them names.
I had one writer I finally unfriended this morning on FB. He was a sci-fi writer who COULD NOT stop with the political ranting. Every post was about how X party (my political affiliation, btw) were all morons and thieves and creeps and how people of X faith (my faith) were radical haters and bigots and dogs.
In fact, I will just be honest. I am getting to where I don’t even want to look in my FB home stream. SO many writers are ranting on and on about politics, and it all just gives me indigestion. I don’t “friend” a fantasy author so I can listen to a non-stop political rant. If I wanted that, I would friend Ann Coulter or Jesse Jackson and at least I would know what I was in for.
If we hope to build a platform that will reach out and include readers, we need to remember that if we spend half our time calling them idiots, they probably won’t be terribly supportive. Additionally, if we have to hide other writers from our feeds because they make our blood pressure spike, then we can’t easily support them because we can’t SEE them.
What Brand are We After Anyway?
We must be aware that we can be friends with all kinds of people, and non-stop ranting and name-calling is uncool and a bad way to build a platform…unless our goal is to be known as a political-ranting-hater-jerk. If our goal is to be the next Howard Stern, Bill Maher or Rush Limbaugh then sally forth, but don’t send me a friend request. I have no time for people who cannot be respectful of others and their beliefs.
So if we are NOT political or religious writers, we need to be mindful that we aren’t bludgeoning part of our support network.
Yes, I Know It is Hard
We are in an election year, and I know it is hard to not be opinionated. I totally feel your pain. I have a degree in Political Science! I really do understand, but my advice as a social media expert is that we be very selective about what we put on-line. Every post is part of our brand, and, if we do too much ranting about social injustice, we are creating a political activism brand not a fiction author brand…and we can be alienating a lot of people as well.
Are We Running for Office or Wanting to Sell Books?
I support plenty of writers who don’t share my political and religious viewpoints. That is easier for me to do if I am not being called names on a daily basis. There is a reason that politics and religion can be dangerous topics. I know that I am even taking a HUGE risk writing THIS blog. I know that the trackbacks and arguments will surface, but I am willing to risk it so you guys are properly prepared.
Beware of the Frankenstein Monster
One of the biggest reasons we do have to be careful of everything we write on-line is once it is out there…we can’t control it. If we decide to blog about some politically hot topic because we need to get something off our chest, that is fine, but prepare for some consequences. It very well might just be another of many blogs and life continues on as usual…or it could totally dismantle our platform and irreparably alter our brand. We don’t know who is going to read that post, and we can’t control where and how it is spread how it is twisted and…what if it goes viral?
What takes YEARS to build can take only minutes to destroy.
Controversy Never Dies
I posted a blog about What Went Wrong with the Star Wars Prequels? and SEVEN months later I still get mini-debates and have had over 200 comments….over a fictional universe. In this case the controversy is fun…but when it comes to politics and religion???
Prepare to deal with trolls…forever.
Brace for the Backlash
In fact, if we do blog about politics or religion, we should just prepare for at least a half a dozen blogs to spring up with the mission of calling us a moron, and their trackbacks will always keep a fresh supply of trolls coming to that one political blog FOREVER. Not saying it will happen, just that it is pretty likely.
Community Includes “Unity”
Also, we need to remember that our platform is comprised of people who are different than we are. Many of you follow this blog because you expect me to write funny blogs about craft, social media and life. But what if you showed up Monday for my essay about abortion or euthanasia or legalizing marijuana because I needed to get something off my chest?
Many of you would likely never come back, but many would feel compelled to comment–either to tell me I was brilliant or to tell me I’d lost my mind–and this is where we start to see the massive fracture, the fighting in the comments because everyone feels passion and everyone feels differently.
So, now not only have I confused my brand…but now a group that all once had fun and friended one another and enjoyed getting together in my comments section have been divided FOREVER. What was fun and a high point is now spoiled, awkward and downright weird. Not only that, but now I will likely have to step in and referee people who once got along, but who now only see red because I felt the need to take a left-turn with my blog content.
Personally, I care about all of you whether we share political and religious affiliation or not. To me, no venting is worth alienating any of you. That’s just me.
Social Media Requires Respect and Care
I am all for freedom of speech, and feel free to write about or tweet about anything you want. I won’t stop you. The only purpose of this post is to educate writers about the unintended affect being overly political could have. I’m not saying we can’t post a link here and there or a faith quote or an evolution blog. We just need to really be aware of those around us and be prepared to take the consequences, even the unintended ones.
We Are Not Alone…No Really
Think of it this way. Out at our ranch we all carry guns. There are packs of feral pigs that roam our land, rattlesnakes, water moccasins, and all kinds of critters that can kill or maim. Having a sidearm just goes with having a place in the wild country of Texas. But that same gun that took out a six foot rattlesnake near the front stoop is the same gun that could accidentally kill someone.
We can shoot watermelons and beer cans for fun, but it is wise to check that there isn’t a house or a weekend camper on the adjacent land behind the tree line where we are shooting. We have to be aware that we don’t live in a vacuum. Our actions have consequences.
Protect the Brand
Social media is a lot of fun and it has a lot of advantages, but as professionals we need to always remember that our brand is a cumulation of EVERYTHING we do on-line. So if we start Twitter fights and rant and name-call and blog about volatile topics, we take a risk. Even when we don’t rant, ANY political blog can be taken by the opposition as an attack. Why risk it?
Yet, if we are kind, respectful, fun, engaging AND we write great books, that is wonderful and can be the formula for a long successful career. No one needs to give up who they are or what they believe, it just doesn’t necessarily all belong on-line. We can feel free to rub ourselves with lime Jell-O and run around in our underwear, but it doesn’t mean it needs a picture on Facebook ;).
So…*braces* what are your thoughts? Am I out of line and the poster child for censorship? Or do you run into the same problem? Are there people you want to support but they won’t stop ranting? How does that make you feel? By the way, I have no problem if any of you wish to disagree with me as long as you do it respectfully. We are people not robots, I get that. I know this is an uncomfortable topic, but it is part of my responsibility as the social media expert for writers to address it.
I really, really do LOVE hearing from you!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of March I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.
Excellent advice. We aren’t here to sling mud at each other. We’re here to tell everyone about who we are as writers and while you’re reading my blog maybe you’ll buy a book.
Thanks for a frank post. I’ll be sharing this one.
I really REALLY (no REALLY!) like this post! I’ve made a career out of gnawing the inside of my lips bloody and burning no bridges, even when I’d like to don the fire-resistent leotards and fire away.
To add to Kristen’s awesome cautions, also be aware of how you’re perceived in person. This week alone I’ve heard from half a dozen folks about someone they admired/followed/appreciated in the social/virtual world took a tumble when met face to face and the person came across as less than what they’d portrayed on the blog.
So yep, we’re writers. Put your best foot forward. But be real, and cognizant of how you are perceived not only in the virtual world but when holding forth in meet-and-greets. Just sayin…
amy *who wears both virtual AND real sparklies, and avoids talk of politics, religion, breed profiling and raw-food-feeding*
I agree with you Kristen. People are entitled to their opinions, thank goodness, and are ‘free’ to air them, thank goodness, but my time is precious and I simply can’t afford to spend my online time reading them. I guess if people feel the need to air them online they could create a blog specifically for that, so that it says hello, if you want to discuss these topics, come here….
It seems that people are becoming more opinionated and less tolerate of different points of view — and that is in person. When they go online and have the buffer of distance or complete anonymity, they can really get carried away.
What happened to civility and courtesy?
To answer your question, no you aren’t out of line. I agree with this completely…it’s been my own philosophy even before I thought about building a “brand”. The fact it, even in my own family there are such huge differences of opinion on hotbed topics that at family gatherings I have to announce “no politics or religion”! And if they start talking about it? I leave. I don’t care to lose a friend or family member over one stupid discussion in the heat of the moment. It’s too hard to come back from (if you ever do). And yes, it’s very, very hard for me to hold my tongue sometimes. VERY hard. Online? I grit my teeth and bite my tongue. Yes, I have opinions about all of it. No, I won’t share them with online friends. I don’t want to lose any of them either! 🙂
Great advice, Kristen. Rarely, even in my own personal life, do I post feeling about politics or religion. That’s just not who I am.
People befriend their favorite authors to get closer to the genre and art they love, not to be told they are a moron for feeling a certain way.
I just wrote a post titled “Controversy: Good or Bad for Fiction Authors” that addressed some of these same points. People had a lot of great stuff to say in the comments! http://katieganshert.com/writing/should-fiction-authors-be-controversial/
I think if it’s not about our books or our brand, we should be very careful about addressing hot-button topics.
I write for the CBA, which means my books are Christian fiction. So of course I will blog and write about my Christian faith. But will I talk about politics? No. 1. Because I don’t know what I’m talking about. 2. It’s not good branding.
This is why I have an author page on Facebook (which is linked to my Twitter stream) in addition to a personal profile. I rarely put anything in my blog, on the FB page or Twitter that may be of a controversial nature (although I guess *I* could be considered controversial). There are exceptions, of course, but I am willing to accept the consequences of any rant I make public.
My personal profile is where I’ll post whatever floats my boat. My FB friends are actually *friends* (or family) and they take the good with the bad – with some issues, we agree to disagree and still love each other.
I love your thoughtful post, as always, Kristen! And the way you help other writers. I agree–we need to be careful what we post or put out there on social media, because people are paying attention. I find it very off-putting when some writers verbally vomit hate…I end up not wanting to buy their books, or listen to them. There are some writers, though, who I love to follow or listen to, because of the things they share or their personality, as well as their writing.
Because I write about painful issues that there is often a lot of silence about (incest, self-harm, abduction, oppression, homophobia), and because I care about those so much, I tend to also talk about them–on Twitter, FB, on my blog. I’m making a conscious choice–they’re what I write about in my books, and they are key to me; they’ve greatly impacted who I am. Some of those issues can have other people responding…strongly sometimes, or negatively, but usually the response is good. I try to stay away from religion and *some* politics, but I will talk about things that I feel fit what I write about (and care about)…. I don’t name-call, though, or put people down. I think there’s enough negativity in the world, and I want to put good out there. AND I want to be professional, as a writer. Both are true for me.
I agree. There are times I log onto facebook only to log back off. I probably need to unfriend (or can you unsubscribe?) to a few writers who only bash with abandon. I think you need to consider why you have an author platform and what you want to do with it before you just post everything on your mind (especially about hot issues)
This is actually some I’ve been thinking about a lot. Getting my political digs in was something I used to do quite a bit on FB, but as soon as I opened it up to the writing community, I stopped, and for all the reasons you’ve said. Politics and religion are hot buttons, and as a liberal, I have some strong opinions. But people don’t want that from us. They want to hear positive things, hear about our writing, lives, etc. Getting on a soap box, no matter how warranted, can end in disaster for the reputation and brand we’re trying to build.
It’s not worth it for me. Yes, we should stand up for what we believe in, but at the end of the day, we as authors are trying to run a business, and just as you said, sacrifices have to be made. We can be ourselves and be honest without stepping into a stinking pile of political and religious excrement.
I post political pieces on FB all the time, but I do it under my own name, not my pen name and not on my author page (that’s one reason to have a pen name! The other is, of course, that my own name is hard to pronounce and harder to spell–I’m not about to make it any harder for people to find my books!). At the very least, I try to bring the funny/absurd to the political posts (because most of it really IS ridiculous, it’s just ridiculousness that affects our lives)…and quite honestly, most of my FB flist follows me for those political gems I dig up. Plus, I live in a swing state and we are already getting INUNDATED with it. I have friends on both sides already heartily sick of the nonsense. At least there we can agree. 😉
Honestly, I think what really happened to polite discourse is the very thing that started defining it–we all got used to NOT discussing politics in Polite Company..thus leaving its entire dialogue in the hands of the Impolite. And here we are today. As authors and public figures to some extent, we still have the right and the responsibility to express our views…but since we are authors and have good command of the written word, we also have the OPPORTUNITY to lift the discourse.
This is an interesting perspective, and I’m glad that it works out for you to include political discussion in your platform. I completely agree with about the state of political discourse in the US, too. The only point I’d like to make is that I, as a consumer of books, movies, TV shows, and web-based entertainment, have certain expectations of those who would entertain me.
If I’m watching an episode of The Walking Dead, a certain degree of Suspension of Disbelief is required if I’m to immerse myself in the world of the show. If I just saw the actors on the news making public announcements in support of their political team, I can no longer disassociate them from their political views. Thus, I can no longer suspend disbelief enough to enjoy their TV show.
Is this a failing on my part? Perhaps, but I’m the consumer. I’m always right. To me, an entertainer’s role is to entertain. If something is going to detract from his ability to do that, then he has a duty to his audience to avoid that activity. To me, an entertainer can be an entertainer or an activist, but not both, if he wants my dollars.
Also, I humbly ask those who are bothered by such things to overlook my generic use of masculine pronouns.
Yes, you are right, Athena. We do have an obligation, so long as we have thoughtful, well-reasoned, arguments.
You are right on. One of my yahoo loops was talking about this the other day. Since I decided to go “public” with my platform, I’ve been very careful not to talk about politics or religion, or to rant at any great length – unless it be at my own inadequacies, lol.
Sharing this now…
I am not sure that I fully agree with this. However, what I will say is that I don’t believe in name calling no matter what side of an issue someone is on. While I am not some things, I have many friends who are and not one of them is any of the vile names that people use to describe those who do not agree with them.
All of the people I know and associate with no matter what side of the political or religious spectrum each is on believes fully that they are doing the best that they can do. My issue is that as long as reasonable people won’t discuss these things then it leaves it in the hands of name calling bullies on both sides of all of the issues.
People are free to not follow me because of the political links that I post or the opinions that I have, but I think that it is in discussing these things with people of differing views that we reach the best consensus and the best results for ourselves, our homes, our cities, our states, our nation and the world. As long as the discussions can be held without name calling or denigrating those who hold different opinions. It is a tough row to hoe, but it is one that I am following and I understand anyone who doesn’t want to participate with me.
Excellent post, Maria. “My issue is that as long as reasonable people won’t discuss these things then it leaves it in the hands of name calling bullies on both sides of all of the issues.” I agree completely. If nice people remain silent, the name-callers will never give up the floor.
Yes, but it is the “reasonable” and the “discuss” part that is hard on line. Even an even-keeled, calm post can attract trolls looking for a fight. I used the term “dead-beat book daddy” as a joke about when we start books and don’t stick it through. I had a LUNATIC show and rant and abuse my commenters and start a “Kristen Lamb the Face of Misandry (Man-Hating) blog. It created a TON of indigestion and work on my part. Feel free to discuss topics, but boy it can be a lot of hassle so I want you guys to be aware of what you could be signing up for.
In fact, said troll even tried to post on this blog…calling women stupid, of course. But I put him in the trash where he belongs until he can learn to behave and not
pee on the rugsmisbehave in the comments.
The other side of the coin here is that almost ANYTHING can generate controversy. This one food blogger received threats because she went on vacation without her child. Next thing you know, people were making fun of her daughter’s surgery for a medical condition.
Well, yes, there are always nuts, too LOL. Reminds me of my pet troll who still follows me.
I agree also, Maria. I don’t want to be a nice little lady with my hands folded in my lap when I see or hear something outrageous; that’s not who I am, that’s not the kind of books I write, that’s not who my characters are. If somebody is offended because I express my opinion on my blog or Tweetstream or elsewhere.. Well, they probably aren’t going to like my books, anyway.
I do try to be reasonable and leave room for discussion, and avoid name-calling (or at least a slander lawsuit). I believe people can passionately disagree about important subjects without being nasty, and agree with your point, if we won’t talk about it because we’re being “nice,” or simply thinking about the bottom line, then we leave it to the bullies to fight it out.
I totally get Kristen’s point, and recognize it might cost me. Time, money, “friends” (If they bail over something like that, are they truly friends?), business relationships… but for ME (not extrapolating what I feel to others) it would be betraying myself to not stand up for what I see as important. If I am not true to my own values, then what is my “brand” really worth?
Absolute agreement on all counts, unless your work is specifically about any of these lightning rods of society, keep it close to the chest. Otherwise, you’ll trigger the ire in everyone. Well said.
Good topic, Kristen. It’s one I’ve wrestled with, too. In fact, two friends from opposing parties got into a fight on My FB page a year ago and I had to unfriend them both. I’m a person with strong political views, but I’ve also created sympathetic characters who have political views very different from my own. This leads some people to make wrong assumptions about me.
I certainly try to avoid religion and politics on my blog. In fact, I don’t even know the faith or political affiliation of my blog partner. Sometimes a spokesperson from one party or another will say something I find insulting or upsetting, and I may mention it, but not because of their political affiliation, but because they’re being jerks.
A lot of people are making a lot of money by turning our country into one long campaign-ground and pitting everybody against each other over issues that are blown out of all proportion. Without the rhetoric, I think we’d be amazed at how much we all agree on general principles. I think adding fuel to their fires is not in our best interest as authors–or as citizens.
I liked that you mentioned that we, the writers, can say anything we want – we have freedom of speech, after all – but you outlined the consequences of saying what we want. I associate with writers who have very different religious and political beliefs than I do. It’s always the respect they give off that draws me to them, no matter what their feelings or beliefs are. And I still know what they believe, it’s not that they hide it or try to cover it up… but they aren’t constantly ringing that gong, either.
Thanks for outlining the consequences. 🙂 This was good.
I have to agree with you. Being negative does not get any one any where…I like to look for solutions to problems I encounter. Negativity breeds negativity…If I’m a part of the problem, I’m going nowhere fast. I don’t like ranting either. And I refuse to get caught up in it. There’s better things to occupy my mind with. Thank you for your articles. They help me to know that I’m not the only one who feels the way you do.
I agree. I don’t think it’s limited to religion and politics though. This could cover a plethora of topics that seemed like a good idea in the moment, but in hind sight really weren’t – but now haunt you forever online. Hidden sex tapes are one that immediately comes to mind (not that I know from personal experience – but the topic came up on the radio this morning). And don’t rely on the privacy settings of Facebook to keep your extreme or vociferous opinions quiet – don’t post anything you might regret anywhere. Period.
Well said, Kristen 🙂 I too majored in Political Science an even worked for a various lobby groups when I first started living here in the DC area. And even then, I wouldn’t even think about discussing politics under my brand. You can’t win a debate when discussing, politics and religion, so why even bother? I am all for people having their own views, and I respect those that HAVE a view, but I don’t need to aimlessly rant on about what I think is right… I don’t appreciate when celebrities do it (Really? What’s their experience on the subject?), and I don’t appreciate it when writers do it (unless it IS part of their brand/book/platform).
I agree 100% with everything you said on this timely topic. The political mudslinging is in full swing and it’s gotten old real quick. I count down the days till this next election is over. I am as opinionated as the next person with my own political views, but do not have the time or patience to read what others may think. Case in point to your blog topic, I really enjoyed following a particular blogger until her late night political rants (I really think she had been drinking quite a bit) on FB. I was shocked that someone who gave great writing advice on their blog would do something so stupid. The rants continued and I no longer read her blogs. Maybe a future blog topic: don’t rant or blog after drinking. I also wish Hollywood actors would take this same advice and keep their political opinions to themselves. Do we really care what they think?
I think that makes a lot of sense. I try very hard to keep my religious and political beliefs out of blog posts, tweets, etc. There are the occasional things (like Kony) that I will post, purely for awareness.
I think though that if someone personally asks me, I will privately email them and have a conversation versus hosting it on my blog, Facebook, or Twitter.
Great post, Kristen. 😀
Kristen, great post and it serves as a reminder that we really are not alone. I assume there is no such thing as privacy on the internet so I watch what I say on social media and in emails and especially in my own posts. I do believe the more each of us put your advice into practice in our daily lives, everywhere we are social, the nicer that life will be. And isn’t that the point? We are not alone and we are all in this together.
Spot on insight, Kristen. While there’s nothing wrong with pushing the envelope by stirring up controversy and debate, which are often great things, political or religious rants isolate some readers and makes many—me included—uncomfortable.
Kristen, if I had a rant it would be about anti-ranting! I really dislike this modern “you’re either for us or against us” bit. And if I don’t stop now…!
The Masons have a rule you probably know about: no discussion of religion or politics in the Lodge. I think that’s an admirable rule for the promotion of harmony within an organization. How is it censorship to propose a reasonable rule for order?
As far as I’m concerned let’s keep it to writing and success therein, and I’m more than happy to help anyone achieve that.
I totally agree, Kristen. I, too, had to unfriend someone from my FB page this week for the same reasons. She didn’t rant as much as she posted cartoons or pictures meant to insult those who were affilated with a certain political party. If she added comments they were along the lines of, “These people are such idiots! *snerk*” Since she and I had never discussed our political leanings she had no idea she’d repeatedly called me an idiot. And I got tired of it. Buh-bye! I’ve noticed a lot more political “snerking” going around Twitter lately and at times I’ve found my finger hovering over the unfollow button. The sad thing about it is these are people that I admired, but now my admiration is colored by the fact that they feel the need to publicly laugh at someone’s beliefs. And, yes, some are authors. When it comes down to spending money on books I’ll give it to the authors who didn’t call me an idiot by association.
Great post, as usual, Kristen. My major novel is about politics — specifically a Democratic woman running against a Republican woman — and it’s clear which team gets the most sympathetic treatment. So my political bent is pretty much worn on my sleeve. Nevertheless, in both the book and in my public persona, I try always to be respectful and thoughtful of other points of view.
I think we run into trouble when we start entertaining ourselves by pointing out the foibles of the “other side” and shaming or humiliating those who have different ideas. Professional pundits and comedians do this to make their money — and get us to tune in and laugh. Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh might float the boats of some people and make other folks see red. Ditto (ha!) and vice versa for Jon Stewart and Bill Maher. That’s when we start insulting and offending potential readers and making former friends. It’s tough to resist the urge to repeat those kinds of statements.
However, there are positions that I feel it’s my moral duty to speak out against, such as those who tell young people they are abominations if they love others of the same gender. If that loses me readers, so be it.
Kristen I COMPLETELY agree with you. I am frequently sort of horrified at the comments my friends make on fb, and while I love these people, I have ‘unsubscribed’ to a number of their feeds. So, when someone I don’t know in real life (like author friends, twitter friends, etc.) start yapping about politics and religion, I really have little tolerance, and I exit…quietly. I may not unfriend them or stop following them, but I’m definitely less inclined to promote them.
I save my political rantings for real life (much to my husband’s joy…) and try really hard to keep polarizing topics out of my online conversations.
Great post, as always, *sigh* You are a genius. 🙂
Great post, Kristen. Thanks for jumping right in! You are Woman; we hear you Roar-r-r-r-rrr!
That said, anyone poking around my Facebook site can see pretty quickly that I’m a Christian. I don’t hide my faith. Nor do I push it. I Share it (and see it as part of my calling). People have respected that. If something I’ve posted lifts their day, they might comment or “like” it. This happens often enough to encourage me to continue. But these aren’t the majority of my posts. I try for a good blend of serious and funny and quirky and interesting. And I never speak against different beliefs. My main goal with Facebook is to make new friends and stay in touch with others.
I like to keep my Home a peaceful, happy place, one people enjoy visiting, and one where they might learn something new and/or helpful.
It is a fine balance though, as I have a few Friends who think anyone using the F~word is going straight to hell. (Yeah, I hope they’re not right or I’m toast, but I’m NOT going to put that on my FB site. I actually cringe when someone uses it cause I know who just grabbed their chest.)
As to Politics, that’s another ball of wax. I have very good friends on both sides, and even if that weren’t the case, my FB page is not a “Ring” for people to duke it out in. (It only took me a few minutes to figure this one out.) If others enjoy debating, fine. Just don’t bring it to my House. (I’ve never been a fan of that type of communicating. It gives me heartburn.)
OF COURSE, I WISH EVERYONE AGREED WITH ME BECAUSE I’M BRILLIANT AND HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS. (But that’s my little secret.)
Add to the list, swearing and showing me your body parts. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a good set of abs as much as the next girl, and I do have a potty mouth. BUT. I don’t want either of those things slapping me in the face when I hop on Twitter at 4 am.
It’s good to know that when push comes to shove you will use your platform for the good of all bloggerkind Kristen!
I have not been blogging for very long, but when I have a guest post, I always clear the air beforehand that my blog is both politically and spiritually neutral. I learned the hard way when a guest sent over a very strong politically opinionated post and I had to very gingerly explain that it was not appropriate for my blog, but perhaps keep it for theirs. Oh boy, was I ever walking on eggshells.
I want everyone to feel comfortable when they venture onto my site. Does that mean that I think everyone will love every single blog that I write. No. But why turn them off by ranting about personal opinion. I want my blog to be neutral territory. A place where people will feel inspired and supported so they can hopefully leave on a good note. 🙂
I agree with you- to a point. Ranting and hate will come back to bite you. But I, for example, am firmly committed to freedom from suffering for all sentient beings on our planet. And not just the human ones (some of which we may argue aren’t even sentient ;-). I will blog & post my thoughts on this from time to time and I’m not going to censor myself about this b/c I may alienate people. Chances are good that if my posts offend them, then they aren’t going to like my work. This is me- part of my brand. Take it or leave it. So while I agree that we should not post hate, negativity & vitriole all over the net, I don’t think we should prohibit ourselves from talking about our passions out of fear that people won’t “like” us.
I will occasionally wax philosophical on my blog, but usually it is done in such a way that it isn’t (I hope) offensive to anyone. These aren’t regular posts, but rather something that I post now and then so that my friends and fellow bloggers can get a glimpse into my head, and so that people don’t think I’m some awful monster for writing about blood and guts all the time :P. So far, I’ve had a pretty good response from those posts, but then I don’t put anything controversial.
Well, unless saying that we should probably treat others with compassion is controversial, that or talking about my affinity for Eastern philosophy, haha. I’ve kept your thoughts in mind about trying to keep politics and religion out of the blogger brand, but sometimes it is difficult to do when it is so integral to how you view the world. I think the main thing is to keep things pleasant and open – it’s fine to have your own opinion, but it doesn’t give you the right to say nasty things about other people. That’s my rule of thumb when walking the religio/spiritual tight rope 😀
When I played college lacrosse my coach would always admonish, “You can talk about anything on the field, just not, sex, politics, or religion!”
Really though – what else is there?
All kidding aside – If you practice your religion and your politics respecting the natural rights of all living beings, then by all means shout it out. Otherwise, as they say, shut the bleep up.
It is that simple.
I’m also disheartened by rants that are so often generalizations of entire groups and descend into ugly divisiveness and name-calling, and can do without that kind of bullying on all sides. But I came to writing because I often felt inept and silenced in my in-person encounters, times I should’ve spoken up and failed to do so. As I consciously become more open in my writing – on my blog, FB, & Twitter – about what issues are important to me and where I stand, I’m feeling more genuine and more able to be the person I’d like to be off-paper, too. While I’ll lose some readers by being authentic, I’ll gain others. I write about what it is to be a woman in the male-dominated industry of Alaska’s commercial fisheries, and I proudly claim what’s distinct about my voice. Tree hugging, tofu-eating, yoga posing feminist fisherman… That’s my brand, and I don’t have much competition. 🙂
So many writers’ names are inextricably linked to their activism (Alice Walker. Ariel Gore. Margaret Atwood. June Jordan. Lorna Dee Cervantes.) How do our privileges/struggles in life contribute to our decision to keep our pens down, mouths shut on particular issues? Yes, ranting is a turn-off. But for a lot of us, writing is what’s saving us from unjust systems, and we feel a responsibility to use our platforms to speak up for our sisters and brothers who don’t have access to the same words or audiences.
But then there is a political aspect to your brand–as there is in all of the people you mentioned–so the political flavor is appropriate. What I am addressing are writers who write about vampires or fairies suddenly taking a stance on nukes or abortion. If your platform has a political aspect to it, then go for it, but if it doesn’t? BE CAREFUL.
Ha! Jell-O. Underwear. Two Thoughts I had NEVER combined before today!
I LOVE THIS BLOG! Kristen tells it like it is and provides excellent advice at the same time.
I recently made the mistake of pushing what was in effect SPAM on another writers twitter hashtag. (Inadvertently I must say, but that’s not the point. I take responsibility for it). That writer gave me a very polite nudge in the “correct direction” and that was it. Said and done. There was no flame war, no battle of words. I just stopped doing what I had been doing and (I think) everything is fine.
It could have easily gone the other way, but thankfully, with good advice like provided here, we are all still happy tweeters and bloggers.
Thanks to #MyWANA!
Hold your fire Kristen! Keep it burning bright!
LOL. No worries. We are the LOVE Revolution and it’s the talking and chatting with each other that makes it so fun, so we are stoked that you joined the fun! Thanks for the wonderful comment :D.
You are right spot on here. But I would add that at no time, in no place is it proper to name call or insult. We live in a free country with free speech but still as you say, respect reigns over it all. I’m with you on this.
I agree 110% with this advice. I am a Fantasy writer and my politics shouldn’t be part of that brand. I like other authors and friends them and follow them on all the various social media sites. I don’t want to read about their politics either, unless I signed up for them because they are political writers (none have advertised themselves as such). It makes reams of sense to just not go there and I try really hard not to. I’ve even deleted my own posts when I’ve crossed my line of no return. Maybe a solution is to pen name yourself for political discussions you care to engage in and keep your author persona out of it and off the public webs.
Thanks for the thought provoking post.
Great post, Kristen! I have a friend who rants about politics constantly. I know she’s losing sales.
There are times I feel bad not sharing something I believe in, but my platform isn’t the place. I’ll rant in the privacy of my home (sorry, hubby!)
Thanks for posting this.
I have written in the past as well about showing civility regarding politics. Sometimes I think we might be surprised to find out someone’s political bent isn’t what we expected given our first impression.
I do think it is quite different for someone to say “this is what I believe” and “this is what you should believe (or you’re a dolt, a criminal, or the devil himself if you don’t)” (assuming you even believe in Satan). I don’t mind one bit someone saying I’m an atheist, Christian, Wicca, bobble-doll worshipper, etc.; it’s when the finger-wagging and name-calling begins that I get turned off.
Politically, however, it’s not a problem. I just tell everyone I’m voting for the Piper Bayard/Kristen Lamb ticket and the tailgate rally begins! I’ve got some barbecued javelina and a beer saved for you, if you want.
LOL. Yes, Bayard-Lamb will unite them all. I have no problem with people stating they are an atheist, Jew, kitten-worshipper. I don’t care if people pink, purple, liberal or whatever. EVERYONE deserves my respect. We just need to ask ourselves what our goal is. Is our goal to push a political agenda with our writing? If so, then be political accordingly. But if we write cookbooks and cozy mysteries it is just giving mass indigestion.
I am there! So long as the beer is GF :D.
I totally agree. And I’ve got your order. One GF beer coming up.
Make it two and I’ll bring pom-poms!!!
I won’t mention names, but there’s a well-respected social media for authors company (they build websites, as well as post some really helpful techie type articles) that actually recommends authors write controversial blog posts in order to get noticed. They also recommend responding to controversial blog posts on your own blog (with a link to the original). Their theory is this will help your blog get traffic and help you become remarkable because obscurity is your biggest enemy.
I’ve always felt that was unwise advice. Yes, it might help you get noticed, but as you said, it will also turn off a large portion of potential readers. Plus, when I think of what I want people to feel when they think about my writing (both my fiction and my blog), frustration, anger, or contentiousness don’t make the list.
I don’t entirely agree with you on this one. Let me say, though, that rantings with name-calling are NEVER appropriate — on that I will agree. I have unfriended people on FB not for having differing political opinions, but for presenting them with an insulting, disrespectful tone.
That said, certain author of women’s fiction has posted some comments on FB that have stirred up a hornet’s nest. I don’t always agree with her, but I respect her for putting her views out there. I enjoy reading the debates, and she has generated some interesting, meaty conversation online. Politics has nothing to do with her brand whatsoever, but her books are on my list to buy because I like it that she takes a stand. She’s successful, and her career seems to be surviving the political storms just fine.
Though I limit my political posts, I do write them from time to time (sweating profusely every time I do). Last fall I was in NYC during the beginnings of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Hubby and I went down there to see what was going on and to chat with the Occupiers. I wrote about my experiences because I wanted to present a side that I felt wasn’t being reported. I ended up doing a couple of different posts, because the first one brought a number of comments and some thoughtful questions from the “other” side. It was a deeply satisfying experience. Since then I have sought out blogs written by women who are willing to get controversial — as long as they’re engaging.
Am I limiting my readership or confusing the brand? Yeah, maybe. Probably. But like many women, I have spent a lifetime censoring myself and trying not to be controversial. I’m at a place in my life where I am, and need to be, less concerned with what people think. If that costs me some readers, so be it. I’d rather read a well-written post about something I don’t entirely agree with than yet another report on how many words someone wrote today on their WIP.
Well, I just say that writers need to be aware that they can stir a hornet’s nest and be prepared. Beyond that? I stay out of most of it because it really doesn’t apply to my brand and just that one troll has caused more than enough indigestion. I just don’t have the constitution for too much dissent, LOL. Some people have a higher tolerance level and it doesn’t bother them, so we just have to make the right call and be informed of the potential ramifications. That’s all. Thanks for the comment!
Controversial fallout and ‘net trolling are two different phenomenon, though. Especially here on the Intert00bz, you can become the victim of trolling for any number of reasons, the least of which is you said something controversial. Sometimes, you just have the bad luck of attracting the attention of the wrong people for no discernible reason.
You can and should take steps to protect yourself and your brand, but keep in mind that if you happen to attract a troll and blame yourself for it, you’re blaming the victim.
THANK YOU for this! I have “liked” mega-bestselling author Anne Rice’s Facebook page, and frankly, nearly all of her posts on that page are political or religious in nature. And she tends to assume that people of my political persuasion are all bigots and idiots. She rarely posts about her writing or her books. I’m about to “unlike” her page, which I initially liked so that I could hear her thoughts on her amazing writing career.
I also have a few FB friends who almost did not accept friend requests, knowing my religious beliefs and fearing I would “proselytize” them (they actually came out and told me this). I reassured them I don’t do that on my FB page, and since becoming FB friends, THEY have been the ones who have constantly railed against things I believe in. If I’d point this out, I am convinced they wouldn’t see the double-standard, assuming of course that they’re right and therefore entitled to belittle my people-groups.
Ha Ha!!! Fire resistant leotards! Amy, I love that visual. I’ve wanted to don a pair myself on the odd occasion but also resisted. Ashley, good point about knowing when to take a discussion “offline” especially when the discussion only seems to be between two people.
Kristen, another awesome post. You’ve obviously struck a chord. The beauty of being an author is that you can find other outlets for your “rants” in the pages of fiction! I’m working on my first novel and certainly don’t want the theme of it to spill over into my blog but it has given me a great place to dump a whole lot of emotion (some of it will probably need to be edited out but it sure has been cathartic)! Some rants I’ve seen online really belong behind closed doors in the company of a therapist. I agree, free speech is one thing, hate mongering is quite another.
For the most part, Kristen, I agree with you AND must say it makes me sad. Sad that we’ve come to the place that we have to watch where we share our values and beliefs because of those who spew hate or will stop reading us because they don’t agree with our beliefs and opinions. I agree with those commenters above who suggested that if we stop sharing our beliefs or tweeting about causes, even political or religious causes that we believe in, mature and respectful dialogue will stop and only those strident, angry, in-your-face writers (like the one you stopped following — and rightfully so I would add — will be left to make their factually-unsupported, hateful points.
This gave me more food for thought and again I am wondering if I want to go the route of the commercial writer. Thanks for an excellent and thought-and-comment-provoking post, Kristen.
Hi Kristen – Thank you for saying what I believe everyone with at least half a brain is thinking. It all comes down to the fact that we do have the right to free speech, we just have to be adult enough to accept the consequences of our choices. If we as writers are truly attempting to improve our platform, certain topics are definitely counter productive. Then there is the whole point of cyber-respect (not sure if I just made up that word). It reminds me of those annoying calls from solicitors that always ring at the dinner hour. I feel it is a insulting invasion of my FB timeline to read political or religious rants. (Loved your post on forging through failure – that’s what got me following you.) Keep up the good work!
YES!!!! Again, I am not here to tell anyone what to post or what not to post. I am merely here to advise about what it can do to a brand and platform. Here? On my blog? I am a wimp who hates any dissent, but it is my blog, my brand and my platform so I can make that call. Can’t we all hug and roast marshmallows? LOL. Happy to make you a peep!
And that is why you are my Queen.
Totally agree with you here, Kristen. It wouldn’t take a whole lot of looking to find out where I’m at on religious issues, but that’s not my platform as an author. How I feel inside doesn’t mean I have to be unkind or uncouth to you if you believe differently. Treating each other kindly is a fundamental pillar of human society.
Um. Hi. Late to the show because I was working on my WIP. I think you know you have made me see the light on this issue.
So thank you for sharing this with everyone.
I have really struggled with finding the right line on this topic. It’s come to the point that generally I swallow my oh-so-profound insights 😉 unless it has to do with disability–as a parent of a child with Down syndrome, who has been published several times on the topic, I think I have a right to pontificate on that topic.
But it is tough sometimes, and occasionally I will stick a toe in the water, begging for a reasoned approach to all these topics. I wish, oh, how I wish, that I could breathe fire where it needs to be breathed, to both left and right–but I’m in the business of bridge building, not bridge burning. I just hope I hit my balance.
Somewhere in these comments, Kristen, believe you wrote something to the effect that everyone deserves respect, which is certainly true until a person proves otherwise as you and many others have indicated. I agree, completely.
As a matter of fact, I’m working on a blog right now that is somewhat related to this subject and makes the point that social media, especially FB, has revealed us to ourselves and to the world immediately and irrevocably, which I don’t think is well understood yet. Personally, I believe social media may be one of humanity’s greatest tools if we focus on what it can mean for the planet, a real golden age, if you will.
I am a bit of a Pollyanna but, why not?
Good job, Kristen.
You’re not censoring anyone. Censorship requires a governmental actor; indeed, the First Amendment does not prohibit private actors from limiting speech. You’re telling folks to be mindful and recall the reason most of us blog to begin with: to create a platform for the work we create. Bringing controversial issues into the mix can both undercut and muddy our message (depending of course on what our message is). Good post, Kristen.
Kristen, I agree with you 100%. Social media empower us but we need to remember that beyond the anonymity of “the Internet”, we are in real relationships, even though we remain invisible most of the time. Courtesy and respect refine our intelligence and powers of self-expression as well our public images and the bonds we develop with one another. Thanks for having the courage to address this issue and to encourage us to be our kindest and best selves, even if that means not inflicting our opinions or expressing our unregulated emotions on the very people who seek to connect with us and out writing. Again, as always, you inspire…
I mostly follow the “no politics, no religion” rule though occasionally I’ll post something about a cause I care about on Twitter on Facebook. I never force an issue though, and I appreciate it when others don’t either.
Thanks for a terrific post on the matter!
This is such a great post and a subject I was thinking about just the other day! It’s as if you read my mind. I agree with you 100%, especially because I look at this from a business perspective. I often wonder about the ramifications of my FB posts in the future. While I am not published, yet, I know that I will be and would never want to alienate a single potential reader because of my beliefs. I am opinionated to the extreme and because of that, I have felt the consequences of my actions. I would be willing to bet that the majority of people will remove an author from the “must read” list faster because they dont agree with them than someone will add them to their lists of must reads because they share the same views. Its simply an unfortunate aspect of human nature that the negative resonates more than the positive.
But I digress, back to the business perspective. Businesses prohibit the discussion of any subject that may alienate or offend anyone. Your office or professional environment is just not the place or time because of the negativity it may cause. Well, my writing and anything that is linked to it, will not be something I want portrayed as negative. One lost reader because of something that is ultimately insignificant in my novels is a step back in my career as an author. I have no dilusions that I will please everyone, but if I can avoid losing a reader because of anything other than my writing, than thats the path I choose to take. I will keep my rants under wraps unless Im at happy hour with friends or family, glass of wine in hand!
Could not agree with this post more, Kristen. Would it be tooooo pointed to send the link to a couple of my ranting writer friends that come to mind? :)))) Perhaps anonymously? :)))
I like this post, but I want people to know where I stand on issues. My FB & twitter feeds are, like yours, full of name calling and hatred, usually directed at people I support, or beliefs I hold. Every once in a while I wade into the stormy waters as a reminder that I am listening, that we don’t all think alike. There are always some people surprised to learn I feel a certain way, who felt I agreed with them by staying silent. In addition, there are people who cannot believe I feel such & such a way because I write in such & such a way. It is up to me to help stop the stereotyping, It is hard and often hurtful, and I always lose a few readers, but I also gain a few.
Today was a rant-day for me, so this post is exactly on time! I’ve got some family strains mixing with my writing stress overlapping my hot buttons, and I needed to stomp my feet in public for a few minutes.
As some others do, I have a separate place online for my troll-bait posts. I’ve specified this particular blog as my rant space and, while it’s not a secret, I don’t bandy it around the internet. The things I post there are things I want to share with the world but don’t want to present as a “professional” image. It’s my human face rather than my author face. As it turns out, most of those who read the rants are personal friends who are willing to let me be myself.
Honestly, I hate getting into arguments, whether online or IRL. I love discussions that explore various points of view, and while I do not always agree with others, I can agree to disagree. So I avoid being a troll and ignore those who are. And yes, I’ve dropped those acquaintances who insist on being hateful, and I’ve muted those I can’t drop. As much as it lies in my power, I live at peace with others.
Hmm…Good discussion. I am in agreement with your point, Kristen, that we must understand the consequences should we decide to enter onto the us v. them stage with our social media platform. Having seen FB friends morph into these odd political beings that only slightly resemble their actual personalities, I had managed to avoid such discussions…until last week when some things slinging around in the national media really fired up some long-buried resentments for me. So I passed along a couple of posts on FB with my personal commentary. And though I got a little adrenaline hit when someone “liked” my clever comeback to someone else’s defense of (in my mind) the indefensible (I am a wordsmith after all), I must say the whole thing left a sour taste in my mouth. I resolved to stay clear of such discussions on my social media in the future. See you lose so much in a typed conversation…facial and body language cues that soften discourse and make “civilized” discussion possible are completely gone. And we as writers should understand the power of the written word. We should OWN that power. In the future, I will save my passionate speechifying for face-to face encounters, but my passion in general…well I hope that comes out in ALL my writing, whether I’m talking about injustice or why it feels so good to rub my dog’s big dopey head. Lead on WANA-mama! Green Jello for all my friends!
Good post, Kristen. Fun to read. You’re really good at keeping things fun and light hearted, and I love that about you.
If someone writes about political or religious things in a way that is positive, friendly, and makes me think deeper about the issue then I’m grateful to them.
But I don’t think that’s what you’re talking about here. Political and religious name calling and rants is rude and boring, and I’ve unfollowed many a blogs or social media peeps because of it.
I like to question, and hear stories, wonder why, and ask people to think about something in a different light, or in a rounder way. All subjects, even politics and religion. I think this helps me grow, and connect with my readers.
Completely agreed over here. I think we would all do well to remember the old rule of thumb about writing complaint letters; write it, sleep on it, and if you feel the same the next day only then can you send it. Just because we have instant access to public forums in which to rant doesn’t mean we must publicize everything we need to “get off our chest”.
Many folks, not necessarily writers, have strong political and/or spiritual opinions that show up in my daily stream. That’s okay with me, and I don’t comment one way or another I just stay out of it. If they say something spiritual that I like, I hit the “like” button occasionally. That’s not hurting our platform, is it?
No that is fine. Like I said, a little bit is fine. We don’t have to be robots. The danger in doing it on the blog is the blog is so permanent and will attract trolls….forever. Facebook lasts a day or so. And I have no problem with people on Facebook posting a link or two or a comic or two. It is the day after day after day of name-calling and proselytizing that will make me hide someone from my stream. I know I have friends with different beliefs and that is fine. I am not so insecure that I can only be respectful to people who are clones of me. Just we have to be careful how much of that stuff we are putting out there. What percentage of the “bricks” of our platform do the political, religious and other hot topics make up? If we are not a political writer or not a writer who is specifically using her fiction for a political or faith agenda, then we likely could be building the wrong brand.
I def agree about politics. I only discuss politics with my closest friends and only if they agree with me. I don’t want to stir up discord. I feel differently about religion though. My Faith is so central to who I am that I find it comes up naturally. I am writing an inspirational fantasy so it technically is appropriate to write inspirational posts but I feel I would still talk about my faith even if I wrote in a different genre. But I agree name calling is just rude & hateful. I’m finding that you can talk about faith with diplomacy. And my inspirational posts are only on certain days so my followers know what to expect and when. I am very blunt with what I believe but I think I use tact and love when I write. I don’t think I bash anyone over the head. I don’t have a ton of followers and I’ve never had a troll….so who knows what may happen in the future. But again my book deals with faith so it works. If you give love and respect you usually get it back 🙂 “A soft answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs) Thanks Kristen 🙂 Your posts are refreshing & they really help. There is nothing at all offensive about what you write…keep on keeping on 😉
It’s gotten to the point where I dread logging into Facebook. I tend to take a middle of the road position in politics (in other words, an independent), but I have friends and family who are so pro one side or the other that I can’t comment on anything they post.
Knowing how those things make me feel reading them, I certainly don’t think I’ll get very far in the platform-building business if I do similar things. The worst thing I do is that I’m totally against texting and using cell phones while driving. I’ve blogged about it…and will continue to do so from time to time. If that ticks readers off, too bad. It’s a dangerous practice and I’ll do what I have to in order to raise awareness about it.
Thank you! I have stayed away from anything political, religious or an outright hot button long before I was building a platform. If it has the slightest whiff of it, keep it at home behind closed doors. I don’t believe in airing that laundry. I have non-writer friends that go overboard on that stuff and it makes me want to hide their status. Everyone should read this.
True, true, true, Kristin.
I tend to follow your advice about staying out of arguments in regards to things. I am a Christian and do occasionally reference bible verses and such, but I feel we should treat others as we’d want to be treated, not attack them. Politics can raise the blood pressure for sure, but you’re right, they don’t belong on our blogs or fb discussions. I read an agent’s blog recently that said basicially if your swearing, attacking others, putting questionable stuff up, they’re NOT going to promote you. Great advice, Kristin!!
I don’t know when it became okay to bully with name calling and ennuendo’s. It seems to be the way we do things in this country now-a-days. I’m not saying as writers we have to blog about these things that are poisoning our culture, but we can’t hide our heads in the sand either and pretend they don’t exist, It’s part of what we are living through. High drama. How can anyone ignore it, especially writers? It’s like ignoring the Revolution, or the Civil War, or the fight for Civil Rights, just because it’s ugly and people take sides Hateful yes, but it’s current, it’s what’s in the news. It’s shaping our destiny. It’s controversy and conflict. How can that not be a story, and when ever did a writer take pass because the subject matter was too controversial?
Yes, but guarding our brand and using discretion doesn’t mean we are hiding our heads. We just have to choose what we wish to use our platform/brand to do. Do we want to use it for political activism? To sell books? Both? Those are decisions that need to be made with careful thought and strategy, not reckless abandon that takes our brand in directions we haven’t intended. We can still be active in politics and faith in our regular lives. The world can be changed plenty without Twitter.
If a writer is writing fiction about about oppressed people in Darfur with hopes to highlight injustice and make changes then that platform, while fiction, is still political. But a sci-fi author suddenly ranting about making drugs legal or gun control is just being reckless and will have consequences. Now, if the writer is okay being unfollowed and spending precious writing time shutting down trolls and refereeing the comments section of a blog or the comment stream on Facebook, then go for it. But there have been many authors who just spouted off an opinion and then had a lot of mess to clean up and they didn’t realize what would happen. Well, now everyone is educated so post about whatever you like. Feel free to change the known world, but be aware that it will have affects, some positive and some negative.
This is one of the best and most well thought out messages I’ve ever seen on this topic. Should be required reading for every new writer dipping their toe into social media.
Wow! Teresa, it is such an honor to see you here on my blog. THANK YOU and I hope you pass this on. I know that we writers are emotional, passionate creatures by nature and it is easy to forget that the digital world is so transparent when we are Tweeting from home in our jammies.
Just like a lot of the other commenters, I’ve unfriended people from Facebook because of name-calling and non stop political ranting. I have face-to-face friends of different political parties and religious persuasions. With most of them, I can talk about politics and religion and not descend into the depths of disrespect.
Online is a different world, altogether. People say things online that they would not say to someone’s face. That’s the downside of social media. You can spew hatred and not actually see the effect it has on others.
I agree that name-calling and constant bitching/moaning/arguing is not called for, but if I feel strongly about something I don’t have a problem having a discussion about it. I had a discussion the other day on G+ about pitt bulls, and while we never came to agree (I love them, the other person did not) we didn’t uncircle each other over it. I think if you can keep it to a minimum, and keep it a thought-provoking discussion rather than a scream-fest it’s not going to hurt your author platform. You may lose a few readers, and you may gain a few readers, but as long as you aren’t slinging insults or constantly posting the same rants it will all even out.
And as a few people said above, if someone’s offended by the very few rants I post then they probably wouldn’t like my books anyways.
Thank you! You’ve given me permission to stop following those people who never seem to shut up about politics, especially when they’re being rude. I want to support them for their writing, but like you said, when all I see is ranting about whatever political topic is hot right then, it’s not fun.
Thanks for the good word.
The KIS philosophy (Keep It Simple) applies here. When you consider the task at hand, (which for me is to learn about writing and selling books), the rules for the game write themselves. I always ask myself if what I am about to do will: 1. Move me forward and further my mission? or 2. Does not move me forward, or even worse, sets me back.
I am a Sci-Fi-Fantasy-Adventure writer. My audience is drawn to the things that are related to science, adventure, physics, time travel, parallel universes, paranormal, ufos and the like.
Why would I want to bring something into the game that just doesn’t address my mission? Sex, politics and religion are all polarizing forces that divide people. My books are not about that.
Maintaining a narrow focus and using only the necessary tools and resources to project my brand seems like a good plan to me.The only thing I have added is a positive attitude. Any negativity adds drag and feeds #2 above.
I post nothing that doesn’t pass my test:
KISP: Keep It Simple & Positive and always try to move forward.
Beautiful. I might just quote you later ;).
Michael, I had almost decided not to jump in, and then I read your “Sex, politics and religion are all polarizing forces that divide people.” I agree with you completely, but what jumped out at me is that sex, politics and religion also bring people together. Fascinating!
Kristen your post and this discussion helped me work through how I want to approach political issues in my blog. I am ever closer to publishing my (first) book on happiness. Unexpectedly, what I discovered in the process of writing my book is leading me right into the lion’s den of politics, because I believe politics is personal and nothing is more personal than happiness.
A distinction made in this discussion is that the problem is behavior, and not politics itself. Politics is just a subject that seems to energize a lot of bad behavior. I’ve been guilty of bad political behavior too, and have worked hard to become more tolerant and compassionate. Tolerance and compassion are the energies with which I want to energize my political activism. That’s what I’m going to bring to my blog.
I really appreciate the points raised about the dangers and pitfalls of writing about politics. However, I’m a risk taker. I feel like I’m standing at the start of a run of whitewater, contemplating the line I’m going to try and take. I love a challenge, but it’s good to know where the boulders are.
All my best,
Well, the point in all of this is that a writer’s brand is something deliberately crafted…not a tar baby we fall into unintentionally. If an author wants to promote a political agenda with his writing, then it makes sense to merge activism with the fiction brand…but then people know what to expect when they friend, follow or support. We can’t go out with one thing and then fly off the handle and make left turns simply out of emotion without thought to the consequences. That is what amateurs do and hobbyists, not people here to make a living and create a career.
Re: “That is what amateurs do and hobbyists, not people here to make a living and create a career.” Hmm. Ouch? Okay. I guess I am an amateur at writing, since it hasn’t paid me any money yet. 🙂 And a hobbyist too come to that, because I’ve done things I loved for money and ended up doing them for money and not love. I love writing. I love writing for the connections writing can make with other human beings. Like your blog does. I’ll take that over money any day. Except maybe the day when I’m starving. 🙂
I’m a professional pilot. I’ve done things amateur and hobbyist pilots can only dream of. And some in my professional peer group looks down on them as less-than pilots. Me, I love them. I was once one of them. And I wish they could all get do what I’ve had the fabulously good luck to do. Now, after all these years my job is, for me, routine. But the amateurs and hobbyists still feel a burning passion for flying. So really, who should envy who?
I work hard to be a better writer. I fully understand and respect wanting to write for a living, it just doesn’t happen to be my path. But that does not mean I am not working hard to be the best writer I can be, with the most effective platform I can create. I write to make a better me, to capture the flow of the universe’s energy and create the magic of human connection. Aren’t we all doing that?
I appreciate your brand point. And I really appreciate your post on the dangers of entering the political fray, even if I’m going to follow my heart instead of your good advice. I love your writing and what I perceive as your honest heartfelt attempt to help anyone who wants to succeed as a writer, regardless of how they might define success. That’s why I read your writing. 🙂
With heartfelt appreciation,
Hey, I have done my tenure as an amateur where I threw stuff out there without thinking. We all start somewhere and all I am saying is when we make that critical decision that we want a career as an author, we no longer have the luxury of doing things willy-nilly. My mom writes, but she doesn’t intend to write to make a living. She does it for fun…and she also engages in all kinds of discussions that I, as a professional building a brand, would not go near for fear of it creating problems. But, she isn’t using her on-line presence for anything other than socializing, fun and she doesn’t mind a debate…but she writes for fun, so she has different freedoms. If we never intend to leverage our on-line persona for sales then we can do what we want. Social media is for fun and blowing off steam, it isn’t a career tool.
I’m fairly neutral in the political arena. I’m ‘active’ but I care more about individual policy than I do the parties. So when I discuss things, I’ll call out specific politicians for foolishness, and even defend a candidate I can’t stand (Anyone who read my Guns post will know who I’m referring to) on the principles they have that are worth defending.
I’ve also stopped following people who I totally agree with because their moaning is constant! Yes, activism is important, but don’t flood people with it!
Amen! Good points!
Great post, Kristen.. and right on the money. It upsets me when I see people get into arguments online and resort to name calling and attacking.
And it bothers me even MORE when it is a fellow writer. I mean, we’re writers. Can we not formulate a legitimate, intelligent argument to back up our point without calling names?
I wrote one post regarding religion.. (it was about the Manger Display in front of a court house) and I was so freaking terrified to hit the publish button… terrified! But I did it and fortunately, there was not much backlash. *whew* since then, I have decided to do a bang up job of keeping politics and religion out of my posts.. (unless of course it involves zombies).
Thanks for great information!
I am constantly amazed at the amount of vitriol people spout these days. I love a reasoned discussion of the issues, and respect for different opinions, but people get drawn into angry, hateful discussions all too easily. That said, I also do not want to stay quiet when I believe something strongly. I am wondering if it works to create a list on FB of friends who are interested in politics and make sure posts about hot issues go only to that list?
Thanks Kristin! What a timely article! I was typing a response to a politically charged post on a follower’s Facebook page, when I remembered this post. It was the first thing I read this morning. In a previous life, I wrote a political blog (under a pseudonym), and sometimes it takes a herculean effort not chime in, especially when I think I can bring a little clarity to a discussion, and let’s face it: that is 100% of the time, right?
Anyway, I am always very careful about posting or even liking politically or religiously charged topics and links, but this morning, I was about to hit the Share button when my wife asked if I would put the kettle on. When I sat back down and looked at what I had written, I realized I was breaking my own rules, and quickly cancelled the post.
I find that, once a week or so, I unfollow a twitter account or a blog, or even a Goodreads discussion board that has degenerated into political sniping.
I think that as fiction writers, we owe it to our readers to very ambiguous about our political proclivities. Our job is to transport readers from their reality into ours, which requires suspension of disbelief. We cannot do that if they think of us as the “the abortion guy”, or “the wingnut”, or “the preacher”. As an example, I cannot look at Tom Cruise without thinking of Scientology or “Jumping the Couch”, so I can no longer enjoy his movies.
You helped keep me from becoming a Tom Cruise today, and I thank you for it!
That is a really good point yeah, I hear ya on the Tom Cruise. Great analogy!
Interesting piece. I like it.
It loosely reminds me of John Irving’s “The World According to Garp.” Garp’s mother was a radical feminist whose unyielding posture on her platform endangered her life and the life of her son. She held her ground, though by speaking for those who literally couldn’t speak for themselves. Her followers were so committed to their cause they chose to remove their own tongues in homage to the victim, Helen James, who was mutilated in a heinous crime. Due to the success of her book and platform, the mother bought a large home where all of these followers found her and resided. Among them a former football wide receiver turned transvestite. Irving created a multi-layered, wonderful and highly provocative story.
The irony for me on this post (which I both love and bristle at) Kristin, is that by removing their tongues they achieved nothing. They couldn’t even speak for what they DID believe in.
So for me, therein lies the questions: Do we self-censor to maintain our brand, which I read from you, is separate from our personal self? Or, do we achieve a greater following because (depending on our genre) we are entertainers? Would any lifelong Steven King fan turn away from him if he suddenly claimed to be something other than what his fans thought he is, something that means he loses personal integrity? Are we *so* beholden to our dreams of success that we risk sight of ourselves?
I have opinions and I rant on FB sometimes, not so much anymore because I don’t want to deal with the backlash / indigestion, not because I risk losing a friend or a fan. A lot of the time, I gain an insight or learn something too. People can be too closed to alternatives and it polarizes. I think it comes down to a matter of what people prefer to deal with. The beauty of this is we get to choose.
Man, I will admit it. I have a low @ssclown tolerance threshold. If I wanted drama I’d hang out with my family or watch reality TV. I don’t do either for good reasons. I value peace and my platform reflects that. There are those who are called to be activists, but there are also this who area peacemakers. Want to sing Kumbaya with me? 😀
“If I wanted drama I’d hang out with my family” LOVE IT. I am all about the Kumbaya. I dig peace; even more, I love it when I learn something new. Thank you.
I’m right there with you on that, Kristin. Lots of great comments in this post. Wow!
I need to watch the movie again. It’s been decades since I saw it and I only remember parts of it. What I do remember is that it was outrageous, blew my mind, made me laugh out loud, and then made me cry. I remember thinking it was one of the funniest and saddest movies I ever saw. I should read the book, too. Thanks for reminding me of The World According to Garp!
I have made a few comments I wish I hadn’t posted and learned from that. I try to be positive i comments and pick my battles (sort of like which battles one picks with our teenage/young adult children). One thing I won’t compromise on is my faith and I will not let someone speak bad about God or Jesus without saying something. I don’t mind being branded a Christian. But even with people who are negative, I still try to be supportive and positive. It is true that what you post is out there and it isn’t as anonymous as one would think.
Kristin, I am new to posting anything. I am on FB, but rarely post. Your blog and your books are helping me change that. As for your comments about religion and politics, I agree with you completely. You will hear more from me in the future. I’m slowly getting things together to create my own blog. So far I love The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and it is giving me the confidence to do this. You have a wonderful sense of humor and I love to laugh. It’s made reading about all this confusing stuff so much easier to take. Thank you.
Donna, so thrilled you are here! I will be teaching blogging classes again soon so stay tuned. Those are really helpful
I am glad you did a post on this. Politics has become so polarized and divisive that it is hard to watch any news these days. To escape to the internet and find more of it is just too much. I have a friend out-of-state that is on facebook and his political rants have become so tiresome and ugly, I don’t even look at them anymore. I simply move on. And so will people who are turned off of a blog that does that. How many people want to be on a downer all the time? No thanks. I’ll sing that Kumbaya with ya.
Awesome advice as always!!! I tend to “hide” posts like that on my FB and never retweet stuff like that. I just wanna geek out with fellow geeks who like the same geeky things I do 😀
Thanks for the post Kristen. Only about half of my Facebook friends share the same political/social views as I do. So I don’t post any hot-button topics on such an open forum. But I will “Like” someone’s political post, if I agree with the topic–and the tone. I simply overlook the posts I disagree with. I haven’t gotten to the point of unfriending anyone–yet.
Great post, and right on time. As we’ve allllll seen, FB and Twitter have been exploding with the crazy. It gets tiresome very, very quickly. I’ve had to unfollow people, too. I think of it this way: Would you sit across from these people at dinner and spout the stuff you do on social media? If you wouldn’t say it or own it in person, don’t say it on the internet. Simple. I’m like you–I value peace. KUMBA-freakin’-YA. 😉
KUMBA-freakin’-Ya!!!!! My new battle cry, LOL.
I can’t applaud you enough for speaking the truth here, and more so for having the guts to say aloud what many, many people will only think privately. When I hear a movie star (or non-political author) rant on politics I always want to remind them that they are not famous for their political views. We all have political, religious, and economic positions. We should. We are even allowed to disagree But sometimes the best way to be respectful of others is to remember why they’re listening to you in the first place. Don’t make yourself openly political and then expect everyone to adore your fluffy-kitten-fantasy books. If you feel called to be political, then by all means be so, but remember that that will become an inseparable part of your brand – and you can’t blame those who choose to find entertainment elsewhere.
Sorry, Kristen, but I disagree. I rarely feel the need to comment on your blog, because usually “I agree” would be the sum of what I had to add, but… on this, I disagree.
Are we here to please everyone? Are we really that scared of pushing people away, that we’re afraid to pull closer the people who really resonate with us?
Now “COULD NOT stop with the political ranting. Every post was about how X party (my political affiliation, btw) were all morons and thieves and creeps and how people of X faith (my faith) were radical haters and bigots and dogs.” This is extreme. I understand that you might be using an extreme example, but I think the negativity added with the insulting nature of his rhetoric sounds like it was a big part of what drove you off. Anyone with that kind of attitude towards anything from rainbows to terrorism would get to me after a while.
That said, our books might convey a certain political or religious message to people, intended or not. In general, they’ll reflect our views — and our readers can find confirmation in what we have to say. And if they don’t, that’s time to open a discussion. Not to mention that, even if the book itself is not particularly religious or political, there could be a great deal of overlap between my audience and my religious group/political party, and I’m missing out on a deeper connection with people.
Now, are religion and politics hot button topics? Yes. But if we’re not inflammatory or hateful, and if we can accept that when we talk about these things, some people will just think the way about us the way ranting former friend up there thinks about you, then I don’t see the need to tiptoe around the big stuff.
Yes, it borders on bad business even when done tastefully. But more in more with the moving in of social media, the old business way of doing things need to go by the wayside. Opinions these day are currency. And yes, you can scare readers off with it, but you can draw more in and make them forever fans, them and the people who share your views. And, of course, I’m not saying that everyone needs to label themselves with their religious and political affiliations. Just that it doesn’t have to be such a big no-no.
I never said it was a no-no. I said we needed to accept what went along with actively adding it into our brand and be adult enough to take the consequences. No, we might not hurt anyone with our essay about nuclear disarmament, but the trolls we have to shut down and that will likely go after our supportive commenters are a reality. There are topics that bring them out of the wood work even if we are behaving.
Case in point, I made an off-hand joke about Spawn’s ER bill on my FB page and in less than an hour I had to break up a heated debate about socialism and Obama care on my thread…and my update was just a light joke. We can post political and religious stuff but it WILL have an affect. And if you read this blog carefully, I don’t tell writers WHAT to do. I only advise against potential outcomes. Sure, it could be awesome…but it could be ugly, too.
And it is okay to disagree with me so long as you are nice, which you were. Sometimes, we are not the ones behaving badly. I just want you guys to be prepared and educated so that you can make the CHOICE as to what your brand contains. It is up to each author to make that decision.
Hi Kristen, thanks for this post. I think there’s a mid-ground between two extremes of being pointlessly offensive vs being so afraid of offending that we end up being too vanilla. It can be a hard mid-ground to find, and I suspect I often end up being too vanilla myself! Not just because I don’t want to mess up my “brand”, but because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
I’ve been thinking about this topic lately myself, and these are a couple of things that have occurred to me…
1. Hate-filled ranting ain’t attractive to me, in real life or on blogs. If a blogger/writer I otherwise love writes an occasional post or tweet in a sensitive and respectful manner about a big issue they feel deeply about but which doesn’t interest me, I won’t mind. If they rant and abuse other people, I will most likely unfollow/unsubscribe.
2. Being boring is a problem, especially if it’s sustained. (The odd twitch of boringness, we can forgive. We have big hearts about this, having been boring before ourselves, once or twice. 😉 ) Where I live in Queensland Australia, we’re currently in the lead-up to a very dirty state election. If you don’t live here, do you care? Of course not. A big chunk of the English-speaking world isn’t that interested in the US election either. If a blog is trying to be global, local party politics probably isn’t a great topic to pursue.
Well, I am really curious why some seem to feel that if we don’t talk about politics or religion we are going to be vanilla or boring. This blog has a very large and loyal following and I have never talked about either…it isn’t part of my brand. It’s like saying we aren’t a real restaurant if we don’t serve anything with curry or hollandaise. If we are a Mexican restaurant, we really won’t put off our customers if we don’t serve croissants. French isn’t our thing…MEXICAN is. Same with religion and politics. They are ingredients to a brand and we make a choice if we are going to add them and in what amounts. If they aren’t in our brand, it doesn’t mean we are boring and that assertion actually kind of annoys me since that is essentially telling me that I am a boring uninteresting vanilla blogger because I choose to leave those elements out of my brand.
Ah, but thank you for the comment and I wouldn’t worry about being boring and you make an excellent point about the global nature of our interactions :D.
Oops!!! A good example of how hard it is to communicate effectively across the interwebs! I never meant to say that YOU were vanilla and boring Kristen. Far from it. Or that a failure to blog religion or politics makes anyone boring. Far from it.
I was just mulling over ideas that have been going round in my own head, because of my own hesitancy about writing about some topics that really do matter to me and really are relvant to my writing, and the fact that I end up being vanilla as a result. The problem is I write about several separate topics, and I don’t want several blogs. Can barely maintain one, truth be told… 😉
No, you didn’t say anything wrong. It was a collection of comments that seemed to express this fear that if we weren’t waving an activist banner then we were being timid or boring. It might just not be our platform and that doesn’t mean it is wrong. I donate a lot of money for causes I believe in because there is only so much Kristen to go around. I can’t save the children in Africa, fight for animal rights, and protect the 2nd amendment and do all I need to do with my career. My cause, my activism is educating artists (writers) in the new paradigm. THAT is my passion and my cause and adding any of my personal political and religious agendas to it would dilute and taint my brand.
There is a saying that I love, “If you cannot defeat them, distract them.” We must be careful that we are defining our platform, not letting our platform drag us around and wear us out.
I’m afraid I must disagree with you on this, Belinda. I do see your point of respectfully discussing important issues to you, but if your blog is about growing tomatoes, and I get a post about the evils of the Big Gummy Bear special interests in the UN, I will certainly stop following your blog, even if I agree with you. The fact is, I want to hear your thoughts on tomatoes, and I don’t have time for your opinions on the Big Gummy Bear lobby. Tomatoes relax me. They take my mind off of Gummy Bears for a while. Don’t ruin it for me!
I agree. So often people are reading blogs to escape from the relentless pounding of all the stuff that terrifies and overwhelms them. And, if our blog happens to be marked as a refuge–I.e. tomatoes/gardening–then we serve them what they are trying to escape, there will be consequences.
I do agree with you Greg. A blog on a certain topic does need to be about that topic.
A “personality” blog may have more freedom. I’m not suggesting I’m writing one of those.
My comment was meant to say something along the lines of: let’s be smart about blogging, but hopefully not so timid that we never say anything that really matters to us. I said it badly though. Must get more sleep. 😉
ALL ARE GREAT COMMENTATORS, ALL ARE GREAT THINKERS, ALL ARE GREAT . EVERY ONE HAVE THEIR PHILOSOPHY .
WHAT IS FINAL DESTINATION EVERY ONE FORGETTING .
OUR EX- PRESIDENTS ARE MORE POWERFUL THAN YOU ,ME ,AND ALL, NOW HE IS DOING LABOR BY ASSISTING THE MASONS TO CONSTRUCT SMALL HOUSES TO POOR.THE MOST POPULAR AND RICHEST MAN OF THE WORLD WORKING FOR CHARITY.
WHY ALL ARE IN TRANCE. A LIMITED TIME IS REST FOR YOUR LIVING. PLAN FOR BETTER SOCIETY AND PLAN FOR ELIMINATION OF POOR FROM THE WORLD.
THAY ARE NOT CURSED BY THE GOD ,
THAY ARE CURSED BY YOU,
CURSED BY OUR SOCIETY,
AND OUR POLITICS AND POLITICIANS.
MISSION FOR POOR.
JOIN HANDS WITH ME.PLEASE.
Terrific post, Kristen! Thanks! I am very interested in hearing from your other followers/readers. By me, your points are very well taken. What I am thinking is “Darn! Why can’t I be a political writer/satirist trying to get published!” Haha.
So, so true! I agree with you 100% and really want one of those fire retardant leotards that Amy mentioned.
I made a promise to myself when I joined FB that I would promote positivity and peace. I don’t get into political scuffles and am sad that you’ve had to unfriend folks because they rant too much. Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but I don’t have any writer friends who are nutsy that way. A few personal friends, yeah, they get radical, but I just skim over their post.
Keeping with the positive vibes, I try to use user-friendly words on all social media ~ in fact, I think I used ‘bastard’ on your FB post today and I wasn’t sure that was cool. I’d have no problem using it on my FB page, but I don’t know who your friends are an if that might offend them. (which, by the way, if I did please let me know! I totally get that not everyone has my weird sense of humor).
In the end I see all social media as one giant party and I like to keep the vibes uplifted and fun.
Thanks, Kristen. This is a great discussion and an important one for us as writers. As usual, you make us think hard about what we are doing with social media. I always have considered every post very carefully, yet everyone here has me thinking even harder before I push the publish button.
That said, I find that most of my friends like to put cute little sayings in their FB posts, with no serious content and no connection to their lives, and I sometimes find this annoying. As an introvert, I like deep discussions, not superficial connection.
Great question. I always enjoy your blog, and I agree with you on this point. My political opinions are far from all I am as a person, and they are not part of my platform in writing. If I want to listen to someone else’s opinion on those subjects, I will read and consider those blogs that are of interest to me. Mostly, what I see on FB regarding politics/religion is strong opinions, hatred, condemnation, name-calling, and ranting about one side or the other. That kind of post or blog doesn’t interest me. I think many people think they are tolerant and loving, but I’m not sure they see that their tolerance is just for those who feel the same way they do. Mudslinging turns me off on both sides, and although I may continue to read someone’s posts, blogs/articles, I am less inclined to promote her/him. When it feels like there is a message of “us against them,” there is often a connotation of “shame on you if you aren’t on our side.” I have many friends on both sides of politics and of several religious ideologies. I enjoy being open and having respectful discussions. Since I’m writing a book of memoirs that encompass 65 years of life, as well as travel and living in a wide variety of cultures around the world, I have a brand that is very broad, and have thus not cultivated a need, or even a desire, to stick to just my opinion. One side can’t be all wrong, and the other side all right. Thanks so much for this very interesting discussion and sharing of ideas.
Kristen, I’ve just awarded you the Sunshine Blog Award! I gave your blog a shout-out on my blog ( http://www.donasdays.blogspot.com ) during my acceptance speech for my own award! Enjoy…
It’s unfortunate really, that so few people can talk about a controversial subject without telling other people that they are wrong for disagreeing. And equally sad that, even when this is accomplished, readers are likely to take offense anyway (or tell the first person that they are wrong).
I try to avoid these sorts of topics anyway, but it’s good to remember that there could be consequences beyond making someone mad!
Dear, dear Kirsten! How very grateful I am this a.m. for this wonderfully helpful post on avoiding controversy in the area of religion and politics! I taught a class yesterday on making sure our words shed LIGHT, not SHADOWS! This post today is just an answer to prayer for me! Thank you so very much. I could NOT agree more! I,too, refuse to follow ranters on FB or Twitter or on their own blogs which they have now turned to negativity constantly! NO! Let us be unified and SHED LIGHT, not darkness!
Wonderful post, Kristen. I have kept my author site and blog completely political and religion free. I happen to be very active in both areas, but it has no place for me in my writer’s community. I have been happily surprised that I have not seen many political rants in this community. I wish I could say the same for my personal Facebook page (not my author fan page). I really enjoy a good political debate as long as people are respectful. But so many posts are dull of hate and distortions. I imagine it will get worse as the election gets closer. I will unfriend or unfollow anyone who tries to turn my author platform into a political platform. Thanks for the great advice.
Either I’m very late or this posted to my inbox very late. Great article. As a new blogger, I really appreciate your words of wisdom and bits of advice. I couldn’t agree more with everything you said. Thank you for continually teaching me through your writing!!
Enjoyed this post. Since a brand should impart an emotional message to allure consumers, I’ve never understood careless on-line behavior other than I think some splat out posts and blogs like it’s loose conversation.
Late to the party, first to the bar! ‘
I agree about politics and religion. Most of all, I think that I would lose subscribers if I started ranting. There is enough ranting everywhere else so I want my readers to TRUST that when they come to my blog, they will be entertained in some way…Besides I think there is a minority who wants to read a Debbie Downer or Eyeore post.
If I get a troll, I delete the comment. I protect my reader in the comments section as well.
Open Salon is a political site that welcomes ranting (as long as your a Democrat). Your troll should open an account there!
I appreciated this post, actually probably more so, I loved it. I think there are a couple of thing – one is the Facebook issue – I get frustrated with political discussions there because to me the venue doesn’t work well with anything but sound bites. For blogging I feel like the author has more freedom to explain why they believe the way they do and if they do it well with respect, even if I disagree I want to read. I am careful 90% of the time. The other 10% I feel like I voice my opinion strongly but never with name calling and always inviting dialogue. I think the increasing incivility we see online could spread it’s venom to every venue if we’re not careful. So … thank you!
This is a timely post for me, as I’ve just been considering doing a blog post about the under-representation of women SF authors in critical discussions — potentially a troll-baiting topic. Now, I am a woman and an SF writer, so the topic is of personal interest to me. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I want to step out and make that part of my platform, especially since my blog is only a few weeks old. (Balance. Maybe later.)
I see where you’re coming from, Kristen, but I also agree with some of the concerns raised by earlier commenters about watering down our beliefs or going too “vanilla”. Some of my favourite blogs are based around a strong worldview. Yes, they’ll alienate some readers, but they’ll also draw your “true” audience. (Justine Musk, who has one such blog, talks about this a lot: http://justinemusk.com ) The trick, I think, is to pick a worldview that’s consistent with the fiction we write and the audience we want to attract — for example, “women in SF” isn’t so far out there, but continually emphasizing my political affiliation would be a bad plan.
I can think of some hot-button topics I’d never touch in social media, but I can also think of a few that I would consider blogging about regardless. But there’s a middle ground. Maybe I wouldn’t do a whole post, just mention them in passing or in context. For example, one of my posts is a cover reveal of a fellow author’s gay science fiction romance. Now my blog readers know I don’t have a problem with gay romance — but they don’t know my opinion on gay marriage, and probably never will. Or maybe I won’t blog about “women in SF” per se, but when I talk about SF, I’ll make a point of emphasizing female authors. Heck, that’s likely to happen even if I don’t do it consciously.
Anyway, thanks for the food for thought, as always!
I agree with you on this, Kristin, and it rubs me the wrong way when I read a political tweet, FB comment, or blogger getting their political digs in. I understand that it’s hard for some of us who feel passionate about certain topics to keep those opinions to ourselves for the sake of keeping peace in our lives, plus not risk losing fans. How sad that your FB comment about your son’s ER bill being too high sparked a debate. That’s an excellent point that I never even considered, how our commenters could tick each other off.
I try to be careful about what I say, but I guess I need to be even more careful, especially about xxxxxxxxxx. Haha, I decided to type x’s instead, lest that hot topic triggers an ugly debate. Uh-uh, not gonna go there! Thanks for this post.
It all depends…
It depends on whether the book selling trumps the truth telling.
I agree that repeatedly bludgeoning a general readership over the head with partisan opinions may alienate them. It may also be counterproductive and downright boring. All bad for a writer. And for anyone.
But sharing a sincerely held view with readers – revealing that aspect of your character every now and then – that’s different.
You are right to highlight the potential consequences. Sure, you may lose readers. (It’s possible that you’ll gain other readers to offset that loss – but that’s not guaranteed – nor is it my point.)
However, if you have something to say that you think it is important for people to hear, then you have a judgement to make. Am I willing to accept the consequences? If the answer is yes – then press Post Comment.
Sometimes payiing that price is less costly in the long run – in self-respect and character.
I suppose it all depends on one’s goals as a writer. My goal is for my work to be accessible to everyone, including those of any or no political affiliation, and any or no religious beliefs. As this becomes impossible when one publicly chooses a team to back, doing so is contrary to my goals.
Perhaps if I didn’t think of writing as my business, I might be more inclined to enlighten the masses with my unique and world changing political and religious wisdom. Maybe in a few months, when I am making billions of monetary units per word, and have settled nicely into the castle next door to J.K. Rowling, I’ll be more obliged to “use my platform” to save the world by sharing my views. Until then, I’ll perform my solemn duty as an entertainer with vigor and perseverance. I’d rather grow my reader base and keep my views to myself.
Another insightful post with solid advice for authors! It’s true that we have to be cautious about what we post and say – because it all contributes to brand integrity. To this I’d add one point – it’s also necessary to think outside your own culture. The internet is global. The author has to be too, and I suspect that it is not necessary to actually rant or be obviously politicised in order to trigger issues that run across cultural boundaries.
It’s impossible to write anything without offending someone. For instance, I’m offended that a person would kill a rattlesnake rather than humanely relocating it. But I also recognize that people have every right (and good reason) to kill a poisonous snake on their property. It would be utterly idiotic for me to rant against it.
We’ve all got a responsibility to try to see the world from another person’s point of view. For fictions writers, it’s mandatory. We need to be able to empathize with people we disagree with, and part of that means showing respect for their perspective. In order to be invested in my fiction, I have to write about things I’m passionate about. But at the same time, I feel like I also have a journalist’s responsibility to show multiple sides of issues. Take the Trayvon Martin case, for example. I’ve got strong opinions, but more than anything, I want the truth to come out. That means weighing both sides, with the understanding that it’s a complex case and there might not be any easy answers. Sometimes the truth isn’t black and white. Sometimes it’s messy. If that weren’t the case, there’d be no room for fiction in the world.
I value the fact that there are people in the world who are more liberal than me, and people who are more conservative, because that’s how we find balance. Democracy can’t work without dissent. But it also can’t work without civility. And sometimes civility means keeping your mouth shut when you’re more likely to alienate than inform.
When it comes to religion, I think it can depend on what kinds of books you write. I’m definitely going to be writing books that talk about my faith, which means that I’m going to talk about it sometimes on my blog, but then it becomes my responsibility to treat the topic in a manner that is respectful and caring.
I think, when it comes down to it, if a writer decides to talk about religion or politics, they should do so only if they are fully aware of the implications and willing to be responsible about what they say. This means that ranting is definitely not an option, and neither are blanket statements or an unwillingness to look at everyone as human beings (and, by everyone, I mean not just those that are part of the “in group”). But it’s can be awfully difficult to shoulder this responsibility, which is why I think that it’s a decision not to be made lightly.
I agree with you completely. I can’t stand it when people go off about religion or politics. That’s not what I’m here for. Everyone has their own views and feelings. Going on and on about this stuff should be done in the appropriate channels and left there. Some people appear to like all the arguments.