Okay, quick confession, the title of this blog entry might be a tad misleading and click-baitish. But only insomuch as this article has nothing to do with sharks, octopuses, or sea creatures of any kind. It’s about author branding. And by that I mean treating the author as a commodity rather than insisting they bend over for a hot iron to the hindquarters.
The topic of author branding has come up quite a bit in my newsfeed on Facebook. One of the most notable examples was in a private Facebook group for writers, when a fellow member asked if we should create some rules regarding what we can and cannot post on our own author pages. Obviously this riled up many people because censorship is bullshit. As it turned out, the member had liked a fellow member’s page and then her newsfeed filled with calls for violence against all Muslims. I could understand where she was coming from. I wouldn’t want that kind of stuff polluting my feed either. I took on board the lesson to check other members’ pages before blindly following them. I don’t want to inadvertently support genocide. However, this topic opened up a whole new can of worms for other members of the group.
Some members began commenting that author pages should not have anything political or religious on them. They said aside from the immorality of the post, it was utterly unprofessional and people should only write about the writing process and publications. Personal opinions on author pages were deemed inappropriate by many. Now, this blanket ban would be ridiculous to apply to political and religious writers; you’d expect their content to be about world events. But what about everyone else? Should we all simply just write about writing and keep all those private thoughts tucked away in the dark where nobody will ever find them? I say no. People write for different reasons. People write about different things. Hence, people’s author pages will be different. That’s a good thing.
I write to connect with people. I share my ideas and my stories and they share theirs with me. I don’t write in a vacuum. I frequently get pancreatitis; it’s a mystery to doctors as to why. It’s painful, it’s debilitating, and it affects my life. It also gives me explosions from both ends when I get it. And I share it. I frequently have bowel-related posts. I frequently give tips on how to work your way around filthy hospital food. Sharing helps me cope and it helps people going through the same thing laugh and heal.
My sharing doesn’t just end with my bowel movements. I have so much more to give. I spent a month in a psychiatric hospital with depression and you bet your backside I wrote about it. In fact, sharing about my time in there is when people really started to connect with my author page and blog. When I revealed who I really was, and how I really felt, people cared. And they shared their experiences with me, and I cared about them in return. My readers and I are fiercely bonded. It’s not just me endlessly shouting, “BUY MY SHIT!” It’s also about me sharing myself with them.
I guess the people complaining that it’s unprofessional to post personal information on your author page are right. But I’m not in a business contract with my readers; I’m in a relationship with them. I say it might be unprofessional, but do it anyway. Or don’t. Do it your way. We are writers, not robots.
And just quietly: homophobic, racist, and sexist, bigots aren’t going to like my writing anyway, so I’m not losing any readers.
Robin Elizabeth is the author of Confessions of a Mad Mooer, Postnatal Depression Sucks (see the book trailer), and the What Happens in Book Club series. She also blogs at Write or Wrong about her love of literature, depression, and whatever tickles her fancybone.
She lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband and three children.