Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Author Cat Fights and Consequences

You've read the recurring blogs about unprofessional author behavior and the downside of engaging in cat fights online. We all know it's a bad idea, highly unprofessional, and usually a bit childish, right? 

Did you know one unbridled rant can kill your career?

Photo courtesy of HannaElise 

I'm not talking about being blacklisted by a group of readers on Goodreads. I'm talking about legal repercussions. In the States it's called libel and by definition is anything you put in print anywhere (including social networking sites) that "...injures a person in his/her business or profession."(1)

If an author (or their publisher) believes their image has been tarnished or sales of a book have been negatively impacted by something posted online, it could involve more than just being blocked on Facebook. Court expenses, legal fees, and financial restitution for damage to the author's image will add up. To me that's a more compelling reason to behave like an adult than because online spats tend to make people look petty and childish.

I don't mean book reviews. I'm talking about those ugly, vicious arguments that spawn dozens of new threads and blog posts as others take sides in the discussion. They're big, emotionally charged, and usually unwise.   

Let's be honest. Professional jealousy is part of the industry and inspires a lot of heated arguments. The last year of insults and criticism aimed at the author of an unpolished yet wildly successful BDSM story is proof enough that it runs through the heart of our profession like cream through a Twinkie. She outsold more talented and more experienced writers by millions of copies regardless of the book's shortcomings. It's unfair, but our reaction to it is something we have to learn to manage within ourselves if we're going to survive in our chosen genre(s). Books we don't like by writers we don't respect will kick our asses in sales sometimes. It's a fact.

On the other side, trading insults is a normal part of Facebook and Twitter for average users. It's easy to get caught up in the negativity and start blasting away, but we're not average users and this isn't junior high. We're published professionals. It behooves us to act like adults for no other reason than we're legally responsible for what we do and say if those words damage someone else's ability to make a living. All it takes is one slanderous word hurled at the wrong author on the wrong day and a cat fight becomes something much worse. 

My suggestion? If you have a beef with someone, limit your comments to email or open a new Word document and rant it out of your system in private. Don't assume a locked Tumblr or LiveJournal account is a safe place to vent. Those conversations can be copied and shared with people outside your accepted list of users. Release it somewhere that has no spotlight. Believe me, a month later when the anger has dwindled, you'll be happy you didn't post what you were thinking.

What is your solution to avoiding online drama? Do you stay away from certain sites or have you figured out how to limit what you see? I would love to hear about your solutions. Tell me in the comments below.

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  1. like I said on FB, so true as author I believe our online personality speaks for us, and can make or break us, why I always try to stay a sarcastic little shit, trust me i'm really boring in real life, if a author wants to rant i believe thats what their blog is for but don't throw shade over twitter or FB or other social media platforms unless you really want pite our own foot off

    1. LOL. I don't think most of us are "real" online. As authors, I think that's the way it should be. Everything we post is part of our professional image and something about a dull and moderately cheerful horror author with a pink kitchen would be wrong. =)

      I think those of us still working toward best-seller popularity can learn a lot from those with big enough names to get media attention when they speak. When was the last time you read about JK Rowling or James Patterson tearing down a fellow author in public? I'm sure they have plenty to say in private, but the readers never hear that stuff and that implied respect of their fellow authors earns them the respect of readers in return. Perception is reality, right?

      Thanks for the comment, Hon!

    2. oh...a pink kitten with sharp teeth and horns and glowing pink eyes and laser beams shooting rainbows... shut up and take my money!

    3. Hello Kitty meets James Wan with a little Tim Burton sprinkled in! LOL