When Authors Act Out Online

Last week there was a bit of drama when an author lashed out on Twitter at readers for leaving less than a five star review. Of course everyone was offended, and in true form, went to her Goodreads book profile and slammed it with one star reviews in retaliation.

When stuff like this happens, it’s always a train wreck, and we can’t look away as the author goes down in flames.

This isn’t the first time an author has behaved badly on social media–I recall the author who had their book deal terminated because she tweeted a derogatory remark about a Black woman eating on a train.

We’ve probably all had our fair share of cutting it close on social media–pressing an opinion on someone who doesn’t want to hear it, posting about religion, politics, or a hot take about COVID. Lots of authors say they should be able to post whatever they like, and to a point, I believe that, too. My personal Facebook profile is public and I post memes that have the F word in them–a lot. I have a dry sense of humor, but I try not to share anything that would be offensive (I don’t spread racism or body-shaming and wouldn’t even if I wasn’t an author). I support a lot of wildlife rescues, and if you follow my feed long enough, you’ll see that I love bats and foxes. On Twitter I get into spats–someone called me a twat the other day because I defended Stephenie Meyer and her Twilight series–and if you ask for an opinion, I’ll give you mine. If I hate your cover, yessir, I will let you know. It’s not my problem if you agree with it or not, but I’ll tell you straight.

One thing we don’t consider is the state of an author’s mental health when they lash out. When I read all the drama that author put on herself–slamming those reviewers for less than five star reviews–I didn’t automatically call her a bitch or entitled. I thought, what is that author going through she has to lash out because of a good review? What is that author’s life like? Does she see a therapist? Is she on medication? Did she just go through a breakup? Did the stress of launching of her book make her snap? If you comb through some tweets, someone reveals the author was high and tweeting in the middle of the night. I have no idea if this is true, but it wouldn’t be the first time an author, or anyone for that matter, has been drunk or high and posted something they later regretted. Drunk-texting an ex and begging him to come back isn’t the same as tweeting something so terrible it could ruin your career, but you get my meaning.

Authors are already a lonely bunch, and I haven’t met many writers who are actually in a good place mental-health wise. They’re only good at hiding that they aren’t. Even the woman who called me a twat defaulted to rage someone had the audacity to disagree with her. That’s a lot of anger built up to attack someone you don’t know for having a differing opinion. I would imagine this author has been querying for a while and hasn’t managed to grab a book deal and she’s furious someone like Stephenie could not only secure a book deal, but became an international bestseller and was offered a movie deal, too. Maybe anger isn’t a mental health issue, but anger management is in the behavioral health department, and this author should find some help.

Anyway, I got a little off track there. The whole point of this blog post is that things aren’t always what they seem, and I hope I wasn’t the only one to have given this author the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that’s misplaced and she does feel entitled to 5 star reviews, but I tend to think this last year has been hard on everyone, and not enough people are giving others grace. The world is a huge place, but when we are stuck in our little bubbles, it’s hard to walk a mile in someone’s shoes–especially if we’ve been under lockdown for the past 12 months.

I don’t know what this will do to her career. I Googled a bit, but at the time of this writing, there isn’t a blog post or article I can reference that even speculates. I don’t know what her publisher will do, or if she has a PR manager who can do damage control or if they’re interested in doing that. I do know she’s lucky in that something will take her place–I’ve already heard grumblings about the Vivian finalists that the RWA put out a couple days ago. I didn’t renew my membership so I don’t know what book title is evoking the anger (something about a serial killer romcom?), but #romancelandia will be interesting to watch coming up.

What can you do to keep your social media on track?

  • Pause before you tweet or post. I’m always taken with this poster in my clinic’s office when I check in. If what you’re going to to post isn’t any of those things, maybe you don’t need to put it out into the world.
Think before you speak: 
Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?
  • Double check what you’re posting on social media is the message you want to convey to the people who follow you. A lot of authors don’t know what their brand is, and I’m not really any different. To the indie authors in the community, I want to be seen as helpful, kind, supportive. I don’t want to be known as someone who is willing to make a buck off iffy information, and trust me there is a lot of that out there. I’ll tell the truth. If you’re cover isn’t working for the genre, it’s not working. If it looks homemade, I’ll tell you. That may not be seen as kind if it’s not the feedback you’re looking for, but there is a huge gap between Writer Twitter and the professionals in the Facebook groups I’m a part of who are making a living wage with their books. I’m not looking to bridge that gap, but if I can help one person make one more sale than they would have, then speaking up is worth it.
  • What are your social media goals? I’m on social media to have fun, network, learn new things about the industry, and drive readers to my blog. I don’t have a reader group on FB (yet), I post what I want on IG without regard to trying to find readers. There is a strong romance community (that I have found, anyway) but it mostly consists of writers sharing the romance novels that they love to read when they aren’t writing. It takes a while to realize that social media (free book marketing) doesn’t work as well as it used to.

If you’re angry, you may not take that pause before lashing out, or maybe you need to vent and have no where to put it but a long FB post. Censoring yourself may be one the hardest things you can do if you feel passionately about something, but the last thing you want to do is lose out on a networking opportunity or a collaboration, or even a book deal if that’s what you want because of something you said in a moment of weakness online.

Mental health is a serious issue, but if you follow along with that author who lashed out and see what other writers and book bloggers did to her book on her Goodreads profile not everyone is willing to give the benefit of the doubt or a second chance. I realize you can’t live your life in fear, but you can think about what you’re projecting out into the world. That might actually help your mental health in the long run.

Do you want to read more about the mental health of writers? Look here.

The Writing Life: Writers and Mental Health

Shattering the Misery Myth: How to Nurture Your Mental Health as a Writer

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