Monday, 15 November 2010

To Be You or Not To Be You, That is the Question...

Authors behaving badly. I’ve often wondered if I’m one of them just by being “me”. I mean, it’s a choice between being yourself so your readers know exactly who you are, or putting on such a polished veneer that you come across as glossy but hard as wood. Zero personality. A good girl who always does as she’s told. I feel, when on my personal blogs or here at Four Strong Women, I can be myself. I curse. I say things I maybe shouldn’t. I probably sound crass, uneducated, common, or whatever else some people might want to call me. But hell, I’m a human being first and foremost, a person who has tried acting the mega professional and found it a miserable, crummy existence. It was boring. Confining. Being myself is infinitely better. I’m comfortable blogging here, knowing I can say whatever I like, and the pals I share this blog with, and hopefully our dear readers, know to take me as they find me.

Okay, I’ve blogged about a couple of things that some may feel had me walking very close to that fine line that no one seems to be able to see—but we all know it exists. The ones that spring to mind are either not getting paid royalties or getting low royalties. Is there some unspoken rule I’m unaware of here? I don’t recall ever signing anything that made me promise never to say I didn’t get paid much last quarter. Am I meant to keep quiet about low sales or a publisher who hasn’t paid me in months, despite me knowing damn well I’ve made them money in one form or another? These subjects are a big part of my life, so talking about them comes naturally. I’m not in any way saying my publishers are to blame for low sales. Shit, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m awful at promotion.

I had many responses on my Sarah Masters blog regarding the topic of people thinking you’re raking in the cash as soon as you’re published. It’s a bloody myth for most of us, and not a subject to sweep under the carpet and pretend isn’t happening either. There are many things I could talk about but I don’t. Some things ARE best left unsaid, and I keep those to myself or chat about it with my husband. But I do get a little tired of talk about this invisible line we’re not meant to cross, even though I totally understand it at the same time. Going out there in public moaning about certain things doesn’t do you a jot of good (shit, I’m so fucked!). As the saying goes in Romanceland: You’re being watched.

Yes, we’re all aware we may be being watched, but to be honest, the thought of that is downright creepy sometimes. People lurking online reading your posts and forming an opinion of you that may not necessarily be who you really are, then possibly penalising you for it without you even knowing. As an example, let’s say I wrote a post complaining that I’d had a kerfuffle with a cover artist. (I most certainly haven’t, by the way.) Let’s pretend I’m unhappy with my cover, detest it, in fact, and asked if I could have a few changes made. Publisher said no. Their word is final. Fine, except...what if I want to talk about my feelings on the subject? I have a choice here. To blog about it, mentioning no names, and express how I felt, or to keep quiet so that the lurkers won’t see what I’ve written, and then decide that I’m a diva who must be avoided at all costs. No contract for YOU, missus. You’re on our blacklist. (And is there even one of those, hmmm? Do all publishers REALLY talk to one another? I’ve worked for a few, and I’d say this isn’t the case.)

I’m not a diva, though, but it could be construed that I am if I blogged about the cover scenario, yet all I wanted to do was write down a few thoughts and have feedback from others in my situation.

It’s an interesting subject for sure. How much personal information/emotion is too much? How much of “you” should you put in your posts? We all know that very personal information isn’t the done thing—and whoops, I’ve crossed the line there too. Ran the hell over it, very deep into “I mustn’t blog about this” territory with my post about dyeing pubic hairs. That post may well have sealed my coffin. If I submit to a publisher and they find that post, read it, and deem it distasteful, which it is to some, I may get a rejection based on that. Sod whether my writing was all right. I blogged about a taboo subject, so therefore I mustn’t be offered a contract.


It was my decision whether to blog about it. I had to decide whether our readers could handle such a subject, and to be quite honest, I think you all can. You realise us Four Strong Women need a place to be open and talk about whatever the frick we like. And hey, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that with the amount of comments we get, others feel the same way we do about the subjects we cover.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that this place here, this blog, is my version of the water cooler in an office. We shoot the shit here, discuss things we wouldn’t while sitting at our desks where our employers can see us—and yeeeeees, I know my "employers" can see me here too, but I feel my employers, or, let’s just get it right out there, my publishers, realise this is my place to waffle about crap. I haven’t named them in anything negative I’ve said, and there is only one publisher I’m unhappy with anyway, and that involves something crimson that grows in a garden.

See, even by me saying that I’ve either come close to the line or crossed over it. When I’m writing my posts, I’m constantly aware of being watched. So that leads me to the crux of what’s bugging the fuck out of me.

I’m sick and tired of being someone I’m not. Always editing my posts so What’sherface isn’t unhappy, or Thingamibob isn’t made to frown and decides to “keep a close eye” on me, or Jane bloody Doe is shaking her head wondering how someone with such good manners in private emails can be so…yuk on a public blog.

I do know how to behave in a professional manner. I just don’t always do that here, as is my right.

How do you feel about always having to watch what you say/write? Do you feel restricted, surrounded by rules—invisible rules at that? Do you ever want to just break out and type what was on your mind and fuck what anyone thinks? Have you? What were the consequences, if any?


Faith said...

It depends a lot on where your presence is seen the most. I might get booed for this next comment, and honestly, I really don't give a crap, but I think the loops are the worst for this sort of problem. And since most e-publishers have a loop(s), some of this PITA stuff leaks onto their loops too.

I've dealt with a nasty "person" in charge, I've dealt with m/f divas, had to handle authors who wig out over the slightest things, been verbally abused in email, threatened via email, called everything but a woman...the list goes on and on.

Yes, the unprofessional behavior of others online affects you. It's one of many reasons I got out of editing for e-publishers and stick to private clients. I see things that blow up online all the time that are featured on various high-traffic blogs, and then people want to comment but they're afraid it will blacklist them. Those brave enough to post their thoughts post anonymously.

I made the decision months ago to pull out of the loops save for three where I post regularly. Two I own and one is a small group with very nice writers. Other than that, I post blog announcements, new releases, and contests unless I participate in an author chat, which isn't often anymore. I don't have time for the headache the cyber publishing loops creates, and there is so much petty jealousy that goes on it's not worth dealing with it.

I want to write. I want to make my readers happy. I concentrate on blogs, because if I want to bitch, moan, groan, be goofy, or thoughtful it's MY darn blog post and those who don't like it don't have to read it. And if troublemakers post on a blog, all you have to do is hit the delete button.

Good, thought-provoking post, Sarah!

Anonymous said...

I'm constantly censoring myself even though I'm miles away from any sort of spotlight. There's a constant niggling fear that people won't "get" me. I wish I had your courage.

Sarah Masters said...

Yep, Faith. A blog post should be just what you want it to be. I do understand when to keep my mouth shut, but with the smaller things, I feel if I want to yabber on about them, I bloody well will, you know?

As you know, I've been on both sides of the fence. Author, editor, cover artist. I see all sides, but speaking as an author, if I want to tell the world I shit my pants today, I should feel I can.

I didn't shit my pants today, but you catch my drift hahahaah!

It's like Facebook is, as well as being a page readers can connect with me, it's for my family too. If I want to tell my brother or sister, in comments, that I feel like headbutting the wall because so and so pissed me off, I should be able to do that. My status is my sodding status, right?


Sarah Masters said...


I feel for you. But just try it, once even. You won't know if people get you or not unless you be yourself.

And if you feel you can't, just come here and be yourself in comments!


Faith said...

Yup, I agree, Sarah. I don't share much of my life online unless it's just general stuff like so and so is sick or I ran out of coffee, but my blogs are my blogs. It's like that expression we have here, "if you don't like it then don't look at it." Same goes for blog posts, lol.

wl551, I understand that fear. When I first ventured onto the Net it freaked me out to no end, but it's just a matter of sharing what you want to share and are okay with sharing.

Charlotte McClain said...

I self censor all the time, but it comes more from being a teacher than being a writer. I don't consider it a hardship though because lots of times I know I'm just whining to hear myself and myself doesn't want to hear it. The me you see here, in my blog and on Facebook is the me I'd like to be, for better or worse.

Sarah Masters said...

Yep, same sort of saying here, Faith. If you don't like my fat arse, don't look at it.



Sarah Masters said...

Know what you mean, Charlotte. Many times I've written out a blog post then deleted it, knowing it was just something I had to get down on the page and not something the world and his wife needed to see. Other days I post them. Just depends on my mood.

We should all just be ourselves, really. Yes, behave when we have to, in places where inappropriate behaviour isn't the done thing, but in our private spaces, I don't feel, unless it's outright flaming or whatever, we should be censored.


Jaime Samms said...

I have a live journal I barely use any more. I used to blog almost daily there, just chatting about life, but in recent years, that's dropped off alot, and I suppose, it's a form of self-censor. I don't think, on some level, it's particularly professional to blather about my sick cat or other crap no one but me cares about. Whatever. I care less now than I did a while back.

One thing I know is that I never say anything I don't mean. I might refrain from saying something nasty when I feel I want to, but really, is that not being myself, or just doig what Thumper's mom advises and not saying anything if I can't say something nice. :)

That last bit is most important to me. I am myself on line. I think, possibly more myself on line than off, in fact. There's freedom in being Jaime that I don't get being so-and-so's mom or a member of my extensive and locally, well-known and well-thought-of family, if that makes sense.

Molly Daniels said...

When I was a newbie blogger, I posted some holiday lyrics I loved...and received a private email informing me I was being 'offensive'. And since no one had commented, I took down the post and issued an apology. It still took weeks for anyone to return to my blog...and then I got to wondering...I can post sexually explicit material which would be kept behind the counter, but not lyrics heard on public RADIO? Made no sense.

And then several months later, another author who'd heard complaints about that particular post, apologized to me for giving into the pressure (they were threatening to stop reading her posts if she continued to comment on mine) and agreed with me that I had a 1st Amendment right to post what I wanted. If someone is offended by something I've posted, they can return the next day.

LOL....WV is 'ohech':)

Anonymous said...

"How do you feel about always having to watch what you say/write?"
Sometimes I do. Well, all the time really. If you say the wrong thing, or even hit the wrong key on your keyboard, and someone takes it wrong, they just blast you where you stand.

"Do you ever want to just break out and type what was on your mind and fuck what anyone thinks? Have you? What were the consequences, if any?"
Yes, I have.I did so on a previous blog I owned (?), and the consequences were not always good. But I figured that is just part of expressing how I felt at the time. Not everyone is going to see things the same I do. Now, I'm a little more selective about what I post.

I've always read that readers want to the know their favorite authors as people, not just some far away, untouchable entity. A publisher, or anyone, lurking only has to see the number of comments or the type of comments your blog posts get, in order know you have a good size audience. I would think, that to a publisher, that means potential sales of your books. Your blog is the best place for others to know who YOU are. I've only been here a short time and I like you already.

Just so you know, I LOVED your hairy legs blog. I was laughing so hard at points I needed to walk away from my computer and get a tissue to wipe my eyes or use the bathroom so I wouldn't pee all over myself. LOL!

Faith said...

Good grief, Molly! I can't believe someone did that to you. How freaking awful! Grrr, makes me angry for you!

Cora Zane said...

I'll be the first to admit that I probably post way TMI about my family life on my blog, but unless it poses a threat to someone in my family I figure it's pretty harmless.

However, if a professional issue crops up, it stays off my blog. I take that problem to the source, and try to work through it - IF it can be worked through.

Thankfully I have had mostly good publishing experiences. I've had very very few issues crop up over the years.

On the flip side, I know that despite MY desire to be professional, the laws of the universe states that I will inevitably run into other people who don't feel the same way about professionalism. They are the type of people who become upset when you have to politely nag them for a royalty statement that you should have received two months ago. It happens. And I don't get my dander up about it because I know it's not really IS them.

Also, I don't blog spew about that sort of thing, because 1.)it would make me look like an ass, particularly to people who might be visiting my blog for the first time. That is not the impression I want to make. 2.)The suck-up crowd would come after me with virtual pitchforks and I'm too lazy to deal with it. And most importantly 3.) I already know I'm never ever EVER going to publish a second book with a company that blatantly screws me over, so in the long run, holding my tongue keeps me from looking bad to any potential publishers that I DO want to target later.

And just for the sake of saying so, YES, editors keep their eyes out for troublemakers. They do talk to each other. Editors sometimes move from one publishing company to another. So if you effed yourself with one publishing company, that becomes two publishing companies if the editor you pissed off switches publishing houses. Oy vey, right?

Now, as with every thing under the sun, there are exceptions to keeping your negative experiences to yourself. Granted there is a difference between blogging spew, and issuing a professional warning. The difference is one is written in a context that is a pure bash fest. You're not going to walk away from that unscathed, ever. So unless you're up for the headache, don't do it. Written in the context of a **greatly pared down** warning, your issue takes on a "trying to be helpful, not hateful" connotation. You can usually tell which is which after the first few words.

If I was being verbally abused and/or mistreated by a publisher, I would speak up because I would feel (laugh if you need to) a karmic responsibility to keep other authors - specifically unpublished, not yet knowledgeable authors - from going through that kind of experience. I have been in the business long enough to deal with that kind of issue. It can be discouraging and overwhelming for someone completely new. How heartbreaking to see someone's publishing dreams crushed because of one bad experience they could have avoided.

I do believe; however, there is a classy way to present that kind of information on a blog, and that is to simply provide the facts and leave any extra emotional input out of it. Let the reader make the decisions about what they are reading.

Another thing...this also carries over if someone asks you to your face if X Publisher is treating you well. I will not hesitate to answer that question honestly.

I also won't hesitate to recommended a publisher if the experience was good. If I were dissatisfied with the company in question, instead of bashing that company, I would offer a simple reason for my answer.

For example: (How are you liking X Publisher?) - I've been there two years and they have never paid me.

And that is all I'd say. Facts. Beyond that, leave the listener to make their own interpretation.

Sorry to make you read through aaaaall that, Sarah. It was kind of wordy. But then, you know how I am... :P

Cora Zane said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jaime Samms said...

OK. WHAT!?!? This happens? Really? Oh woe is sheltered little me. Really? really?

I can't get my head around that. Are we twelve? Seriously? I belive you Brits call this gobsmacked. I'm gobsmacked...

(ironically, my word verification to post this comment is 'unfuns'. I kid you not! LOMAO!!!)

Cora Zane said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Faith said...

For some reason Cora, your post came through three times. I think I fixed it. Sarah, did I miss any repeats?

C. Zampa said...

That's a really good question. It is hard at times, tyring to hold in what you really think, trying NOT to address things that tick you off, even people who tick you off.
I've not been published yet, but when I am, I suppose I'll find myself hard pressed to keep quiet about such issues as non-royalties, low royalties, cover issues, etc.
Enjoyed this post.

Sarah Masters said...

Hiya Jaime, love.

Yes, I know what you mean. Online I'm more me at times, yet other times I'm more me at home. Weird!


Sarah Masters said...

Molly...LMAO @ word veri.

Man, people really did that to you? It's SO ODD that we can write about cocks and whatever, going into graphic detail, yet you can't post lyrics? And people threatened to boycott your blog?

Oh my.

I'd have thought: Jog on, then. Mind the door doesn't hit your arse on the way out.


Sarah Masters said...

Cora, you may be wordy, but you always make sense! I agree with everything you said. Some things you just keep quiet about, but others...not so much. Like you say, a professional warning is far different from outright slagging off the people upsetting you.

Good for you on being honest if someone asks you about your experiences. I feel as long as they know it was YOUR experience and theirs might be different, I don't see a problem with privately sharing issues.


Sarah Masters said...

You got 'em, Faith.


Sarah Masters said...

Hiya CZ!

Just do what Cora suggested if you find yourself needing to express a concern publicly. Blog about it in a professional way--and there isn't any point in me saying this to you because I know damn well you'd be profesh anyway!


She said...

I'm a reader. I don't write and don't want to--it's a hard job--but I have met and spoken to many authors and am amazed by what you do to get your books out to us. I read blogs when someone posts on a loop that they are blogging. Sometimes I understand where they are coming from and other times I disagree but anyone reading a blog has to know it is one person's opinion. If you don't like it, don't read it but there is no reason to get offended--especially about song lyrics. I enjoy the different viewpoints posted in blogs. Those viewpoints can cause me to think about a subject from a different angle. Sometimes a blog can cause me to think about a new idea. Occasionally a blog makes me laugh, cry, cuss, whatever. I believe it was Shakespeare who wrote, To thine own self by true. As I get older I find that is good advice to follow. Who cares what others think? You have to like who you are and live with yourself 24/7/365. It's only taken me 53 years to figure that out. I like me and I'm never going to be what others want me to be so tough shit to them. I've found happiness and joy in my life and I like me!

Sarah Masters said...

SHE! I think I LOVE you! This: I like me and I'm never going to be what others want me to be so tough shit to them. I've found happiness and joy in my life and I like me!...

Made me cheer!

Whooo hooo!


Molly Daniels said...

Yeah, it struck me as strange, considering the content of some blogs I was reading at the time. Adam Sandler lyrics got me in trouble. Go figure.

I've since thickened my 'online' skin. Keep in mind I'd only been blogging about three months when that happened.

Now I put up a 'warning' if I feel I'm about to be controversial, lol:) I try to run a clean blog, but since I've opened it up to interviews, the sky is the limit on interview days. One day I'll get vamps; another, M/M/F excerpts.

I got fed up with something I heard another author saying was happening at her publisher, so I put up a generic 'Publishers Behaving Badly' post. I was popular that day:)

She said...

Thanks, Sarah. I just wish I'd have learned that lesson earlier. Would have kept me from not being true to myself.

Sarah Masters said... God, was it the song from The Wedding Singer? Please say it was. I LOVE that song!


Sarah Masters said...

Bless you, She.

I'm glad I learned it when I did, otherwise I can imagine I would have been this quiet woman on the outside with a screaming, crazy-mad bitch inside, which I was for a time until I met my second husband, who taught me to be me and sod what people thought.


Molly Daniels said...

It was his Thanksgiving song. Don't know if that's from the Wedding Singer or not...

Sarah Masters said...

Ah, no then. The one in The Wedding Singer was what the character wrote about his ex-girlfriend. Really funny.


Sarah Masters said...

Awww, bless you, Casey. I smiled about you nearly peeing yourself. I love hearing about fellow knicker-pissers. Makes me feel warm inside to know I'm not alone. ROFL!


Sarah Masters said...

MOLLY!!! I just Googled it. Massive LOL @ I fell off my moped
And I got a bruise



Molly Daniels said...

Oops...wrong song. Hannakah song! (head slap!)

Anthology Authors said...

The difficulty with blogging about professional issues is that potential publishers also read it. But this is the same with all industries. Seriously, if you work for X Company and have issues with them, and blog about it publicly, you may have a challenge finding a new job or even keeping your job. Could your complaints be valid? Very possibly. Knowing you, they most likely are. Unfortunately, that new company won't know that. It's why in Hollywood stars are always gushing in public about their costars, whether they like them or not. If they want to keep working, they keep mum. There are times, though, I think this is detrimental and that person needs to speak out. (Eg. abuse, not being paid for work, illegal activities, etc.) There is nothing to say you can't do it. If you are okay with any consequences that might incur, then your good. As Cora said, if you do it, be sure to come across professionally. :)

Mind you, I am not saying if this is right or wrong, just how it is.

Sarah Masters said...

I'll look it up, Molly.


Sarah Masters said...

I agree, Marci. There are times when you should open up and times when you shouldn't. Done professionally, it "looks" fine.


Tess MacKall said...

Oh yes, you're being watched. Everything you say and do is being scrutinized. I know there is an entire cult of watchers for me. lol And they just spread the word every time they see me pop up on a group or blog. They have nothing better to do. I'm the entertainment. I'm all they have in their lives apparently. And that's a big responsibility for me to carry. LMAOOOO

I've learned/learning not to care. I figure I'm human and I'll make mistakes. If someone wants to sit back and cackle about it or make a big deal about it in general, well, just shows who and what they are. What I say and do, how I handle myself should not matter to most--basically, it should matter only to me--and, of course, if I do something that is harmful--which I don't.

Then there is the whole issue of being watched by industry peeps. There's some of that going on, but not as much as you might think. Anyone in the industry who would need to watch you would be watching you because your actions could affect their company or rather the company they work for. And that means it's not a small pub. And you know what? Those people really don't have the time it takes to watch all your moves. Do they care? Yes, but those kind of people have a brain in their head and they are not into drama. They know how to sort it all out. And from these small pubs and from groups where people have their own little personal agendas is where you get the drama.

I have a couple of groups I chat on now pretty much exclusively. And I don't chat a lot either--no time--and no hankering for drama. I mostly chat in private emails with a disclaimer attached to those emails. I know who I can trust with my thoughts and who I can't. Been burned one time too many.

And just because someone acts like they are your friend, doesn't mean they are. There are a lot of users out there. They'll hang around for reasons that would never cross your mind. Then when they have no need for you anymore--they burn you as badly as they can. Fine by me. I ain't the one going to HELL. LMAO

I'm honest in my dealings with everyone. I share parts of myself online and then there are parts of me NO ONE gets and never will. I try to be entertaining with my blog posts--usually with a humorous slant--but that's because I like having fun with topics that might not otherwise seem funny. My humor is usually self-deprecating and no one should take offense to that. And if they do? Up theirs.

You have people like Molly describes who are just plain idiots--locked up in some odd little world--who will come out with--like someone else said--carrying the pitchforks and the torches.

Ahhh...who cares. They can shove that pitchfork straight up their...

My daddy always said: Doesn't make any difference where ya go. There is always an asshole there to greet ya.

Sarah Masters said...

LMFAO, Tess @

And if they do? Up theirs.

They can shove that pitchfork straight up their...

Doesn't make any difference where ya go. There is always an asshole there to greet ya.


Brindle Chase said...

I'll dare speak my mind here and now... but please... when you start throwing things at me, please make them soft, non-sharp edged objects. hehehe.

I disagree with the general concensus to a degree. I was raised to believe one may speak their mind, but you had better be willing to accept the consequences. Freedom of speech says nothing about absolving one of having to deal with the aftermath of one's words.

So... personally, I speak my mind, most of the time, but I do so in a manner from being conscious of what the possible fallout might be. If I tick someone off, I am as much to blame as the person. They must accept accountability for their reaction, but I chose the words, and if someone is upset by them, I've no one to blame but myself.

Now, with that said, I can say pretty much anything I feel, but by carefully wording it, I am less likely to offend others. As a male author in the romance genre, I do feel additional pressure to "watch what I say"... and I do, but I also continue to express myself and my thoughts. Just with careful wording.

How you word things is as much a representation of who you are as a person, beyond how you as an author are perceived. Some of the stuff among the yahoo groups and other forums I've seen is not only unprofessional... some of those people are quite frankly... fucktards! I try very hard not to express myself in a manner that might earn me such a label.

Sarah Masters said...

Yep, Brindle, that's kind of how I feel too. I say things and realise I may have someone chew my arse off.

I don't go on loops to chat anymore because I don't like all that sort of behaviour--sounds like it's getting worse there too.