Writers are just people. They just happen to be people other people may recognize if they saw their name. They’re people who open up their veins and pour out stories other people read and (hopefully) like. Granted when you put yourself out there publicly you might encounter problems your average Joe won’t ever encounter. But being a writer means you’re a public figure. As a public figure you should always be professional in a public forum.
So when Ken Jennings called my friend a name I was pretty angry. My friend had started reading Ken Jennings’ book and put it down after two paragraphs because Jennings called LEGO bricks Legos. He tweeted to Jennings. Jennings in a condescending tweet explained Americans call them Legos. My friend apologized, said he would keep reading and also said he was sorry if he touched a nerve. That is when Jennings, instead of being nice, resorted to name calling.
Some say my friend shouldn’t have tweeted to Jennings about something he felt was an error in the book. And I say why the heck not? When you’re a writer you open yourself up to critique and review. If someone had said the exact same thing on Amazon’s book page for the book would they have been called names? With companies striving to protect their trademarks I’m surprised his editor let it get through as Legos to begin with.
I stewed the rest of the weekend about whether I would write a blog post about this or not. In the end I decided to write the post because more and more authors are engaging with readers in a negative way. As an author I would NEVER call any of my readers names no matter what they said. Readers are entitled to their opinion. When you publish a book and put it out there you are opening yourself up to criticism and review. Yes, I know I already said that but it bears repeating. And if you don’t have a thick skin, can’t take the good with the bad, then you shouldn’t be doing it.
I know as writers our first instinct when someone says something bad about our book is to defend it or explain it. Maybe there was a good reason for you to do something the reader complained about. But as most writers know, you do not engage in that kind of dialogue with a reader. You thank them for their opinion and you move on. You don’t explain. You don’t condescend. You don’t start calling them names.
As writers we know we’re going to be reviewed. We know that if we get a bad review on Amazon, or Barnes and Noble or any site, we are not to engage. Just smile and move on. But what if your fan/reader tweeted at you on Twitter? Is it okay to explain and defend then? Or do you still just say thanks for the comments and move on? Is it ever okay to call a reader names?
Authors, is it ever okay to call a reader/fan names? Readers, if an author you liked called you names would you ever read their books again?
Until next time…