I’ve had occasion this week to consider my author “brand”, especially the public-facing version of it that I represent via social media.
This was occasioned by a few different things that happened over the weekend.
First off, in a panel on going mainstream at the Rainbow Space Magic Con yesterday, we discussed authors’ social media presence, and how any agent worth their salt is going to comb your social media presence before offering to work with you. It makes sense, right? How many times have we seen old posts come back to haunt politicians, entertainers, and others years later? Even when those posts might have been justifiably called “youthful indiscretions” – on the internet, your past lives forever.
The second thing was watching a famous fantasy writer last night on Facebook Live as he read a fantastic sci fi short from his home. It was fascinating – the story of an alien encounter as seen by a cabin boy. The story managed to include both a sly space opera reference, an actual opera, and Humphrey Bogart. Thing is, I never even knew this author wrote sci fi. I have only ever read his fantasy. So it seemed “off brand” to me, but nevertheless I was like “Dude, you need to do more of this.”
And the last thing was this, a snippet I found on an agent page while reading her wish list:
“Lastly, I enjoy working with authors who show social media savvy and who haven’t alienated one half of the nation or the other with intolerance.”
So, yeah. I mean, once again I kinda get it? Corporations (and all the big pubs are corporations) are risk-averse. They want authors who write beautiful things they can sell, and who only share pictures of puppies and flowers on social media, keeping their political opinions to themselves. I would NOT wanna be JK Rowling’s publisher right now.
So it’s quite clear. Stick to your brand, and keep your damned opinions to yourself.
This is a seminal moment in the history of my country and the history of the planet (which needs a big overhaul in the way we live if it’s going to have any future human history). This is the time when everyone needs to stand up and speak out against what’s wrong in the world.
Anyone who knows me knows I have not been shy on this point.
I want to make this part very clear. I am talking about myself and the way I have decided to present myself in the world, both personally and professionally. Each author (and yes, each human) has to make this choice for themselves based on their lives and location and comfort level), and I’m not going to criticize anyone who feels like they can’t make the same kind of public statements that I do, or who chooses to separate their public author persona from their private one with a pen name.
Those are both valid choices – and in all honesty, I might have been better off using a pen name from the get-go for this very reason. But I chose to publish under my own name, in part because I remembered my Grandpa John telling me to always be proud of my family name, and there’s no going back now.
You can probably tell I’ve given this a lot of thought. *grin* Yes, I have been outspoken – and continue to be – on social media about what a train wreck the current administration is. And yes, that might hurt me with some agents or publishers.
But here’s the thing. Being outspoken on behalf of Latino kids in cages, of black lives and trans live, against corruption and for the health of the planet are my brand, or at least a big part of it. I am an openly gay man who writes a very diverse cast of characters in my fiction, and who portrays and works for a more hopeful future.
Any agent or publisher who doesn’t get that about me, who thinks those are issues that should be stripped out of my social media pages and hidden away from public view, is someone I don’t want to work with.
With my public, activist persona, I am on brand.
History will judge whether I was right or wrong, but this is a hill I am willing to die on. As a writer, at least.
To my writing friends, how much space is there between your public persona and your private thoughts? Have you ever questioned the decisions you’ve made in this regard?