Thursday, August 16, 2012

Does Author Personality Matter?

I know we can't get to know the author of every book we read, but when you read about an author, does his personality matter to you? When you hear him speak? When you read an interview? Hear his podcast? See comments by other authors/readers who have met him?

In the not too distant pass, pre-Internet and before global communication, we relied upon author photographs and bio blurbs on book jackets to introduce us to authors. They looked classy or homey, sophisticated or sweet, dignified or girl-next-door. Right then and there we nailed them as someone we liked or didn't like, but we were usually less judgmental about looks and personality than we are today, giving those authors loads of credit and any benefit of the doubt, just for being published--especially if they made it to a Barnes & Noble window.

But I have to admit . . . once I experience negativity about an author, it tries to get in the way of whether I buy her book. 

Today, however, you can learn about an author's family, hobbies, food preferences, travel habits, and medical problems with a few short clicks of a button. You can see them at conferences and listen to them on podcasts and online readings. You can join groups they belong to, connect via Twitter and LinkedIn, and study their personal interests on Pinterest. Their lives get dissected, and even if they stay private, we have the essence of literary paparazzi per blogs, newsletters, and weekly emails from those making a living following the business.

Author personality is quickly factoring into publication, and ultimately in sales. 

When we hear of a new author, we Google her. How many times are authors declined by traditional publishers because they don't have any sort of online presence, basically are invisible to potential fans?

Writers. . . you might need to recognize the importance of being "seen" and "heard" in promoting your work, and think seriously how to groom a platform. Think hard about the impression you are making to potential fans, the industry, and other writers. What have you said in an online group that could make you look bad? What joke have you forwarded that tends to color you in a questionable light?

Readers . . . you might want to cut authors some slack. Their looks, personality and hobbies might have little to nothing to do with their remarkable stories. It's hard promoting books, being in the limelight, and remaining neutral. Some readers don't even like them for being neutral. Authors can't please everyone.

But I have to sheepishly admit . . . once I experience negativity about an author, it tries to get in the way of whether I buy her book. I want a great story, and I really don't care if the person loves kittens or not. However, when I have twenty new books I'd love to read, and only have the time to read ten, I can't help but let non-writing issues factor in to which books I buy.

What about you?


Civil War Horror (Sean McLachlan) said...

I'm not sure most readers research every author they read. They may look up their favorite authors, but then they are already inclined to like them.

That said, this actually brings to mind an incident I had this week. I came across a listing of books for an indie author who is very rude and overbearing on the Kindle Direct Publishing Forum. I decided not to buy his books. As you say, when there are so many books to choose from, why support a twerp?

Hope Clark said...

Have to agree, Sean. I have a personal list I will not support, because of situations that crossed my path. We all need to be congenial, because we never know who it will impact . . . and how.

Sarah Schlosser said...

I have to admit that my reading is colored by the author's behavior as well, but mostly in terms of whether or not they took shortcuts in their writing to take my time and/or money. The biggest example of this that I can point to is the non-fiction authors who fabricate portions of their research or fiction writers who purposely alienate potential readership with their egos (that's the reason I don't read V.S. Naipaul). As to whether or not I agree with a writer's political, religious, etc views, it usually has to be pretty abrasive or abusive for me to not read them--if it's a good book and they are giving me something to chew on with their story or commentary, then I will still read them, even if I don't agree with them.

SSpjut said...

I'm going to have to agree as well. The writer's group I belong to have talked about this quiet a bit. What you put out on the internet stays on the internet, and if your trying to build credibility, then it behooves you to keep a guard on what you post and say.

Anthony J. Langford said...

Interesting post Hope.

I never even liked the Author photo on the back cover. It never matched the brilliance between the pages. I always found it disappointing. I always said that if I was ever published, I would forgoe the photo. This year I was and I stuck to it.

But as you say, times have changed. Yet I think it's very dangerous to research writers too much, though we all do it. As they say, don't get close to your heroes. You might not like what you find.

Some of the greatest writers/filmmakers etc that I admired turned out to be assholes upon scrutiny. If we only buy art from people who we totally agree with then we are in danger of creating mirror copies of ourselves. Good art comes from friction. I say research the books and buy something that sounds interesting and only research the writer after youve fallen in love with the work.

The work should always come first, no matter how much information is available.

Hope Clark said...


A very astute observation. You are right, the work comes first. It's just when the artist pops that pretty bubble with too much mouth, it ruins the experience for me sometimes.

Anthony J. Langford said...

Thank you Hope.

Yes, this is true. I recently had to 'unfriend' a very well known US author as his mouth and his need to be constantly right knew no bounds.
It was a good reminder for me (not that I think I needed it) about maintaining the right online presence, even in a forum such as Facebook.

Hope Clark said...

And I just unfollowed two pretty famous author "someones" on Twitter who were doing some serious political bashing. Not want I want to "follow" so now they're gone. If only we could do that more readily in real life!