Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Abusing Your Platform

WordServe Water Cooler is a cool blog that is a compilation of posts by authors represented by WordServe Literary Agency, consisting of Greg Johnson and Rachelle Gardner. I'm not a  huge fan of blogs of multiple writers, because I find myself muddying the writers together, unable to recall who wrote what book. But...I love the advice at the Water Cooler. In particular, I like a recent post by Mike Duran entitled "How Opinionated Should a Novelist Be?" A professed Christian, Mike is accustomed to taking a stance. As a matter of fact, his post at WordServe Water Cooler resulted in a need to write a subsequent post at his own blog - a post entitled "The Problem With Message-Drive Fiction."

Mike states that John Grisham once stated in an interview: "I’m a Christian, and those beliefs occasionally come out in the books. One thing you really have to watch as a writer is getting on a soapbox or pulpit about anything. You don’t want to alienate readers."

Writers develop platforms, but with those platforms come responsibility, and that's a point we don't see talked about.

It's great to have a readership. You have this audience interested in what you have to say. It's mighty tempting to deviate from talking about your stories, entertaining talent or expertise, and venture into your other interests and beliefs. Be very careful.

You can tout free-speech and all that, but stop and think before you do. While I would love to talk about Constitutional rights, I learned a long time ago that conversation about politics, religion, and hot-spot topics must somehow be tied to my mission or else ignored in the FundsforWriters or C. Hope Clark environment.

My goal is to disseminate information and attract readers interested in making a living at writing. My goal with my fiction is to find writers who appreciate my mystery-genre story. I take no hard political or religious stands in either. Some righteous souls might call me cowardly.

Anyone who knows me in  person, knows that I can debate and joust with the best of them. I'm a recovering Type A personality who uses writing to invigorate yet soothe her life. I have my buttons that can spark a tongue lashing, like most everyone else. But the last thing I want to do is chase away people. My writing and my newsletters are the connection between me and people who want to write for a living, too.

We may not have the same take on Christianity, the Middle East wars, the President, the recession, abortion, states' rights, Republicans, Democrats, life after death, or even the death penalty. Oh my gosh, if I was narrow minded enough to only seek 100 percent like-minded souls to do business with, I'd be broke and lonely. I prefer to seek commonality, not differences.

When you use your platform to preach an unrelated stance, you take a huge risk. A monstrous risk. Look what happened to The Dixie Chicks when Natalie Maines expressed her feelings about then president George W. Bush. Whether you agreed with her or not, the result to the group was devastating, a PR nightmare. Suddenly, the country image of the group became sullied as they stepped into the limelight as political advocates instead of entertainers. They lost fans in flocks.Some people do not like Tom Cruise and John Travolta for their Scientology beliefs.

Some can overlook those who insert their beliefs in their platforms. Still, most assuredly, the artists lose a certain amount of support from some who can't get past the fact the artist inserted something non-related into a world where it doesn't necessarily agree with the fans. It's borderline abuse of your platform.

Readers don't come to you for religious indoctrination or political correction. They want a story. And you're safest keeping your platform built on that.


Jenn Crowell said...

Good for you, Hope! I personally really appreciate your ecumenical approach to Funds for Writers, and the diversity of writing topics and audiences you support.

Hope Clark said...

Thanks, Jenn. Sometimes it's hard to keep opinions on the fence. It's a tough balance.

Nikki said...

You know, I've been doing a lot of thinking about this lately. I write Middle Grade, with my first book coming out with a major publisher next year. I've decided to stick to pretty much one "political" issue - support for libraries. Before a few months ago, I was apolitical in my online presence, but recently, the budget axe has fallen on my "sacred public space."
My own child now gets to use his school library once a month due to the budgetary priorities that have been expressed legislatively.
If I alienate readers or anyone else because they think libraries should not be supported, or that kids don't really need all those pesky books anyway, then so be it.
I think the trick may be to pick your battle (or battles) and stick with it.
I guess I've decided in effect to make part of my platform support for libraries! I do NOT believe writers need to be apolitical. Maybe just smart about it.
Thanks for bringing this up, Hope, and thanks for your blog.
Congrats on the book deal, too!

Hope Clark said...

Ah, but that is a platform that is parallel and advantageous to your MG writing. For you to talk immigration or abortion or presidential candidates might be a bit different. It's actually smart to take your stance. It aids attention to your book. It could actually be part of your platform building. That's why we have to be careful. I can take a stand on literary journals and nonprofits not paying writers because I'm FUNDS for writers, but stating I might be going to the Dem or GOP convention might stir up the waters. Good point, though.

Lane Diamond said...

Thanks for saying what should be so obvious. Should be. I avoid politics and religion like the plague, so as not to offend anyone about matters that don't relate to the my professional sites.

I also make it a habit to unfollow/unfriend those who don't show me the same respect. Want to chase me off of your Twitter or Facebook account? Simple: just post something about politics or religion that I'll view as a personal attack. See ya!

This is why I have 1 site for friends and family, and a 2nd site for my professional self.