Word of mouth sells books. And what better mouth to sell them than the author himself?
Over the many years I’ve spent on the internet, I’ve seen a lot of author blogs and interacted with a few. The vast majority of the time I’ve been sorry I did.
Author blogs fall into two general categories: ones where they talk incessantly about writing advice and ones where they talk about everything else, frequently politics or the like. The former we can ignore because the reader is uninterested; the audience is other authors or wannabes.
The more general content type of blog often gives you a lot of information about the type of person the author is. Some of them are really good at going in political directions. They’ll attract an audience of like minded readers. Nothing wrong with this at all. No matter what someone writes their opinions are going to tick someone off so there’s really no point in hiding what they think. And there have been a number of authors whose blogs I perused enough to see that they weren’t worth the time. World view is going to affect your writing and sometimes your world view is so obnoxious I’m not likely to enjoy fiction steeped in it.
One thing’s for sure, however. Direct, personal interaction with an author has a much great effect on your ability to enjoy their work more than some random thing they wrote on in a blog post. Authors might like to proclaim that they’ll never treat a reader badly but they never bother to ask who is a reader or not* before they ban hammer or cuss at an obnoxious commenter or before they overreact to some perceived slight or criticism.
(*To be fair, if they were to ask, there’s no proving the “reader” is telling the truth or not and “I’m not going to buy your books/read your stuff/watch your videos anymore wah!” is a common concern troll tactic.)
Years ago there was an author whose works I rather liked. I made the mistake of disagreeing with him on a subject that nothing to do with books. It did not end well. After that, I’ve tried to avoid communicating with authors in any way shape or form especially not if I like their books.
The problem is if you’re on any social media or have a blog and hang out on the fringes of certain types of groups, in may be very hard to avoid interacting with authors. Either they have an interesting blog and the temptation to comment gets too strong or–heaven forbid–they read your blog. Never mind the fact that the self censorship necessary to avoid ever commenting or mentioning something an author said is stupid.
With any ol’ random person you strike up an acquaintance with you run the risk that they might turn out to be a terrible jerk or will go psycho on you at some further date. That’s humanity for you. Authors being asses, however, adds another dimension. Unlike most normal people, the author expects/hopes that you will spend both money and time on him. As my free time has dwindled precipitously over the past couple years and alternative entertainment sources grown exponentially, an author behaving like a retard becomes all the more reason to kick him off the to-be-read/bought list. I could be reading the novel of a guy who publicly cussed me out on his blog or I could be playing Deus Ex, watching Korean TV, reading The Shadow, listening to OTR… I mean, I’ve got a couple hundred years worth of entertainment for free off the internet not even counting new stuff. So even the guy who doesn’t attack me personally but is simply acting idiotic has a lot of competition. Everybody’s got a finite amount of free time and an enormous choice of things to fill it with.
In a way, authors behaving badly or spouting politics is a boon for readers trying to filter out what they don’t want to waste their time on. Author blogs do double duty because you can both see their stupid behavior and get a taste of writing style.
This all ended up being very negative but what actually got me thinking about it was the fact that I went and bought a couple ebooks last week which I wouldn’t have bought otherwise if it hadn’t been for the fact that I’ve talked to the author a couple times and he’s cool. In fact, aside from the one recent obvious and ugly example, all the authors (this is a very small number) I’ve talked to on social media in the past year or so have been cool. Maybe later some of them will turn out of the jerks. Maybe not. It’s a double edge sword for both authors and readers. Authors are bound to lose readers but also find new ones, and readers will lose authors they might have otherwise read but find replacements.