Friday, July 19, 2013

101 Thoughts on Self-Publishing -- 009: Don’t Be Political… Unless That’s Your Thing

If you're at all active on social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), you've no doubt encountered people who seemingly use it for the sole purpose of political commentary. And if that's your thing, if you write politically charged books, that's fine. But if that's not your thing, if you don't get into politics in your books or you approach it tangentially, my advice would be to avoid getting political when engaging potential readers.


I don't mean to imply you shouldn't express your views if you want to. Of course you can. But like with most other things, it's best to take a step back and spend a few minutes in quiet reflection before posting something that is political. Ask yourself a few questions:

1. Is this a point/issue I feel is essential to my online identity and therefore want to express it?
2. If I do decide to post, am I phrasing it in the most productive way?
3. Is my desire to post a political commentary worth alienating a current or potential reader?

Regarding point one: My online identity is as a speculative fiction writer. I post things relating to science fiction, books, writing, publishing, etc. I will occasionally post things not related to writing, things I find interesting, things that express my other interests, but these are in keeping with my online identity. Personally, I don't post intimate details about my life or my family. It's not part of my public persona, and not the sort of thing people who follow me as a speculative fiction writer are interested in reading about. Point one is really all about creating a line between your public persona and your private persona.

Regarding point two: If you decide to get political, I would encourage you to word your statements positively rather than negatively. Saying something like, "All people who believe this are stupid!" isn't going to win you many fans. Expressing support for something you strongly believe in is a much safer way to approach political commentary. There will still be people who disagree with you, but at least you haven't gone out of your way to antagonize them.

Regarding point three: No matter how carefully you word your statement, there will be people who will unfriend/unfollow you and swear off ever reading your books simply because you expressed an opinion they strongly disagree with. Unfortunately, most of the political discourse in America (I can't speak for other countries) had devolved into this kind of behavior. I don't like it, but I can't see any way to change it.

Now, if you decide you don't want fans like that anyway, go ahead and post. But just remember that such a potential reader could become a devoted fan or friend and be a great person who you have much in common with outside of politics. And by the same token, don't be a reactionary if someone posts something you don't like. People are so much more than their political affiliations, and it would be wise to remember that when dealing with someone who has been vocal about controversial issues.

I will make one final point. You might be familiar with established authors who are highly political and unabashedly so. They have large, built-in fan bases and in many cases have made politics part of their public personas, whether or not their writing has to do with it. As with many things, those who are "established" can get away with breaking or bending the rules a lot more easily than the rest of us. Keep this in mind if you are thinking of modeling yourself on someone who is outspoken in that way. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you agree with me that writers are generally better off by keeping their politics private? Are there any other issues you think it is unwise for a writer to be vocal about?


If you're enjoying the series so far and would like a single page to bookmark, I'll be adding each of my 101 Thoughts on Self-Publishing here. Also be sure to subscribe by email (see the box in the sidebar) to be automatically notified about my new posts.

You might also be interested in my new eBook, Building a Promotional Package: How to Prepare for Your Successful Book Launch. Details about it can be found here.

Michael K. Rose

1 comment:

  1. This is solid advice.

    Always, *always* speak your mind. Always comment on social issues that affect you if you have something to add to the conversation.

    But whatever you say will be there for the world to see, so say it intelligently... and say it when you aren't angry :)

    I am a writer, or at least I look like one under the right lighting conditions, and I mostly use Twitter to throw out questions, retweet writers and post odd news. I *do* put some of my opinions out there, especially as of late, with the Zimmerman trial and other huge happenings in the last few months.

    However, no matter how strongly I feel about something, I try to only post opinions in the same way I would speak them to someone's face. If it is too broad, too rude or too aggressive, and I wouldn't turn to a friend and say it, I won't tweet it.

    I also try not to tweet too many opinions or political stories in a row. It's important to be *interesting* and no one finds the non-stop never-takes-a-break activist interesting.

    Of course, if anyone unfollows me because I tweet about women being treated fairly or how racism is a bad thing can feel free to unfollow away :)