Disclaimer: I’m just a young adult who published a novelette in her mid-teens, so I’m by no means an expert in any of this. Much of this post is based on observation and speculation.
Today, authors (and artists in general) of all levels of fame are becoming far more accessible to their fans. They share updates across social media platforms, offering small tidbits of their personal and writing lives to fans – in the case of famous authors, sure, they’re famous authors, but this kind of interaction helps us know for sure that they’re really people too, just like us. (They just happen to have more success and they’re good at writing novel-length works…. Totally not jealous here. 😛 ) As nice as that can be, this increased level of interaction between authors and their fans isn’t all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows.
Snubbed by the Author?
An acquaintance – we’ll call her Melody – posts a lot about a favorite book series on some social media platforms, and analyzes (both fanon and canon) dynamics between certain characters. She has interesting things to say, and she’s not afraid to be critical and harshly so if something about the series or the author’s actions bothers her. She did once go as far as to say the hated this author (in jest, it seems), because she worried about the direction the author was taking their latest book series.
Melody recently posted about how she received some unfriendly treatment from this author, who likely falls under the famous author category. The author must have been doing a Q&A session on her blog; Melody asked a polite, non-confrontational question on the author’s website. The author’s (private) reply was non-responsive, simply a link to the “hate” post Melody had made before. I think this was effectively a snub.
I can understand how awful it must feel to be treated this way by a professional author. Melody and I agree that the way the author went about it could’ve been worse, but it certainly surprised me to see a well-known, professional author retaliating in such a manner!
But I also get that authors, like the rest of us, are only human beings; human beings have flaws and feelings. As an artist and author myself, who has received plenty of criticism ranging from bluntly constructive to downright gratuitously nasty, I can understand the desire to react vindictively towards a reader who isn’t afraid to frankly speak her mind about perceived flaws in my art.
Maybe Melody went too far in her criticism. Maybe the author is overreacting. Perhaps they’re both justified in their feelings and actions. Either way, multiple peoples’ feelings must have been hurt.
The Overly Attached Fan
This part is about the other side of the AuthorxFans relationship, and it’s kind of an extreme case.
My friend – we’ll call her Abby – is a young author who wrote a children’s book. She has to deal with fans who are probably young enough that they should have adult supervision when browsing the Web. Abby’s happy to receive fan mail and messages – it makes her really happy to know that readers of all ages enjoy her book. She even replies when she can.
Abby has a particular(ly) young fan who’s convinced they’re “totes besties” because she replied to their fan messages once or twice, and uses their limited Web browsing resources to send her “fan mail” constantly. And when she doesn’t respond, this fan keeps pushing; she sometimes gets the same message several times in a 24 hour period. Also, all their messages are signed off with “Your friend, [Name].”
This fan is a little kid who simply doesn’t get it. They won’t take a hint, and their constant overtures are now bordering on harassment. But it’s still really hard to fault a little kid, especially one who’s too young to understand the consequences of their actions!
Professionalism, Professional Barriers
Vic Mignogna is a voice actor whose work I admire. In this video, he’s talking about stalkers and whether he has any, but he also describes some interesting things that happen about interacting with his fans in general.
The part about getting 200+ fan-emails a day, including chatty messages from fans who just don’t understand that he’s a busy professional, not their best friend, resonated with me because of my friend’s situation.
[I was lucky enough to get not one, but two replies from this person when I sent him a fan letter thanking him for inspiring me to pursue voice acting. But I’m not going to bug him any further. I know he’s busy. 🙂 ]
The main takeaway I have from this video is that you can have fans who love you, and you can love them back, but that doesn’t make you friends. Professionalism, here, is the key. The relationship between artists and fans is different from that of peers – there are barriers of professionalism that need to be there for the artist’s and fans’ respective safety (and mental health)!
Although we artists, authors, actors, etc. are also regular people with feelings and flaws, just as we cannot become BFFs with our audience, I feel like we also can’t be pettily vindictive towards them either, the way we might be with peers from school or work.
Even when it comes to dealing with harsh critics and haters among the fanbase, as hurtful as it is to read their comments, I feel like producers (e.g. authors), especially professionals, need to maintain a level of professional decorum from their side, even if consumers (e.g. fans, critics, haters) on the other side won’t.
I’d come up with a stunning concluding paragraph, but I’m all “written out” right about now, so … yeah, those are my two cents on these issues. Peace out! ^_^