29 January 2014

The Business of Being Me

The other day I read an article Rob Delaney wrote for the Guardian about the right to safe, legal abortion. Rob is super-popular on Twitter and has about eleventy-billion followers, so I thanked him for sharing his opinion which, I'm afraid to say, is still not universally embraced by members of our government.

Then I wondered if Rob had made the smart marketing choice by writing about such a contentious topic.

And that thought scared me.

If you follow Rob on Twitter, it's fairly obvious he doesn't give a shit what people think about him. But, in some part of my brain, I've calculated the risk of being truly myself on social media as I navigate this path toward publication.

A few months ago I attended the Popular Romance Author Symposium at Princeton University. The topic was author identity and the panel included Jennifer Crusie and Eloisa James. It was a very interesting discussion about personal vs. public identity, social media, and the author as product and opinions differed as to how authentic one should be on the Internet.

Publishing is a business, after all, and if the goal is to make money it's best to appeal to the masses. But how does one do that without sanitizing their soul? How can I be Megan Coakley: Author, without being Megan Coakley: Woman who believes in reproductive rights, a living wage, marriage equality, and universal healthcare? How much of myself am I willing to deny to sell books?

Every so often, I take stock of who I'm following on Twitter and edit my feed. I like to think I do it to remain a more positive person, because some days Twitter can be an endless torrent of negativity. But more often than I care to admit I follow someone because I think they might be beneficial to me down the road a bit, or I delete an account that might be considered offensive to the majority. And I do all this as an UNPUBLISHED AUTHOR. It doesn't even matter yet.

Whenever I attend a conference, there's always discussion about branding yourself, building a platform, how to reach readers through social media. In some ways, I began doing that the moment I started writing The Lone Woman Diaries. But three years later I would probably advise myself not to write something so confessional. At the very least, I'd edit all the times I said "fuck you" to my kids because, you know, that doesn't paint me in the most flattering parental light.

I've been paying attention to the media advisors, but their advice makes me itchy. I ask myself how much I need to know about an author to appreciate their books. Would I stop reading them if I disliked their personal opinions? I'm not sure.

Are you?