Welcome back to another discussion post. Today, we’ll be talking about authors & invasion of fan spaces.
This is an issue that has been on my mind since I’ve gotten more involved in this community. I’ve been involved in online fandom for eons, and the book community is quite unique in that it was the first time I’ve seen such a heavy amount of creator (in this case author) & fan interaction. While I think accessibility is amazing, I have encountered a lot of behavior I find alarming with regards to authors actually invading fan spaces.
Naturally, I wanted to talk about it AND get your opinions and hear about your experiences with it.
I’ve seen a lot of behavior, on both sides recently that has made me extremely concerned.To reiterate, the book community is unique in that the creators are so much more accessible than in almost any other fandom: TV, film, you name it. Authors are incredibly easy to access. And that’s great. Who doesn’t want their favorite author to respond to their tweet asking them a question about their writing process or how their book tour’s going.
But, the level of accessibility has has become a problem. Authors have become too involved to the point of encroaching on fan space (anyone remember back when John Green was inescapable on Tumblr). Don’t get me wrong, us as fans have greatly helped them into doing so by our own actions, but that’s another issue that would deserve its own post. There are a lot of things I wish authors would stop doing in order to distance themselves from their fanbase.
Things I Wish Authors Would Stop Doing…
I have complicated feelings about Authors following bloggers on platforms like Twitter. On one hand, I think it’s awesome when an author follows you. There have been some authors that I checked multiple times to see if they were following me just to make sure it wasn’t a dream. However, there are a lot of issues that come with that, one being that I don’t think authors are conscious enough about the decision they make when following someone.
I want authors to be more intentional when they follow bloggers.There are some authors I am baffled as to why they follow me. A lot of the time, it seems like authors are just following bloggers just to follow bloggers and not because of their actual content. It’s become one of those checklist things like “Oh, yes. I’ve followed this, this, and, this blogger my work here is done”. And then there are some authors that have unfollowed me after I posted poor reviews of their books which I think is telling.
I get not wanting to follow someone who doesn’t like your book. I probably wouldn’t want to see someone giving a raging 1 star review of my book either. However, I would hope that authors consider the fact that bloggers might not like their book before following them. That’s a risk you take when following bloggers. If you don’t think you can ignore someone, whose job it is to honestly review books, not liking your book maybe consider not following them in the first place?
Also, there’s the fact that bloggers get uncomfortable when they know that authors follow them, and they didn’t like their book. I know people who’ve softblocked authors before posting a negative review. I don’t know if authors think about this when they follow bloggers. Some members of this community produce amazing content and are incredibly eloquent about issues in the community. I understand authors wanting to learn from them. But, they should also take into account the position they as authors put bloggers on when they follow them and the assess if it’s worth it or not.
One of my number one pet peeves is authors talking about reviews of their books that they’ve read on Goodreads. While I understand the temptation, I hope it stopes.
Authors don’t need to be checking reviews of their books on Goodreads. It’s simple. There’s no reason for them to be needing to read reviews. Reviews are for other readers, not authors. Knowing that authors check reviews on Goodreads makes me super uncomfortable (and the fact that I know some of my favorite authors do it makes it worse). Even if an author is talking about how someone wrote a ridiculous review 3 word review that is objectively terrible, I don’t like it. I get the impulse to want to mock reviews, but that’s when the line starts to be crossed. What if they’re looking at more reviews than just that mocking one? Maybe they’re just responding to a review a friend linked them? We don’t know. It leaves a lot of uncomfortable grey space. And often, the practice of reading reviews can lead to a deeper problem in which authors will try to respond to reviews which I’ll talk about next…
Recently, there was an author whose book was called out for toxic masculinity (if you really want to know… the title is the sound a lion makes). A blogger wrote a post explaining why the book was perpetrating toxic tropes, and why those are so damaging in YA. And then the author ended up seeing it…. and ended up responding.
While they didn’t respond directly to the post itself or the blogger, it was plain to see it was a respond to their critiques. In this series of tweets, the author attempted to prove that they didn’t write a toxic romance.
Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter if it was or not (and for the record it was). The problem is that this author was responding to fan criticism and trying to disprove it. Intention doesn’t matter. If readers are hurt, readers are hurt. Trying to be like “Hey now, it wasn’t like that” isn’t an author’s place. Now, there’s a stark contrast between that and authors hearing about criticism being like “Hey, I messed up in [insert way] in my book, I hear what you’re saying, and will do better next time.” Obviously responding to one person’s specific criticism is shallow, AND puts the blogger in danger from fans who will pile onto the person who the author’s statement was directed at.
It’s natural that bloggers and authors would have some type of relationship. Bloggers do a lot for authors. We blog because we love the books people write. Those of us who can go to signings and festivals visit the same authors over and over again because we love them that much. We invite them to do guest posts, and tell all our friends about how great we think they are. However, I think there’s a fine line between that type of “professional” relationship that we create through interaction, creating graphics, reading ARCs, running street teams, etc, and an actual friendship. It’s a hard line to draw, but it’s there. When people ignore it, authors creep into fan spaces and over interact when they should probably be taking a step back.
Friendships between authors and bloggers is a problem on both sides. We have cultivated this environment where it’s okay to become best friends with Authors. That level of accessibility and intimacy is dangerous for a variety of reasons, which is why I’m so concerned. When fans are just a couple clicks away, I think it can be easy for authors to forget that they hold an immense amount of power over fans.
And, of course, that becomes dangerous. When authors start behaving badly or write problematic content, it makes calling them out, something already daunting, that much more precarious. How do you critique an author who has so much clout in fan spaces and relationships with prominent community members? Even for the fans who are friends with the authors, how are you supposed to navigate your friendship with someone who also wields an immense amount of power over you?
No matter how much Authors want to start a friendship with their fans, they will always have the upper hand. There’s no equalizer. I’m not saying all authors go out with malicious intentions, but despite genuine intentions, you still cannot get rid of the power imbalance.
I didn’t think I would see the day, but here we are. Let me start off by saying that I don’t hate fan fiction. I’m not George RR Martin (In fact, I spent most of my freshman year of high school reading A Song of Ice and Fire fics. Go figure). That being said, I’ve seen this… strange trend of authors RT-ing fan fiction of their own work.
I can’t imagine how cool it must feel for other people to love your characters and universe enough to want to write in them. However, promo-ing that fan fiction? It’s heavily concerning to me for a couple reasons. Fan fiction isn’t for authors. It’s for fans (I mean, it’s called fan fiction). A lot of people write it because they aren’t satisfied with canon, or because the author hasn’t released a new book since 2011 (I’m looking at your George RR Martin). I’m sure authors find it funny to check out fan fiction, but seeing them publicly promoting it on Social Media feels like a huge overstep. And I’ve seen this happen multiple times. Not to mention it’s a huge liability for the author… especially those still writing in that universe.