Monday, May 13, 2013

Opinions and Authors

"We keep half of what we think hidden away on our inside and only deliver ourselves of that remnant of it which is proper for general consumption." - Mark Twain

"It were not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horse-races." - Mark Twain, in Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar

"I am not one of those who in expressing opinions confine themselves to facts." - Mark Twain

It must be pointed out, at least in regards to the first question above, that Mark Twain shared his opinion of the opinion-delivering habits that belonged to the general "We" well before the Internet and Facebook made opinion-delivering easy, fun, and relatively anonymous.  These days anyone with an e-mail address (real or faked, often) can crawl onto a web-based forum and share all sorts of opinions in all sorts of ways that would've made a Twain-era sailor blush in shame. 

The practice of sharing your opinion so openly and freely has interesting implications for authors, especially in a world that has become so emotionally-charged in its consideration of political issues.

Specifically: do you, or don't you?

Don't!, the common wisdom cries.  Everyone knows that we authors want people reading our books no matter their political leaning.  And it's true; each time I see the number sold column in the KDP report increment I'm both happy and happily heedless of whether the purchaser was a scumbag right-wing capitalistic fascist pig or a freaky left-wing pinko commie tree-hugger.  Right?  And the inverse is true as well; the last thing I want is for someone to not buy my book because he knows I have political or religious beliefs that swing opposite to his own.

Granted, the lessons on opinions and business are prevalent throughout the business world.  Both The Huffington Post (an admittedly left-wing publication) and Forbes (an admittedly right-wing publication) published articles linked here that described the pain the Papa John's, Denny's, and Applebee's brands all went through when their chief executive staff decided to open up to the public their opinions on a fairly business-oriented yet highly politically-polarized topic.  Both articles can be summarized fairly simply: "Ouch, man, that frickin' hurt."  Just don't do it, the message is--business is business is business, and it should never be combined with politics.

It must be noted that these brands are all national, with millions, if not billions, of dollars of cash in reserve.  What's a poor Indie author, who looks forward to his next Remittance Advice from Amazon as my Chihuahua looks forward to her next full food bowl, to do?

My recommendation?  Be real.

First of all, I'm not saying be stupid.  Separate your brand from your private Facebook.  My own web page has the most boring of news on it; all of that crap is completely unrelated to the newest information regarding the Benghazi attack or the health care law or anything else you'll read about on CNN.  Granted, when "The Other Stephen King Wins ____ Award" is on CNN, you bet my site will match, but that won't be political.  When I Tweet, as I often do, it's either a business-related Tweet or a quote of the day or something about Survivor, or something--anything--else but politics.  My writing is not about politics, period.

On my personal page, though, I do express my fairly strong opinions.  With that said, I have to say I've never seen a dip in sales as a result of doing so.  That's most likely because I've separated the brand from the person.

Besides, nearly everybody on my Friends list has either bought my books, or not bought my books, and they're very unlikely to cross the line between the two options.  

That said, I've also tempered my own opinions over time.  It's not a business move, but rather a personal one that kinda follows along with the logic of Twain.  Years ago, before Facebook, I was a member of my West Point class's listserv.  I found a particularly left-leaning Bill Maher quote funny, and I posted it there, and oy, vey, was there a backlash.  As Facebook rose in popularity I made friends on both sides of the spectrum, and in turn I lost friends on both sides of the spectrum as I leaped in with both feet and shared my opinion.


I'm showing far more restraint these days, though.  A friend posted a thread recently that complained about a televised crowd not rising entirely for the National Anthem--a complaint I'll share.  But in five or six comments the thread had denigrated to blaming that behavior on the President.  I read, thought about replying, and then continued scrolling.  Nice job, right?

It's hard, though, as an author especially, to not have an opinion, and it's also hard to not bring your powers of linguistics to bear in expressing that opinion.  To a certain extent, though, it's a requirement.



  1. I really try to not post political stuff, I don't always succeed but I do try.

    It's not that I'm not passionate about things, it's just I've been tooling around the internet for a long time and I've had my fill of the arguments politics brings out in people.

    1. Thanks for the reply, Denise. I usually am the same way, but sometimes I forget that I've already had my fill of it.

  2. *grins* As you know, I am of a political bent, but I do - like you - have a separate personal page where I express that opinion. I believe in being real, and this despite the fact that two people actually took the time to search out my personal page. One gave me a bad review based purely on my politics, while another gave me a good review - shaving off one point for the politics. (Oddly and eerily, later circumstances proved I might be a little prescient.) Despite the bad review, I believe in being true to myself as well as my readers.

    1. What a strange scoring system, with a book being a 5 if written by a (political party name) member or a 4 if written by a (the other political party name) member. Shows what a simpleton I am, thinking that the book review scores were an indication of entertainment value. :-)

  3. I tend to get quite vocal on my personal page about certain issues - it has lost me both friends and readers, but that's okay. What I write will not appeal to the right - so I don't see that as a loss. What would be great is for some from the right to review my books instead of just emailing or PMing to tell me that I'm blasphemous and the spawn of Satan. A couple reviews like that could help sales. :)

    1. I'm no longer "of the right"--I tore up that registration card long ago and declared myself Independent. That said, I could write a pretty convincing review to call you the spawn of Satan if it would really be helpful. :-)