Authors: Business vs Personhood?

Robert Galbraith J.K.RowlingDuring the past four years there’s been a radical shift in how authors are perceived. Social media and self-publishing are the main reasons for this change. The ease with which one can become an author and communicate with fans and critics alike has led to both positive and negative effects on the reputations of authors.

What many point out is the fact that as soon as you make something available for sale, you’re a business. Businesses succeed and fail based on the quality of their customer service. A small but growing proportion of authors fail to understand this fact despite repeated explanations.

Seeing and hearing this same conversation countless times may mean we’ve begun to see authors as ONLY businesses while dismissing them as people.

Authors are first and foremost, human beings. Contrary to the belief held by Goodreads, they have friends who aren’t necessarily their readers. They talk about books other than the ones they’ve written themselves. But when they’re promoting their own work, they put their customer service face on and act like a business broadcasting its brand.

As people we act out many roles at once. Mother, daughter, employee, friend, girlfriend, etc. We’re not only one thing to all people, at any one time. That’s too simple.

Most authors understand the delicate balance between ‘business’ and ‘person’ and act accordingly, behaving in ways they feel comfortable with. Whether that’s to openly review and promote using the same social media accounts, using separate professional and personal accounts, or limiting their online activity to just promoting their writing. Authors can be readers, too. That gets lost in the superfluous yet endless Authors vs. Reviewers debate.

Jane Litte of Dear Author is no different. Using secret pseudonyms to preserve anonymity is a common practice among writers. J.K. Rowling’s Robert Galbraith is a recent and notable example. That Jane was able to become a reasonably successful author as Jen Frederick without capitalizing on her large blog audience, is to be commended. Talent rather than established popularity is the basis of Jane’s achievement as a self-published, now traditionally published, author.

Wanting to keep certain areas of your life separate isn’t a crime. Nor is combining them. People are messy and complicated creatures with multiple identities. To assume otherwise is folly.

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