A Question Of Courtesy

Some recent events on Twitter prompted me to write this Post; I’ve been mulling it all over in my head for a little less than a week, and knew it would have to be one of the first things I wrote upon the launch of this website. That said, here we go:

On January 30th/2020, an author (who shall remain NAMELESS; they’ve dealt with enough awful backlash) Tweeted the following:

“Remember: it’s generally pretty rude to tag authors in book reviews. We’re limited in how we can engage professionally, after all.”

Thus began a days-long witch-hunt whereby Reviewers, other Authors, and in some cases even Publishers took pot shots at this person in a concerted “cancellation”.

I’ll be candid: I do not approve of cancel-culture, and this fiasco was just generally pleasant and unproductive. I get the impression that many people are just foaming at the mouth when I read some of the things they’ll post online. A degree of online anonymity does not warrant such vitriol, especially when you consider all the random folks coming out of the woodwork purely to be unpleasant. It’s in poor taste, and I don’t support it. Instead, let’s use this as a teaching opportunity for everyone else (take note, fellow book bloggers!).

Realistically, was the above Tweet accurate? No. Judging by the backlash it generated, it’s safe to say that many Writers and Publishers are content with being tagged by book reviewers; it’s free publicity, and it can make an enormous difference for lesser known Authors to have their work spread around to new potential readers. Some absolutely love it! Social Media interaction is also a great way to get the word out about an Author’s work.

The (equally valid) inverse is that some Authors simply detest being tagged in book reviews, and the unfairly maligned Author at the core of this discussion made some excellent points concerning this. As they pointed out, many Publishers tell their Authors to ignore reviews, as they are not for Authors but for other READERS. There is very little to gain from reading the review, as it is a personal opinion. If you are a popular enough Author, you will see many, many reviews. This is a mental strain, and can lead to a great deal of stress. Authors want us to be happy, and it affects them when people do not enjoy what they are producing. Writing is a stressful enough job given the economic realities of it, and it is not necessarily a good idea for Writers to compound this with further stress. If someone publicly tags them in a bad review, how can they react? It puts them in a position where they MUST react, and that is not a good situation at all. Think of being out in public, only to have some weirdo run up to you and shake your hand without permission, refusing to let go or to acknowledge your time or boundaries.

What does one do? It seems as though you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Well, I see it as a simple solution: respect boundaries. There is nothing inherently wrong with tagging an Author in a review you worked hard on, just as there is nothing inherently wrong with hugging a person. In the latter case, however: would you do it to a person you barely know, without asking? If you are unsure, just ask. It can’t hurt! Getting consent is a simple and courteous solution to this “issue”. If we keep that in mind, we’ll all be a little happier and enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship.

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