Sunday, April 29, 2012

Can the "Sticky Sweet Deal" Damage an Author's Career?

We hear all the time about how important it is for authors not to rant and rave on social media. And I agree. If you are labeled as trouble all the time it's hard to shake the image. Life is hard enough as it is without having to listen to an author rant and complain. But I'm kind of curious about something else...which I guess would the direct opposite of being a snarky, ranting blowhard online.

I tend to keep it real here on the blog and on social media. I've never been a confrontational person and I have a very long fuse, so to speak. Although, if you push me hard enough, or if you throw the first punch, you'd better be prepared for a response. But that rarely ever happens to me, and it has to be extreme when it does. Most of the time I find that keeping it real and treating people with respect works best. And I've learned over the years never to underestimate readers...and to give them the respect and honesty they deserve.

What I'm talking about right now with the "sticky sweet deal" is when I see an author lay on the sugar and spice routine to the point of nausea. When it gets so cute, and the pretty pink unicorns are so adorable, you want to gag. It can happen on blogs or on any social media where authors are interacting with readers and other authors. It can be men or women; there doesn't seem to be a pattern in this respect. I don't see this often, thank God, but when I do I cringe sometimes.

The false tone and the painfully wretched way I've seen this happen makes me wonder how readers feel about this, and do they actually believe it? I could do it. I could post something like this: "A dear sweet loving reader just told me she loves me more than a basket of puppies, a bushel of fluffy kittens, and marsh mellow clouds in a bright blue sky. She is willing to leave her husband for me, everything she's worked for all her life, and run off into the sunset with me to live happily-ever-after in a world of over-the-rainbow love." But would readers really buy into the sticky sweet deal or would they think I'm a blithering idiot who will stop at nothing to sell a book?

I honestly don't know what to make of this. Maybe most of the bright, hard-working authors I know who don't do things like this are missing something important? Maybe I'm missing something important? But, like I said, I don't see it happen very often. I really am curious about how readers feel when they see an author say or do things on social media that could be taken as insincere...or too cute. I will say this: I think it might work in the beginning. It might be a way to attract a readership and build a following. Politicians do it all the time. We've seen them all kissing babies at one time or another. But eventually even politicians have to tone it down. Because once the "sticky sweet deal" wears off there had better be a back up plan with something substantial. If not, and you're labeled an idiot, you'll always be one. I know there are one or two I'll never forget. And I don't know many people who are willing to take that chance in any walk of life.


Barb said...

The "real & authentic" person (author), whether snarky, funny, grumpy,etc, is more appreciated. No one who acts like you describe could ne taken seriously. Nobody I know is that 'cutesy' in life. I'd rather see the real person, whether good or bad, in order to form my own opinion.

ryan field said...

Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate it. I wonder about these things sometimes. And I agree, I like the grumpy, funny, snarky types myself.

Amy Lane said...

But it is SO hard to find a balance in how you present yourself. I know the sticky sweet thing leaves me cold--but I FAR prefer it to the stinking acid pit of drama!

ryan field said...

I know what you mean. I often stop short in both directions for fear of crossing the line. It's especially hard when you really like the publishers and editors you work with. Too much sweet talk might not sound real...even if it is real.

Nithu said...

Personally, I prefer warts and all, although I keep my head down around drama llamas. I tend to start gagging around sickly sweet stuff, unless I know the person well - then I assume they're taking the piss :)

When thinking about how people present themselves, as per Amy's comments, I think I expect a certain amount of reserve (not sure if that's quite the right word). If I follow an author's blog, it's because I've enjoyed reading their work, I'm interested in knowing more about it, finding out about new projects etc. I really don't expect much, if any, personal stuff, I don't expect to be entertained.

One other thought that struck me, is I think people are a lot more cynical these days (or is that just me?). We're used to having people try to sell us... whatever, their products, their politics, etc. I know that I appreciate when that's upfront - I'm a suspicious old biddy who doesn't like it when people try to 'sneak things by me', if you know what I mean. The sickly, sweet stuff just makes me feel patronised.

ryan field said...

A few people didn't comment, but e-mailed me saying basically what you just said.

Thanks for commenting.