Random Thoughts: Author “Platforms” and Politics

Okay, so yesterday there was an article circulating around writer internet (that has since been removed from the site it was on at the request of the author) that advocated political silence on social media from fiction writers.

Um.

No.

Now is not the time to advocate political silence, particularly from those whose work has hopefully lent itself to the development of an articulate voice.

Before I continue my rant I do want to say that the person who wrote it was probably well-meaning. The main concern of the article was about potential loss of readership, marketing, your “author brand” and while it is valid for a fiction writer to consider all of these things when expressing things in public spaces, it is not appropriate to URGE silence. I mean, we are writers. If we cannot express ourselves particularly in times like these then what the hell are we doing? Who would advocate suppressing the practice of the very art that we provide? Come on now. Art is political whether that is our intention or not. And you want us to not talk politics? GTFO. I mean that literally. If it bugs you there are tools you have. Block, mute, unfriend, unfollow, etc…

Here’s the thing, we are going to talk about the things we care about whether political or not. Because we are thinking human beings. And no, I am not always thinking about my “brand” or whatever. I tend not think of myself as a brand. If I thought that way, I’d work in advertising.

One thing I’d also like to point out is that I have read plenty of authors whose politics I either had no clue about or didn’t care for. The reasons we read or don’t read a thing (as readers) are as varied as the shape of leaves turning in the wind. If we assume that we can’t speak about things that matter to us because we might lose audience for the stories we tell, doesn’t that leave the work dead in the water?

On the personal side of this I think of all the things that work against artists from the start. No one wants us to do this work when we begin, you know. Our families worry for our finances. Sometimes our ideas or the places we have to go in order to tell a story well make people uncomfortable. I resent receiving a message, yet again, that I should reconsider speaking about something that matters to me. I have been silenced throughout my whole life in ways that have had severe consequences for me. Don’t tell me to shut up when speaking out is already difficult. I had to fight hard to get to a place where I can, where I want to.

I was not a person who discussed politics a lot on social media before this past year. But I will hang on to my freedom to do so. I certainly won’t let the opinion of someone else who is worried for book sales in the abstract keep me from saying stuff. Neither should you.

Talk about what you want to talk about, whether that’s cats, cartoons, or politics. Just remember it isn’t up to anyone else.

Writing Life: On Being an Indie Author During #GrabYourWallet

So this one is a bit thorny and I suspect a lot of us are dealing with it. It is no secret by now that politically, I am firmly against the Predator-Elect and all for resistance. One of the ways in which we can enact that resistance is with where we put our hard-earned and sometimes difficult to come by cash. Shannon Coulter brilliantly began something called the #GrabYourWallet campaign, a call to boycott all business carrying the Trump brand. An up-to-date list can be found here.

If you opened a link you will note that one of the first companies listed is Amazon.

Amazon is where you can find my recently released book, “Getting On With It.” It is currently the only distribution platform for that book.

The plan to publish there was made before the election, and I chose to follow through for the sake of consistency, the ease with which the Amazon as a platform makes it available to potential audience. I’m not going to pull my book, though the conflict of interest is quite painful to me. As an indie author the difficulty is obvious. Amazon is still the distribution platform with the largest reach.

I am also aware that during the #GrabYourWallet campaign, it is very likely that my numbers through that platform are likely to be lower than anticipated. Folks who might be drawn to read my work are very likely the same people engaging in #GrabYourWallet. Career-wise, I should be concerned about this, and I am, except not really. Some of this has to do with my perspective on writing and getting the work out. Slowly building an audience has been the expectation since I started self-publishing. The kind of success authors dream of is not something that happens overnight, it is even slower when you have very little budget. But there will be other projects, other work, other paths, other things to try. So I’m worried but not. Maybe it is more accurate to say that I am concerned more for this particular work than I am for my career overall.

That said, I hope that audience who were anticipating the work will not forget about it, and of course make the purchase eventually. (Link, for ease of discovery.) Digitally there will eventually be a release through Smashwords. Keep an eye on my various digital spaces for that.

I mentioned already that I can’t be the only indie-author using Amazon for distribution and struggling with this particular conundrum. But I also think that the situation we are facing offers something useful, at least for the #GrabYourWallet campaign. That useful thing is an argument. It might be a weak one, since corporations are not well-known for their conscience, and since individual indie authors have little impact on Amazon’s practices as a whole. However, as a collective our value to Amazon is more significant. The longer they carry the Trump brand, the longer our livelihoods might be impacted negatively. That is something that Amazon should consider. If we don’t make money, they don’t get their cut. I just mention this as something you can use when you speak up and tell Amazon why you aren’t shopping with them this year. Do I think it will contribute to a desirable outcome for the #GrabYourWallet campaign? I have no idea. But it is something to think about. It is something that can be leveraged.

So my question is, who has data? Because that would be useful going forward.

 

 

On the Election, 2016

I have been avoiding writing a blog post about the election. Maybe avoidance isn’t the right word here.

I am gutted by this.

I am in mourning.

I can’t seem to collect my thoughts into something coherent or meaningful around this outcome.

I keep wanting to appeal to people’s sense of empathy, because as a fiction writer that’s a large of part of what storytelling does. I think maybe through art that can be done, but I am not sure that currently it is a thing that can work. At least, not from the dialogue that I am seeing. And certainly not when so many choose to be blind to human suffering. I keep hearing people say, “Grow up,” to each other, and this is infuriating. I might argue that this is a case of “projectile projecting.” Using the silencing tactic of, “Grow up,” tells me that you are not adult enough to open your ears and listen, that you are not adult enough to reach for understanding. If you are someone getting told this, my advice is don’t engage with the person saying it to you. At this stage in the game, you don’t have to put yourself through it. A healthier course of action (and by this, I mean protect your emotional self. We are still so, so very raw) is to talk to someone you know can be supportive, and when you feel up to it, channel all of that energy into action.

There doesn’t seem much point in stating a case for an argument against what has already happened, even though I want to scream and yell and rail against.

I do see value in taking a stand, for yourself and for others. I see value in engaging with your personal support systems.

And I see value in making a decision about what to do going forward. It becomes increasingly clear that it is not only a good idea, but a necessity, to act.

Some acts will be quiet, or feel small. Ex: donating to Planned Parenthood, LGBTQ organization, the ACLU, Etc… (anyone with ideas PLEASE feel free to put them in the comments.) You can donate time to organizations that support causes that are bound to come under attack in the next four years. You can volunteer at soup kitchens.

And right now, you can write to your electors.

 

From Pete: The only thing necessary for the triumph of climate denial is for good men & women to do nothing. — Peter is in the Forest

On Tuesday the electoral college vote vaulted Donald Trump into the American presidency. If you understand the ramifications of that for the global climate, we are facing a terrifying prospect. He’s called climate change a hoax invented by the Chinese, that it’s bullshit and asked “Where the hell is global warming?” at a rally on a cold day. The string of […]

via The only thing necessary for the triumph of climate denial is for good men & women to do nothing. — Peter is in the Forest