Authors Behaving Badly: The Desperately Seeking Attention Edition

MonkeysToday I read a column in a newspaper I won’t name about an author who trashed book clubs in general and in particular, the group of women who had invited her to visit their meeting and talk about her book. I don’t get it. If a book club decided to read one of my books and wanted me to speak with them, I’d be honored and thrilled. I’ve done it before, and I’d definitely do it again. After passion for writing, connection with readers is one of the biggest reasons I’m in this thing. So I didn’t understand this woman’s behavior. And then, sadly, I did. File this one under the clickbait folder—a provocative headline designed to entice you to click on over and get outraged enough to share it with your friends. And share, and share, and share.

I’m not playing. Not my circus, not my monkeys, as the wise old Polish ladies used to say. All that article did was invite me not to share that author’s article. Or buy her book. I’ve already forgotten her name.

I admit that getting attention—the good kind—is tough for an author. Look at all the things books are competing with: video games, binge-watching Orange is the New Black, social media, actually going out and spending time with other human beings. Some days I feel like the short guy at the end of the bar waving my five-dollar bill in the air—I’m attempting to make some noise, but I don’t think I’m ever getting my beer. So I can understand the temptation to do something a little crazy to get a few eyeballs. Desperation can lead to some pretty terrible things. (Believe me, I’ve binge-watched Orange is the New Black, too.) But I don’t want to do anything to risk alienating that connection.

It’s not a good look. Plus I’d probably feel the need for a shower afterward. So I’m not going to wrap myself in Saran Wrap printed with my book cover. I’m not going to accost people on the street and tell them my fictional children are starving. I’m not going to comment on critical reviews. I’m not even going to put one of those “ethical author” badges on my website. Nothing against the authors who do that—I completely believe in being ethical, and I like what the movement stands for. But when I see one of those, I can’t help hearing my father’s voice in my head: “Never trust a guy who says ‘trust me.’”

Maybe it’ll take a little longer to get my beer, but I’m sure it will taste a lot better.

What do you think about these kind of ploys? Fair game in a competitive, do-what-it-takes world? The fast train out of author-ville? I’d love to have a chat about this.


Laurie Boris has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of five novels with another on the way. When not playing with the universe of imaginary people in her head, she’s a freelance copyeditor and enjoys baseball, reading, and avoiding housework. See what’s on sale this month here.

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20 thoughts on “Authors Behaving Badly: The Desperately Seeking Attention Edition

  1. A Well Read Woman says:

    I don’t understand why an author would want to alienate their readers, either. I recently gave a three star review, and the author was so upset that she sent her street team after me, to bash my review. It was three stars, not one for crying out loud! Funny thing is, I was interested in reading a more popular book by her, but after her behavior, I decided to STEER CLEAR of this mental patient and her deranged street team. 🙂
    So yeah, fast train outta author-ville. 🙂

  2. Tricia Drammeh says:

    I’m sure the author gets a rush from seeing their article shared and shared again. For someone who is desperate for attention, I’m sure they achieve some satisfaction in seeing their name “out there.” What they don’t realize is that their fifteen minutes of fame isn’t going to advance their writing career. Like you said, no one is going to buy a book based on an author’s bad behavior.

  3. laurieboris says:

    April – I’m so sorry. That was one of the first (hard) lessons I learned as a young writer. If I ask for the feedback and someone is generous enough to give it honestly, I listen, nod, and say thank you.

  4. acflory says:

    I agree, Laurie, but I’d like to think that not behaving badly will pay off in the long run.Of course, our view of courtesy and what constitutes behaving /well/ may be a thing of the past. I hope not but …

  5. Julie Frayn says:

    I got invited to a book club to speak, I went, had wine, ate their lovely snacks, chatted and answered their numerous and well thought-out questions. I’d do it again in a heartbeat – it was a great experience and they were all wonderful. If they hadn’t been, I’d still do it again, and keep my mouth shut. I do want honest reviews, even if sometimes they aren’t very nice. And would never trash a reviewer.

  6. melindaclayton says:

    Great post, Laurie. I recently followed someone back on Twitter and got an immediate tweet, one of those “I’d drink bleach to get you to read my book” tweets. Does that actually work with anyone? It didn’t with me.

  7. RJ Crayton says:

    Great post. I saw her article, and it was unfortunate. She insulted readers who join book clubs (describing them, in general, as the types of people you want to avoid), and wasn’t that flattering to the book club she attended. It was, as you said, not a good look. It’s one thing to say, book clubs aren’t my cup of tea (which she sort of did), but there’s no reason wrap that in insults and hostility. I suppose it was just clickbait, but why? That adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity was likely created by a publicist who was putting a positive spin on her client’s antics. It’s just not true (at least not for the person getting the bad publicity; it probably is true if you own a gossip magazine). I just don’t think it’s right to insult book club readers in general (or the particular book club you visited) for the purpose of attracting website visitors. When you get eyeballs on your work, the goal is for them to think, “that’s an interesting person with an interesting point of view; why don’t I check out the books she’s written.” The goal is not to get readers to your site and have them say, “What an a–hole” and click the little x in the corner. That’s a lost opportunity.

    • laurieboris says:

      Precisely, RJ. I’ve wandered across several authors saying or doing interesting things and wanted to check out their books. Not this time. Lost opportunity, indeed. But there’s a reason the president of our local NPR station (just north of NYC, where this woman rants) spells out the name of the newspaper she writes for, instead of saying it. Clickbait.

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