A year ago when I published my first book “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” (available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/162903908X) it was suggested by an author friend that I start a Facebook page. Over the years I’ve had so many problems on Facebook, I didn’t like the idea. However, I started it up once again because it did help sell a lot of books. Then once I started doing book signings, “strangers” started coming to my events and “friending” me on Facebook. I had a very hard time using the word “fans.” It sounded so … so … so old and weird, like I was Gloria Swanson in “Sunset Boulevard” and the “little people” were peons buying my product.
Weirded out by “fan” I started calling those who brought my book, my “beloved readers.” It sounded more endearing than “fans.” But deep down, I wanted my readers to really be friends. They were buying my books and I felt I owed them my life. Dumb move. Making friends with fans is the biggest mistake any author, artist, actor, or musician can ever do. Fans are not friends.
Take the extreme case of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, singer, songwriter, fashion designer who was murdered by a crazed fan. Her family told Selena she was too trusting. And her murderer confessed she killed Selena because she was jealous.
I too, was told all my life that I was too trusting. I’m friendly and personable and make friends very easily. Only to get stabbed in the back over and over again. I’m honest. I’m sweet. And I’m vulnerable. Twice in this past week I was told I was “too nice.”
I said to my husband, “I need to harden up.”
He said, “No, being sweet is what makes you special. You just have to remember, these people are not your friends.”
I’ve learned (the hard way) there’s a place for fans — in the audience. Do not exchange phone numbers. Do not friend them on Facebook. Do not let them take you out to dinner. Do not meet them for lunch. If they give you a gift, kindly accept it.
Learn how to be a respected author because you paid your dues in getting there. There is no shame in calling someone a “fan.” You earned the right to say that. You don’t always have to be so humble. Humble means people will take advantage.
As much as we’d like to believe everyone is equal, we are not.
Let’s be real. We’re not in the same league as Oscar winners and rock stars. And on that same note, our fans are not in our league either. Even if we’re just doing book signings in libraries in front of a small audience and getting royalty checks every few months, it’s a helluva lot more than most people are doing and that will provoke jealousy (the root of all evil).
People can be very nice to your face and stab you in the back. They might be excited and honored to be your friend at first. They may introduce you as their “author friend.” They may put great reviews of your product on Amazon. They may come to your events and tell you how beautiful you are. This doesn’t make them a “friend.” It’s like the old saying, “Easy come, easy go.” When people put you up on a pedestal, they’ll be the first to knock you down when they find out you’re human.
Or as the ego always dictates, they’ll knock you down when they find out you disagree with them politically, or spiritually, or even if you eat meat and they don’t.
We live in a crazy ego-driven world; people are control freaks and users. People only love you when it’s working to their advantage. Everyone loved the All American Ricky Nelson until he grew his hair long. That is what his song “Garden Party” is about — not pleasing others. Others don’t want you to have an opinion of your own. If it doesn’t match theirs, you’ll have hell to pay.
I won’t get into the ugly side of being an author because some fans are so vain they’ll probably think this blog is about them. So let’s just say nasty people are good at it because that’s where their heart is — in a nasty place. If only that energy was directed into doing something creative, they’d be the ones signing autographs too. But they’re not … so the smoke starts coming out of the noses and the eyes turn green with envy.
Though I take my chances in writing this to: #1 bring awareness, as you’ll never know who you are helping (hence my “Why Are Women Catty?” blog I wrote several years ago and is still getting a ton of “hits”); and #2, blow steam. I believe a good vent, even if it’s cryptic, is very healthy. This is why I am 52-years-old and have a beautiful head of natural shiny chestnut brown hair — not dyed! (And this is where people say, “Get the fuck out of here!” and can’t believe it. But, yeah, I don’t lie. I’m honest to a fault!)
But back to keeping fans in their place … This is why my husband advises: “Stick with your peers.”
Those peers are my true friends who I can fight and disagree with, but who will never, ever really hurt me. Those peers are also the super cool acquaintances I’ve made in the creative world — the deejays who will have me on their radio shows or simply give me a shout out; my fellow authors who will surprise me with an email; the celebrities I’ve interviewed who on rare occasions drop me a line — even years after I’ve interviewed them; the librarians who book my programs; and anyone I work with in the art/music/publishing media world. That’s why I love my career so much, it’s about being with your friends and doing a little bit of work — an easy, breezy, enviable life.
So, to any new authors reading, I say, appreciate who you are and be real about it. Don’t humble yourself so much like I did that you put yourself in a vulnerable spot, set up for abuse. (Note: This is why famous celebrities on Facebook and Twitter DO NOT interact with their fans).
Have a little pride in yourself and realize that it’s OKAY to have fans and enjoy the fact that you do. Just keep them at bay. This way when you inadvertently piss them off, the worst thing they can do to you is write you a bad review. And at worst, bad reviews are pretty funny. At best, they are bad-ass because it means people are reading — and that’s just what a writer wants!
Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta’s second book “Love Cats” is available on Amazon in paperback and kindle formats (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1681020513). Her former fans loved it!