If you’ve been following the book world in the past few weeks, you know that a certain topic has risen to the top: how to appropriately interact with your fans. I won’t go into all the ugly details of why this suddenly became an issue, as you either already know or can look it up for yourself. Rather than do a postmortem on others’ misfortunes, I’d rather focus on the positives of the subject, namely how to behave and when to behave that way.
I should first say that I was not always a very good denizen of the internet. In fact, I was a pretty awful person all around, both online and off. I had precisely zero filter, a hair-trigger temper and no tolerance for anything that fell outside my definition of acceptable. Consequently I had few friends and a lot, a lot, a lot of enemies. Thankfully I found the root cause of my instability — namely Bipolar II, which you can read about in Telegraph Men — and I’m much better now thanks to treatment. You may find me contentious from time to time, but it’s the normal sort of contentiousness, and not outright assholery.
Anyway, I have a handle on myself these days and I comport myself professionally. That’s as it should be. I am not so successful that I can afford to piss on the people who pay my salary (meaning: readers) and still make millions and millions of dollars. In fact, I’d argue that there’s never a level of success that excuses being a prick to anyone at any time when it comes to your work. In the case of work, you must be positive at all costs and, if you can’t manage that, you must disengage.
Whenever someone contacts me about my books to say nice things, I always take time to respond to them and thank them for their kind words. I do this because it’s polite, for one, but secondly because that person right there not only took time out of their day to give me an ego boost, but they also paid money to read my work. Even if they got my book(s) from the library, someone somewhere paid for a copy and I made a buck or two. That’s how the bread gets baked, folks: cash on the barrelhead. And as mercenary as it may sound to some people, writing professionally is a job, it’s a business, and in business the dollar is king. Even Jim Henson, who most people took to be kind of a hippy-dippy sort, had a thing in his office he called the Shrine to the Almighty Dollar. Yes, the guy whose big heart brought us Kermit and Grover and Big Bird was an artist, but he was also a businessman, because making money is how you get to eat on a regular basis.