Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Phonies, Balonies, and Oversized Cajones

image courtesy of Stock Exchange

"Why does SHE have to go?"

These six words, combined with some recent discussions, form the basis of today's blog: the importance of filtering words and actions when building an artistic persona.

Those of us involved in the arts--writing, music, acting, etc.--are told that to promote our work, what we must truly promote is ourselves. If we make our name recognizable in tandem with quality work and warm fuzzy feelings, we gain a base audience who will seek out future (and past) work. This "name branding" is a vital part of any artistic career, and much like a prize show pony, a great deal of time and effort must be spent grooming it to perfection.

As hard as artists work to create and maintain their name brand image, one would assume the investment would be carefully and jealously guarded. Yet I see "own worst enemy" scenarios every day, taking the form of online flame wars, rude or presumptive behavior, and two-faced acquaintances. Just a few recent examples:

1. One of my groups recently broke out in a long, multi-player assault thread featuring spectacularly petty and rude behavior. No hope of the moderator squashing things, either--they were one of the key flame throwers. Well, two weeks of this childish prattle nearly cost them a paying market, since I publish a webzine in the group's genre and came quite close to unsubbing. Though I relented, there are a few names I will remember...as individuals who don't maintain a calm, professional manner when dealing with simple issues.

Who knows how many other publishers/agents/readers/etc. sit on the sidelines clucking their tongues when such flame wars break out? How many take note of the troublemakers and blacklist them...or flat out leave? A sobering thought.

2. Another lip-curler was a rather unflattering Amazon guide that made the rounds recently. Created by a reader, the "guide" consisted of a detailed list of authors NOT to buy books from....not because of the quality or nature of the writing, but because of the authors' alleged rude behavior on the Internet. The guide has since been pulled, but while it was up the message made quite a splash. Yes, Virgina, there are consumers who won't purchase work--no matter how good--from someone they view as a bad-doer.

3. Then there's the opening line to my blog, a fun little slap in the face that happened last night. My husband is an actor/filmmaker with a variety of friends in the biz. One is a bit player hard at work building his "star" reputation, someone with a Eddie Haskell approach who has been in my home many times. While planning an out of town appearance this week with this actor "friend," my husband learned the guy's girlfriend inserted herself on the trip. Among other things, she gets so ragefully jealous when her man's "in character" that she recently kicked out a windshield. (FYI, they're going in OUR car.) That said, my husband mentioned I'd be going, too.

The "pal" who is trying so hard to win fans and influence people turned utterly nasty and incredulous. "WHAT? Why does SHE have to go?" Several uglier variations followed, and bottom line I was not welcome in my own car with my own husband driving...yet eliminating Psycho Sideshow Girlfriend was emphatically "not an option."

Needless to say, this flew like a lead balloon and he's been cut from several cross-promotions and future projects. Yeah, he'll survive, but why on Earth would someone trying so desperately to widen their horizons narrow their prospects instead?

That got me to thinking about how fragile reputation is, and how easily we can undermine our own efforts. It takes years to create a positive, recognizable image, and minutes to tear it down. So while I'm a firm believer in having minds and opinions of our own, it's vitally important to weigh the benefits and risks before opening ones' mouth in public and inserting a muddy boot.

Do YOU have a story about a time when the actions of a celebrity, author, etc. were so wonderful--or terrible--that it influenced the decision of whether to buy that person's work? Please share here!


Holly said...

As a matter of fact...

Many years ago, a prominent children's book author made it quite clear that she was offended to be asked to sit with students at lunch during school visits. I thought her arrogance distasteful and rude - after all, these students and their parents were her customers. She made it sound as thought it were somehow beneath her dignity to sit and eat with her fans and buyers of her books.

I've bought some of her work since then, because she is talented, but I have done so grudgingly. I'm an author - but I'm also a mother - and I haven't forgotten, though it's been nearly twenty years since that discussion took place.

I'd be delighted to be asked to sit with the kids during a school visit - I'd even gladly eat the nasty cafeteria food. ;) (And just in case any lunch ladies are reading this, I'm kidding - it's not that nasty, but you have to admit, ketchup is NOT a veggie.)

Desirée Lee said...

Notoriety is a double-edged sword. It can gain fans who are drawn to the celeb/author/etc simply because of the brouhaha surrounding them. It also works the other way in that some people are so turned off by the behavior that they do not want anything to do with that person or their works.

There are some publishers that I've heard do not treat their authors (and in some cases customers!) with respect so I do not patronize them. It sucks because there are some wonderful authors published with them and the books sound delightful but it's a matter of principle. I don't want to give those publishers my business and perpetuate this cycle of unprofessional behavior. On the other hand, I try not to engage in the public badmouthing and mudslinging of said publishers either. I think a lot of it comes from the fact that I'm a Libra and I don't like to rock the boat, so to speak. *LOL* Really though, I don't want to stoop to a baser level. I have my own opinions, I keep to my own principles and so be it. What others choose to say and do is their business. I choose to not get into the public fray. You never know who may be watching the happenings and say "Wow, that Desirée Lee is a real bitch! I don't think I want to buy her books if she has an attitude like that!"

Hence, proving the point you are making with this blog.

BTW: I do hope your husband stood up for you when 'pal' stated "Why does SHE have to go?"

Carpe Noctem,

Desirée Lee
Putting the Romance Back in Necromancy

Ginger Simpson said...

The thread which you refer to in your blog 'blacklisting' authors is the result of a long thread on dearauthor.com which came about because a supposed 'co-publisher' of an internet house (who is also mainstream published) harassed a reader on Amazon.com for giving her a less than stellar review. The other authors were listed because of their involvement in giving 'clickies' to get rid of said review and others that didn't meet with the author's approval. This discussion let to the revelation of the mistreatment of authors by this same person with the company she represents. It was difficult to remain silent for fear of retribution yet even harder not to speak up as someone who had been on the receiving end of the nastiness and unfair treatment. Although I feel very sorry for the authors who are caught in the middle, I'm very well acquainted with and support those who have been hailed as 'disgruntled' because they refused to continue to accept being treated as second class citizens by the publisher and co-pub. Funny, after all this happened, she disavowed ever having been co-publisher although I have several emails where she screams it at me. *lol* There are some very talented authors signed there, but I would not buy anything from the publisher because I don't want to contribute a penny to her pocket. So, behavior and treatment of me and my peers has been a determining factor for me. The final straw was receiving a copy of a letter sent to RWA about me, slandering my reputation with lies and innuendos. Strange...the publisher had sent me a very friendly email wishing me the best of luck when I asked for and received rights back to my book, then stabbed me in the back by sending a complaint to RWA about me. Nice touch, don't you think?

Chris M. said...

Wow, I sure hope I wasn't someone y'all didn't like. If I ever do find myself on the wrong side of your wrath... please, contact me... give me a chance to apologize, or grovel at your feet.

I don't know how I personally would react, maybe because it takes quite a bit to offend me and get my Irish up. We can never truly know the circumstances behind why someone behaves the way they do... I know, I'm a bit too trusting.

Debby said...

As a matter of fact, there are two authors and one publishing house I will never buy from. I will not list the particulars here because it is public and, with internet, there is no hiding. Emails cannot convey tone well and the reader is left to interpret what is said often resulting in hurt feeling. I am a reader not a writer and this is what I see.

Faith said...

No, I don't have a celeb story, but I'e worked with a few authors whose behavior was so bad that I'll definitely remember their names.

I'd've been furious about the car trip. Heck, it made me mad for you!

Elizabeth said...

I recently came across a blog by an author that is so hate-filled that I was taken aback. She attempts to lambasts two other authors, but in my opinion, only harms herself.

She comes off as unbalanced and it's no wonder to me that her 'best friend' of several years must have finally decided the woman was a danger to be around, personally and professionly, thus the reason she broke off the relationship. In retaliation for ending the relationship, the blogger seems to prove her point by making the odious post while stating she can't believe she was dropped as a friend. (It reminds me of what I think when I hear of a man killing his estranged wife/girlfriend....well, evidently she had just cause to leave you).

I recently discovered that this woman is an author and vocal supporter of the publishing house talked about on dearauthor.com. That seals the deal even more. She appears to fit right in with people who enjoy attacking others. I would never buy anything she wrote.

Carol said...

I honestly don't pay that much attention to bad behavior most of the time, but Tom Cruise cooled my enthusiasm for his work after his behavior on the Today Show and in the press. But at the same time, I wouldn't always want everything I say quoted in big headlines. Public people should be aware of the danger of being public but common sense has to come in at some point, as well as common courtesy.

Ciara Gold said...

Excellent discussion. It amazes me the naivety of some folks to think their actions don't have consequences.

I attended a concert given by a favorite Texas band. We'd driven 2 hours for this concert. It was held in a small restaurant, so had a cozy atmosphere. This particular singer had quite a few fans who followed him from concert to concert. One particular group of fans had heard his music so much, they knew every note and word and began singing and dancing. They made it difficult for the rest of us to enjoy, but - it was a concert and these things happen.

The muscisian became upset. He stopped in mid-song and cussed the group out, using the strongest language possible. I thought there was going to be a fight. He handled it so poorly and rudely. We had our children with us as did several others. His bad language and behavior far surpassed that of the rambunctious fans that I won't listen to his music. He's quite well known now, almost Buffet like status, but he won't be getting my money or support.

Lisa Logan said...

Wow, a lot of great (or rather, awful!) stories here. Thanks for those who mentioned my situation, yes it did offend me but I didn't cut him out of upcoming promo as personal punishment, but a business decision based on what I imagine I'd have to expect from this person in the future. Same reason I will be very careful about certain people whose behavior was unbelievably trite on the recent flame war (which wasn't even close to the same group of people or topic mentioned in the amazon guide). Sounds like some folks may not use personal fortitude as a criteria for purchase decisions, but many others do.