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Who are you, I really want to know…

by on August 25, 2013

And yes, I reveal again my affection for another of the UK’s great rock and roll bands. That might have been one of their later songs, but it should still hit an important chord for those us afflicted with a passion for writing.

I spend a lot of time on facebook and a couple of other internet sites. (No, shut up, not those kind of site. Sites that are related to books, I meant.) And I’ve been looking recently at the question of identity on line, a train of thought that was piqued by the recent public yelling match over an author new to the bear pit of indie publishing. This lady sent a few advance review copies out and the reviews were, I believe ( I haven’t looked myself), not very favourable. Some used language I would consider vile and inappropriate. Sadly she then attracted the attention of some of the less pleasant members of the Goodreads community and got herself embroiled in the vicious underground war that’s going on across Goodreads and Amazon by two entrenched groups. Never a good idea, and a major pitfall for all new writers to avoid. What I was musing on though was identity. Like many authors I choose to write, blog, Facebook and promote under my own name. Some for equally valid reasons, choose pen names. Reviewers fall into the same pattern too, some choosing to remain anonymous. That does not in any way imply that their choice is invalid, or that the anonymous reviewers and writers take that route so that they can be as unpleasant as possible without any repercussions, although I am equally convinced that a minority deliberately set out to be as unpleasant online as they are in real life. There’s always going to be some. I know some anonymous reviewers who are a blessing and a boon to the book orientated community.

Anyway, the point of this week’s ramble is this – how much personal information do you want out online? And how accurate should it be? Now me, I’ve nothing I can be bothered hiding, so I don’t worry about such things. I limit the personal information I post just because I’m so boring that telling all my life detail would simply send people to sleep. But some might have things they would rather keep private – illness, family matters, issues with children, or even darker secrets. Readers all like to know a little about the authors they like. It’s natural. But in this internet wild west environment, how do you keep anything private? How much should a reader be able to find out about an author? Then there’s another side to things too. J K Rowling has recently been in the news for writing a thriller novel under an assumed name, and when sales were good but not outstanding, the real name of the author was released, however that came about, and the sales took off. Now I wasn’t bothered about JKR writing a different genre under a pen name. Respect to her for having the courage to try it. What I found distasteful, even wrong, was the degree to which the bio of the false name had been expanded. Claiming to have been a serving soldier was a step to far for me over the boundary of the acceptable, and I wouldn’t buy the book as a result. I wonder who else felt the same way? A generic, bland biography would have done as well, surely. Any views from the floor? Does the privacy issue even bother you?

I haven’t really formed any conclusions as to what’s right or wrong here. Just that I prefer to write under my own name, put very few details about myself on the websites and hope that if I ever attract a fanatical stalker who is going to trawl the internet for more details about me, she is good looking and rich…….with a high boredom tolerance. She’ll need it.

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One Comment
  1. I’ve always posted on the net under my own name, even on usenet which really was the wild west. Yes I’m had threats from loonies, people tried to get the firm I was hired as a consultant for to end my contract.
    With the privacy issue I tend to avoid giving the name of my wife or children, because that is their privacy, not mine.

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