When you were a kid on vacation, did you ever beg your parents to stop the car at a state line so you could stand with one leg in each state?
It never really felt any different, but you still somehow felt as though you were straddling two worlds and suspending reality for a brief moment. Never mind that borders are a figment of our imagination that we’ve somehow turned into the basis for far too many wars … but that’s a completely different post for another day.
This is often how it feels to be an author and a Bookstagrammer. I live suspended between two worlds and the line between the two often blurs.
For example, anytime a publisher sends an email with the words “I have the perfect book for you,” it takes a great amount of restraint to not go … “OMG! Me too!” (Yes, I know this is not how publishing works, and I would NEVER do this … but it gives me a good giggle every time.)
There are times, however, that the divide between #authorlife and #readerlife becomes as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon.
Like, when I have a new book coming out, and I have to switch into marketing mode and I worry about annoying or alienating my followers who don’t read my genre or care that I wrote a book. Or, when a Bookstagram friend reads my book and doesn’t love it. Or, when someone I’m hesitant to share my book with asks for an ARC or a free book. This one is always a strange place to be, and I have to toe the line. The last thing I want to do is hurt someone’s feelings.
Or, when someone shares a negative or nasty review. I follow my hashtags for my author name and my books. As a marketer by trade, I understand how social media works and know that to stay relevant, I need to be active and engaged. Sometimes, this means I find reviews not meant for me. (For the record, reviews are for readers not for authors. If you think an author is looking at reviews for editorial feedback so they can change their writing style or voice, you’re targeting the wrong audience.)
Another time when being an author and a Bookstagrammer collide in a less than pleasant situation? When my views/opinions as an author contradict whatever controversy is trending in the Bookstagram community. This is usually because a big name author has done or said something taboo that gets the Bookstagram community riled up.
Do I stay out of it? Do I share my author insight? Do I let it stew and stew until my eye starts twitching?
If you know me, you know I’m pretty quick to share my opinion. Whether it’s politics, the pandemic, BSB vs. NSYNC, or whatever, I’m an open book. But every single time I do speak up, I worry that I’m going to trigger the ire of the community and potentially alienate the small reader base I have.
More often than not, I try to be open and honest. Those that follow and know me have come to expect it. So far, this has been the approach I’ve taken—even if it costs me followers. At the end of the day, if someone doesn’t like me as a person, they probably won’t like my book (and that’s okay, not every book is for every reader).
I do find myself asking a lot of questions before I share. How open should I be? Should I share when a negative review left me in the fetal position, crying on the floor? Do I only share positive reviews? Does anyone care?
The one I struggle with the most? Do I, as an author, belong on Bookstagram? Is there a point where my position as an author trumps my status as a reader?
Because it’s hard for me to deny that being an author changes the way I see books. I know what goes into creating characters and stories. I know how exhausting it is and how emotionally draining creating can be. I don’t let little things like typos or grammatical errors change the way I feel about a book. I refuse to make personal attacks on authors or books. And, I don’t share books that I don’t enjoy because I don’t want to write a review that could hurt someone.
As a creator and writer, I’m sensitive to the mental and emotional toll writing a book takes on someone. Maybe too sensitive.
Earlier this week, I had someone tell me (in essence, not verbatim) that taking Instagram photos and writing captions is the same as writing a book. While, yes, I agree that there is creativity and effort behind both of those things, neither come close to the process of writing a book.
Every single character I write and story I tell is a piece of me. Sometimes, I share these pieces with the world. Other times, I keep them close to the vest because letting go of them is too painful. This is why negative reviews hurt. This is why I remind people that authors are human beings. Yes, readers are too, but I can tell you the experience is vastly different.
Both experiences are valid. Both are human.
As a reader, my job is to get lost in a story. As a writer, my job is to create that story that people get lost in. Can I be both? Can I be both a reader and a writer and live in those two worlds? More often than not, the answer is yes. I don’t compare my books to the books I read. I try to avoid nitpicking books to see how I’d do it differently—those aren’t my characters or stories to manipulate.
This brings me back to the question that I still cannot answer. Do I belong on Bookstagram?