Let’s talk about something ugly for a minute, here… the unlikeable author. Have you ever met one or read their works? How does being unlikeable affect your book sales? And can you lose fans just because they don’t seem to like you personally?
Grumpy vs Unlikeable
There are plenty of authors who are known for being a bit curmudgeonly, and this can work for or against them. Some authors are known for not talking to the media, not giving interviews, not interacting with fans, and they develop a loyal fan following almost in spite of this.
But that’s rare. In my opinion, when you read books you enjoy you want the author to be someone you also like. You don’t have to love everything about them, but if you’re put off by them personally it might come through the next time you get out your wallet to make a book purchase.
What’s more, being grumpy is very different than being unlikeable. I personally like grumpy authors, especially the ones that complain about all the things that are wrong about the way writers are treated. (And you know who you are, dear Grumpy One.)
Since most readers today are going to get to know authors through some type of social media, you need to be careful about what you put out there. Things like Twitter reflect your random thoughts, but that’s not always a good thing. You can come off self-centered, dumb, or just really arrogant on social media if you’re not careful.
It’s not that you can’t share your opinions, it’s that as an author you should consider that your readers might not agree with your stance on things. How will you have a conversation with them then? You can still be yourself without acting like a jerk, so think about the words you say on any type of social media platform.
The Unlikeable Author at a Book Signing
I’ve been to hundreds of book signings. I love them. But there was one signing that stood out because of the sheer unlikeable-ness (I’m making that a word) of the author. A friend and I had read a couple of her books, one of which was very confusing. It had one of those endings where you weren’t quite sure what happened. We discussed it with our book group and couldn’t figure out what she was trying to say with that ending.
So then comes the signing. Others at this signing asked about the ending in that book, and the author, who had been snotty and arrogant the entire time, sighed as if we were so ridiculously stupid and boring that she couldn’t stand it, and said that if we really wanted to know how that book ended she would tell us if we bought the book and went up to the table for her to sign it.
I bit. I wanted her book and I wanted to know the real ending and what it meant.
The line was long and she made sure she told us how inconvenient and horrible it was to have to sign all those books for us. Her hand was cramping! The weather was cold! She couldn’t talk as long as she’d wanted because so many of us had come out!
When I finally got up to the table, I asked her about the ending. She sighed again, looked beyond me to see how many people were left, and then told me, “It was whatever you think it was.”
I took the book she had just signed, paid for it, and then deposited it in the trash. My friend did the same. Then we went to our next book group and told everyone how unlikeable she was. I haven’t read one of her books since.
Unlikeable During Book Marketing
I get many people that contact me about doing interviews on my writing blog, and out of the hundreds I’ve done two writers stand out for their unlikeable-ness. They were surprisingly similar in how they behaved. One told me she’d looked at my interview questions and hated them, and wondered if she could submit her own. I said sure. Then she said she didn’t have time and could I just take them from her website, where she had a Q&A that she gave to every blogger.
I ignored her after that and then she sent me numerous emails asking where her interview was. She still thought I was going to interview her after that. I continued to ignore her, and got a final email that asked if I knew how hard it was for authors to get publicity, and “one day” I’ll know what it’s like. If she’d bothered looking at my bio, she would have known that I was already a full-time working writer and author.
Can You Get Away With Being Unlikeable?
Not everyone is going to like you no matter what you do, but why purposely irritate folks? Why be contrary when you can show gratitude? Bloggers and fans don’t need to read your works and promote you, so when they do it’s a big deal. Be happy for it.
Readers have a lot of choices today and being unlikeable is something most writers just can’t afford to do. But the good news is that you have a choice in how you present yourself to people. Be humble and grateful and you’re bound to be liked by more people than not.
Cherie Burbach has written for About.com, NBC/Universal, Match.com, and more. Visit her website, cherieburbach.com.