Don’t Judge a Book by the Author’s Personality

A rather long rant about what makes a good reason to buy a book or choose to pass, hoping to prove that how friendly or nice the author is has no place in that decision.

There are millions and millions of books out there, all enticing us to choose them, tempting us with their story lines, their characters, their unique style, their covers, and the occasional discount or special promotion. Choosing is difficult. One wants to read what they love, but also sample other genres. So we all come up with our subjective process of selecting the books we spend our money on. While all this is perfectly fine, who the author is in their private life is starting to play a very important part in our choices.

This is the age of Social Media. We expect authors to hang out with us on their blogs, on Goodreads, on Facebook, on twitter, on instagram. We like them to be nice and accommodating and sweet and… yes, always there. We reward them with our eternal fangirling and our purchase of their new books.

Books and writing

I hate to break it to you, but some authors can be obnoxious. They can be mean, self-centered, and downright rude. They can be introverts, they can hate interactions, or they can even be agoraphobics. They won’t come to conventions, they won’t thank you for your review on Facebook, they will offend you, and they will make you think they are a sorry excuse for a human being. My question to you is… So what? They still write amazing books, don’t they?

You hire a lawyer for their ability to negotiate contracts, keep your ass out of jail, make fines disappear, and the likes. Do you care that they are not that fun to hang around outside their job? We buy Microsoft products although Bill Gates has been less than nice to a lot of people. True, he donates a lot of money. Also, we use Facebook although Zuckerberg is, well, himself. We’d still go to the best doctor out there, even if that doctor had the personality of House!

Yet for some twisted reason, when it comes to authors, we expect them to write great books AND be nice! Don’t get me wrong, I love interacting with other writers and readers! I love to help everyone out every way I can. Also, I have been treated like crap for no good reason and without any explanation by people I’ve been nothing but nice to. Does that mean I stopped buying their books? Hell, no! I 1-clicked that new book faster than you can say “asshole.”

What are an author’s obligations to their readers:

  • Write well
  • Write interesting new books
  • Write some more
  • If possible, release more books every year.

Valid reasons to not buy an author’s book:

  • You don’t like their style
  • You don’t like their stories
  • Even if you used to love them, they just don’t click with you anymore.

Authors do not need to wine and dine us for us to buy their books. We have to learn to understand there is a difference between the job (writing) and the person doing it. Then again, what do I know? I kept rooting for Schummacher even after he deliberately tried to get someone out of a race with him… He was still the best driver ever!

I agree we all tend to rush and buy the books of those we are closest to, the authors who interact with us more and so on. Yet refusing to buy great books just because the author has a shitty personality is, to me at least, a waste. That is simply my opinion though. So let’s hear it from you!

P.S. After you tell me what you think, please make sure you follow me everywhere! 😀

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A pleasure to meet you! I’m Alina Popescu, an author, traveler, and hopeless coffee addict. I write urban fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, and sometimes even contemporary stories. A significant number of my books are LGBTQ fiction and romance.

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23 Responses to “Don’t Judge a Book by the Author’s Personality”

  1. Alina C. says:

    I am with you on this. I mean, like you said, what’s one thing got to do with the other? A very lovely person may be a less-tan-talented writer,why would I buy their books? I’d continue interacting with them on social media, but that’s it I guess.

    I love your writing style 🙂 You made me laugh out loud a couple of times. Thanks.

    • Alina Popescu says:

      Thank you, Alina! I am really glad you liked my post! I don’t get it either… Authors sometimes drink, are comfortable in their slutty ways, or straight out take drugs. They may be mean and suffer from a superiority complex. If it comes with amazing books, I can live with that!

  2. Will says:

    Hi Alina, thanks for a thoughtful and brave op-ed. I can’t fully agree and I think it starts with your metaphor. Do I care how nice Bill Gates is, absolutely not, you’re right. But you didn’t say “teacher”, for one example. Imagine if your history prof knew everything you could imagine about the War of the Roses… and hated being around kids. Isn’t that a valid counter-example?
    Everything depends on the degree of interaction possible, or required. Personally, I wouldn’t go to “House”- there are times I could barely stand to watch. But I admit, I’d go see Hugh Laurie in anything new he tries- we even bought his jazz album, pretty good! And while I never dropped my favorite American Football team, I winced when they brought in the occasional guy who was talented but a thug.
    The key is, as authors our personality is something we can affect. Who has the right to be a dope? We interact with our readers,as indies, if we can- we have to. We should cherish that opportunity, I think. If you don’t do it well, admit that and limit the exposure. Sure, the tale’s the thing in the end. But there are even better reasons to be civil than selling books. Just do it!

    • Alina Popescu says:

      Actually, I believe that, more than knowledge, what makes a great teacher is a passion for opening up children’s minds, a real interest in seeing them grow and become better. In this case, his work involves interacting with kids. In the author’s case, he needs to be passionate about writing, not interacting with fans 🙂

      I for one love to meet new people, love to hang out with authors and readers alike. Truth is, especially as an indie, we have to play nice even when we can’t or don’t want to. I am not saying it doesn’t generally pay off to be nice. But judging by that, we should all hate Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, right? The point I am making is that if the writing is great and you enjoy it, that has to count MORE than how nice the author is.

      Just for the record, I’d rather have House be a total ass to me then die while a smiling, very nice doctor is holding my hand. And I stand by my point with the lawyers, I want them to win for me, not to be nice with the other party 😀

      • Will says:

        Alina, I think we’re very close on this. But I defy you to be a teacher who’s interested in seeing kids grow and still somehow not like them. In fact, as a former and still sometime teacher, I can say that desire to tell students more meaningful things is what drove me to study up, get a Master’s, etc.
        So with the word “passion” you say a lot- but it cuts both ways. I won’t go there with your remark about doctors- I’ve sat by as my daughter nearly died, and I can tell you, there was never a difference between the caring, “nice” doctors and ones who saved her life.
        As for Cumberbatch, we’re back to House. It’s the ACTOR we love to see, the rest is just schadenfreude-amusement, we don’t really want to BE there any more than we want to truly live in Middle Earth. But we follow the actors, again, because of their passion.
        And for the lawyers, sure you can stand with as many of them as you like. Just do us a favor, and make sure they’re closer to the train-side of the platform…

        • Alina Popescu says:

          Eh, I have to tell you, i had teachers who did not like children very much 😀 Or children my age… They had this experiment where high schools (famous ones) started having their elite middle school classes. It was fun. Not!

          The point I was making, you can’t really be a teacher without being in the class, teaching. You can be a writer without ever interacting with your readers though 🙂

          Also, I should point I am playing the devil’s advocate. But I prefer nice people. And when people are not nice, I take it for a while, then very nicely yet bluntly share my thoughts on the matter 😀

          Also, I would love to work with that particular Sherlock Holmes, and if they give me a dragon, i’m moving tomorrow! 😛

          As for the lawyers… well, I have never needed one so far (in over 30 years), I hope to keep it that way. But if I ever need one, i’ll go for the best, not the one with the best personality. Doctors… i think it comes down to personal experience, and I’ve met a lot of very nice one who hadn’t the first clue about what they were doing. And some harsh, cold, sort of annoying ones who got to the bottom of the problem.

  3. Debra E says:

    I agree to some extent. I don’t necessarily expect an author to be “nice”, but just as I no longer patronize a store in my town where the owner is rude and belittling to his staff and customers, there is a line I’m going to draw and I am not going to buy a book from an author that is rude and belittling to the readers. To me there is a difference between not being “nice”, being aloof or having a shitty personality (which won’t necessarily drive me away from reading your books) and belittling or even at times attacking the people you are expecting to support your work. I don’t need my ass kissed and I don’t care if an author does not interact with fans, but I also don’t need to stick around and take unwarranted, unprovoked abuse as I’ve seen from a few authors in the past.

  4. Kia Zi Shiru says:

    I disagree. I think that someone’s personality (towards other authors and readers, and generally people) does count in making the choice of what books to buy.
    I refuse to buy books from people who are homophobic, who call out fans to bash people who leave low review ratings, who are being nasty for people just because they like to. When I dislike someone’s behaviour I will not support their work, it is as simple as that.
    There are so many works out there that I might have an interest in, the way an author behaves is as valid a reason not to support them as their skill in writing or story telling, at least those can be improved over time. I’ve found that people who are mean once are likely to keep making that mistake over and over again.
    Yes, every author can choose how much they want to interact with people. They can choose to not interact much at all, or a lot. Reviews shouldn’t need a thanks from the author each and every time one is posted, and neither should every time someone follows you on twitter. That is overkill. But a mention when a book comes out is the least one can do and that is sometimes the only thing an author does. Others interact with other authors and help them out too.

    I do think someone’s character is important when you choose to support them with your hard earned cash, why support someone you don’t even like? Why not support someone who you do like instead?
    With so much choice, why would I spend my money and time on someone who can turn against me or anyone else I know at any moment? I rather spend it on people I do like, knowing that they also support me back.

  5. Alina Popescu says:

    Debra and Kia, thank you for your comments. I should point out I did not mean it shouldn’t matter if authors are bullies, or if they discriminate, that’s a whole other conversation.

    Beyond that, I’d like to point out that what you see online is rarely the whole, real image. Do you still buy music from musicians who are drug addicts or who have lost it and punched the paparazzi? Do you have to be sure the store owner is always rude or is rude to everyone, or should he be punished for a one off?

    When you read the classics, or any book from an author who has passed away, when you buy the book, does it still matter if the author was everything you hate?

    The point I am making is it’s all subjective. And as we judge the books by their covers, we also judge them by the author’s personality. yet the first and foremost on our list of what matters when buying the book should be the actual writing. In the end, we are talking about a passion for books, not for authors. Just like they have to show a passion for writing, not the human race.

  6. Alina C. says:

    Kia and Debra, like Alina (the author, not me:) ) has laready pointed out, she was not referring to behaviour – I would certainly not buy from an author who’s homophobic, racist or a bully towards their readers. However, if someone’s personality is not to my liking (as in we’d never be friends in real life), if they are introverted or not very friendly, or have their personal issues, that wouldn’t really matter to me.

    There are plenty of examples among famous writers who drank or took drugs, yet they produced real masterpieces.

    • Alina C. says:

      And ‘laready’ was supposed to be ‘already’, obviously. Note to self: double-check spelling before hitting the ‘Post a comment’ button.

    • Debra E says:

      Agreed. As I said in my post, I don’t judge a book by an author’s personality or ability to interact with fans unless they are interacting and it’s to the point where I feel they are bullying or abusive.

  7. rafy says:

    Would’t it be funny to see a lawsuit against an author who’s a jerk or against readers who don’t buy books written by a jerk author? Imo, there too much mind being payed to this. If your personality counts less than your skills when getting a job, so should they count less in this situation. Enough with the double standards already!

    • Alina Popescu says:

      Well, we might hate double standards, but they exist. And to be honest, indies and small publishers have to worry more about this than big publishers. In the end, it’s this, just as the cover, that will decide our next read. The reality is, there are thousands of amazing books out there. How do you decide what to buy next? personal relationships with the author will matter more and more…

      • rafy says:

        Not for me. I have books I bought and could not finish them, books I can’t get enough of. The one thing I stay away from is and authors life. I could not care less what he does as long as he writes well.

  8. Jana Denardo says:

    I agree up to a point. I can handle arrogance or even a modicum of rudeness. I do however, try to put on my public face when I’m dealing with my readers (ditto while at the day job). I’m sure someone will still find me not what they were expecting and maybe not buy my stuff. I can live with that.

    Where I draw a line is when the author is supporting something I hate (prejudices for example. I’ve stopped giving my money to homophobes, anti-women/non-Christians etc etc). I might miss out on something good but there are more great books in this world than I could ever read anyhow. It’s a rare thing that I’m so moved by the bile of an author/actor/musician that I withdraw my patronage but it has happened.

    On the other hand I do agree we can’t always nor should we be ‘on’ 24/7 for fans. I guess it’s down to what’s important to us (and this is one reason I don’t care to know much about their personal lives because once I was painted by an author’s broad brush of bile and stopped reading her even though I liked her.

    • Alina Popescu says:

      Jana, I agree with you, it all is tolerable up to a point. I don’t think being homophobic is part of your annoying personality, or any kind of hate or discrimination. I would never stand for that. But if you’re short with people in general, if you don’t like interacting with them, and when everything is wrong in your life, those who happen to cross your path get caught in the crossfire, I don’t know, I believe that’s forgivable and the quality of writing should matter more. Bullying of any kind, however, is absolutely inexcusable. So is falsely accusing others of god knows what to get ahead.

      • Jana Denardo says:

        Can’t argue that. Mostly I can overlook a bad personality (though I will admit one SF writer back in the day pushed that limit). It’s the extremes I don’t tolerate.

        • Alina Popescu says:

          I agree, extremes are too much. but there still is a warning in there somewhere 🙂 how nice and accommodating we are on social media and when we interact with readers becomes far more important than what we write. Just how the cover now outranks the blurb or the sample chapter because in many cases it’s what the reader sees first 🙂

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