New to Your Public Persona? Handling the Non-Writing Parts of Being an Author

By Noah Sturdevant


Who are you?

No, not in a “name, rank, and serial number” kind of way or the physical parts on display. Not the broad character traits you associate with yourself, either. It’s a complicated question, right? It can be hard to define, even to yourself, much less others. In fact, just about everyone you’ve interacted with has probably seen you as a slightly different person than everyone else has.

This isn’t a bad thing, far from it. Who you are to a specific person or group, your persona, or a tailored version of your personality can be a powerful tool.

You’re more than what you seem

When interacting with the public, be it fans, casual readers, haters, publishers, editors, or whoever, you will be acting as a version of yourself, whether you know it or not. Being aware of this allows polishing this version to be more effective for the type of interaction taking place.

Some people have an issue with this. On the surface, it seems like you are becoming a character rather than a person, but that isn’t what needs to happen. The key isn’t to try to be a different person when putting on your author persona, as much as it is letting those traits that best define you in a particular situation shine through. Hell, I’m doing it right now.

You see, I write comedy, at least for the most part. My personal and author’s personas have a sense of humor in common. However, I don’t interact with people in the same way I write interactions in my books. For one thing, I often write as a foul-mouthed, pervy, blue demon. His voice is funny, but not the kind of funny that everyone enjoys. So I choose my words and opportunities differently. It’s still me writing, but emphasizing other parts of my personality.

Basically, be you, but be the part of you that works best at the time. Part of being you also relates to what information you share with people. A lot of authors with pen names won’t share much if the name is not public knowledge. So do authors writing under their real names. However, many people like to make a connection with readers by sharing bits of their lives with them. That’s fine…in theory.

Drawing a line between your personal and public personas

You’ll need to decide how much of your life you share with the public, especially if you have kids. What are you going to share on your author-focused socials? Who, if anyone, are you going to allow to add you on personal social media? Will you have dedicated media accounts for your author interactions? Will you have a website? What will you put on it? There are no right or wrong answers here, as your comfort level and general approach to the internet will determine much of it. All I’d suggest is to err on the side of privacy when you are in doubt, and to keep your safety in mind.

Keeping out of trouble

The internet has great people on it, but it also has dangerous people. This may seem obvious, and maybe it is, but once you’ve shared something, it is out there basically forever. I highly recommend you check out SFWA’s Safety Resources, where you’ll find a lot of great ideas and materials to help keep you and those you care about safe.

Related to internet permanence is protecting your image. That is making sure you don’t end up with your foot in your mouth, or at the center of some trouble, because emotions got in the way for a few seconds. We’ve all seen things on the internet that would have been better off as a journal entry or a venting session with a friend. Airing your dirty laundry online is a fast way to lose readers, and end up getting the wrong kind of attention. This is one of the biggest problems with sharing your life. You give people ammunition if they want to be horrible to you.

Unfortunately, dealing with people who get a rise out of you by being mean, or downright inhuman in some cases, is one of the biggest issues you’ll have to deal with when interacting with the public.

Let’s talk about trolls

I’m going to repeat a bit of sage advice here: “Don’t feed the trolls!”

Yes, it’s very tempting, especially in the heat of the moment, to respond to a negative post, usually with even more negativity. Don’t do it. You might think you can respond in a funny way that will get people on your side. Don’t do it. It’s just not worth it. By ignoring the trolls, you aren’t giving them what they want, which is the endorphin rush from knowing they not only got your goat, they took it to a picnic and barbequed it.

Don’t get jaded

That being said, you’ll want to go into most interactions assuming the best about people. Try not to assume someone is trolling you when they could be making an attempt at joking that fell flat, or are confusingly asking a legitimate question. I’d even suggest taking this approach when it’s pretty obvious someone is just trying to make trouble…the first time. You don’t want to feed the trolls, but you can sure as hell block them. Advertising is the biggest exception I’d add to this. If you are paying for space on social media and are getting nasty feedback or spam, block fast, block often, and move on with your life.

To sum up, let me remind everyone that they were once, and hopefully still are, readers. How did you dream your first interaction with a favorite author would go? If at all possible, try to be that person for the people who reach out to you.

Noah SturdevantNoah is a writer of comedy, in whatever form seems like the most fun at the time. Most of his work is in horror comedy/urban fantasy, but only because Hasbro won’t let him write books about Transformers.

Noah grew up in Southeast Kansas, then lived in Asia (South Korea, China, and Thailand) for most of a decade, acquiring a wife and daughter in the process. He is currently living back in Kansas and is openly resentful about having to grow up and settle down. He plans to take frequent vacations abroad, just as soon as his books are turned into movies or he hits the lottery.

Noah never really knows what’s going on, but attempts to have a good time anyway. He hopes you have as much fun reading his books as he does writing them.