When Does An Author’s Behavior Cross The Line?

authors behavior

So last week, Chelsea Cain had a meltdown on Facebook. And whoo, has it got people talking. By the time the meltdown had been brought to my attention- Chelsea had removed the posts- but thanks to Literary, etc– you can read the actual posts (and her thoughts on the subject as well). Now before anyone gets their pouty pants on saying I’m trashing Chelsea or her new-found haters add me to that particular fan club- STOP. THINK. AND READ. I’m not trashing Chelsea NOR am I condoning her behavior. We are going to talk about the meltdown as related to our expectations of the author/reader relationship.My momma raised me on the thought process of “Be careful what you write- it could be misunderstood”. So, as I read the posts- and the comments… well, it was all something else. There was some hatefulness, there was mudslinging, there was ferocious defending of the author, and there was equal defending of the right to ask questions and NOT have your head bit off.

And now- we see the ugly side of social media.

Listen, I’m all for social media. It helps connects old friends, new friends, people with similar interests- heck, I’ve even gotten a date or 2 via the old social media…. But, as Chelsea’s VERY PUBLIC meltdown shows us all- sometimes you need to push the keyboard away and just not hit “post”. People could deliberate for days on exactly what led to the meltdown- was it the question? Was it the fact that ONE KICK didn’t make it to the NYT Best-Sellers list and she was cranky over that? Could she really be under too much pressure? Could it be many things that we are not aware of? I’m going with the guess of it’s a combo of MANY things (but again- not slamming her)- because, whether we want to admit it or not- we’ve all had that social media walk of shame.. Maybe we overshared. Maybe we posted things that had no business being on Facebook. Maybe we were caught being a b*tch. Or a douchebag.

The problem with *SOME* authors and readers relationship on social media is this: We, the readers, through the various funny tweets/cute pictures shared/lol stories and all the other things that authors post in their continuing building a relationship with the reader- we think we know them. We do know them (albeit in a limited way). And when the fit hits the shan- we are aghast. How dare OUR author do that? How dare OUR author curse? Or be mean? Or what have you? Simple: Our author is human. Our author will make mistakes.

What if the author crosses a line in the author/reader relationship?

Right now, people are threatening to never buy a book of Chelsea’s again. And for people who did not know her- she is being painted in a very unfavorable light. So, what to do when an author crosses the line in the author/reader relationship? Is there a line?

I think there is. But where the line is will depend on the individual reader.

For me, my pocketbook is a major line. When authors behave badly- you have a choice in continuing to support them OR to speak with your wallet. After the whole John Grisham autographed book debacle- I vowed never to buy another book of his again. #6yearsstrong on that vow!

So, darling readers- what are some behaviors that would make you quit supporting an author?

Can An Author Uncross That Line?

Once the line is crossed- can the trust be returned between the author and reader? Would a huge mea culpa from Chelsea go forth to soothe tons of ruffled feathers? Or once it’s gone- is it gone for good?


Final thoughts: This is such a thorny issue. I can actually see both sides of it. I can see Chelsea’s (or other authors) frustration at being asked the same questions multiple times, being torn between forging relationships via social media (which helps with selling books) or locking themselves up like a hermit- to just write- but missing out on the connection with fans. I can see the fan’s side- you ask a question, you just want to have your question answered with respect. It’s a thorny issue- with multiple points of view.

Can we as readers enjoy the writings of an author that we don’t like or at least always agree with their behavior? Or to truly enjoy the book- must we like or at least respect the author?


So… Tell me your thoughts on this situation. If you’ve read Chelsea Cain books before- will this affect you buying her books? If you have not read Chelsea Cain before- are you more or less likely to give her a chance? Have you had any experience with an author behaving badly? Authors- is this a cautionary tale to you or can you understand this situation? Let me know in the comments!


Happy Reading and Bookishly Yours,

T @ Traveling With T
T Traveling With T pic sign off




20 thoughts on “When Does An Author’s Behavior Cross The Line?

  1. I haven’t heard of this author before, and that may actually be a benefit. I’m not personally offended by the status because I don’t think she “owes” me anything, since I’m not a fan and I’ve never “given her money” by buying a book. So, with that perspective, I have to say she has a point. I worked in retail for the past year and having people constantly ask you questions with obvious answers is, frankly, annoying.

    Was publicly posting a status about it the best way to handle the situation? I don’t think so, particularly since the phrasing (using of curse words, for example) makes it sound more like a rant than an honest request that people try to respect her time and ask thoughtful questions. Whether it’s “fair,” or not, authors, and other public figures, have to be more careful with how they present themselves because people expect a professional presentation from them, even on personally run social media pages. An author’s publishing company wouldn’t post a status asking fans to stop asking dumb questions, so an author really can’t either.

    That said, I don’t think authors “owe” us social media interaction or answers to fan mail or anything like that at all. Yes, we support them by buying their books, but when I buy a book, that’s really what I’m expecting to get…just the book. It may seem “ungrateful” if an author doesn’t answer fan mail, but I didn’t actually pay for that.

    So, the only time I’ve been really annoyed with an author was when one came to my college to give a presentation, and basically told off a student for asking about her most famous work. Because, apparently, she had written it so long ago she didn’t care about it anymore and was sick of people asking about it. That may be a valid complaint but, fact: the college had paid her to come talk about her books. So she did “owe” the student a respectful answer to his question.

    • You have such an interesting viewpoint! I think part of the problem with social media is that by interacting with the author (or seeing the author interacting with some folks) we start to think we are owed more than a good book. It’s a tricky situation b/c I don’t think many authors WANT to do all this social media stuff- and yet, they have to.
      I wonder if now she has a FAQ section on her website or Facebook page. And yes, I could imagine how annoying it must be to answer the SAME question a gajillion times.

      And that author at your college- yep, that was basically a**-hattery at it’s finest. You know, I’m sure some people do get tired of talking about a certain book- BUT YOU DO IT. Especially- if you get paid for it.

      • I think there are so many fine lines with reader/author interactions. There is a degree to which I think authors “owe” readers for their success–but that’s basically common courtesy. If an author feels they don’t have time to interact much with fans because they’d rather be writing their books, I can respect that. I hate when authors are actually rude to fans (which this situation comes across as…to a much smaller extent than I’ve seen in other situations) because then they really do seem ungrateful for all their fans have done for them. And I especially hate when very popular authors are rude, as if they feel so secure in their success they think they don’t “have” to be nice to people anymore because it won’t affect their book sales. (I have no idea if they actually use this line of reasoning, but it always looks that way to me.)

        I definitely agree with you that social media interaction is not necessarily what authors think they’re signing up for when they’re getting a book published! For better or worse, publishers expect authors to do a decent amount of their own marketing now, and I think a lot of debut authors aren’t really aware of that.

        A few weeks ago I saw an author complaining on Twitter that authors do a lot of “free writing,” and it isn’t fair that they do things like run their own blogs and guest post on blogs and answer interview questions, etc. (Granted, I think this rant was in response to a blogger requesting authors do something that would be a lot of work, and then complaining when the authors said no. So I think she was actually angry about THAT, but then took it further by complaining she had to write anything she was not directly being paid for.) Personally, I see this “free” writing as part of an author’s marketing plan. She IS being paid for it–by people learning about and purchasing her books. I also found it hilarious that apparently, since she is an author, any word she puts to paper is valuable. I write stuff all the time no one pays me for! :p

        (I also think publishers should give authors a crash course on public relations, but I’ve never heard of that happening. I’m sure there are some personal talks between authors and editors about how they might have to portray themselves to readers, especially after something goes “wrong,” but it might help authors to get a workshop, or even just some handouts, up front.)

      • Ai yay yi! You know.. sometimes an author has to pay it forward- they have to do the interviews and the guest posts. Sometimes they have to PLAY NICE with others- even if they aren’t actually making money right then.

        I def think pubs should give authors the crash course on public relations- just to make sure everyone is on the same page. B/c in this day and time- one hissy fit goes viral and it’s getting real out there.

        I think now- with the social media aspect- that yes, authors are encouraged (read: darn near forced) into working on a social media presence. And I get that it’s hard- there is only so many hours in the day. BUT, it’s all part of it now. I think debut authors of a certain age are having harder times with that- a younger debut author is probably already working all the angles- the older ones, though, may just not be as tech savvy.

      • Oh and YES! I hate, hate, hate when an author is rude ( & too secure in their best-selling status). You may be a best seller for MANY years- but you’ve got to always think about the “what if?”

  2. I’m not familiar with the author or her books. From what you posted she’s clearly overwhelmed. Perhaps she needs to hire someone to answer comments on her FB page. In the end, there’s no excuse for rudeness. That’s how she came across in her responses. She seems not to have the time to handle social media so maybe she should just cancel her FB acct.

    That said, I can’t imagine asking an author for answers I could probably find out on my own if I took the time. Also, I’ve never had an author comment on my rating (good or mediocre) of a book. I’ve never been treated poorly by an author in person or online.

    • I think it’s been a rough summer for her- health issues, ONE KICK not making NYT Best-Seller list and on and on. However I do think she needs to walk away from Facebook for a time. And start brain-storming damage control.

      I know sometimes I ask authors do you need to read the books in order or are they standalones- BUT I have never had anyone be ugly about that. Of course, I wouldn’t ask an author the order of their books- there is Google or Amazon for that!

      I think this situation is going to be a cautionary tale for up and coming authors and a reminder for more established ones to mind their p’s & q’s- b/c one day you can be on top of the world and the next…. well, not so much.

  3. Books in the Burbs says:

    Actually, I have never heard of the author. Is that wrong??? She is NYT Bestselling Author!!

    Social media can be the best thing for an author, but it can also be the worst thing, too. Honestly, I think people expect too much from authors. Passes are given to “celebrities”, who are in the music or movie industry, but an author-it’s different. Perhaps it is because they are so available to their readers, through book club meets, book events, and online. I think people need to give this author a break. She is human, I am sure she doesn’t post everything going on in her life that isn’t book related, and there is no way of knowing what it was that triggered her response. I did look on her blog, and unless someone really doesn’t know that the date a book is released usually dictates the order a book series is in, well then I guess the question was reasonable.

    Either way, we have to give grace to authors. They are writers, not always eloquent on how they respond to people, and we never know what is going on..unless they choose to share. Great points!

    • I had not heard of her before a couple of years ago- she had this great looking book out- and I asked the clerk at my indie about her- and she kind of squee-d and told me I needed to read- and then handed me the 1st book in series.

      Excellent point- a celebrity could lose her sh*t and we don’t bat an eye- but this author- well, people are talking about burning her books!

      I think that social media has made authors easy targets at times- and it’s sad. Should she have been rude? No, really she shouldn’t have. Could there be more to the story? Yes, possibly.

  4. Great post – I had not heard about this incident before! I also haven’t read any of her books, but have heard a lot about One Kick and have been kicking around reading it.

    I definitely think she should have avoided posting her feelings on this topic…maybe a better approach would be just to not respond to inane questions she’s getting. However, who are these people that would email/tweet/FB message an author to ask how many pages are in one of her books??? Or the order of publication? Seriously?!! Out of all the places to go for this information, contacting the author would literally never occur to me. I can totally see why she’s annoyed, but it was not smart to post something like that on social media. Just vent to your husband or something…

    • I just kind of happened into this posting and was all OMG.. Then my brain got to twirling away!

      I DO think she should have avoided posting her feelings on Facebook. You don’t post when you are emotional! However, I agree- I can’t imagine THOSE types of questions being asked!

      On the other hand…. SO NOT SMART. Buy a diary and vent šŸ™‚

  5. I had her books on my TBR and removed every one of them. As a public figure (which she is) she has a responsibility to control herself and respect her fans. There are private places to tirade if she feels the need. Her outburst was unnecessary and ridiculous. Will I ever read her books? Never. Not a single one.

    • I love how strong your opinions are! I do think she had a responsibility. I do think that the outburst was not good- I don’t necessarily think she deserves to be completely black-balled. Maybe I’m a bit of a softie- tho.

      I hope that other authors learn from the Cain mistake, tho.

  6. What Briana said very eloquently captures my thoughts on the matter. The author could have handled the situation better, but I don’t think she was being unreasonable. It won’t impact my choice to read or not read one of her books in the future.

    • Yay for Briana! I agree- Chelsea Cain COULD have handled the situation better. She really could have. Was she being unreasonable? No, not completely. I think she has not taken appropriate measures about some of her FAQ though- and she might want to do that. Will that stop silly questions from coming in? No, BUT it might help.

      I still plan on reading her first book, Heartsick, and I doubt her recent Facebook meltdown will matter in the enjoyment of the book. What will affect it is the writing/plot!

  7. As a reader, this wouldn’t affect me. If I buy a book, it’s because I want to read the book. Whether or not I like or respect the author is irrelevant.

    As a fellow author, this was a big mistake. Lots of people DO care what they think of the writer behind a book. But you’re right that most writers get zero training in public relations and many don’t really want to do the marketing stuff at all. It can feel overwhelming trying to keep up with everything, especially when you’re also under pressure to produce the next best seller. And who hasn’t said/typed something in anger they later wish they hadn’t?

    • I think her fans are rallying around her. It’s the folks who are on the fence OR who did not really know her that are being the most vocal about her meltdown. But that percentage represents future sales- and while this may die down- it may not. And too much damage may be done.

      I think the Chelsea Cain incident should be a gentle reminder (read: DON’T DO THIS) to all authors- regardless of the author’s popularity on being mindful of the author/reader relationship.

      In the end, everyone- at some point- has typed something that they regretted. It’s how you handle the situation AND what you learn from it that matters the most, imo.

      Thanks for stopping by to comment!

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