Best-selling crime author Chelsea Cain appears to have gone into social media meltdown in a really bad case of Author Meets Facebook. In a series of posts, she managed to diss on her readers for their asinine behavior and intrusive questions. She then managed to compound the damage. Her initial posts were taken down pretty promptly, apparently at the behest of her publisher. So the following is not first hand. But it is based on direct copies of the original posts like those you can see in this article, which have been widely corroborated.
I am not your personal customer service hotline. Do not ask me the order of my series or when the book is coming out in your particular country or how to make your fucking Kindle turn on. Google it. It will take you less time and turn up a much more reliable answer.
She then followed up with more in the same vein in response to a comment on the post:
I spend hours every day responding to reader questions on all my various social networking sites. It is a full time job. It takes up more time than writing. You have no idea the bullshit I am bombarded with. Suddenly I’m an asshole for pointing out that listing the order of my books ten times a day may not be the most productive use of my time? I love cool questions and comments. It’s the inane ones I object to. You don’t pay my salary. I don’t have to do this. But here I am. Personally responding to your comment at almost 1am
So there is Lesson One in social media self-promotion for writers: If you do have readers who pay for your livelihood, do not shit on them from a great height, in public view. Sure, they weren’t made to pass an IQ test to read your books. But deal with that: If you’re putting yourself out there on social media and in the blogosphere in the first place, you obviously did it with a purpose.
Lesson Two, actually, for writers and publishers, might be: If you put a blooper like that out on social media, correct it, apologize for it, but don’t simply delete it. Because on the internet, it never goes away. And if you take it down when somebody has already copied it, you just look like you’re doing a cover-up. And above all, if you’re going to do a follow-up, don’t do it like this:
And Lesson Three might be, especially if you’re a New York Times bestselling novelist, if this stuff gets too much of a burden for you, pay a publicist or an agent to do it. Or just don’t go on social media personally. Or, as some commentators pointed out, get a proper FAQ and reader-friendly infodump on your personal site so no one has to ask you basic questions in the first place. No one is forcing you to go on social media, just as no one is forcing you to write, or your readers to read you. Get a proper social media and publicity strategy together, for crying out loud. You should be able to afford it, with all the money that the people you just dumped on push into your hands.
I’ve no doubt that somewhere Jonathan Franzen or his sympathizers will be wringing their hands over this and saying how it demonstrates the terrible things that happen when authors are forced into doing social media. Well, his original comments smacked of over-entitlement and deeply insular arrogance, and so do Chelsea Cain’s.