The pundits proclaim we are in an increasingly polarized society, and point to political protests over vaccinations as proof of that. I’m not sure there was ever a magical time when we all got along despite our differences. I suspect what has changed is improved communication technologies and greater freedom to express opinions held by a minority of people – a freedom that aids both the oppressed and those who imagine they are oppressed.
In this polarized environment, almost anything posted online, especially if it acknowledges issues in the news, can be seen as taking a side. It can be difficult to promote yourself, or an organization, without alienating people. I am conscious of this for my own posts, as well as several organizations I am involved with and promote online: The Open Heart Forgery Poetry Cooperative, The Association of Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada, and Somewhat Grumpy Press.
Promoting your author brand, like all marketing, requires a delicate mix of the personal and the promotional. To the extent I have an author brand, it’s basically me. And that means, particularly on Twitter, announcements of my writing and the odd brilliant insight into the human condition are buried among my complaints about street parking, lack of bicycle infrastructure, and support for sexual and gender diversity.
However, anyone who objects to my posts supporting sexual and gender diversity, for example, probably isn’t going to like my writing. My main character in Ocean’s Lure is developing a campground with climate change in mind, which means the anti-climate change crowd aren’t likely fans either. I don’t mind alienating people who don’t like my work or me (though I am trying to reduce the number of tweets complaining about parking). I’m not willing to compromise my values for the sake of sales, and people who disagree with my posts aren’t likely customers anyway.
For the organizations I promote, I need to be more careful about alienating people. When I post, it’s on behalf of the organization, not myself. But that does not mean I am restricted to posting only pet pics. Each of the organizations has a values statement. Open Heart Forgery’s submission rule one is “No hate. No sexism. No racism.” The rule is taken seriously – I’ve been involved in discussions over whether a particular poem crosses a line. So if I post something opposing racism to the Open Heart Forgery Facebook page, while it is taking a stand on an issue, and alienating some people, it is consistent with the values of the organization.
Similarly, Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada states that they support diversity, and “our members and books encompass an array of sexual orientations, identities, and racial and ethnic backgrounds.” A common expression among romance writers is that everyone deserves a happy ending. A post supporting gender diversity may alienate some readers but, again, it is consistent with the values of the organization.
Somewhat Grumpy Press’s goal is to “become a reputable publisher of entertaining and enlightening fiction and non-fiction.” That’s broad, but enlightening is a deliberate reference to the Age of Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason. “The Enlightenment included a range of ideas centered on the pursuit of happiness, sovereignty of reason, and the evidence of the senses as the primary sources of knowledge and advanced ideals such as liberty, progress, toleration, fraternity, constitutional government, and separation of church and state.” I don’t want to romanticize the period, but if we did not have separation of church and state, Recycled Virgin may not have been published. And a belief in science rather than authority leads naturally to accepting advice on vaccination from medical professionals, rather than paying attention to online celebrities.
The values of the organizations I promote are largely the same as my personal values. Like most people, I have self-selected into joining organizations with similar values, and that makes promoting those organizations easier. When my posts appear to be taking a side, it’s likely consistent with my values and the values of the organization I might be promoting. The post might alienate a few readers, who see it as political, and wrong, but if I am losing the support of racists, bigots, and conspiracy theorists with my posts, that’s okay by me, and the organizations I promote.