Public Persona Versus Private Persona
You have a book contract. You are finally an author. Now it’s time to share that book length bio you’ve been tweaking for years. Everyone needs to know every single thing about your life, about how you used to swing from tree limb to tree limb as a child all the way up to your kid’s birthday party last week.
Maybe you’ll extend an invite for all of your fabulous fans to stop on by your house to share their insights into your book. It would be a good idea to hold a pool party/book signing, wouldn’t it? You want your fans to be your new best friends, your door is open to them.
Hang on there for about a minute or two. There is a limit to how much our fans should know about our lives. As a newly minted author, you may believe there is no such thing as too much information, but there is.
Fans are just that—fans. They aren’t our best friend. They should never have access to the most private part of our lives. There must be an unbreakable line between what the fan knows and what they don’t know.
Yes, you can share where your appearances will be and when you’ll be out in public where you won’t mind people coming up to you. It’s all right to open up in the store with those you happen to run into but don’t know. After all, word of mouth has always been the best advertising an author will ever get.
For instance, I happened across a mother who was having a difficult time with her children while grocery shopping recently. Laughingly, I told her, “Thank you for reminding me why I’m so happy my youngest just went to college.” This overwhelmed mother was soon laughing with me and saying that would happen soon for her too. Her daughter announced that she’d graduated last spring and had a job. We had a conversation, but I didn’t disclose where my son attended college or anything about him. When I parted ways with this woman, we had connected, but I hadn’t revealed anything about what I consider my private life.
Another instance came when we moved our son into his dorm. He was going to be without family close for the first time in his life, and the RA stopped by the room to teasingly ask him if he could take the brand new microwave we’d just bought for our boy. My child had this look of terror on his face, as he was unsure how to handle this situation, so I jumped in and said, “Sure, you can do that, but only if you buy my books.” The RA responded, “Oh, you are a student here too.” My response was, “No, buy my books. I’m an author.” Needless to say, my child’s stock just went up in this person’s eyes, because he had a somewhat famous parent. The whole moment garnered me new fans, but past the moment when I said, “buy my books” the RA never learned anything private about our family. That’s how I’ve taught my children to deal with my very public persona. They can say my mom’s an author. They can even identify my books, and most do without any hesitation, but they don’t have to share what makes them uncomfortable. And they do get to have lives that aren’t those as “the author’s kid.”
We’ve all heard the horror stories about fans accosting well-known authors, actors, and other people with a public face. We know what can happen, but don’t believe that will happen to us because we aren’t truly famous.
Don’t ever think like that. It’s very important to decide early on exactly what we’ll tell our fans about our lives. You can talk about the swinging from tree limb to tree limb as a child. That gives people a glimpse into the person we once were, and how that translates into who we are now. Sharing intimate information about our current lives such as home renovations, children’s birthday parties, or holding an open house where anyone can come into your home isn’t good. These are events where we need to hold back on the info and become that private person, so that we don’t lose ourselves to the demand for more information.
Remember this: There are friends and then there are fans. Decide early on exactly who is who and keep those lines drawn straight, so you don’t lose the privacy you’ll soon find you crave.