It is because of this shift in book publicity, more so than because I started blogging about books, that has caused my reading experience to change. Very rarely now can I read a book and have it stand on its own. When I read now, I almost always think about what I know about the author, either from my personal interactions with him or her, or the way he or she presents him/herself online. Nowadays I often get to know the author through Twitter or their blog posts before I read his or her book. This is totally different from my reading experiences even just a few years ago, when finding out more about an author came only after I had read his or her book.
It's negative when an author's online behavior causes me to rethink my support of them through reading, buying, or reviewing their books. There have been instances in the past when I've really enjoyed an author's book(s), only to discover in some not-so-obscure corner of the Internet that he or she has behaved in ways I find deplorable: immaturely ragging on people they disagree with almost to the point of online harassment, expressing their opinions in a narrow-minded or offensive manner, belittling the intelligences of their YA audience.
What do you do when you come across something like that? I can no longer not let it influence my decision to support that author's books...and it is my opinion that neither should I, as a consumer, be expected to separate the two. Publishers should know that with their push to incorporate authors' online presence into marketing and publicity, they run the risk of it having the opposite effect on readers. I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as good publicity vs. bad publicity: it's what you choose to do with the available opportunities for publicity that determines its effect on my reading decisions. If you choose to assert your right to mouth off, insult people, and express your controversial opinion on a sensitive subject--and I am not saying you don't have the right to do so--just keep in mind what the consequences regarding your public image and royalty statement may be.
Consider how this occurs in other forms of media and entertainment. Does hearing about Lindsay Lohan's messy and rehab-oriented behavior, or Nicholas Cage's debt and tax evasions, or Tiger Woods' adulterous behavior influence the way you approach their more professional performances? For me it unequivocally does. I can no longer rewatch The Parent Trap or Mean Girls (and both are movies I love, by the way, no shame) without thinking about how Lindsay has gone downhill since then. And I'm less inclined to watch any of Nicholas Cage's future movies because of the fact that I now know he is an extravagant spender with poor finance skills. I mean, dude, you're a multimillionaire. I don't know whether to be more impressed or embarrassed for you that you are able to blow through your seven-figure paychecks.
This does not mean I'm Switzerland. Of course I have opinions and make them; you, dearest blog readers, of all people, would know that. But it's about presentation. It's about the way you make your point. And it's also about the willingness to be open to dialogue and dissenting viewpoints, but that's another topic for another post, don't worry I'm already working on that. I may even agree with your opinion, but if you choose to present your opinion in a close-minded, unintelligent, and vindictive manner--in other words, if you choose to be disrespectful when speaking your mind--then you lose my respect. And this has happened to me before, with both authors and bloggers, so it's not just a hypothetical situation.
Yes, the Internet allows for more anonymity, and people are always bolder with the safety of anonymity. Sometimes, this anonymity turns into bad, even terrifying, situations, such as with the influx of cyber-bullying that has caused too many people to commit suicide this year. But don't forget that things on the Internet are very rarely truly anonymous. There are always ways to track down who said what, if you have the time and resources. Things published on the Internet will stay there forever, even if you choose to delete them later. The Internet has given us more freedom, but freedom does come at a price, and if you're not careful, you may be paying dearly for it.
So...what do you guys think? Have you ever been influenced, either positively or negatively, by an author's online presence? Can you separate an author's behavior from your enjoyment of his or her book? Should you? Does this professional/respectful online presence apply to bloggers as well? Should it?