When Does Author Openness Become TMI?

Photo by Ken Wilcox (cc)

The Dear Author site did a very interesting post yesterday asking When Does a Reader Know Too Much? Definitely read the full article, but the basic gist was that in this world of social networking and author branding, where we're supposed to give readers a peek behind the scenes, it's easy to go too far and actually lose readers. So where do we draw the line?

I pride myself on being very open on here. I've talked about my own personal rejections. I've aired my own mistakes in this process in hopes that you guys can avoid the pitfalls I may have fallen into. I've even shared my horrible eighth grade picture and the very real feelings I was going through back then on my Dear Teen Me post. Everything you see on here is 100% me, not some image I'm  trying to hone.

However, I also don't share EVERYTHING about myself. You'll never hear me talk about politics or religion, though I have strong views on both. I don't talk about sex in a personal sense even though I write erotic romance. And you won't hear me b*tch and complain about hardly anything because you guys aren't here to listen to my whine. These are all my personal choices. Others make different choices and that's fine.

But, the question is--where does it cross the line and risk an author losing readers? I can tell you that if I read an author's blog or see them on twitter and they are saying something that offends me in some way (a la the anti-gay article mentioned in the Dear Author post)--like it or not--it colors my opinion of the author and makes me less inclined to support them and their books. I also get tired quickly if someone is constantly complaining and uber negative.

Also, as was mentioned in the Dear Author post as well, a reader reported that when they read a certain author's book, they knew SO much about the author via twitter that it felt like they were reading the person's autobiography and it pulled them out of the story. It's like a weird version of author intrusion. Like we know so and so author is obsessed with Brad Pitt and then all their character does is compare every guy to Brad Pitt. Lame example, but you see what I mean.

So what should we share and what should we keep behind the curtain? Here are some things I try to stick to:

1. Be Positive

Yes, you can be snarky. And yes you can share when things haven't exactly gone your way. You don't have to be sunshine and rainbows 24/7, but people like to surround themselves with those that make them laugh or smile. Your readers don't want to spend their time coddling you during your whining sessions.

2. Speak about the biggies--politics and religion--at your own risk.

Particularly with politics, you're guaranteed to offend half your readers if you go off on an opinionated tangent. Yes, stand up for causes you believe in, but do it in a way that doesn't offend those who may not see things he same as you do. 

3. Keep in mind when you post that you are not the only one reading this stuff.

Blogs and twitter streams can feel like a diary when you sit down alone at your computer. But once you enter into author land, you are a product and a brand. You are representing yourself, your books, and your publisher. How do you want all of those things to be perceived?

4. Not EVERYTHING has to be shared.

People will survive without knowing that you have cramps today. I'm just sayin'.

So what's your opinion? Do you consciously not discuss certain things? Have you ever discussed something you wish you wouldn't have? Have you ever changed your view of an author based on what they post/tweet?