Note: I posted this in my Facebook group for readers, but it’s an important topic, so I wanted to make sure it’s also accessible to people who don’t use Facebook.
Something has been on my mind lately, and I’d like to share it with you. It’s a serious topic that we hardly ever talk about in our community, but I think it needs to be addressed. I’m talking about inappropriate behavior toward authors.
Right now, I’m dealing with the second stalker-ish situation since the beginning of this year. Yes—the second in just six months.
Over the course of my career as a writer, I’ve had readers find out my home address to send uninvited love letters and romantic gifts, email nude pictures, send obsessive messages about how they can’t stop thinking about me (without ever having met me), and put pressure on me to date them.
I’m not talking about it happening once or twice; I’m talking about it being a semi-regular occurrence.
And I’m not the only one that happens to. Most authors I know have dealt with it. At least one fellow author I know is dealing with it right now too.
[Edited to add: If you want any indication of what a common occurance it is, check out the comments left by fellow authors on my original post in my Facebook group, on my Facebook page, and on Twitter. Among all the support from our wonderful readers, you’ll find a lot of “me too” from authors]
Having to deal with inappropriate behavior is especially common for authors who are single or who are very private and don’t talk about their significant other online.
As authors of sapphic books (especially sapphic romance) we are in a unique situation. Unlike authors of straight romances, most of us are women who write mostly for women who are attracted to women. Which means for some readers, there’s no clear line between authors they admire and their potential dating pool.
Add to that the fact that romance in particular is a very intimate genre. Readers feel as if they already know us authors through our books—some even seem to have difficulty differentiating between the author and her characters and assume our books are at least partially autobiographic!
It has gotten to a point where my friends have been strongly urging me to turn off my messenger and not to meet up with readers anymore. But honestly, I don’t want to have to do that. The majority of my readers have been very respectful, and I don’t want to change the way I interact with my readers.
But I also don’t want to accept that this is the “cost of fame” and the price we as authors have to pay for being in the public eye.
I know I’m preaching to the choir, and the majority of you would never think of crossing a line, but I’ll still say it for my peace of mind and for all of my fellow authors who are dealing with these situations:
Please respect authors’ personal boundaries!
Just because an author is nice and approachable doesn’t mean they are interested in something romantic and/or sexual. Most authors love interacting with readers. I know I do! But if you “meet” an author in a place where readers and authors interact, please assume they are there to talk about books, not to hook up or find a date—if they were, they would use a sapphic dating app, not hang out in a book group. Of course, that goes for both digital spaces and in-person meet-ups.
Even if an author is single, that is not an invitation. Just assume they are there as an author, not as a lonely person looking for a partner or a hookup.
Unless an author initiates something else, please keep it about the books and don’t try to take it to an intimate level.
Their social media and book events are part of an author’s workplace, so people crossing those lines and overstepping boundaries is, frankly, sexual harassment in the workplace. I know that’s a very blunt way of putting it, but that’s what it is.
Just because most readers getting overfamiliar are women doesn’t make it okay.
I don’t want my fellow authors to stop attending panels or conferences—and I know there are several who no longer participate in events or have always stayed anonymous for that very reason—or to feel like they have to watch their interactions with readers because being nice could be taken the wrong way.
So please, watch those boundaries, and call out other people if you witness someone crossing a line.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. Just so there’s no doubt: Being a gushing fan of an author’s writing is NOT crossing a line! If you loved an author’s book(s), please don’t be afraid to reach out to them and let them know!
Links to my original posts about harassment of authors
If you would like to read my original posts on the topic, including the comments from fellow authors who have been through the same, check out these links:
Further posts & podcasts on the topic of inappropriate behavior towards authors
In a July 2022 episode of the Queerly Recommended podcast, reviewer Tara Scott, author Kris Bryant, Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches Trashy Books, and I talk about all-too-prevalent problem behaviors that authors face, ranging from inappropriate emails to straight-up stalking. Our conversation starts 15 minutes into the podcast.
In a recent newsletter, the Lesbian Review made some suggestions regarding the do’s and don’ts for interacting with authors. While I personally don’t mind getting DMs/PMs from readers on social media as long as they are respectful, other authors might, so I think the list of suggestions makes perfect sense and is a great starting point.