So the client that called me this weekend, just as I sat down to coffee with a girlfriend of course, was hysterical. She was crying so hard I could hardly figure out what the problem was. I assumed she’d lost a family member, a beloved pet, or got a bad review in some national magazine.
In between sobs I was eventually able to figure it out. All her fans hate her. Now of course this isn’t true, although a few apparently do. But depending on a number of factors, including the fragility of the ego (something I have absolutely NO control over) this can be devastating.
How does this happen? With this author in particular the hate mail was brought on by her second novel. Not everyone agreed with the direction the main character took. One reader said she could “never imagine her best friend making such poor decisions” and blamed the author for being a bad influence, going into explicit detail about the things she assumed this author was doing in her spare time – some pretty nasty, bizarre things. There were a number of other fans that expressed their disappointment in the author’s choices but this one really got to her. I didn’t dare consider it could possibly be the result of a guilty conscience – I already talk to clients too often on the weekends, I don’t want to know what they’re doing when they’re not calling me.
But like I said, this isn’t the first time I’ve dealt with this type of “damage control”. And for the record, there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it, technically, other than council my clients about the importance of standing behind their vision, focusing on the thousands of fans that aren’t threatening them…but honestly it can get weird, and I don’t envy them. Some prior examples:
Payment for pet cremation. I’m not kidding, one fan claimed they were so distraught over the way a series ended they couldn’t function normally and neglected to feed their cat for a length of time. They sent the bill from the vet insisting the author pay for the cremation fees.
Offers of marriage. This actually happens a lot, but in one particular case a woman offered up her brother to an author, she was inappropriately interested in the lack of sex she thought the author was having and how it was affecting her writing.
Violent threats of mortal injury. After one author creatively killed off a beloved character she received more than a few “let’s seen how you’d like it” type threats.
Namesakes. I’ve had more than a couple clients who have received notes from fans, with copies of birth certificates as proof, that they have namesakes running around the globe in their honor. Yes, human babies.
Stalking. Very scary. One fan was so upset with how a series was progressing they started to send the author detailed input on how they shouldn’t be out doing this or that during the day and instead should be home focused on their writing. Based on the emails the fan definitely knew their day-to-day schedule.
Tattoos. You see this for big music stars and Hollywood actors but you really don’t see it in the publishing world. Book quotes sure. Book covers, a bit weirder. Portraits – totally crazy. One client forwarded me an email they got from a fan who had had the author’s face tattooed on their back. It was the image from their book cover. Creative.
Furry friends. The main character in one client’s novel had to put their dog down. A moving scene but hardly the focus of the book, I promise. But she spent a year trying to convince a fan who happened to be a dog breeder that she couldn’t feasibly accept a new dog and get it to the character in question, as a bereavement gift.
Offers of sex. Yes, this one happens too. The most interesting one from a man to a romance author I worked with. Generally you don’t think of men as reading romance, but this one did, and he was adamant he could help inspire her – to ensure the series would never have to end. He outlined detailed, graphic scenarios. Romantic, right?