Exposure and Privacy?

Ask nearly anyone who has published a book, traditional, self or other, why exactly they did it, and I suspect that “So people would read it” is probably near the top of the list. I mean, why else? If it was just about telling the story, there’s no need to seek publication. If it was just a creative exercise, or you decided you hated it when you were done, again, no reason to spread it around. I suppose “because I could” is a valid answer, but you’re accepting that it’s in the wild and there’s going to be somebody out there to read it at that point… Or at least you’d hope so.

Enter a somewhat bizarre conversation I had with a coworker the other day. It came up that I have written and published a handful of novels. Regardless of my personal opinions of my wayward children, or their actual sales figures, I am in the camp that says “I put them out there so people could buy them and read them and hopefully enjoy them.” It would really be counterproductive to have any other line of thinking, I imagine. My coworker asked me a question that left me just staring at him, unable to even process the concept.

“So, would it be okay if I bought one and read it?”

Yeah. I stood there for a good thirty seconds, analyzing the question and trying to comprehend it. And inventing scenarios where I got all huffy, plucked at my collar and stalked away, announcing “No! It would most assuredly not be okay! Bah! My work is not for the likes of you!”

Once that fit had passed, I asked him why he thought he might need my permission to read my (publicly available via Amazon) work,  or why he thought I’d be concerned. He responded that there was the possibility I felt it was too private or didn’t want people to know I’d written them.

Much as it made my brain hurt (see Rule of the Internet #1 from my mental handbook; if you put it online, someone will find it, so don’t do it unless you expect that result), I began to contemplate the reasoning behind this. I finally came upon the idea that there probably are writers who don’t want people they actually know to read their books – at least, not so long as they know the source – for a variety of reasons. Embarassment probably high on the list, but also the possibility for libel lawsuits, general privacy and introversion, or private emotional self-exposure. If one is working in non-fiction, I imagine there could be more.

But the whole thing just strikes me as odd. Because, as noted, if you fear someone – even if it’s specific someones – reading something, why put it in a place where that might occur?

This question is really going to bother me, now. If any of you folks have input, share your thoughts down below, eh?

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19 responses to “Exposure and Privacy?

  1. Good question Kaine. I suppose those people who write under a pen name do have reservations about people reading their books and I know that there are bloggers who do not write under their own name. Certainly when I published my first book I was sensitive to the fact that I had a long ago in the past ex-husband who might object to my opinion of him and was tempted to use a different name.. but I had remarried and so decided in the end to tempt fate.. nothing happened of course. I think most of us put varying degrees of our own personal experience into our books and the worry might be that your brother, sister or other close relative might take exception to something. Personally I believe in a very good disclaimer at the front of the book.

    • Well, I suppose I myself have an advantage in that the only people I know who might need such a disclaimer have plenty of legal hooks I could grab onto if they wanted to start that kind of fight… But an understandable viewpoint, regardless. XD

      So far as pseudonyms go, I get using them (and use one myself, though more due to “This is the name I choose rather than what abandoning idiots saddled me with and then recycled for the kid they kept,” which is a whole other can of worms…) though I suspect people using them for privacy or legal reasons would be unlikely to mention in casual conversation with coworkers that they write. Could be wrong though.

      Thanks for visiting and weighing in!

  2. My coworkers do not know of my blog. I’ve had family read some of my work in the past – that was an error I will not repeat.
    Not having friends, that bug has never bit.

  3. Hi, came from Opinionated Man blog. Good question. I suspect anyone who asks permission probably already is already reading it anyway. 🙂 I think my therapist has spent more time reading my blog/ published stuff than my family has anyway.

  4. I toss my words out into the wind and they fall wherever they will. I have never tried to hide them or advertise them.

  5. I’ve worked with a couple of published authors now. I would say that in the case of my first he was my boss so I felt it would be weird to know how his inner mind worked (I didn’t always get along). In your case I’ll admit I also thought about it first as well. Not for more than a moment mind you. As a co-worker you may have a wish to keep yourself slightly separate in work/personal time. Example being is the hubby won’t friend any co-worker on Facebook. Also reading someone’s publication might also make you feel odd if you don’t agree or don’t like it and put a strain on forced time together. My first boss always wanted a review and I hated it because I didn’t like his work that much and felt pressured to lie (he really was an odd guy). Hope that helps.

    • Makes sense. Especially the bit about review-nagging, judging from the stuff that goes through my Twitter feed… Being exposed to that in person would be… Draining, to say the least.

      Thanks for the feedback!

  6. My co-workers do know about my writing and several have read my work. I held a poetry reading with a former colleague at my place of work which was relatively well attended. As regards my local community, the pub I favour most often has a small library and I have donated a copy of my latest book, “Lost in the Labyrinth” to it, so anyone browsing through the books would be aware that yours truly has published a book! Thanks for this interesting post. Kevin

  7. I agree that the question is bizarre, since what we write/publish is available worldwide. I have actually been asked the same question, myself, and was taken aback, as you were. So reading this post made me laugh a bit. – PS I love your style of writing!

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