Today, I have a story to tell you. Back in the day I was my class's student council VP. I faithfully served from 8th grade to 11th grade. But I lost the election for my senior year. Which seems weird, right? Except, I know why I lost. A rumor.
There was a rumor going round the week before elections that I was telling everyone what a bad job the president was doing. This was a false rumor, but it didn't matter. The damage was done. I lost.
So why am I telling you this?
I've seen several authors, bloggers, and others in the industry get ticked lately about rumors. I've had people ask me what they should do about rumors going around about them. How should they respond? What can they do to stop it?
So here is my advice...
Get off the playground. The publishing industry is not high school, and no one has time for any of this nonsense. Situations like this need to be dealt with like mature adults, and we have to put our feelings aside so we don't end up on an author's behaving badly list. Here is my three step solution for dealing with rumors and bullies.
1. Deal directly with those involved
I don't mean you should approach the rumor mongers. That can only spell disaster. But if rumors about you involve another individual, then the two of you should have a conversation. Way back in high school, the president and I had a nice chat where she flat out asked if I had said the things being spread about. I said no, and we talked about how stupid rumors are. While it didn't stop the rumor from being spread, it did make sure that our relationship wouldn't be a casualty. So speak directly and privately with any individual directly indicated in the rumor.
2. Turn the rest of it off
Seriously. Do Not Engage! If someone is constantly tweeting at you or tagging you in posts, block them. Do not respond. Do not defend. Do not explain. The rumor mongers and instigators of the world are like gremlins, all sweet and innocent on the surface. But engaging them is akin to feeding them after midnight and pouring water on them. They will multiply and turn nasty. I know it's tempting. I realize it can seem physically painful to not defend yourself, but you have to resist, or risk dragging the whole thing out even longer.
3. Calm your tribe
Almost as bad as when the author goes on the offense, is when their tribe circles round and pulls out their claws. I've seen situation where the defending party becomes just as petty and vindictive as the original attacker. It's not pretty and no one walks away the winner. Obviously, you can't control all the people who know and love you, but asking those people to join you in ignoring the haters is the high road you need to be on.
At the end of the day, most of this probably won't matter. Maybe it hurts your stats for a bit, but people have pretty short memories for drama. While there have been cases of a bully refusing to let an author be, most of the time, this sort of thing blows over before you know it.
As authors and people, we cannot control the actions of others. We can't stop rumors and we can't prevent people from saying what they want about us, even if it's not true. What we can control is our own response. We can control how we let other people impact us. We can control how much power we give to someone else's words.
So don't throw sand and take turns on the swings, and we'll all get along just fine.