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Novel Marketing

How to Survive Cancel Culture as a Writer

August 03, 2020

Last month tens of thousands of Twitter accounts attacked J.K. Rowling. They tried to get her books pulled from publication. Her books were burned, and people promised to never read one of her books again. This was perhaps the fourth time this has happened to Rowling in the last few years. 

There is nothing new under the sun, and book-burning is a time-honored practice of angry mobs. This wasn’t the first time people have burned Harry Potter books. 

If you are a published author, cancel culture is not just something you hear about that happens to TV celebrities. It can come for you regardless of your place on the political continuum. 

Some authors have even faced backlash for their silence. Staying out of politics is no longer the defense it used to be. 

This is a difficult but important topic many authors wonder about. Novel Marketing Podcast listener Jennifer asked:

“I’d love to hear your take on the current “cancel culture.” No longer satisfied with leaving a negative review, some people want to see works banned entirely. This seems to be happening all around, from the blockbuster musical Hamilton to indie authors who cancel publication of their own books and make profuse apologies in the wake of attacks on their content and their character. Are some genres more vulnerable to offending the cancel culture than others? What can authors do to avoid and respond to such vicious attacks?”

Strategy #1: Don’t Be a Jerk 

Those who live to cancel others will themselves be canceled. The people using the guillotine at the beginning of the French Revolution were the ones who died by the guillotine halfway through. The cycle continued until Napoleon brought the army into Paris to slaughter the mob by giving them a “whiff of grapeshot.” 

The same spirit of revolution is in the air today. Anyone who tells you we are living in unprecedented times hasn’t studied history. There is nothing new under the sun. Savvy authors can learn from history and know how to navigate these all too predictable times. 

So, don’t be so quick to cancel others. Sure, getting someone fired might make you feel virtuous, but it won’t change that person’s heart. It won’t cause them to agree with you or like you better. In fact, it will do the opposite.

“Judge not lest you be judged” by the same standard you used to judge others. The more people you cancel, the more enemies you will make, and they will want to cancel you right back.  What you reap you will sow. 

There’s a lot to be said about living in peace with people you disagree with. 

You need not agree on every point in order to be friends with someone. Learning to disagree agreeably is vital for a healthy society. We all want to live in a society where we can live at peace with each other without seeking to harm each other by robbing another person of their freedom, their job, or their life. 

Pick Your Target Readers

Part of not being a jerk involves choosing the right readers.

These days, people expect their celebrities to abide by the same moral code they do themselves. The challenge is that there are multiple moral codes, and some are at odds with each other. When you pick a group of target readers, you are also picking a moral system to abide by. 

What is true with morality is also true with politics. More and more,