Why It's Okay To Say Nice Things To Famous People

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 10.854% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So someone on FetLife wrote this about popular bloggers, referencing me in particular:
“These people don’t need my encouragement or my praise. They swim in a sea of it. They get more responses in a single day than I do all year long… my praise doesn’t help them through a bad day or give them courage to face the next challenge. ”
Funny story: At one point, Neil Gaiman – you know, one of the most popular writers of this generation – wrote a Doctor Who episode. And I Tweeted something along the line that “Someone of Neil Gaiman’s caliber doesn’t need to know that I loved his Doctor Who episode, but I fucking loved his Doctor Who episode.”
He wrote back with something like, “Actually, I’m really relieved to know you like it.”
There’s this perception that people who are sufficiently “big” don’t need positive feedback, but lemme tell you – that “My praise doesn’t give them the courage to face the next challenge” is a ball of purest lies.
You think it’s easy writing about my depression? It costs me, man. And there are days when I’m like, “I can’t do this, I’m just making a fool out of myself, highlighting my mental illness is costing me friends, it’s costing me my career…”
And someone will send me an email that says, “Thank you for speaking up. I don’t feel like I’m alone any more.”
And I remember: Right. That’s why I do this.
Or I’m looking at another clusterfuck of an essay, the kind of hot-button topic where I know I’ll be dealing with nasty, angry commenters dropping by all fucking week to make personal insults, and I’ll be like, “Wait, why would I want to subject myself to abuse again?”
And someone writes me to tell me to thank me for speaking up, and that helps me keep going as a blogger. It really does.
Or I had a massive rejection that day, and someone pings me on Twitter to thank me for my fiction. All this helps.
Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t support the smaller writers that this blogger also supports! (It’s why I read Twitter a lot, finding weird essays and retweeting them when I can.) It’s wonderful to lift up new voices, encouraging them to get in there.
But this idea that “Oh, they’re big, they don’t really hear you” is not true 99% of the time. I’m sure Neil Gaiman gets more fan mail than he can read, so there’s a certain point at which you vanish – but Kameron Hurley wrote an essay recently on how “fame” used to come with a certain dollar value, and doesn’t any more, and how “famous” authors with 20,000 followers on Twitter still have to work their damn day job, and deal with the abuse that someone who has 20,000 fans on Twitter endures.
In other words, 99% of the “famous” authors you know most likely get paid mostly in pleasantries. And as someone close to the industry, I see talented writers walking away every day because their novels don’t pay their rent and they’re struggling on this manuscript that as of now no publisher wants and it feels like they’re shoveling their heart into the void.
One fan mail can still make their whole goddamned day.
The right fan mail can keep even an “established” author going.
So sure. Praise the up-and-comers, highlight the newbies, seek out new voices. That’s wonderful. Do it. But don’t write off the “successes” as “Well, they don’t care any more,” because chances are you’re probably overinflating the number of nice things they hear a day – and even if you are, they get pummelled by critics in ways that lesser writers don’t, and the nice things don’t happen as often as you’d think.
Drop ’em a nice comment, if you like what they do.  For anyone, high or low.
It helps.

1 Comment

  1. Suz deMello
    May 20, 2016

    And people you think are famous aren’t, and they may be making little or no money.
    Here’s an illustration: I was an extremely aggressive blogger in 2014, hoping that would boost my royalties. I posted a new blog just about daily. Maybe it was about my writing, writing in general or about my travels; I often posted blogs from other writers, as well–3-4 weekly.
    I used Triberr and other mechanisms to boost my blog’s popularity, and eventually was getting 300-400 hits daily on my blog.
    Nevertheless, I garnered few comments and no uptick in my earnings, so I stopped aggressive blogging about a year ago. I post maybe 1-2x/monthly, but blog elsewhere regularly.
    So yes, bloggers need encouragement no matter how “famous” they are.
    And another plus about commenting to a well-known blogger is that you may hear back from him or her. You heard back from Neil Gaiman. I emailed Mark Manson, a pretty well-known blogger who gets millions of hits monthly. He answered my emailed question, which I thought was pretty kind–so I got a personalized answer to my question, which was nice.

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