I’ve always maintained one single account for the web sites where I review or rate…anything. On Amazon I have one single account, under my own name, Ryan Field, that I’m sure could be traced if it had to be. On Goodreads, it’s the same scenario. Just one GR account, with my real name and identity, not a fake. I do sometimes comment on threads as anon in blog discussions, or with a fake name. But not often, and only when I don’t think it’s important for my identity to be revealed. Sometimes there are reasons to do these things. For example, (I know you’re waiting for a reason) I follow and love one blogger who writes middle grade fiction. I don’t think it’s appropriate for me, due to the subject matter of what I write, to comment on his middle grade thread. I love his work, and yet he doesn’t even know who I am.
To make this point even clearer, right now I’m using a pen name for a book that’s been difficult to write. The publisher asked me to use the pen name; it wasn’t my choice. I’m not fond of doing this, I don’t like doing this, and I’ve basically done nothing to promote that book. I’ve tried to get into it. I’ve tried to promote the book and the pen name. But it’s not working. At this point in my career, I don’t think it’s worth risking my own real identity for the sake of a pen name that means nothing to me. And once the next book is finished, that’s the last book the series will ever see with me attached to it. And if this doesn’t prove how strongly I feel about my identity, nothing ever will.
To reiterate: I only have one account on each review site with my own name. If necessary, these accounts could be traced back to me. This way I know what I wrote, when I wrote it, and I can be held accountable for everything I’ve put into writing. I do this for various personal reasons and I feel very strongly about these reasons. I learned years ago I have nothing to hide, and if I’m going to put something in writing I don’t mind being held accountable for it. I’m also well past the days of meltdown when it comes to getting bad reviews, so THAT can be scratched off the list. My meltdown days ended about four years ago. I don’t really care if my name comes up in comment threads either. If you don’t think so, ask me and watch me smile.
One account and identity is what most people do, I believe. I know this is what my mom does with her Amazon account, and it’s what my good friends do. The one thing I’ve always had a problem with is leaving bad reviews. I prefer to leave good reviews for books I like instead of focusing on bad reviews with books I didn’t like. And I don’t like to attack other authors, just like doctors don’t like to attack other doctors and teachers don’t like to attack other teachers. For me it’s more about solidarity and collaboration. And just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s not good. So I will admit that’s my review flaw. But that’s not going to change. Some things are just too subjective to be objective.
I actually stopped all google alerts in April of 2009 and rarely ever read my own reviews because I don’t think it’s a place where I should go. When people review my books they should have the ability to go there without me looking over their shoulders or getting involved in their discussions about my books. I don’t belong there. In fact, I don’t even like it when I see publishers leave ratings and reviews for books. I respect all opinions, good or bad. I’ve also learned…and posted about here before…that not all bad reviews hurt authors and books. Sometimes they help. I’ve also posted many times before that I’ve found some of the books I’ve loved the most from reading bad reviews. That’s how I found “Fifty Shades of Grey,” through a bad review, long before it went mainstream.
I think it’s important (for me) to stand behind my name and my identity and to enforce how strongly I feel about using my own name and identity in case anything questionable ever does crop up. Others may disagree with me and that’s fine.
But there is one thing I’d love to see added to review sites with everyone’s profile, including mine. I understand that some people have to use pen names for various reasons and I don’t see anything wrong with that. But I’d like to know just how many pen names and accounts they actually have from the same IP address. Now that would be interesting, if not entertaining. Because if the number of accounts started to appear on everyone’s profile and it turned out that some had multiple identities, I’m not sure what I would think. I might not think twice if I saw someone had two or three fake names and identities. That’s plausible, I guess. But what about if they had five, six, seven, or more fake names. Like I said, I understand the need for pen names. But I’m not so sure I understand the need for multiple identities, with an extended number.
Unfortunately, this will never happen…at least not in my lifetime. But it is very entertaining to think about it. I’m also sure that some who read this post will still question who I am and if this really is my real name and identity. It seems no matter how hard I try to get the point across there are always some who are so jaded by Internet deception they won’t believe me. That’s unfortunate. Because I might just show up, in the flesh, in person, someplace high profile when I’m least expected. Maybe I can get my buddy Ryan to come with me because he’s experienced similar things and he’s not even an author. RWA might be a great place to start.