One of the most interesting things whilst having a conversation online (or heck, in-person!) is the fact that, sometimes, we have no idea who we’re speaking to. In many ways, we live in silos and outside of the few household names that manage to breakthrough, we mostly have no idea who the other individual might be. 

This can lead to a number of interesting situations in discussions, like:

– a newcomer into the publishing world trying to explain / mansplain the publishing industry to a diverse group that included agents, editors, self-pub authors and trad pub authors, some of which had multiple books and years of experience. And mostly, getting it wrong and not wanting to be corrected.

– gently boasting about the success of individuals in a writing group, without realising that one of the people you’re boasting to has significantly more (professional) success than the entire group put together.

– posts in public groups speaking of ‘great success’, where ‘great’ in the posters estimation was creating an income stream that was double their book sales (but book sales were in the low hundreds). 

– a multi-million dollar selfpub author offering advice based off their personal success story, and being told they have no idea how Amazon works and that this is obviously not how anyone could be successful.

– a social media firestorm created by an author who asserts a specific line of thought about craft. An assertion that is either occasionally repeated (with much less furor) by other, less successful authors months and years before. 

– making recommendations on a work, and realising only later that you’re recommending the book to the actual author themself

– a (successful) advertising consultant offering a contradictory statement to an assertion by another indie author on how an advertising platform worked

I could continue pulling out examples. Sometimes, it’s funny and innocent and no one’s really hurt and it becomes a joke. Other times though, not knowing who one is speaking to can end up creating significant problems, leading to ostracisation and/or banishment of said individual.

It’s why I often try to poke around before I reply to anyone online, trying to figure out who they are. From what background and perspective they’re coming from. And exactly how much they want to actually learn – if it’s a question where learning is a possibility. Sometimes, you’ll do the research and realise, they’re just not interested. And so you shouldn’t bother.

That happens all too often. 

If there’s a point to this business post, it’s mostly that it’s worth doing a little research about said person before you speak with them, if you intend to. Or – for that matter – the environment you’re having the conversation within (if it’s a forum or slack or discord). 

Obviously, this is easier online. In-person… sometimes, you’re just going to have to stick your foot in it. And hope they’re nice enough to not realise who exactly you’re speaking to.

Because as we know, it’s hard to know everything.

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