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The Agony and Ecstasy of Social Media

Today two authors debate the issue of social media in writing. In today’s society does a book exist if it is not shared on social media? Is the constant and immediate contact between readers and authors creating a relationship with the book far outside the pages reaching to the author herself? Does the existence of social media enhance or detract from the reader experience? Today’s viewpoints start the discussion from the author point of view, but I’d love to hear from both readers and authors regarding whether social media is good for books or detrimental to both reading and writing culture.

HOW DO I TWEET THIS? A Rumination on Writing in the Electronic Age by Dave Lowry

My literary agent, the estimable Ms. Megibow, is endlessly patient, formidably driven, unfailingly helpful.

But she was not there.

And so it is difficult for her to imagine what it was like.  Difficult too, to try to explain it without sounding annoyingly self-centered.

It was in the headquarters of Missouri’s Greene County Public Library where I began a relationship with books, back in the Sixties.  I would say it was where I fell in love with books.  But I was fortunate to have had teachers who did not allow such sloppy usage.  Which should give you some idea of just how long ago that was.  Back before air conditioning was common anywhere in the Ozarks, even in public buildings.  Like the library.  And so the massive windows would have been pushed open against the torpid Midwestern summers and I would sit at a big oak table up on the second floor and read and read and a stray honeybee would drift in now and then, and circle in big lazy loops and find its way out again, its buzz being the loudest—the only—sound in an otherwise tomb-like room, and I was as happy as it is possible, I suspect, for a human to be.  Certainly as happy as an eight-year-old kid could be.

I note this not to slosh around in a tub of soapy warm nostalgia.  Oh well, perhaps I do that just a little bit.  More so, though, because it helps to understand the distance between now and then.  Books were on shelves.  They had a heft.  Texture.  A smell, of binding glue and paper and, when they’d aged properly, a bouquet.

Now, well, it is different, isn’t it?

The notion, prevalent, is that “social media” must play a vital role in the presentation of a book today.  In many instances now, the book is itself almost completely an extension of that media.  There are books no more substantial—in terms of their physical presence but, come to think of it, in their gravitas as well—than the electronic glitter that animates your microwave.  Reviews are no longer confined to the back of The New Yorker.  They are online, just like the books.  Discussions of those books no longer are conducted in the pages of periodicals:  today a reader’s opinion can be read as quickly as it is rendered—read by thousands sitting and staring at screens held in their hands.

It was hot in that library, on those long summer afternoons in the Ozarks.  And while the library was a big one, it did not have even a fraction of what can be downloaded on even the simplest of computerized devices we now enjoy.  So this is not some longing for a golden past.  It is more an apologia.  To write a book was to produce the thing, to have the tangible product in one’s hand.  To be a writer was to generate words on paper.  I still feel odd when, at the end of the day, I do not have a pile of paper on my desk that represents the orts and leavings of my labour.  That is why it is so odd for me to contemplate the era of publishing into which we have entered, one where one’s presence on all manner of social media is at least as important as what it is one writes.  And why, no doubt, I test the patience of my agent.

There is something else in the world of books that has changed with the advent of those social media.  And that is the notion that authors are accessed easily, that readers can contact them, know their thoughts on a range of subjects—that those who write the books are really just sort of like friends, whose personalities are revealed, whose opinions are readily available.  One sees these in other arenas of our society.  Remember when, aside from the avuncular and be-toqued Mr. Boyardee, you could not have named a single chef in America?  Now we know them, see their programmes on TV, read their memoirs, listen to interviews.  They ruminate on the nature of the culinary arts, proffer opinions on a host of topics.

I do not care much about what energizes chefs, politically or culturally.  I care what their food tastes like.  So it is with authors.  I don’t really care much what Stephen King thinks of climate change.  Or of J.K Rowling’s opinion on the geopolitics of the Middle East.  If authors want to make social or political points, they can do it, I should think, in the plots of their stories, in the context of their writing.  To pontificate, wax philosophic online, on one’s blog or through other electronic messaging, is, to me, time not spent writing.  Did Milton sit around and scribble about the motivations of his work?  Hemmingway could be an enormous bore but at least he confided his sentiments to his work.  I think had an editor or agent insisted Hemmingway indulge in a regular bit of chit-chat about what inspired him to create, he’d have eaten that shotgun years earlier than he did.

I don’t wish to be dismissive.  Or disdainful.  The Scarlet Letter didn’t get written on a laptop, but if one had been available, Hawthorne would, I bet, have used it.  And perhaps Melville would have posted a perfectly delightful blog about whale watching off New Bedford if the internet had been around.  That eight-year-old sitting in a stifling library more than four decades ago was not, he is thankful, frozen in such a place forever.  That said, change happens slowly for some.  It should happen thoughtfully as well.  So I hope my agent, as well as my readers, will continue to be patient.

Now:  how do I post this on my blog?

18222701Dave Lowry
 
Bio Dave calls himself a writer because “guy who sits in his jammies with a laptop, watching old episodes of Law & Order all day” doesn’t fit conveniently into the space for “0ccupation” in the IRS tax forms. He actually gets paid to eat, reviewing restaurants for St. Louis Magazine. His nonfiction books about Japan, including The Connoisseur’s Guide to Sushi, have been translated into German, Italian, and Japanese, which makes him, in a way, the generational voice of the Axis powers. He is a trifle taller than his writing makes him sound.
 
Chinese Cooking for Diamond Thieves: Amazon | BN | iTunes
 

Why I Tweet by Roni Loren

Social media presence. Branding. Platform. At last count, there were about seventeen ka-billion articles and books about those topics for writers. We’re supposed to be out there. We’re supposed to be branding ourselves (which sounds painful). We’re supposed to talk to the masses so that they LIKE us.

So, of course, that’s why I’ve spent years blogging and tweeting and poking my nose in social media, right? No. Not even a little bit. I’d like to seem super business savvy, but really, the truth is much more pedestrian.

I like it. I’m comfortable in an online world. Writing is solitary, and I need a watercooler.

I first got onto Twitter when I entered the blogosphere in 2009—before I wrote my debut novel and before I had an agent or publishing deal—because I wanted to chat with other writers and readers. I’m not surrounded by a lot of people who are interested in those things, so I went were I could find my fellow book geeks. And wow, they were everywhere. I was hooked. Look, people who get me! Yay! Let’s talk about Outlander and braid each other’s hair.

So perhaps when I did eventually get published, that’s why it was so natural for me to continue along with social media because there was really no pressure of platform-building and branding involved. I was already out there as myself. It was simply another part of my daily life.

Online feels natural to me. I met my husband in a chatroom back in the early days of AOL dial-up (talking about LSU Football, of all things—very romantic, right?) Our fourteenth wedding anniversary is next month. So the internet has long been a place where I’ve felt comfortable interacting with people in a genuine way. In fact, I think it’s much easier to get to know me online than it is in person because I’m pretty introverted face to face.

 

So why wouldn’t I want to connect with readers online? Well, some would argue that books should stand alone. Knowing too much about an author can taint the reading experience. I definitely understand that argument. And I won’t lie. There have been some authors who have said things online that have made me not want to read their books anymore. If someone is ugly or dismissive toward others or has some political opinion that makes my skin crawl, it’s going to make me not want to support them with my money or reading time.

But this is, by far, the minority. Much more often, I discover new authors because I enjoy who they are online, or I become a more fervent fan of someone I already liked because they’re funny or interesting on Twitter. And I still have fangirl moments when an author I admire interacts with me because part of me is still that kid who idolized writers.

When I was growing up, authors were my rockstars. Untouchable. Mysterious. I imagined them sitting in their mansions or eccentric mountain cabins, typing their brilliance on an old-fashioned typewriter. I had never met a real writer. The closest I could get to my favorites was by signing up for their fan club and getting a form letter in the mail.

That old way has some romanticism to it. If I had known a favorite author was really just a regular person living in the ‘burbs and making mac ‘n cheese for her kids in between writing scenes and paying bills, maybe it would’ve lost some of the magic. But at the same time, I can’t imagine how excited young me would’ve been to have the opportunity to directly interact with a favorite author in real time. I think I would’ve sacrificed some magic for that chance.

So I choose to be online because I don’t need that buffer of mystery between me and readers (or fellow industry people.) I want to know them. And I’m fine with them knowing me. Yes, I keep some things private—my kidlet’s name, family stuff—but otherwise, what you see online is who I am. Even my husband has joined in the fun on Twitter (@TheMrLoren). I’ve been absolutely enriched by the people I’ve met out there. And I have found friends online who I know will be lifelong.

Social media has added much more to my world (friends, connections, advice, support, reading recommendations, and oh yeah, a husband) than it’s taken away (time!). So should writers be on Twitter? Only if they want to be. Only if the author can be natural and genuine in that medium. And only if he or she knows how not to be an obnoxious, self-promoting blowhard. It’s not one size fits all. (Let’s not talk about my complete ineptitude with Facebook.) It’s a choice. A trip to the watercooler is never a requirement. But it certainly is fun. :-)

NeedYouTonightFinalRoni Loren
 
 
NEED YOU TONIGHT: Amazon | BN | iTunes
NOT UNTIL YOU (pub 
 

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

28 Comments

  1. Jane
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 08:30:00

    Part of the problem with social media or any platform outside the book is that the author has the opportunity to negatively and positively influence a reader. More often, I think it’s negative. You see an unfortunate tweet (or even a retweet) or a Facebook post or even a comment, I have the urge to cover my eyes because I don’t want to know about those things.

    And with younger authors, particularly, I see a steady stream of non stop selfies, personal (often sexual) antidotes that make me view them–and influence my decision to buy their books–in a negative way.

    But my own judgment of authors then creates another adverse issue and that is authors don’t feel free to be genuine on the internet. They can’t admit to liking or not liking a thing lest some other author or super fan see it and become offended. A lot of times, I wish we could go back to the days where authors were this unique and unknown entity and all we knew of them were their writings.

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  2. MrsJoseph
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 08:59:41

    I prefer not to know too much about my favorite (well, any) author. I enjoy reading their books and focusing on their books. I follow one author’s blog (Ilona Andrews) and I think it will stay that way. Like Jane, most of the time I’d rather not know.

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  3. Selene
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 09:06:31

    @Jane: I’m pretty sure a lot of authors secretly feel the same–they seem to force themselves online, then have no idea what to do with themselves, filling their Twitter accounts with non-stop tweets about their book until everyone has unfollowed them except for other authors, a few valiant friends, and of course the spam accounts. It’s kind of sad, really.

    All the while, they’re probably urged on by their agents and editors (like Dave Lowry?) who push them to get a “platform”.

    Fundamentally, I suppose authors just want to find the readers who, if they knew their book existed, would like reading it, and they’ve discovered no better method to do it… Ironically, those same readers might be looking for books like theirs, but aren’t finding them. Lord knows, I’m having troubles finding romance I feel excited about these days.

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  4. JewelCourt
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 09:19:22

    I recently published my first book with a small digital first press (vague writer is vague). The pressure to be everywhere on social media is unrelenting. I recently had a mini-tiff (in my head, I was politely noncommittal in reality) with another author who was pressuring me to join a Facebook group of authors who promoted each other. To me, the thought of joining a big circle jerk was ridiculous. Plus, I want the freedom to only recommend books that I genuinely enjoy, not recommend books out of obligation.

    My book is currently languishing in obscurity, but I honestly don’t think social networks with a bunch of other desperate writers (not a slam, I think we’re all a little desperate these days- I am) does anything other than provide the illusion that you’re creating sales.

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  5. cleo
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 09:22:55

    I really like this format with two opposing views. It’s nice to read Roni’s view of social media as her water cooler. That makes sense – I notice that my friends who freelance or work from their home tend to be more active online than my friends who don’t.

    I personally prefer to separate the art from the artist, so I prefer not to follow authors too closely. On the other hand, I do get a kick out of interacting with authors on DA and other review blogs. And I’ve found some great books from an author’s comments at DA and SBTB.

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  6. Keisha
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 09:52:51

    As an aspiring author, I too have utilized social media in order to start my platform, right now its simply a blog that has not grown, but I do not focus too much on numbers because I realize that is not an effective way to test my writing. I met Loren on-line she has been a wonderful on-line friend and has given me endless advice. I too feel comfortable online talking with people that share the same passion as me. When I am as Roni aptly states, “fan girling,” other author chances are I will search them and see what else they have written. I think social media can be a favorable or negative experience depending on the individual. I have set few rules for myself one is I won’t engage in political talks, nor will I ever bash a book, movie, etc. if I don’t like something I will keep it to myself. If on the other hand I do, then will help retweet or mention a few positive things about an author or his or her novel.

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  7. hapax
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 10:59:28

    Hmm.

    I see another downside to heavy author participation on social media. It can easily … oh dear, how do I put this kindly? … insulate the author from legitimate criticism.

    There are three or four authors who used to be auto-buys for me. Their last few books have been disappointing; not *bad*, but sloppy, rushed, and somewhat derivative. I don’t know if it’s publisher pressure to RITE MOAR FASTER or running out of ideas or resistance to editing or what, but I know that it’s not me; reviewers I respect (both professional and for-the-love) have made similar criticisms.

    And the response I see from these writers is to moan about “mean reviewers” on their blogs or twitter feeds, and then to be surrounded by a rush of supportive fan-girling (and -boying) : “No, you’re great, that book was the bestest ever, ignore the haters, we love you and think you’re perfect!”

    Now complaining about bad (or even less-than-stellar) reviews is a normal human response, and so is unconditional love and support. But that doesn’t mean it’s a professional response, nor one that will help artists get better at their craft. So if they MUST read reviews (and I don’t know how they can resist!), best that they keep the moaning and the hugs in the private circle of friends and family.

    Because when I see it online, it not only kind of grosses me out; it also makes me quite certain that their next book isn’t going to be any better.

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  8. P. J. Dean
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 11:08:12

    @JewelCourt Ditto everything you said. Twitter drives me crazy as a “promotional tool” for one’s “platform.” I tweet infrequently anyway (still under 800 tweets over two years) and ones about my books are few and far in between. Potential readers get turned off I am sure and simply close their eyes to the non-stop barrage. I see the constant feeds for “buy this” and “buy that.” All day. I, as a writer, get annoyed by the constant pitches. Twitter reminds me of a gym in a middle school filled with tweens, each screaming out something. And the one who screams the loudest and the longest wins. If I am to “win” an audience that way, I’ll have to pass. I don’t like yelling. I stick to word of mouth buzz, placing ads in trade mags or in online mags for my stuff. And it’s still hard work.

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  9. Moriah Jovan
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 11:15:00

    Bottom line: Authors Behaving Badly get eyeballs and book sales, mostly because they’re talking loudly enough to get the readers who wouldn’t otherwise hear of them. Those readers are offline or barely online and they don’t follow authors because it doesn’t occur to them to do so. They don’t know or care about the misbehavior, but because of it, they heard about a book, got curious, went to Amazon, read the description (possibly reviews) and bought.

    Meanwhile, those of us who would rather toil in obscurity, safely ensconced in our garret with our absinthe and nightmares, also have books that languish in obscurity.

    The line about the best books will rise to the top is bunk. The best marketers rise to the top.

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  10. MrsJoseph
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 11:15:32

    @hapax: I see this quite often. And I hate it. And it encourages additional bad behavior (and another addition to my DNR list).

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  11. Kati
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 11:28:04

    As a blogger, I love that authors use Twitter in particular to interact. It’s helpful if I want to ask a quick question, or if I want to tell them how much I enjoyed a book. I like the fast interaction and have built good relationships with several authors that I’m not sure I would have if I’d been emailing or commenting on blog posts alone. It’s a useful tool.

    That being said, I cringe when I see authors using Twitter as a platform to spout either endless promo OR particularly political views. Generally speaking, I use my Facebook strictly for personal friends, rather than to follow authors, although I do follow some of the biggies and my favorites. But authors who tweet endless promos are ones that generally get unfollowed by me. I also don’t like to be queried for reviews on Twitter. Which is probably contradictory, because mainly I use Twitter in my capacity as a blogger. I always just end up referring them to DA’s Submissions page.

    That being said, I don’t know how authors learn how to “interact appropriately” on Twitter. By watching and learning, I guess. I’ve seen lots of Do’s and Don’ts of Twitter blogs, and most of them seem intuitive for me, but then, Twitter is a comfortable medium for me.

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  12. Darlynne
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 12:00:32

    Dave Lowry: Substitute the Walker Branch Library in Chicago with yours and we could have been sitting next to each other all those summers. Dragonflies and the muted roar of large fans, the ca-thunk of the machine that checked out books, the card catalog: I am transported. Thank you.

    To both contributors, I’m off to find your books, thank you for an engaging discussion.

    Less is more. I want to read books. I do not want to intrude on an author, except maybe for the Squee Cannon of Thanks emails I have sent when a particular book rocked the ground under my feet. And I don’t want to be intruded upon. I just un-subscribed from a newsletter one author sent three times over the last three days. Enough.

    I think there can be a balance, which naturally tilts as situations change; what that balance looks like is going to be different for each of us.

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  13. Lee Kilraine
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 12:04:28

    Thanks for this post! I love the two perspectives and “get” them both. Plus lots of good points in the comments to think about also. “Writing is solitary, and I need a watercooler.” “I do not care much about what energizes chefs, politically or culturally. I care what their food tastes like. So it is with authors. I don’t really care much what Stephen King thinks of climate change. Or of J.K Rowling’s opinion on the geopolitics of the Middle East.” from Dave. Each writer will have their own comfort level on what and how they choose to share and interact in the social media world and the comments on this post remind me to think about the other side…what a reader does and doesn’t want to know about a favorite author. And people who use social media to only self-promote and do it endlessly? No, just no.

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  14. Michele Mills
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 13:23:09

    Roni, I loved your post. I am right there with you, except I would say, “Let’s talk about Kristen Ashley and braid each others hair!” I started Twitter a year ago, scared out of my mind and completely clueless but being told that since I was writing a book I’d better get on social media immediately and start building that all important platform, it’s never too early. O-kay. But what in the heck did I say if I didn’t have a book out yet? So I got on Twitter and did what you did- I found my Tribe. Thankfully fellow book lovers and authors abound on Twitter and they love to talk about romance twenty four seven as much as I do. I’m in heaven. I’m making friends with fellow book lovers and writers from all over the world. I love Twitter. FULL ON ADDICTED! I’m starting to think I’m going to like blogging too… I’m mediocre at all other social media, but at least I’ve got something to hold onto here! So yeah, the day my first book finally comes out, using social media won’t be quite so terrifying.

    I was trying to tell my husband last night that when I read a book, then get on Twitter/review websites/or listen to podcasts to process it, it’s similar to him watching a Giants game and then listening to the pre/post show/sports talk radio. Not sure if I convinced him, but I think he understood the “fun factor” involved in my online romance world a bit more….

    And I do think going forward, a social media presence is essential for an author. This isn’t the old days where readers found books new to them by browsing brick and mortar bookstores. Nowadays if your book isn’t on Amazon and you’re not talking about it online, it’s like when a tree falls in the forest when no one is around–does it make a sound?

    But obviously authors need to be genuine, courteous and professional online. This is a business, not our living room.

    I’ve watched all the things Jane refers to- the car crashes online, thinking- Okay, don’t ever say/do that! (luckily these instances are small compared to the ocean of caring/fascintating authors out there) I’ve learned not to flood my twitter feed with buy my book promo and hashtags, not to fill it with a line of retweets, not to link it to all my other social media and walk away. If you do that and almost never tweet original content you cannot come back later and wonder why Twitter isn’t working for you. Twitter is not the place for the hard sell. Twitter is like hanging out at a barbeque. You wouldn’t walk into someone’s back yard, pass out fliers for your book and leave without saying a word to anyone, would you? Yeah, then see how you can’t do that on Twitter?

    Here’s how you sell a book online without the hard sell: Let’s take Roni as a case study. So first I was following Sara Megibow on Twitter (doesn’t everybody?) and then I saw Sara referring to Roni. I was intrigued. Then I saw Roni post something on DA in the past. More intrigued. So, I decided to follow her on Twitter because when checking out her profile/twitter feed I could see she was an original content type of person (a gal after my own heart). So I follow and clue in that she’s darling. Then, I saw a book of hers promoted on a review website I frequent. Read a positive review. Hurray, she even writes the type of books I like. Okay, okay, I think I’m going to have to 1 click….

    See how it’s done? Not once did I go, hey I’ll buy that book because of the stream of disembodied buy my book tweets about Roni that are being retweeted by such and such author friend of Roni’s. Nope.

    (Sorry, I’ll get off my soapbox now.) :)

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  15. Suzy K
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 13:26:56

    I’ll use an example from pre-internet, when I found out that a singer-songwriter belonged to a religious organization that I didn’t agree with theologically. They were great in social justice, pro-earth/green, and lots of great stuff, but when I went to a friend’s funeral, I left empty, not in a good way…. and my interaction with that group left me with a “WTF?” So, yes, with this group, I’m biased.

    When I discovered that this singer-songwriter was a member, I was put off his/her works. The songs they wrote and sang spoke to me at that time, but where some songs were spot on with my beliefs, I could see an undercurrent that I didn’t like. I quietly boycotted their works for many years and only recently have returned to my old favorite songs.

    There are other musicians that put their causes and beliefs out front, and, for the most part, I’m ok with that…. when I agree with it.

    When it comes to my favorite authors, I don’t want to know their private lives &/or beliefs. I follow one author’s blog and I get tired of some issues so much that I stop reading it when she goes on and on about stuff. Another blog-group I follow has a moderator-mom and I like it even if I don’t read every post. I read most of the authors on that blog and I like their posts because the post relate to their writing, their research, and sometimes other authors that they like. They are the one author(s) blog I really like (besides Dear Author, which I call a books blog).

    Authors can write their books with their opinions and beliefs in their stories, and because stories can have many layers, those beliefs don’t necessarily have center stage, or are presented in such a way that the reader isn’t slapped in the face with it, especially if they don’t agree with it. But when that opinion or belief is put out front in a blog or op-ed piece, the reader may not be able to read the author’s stories without seeing those beliefs in the story, whether prominent or not.

    Have I walked away from an author because of beliefs put in the stories and not known if they are real-life or not? Yes. One author in her world building put a philosophy into her characters that I got tired of minimizing. She tried to get out of it in her later books in that world, but because she made it part of the foundation of that world, she couldn’t…. at least at the point where I walked away. But that was because of the stories, not the author…. I hope.

    There’s an oldish story about the sci-fi author, Zenna Henderson, that I read in one of the Gale Research books, where she was quoted as saying that she was contacted by many readers wanted to meet “The People”, a group that she wrote about. Zenna had written so well and so convincingly that readers couldn’t believe that the group didn’t really exist. They couldn’t separate reality from the stories. I am fairly sure that that same problem exists today with many of the paranormal & sci-fi writers.

    My opinion: Most writers need to keep their distance from their readers. Create an online persona, if you need to or want to connect with your readers, but be careful, very careful, about what you post about.

    (yes, I’m an introvert)

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  16. Jody W.
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 13:41:01

    If social media is a middle school gym, I’m behind the bleachers, peering through the seats and gossiping about everyone, heh. Oh, and posting cat pics. This is why I’m so famous, of course.

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  17. Susan
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 13:51:21

    I regularly read the blogs of five authors. I am a fan/avid reader of three of those authors, the other two I mostly just like their blogs. I agree with Jane that too much exposure can be a bad thing because, for the three authors I really liked, each has said/done things that had a profoundly negative effect on my opinion of them and, by association, their books. I’ll still read their books (for now), but I’ll admit my ardor has dimmed a bit. I don’t plan on following any new authors in the future, aside from checking their sites for release dates and the like. Distance can be a very good thing.

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  18. Ros
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 13:59:15

    I’m on the side of the watercooler.

    I love twitter. I couldn’t imagine life without it. I hate being disconnected from it. I check it all the time and I tweet a lot. Um, 51,000 and counting. Wow, I should shut up and listen more. I live alone as well as working mostly from home and there are a lot of days where twitter is my main engagement with other people. Facebook a bit, as well, though I hate it and am in the process of leaving it. I am still mourning LiveJournal which was my first real online home.

    I don’t often think of myself tweeting ‘as an author’. I tweet as me. As a person, not a brand. I tweet about a LOT of different stuff. My life. My garden. My crafts. I chat with friends. I livetweet some TV shows. I tweeted a lot about Wimbledon. I do tweet sometimes about things I’m writing and when I have a new book out or a sale price, or something. I tend to assume that my followers read my tweets so I don’t need to keep repeating things at them.

    I completely understand readers who would prefer not to know so much about authors. I think it’s totally fine not to follow authors and to mute them in your tweetstream. But I don’t think I’m going to censor what I write about to avoid political/religious/controversial issues, and I think it’s unreasonable to want authors to do that. I mean, I mostly don’t tweet a whole lot about those things anyway, but I do a bit. I work for a church and quite often there are things I want to tweet which are relevant to the other Christians who follow me. I’ve no idea if this loses me any sales, but if it does, that’s okay. Readers can choose to spend their money where they want.

    I suspect that if I used twitter differently, I might be able to leverage more sales from it. But that’s not primarily why I’m there. I’m there for the late night chats about category romance, and the silly memes, and sharing in the little details of everyday lives, and the great links to interesting articles. I think a lot of nonsense is talked these days about how essential social media is for a successful writing career. Unless you have a campaign that goes viral, I really don’t think it matters that much one way or another. What you need is a lot of other people talking about your book because they loved it. And for that, you just need to write a great book.

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  19. JewelCourt
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 14:03:06

    Part of the problem for me is (and this is the reason why I post under yet another fake name) is that I want to be critical about books. I like talking about why a book didn’t work for me or even sometimes (horror!) just trash talk a book I hate. I can’t tie that to my writer persona, because I’m sure to get accusations that I’m just jealous (saw this one on Facebook today) or get put on someone’s Do Not Buy list. Same thing with my politics, or really my opinions on everything. So what do I post? I’m so worried about offending that I turn myself into a generic mayonnaise-y blob who still has to come up with posts every day.

    But, I have to have social media. So, I either have to censor myself and turn social media into yet another job (on top of the day job and writing) or I have to curate two different accounts- one honest and one promotional and hope I don’t cross the streams.

    You can probably tell I have a lot of feels about this. (And most of them are bitter. So very attractive.)

    TL;DR I’m a big baby about social media

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  20. Sirius
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 14:06:48

    Add another voice in favor of “less is more”. I used to follow about twelve blogs by m/m authors (not all on the regular basis, but used to click on bookmarked pages often enough). I now follow maybe five or six (and Ilona Andrews, the only authors whose blogs I never regretted following and one or two mm authors). Here is the thing though, while I certainly started following their blogs and am the only one to blame for doing so, my reason for doing it was to read more of their writing, you know? My god, I learned so much more than I wanted to know and a lot of what I really really did not want to know. I cannot look at some of those authors’ books any more – sometimes because I really do not care for what they say on the blog and sometimes because their real life (or I should say blog voice) really gets confused in my head with their books.

    I remember few months ago reading a great book by a new writer (“Bone rider” by J.Fally) and almost automatically going looking for their blog and realising that she does not have a blog, but then I decided that maybe it is a really awesome thing that she does not and I get to enjoy her works and only her works.

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  21. Michele Mills
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 14:49:15

    @JewelCourt:I really feel you can be you online. I like to talk about books too, I can’t shut up about it. Maybe I was a reviewer in another life? I’m so into it I love book clubing via Twitter. I work daily on staying real about what I’ve read while not devolving into snark (for authors this is best left for DM and email). I think readers appreciate authors who promote books they’ve actually read and are excited about. I do!

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  22. Ros
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 15:03:59

    @JewelCourt: I say when I don’t like stuff. I have more or less stopped writing full reviews because I’m lazy, but I do occasional round-ups of what I’ve been reading and I say what I think. Negative and positive. I haven’t had any blowback from it, but maybe that’s because no one reads my blog much. And, to be fair, not all that many people read my books, so. I like reading negative reviews, or even reviews that are broadly positive but still critical. I think that probably the people who enjoy reading my books can cope with that.

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  23. Maria D.
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 16:29:10

    I think that an author is best served by using social media sparingly – I think too many use it as a political platform (like actors do) and I really wish they wouldn’t – I want to read what you write but don’t want to be pushed or pulled in a direction – let me make up my own mind.

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  24. Christine
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 16:31:35

    I’m a reader and I can say I am thrilled to have the opportunity to interact with authors on line. Equally I’m really enjoying the twitter ‘friends’ that I’ve met as a result of social media, and discussing books that I’m reading, have read or want to read is so much fun for me now! In my opinion social media is good for books in the sense that there are many authors out there that I would never have heard of, if it weren’t for twitter, facebook and goodreads. And to be honest, having what feels like a ‘personal relationship’ with an author definitely affects my pocketbook (in a good way for them). I don’t expect an author online to comment on politics, sex or religion (all those things that you don’t discuss with casual acquaintances anyway) but knowing that they like tennis like me, or enjoy gardening, or have young children like myself gives a bit of a connection that makes my reading of their books that much more personal.

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  25. Fiona McGier
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 17:19:30

    I don’t tweet. I have a blog, 1st page of my website, which I update regularly, and a FB page which I rarely go on. I have a Goodreads author page and an Amazon author page, both linked to my blog. I also work multiple jobs and have a husband and 4 kids. Time to write for me is precious, and if I was on-line all of the time I’d have no time to write. So I’ve made the choice to limit my exposure to chat loops and sites like this one, where I learn about other books.

    I’ve stopped reading books when the author’s picture was off-putting, so I don’t put my picture on my books. It’s on my website but you have to search for it. When my kids were younger, they loved a series of kids’ books, even going so far as to come up with another new plot for them. I encouraged them to write the author a letter and we sent it to her. She responded and my boys were thrilled! She thanked them for their ideas and said how glad she was they enjoyed her book. That was the end. All parties were happy. To me, there doesn’t need to be any more contact than that.

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  26. Kaetrin
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 21:40:31

    I follow quite a few authors on Twitter – Twitter is my place to socialise and I love it. A bit of promo is okay but only a bit – more than 1-2 tweets a day about your new release is getting to be too much.

    Most of the authors I interact with are just fun people to chat to. We engage as fellow tweeple more than anything. Some of my favourites are ones where I haven’t and/or probably won’t read their books or even I’ve tried their books and didn’t really find them to my taste. But I love chatting with them on Twitter.

    I also use Twitter to engage about social issues – finding information and getting it out there and I’m unashamed in that. So I don’t think authors should have to be quiet about it either. That said, if an author comes out and says she agrees with marriage equality, then probably those readers who are right wing fundamentalists might be turned off her books (but I figure the author’s sensibility is likely to come out in their books anyway.) Basically, I think people should just be themselves.

    When it comes to authors interacting about negative reviews etc, well they probably would do better to be quiet and vent privately or whatever – and those I follow must do that if they read reviews at all because I don’t see a lot of it in my stream, thankfully.

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  27. Kati
    Jul 16, 2014 @ 08:28:29

    @Michele Mills: Twitter is like hanging out at a barbeque. You wouldn’t walk into someone’s back yard, pass out fliers for your book and leave without saying a word to anyone, would you? Yeah, then see how you can’t do that on Twitter?

    This. So, SO much this.

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  28. DLWhite
    Jul 17, 2014 @ 14:20:16

    Someone quoted an RWA speaker last year that said, ‘To readers, authors are like rock stars.’

    That stuck with me, because it totally explains the joy I get from connecting with writers and authors on social media. Less so on Facebook because it seems like so much more of a promotional tool for authors and seeing rapid fire Facebook statuses is enough to make me un-friend. Twitter on the other hand, is my haven for meeting people with similar interest. I have a twitter account specifically for writing– authors, publishers, reviewers, agents, editors, fellow writers… I never would have forged the friendships I’ve made (and found so many great things to read) without social media. I don’t even so much mind book pushing, so long as you’re also having genuine conversation. I shouldn’t feel like I got invited to an Amway meeting when I follow you… and if I do, I am quick to unfollow.

    I’ve been stalking… ERRR… following Roni since before she was published and I just feel so proud of how far she’s come. A few people I met when I first started writing are published now… I feel like I’m friends with Rock Stars.

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