Should Authors Reach Out and Touch a Reader?
I was inspired by May's Romancing the Blog article on Saturday about group blogs. Many an author participates in group blogs and many participate in more than one group blog. But you know what many authors do not do? They do not participate in reader blogs. I find that many of the group blogs do not contribute much to the blogging community. They serve as promotional vehicles and not much more primarily because these authors are not present anywhere else on the internet.
I rarely see authors step outside other author blogs to comment on reader blogs. Kristie(J) is a huge Lisa Kleypas fan and has been trying to get everyone in blogosphere to not only read Kleypas but blog about it. Yet, Kleypas has never once commented on Kristie J’s site. She guest blogs at Michelle Buonfiglio’s site. She comments on her own. But not on the one site that probably generates more positive Kleypas love than any other blog in blogdom.
It’s not fair to just point the finger at Kleypas. The fact is very few authors will ever comment on a readers’ blog or a reader’s site. (I would mention the ones that do but would probably miss some and then be an ass for not remembering so I'll just say there are about 20-25 authors that I have seen, on a regular basis, comment on blogs that are not author blogs). I've noticed in the year or so that I have read Romancing the Blog, that authors tend to comment on other authors' posts but not so much on the readers' posts. In the four weeks that Access Romance has had a Reader Gab blog, not one author, not even an Access Romance author, has commented.
Southern Fried Chicas blogger, Cece, offers up the explanation that authors feel that they are intruding on reader discussion. One commenter, Jordan Summers, stated that she felt that it was too much hassle to post on a reader blog for fear of friend bias. I have to cop to that. I was curious to see what other people had to say about Megan Hart's Dirty as I had such a meh reaction to it. Lauren Dane's amazon review gave it five stars and said it was one of the best books ever, but apparently Lauren Dane and Megan Hart are BFF so I felt like that wasn't a recommendation that I could take seriously. I probably shouldn't have said that because that puts a chill on the commentary which I hate doing. So I apologize to Ms. Dane if I made her feel like her comment wasn't worthwhile and to any author who feels that I have been dismissive of their opinions. (Of course, you have to understand my viewpoint and that is I love debating topics and so if I challenge an opinion, it doesn't mean I don't value it or the person making it).
But there are many topics in blogdom that are more expansive than specific books. I.e., how to get out of a reading slump by JMC; finding sweet without the saccharine by Wendy; appeal of European v. American historical by Karen S to name a few.
Authors say “we are readers too” but for a few exceptions I rarely see that. In fact, I think that group author blogs can have the opposite effect that they are going for. It can serve to exclude rather draw in new readers.
I have been a member of the Jennifer Crusie list for a long, long, long time. 6 years maybe? Crusie is one of my all time favorite authors. I've been Crusified x2 and Burned which in Crusie-speak was owning all the Crusie books plus the 2 reprints (at the time) and her hard to find, but much reviled (by mostly Crusie herself. I didn't think it was bad) Sizzle.
I can't remember at what point Crusie fans started calling themselves the Cherries although I believe it originated from the proliferation of cherries on the front covers of Crusie's books. Fans started picking Cherry names, buying Cherry paraphernalia to the point that now, the Crusie list is called the Cherries and everything associated with Crusie is cherry like. I found the whole Cherrification of Crusie-land to be exclusionary even though I had been a part of the group before the Cherries sprouted into existence. I think it would be quite hard for a new fan to break into the Cherry group and feel like you really belong.
I find that to be true with Nora Roberts' message board. There are acronyms (even the name of the board is an acronym) and relationships and friendships and goings on that as a new reader to the board I find bewildering.
Do I think that these message boards should be done away with or that the Cherrys should be crucified? Absolutely not. They serve the fan base that is there and the fans that have used and have formed these relationships exceptionally well. But I do think that authors, by reaching out, by going to reader blogs, and participating in reader discussions outside their own venues can touch those fans who may not be Cherries yet, but could be. If authors reached out to readers, instead of expecting readers to come to them, would the return not be just as meaningful?
There could be a whole host of reasons why authors don't comment on reader blogs. Time may be one of them. But readers have jobs and activities outside the internet and they comment. Technology? No, if you can comment on one blog, you can pretty much comment on them all. Fear of admitting that you read a controversial blogger? You could comment on Romancing the Blog, a blog that readers read, or the new Access Romance Gab. Lack of interest? There isn't one topic in a month that generates any interest for you as an author? Not one?
I know that some authors are leery of voicing an opinion because of the “ire” that is generated but not every opinion has to be confrontational. And even if it is, debate, even heated debate, can lure readers to you, instead of away. Last week, I thought Brandon Sanderson’s comments were great, even if I didn’t agree with them. I came away with a great deal of respect for him and his opinion. I may even buy one of his books. Maybe authors don’t feel welcome here. I am sorry for that. We want everyone’s opinions. But I find it hard to believe out of the many reader blogs out there, that there isn’t a even one that may interest an author.
What are more reasons? Are they good reasons? Would the rest of you like to see more of the authors comment and participate in blogdom? Would seeing their comments on blogs be meaningful to you? Or do you not care?