Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Writer Online

Used to be, maybe about a decade ago, writers were an elusive breed.  You could pick up their book in the store, read everything they write, moon over their characters, and cross your fingers one day that author would stop in a town close to you for a booksigning.  If you wanted to make contact with the writer, you wrote them a letter (or ok, ten years ago emails were good, too).  But they weren't necessarily accessible.

Today, if you want to learn more about an author you simply hop online and Google their name.  Usually they will have a website with lists of all their books, upcoming books, works-in-progress, names of all their children, last meal consumed and pictures of their pets.  They might also have a chatty blog, heck, they may be on a group blog with a bunch of other authors.  You can find them on MySpace and FaceBook and actually get real-time responses to your questions (from some authors) and they're Tweeting and Texting and...well, they're everywhere!

I think it's a great thing.  It's sort of like being able to connect with a movie star, only the author probably doesn't have a boob job, veneers and an entourage (most of them, anyway).  But where do authors draw the invisible line between the reader and themselves?  Where do you think they should draw the line?

I'm constantly asking myself "What can I do to promote my books and myself?".  Online is the cheapest, fastest way to promote.  I've joined FaceBook and Twitter.  I have the website and blog(s).  I put myself out there.  I answer emails promptly.  If you want to know it about me, it's out there.  I do this to promote and network, not necessarily because I enjoy the extra work involved.  And it is work.  It's the 'business' part of the writing job.  (Don't worry, I DO enjoy answering emails.  Stuff like HTML coding and keeping track of when I blog at over 7 different blogs is the icky part.)

But I also worry about going too far.  We've all seen the authors who post on loops and message boards about their books.  ALL THE TIME.  And that's all they do is promote their books.  They don't join in on conversations about craft or other writers' stuff.  Their focus is singular.  To be honest, I do notice these authors, but not in the way they want to be noticed.  I mentally add their names to a list of 'do not buy'.  What about you?

Now, some authors are promotional geniuses.  Their product (book cover; brand) is out there, everywhere, but it's not as though they are shoving it in our faces.  They provide the info, and allow us, the readers, to make up our minds.  They Twitter about their latest releases, but they are also in there reTweeting for their friends, and passing along great info that isn't at all related to their work.  They are the authors I mentally add to my 'buy' list.

It's tough, knowing how much or how little to promote.  A lot of it is 'try this and see how it works'.  I think a website is essential.  FaceBook and Twitter are great networking tools that connect you with readers and bookstores, so I'm going to mark them as 'pretty darn essential'.  A blog, depending on how the author uses it, can be an excellent tool.  The author can keep it strictly promotion-oriented, or she/he can use it just to chat, let readers into her heart and mind, and allow them to learn a bit beneath the 'writer's hat'.  Group blogs are also excellent because it brings together a mix of authors who may then introduce their fans to each other, and most group blogs are not writing focused (as we are at Riding) so again, readers can get to know them a little better beyond 'the page'.

So as a writer what online promotional tools do you feel are essential?  Unnecessary?  Do you worry about going too far with your promotion?  

As a reader what kinds of promotion catch your interest online?  Do you like it when authors are easily accessible?  What, to you, is too much and will make you add that author to your 'don't buy' list?



lois greiman said...

Back in the dark ages when I was aching to be published I had no idea there was so much promo to be done. I thought you just wrote a book and voila!! It became a best seller. Surprise. Not so much. The publishers expect a lot from their stable these days and I find it impossible to know what's worth it and what's a waste of money.

I like accessibility. I just find that for myself, I'm wearing out.

Cindy Gerard said...

Ohh, I like this blog, Michele. You have single handedly listed EACH and every concern I have about self-promo? How far do you go before you're a pain in the you know what? What works? What doesn't? I agree that a website is essential and like you, i love answering reader mail! It's the other stuff that I struggle with, 1 because it's a time drain and on and 2 because I'm not a techo and when I do foray out into the world of facebook and twitter, I'm so BAD at it that I tend to just jump on, jump off and leave a little promo. I'm not sure it's the best use of either tool and feel a little like a carny hawking my cuppie doll concession.

So, I'm REALLY curious about what our followers have to say about this.

As for an entourage - you mean you don't have one??? Mine' with me everywhere I go. All I have to do to keep them loyal and adoring are give them milk bones and kitty treats :o)

Michele Hauf said...

Oh THAT kind of entourage. Yeah, I do the kitty treats, too. They're pretty good about listening, too, when I read my stuff out loud for the dreaded 'read aloud draft'.

Come on, Followers! How much is too much? Tell us; we're tough and we can take it.

Kathleen Eagle said...

I have a web site, and I do it myself on Citymax. It took a little practice, but I had someone doing it for me for a while, and getting it updated was a hassle. For a while I was a big updater. Now, not so much. I know--content is king. But content of my novels is queen, and I'm way into being queen of my own domain.

I think I've reached my limit in posting. I love this blog, and I need to save myself for one true love. I'm interested in guest blogging when I can think of something worthwhile to say, but the fact that I don't comment on blogs or cruise around looking at them unless somebody e-mails a link and says "check this out" is pretty telling. I'm just not that into it. Which is why I haven't done a Facebook page or My Space. And Twitter? I'd be like the guy in the ad--"I'm sitting on the patio."

Kathleen Eagle said...

One more thought on the subject of promotion. I've had a barrage of solicitations lately, and I'm getting pretty tired of it. And they're mostly from causes I believe in. I probably expressed my interest, maybe even contributed money. But don't keep after me, folks. Understand that there are another thousand just like you.

Promotion is easy these days. You do an e-mail blast or a banner ad and there you are. But I have to wonder how many people are becoming annoyed or just tuning this stuff out.

Suz said...

Killer questions and to most, I have no answers. I do know the authors who are on my do-not-buy list are those who don't have time for an autograph. A word. Just a hint of appreciation for the dollars we spend to read their work.
Show me you're a real person with a full life. I'll read you forever.

Debra Dixon said...

What do I think is essential?

Website (kept current)
Answer fan mail.

These are all manageable.

However, in a recent discussion with some friends who have nicely established careers, I've heard some dollar figures about website design and management.

It's crazy how much some authors are spending. Crazy. They are certainly getting quality fabulous websites. But not every author is going to spend that much money or even should spend that much money.

Most authors don't write full-time. Many...gasp...have other jobs.

For authors with drains on their time and their money, I don't think they have to "keep up with the Jones." I think a domain pointing to an easily updateable blog functioning as a simple website is adequate.

It's important readers find us. I don't think they judge us by bells and whistles. I think they judge us by the books. They wouldn't be looking for us if they didn't already like us. (g) They want information first and everything else is cake.

Michele Hauf said...

Deb, interesting about $$$ spent on websites. I was just thinking of this the other day. Some authors have fabu sites that you know they spent a lot of $$ one. Others, like just a few who come to mind, Emma Holly, Susan Sizemore, Maggie Shayne, are all big names, but they do their own sites probably for pennies. I do my own site too. I think as long as I have the content, then the 'flash' isn't so important. Sure, it's pretty to look at, but spendy!

catslady said...

From a reader's point of view I think it's wonderful that you guys are so accessible. But that said, I don't know how you do it lol. I think each author has to decide for themselves what is too much - if they are putting in too much time. As a reader I get to chose how many places I want to visit. The only thing that I think of as too much is just a couple of authors who were ranting quite a bit on politics - I love a lively discussion here and there and if everyone agrees to disagree, I think it can be quite informative. But one sided rants with no input turned me off. Other than that, it's all wonderful.

Kylie said...

Thought-provoking post, Michele. This summer as I was negotiating my next contract, the *only* things I got done were editing the fall books and promo. Every time my husband would look at me at the computer, he'd say, "Writing?" And I'd say, "No, it's a blog post." Or interview. Or chat.

I appreciate the opportunities but will never again tell people online promo is free. It's not. It's exceedingly time-consuming and time is money. If I'm not writing because I'm promoting, that's getting costly for me.

The ones that end up on my do-not-buy list are those authors who cross post on every loop I'm on about where they're blogging or their fabulous review...but are never there to congratulate others or offer advice on questions.

GunDiva said...

I'm with Catslady, I love that you're so accessible and that we get to see the human side of you. I, too, hate it when all I see from an author is stuff about their books, I want to know about them as a person, not just their upcoming books.

Debra Dixon said...

Michele-- Yes, the faboo websites are certainly "spendy." And every author has to decide their own level of comfort with what's out on the web.

There are a lot of authors who are more than happy with functional and nice because it's serves the purpose and isn't "spendy."

Debra Dixon said...


I do try and stay away from the political and religious faith. But I also like a lively discussion. I'm perfectly okay with someone disagreeing. Heck, I grew up in a house where family dinner was 1) pick-a-topic 2) pick-a-side 3) Go.

I hate drama queens, in general, so I tend not to like the overly dramatic authors.

Debra Dixon said...


I had the "all about me, all the time" issue with authors when I was an unpublished authors.

I'm all for promotion! But...too often I'd go to workshops and the author talked about nothing but their books. I'd drag out my progam and think, 'Huh. In the program it says The Sagging Middle. Maybe the author meant hers.'

There is a fine art to using informational and networking platforms for promotion.

flip said...

I love a heads up on the new book. I am stunned at the writers who forget to send out an email or send a message on facebook/myspace.

I want to know about books in progress. I like book recommendations from authors. Winning an free book is also awesome.

ForestJane said...

Re. Websites - I actually prefer a website that's lean, mean, and fast loading. Nothing irritates me more than to go to a site to print a coupon, say, and have to wait for the dancing cola to load, then go singing and splattering off around the page for three minutes. Just lemme select my coupon and print.

Re. Interaction - I love being able to ask questions of authors. I'm the nosy type that wants to know: If your character drools over pretzels with mustard, then if I ever attend a signing you're doing near me, should I bring a nice hot pretzel with mustard?

Did you make the gramma in your book learn to crochet because YOU do? And other stuff. I'm full of questions. :)

The most common non-personal question I have (especially at work at the library) is the What Came First? one. Patrons want to quickly be able to find the title of the first in a series.

Getting my questions answered, plus that personal connection, makes me want to buy more of your books.

Pamela Keener said...

I'm kinda new to this blogging & I try to keep up so I have yet to be bombarded by authors promoting their books everywhere I go. I would probably be turned off & tuned out unless the premise of the book attracted me in the first place. It must be hard for an author to know how much is too much re promotion.

Keri Ford said...

online promo. wow, it seems like I do a lot of online 'promo' and i'm not even published! But I stay way busy...blogging, blog commenting, twitting, email loops and here in the past 6-8weeks, non stop contest coordinating (should get a break from that after this weekend! YAY!)

But anyway, I know what its like to start feeling like too much since I advertise for guests on my blog and reviews...ect.

When I start gettting too much from other writers, it's from people who ONLY talk about their bks and that's it. that's a suckie community to be in, so I stop following, stop visiting. I'm a stay-at-home-mom. I don't have adults to talk to through the day, so don't give me a non-stop stream of commercials when I do talk to you. Be a prime time show--give me some laughs, some cries, and a commercial or two thrown in for some good stuff.

did I answer a question or just ramble?

Twisted Sister said...

As a writer, I do the Facebook, blogs and read some loops. Since I don't always comment, I don't bombard the loops with promo--when I have something.

As a reader, I want a real person. I'm not asking you to spend the day with me.
As a late bloomer blog reader, I love knowing what the blogger is passionate about, or how life throws a curve, even about your pets! Relatable things. I buy books that way.

And if I comment, while a personal message to me is great, I don't expect it.

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