The Importance Of Social Media For Writers
Once writers were assigned PRs who booked them on radio, took them around the country, sat them in bookshop windows and handled the printing of ads and in-store posters. It was expensive for publishers and not always successful. If writers were known in other areas of the media the public were more receptive, but most of us are unphotogenic lumps who are just writers and prefer to stay in the shadows, not ex-reality TV housemates looking for another revenue-stream.
Readings and signings are site-specific and attract locals only, and it has taken years for publishers to realise that just one online interview gets a hundred times the reach of an appearance in a library. America was ahead of us in recognising the importance of book clubs and bloggers, and prioritising the end user by allowing readers to deal directly with them through organisations like NetGalley, who send out electronic advance copies to anyone who’ll review the book online.
This all happened around the same time that film companies realised they were wasting fortunes by throwing huge launch parties for films. The parties rarely got coverage by the press, and when they did it didn’t translate into ticket sales. The power of newspaper critics was massively reduced when they began to be read in conjunction with readers who ran blogs. Film critics suffered more than literary reviewers because papers were now employing critics without credentials, and who cared what they thought?
Some kind of nadir has been reached with the Times film reviewers; Camilla Long seems to know less about film than my barber. And seasoned critics can be very prejudiced; I don’t think I’ve agreed with a single review ever written by the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw.
Conversely, book reviewers tend to know their stuff. They’re either writers themselves or passionate readers – this is especially true of many bloggers, so that now writers can run blog tours – virtual tours of the country – and get thrown some tough and very interesting questions.
There is a potential problem with their rise in the importance of bloggers; a small handful act like the overburdened press critics of the past and don’t bother to read the book in question. The easiest solution to that is to drop them from the list, as this new social connection between writers and readers is democratic and reactive.
If you’d like an interview for your site all you have to do now is ask me or my publisher, and you usually get one. Where does this leave writers who don’t use social media? That’s the problem, because I know authors who won’t touch it or misuse it just to flog books. I treat social media as a way of listening to and talking with readers, which helps me to understand what interests everyone. And it influences what I write about.
When writers broadcast without listening they risk disconnecting from their public. We’ve all read books from authors thinking ‘this isn’t as good as their earlier work’, and you usually find that it’s because they’ve stopped responding to change.
The world moves fast, and we have to move just a little but faster.