Writers on the Internet Fan Experience

June 18, 2012 in Essay

Hiya!  Bliss here…Welcome to Sweet Banana Ink.  

I’ll be starting out with a four part series: Writers on the Internet Fan Experience.

I’ve been thinking about writers and their online presence and their interaction with the public online.  Online self-promotion is a big part of life for a writer these days. It’s inexpensive, direct and widespread. Brilliant all in all.  But lately it’s been a bit like the Wild West on some of the writer/reader/reviewer sites.  I don’t want to get into the specifics of these shootouts (if you’re curious check out this post at The Midnight Garden by Wendy Darling and on Stacia Kane’s blog here and here, read at your own risk, there is strong language used on Stacia’s site.)  The above examples are about writers getting aggressive with reviewers and then readers joining in to the insanity. The unpleasant nature of it all made me start to wonder that if writers didn’t HAVE to do all of that blogging and tweeting to promote their books, would they?   So I wrote up four questions that I sent out to some of the traditionally published writers that I know have blogs and are fairly active online.


Part One – Would You Blog Anyway?

If you didn’t have to do internet self promotion would you still have a blog with comments or a website with any sort of direct communication with the people on the internet?

I have to admit that I thought that most of them would prefer to NOT maintain a blog or a website.  I was wrong, DEAD WRONG.  Every writer that responded, which was most of them, said that they enjoyed writing their blogs.  Ilona Andrews (Writing team Ilona and Andrew Gordon) said, “Blogging is a response to life.  Not that many of our posts are aimed specifically at promotion.”  Jim C. Hines said, “Absolutely!  If the only reason I was active online was to promote myself, I’d quit today.”  A few of the writers said they didn’t feel that they had to blog for self promotion but appreciated the access it gave them to fans and book bloggers and felt it absolutely did help with sales, which is good for any writer.  Seanan McGuire commented on how the internet “lets us all stay connected to one another.”  

Most of the writers commented in some way about how the internet allowed them to experience a feeling of community with internet friends and readers.  This made me happy.  My perspective is a bit skewed due to my background in the entertainment industry.  You only have to spend a small amount of time around a couple of well known actors to find out how scary and disturbing fans can be.  It was, quite honestly, bumming me out to think that these writers that I like were really wishing we would stop bugging them in their comments or on Twitter so they could enjoy their lives.  Sometimes I am SO glad to be SO wrong.  Now I’m sure there are some writers who do wish that, but the ones who answered my question obviously do not.

They like us, they really like us.  Sorry, couldn’t resist.  But the truth is, they do.  They like the process of sharing their creative lives with us.  Even with the possibility of conflict with total strangers, even when fans complain about how they aren’t writing fast enough or enough of what that particular person wants, even though sometimes it’s a lot of work on top of the work of writing, they would still do it.  It takes time and attention to moderate a comments section on a blog.  Any given writer can have quite a range of readers who all have very different levels of what is acceptable.  Ilona Andrews commented, “Some writers welcome controversy, but I feel pressure to provide a stress-free entertainment environment, which means policing the comments.”  That can be a lot of work if you get a couple hundred comments on every post, it can be INSANE if you get a couple thousand.  

While promotion is a part of the blogs and websites and they all acknowledged that aspect of it, the sense of community and general connection with readers is a much bigger motivator for continuing their online presence.  What makes me happiest about this discovery is that is exactly how it feels on this side of the experience as well.  We’ve gone from a time when our favorite writers were just names on dust jackets and maybe an author photo on the inside back flap to actual people we can chat with and get to know a little bit.  As with any community there are ups and downs, we all may step on each others toes now and then but, for the most part, it seems that we’re all pretty happy to be here.

Next I wondered if any of this reader contact/feedback affected their actual writing…

To Be Continued on June 25, 2012…

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