It’s exciting to watch authors on their journeys through social media – some of them already well established in various online media, others taking their first baby steps, and yet others ‘working it’ a little too assiduously. (Names of the latter will not be named.)
One way or the other, the process of writing and publishing a novel is a marathon rather than a sprint, and it inevitably spans more than a year for most. The many slips that can occur between cup and lip in the course of writing a novel and being able to share it with readers include writer’s block (natch), rejection by agents and/or publishers, and a very slow time-to-market cycle: the book may be finished ahead of schedule, but if your publisher can’t afford to print and promote it in 2011, you’re looking at yet another delay of between six and 12 months.
Even if you, as an author, experience none of these delays and can juggle promotion of your 2010 novel as you’re plugging away at the one to be published in 2011, using a blog as the base of your social media pyramid has so many advantages I’m surprised there are writers without blogs. I wanted to highlight three very different authors’ blogs to give novelists some idea of the vastly different approaches they can take to blogging.
William Gibson’s Blog
Gibson’s blog was the first author blog I discovered. I used to see him on the streets of Vancouver’s Kitsilano, tall and slightly stooped. I always respected his privacy too much to accost him. What would I have said to him anyway? ‘I respect you so very much as a thinker and am delighted you to chose to leave the US for Canada so we can claim you as one of our own?’ (Would he understand that I admire his thinking more than his writing, in much the same way I prefer Iain Banks when he writes as Iain Banks rather than Iain M. Banks, i.e. that I struggle a bit with sci fi, although I’ve tried, I really have?) Although he blogs only intermittently when he’s in the throes of writing, his content is fascinating. Here’s a great post on quantum teleportation, artificial intelligence, the ‘after us, the deluge’ school of sci fi writing – with some gems about what he learned as an undergraduate. You can also find him on Twitter.
Amy King’s Blog
I’m not at all familiar with Amy (A.S.) King‘s work (she writes young adult fiction, and I believe I passed – or bypassed – that stage of life 40 or so years ago – in fact, I’m not sure the genre actually existed when I was 12-18), but found her on Twitter recently when this feisty post was retweeted by several folks I follow. What’s interesting about this post (and I hope to see more of this kind of post by Amy in future), is that she raises many issues relating to copyright and how it affects sales – issues about which writers, publishers, and readers need to think long and hard. Many of her posts announce contests, giveaways, and publicity dates for her forthcoming novel, Please Ignore Vera Dietz (October 12, 2010 US release date). All her posts give you insight into a writer’s life. If you’re a fan of her work, what better way to keep folks engaged while waiting for a new release?
Heather McCormack’s Blog
A newbie blogger with her first novel just barely under her belt, I was lucky enough to find Heather’s first post, again via Twitter. In case you’re not reading every one of my Twitter updates, I’ll repeat (paraphrased slightly) what I said about her inaugural post there: Authors, this is what I mean when I say ‘blog about your writing process and your inspiration.’ In Heather’s post she talks about inspiration, influences, the necessity to exorcise a demon or two through writing, what set her off on the novelist’s path. That’s what folks want to know. We all know that choosing to write fiction isn’t the most practical career choice. What readers want to know is how – and why – you choose to face down the odds.
Those odds may include not only trying to find an agent, get a novel finished, get published, make a decision about your book’s cover. They may also include other aspects of writing – how to make the transition from short story writer to novelist, journalist or essayist to book author (fiction or non-fiction), or from non-fiction writer to fiction writer. The audience for Margaret Atwood’s book on debt is not the same for her novels. Nor is her poetry audience identical to her literary criticism audience. Nor have all the loyal readers of her contemporary – or her historical fiction novels Alias Grace and The Blind Assassin – necessarily been fans of her more recent futuristic fiction (the same can inevitably be said of Doris Lessing on the contemporary novel/sci fi front). Roll on the Venn diagrams showing there is an overlap in a single author’s various fan bases – I don’t doubt for a moment there is. But by using the categories features on blogs, you can immediately direct readers to the posts that interest them most. You can also expand your potential readership base by being genuine about your own heroes, as Heather does when she talks about Greil Marcus.
Will all Greil Marcus fans become Heather McCormack readers/book purchasers? It’s doubtful. Some might – and by adding a Greil Marcus tag to a blog post Heather would/could (has? I confess I haven’t checked) make it that much easier for his fans to find – and connect with – her. I’ve never forgotten it was J.D. Salinger in Catcher in the Rye who sent me down the path of discovery to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native.
These are only three examples of (non-client) authors with highly individual approaches to blogging. I know there are many, many more. What are your favourite author blogs? Who are the authors whose blogs you love (almost) more than their work? And who’s doing a spectacularly bad job of author blogging? And who’s not blogging who should be?