Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A writer can no longer hide.

By R.J. Harlick

What’s your preferred method of online interaction with your readers? Facebook, Twitter, blogging, or something else?

My apologies for posting this late. But my vision last night was somewhat blurry after my  eye doctor put those yukky drops in my eyes during a regular eye examination.  I looked like an owl that had seen a giant mouse.

Social media. The bane of an author’s existence. Most publishers today insist that their authors have an online presence. Some even ask for marketing plans as part of a book proposal. Mine sends out newsletters with tips on how to establish this presence along with a list of recommended sites. I tell you if I did half of what they’d like me to do, I wouldn’t have any time for writing. 

And that’s the challenge, balancing the time spent in online promotion versus real writing time. It’s not easy. Particularly when you’ve reached a tough part in your latest work in progress. Posting updates to Facebook becomes a nice excuse not to work on that tricky chapter.

But, hey, there’s a very good reason your publishers push you to get out there. It works. Particularly in a time of low advertising budgets coupled with hundreds if not thousands of new releases being published every day. A writer can no longer hide themselves away in their writing cave and hope their treasured words sell themselves.

Having a background in computers I jumped on this bandwagon early without any prompting from my publisher. I knew I needed a presence on the infinite web. Even before my first book was published I had my website up and running. This has proven its worth many times over. For event organizers, readers, media types, etc. it is often their first go-to-place to find out more about me and my books. It is also how many reach me, using the contact information listed on the site. 

But let’s face it a website isn’t interactive, so a writer needs a way to converse with their readers. With the fans that contact me via my site, email communication becomes the tool, often with frequent exchanges with some even becoming friends. But this is limited to those readers who choose to reach out.

I’ve tried blogging, using my own blog. But It was like sending radio signals out into the big black hole of space. I had no idea whether anyone was picking up the signal. I also realized the only way it would gain readership was to post daily, something I wasn’t prepared to do. So I have more or less given up, although I will post important happenings taking place in my writing life.  But I have discovered when several people combine their efforts so that the blog can be updated daily, like the Criminal Minds Blog, blogging can be a good way of interacting with readers.

Twitter I have assiduously avoided. For one I don’t own a cell phone, so it would have to be done via computer. But more importantly, I know once I started tweeting it would take over my life at the expense of my writing life. I’m not super disciplined. If I knew a zillion tweets were waiting there for me to read, I wouldn’t be able to ignore them.

The platform I’ve found that suits me the best is Facebook. I love the interaction with readers and fellow writers and the ease of updates. I have set up both a personal page and an author page. Because I like reading what’s happening in the lives of my readers and fellow writers I keep my personal page as my main page. I found when I set my author page as my main page, this newsfeed disappeared. I tend to use my author page to post anything that relates to my writing life, leaving the personal page for more personal musings. Many of my readers, however, are also friends on my personal page, so I am able to keep up with events in their lives. 

Until this latest book, I more or less ignored Goodreads. But with the release of A Cold White Fear, I decided to see if it could be useful in broadening my readership. I’ve done many of the things Goodreads advises authors to do, even going so far as establishing an author blog. I know. I’m not good with blogs. But I’ve set myself a goal of posting three or four times a month and so far I am sticking to it. It’s too early to tell whether this is going to work. I am getting reader response. I’ll give it a good six months, maybe more, and if I feel it’s like sending out those radio signals into the big black hole with no one answering, I’ll stop. Otherwise I will keep plodding along

**** I'm adding an addendum to this blog, sparked by Kristina's comment. I'd like to throw this open to the floor so to speak. There are so many online platforms out there. I think this is a great opportunity to learn from each other. If there is any one platform that really works for you or doesn't, let us all know in the comments section below.  Thanks. 

Now for the commercial. Only four more days until A Cold White Fear is officially released, although I see it is now available on some online sites like Amazon. I’m very excited about this latest Meg Harris mystery. It’s a true thriller, a departure from the crime solving storylines of the previous books. I’ve put Meg in a tricky situation, one of the biggest challenges she has ever faced. 


Kristina Stanley said...

Great post with lots to think about. I use Facebook, blog, twitter, pinterest, linked, google+, goodreads, authors den, tumblr, authorsDB, readers gazette and other. I try to spend no more than 1.5 hours a day on social media, but I have to confess I love this part, so I need to ration myself. I find Facebook works best for actually setting books. I like my blog best for connecting with others.

RJ Harlick said...

Wow, I'm impressed, Kristina. You really do a major outreach online. Good for you.

Anonymous said...

It always amazes me how the authors I know can accomplish so much writing (apart from "just" the books they write). Because these writers are so good at crafting thought into words, even their shortest electronic postings are always insightful, informative and just plain fun to read. As an avid reader, I often complain there are not enough hours in a day; it must be doubly true for writers. Thanks for enjoyment ALL your writing brings!

RJ Harlick said...

Thanks for your kind words. They help to keep us writing.

Patricia Filteau said...

I agree with your remarks and approach to social media. When I have enjoyed a good read, I love to be able to tell the author. I think it is cathartic for both reader and writer. Facebook is good for sharing these accolades. Goodreads is terrific to provide a review and receive often very well thought out responses. I enjoy Twitter for science-based activity but question the efficacy of it for crime fiction. Margaret Atwood is a big and very successful user and fan of Twitter. I have read two fabulous books by a much awarded Canadian writer and would love to be able to tell the author. Apart from writing to the publisher, there does not seem to be an option to say, I love your writing – a shame, I think. Looking forward to reading your latest book.

RJ Harlick said...

Thanks, Patricia.