The other day, Bookshelf Battle raised an issue I think is worth addressing here:
Sometimes with all of the blogging, twittering, and social media-ing, I just wonder if all writers are doing are talking to other writers. It’s like we’re all door-to-door salesmen, knocking on a door, “Wanna buy my book?” And the person answers, “No, but do YOU wanna buy MY book?”
I gave that comment (and the post where it appeared) some thought, and figured I’d drop in my two cents/ pence.
Writing is a largely solitary endeavor. (Even those closest to you cannot fully understand.) Most of my days are taken up researching, organizing, proofing, and tapping, tapping, tapping out the draft for my latest book. (They don’t get written unless you write them.) So I like now and then to lean across the “office partition” and have a “glance” at what other authors at nearby desks are doing, or to take a break near the “water cooler” and have a “gab.” This site and other social media, like Twitter and About.me, are the ways I do that.
I’m on Twitter intermittently during the day – usually yammering (as you may know) about international happenings, travel, and expat stuff, and only very occasionally about my novels. I post here most days as well (as you also may know), and I do that early in the mornings – before I start the day’s novel writing.
Yes, this site is a “shop front” of sorts. Anyone is free to come by and browse. And to walk out empty handed too. As I do elsewhere. As we all do. Everywhere. I don’t buy something every time I click on Amazon.
Or should I not mention my books? Are visitors supposed to read my mind down their broadband lines? No one will ever know what you do unless you, uh, happen to bring it up.
The old-fashioned Yellow Pages are FULL of businesses, large and small, trying to let you know what THEY can DO for YOU if you PAY them. No one says they shouldn’t share what they do? How will any of us hope to find that (real) estate agent, that plumber, or a store that sells live Christmas tree stands, if they don’t advertise their existences?
I don’t target this at other writers. Others might like to produce something so narrowly focused. But my site is for anyone who clicks in from the big, wide internet.
That said, I’m not one – and never have been one – to stride into a room, wave around one of my books, and proclaim, “Look what I do! Tah! Dah!”:
Mingling, my wife mentioned my novel to one man. Trust her always to know how to work a room. (She’s much better at it than I am.) Moments later, he sought me out.
And he was keenly interested in the smallest of details. How do you write? What time do you start? Do you do it every day?
Others jumped in as we stood around the kitchen island, drinking and eating. Later, general conversation in the dining room drifted briefly to my novel, including the plot and my inspiration. “Why do you think I come to get togethers like this?” I joked. “I need new material!”
Grinning, our Danish girlfriend observed, “I was reading it on the Kindle, wondering, ‘Hmm, am I in here? Am I one of those French girls?’”
“Don’t worry. You’re not in this one,” I smiled. “Would you like to be in the next one?”
If you blog – as an author, or because you travel, or because you live in a country different from the one where you were born, or for whatever reason you do – I enjoy reading what YOU have to say. We live in an insane world. Every individual’s experiences matter and illuminate it better. I have learned quite a lot courtesy of many of you.
If you like what you see here, great. If you are interested in my novels, I’m flattered, and I hope you enjoy them. In the end, it’s entirely up to you.
It’s very simple, really.
Have a good day, wherever you are in the world. It’s almost the weekend! :-)
You may have noticed the new template. I really like how “clean” this one is. It’s very easy to read, and the rotating banner photographs make for a nifty feature.
Just saw this myself the other day. Given recent events, that “France” has moved up to be my top tag is probably not a huge surprise:
It’s been a tough couple of weeks. Let’s have a moment of photographic serenity:
Hope you had a nice weekend. On Saturday evening, our overnight-visiting friends (on both arrival and departure, she hugged and kissed me on the cheeks; he shook my hand) were pitching plot ideas at me over gin and tonics. Alcohol seems to bring out the potential author in everyone. ;-)
That said, unrelatedly (or perhaps somewhat relatedly, given in “relaxing” with them maybe my mind “opened up” a bit), I had a “major idea” knock me over last night.
As I have the main plot for the third book already laid out, it’s a great addition. It was one of those light bulb going off over your head moments that includes chastising yourself: “Rob, why the heck didn’t you think of that before?” It led “naturally” – and that’s what I love: I hate when subplots seemed “forced” or “contrived” – to other, related, necessary new bits as well.
I tap, tap, tapped the gist of it down as quickly as I could. That’s how this “game” is played. You never know when it – whatever “it” is – might hit you.
Not a huge surprise to learn that. “Officially” it confirms what I had noticed. Those posts drew lots of views all year. (For several posts the comments noted in that snapshot seem “miscounted” though.)
It’s almost upon us. If you celebrate, I hope you have a Merry Christmas. If you don’t observe it, I’d like to offer you best wishes for the coming year.
I almost forgot. You have to see it. Hey, you like our tree? The tree stand is doing its job well:
We spent yesterday in Bath doing last-minute shopping. It is one of the most attractive city centers in England. One of the possible reasons: some of the shops. For example, it seemed everything in the Hilfiger store started at £100 and only went up from there.
Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit. Still, by comparison, £60 shirts at the shop in Bath would’ve probably gone for $45 at the Woodbury Common Outlets Hilfiger in upstate New York. Yep, they don’t call Britain “treasure island” for nothing.
In some ways it has been a very mixed year. Yes, I got Frontiers finished. And my Dad survived heart failure. Those are certainly positives.
On the heavily negative side, we lost someone who is utterly irreplaceable. An emptiness that will never be refilled will stay with us forever. This is the first Christmas without her and I’ve been trying not to think about that. Instead, when her absence crosses my mind (as it is now), I’ve tried to imagine that, come mid-January, she’ll just suddenly appear via a text or a phone message, saying she’d just got back from Rome, or Dubai, or Chicago, and her parents also introduced her to yet another man she’s not really interested in, and she wants to meet up for lunch at a brand new restaurant she’s been wanting to try. But I know that won’t happen of course.
There’s no law written anywhere that says a next year has to be better than the last. Sometimes it’s definitely not. But let’s be optimists anyway, not only about our own lives, but about the wider world as well that 2015 will be better for all of us.
We have some fun here too as you may know if you stop by regularly. We have to laugh now and then. I just wanted to use this short post also to thank you again for reading and following my modest, novel-writing site. :-)
I just discovered, by email notification, that a blogger I follow on WordPress has apparently read my first novel, Passports. The blogger evidently devoted a post to it. Understand that (as of this writing) I have no idea what that blogger thinks of the book because I have not read the post.
And I probably will not read it. Why not? When I saw the notification, I instantly thought of my uncle, who has told me he studiously avoids reading reviews of his novels.
It’s a quandary. Think about it. It’s inappropriate, and even tacky, for an author to bask in a positive review’s sunshine, and perhaps even to “like” it.
On the other hand, if a reviewer doesn’t like a book, well, what’s to do? Do a Chris De Burgh? Probably not.
Back in 2009, the Irish singer fired off a scathing retort to The Irish Times, berating a concert reviewer. In it, De Burgh launched some real zingers. He was furious at the reviewer’s negative take on a recent Dublin show:
That strikes me as almost never the way to deal with even vicious criticism. Almost no one even days later would have really remembered that review, but they will long remember it courtesy of De Burgh’s angry response. One would’ve thought someone like De Burgh would’ve known that.
If someone directly approaches you (with an email, say), you are entitled to respond if you wish. That’s now a personal conversation: a correspondent is seeking you out, either positively or negatively. However, I feel the best way to react to public reviews is with silence, mixed with unseen appreciation people out there think enough of your books to buy them, read them, and discuss them.
First rule for every published author: Once your book is released, it ceases to be “yours.” It now belongs to each and every reader separately, and every one of them approaches your work from his/her own intensely personal perspective. In the end, as with music, how the book is interpreted is out of your control, and you won’t please everyone.
Have good day, wherever you are in the world. Me? Uh, time for more cold medication. Ugh. :-(
UPDATE: For more on this issue, from (by pure coincidence) today as well:
I don’t keep close tabs on visitors. However, I have noticed over nearly the year this blog has existed that my “Top Five” countries of daily “regular visitors” clicking in through the web (as separate from those of you who arrive via the WordPress reader) have by now come pretty consistently to be ranked like this each day:
1) U.S.A. [almost always first]
2) U.K. [usually second, but there have been days they’ve outnumbered the U.S.]
5) Canada [in variations on that 3, 4, 5 order].
Visitors from Australia, Brazil, India, South Africa, Italy, the United Arab Emirates (yes, really), and Hong Kong, also drop by regularly. [He waves.] Although some days none from those countries appear at all. So this snapshot yesterday afternoon was odd, to say the least, which is why I screen grabbed it:
That was a real surprise. No, no, and I don’t mean it was because someone from Georgia popped by. Rather, notice that the Irish had clicked through in abnormally large numbers – and I’ve not a clue why.
I wake up ridiculously early. So, curious, I had a peek again just after five this morning, UK time. So this is from the first few hours of today obviously:
Interesting. Anyway, in that spirit I’ve posted this “ridiculously early” too. ;-) Regardless of where you are reading this today (including you insomniacs – like me occasionally – the world over), “Hello!” :-)
American Revolutionary patriot and diplomat, Benjamin Franklin, is quoted as once saying, “Either do something worth reading about, or write something worth reading.” As writers, most of us probably lean a bit more towards trying to achieve the latter. And that’s not unreasonable of us either.
After all, doing something could well mean that something will be something that means we won’t be around to read about ourselves anyway. So it falls to us to write. Yet, as if writing something worth reading isn’t fundamentally tough enough, we’re told everyone has to “know” us now too.
Okay, ahem, so, who are *you*? Tell us all about yourself. Don’t be bashful. We’re all listening. The world stage is yours. The spotlight is on you!:
Previous generations of writers shared mostly their books and stories. Authors were only rarely as well-known as their outputs. What they were as people pushing their pens, and/or typing their pages, was largely unknown to their readerships.
In contrast, today, as authors, we must use “social media” to become better-known to the world:
Who is she? She’s Ana Franco, a Brazilian writer. And she deserves to be better known.
So now you know about her. Her post also got me thinking about this issue. When was the term “social media” first used? I suppose I could Google or Wikipedia that question, but I just can’t be bothered to right now. ;-) Presumably it has been in regular use less than 15 years.
The default position seems to be everyone wants to be “famous.” The assumption narrowly in our context here is if you blog, or use social media, you are cravenly just seeking attention. However, I don’t buy that as applicable across the board.
Yes, out there are certainly the likes of my HarperCollins published uncle. He is a complete extrovert. He loves being on TV. He relishes being the center of attention in the room. Facebook is the worst invention imaginable for him: he can carry on to a couple of hundred “friends” about how he wishes he’d been in the Spanish Republican army in 1936 or something. (God, I hope he never sees my blog. Then again, he’d probably laugh, because he knows I’m right.)
Myself, I just want to write entertaining novels that stand on their own, which when a reader finishes she/he says, “I enjoyed that.” I seek to use this blog and Twitter to help spread the word and to be there for those curious about my books. However, I have no desire to be a “celebrity”…. as odd as that may sound in the novelist biz today.
So we understand why we do it. While it may be amusing to write entirely for your own amusement, if you aspire to write for others they have to know that your writing exists or no one will read it. “Social media” now makes getting the word out about your work easier than ever before.
Still it feels strange how we are expected to share so much of ourselves to the world. It’s also important to bear in mind that, although it’s highly unlikely, it is theoretically possible that any post – ANY post – you casually publish could end up being seen by millions around the world. So, uh, no pressure there then. :-)
These things seem to happen unpredictably and in bunches. As of yesterday, I had only about 160 shares on social media for the entire lifetime of this modest blog. (And that naturally included my occasional tweets of my own posts here.) This morning – only 24 hours later – that total has jumped to 274 and counting.
I have not the slightest idea why? I’m scratching my head? I did a screen grab of what I had noticed last night, and then again a little while ago this morning:
Still how the internet works, eh? I have to admit I don’t really understand how WordPress tallies all this; and it’s not translating into more visitors than usual. Still, I suppose it’s interesting info to have.
Have a good Thursday!
UPDATE [8:05pm UK time]: