Saturday, June 25, 2011

Response (Saturday Discussion): Does knowing an author help or hurt their book?

This is a response to the most recent discussion article from Amber at Down the Rabbit Hole. You can see the original article here.

I think this is an interesting topic and one that considers some more attention. With social media playing a huge role in marketing tactics for authors these days many readers are closer than ever to not only their favourite authors but also those who haven't even released their first book yet.Readers can learn all about anything from new projects they are working on to different issues that authors care about right down to the kind of cereal they ate for breakfast. They can ask a quickfire question, and even get a quickfire answer. Reviewers can blog, tweet, facebook or email their reviews and giveaways, their excitement, and more and have those authors reiterate this to the world. It's quite something, really. But how does all of this effect the readers actual experience when reading the book? And does social media ffect how readers make purchases?

As a blogger and a reader, I can only speak for myself. So if you don't agree, that's completely fine. Make your own voice heard!

Knowing authors effects my purchases. Definitely! Here are two recent examples:

Ex. 1. Last night while considering which new release for July to purchase I settled on Wildefire by Karsten Knight.  But suddenly, I wasn't quite sure. Was I making the right decision or not? So I went on google to try and find an excerpt or a quote to see how the book was written. The first link was to Karsten's website. And the first posting was his author video for the book. I was rather excited to find this. And it was one of my favourite author videos yet. Then I scrolled down the page and found all these funny posts - like responses to google searches, Q&A's, ramblings that are completely off topic (like the birds that wont shut up), and more. I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes and I completely forgot that I was there to find an excerpt. I rushed back to The Book Depository website to pre-order my book.

Before I found Karsten's website I was thinking I'd just leave the order for now and only buy something if I felt I really truly wanted it, like now. But then Karsten completely won me over with his personality. And I actually do quite want his book, like now!

You can go visit Karsten Knight's awesome website here.

Ex. 2. Recently I went to a book signing with Lauren Oliver and Veronica Roth. I wasn't sold on Divergent but I wanted to see Lauren Oliver quite badly and so I went. But while I was there I discovered that Veronica is so nice, very well spoken, and her story began to fascinate me a little more because I got to learn more about who she is and where she was coming from. And also, learning about why she writes and how she writes made me repect her a little more. I bought Divergent there and am looking forward to reading it now. I don't think I would have done this if not for getting to know her more. At least, not quite as soon as I did.

So knowing an author definitely impacts my own purchases. However, I am not going to go as far as saying that an author needs to put themselves out there like this in order for me to be interested in their book. Sometimes I discover the book first and get to know the author later or the personal aspect just never happens because the author hasn't gotten into the social media aspect of things. I'll read a book because it sounds good to me but I'll also read a book because the author sounds good to me.

Knowing an author can hurt a book...sometimes. In the article by Amber she talks about authors who openly question negative reviews, so I want to address this first.

Some people think that this is the most aweful thing an author can do to hurt their career, but I'm not completely sure. Certainly, if a reviewer completely explains where they are coming from and the author still doesn't get it, just doesn't want to hear it, or simply responds with a quick and snarky "no you're wrong" type of remark then yes, this is one of the worst things an author can do for their career. I'd also like to add in the career destroying arena authors who nominate their own books in Goodreads Group book club nomination polls and then have their friends vote it in as a group read (and yes, this does happen, *sigh*)

However, some authors don't question negative reviews as a way to attack the reviewer or try to down play the bad rating. Some authors genuinly want to know more - like if their fans feel the same way, or where all those pesky spelling mistakes were, or why the reviewer said something annoyed them. And I think that's okay. To ask their fans so they can make improvements in their work. To talk to their readers and not just an editor trying to make some money from their sales. However, even this does require some caution. If they are truly genuine about their concern they need to make their worry known so it doesn't appear they are trying to attack the reviewer. And even so, it will make some people cringe, as they view the author as weak, wanting reassurance about their work and all that. But it doesn't bother me. If I've learned anything from social media, it is that authors are real people who pour their heart and months or years into their work. They are real people and they deserve a chance to make things right for their readers if something is truly wrong and that is just very difficult for one person to judge for themselves.

Now, attacking reviewers or questioning reviews is one thing, but what about banter between authors or their fans? Sometimes for me it's just an interesting tidbit to see who these authors are chatting to. It's interesting to see how some help or encourage other authors as well. It's interesting to see which books (read: ARCs) they are trying out and events that they go to with each other as well. But that really doesn't break or make a reading experience for me. It does, however, annoy me to see an author constantly chattering on Twitter to the same people. And rarely anyone else.

Ex (I wont name names). One author I decided to follow after reading her first book has been constantly chatting with another user on Twitter. They talk every. single. day. This wouldn't annoy me in itself except for the fact that the author basically doesn't chat with anyone else or even post very many other tweets besides these chatty type tweets. And it makes me wonder why not just email each other? And is she ignoring other people's tweets or just too busy to chat with very many people? I just get images of favouritism or laziness in my head, even though, probably it's not like that. I have been putting off reading the second book ever since, at least until I get over my annoyance.

As a reviewer. Knowing authors is much more intimate than twitter, facebook, reading blogs, etc. so this is something to think about as well. As a reviewer I am constantly chatting back and forth to authors. Even if it is just a quick "I put up a review for your book today" email, I do usually get a response. And while doing this I am surprised to find that authors truly are real people who have a home and a family and sometimes even pets. I get glimpses of these people's lives that I never imagined. Who would have thought simply saying "Have a great day" at the end of my emails would get such varied responses as to how these people are spending the rest of their day. Does this effect my reading? I think so. Because I know that they are friendly people that care enough about me to give me a glimpse of their lives I also feel like they care enough about me to write the best they can so they aren't wasting people's time. And I feel like if I didn't like it, it's not because they are a bad writer who just wants to make a few bucks, but because they still have some work to do with their writing. Or, maybe it was just me.

So I feel like like this is a topic that is very interesting, and I haven't even scratched the surface here. However, it's getting rather lengthy for a response. For now I will leave you with this - no matter how social media or "getting to know" an author effects us as readers, it definitely does effect us. Marketers have known this for years but some of us are just beginning to see how this has developed and form our own opinions. I think it's very important for anyone who uses these forms of media - be it an author or just someone who wants to have a voice - it's important to see things from both sides and reflect on how you impact the world with your words. Sometimes it's a good thing, but not always.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Erika. I know it's an older one, but I just now discovered it. At some point, I'd love to the opportunity to discuss further. Perhaps a good question for an interview in the future? You make good points here.