As I’ve probably mentioned before, I started out my writing life as a fanfiction author. One of the foremost glories a fic author can receive are reviews. Comments, kudos, reviews…these are what keep a fic author breathing. We can’t do it for money, more often than not we don’t even have our “real” name attached to it, so all we can do is place it at the mercy of our fellow fans and hope that they like it.
And we know all too well how vicious fans can be if they don’t like your portrayal of their beloved characters.
So why is it that we seem to forget this kind of feeling when we start writing “real” fiction?
There are two kinds of reviewers, I’ve found: the ones who wish you well and let you know they’re looking forward to your next chapter–and the ones who constantly poke again and again, insisting that you owe them the next chapter and where the hell is it, really. This isn’t exclusive to fics, though: just look at much of the way we see George R. R. Martin attacked in media. Either everyone just quietly hopes for the next book, or they go ballistic on him for not having it done. (I remain in the camp that says that he’s too busy writing 2016 to work on Song of Ice and Fire but that’s just me.)
And I know that authors love reviews of their books just as much as fic authors do. Reviews help Amazon’s algorithm, reviews help books get attention, reviews boost sales. This is how the writing industry works; word of mouth is just as effective as any other sales technique nowadays. I see it time and time again as I look for ways to market my own writing. And as a reviewer, I know that my words are useful to the authors I read.
But what I also see, more from a reader’s perspective, is how much more I am willing to give authors a chance when I see they interact with their readers.
Interactivity with readers is what first introduced me to MCA Hogarth. It’s how I met Lyn Thorne-Alder. It’s how I met Lia Habel. Recognize these names? They’re authors I talk about a lot in here, and in my real life. I’ve gotten several books of Chuck Wendig’s because I’ve enjoyed my interactions with him on Twitter. I’ve seen the way Maggie Stiefvater talks to her fans, how V.E. Schwab talks to her fans, Laurell K. Hamilton, John Scalzi. All of these authors reach out into the wretched hive of scum and villainy that the Internet can be, and use it to connect with their readers.
This means the world to me.
As an author, I know how risky this can be. Leaving yourself open to anyone on the Internet can be a major risk, and authors feel this just as keenly as I’m sure actors and the like can. We’re analyzed and judged based on what we do and how we portray it, and the masses can be very unforgiving. But when you know that somewhere out there are the good and kind readers you love to connect with, and they are worth the effort.
Sometimes they’re not, though. I’ve seen too many instances of people leaving the Internet or Twitter or what have you because the nasty trolls of the Internet have decided to lash out against them over and over and over again. That saddens me more than anything. Partially because we’re losing our connection with that person, partially because they’re losing their connection to us, and the rest is just sadness and frustration at humanity. Literally, I just checked my Facebook and saw this from someone involved in Internet media who said this:
The internet’s celebration of bad habits and unhealthy traits simply because they’re relatable and meme worthy is starting to really drive me away from social media as a whole.
This is exactly what I’ve been seeing, and what makes me sad. This is someone I’ve interacted with on Tumblr, someone I’ve interviewed on a podcast, someone I’ve been friends with on Facebook–but someone I don’t know in person, and thus social media is my only connection with him. If he leaves social media, my sole connection to him besides his videos is severed. This is, of course, my problem and not his. I have no right to the connection with him, and if he leaves that is his choice and I’ll keep watching his videos. But it’ll still make me sad.
I truly believe that having a connection to your readers is an important part of an author’s platform, as it were. I think it helps people connect to your writing, because they see you as a person and not just a name on the cover of a book. The characters become creations of the person you know, and not just names on the page who wander around doing things. Even with as real as the writing can make them, I believe there is another step beyond that to bring them to life.
So that’s why you’ll always find me floating around Twitter. That’s why I stay posting here, it’s why I ask for your comments, it’s why I’m on YouTube. I like staying available, and I like connecting with you all.
So let’s bring our stories to life, hm?