I was talking with fellow author and Friend o’ the Blog SC Harrison the other day, musing on writing, publishing, our hopes and frustrations therewith, and wondering overall why we we’re already fantastically rich, when she raised a point that gave me pause. She said, in essence, that teh interwebz and social media have brought author-reader relationships to a whole new place, and one that is not very beneficial to either.
This struck me as a great- and greatly overlooked- truism.
Before I run with this too much, I want to add a small caveat to this post: I am writing this more as a reader than a writer, if that makes any manner of sense. What I mean is, my general method of book selection is: go into a bookstore, walk around for a while, look at a few books, see if Lindsey is working and if I can hamper her productivity, drink some tea, browse for a while longer, and eventually spend the annual income of a small nation on a stack of books.
That’s changed now. Or, there is a tide which attempts to change it, that I had never put words to until SCH succinctly, if unintentionally, drew my attention to it. The omnipresence of social media, the instant availability of book reviews and recommendations from GoodReads, Amazon, etc, etc, etc, the aspiring authors who email me asking for a review of their books… the list goes ever on.
The weird thing I have found is that I am honestly very nearly incapable of writing a book review. I love books, obviously, and read them by the truckload (as time allows), but reviewing them? No way. “Did it have words on a page? LOVED IT. Were the words stupid? LOVED IT LESS” is about all I can get out. But talking about books is done just as much on blogs, on social media and reader reviews as it is face to face. And the bizarre part is, the author gets to see it just as easily. Not that’s so terrible, but just odd.
Go back ten years, and imagine the thought of meeting your favorite author. OMG, right? One of my most treasured memories was when I was in DC, and there was a Borders across the street and James Gleick did a reading there (for Isaac Newton– read that book). No one came. Maybe five people. There was pie and tea and I was just in love. The other people left right away. To his credit, he didn’t look as pissed as I would have. We talked until the store closed about Newton, Feynman, Chaos, writing and books until they kicked us out.
Social media and the like inject this sort of artificial relationship there- not like I got his phone number or anything, but following on someone on Twitter creates this feeling of yeah, I know them. And they reply to your tweet? EEEEEEEP, right? But I wonder how beneficial it all it is. How much do you want to know about the author? How much of them should come through the fourth wall of the book?
Obviously, it’s not bad, and in many cases it is beneficial, so I don’t have any point here beyond the observation that reader/author relationships have changed a lot.
Hi, I’m Dean and I like books, cooking, booze and old movies!