Some of my most favorite authors to follow on The Twitter are young adult authors. Sarah Dessen probably tops the list for her kindness and authenticity. She doesn’t pull all this “I’m so humbled and honored…” stuff. I suppose that makes it sound like I am criticizing those who word their accomplishments that way and… well, I guess I am a little bit. I mean, sure, it’s better than saying “look at how great I am for getting this award/interview/speaking gig”, so I respect that. It’s just that when Dessen has news like that to share, she manages to come across as genuinely humbled or honored without having to use those words. She’s very “real” online, too. Rainbow Rowell is another favorite. I feel I would really like both Dessen and Rowell in “real life” and manage to have an actual conversation with them vs. John Green, who I also enjoy following, but is more on “rock star and we probably don’t have that much in common” level.
Scores of blog posts out on the interwebz try to teach fellow writers/authors how to “do” Twitter. They tell you, don’t spam your followers with “Buy My Book!” tweets. Or sometimes they’ll tell you that kind of stuff through Twitter itself. However, those who use social media this way aren’t reading that advice. The better posts I’ve seen are those that aren’t “dos and don’ts” lists, but instead focus on the goal of authors on social media in the first place: connecting with readers. As a writer, it’s definitely worthwhile to connect with other writers. As a published author, however, readers are the key audience.
Dessen shares authentic pieces of her personality – she downplays herself, though really she does this through revealing her insecurities. This honesty appeals to me as an adult who would enjoy meeting her, but more importantly, it appeals to her young adult audience, the youth that continually face their own inhibitions and vulnerabilities. They can connect with this author who not only writes novels with characters that teens can relate to, but who tweets in such a way that they can relate to her. She’s an adult and still has self-doubt! Very affirming.
This is what sells books. To be honest, I can’t remember if started following her before I first read one of her novels or after, but her online persona would have drawn me in to her books regardless. Some authors push me away from their novels, but more often than not, I’ve started reading an author’s works after I “got to know them” online.
Okay, so Dessen, Rowell, Green, and others are big names and it’s all well and great for them. What about those slightly lesser known authors? Let me give you two scenarios:
1. My sister sent me an email awhile back – a forwarded email response from author David Ball. She was listening to his book, China Run, and thought to email him to see if he might direct her to a character list for the story. Not only did he reply, but also he gave her a full list along with some translations. My sister thanked him as well as indicated she would write a review and try out more of his books in the future. He responded again – a very fun and gracious exchange all around. (Says Ball in part of his closing: “I hope you enjoy the rest of the book, and that the dreaded polar vortexes miss Minnesota & leave it warm and sunny this winter. Well, ok, maybe that’s not gonna happen.”)Do you see what this exchange did? It extracted further interest and loyalty from Ball’s reader because their exchanged messages were kind and courteous. Will all authors be able to respond like Ball did? No, but it makes a huge difference to do so while we can.
2. Not long ago, a blog post by author Michael J. Martinez came across my timeline – shared by his agent, Sara Megibow, I believe. His post was about writing across differences and also included the invitation to offer ideas about this topic and his next book. Most of you can already guess that obviously I joined in the conversation. Point one in his favor: a post that broached this topic openly and honestly. Point two in this favor: interaction with both me and other readers in the comment thread. Know what this did? Caused me to go right out and reserve one of his books from the library (The Daedalus Incident – I enjoyed and my oldest son liked it even better, btw).
In truth, neither of these particular scenarios resulted in book sales, but it resulted in READERS, and I know that’s what I would want. On the larger scale, it will/does result in book sales. Authentic and courteous interaction – connection – is what readers want and whenever possible, and this is what so many posts out there try to convey. Social media doesn’t have to be hard, it just has to reflect you.
Tell me, do you seek out interaction with authors? Who are your favorites to follow? Have you decided to try someone’s books after you got to “know” them online? What do you like to see/know about an author?
Of course maybe, just maybe, we need to remember how to make sure we as readers interact with authors so that those connections stay, um, positive…