May 26, 2011

Colin Taber on Authors and Social Media


Welcome to the tenth interview in the Authors and Social Media series; where I interview some of Australia’s most acclaimed speculative fiction authors and some rising stars.

Colin Taber, author of The Fall of Ossard  will be answering 5 questions on Authors and Social Media.



How important do you view social media to selling your books or interacting with fans?


Simply, it’s vital.

While there are other ways and venues for interacting with fans (such as old fashioned snail mail and face to face meets at signings and the like), social media makes interactions not only more immediate, but more likely. That’s a bonus for both parties.

Social media also gives me exposure to thousands of potential readers everyday. Unlike most writers, over half my readership has found me through the medium, whether from their friends’ recommends, shared posts, or carefully targeted advertising. Social media has given me thousands of readers scattered around the world. I love it.


Do you or would you want to receive any guidance from your publisher/agent on interacting via social media, both in a technical sense or in a 'professional presentation' sense.


I’ve received little guidance other than cautioning about what I might say. Of course, that leaves huge scope for me to put my foot in it. I try to be careful. Sometimes I post something and then remove it, more because I’m fishing for a reaction. I rarely swear on social media. I never post anything that I’m not prepared to wear, regardless of whether I’m planning on posting and deleting it later.



There have been some recent examples of inexperienced authors reacting badly on the Internet in response to blog reviews etc., what are your thoughts on being social media savvy? What advice would you give to new authors?


I imagine it’s something that has always happened, but now such incidents have the capacity to go viral with social media. Authors just need to put on their work face and be professional. In regards to people posting their own opinions about your work, whether as comments or reviews; you win some and you lose some. You can’t control what other people think, so ignore it.

If you post something, even if you plan on deleting it, you have to accept that it’s going to be ‘kept’ somewhere in the digital ether. Aside from always thinking twice about posting, also think about the nature of what you’re going to say. If you’re posting reviews of books and wanting to be a bit out there, you’ll need to consider that one day you might very well be sitting in a con’s green room with an author you had a go at years before on your blog or that a potential publisher might be turned off by your vitriol. What you post cuts both ways.


In my experience Social media breaks down normal communication conventions. People can be more familiar and 'take liberties'.  Have you experienced problems where this ease of communication has lead to followers/fans 'crossing the line' or has your experience been entirely positive?


Mostly my experience has been great. I love getting messages, feedback and ‘likes’ from readers. Such interactions help soften what is ultimately one of the loneliest trades. Having said that, I have had to modify some of my online availability because otherwise I’d never get anything done. There is scope for people crossing the line. I’ve seen it happen elsewhere, but so far it hasn’t happened to me, not in a big way.

I also get a lot of emails and messages (via Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads) asking how I’ve managed to do what I’ve done in regards to online marketing. Those always take me by surprise. I try and deal with some of that sort of stuff in my blog (or, more so, will soon be). The second most common email or message I get asks when the next book is coming out; thankfully, with Ossard’s Hope now released, that issue is behind me – until my readers finish reading.



How vital is social media to the genre in which you write and how do you think social media will effect the way you write and interact in the future?


These days social media is a huge part of how people communicate and find out about new books and share ideas. Everyday it brings new readers into my genre, educates people already reading within it about new titles and authors, and adds to the growing breadth and depth of that community. To say it doesn’t impact me would be to put my head in the sand. For now (until something better comes along) it’s a very real force.

Likewise, to say that the contacts that social media enables doesn’t impact my writing would again be to delude myself. While my storylines are pretty much set when I start out on a project there’s always opportunity for some elements to be shaped by external input. If I wasn’t influenced by reader feedback I wouldn’t be human.


Colin’s first book The Fall of Ossard, complete with Shaun Tan cover art has been out for some time.  He’s just recently released it’s sequel, Ossard’s hope.


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