Welcome to the second interview in the Authors and Social Media series; where I interview some of Australia’s most acclaimed speculative fiction authors. Today we have Nicole R Murphy answering 5 questions on Authors and Social Media.
1. How important do you view social media to selling your books or interacting with fans?
It’s incredibly important – readers are generally savvy, well educated folks and they tend to be early adopters and enthusiastic users of social media, so it’s vital to be on social media. I think nowadays, the relationship between author and reader is an important part of the book-buying cycle – I know that if I meet someone, and I like them, I’ll buy their books and I can’t imagine I’m alone in feeling this way.
Social media enables me to interact with more people, and with readers in far-flung parts of the world. This is particularly important to me because my books are currently only available in print in Australia. In the US and UK, they’re electronic and folks who read electronically are PARTICULARLY online and involved in social media.
2. Do you or would you want to recieve any guidance from your publisher/agent on interacting via social media, both in a technical sense or in a 'professional presentation' sense?
I feel pretty good about how I’m using social media myself, but I can see that it would be a valuable thing for publishers/agents to provide guidelines, how-tos and ideas for authors when they’re starting out. But not in a restrictive way – I don’t think it’s the place of publishers particularly to be telling authors how to behave, what they can say and so on. But provide maybe examples of authors who are doing it well, and pointing out some of the pitfalls of doing it wrong. Authors are being asked to do a lot in terms of marketing and promotion nowadays and it’s not necessarily something we’re naturally good at, so any guidance and advice would be welcome.
3. There have been some recent examples of inexperienced authors reacting badly on the Internet in response to blog reviews e.t.c., what are your thoughts on being social media savvy? What advice would you give to new authors?
I take the Wil Wheaton line on this – ‘Don’t be a dick’. Treat people in the manner you’d like to be treated and all will be well. You also need to understand how the internet works. First, while it might seem ephemerate because each time you go on things have changed, it’s not. Things stay available via caches and so on for a very long time, if not forever. So you need to think about what you’re doing long-term, not just in the here and now. Also, understand that with the sort of anonymity of the internet comes a certain freedom (for some folks) for social boundaries. Where they wouldn’t comment, or would stay away from a mob situation in real life, they’re happy to jump on board online. One mistake and you can have folks dive-bombing you like you’ve committed a major crime. But the other side of that coin – don’t be scared. Experiment. Try things. Be yourself. As Bill and Ted said – Be excellent to each other.
4. 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?
Not sure I’m big enough/well-known enough to really experience this. So far, it’s just the occasional person on Facebook (not Twitter, interestingly) who’s obviously trying to make themselves my best friend for later nefarious purposes. I was chatting about this just last night with some writer friends, and I think this isn’t as much a social media thing as a human thing.
Here’s how I see the progression going – writer finally gets published, gets some notoriety, is in a position to ‘pay-back’ and does so (cause we’re generally nice folks), starts to get burned by the occasional idiot, realises it isn’t worth it and so pulls out of helping strangers at all. Social media may well make this progression happen faster, and more people of low to middling fame may experience it than used to happen, but I don’t think it’s invented a new paradigm of how followers/fans react to writers. We’ve all heard the stories of things like Stephen King having manuscripts thrust under the toilet door at him at cons. It comes back a bit to what I was saying before about considering who you are and what you portray online. Be clear within yourself where you boundaries are, and then you can make them clear to others. In my experience, most people will adjust to expectations as long as they know what they are going in. And there’s gonna be crazies – that’s just the way of the world.
5. 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?
I think social media is becoming vital to all writers, regardless of genre because publishing is becoming more and more a global phenomenon and it’s the easiest way to reach the folks on the other side of the world. It’s also great in that you can do the things you need to do within your own timeframe and the comfort of your own home and not have to go on book tours and so on, which were the established way of meeting and interacting with readers.
The impact of electronic publishing is part of this as well. I’m sure that as the years roll on, the way we publish and interact with our readers is going to change enormously and the instant feedback of social media is going to play an important role in all that. In my case, I write books that straddle fantasy and romance – two genres where readers are really involved online so it’s really hard to be a new writer in those genres and NOT have a strong social media presence. It’s the way the world is nowadays.
I’d like to thank Nicole for answering my questions amidst the flurry of action that was SWANCON preparation. You can find Nicole at her site.
The The Dream of Asarlai trilogy can be found in good bookstores and on Amazon .
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