Welcome to the fifth interview in the Authors and Social Media series; where I interview some of Australia’s most acclaimed speculative fiction authors. Today we have Trent Jamieson, Brisbane Urban Fantasy novelist answering 5 questions on Authors and Social Media.
How important do you view social media to selling your books or interacting with fans?
Well, it is important as a selling tool, I guess, though I've always been cautious about that. I'm sure there are plenty of people that use it more effectively than me. Let's face it, I'm not that slick. And as a consumer of Social Media I quickly tire of being hit over the head by an author's constant tweets, or facebook updates, when they're all about the book.
There's this idea of authenticity, a term that I hate because it actually sounds, well, it doesn't sound that authentic. Churning out what is essentially book spam certainly doesn't make for good reading. Maybe it works, but not for me.
What I want is the excitement of sharing ideas. I want to know what people are reading, watching, and experiencing because for me that's what I find exciting. And that's what social media at its best does.
And as a writer, and a user of Social Media, I really have to ask not so much what I'm getting out of it, but what I'm putting in. That's the important bit. Social Media is all about community, and being a good member of that community means giving not taking. Not sure that I'm doing enough of that yet, but you've caught me at a time when I'm really trying to get my head around these sorts of things.
Not really. I kind of like the ready-made nature of my blogging, tweeting and facebooking. I'm a bit suspicious of things that are too perfect, or directed. Part of me likes a bit of mess, and chaos. Like my lame Book Corner videocasts, I'm not sure I'd have had any advice to do my "book corners" but I've found them to be a lot of fun, and I think they're (oddly enough) a pretty honest representation of me.
Perhaps I should be more strategic, but yet again there's that question of authenticity.
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?
You've just gotta roll with the punches. You can't expect everyone to like what you write. Enjoy the good reviews, accept the bad ones and move on. It never looks good if you go slugging it out with a reviewer.
Let people have their opinions.
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?
So far it's been pretty positive, and that's with a good six years of blogging - which isn't that long, and a year or so of tweeting.
Still, I'm a rather small fish in a very big sea - most of us are.
I'm not really different to the people that contact me, I just happen to have written a couple of books that they may have liked. Everyone I've encountered has been passionate, interested and patient - maybe I've been lucky.
I've worked as a bookseller for a decade and a half, talking about books has been what I do for a very long time, I just see it as an extension of that.
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?
It's already vital as source of contact, and a way of seeing what's going on. It always has been in SF, just much slower. Any genre's a conversation after all, isn't?
I don't know how it will affect the way I write. The writing I do still comes from a deep and non-social place for me, it's the public expression of a private process. I don't think that's going to change for a while yet.
But, and here's the thing, when the book is written, that's when Social Media is so important. It's certainly changing the way I interact with readers. OK, I'm going to ramble on a bit here.
The book is one thing, but the point where that book ends and begins, the scaffolding around that book, how I find readers, how I let them know what the book is about, that's where Social Media is all important. Maybe we shouldn't call it Social Media, maybe something like the Conversation (Narrative is too linear and fixed, Dialogue to formal).
I've really been thinking about the permeability of a published book, particularly now they're increasingly electronic. For one thing, where the author and the reader sit in relation to each other and the book is changing. I firmly believe that a book stops being the writer's when it is published, certainly when it is purchased/borrowed whatever. It becomes the reader's. That's always been the way, of course, my Lord of the Rings is different to another reader's. The text is the same, but our experience of it will be different. But now, those experiences are vociferously and enthusiastically expressed, and there's SO many of them. Even just looking at LOTR, you've the TORN site, you have this active engagement with Tolkien's work, with the films, the books. It's part of what is keeping a brilliant book alive and vital (it helps that the book is brilliant, of course).
When I first started writing you were lucky if you got a letter of comment in the next ed of whatever mag you had sold to. Then in the years after you were lucky if you got an email. I've been so used to writing to silence.
Now that's not the case, people are happy to tell you what they think, and even if it's that they didn't like the book, well, that's healthy for the ego, innit?
Social media really lets the writer connect with that reader in a new way. A faster more vivid and scarier way, but one that's utterly thrilling. This is more than talking about word counts or dinner, this is taking the book as a conversation into new directions.
I want as many people as possible to read and engage with the ideas in my books, because I think they're important (certainly felt that enough to write them). I want them to enjoy them, I want my books to live on as arguments as a conversation.
Whether or not they do is largely beyond my control, I can only write as well as I can write, but, now, there's more chance that they will live on. As we enter an age where books are potentially never out of print, it's the ones that are vital and exciting that people can gather round and engage in/with that are going to live on.
I don't want to be closed to that. I'd like to offer my voice to that conversation too.
Yeah, you can see I'm still getting my head around all this. How I respond to social media is going be as personal as all the other choices I make in my life. But that's going to be the same for everyone. I think we're going to see a whole host of different and equally valid ways of negotiating the new world of the book, of making it both a narrative and a conversation.
There's interesting times ahead. Time to dive in, I reckon.
I’d like to thank Trent for answering my questions. You can find Trent at his site. Or he goes by @trentonomicon on twitter. I would also suggest that you check out his Book Corner videocasts, comedy gold that will give you a real sense of Trent’s playful nature.
Keep your eye out for the Business of Death the next in the Deathworks Series as wells as Roil, his steampunk novel from Angry Robot.
If you would like to see more in this series you can bookmark this page. If you can’t bare to miss out on my adventures you can subscribe to the blog through a reader or Follow me on twitter.