Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Who Is Really Important?

Angie found the post about the stupid teacher a bit upsetting, so I have been prompted from my shell, yet again, to pen something new for you. Are you starting to figure this out? It isn’t really a ‘blog holiday’. It’s just that I’m not blogging regularly. I have hit my stride with The Work That Shall Only Be Referred To As “DEUX” and am just indulging in my love of writing.

But every day, people continue to drop by the blog. And it’s contributed an element to a long-standing debate I’ve had raging in my head, about dropping the blog or keeping the blog, and why.

In order to understand my thought processes on this, I think the best thing I can do is hold up an example. Here’s one: Ken Bruen. When I first met Ken Bruen I was so nervous about it. I mean, who hasn’t heard of Ken Bruen? If you’re in the crime fiction community you know the name, and all I’d heard was wonderful. And he was so genuine, warm… wondrous. It probably took me five minutes to pick my jaw back up when he mentioned my blog. Ken Bruen reading my blog? I tell you, in my wildest dreams I never thought Ken would be dropping by here to see what I had to say about anything.

This coincided with reading my first Bruen. Instant junkie. I know I’ve mentioned here before, about writing to Ken Bruen to say how nice it was to meet him…

And he actually wrote back.

There are a lot of people who won’t take the time. I can understand that some people are deluged with fan mail. I remember at first I was worried I was pestering Ken, but within such a short time of exchanging emails I found it was so easy to talk to him. And he read my book and offered a blurb. So, I sent him a small ‘thank you’. I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate or not, but I had his address and he had just been so bloody nice. Ever since then we’ve been great friends. If I need advice Ken’s often the first person I call.

Now, why I am I talking about this? Because to me, this is an example of someone who has kept their feet on the ground. I’ve also had a chance to see how Ken interacts with people – with people in the business, and with readers. Ken does not forget that it is the people who go to the store and buy his books who are important.

I don’t really think of myself as having fans, but lately, I’ve thought a lot about how to treat them. My experience comes more from being a fan. The little touches can go such a long way. I still remember early days on Val McDermid’s forum, when she responded to something I said. I had no idea she even posted there, or read it. Plenty of authors steer clear of their forums. It was a surprise – and a nice surprise – on multiple levels. She told me she was coming to my area on tour in a couple months, and I was able to get tickets as a result. Her event was on my wedding anniversary, and when I said I was “Sandra mre from the forum” she stood up, shook my hand, met my husband and wished us a happy anniversary.

She remembered. I was stunned.

One of the other things I’ve always appreciated about Val is that she utilizes her newsletter mailing list. When Val tours, we know. When she’s on radio, we know. When she wins an award, we know.

And you know what? If I take the trouble to sign up for an author newsletter, I really want to know that stuff. You want to make your fans grumpy? Don’t tell them when you’re touring - don’t even post it on your website. I mean, why in the hell would you want to tell the people who read your books that you’ll be on the road?

I don’t even feel like I’ve started a career, but I think it’s a good thing to consider all this now. Some author blogs you go to, they only acknowledge other authors or friends. Us unimportant peons languish unacknowledged until we get the hint: We aren’t part of the club.

Now, I guess that’s the risk. I think of my blog more as a way of keeping in touch with friends, and venting any unhealthy level of frustration I have about all manner of topics. It isn’t just about the writing, it isn’t just about my career, it isn’t just about me. I don’t find me interesting enough to write about all the time.

But the one thing I always try to do is acknowledge everyone who drops by and comments. This isn’t an exclusive hang-out for select members only.

And I’d really like to think that if I ever have fans I’ll remember this stuff. It’s my little bit of advice to authors:

1. Have a website, and update it with important information – especially tour information and, when available, links to interviews.

2. If you have a newsletter mailing list actually use the damn thing. Tell us when you’re on tour, when you win an award, what’s in the works. Otherwise, scrap it. Fans have signed up for a newsletter so they can stay on top of your news. If you don’t send a message out for a year, maybe it’s time to officially nix it. At least then we won’t be holding our breath.

3. Don’t forget who buys your books.

Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows I’m the ultimate fangirl, and definitely fill my quota of hero worship, and then some. If I admire someone I don’t tend to keep that a secret. I’ve met my fair share of authors, and it’s a very interesting thing. It’s easy to be caught up in that, especially when you’re a newcomer to this business.

Yet I have found that a lot of readers are much like me. They just love the chance to hang out with people and talk to them about their work. Honestly, this is what seldom gets to happen at the conventions. I pay attention to the lists so I know what readers think (and because I am one myself) and noted the comments about Bouchercon, about how the authors all disappeared at night. It hadn’t occurred to me, because I’d been invited to all those publisher parties, so I was surrounded by authors.

But the readers, the people who buy our books, who invest the money in going to these conventions not so they can sell themselves but so they can meet and hear their favourite authors, felt pretty shut out.

I’d wanted to spend more time with people at Left Coast Crime, and then got strep throat, so it wasn’t the best experience. And I completely understand our tendency to gravitate to other authors. After all – we don’t get to see each other that often.

We should never forget, though, that readers are the people we write for. Without them, we wouldn’t be here.

Now, this was all innocent enough, because when Angie’s comment came to my in box I thought, “Okay, I’ll post.” I hadn’t been blog hopping today, so I had no idea what Angie had blogged about.

But this… this is what it’s all about for an author. Someone read my book. Someone liked my book. They liked it enough to blog about it.

There is no greater compliment for an author.

And it makes me think, maybe one day, I should think about doing a newsletter. When that day comes I promise you, when there’s big news the people who’ve signed up for it will be amongst the first to know.

They deserve that. And that's the thinking that's keeping me from dropping the blog, for now. For some reason, people drop by to read what I have to say. And they invest that energy and time in me. It seems very rude to abandon them. So, I'm not signing off. Just cutting back a bit.


Christa M. Miller said...

Every time a new post pops up on your blog I think of the John Cusack line from "High Fidelity" - "I find it interesting that you keep turning up here." ;) Though, as you say, it's not as if you gave up blogging!

I'm glad the new novel is coming along so well!! I was hoping to catch up with folks last week (especially at Crimespace) but it didn't quite turn out that way. Ah well... at least I get to catch up on reading. :)

Oh, and in the spirit of this post - Norby and Spyscribbler, I saw your comments on my blog, and thank you SO much for reading - as usual I got pulled away just as I was about to reply, then forgot. :( Sorry for the snub!

Sandra Ruttan said...

Christa, you are absolutely one of the last people I think of as snubbing others! I think we all also know how busy you are these days.

Maddy said...

thank you for your gracious explanation.
Best wishes

Christa M. Miller said...

Thanks Sandra. It's just that those 2 are new to my blog (or at least commenting on it) so I didn't want them to think I have a club. ;)

Anonymous said...

You said it best
i..........it's about the readers

2..........anyone who is too busy to reply to an email of praise needs to get their head outa their ass...........who do you think is literally paying not your way, it's the readers

You stop blogging, I'll stop writing

sin an sceal


Sandra Ruttan said...

mcewan, I have to say I have an appreciation for any site that says, "Warning. This site contains foul language" at the top. Nice to see you here.

Yeah Christa, I tend to make that conclusion after a while, consistent demonstrated behaviour. And I've been bad myself lately - very negligent here on the blog.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Ken a gra,

Well, then, I guess I am now personally responsible for your future career! Ken Bruen fans around the world will be watching my every move!

If that's what it takes to keep you writing, then the blogosphere won't be rid of me any time soon.


angie said...

If you stop blogging and Ken stops writing, I'll be making a trip to the frozen North to kick your sassy ass, Sandra. 'Cause I'd miss 'em both more than I could stand.

And thanks for putting up a new post.


Sandra Ruttan said...

You know, it's tempting, just to get Angie to come visit...

But I'd miss Ken's work so much myself that if a bit of blogging is the price I have to pay for more, then blog I will.

Anonymous said...

Gee, I thought Sandra and Her Forces of Evil WERE The Club. Ken dropping by proves it. I have T-shirts on the way, too. Do I need to order a green one for Mr. B?

Anonymous said...

See, I never really worried that you would stop blogging. I mean, is it really going to be that easy to shut you up? From one loudmouth to another...

Oh and Christa-no worries-I just wanted you know how cool I thought the story is.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Jack, well, that's us sussed. Did I use that right? Ah, who cares, I'm the leader of the pack!

You'll see this is especially true at Murder in the Grove. Whether or not you're allowed to consort with my clan will be entirely dependent on your behaviour over the next six weeks. The jury is still out. ;)

Norby, anyone who'd like to make me shut up is welcome to try!

Anonymous said...

I've been known to leave people speechless-if that happens, does it still count?

Sandra Ruttan said...

If you can render me speechless at B'con, I'll buy you a beer.

Anonymous said...

"You'll see this is especially true at Murder in the Grove. Whether or not you're allowed to consort with my clan will be entirely dependent on your behaviour over the next six weeks. The jury is still out. ;)"

Groucho Marx had an appropriate line which I will not repeat because in this case it does not apply. I do so desperately want to tag along with the Forces of Evil. One, because I've been just a goodie goodie too long and I need help, and also because I know nobody in Boise, never been there, and I think I've already insulted Robert Crais by emailing him that I was a big fan but promised not to drool on his shoes.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the kind words, Sandra. We set up the forum so I could talk to the people who read the books and want to continue the conversation beyond the pages. It doesn't always work the way I would want it to, but I value the chance it gives me to hear what people have to say about my work. I have so much respect for writers who commit to blogging -- I know I don't have the stamina for it, I get too bored with myself too quickly. But I like dropping in on others. It's my water cooler moment. (I'm the one with the silver hair leaning against the wall with the large mocha...)
Go well with the words.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Jack, I'd really love to see you drool on Robert Crais's shoes. From what I've hear there are a lot of women who'd be inclined to do likewise. But don't worry - you'll be in good company. I look forward to seeing you again!

Val, I know if you blogged I'd be a regular lurker, but I understand why you don't. That's why I can't just blog about me. Nobody knows on any given day what they'll get here. It could be a sobering post, or a series of dirty jokes... But I'm a Gemini, like you, and I think we get bored easily.

I'm grateful there have been wonderful people who've set such a good example for the rest of us in this business. I just hope next time you're in Calgary that I get the pleasure of taking you to lunch Val. I'm very sorry I'll miss Harrogate this year. I may yet salvage a trip to Scotland, though, which will help compensate.

Natasha Fondren said...

I really don't understand the whole "slam the fans" mentality. I've always been a 'thank you' sort of girl, and being a small business owner, I've always been a 'promote others' girl, too.

Me, I write for my readers. I write to eat and just because, but I write mainly for my readers. I can't tell you how many times they've given me a boost and a cheer. They're like mini-miracles to me, and when they send me a note, it makes my day.

Sorry to gush. I'm a huge fan of them! I can't tell you how many times I sternly tell myself, "Write better; you can't let them down!"

(And Christa, LOLOL ... no snub taken!)

Tracy Sharp - Author of the Leah Ryan Series said...

Yup, lots of folks are cutting back on the blogging, me included.

You'd be SO missed if you stopped blogging. There'd be a huge, vaccuous space in the bloggosphere.

I still have to read Ken Bruen.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Spyscribbler, I think that's a great attitude! At a guess, maybe the reason some people don't get it is they were already pretty full of themselves? I don't know. All I know is most of the people I admire most - Ken, Val, Ian Rankin, Laura Lippman - didn't get instant success. They built their careers. And I think that's part of why they keep their feet on the ground. Too much success too quick can do crazy things to a person.

Trace, yes, you must read Ken Bruen! You will love Brant, but you will also love Jack Taylor. Just differently.

And not to worry - I'm not going anywhere. Just cutting back a bit. ;)

Mindy Tarquini said...

I'd totally notice if you stopped blogging, Sandra. I'd notice so much, I'd call 911 and have them check on you. Hasn't happened yet, but if you're ever down for a month, I'm putting on a parka and coming up to see you.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Damn, if I can get The Ginsu Tongue up here as well I just might be tempted!