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.