Monday, February 25, 2019

ok, so you don't want me to tell you I liked your book

I finished a terrific book recently and wanted to reach out to the author to say "wow, I really liked your book!"

Maybe boost the signal a bit with a mention of the book on Twitter.

Went to the author's website.
No contact info at all.

No social media links at all.

So, the author doesn't like all that folderol.
I get that.
You just want to write books and be left alone.

I'll leave you alone.
I won't write you a note about how much I liked your book.
And I won't mention you on Twitter.
And I won't use your book as a contest prize.

Harumph harumph harumph.

That was my first (not very adult or thought out) reaction.

Then I thought about the kerfluffle about AJ Finn, the nom du guerre of the writer who was the subject of a rabid take down piece in The New Yorker recently.

I staked out the position in our office discussions that AJ Finn didn't owe his readers a damn thing other than a great book. His various problems with truth-telling either personal or professional weren't really my business. The only reason he found himself in the NYer's crosshairs was he'd had some pretty amazing success with the book.

Needless to say the discussions were rousing and I was SHOCKED to find out several well-respected colleagues didn't agree with me.  (smelling salts were required!)

But now, how to reconcile these two things.
If Author Invisible doesn't owe me anything, why am I annoyed he's invisible?

I realized after some thinking, that this kind of annoyance is a very recent thing.
Twenty years ago, when I read a book I liked, I told my friends. And maybe yammered to my publicity clients, or bookstore event planners. It never dawned on me to write a letter to the author's publisher (the only way you could contact authors back in the Paper Era.)

Now with instant communication and everyone hanging out at the CyberSpace Bar and Grill, it's expected we're all reachable. And want to be reached.

Well, clearly, no.

So who am I "showing" with this "I'll show you, you stuck up word wrangler, you" attitude.
Well, readers.
It's a good book.
I liked it enough to send it to Laird Barron because it reminded me of his main character Isaiah Coleridge.

And the author doesn't owe me anything because he's already provided  the only thing our social contract requires: a good book.


CynthiaMc said...

I love this.

And I will read that book.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

And my TBR grows.

Word of mouth is the best way to have a book promoted. Almost every great author I have found since leaving school has been by word of mouth. Not the NYT book reviews, not social media (apart from here in the Reef which is NOT social media but an alternative construct of reality where really cool souls take a swim from time to time), not advertising or websites, but people I respect telling me about that book. Best publicity ever. And some of the authors here who write terrific books get me blabbing about them to everyone I know.

And boy, I hope that my books get great word of mouth so I can fade into the background. Social media is just a bit much for me...

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I find a strange, come out from behind the curtain, kind of comfort in this post. So all I have to do is write a great book because I don't owe my readers a damn thing?
HAHAHA!!! Sometimes I just crack myself up.

Kitty said...

I checked out the book on Amazon and saw it has one of those "much maligned prologue[s]" -- 3 pages long, no less.

I agree with E.M. Goldsmith: Word of mouth is more valuable than any NYT book review. I'd add book jacket blurbs and awards to that as well. Word of mouth is gold.

John Davis Frain said...

I wish I had been an office colleague that day.

OTOH, I'd still be cleaning and wrapping the teeth marks where the blood has spilled, so perhaps fly-on-the-wall status should be the wiser wish.

Anonymous said...

I read that this year and I loved it!
And I recommended it to a young man who I thought would also love it.
I do like to tell authors when I loved their book. Seems to me that back in the day, fans wrote letters. I believe that after LOTR came out, Tolkien was inundated ... And kind of shocked. Stephen King has also written about this topic (in Misery, which is about all fans, not just the one crazy one).

Amy Schaefer said...

We don’t owe each other anything? I think T.M. Scanlon would have something to say about that, but this isn’t a philosophy course.

Our actions affect each other. A person lying their way through a career for their own benefit affects others - the people who have to take on his work during absences, the people considered less qualified who weren’t given positions his fake PhD bought him. Yes, a person can make great art and be of dubious moral character. Example abound. But there are also many creators out there who make a great product and are not lying their way through life. We each have the freedom to decide what matters to us - do I care this writer stole a pack of gum when he was six? that this artist had an affair? that this musician is a war criminal? - and act accordingly. You can’t put a blanket statement out that “only the art matters.” That is a choice we each need to make for ourselves.

In Mr Mallory’s case, quite apart from his real-life drama, many readers have pointed out the stark similarities between his book and Sarah A. Denzil’s Saving April, which was published two years earlier. Do we owe it to each other to investigate those claims? Plagiarism is an issue that strikes at the heart of what we do as writers. For me, there isn’t a book on this Earth good enough to excuse that.

Kitty said...

Bearskin: A Novel

Theresa said...

Nicely put, Amy.

julie.weathers said...

I can't say that I blame the author. I've been redoing my website and the lady teaching the course has kind of hammered home the need to be visible. Create a brand. Market yourself. Be available.

"I don't want all that crap at the bottom of the page. I'm not even on Farcebook anymore. I don't intend to use--"

"It's not for you. It's so your readers can share these posts on different media easily if they like what they see."

"Then you need to--"

"I'm not promoting that arrogant fool either."

If it were up to me, I would put a pox on all social media...but it isn't. We need them and they won't miss us if we leave. That doesn't mean I need them all.

I'm still irked at the twitter mob that attacked the YA author to the point she asked her publisher not to release her book. They'd have a cold day in hell playing that game with me.

People seem shocked that an author wants to maintain some control over their lives and property. I can see why Norman McLean resisted Hollywood for so long. I've heard others in discussions about that think he was just being selfish. Really?

Maybe the author in question just isn't very media savvy. Maybe they're tired. I'm sure being away from social media gives the person a lot more peace than those on it.

A politician wished his very elderly aunt happy birthday on twitter and said how much he loved her. There was a sweet picture of them together. You'd think people could be civil for the sake of a lady nearly 100 years old.

Nope, they had to crawl out of the woodwork and say some of the most vile things imaginable. I don't care what your politics are, this is disgusting.

As I said, sometimes being in a cave must be a lot more peaceful.

Nom de plume said...

I’m about halfway through Bearskin and I have been enjoying it very much.

I do not think AJ Finn or any other artist should have to behave in an orderly fashion, which is why I find morality clauses in publishing contracts troubling.

That said, when I read Finn’s book last year I was disappointed because it felt like an appropriation of female (specifically maternal) pain for the purposes of writing a bestseller. It also felt like it relied heavily on a mode of storytelling popularized by great female authors.

For me, when I read the article, it confirmed those feelings because it seemed possible the book had not come from an artistically genuine place. Tell me lies, but let them come from a place of real truth.

Janet Reid said...

I believe we have a new header, thanks to Bethany Joy

Ryan Neely said...

I think Julie has it right. I'm not in social media anymore (not that it means anything to anyone but me), and my voice is for the better.

I think we'll be surprised to see the pendulum swing again over the next five to ten years as more and more people realize that being infinitely available isn't healthy.

How many celebrity interviews have you watched where some Famous Amos says, "I'm not on Twitter/Instagram/Whatever,"? They always cite the fact that they'd likely say something that would end their career (as has happened to so many people already), and while that may be true, the reality of the situation is, social media isn't their job.

They want to be the best they can be for the job they have to do, so they're learning lines and acting in plays and movies, or they're writing music and spending hours in the studio or on tour, or they're in the gym and on the field prepping for the big game. Those are the things that are their job, not Tweeting "had a fab breakfast this morning!"

Do we insist that the doctor who successfully removed our appendix be available on Twitter? Or the pilot who flew us from San Francisco to Beijing? "Hot me up with your Twitter handle, dawg. I gotta shout out how dope that landing was."

No. If we like a movie, or a piece of music, or a sports program, if we like a doctor or an airline, we're going to tell our friends about it. Our feelings toward the person responsible for bringing us joy are none of that person's concern. (This is that small part of the phrase, "What you think about me is none of my business" that most people don't think about; we're too busy applying it to people who don't like us to realize it goes both ways.)

Sorry for the rant, but I think our country's mental health hangs in the balance of social media use, and it terrifies me.

So far, every book Janet has recommended has been amazing, so this one, too, is going on my #TBR list.

Richelle Elberg said...

I have a different reason for avoiding Twitter. The Day Job would like me to tweet about Day Job things. But I originally created the Twitter account back when taking a Day Job hiatus and writing my second novel. For quite a few years after self-publishing that book, I had an automated promotional tweet that went out every Friday. Then I realized that Day Job colleagues were starting to follow me (I write research reports on smart energy technologies) so I stopped that autotweet. Now I just rarely tweet.

Then, about a year ago I was deep in querying my last completed novel, determined not to self-publish. And since my web site brazenly promoted my previous self-published works, I took the site down. So now I'm rather invisible because if/when I secure an agent for that last novel, or the one I'm working on now, I didn't want my...erm...less brilliant early works mucking up the agent's impression of me. I have been thinking lately I need to revamp it and republish. But first I need to finish my WIP!

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Interesting discussion, as always.

I'm certainly no celebrity, but in the world of equine rescue I have some renown. My books about the sanctuary are nonfiction. I receive numerous letters and messages from readers telling me how the stories about the horses have touched them. Unfortunately, all too often the praise is followed with, "By the way, we have an elderly horse we no longer want. Can you take him?"

I'm weary of it all, and just recently have been struggling with a desire for less visibility. But I'm not sure that would be a smart move for my writing.

Brenda said...


Anonymous said...

Jon Ronson has some terrific material about the career-ending-tweet phenom in his Ted talks and in his book So You've Been Publicly Shamed.

Jed Cullan said...

A few years ago the Shark told me to re-do my blog and add contact details and links to twitter etc. Of course I did it. When the Shark tells you to do something, you do it.

The Noise In Space said...

The worst part of it isn't just that people expect you to be on social media--it's that they expect you to be on THEIR preferred social media, and to use it the same way they do. Sometimes it's a platform like Twitter or Facebook, which as others have alluded to above, are dying mediums with steadily decreasing user bases and sharply declining audience reach thanks to pay-for-play algorithms. Sometimes it's tools within the platform (case in point: a colleague of mine who refuses to text and instead exclusively uses Insta's message feature). And it's expected that authors who want to further their careers will be all things to all people on all platforms.

It's exhausting.

Nom de plume said...

Oh how wonderful! Thank you! Of course, now there will be no living with me.

Brenda said...

I’m five chapters in an hooked. What a writer.

C. D. Monson said...

The fact that Janet recommends this book and the author is in social media obscurity is the reason I am ordering this book today. As for everyone who wishes social media would end, the day may be coming soon. I was talking to my kids who range from college to high school, and all three of them say that they and their friends have stopped using all platforms. Even Snapchat is slowly decreasing among the student populus at my son's high school. They watch videos on Youtube sometimes but that's about it.

Colin Smith said...

Remember when "social media" meant you had a blog and an email address? :)

I wonder if everyone's having a "why am I doing this?" moment. Not a bad question to ask every now and again, especially if your various social media accounts are getting a bit much.

Aphra Pell said...

I'm going to go wildly off-message and... defend social media.

Not all of it obviously - there is a huge amount of unpleasantness out there. But there is also a huge amount of interesting and supportive stuff if you know where to look. I use twitter and follow historians, wildlife people, art people, church architecture people (I'd not given a lot of thought to church architecture prior to joining twitter, but it's a great community full of all sorts of interesting things - I highly recommend #animalsinchurches for a weekly dose of awesome and odd). And I mainly tweet interesting oddments I see, or pictures of cute furry animals. Net result is my twitter feed is a nice little community of people geeking out over shared love of subjects (and cute furry animals).

Obviously, if you get famous then trolls are going to happen, but this is not a problem I expect to have any time soon.

The other advantage of social media is accessibility for disabled people. Being able to interact in communities without leaving the house can make a massive difference.

Catherine1216 said...

When I like a book, I put it on my book blog because I am no longer in the classroom and miss book talking with live people.

Once in a great while, an author will comment on my blog, and it gives me all the feels. I just want everyone to be reading something, so if I can share books that make me happy, it's enough for me.

AJ Blythe said...

It's funny how our perspective of things has changed thanks to social media. What great insight, Janet. Thank you.