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Friday, July 19, 2019

Of Using Social Media When You’re A Writer Or Reader

So, why have a social media account when you’re a writer or reader? 

I mainly only belong to Twitter. My sister keeps trying to persuade me to join Instagram, where she keeps the family photos, but really, I’m doing enough in this area. I have more than one blog, though this is the only one I use regularly, and a Twitter account and one in Goodreads, which has allowed me an author page and shows these blog posts. 

I have never had a Facebook page, even though so many businesses are there, so it’s inconvenient. Mainly it’s because, as a teacher, I really didn’t want kids pursuing me there, although you never know where they will find you. I’ve had one student say, at lunchtime in the library, “Ooh, Miss, you’ve got a YouTube channel!” and another, an anonymous Year 7, say hi to me, quite politely, on a video I put there. Really, I was impressed that they managed to spell my name correctly enough to look me up, though in some cases it might be counted as stalking. Not really, in these two cases, they were just curious, and pleased to find that Miss had a life outside the school, apart from those books on the library shelves. But you can see how it might get nasty, and we’re not allowed to have kids follow us, or follow them, on social media. The more I read these days about what’s going on on Facebook, the happier I am not to be a member. 

Does Goodreads count as social media if you’re only using it to keep track of what you’re reading and making the occasional comment on someone else’s review? A lot of people do use it for more. The impression I get is that many authors are advised, by agents or publishers, to get a social media profile because it keeps them in the public eye and fans can follow and be thrilled to talk to their heroes. And that’s the last you hear of them. The only books on their Goodreads shelves are their own. Same with Twitter, though no shelves, of course. Many others join as readers, e.g YA authors Michael Pryor(who also has a blog, though not connected to GR) and Tamora Pierce, both of whom write reviews like the rest of us. Then there are others who answer questions of their fans, e.g SF author Lois McMaster Bujold, who patiently answers even the oddest questions, week after week. I tip my hat to her! 

It does get the occasional social media vibe when there is a drama. Last year I looked up a book I’d been sent for reviewing, out of curiosity, and found it was the centre of a particularly nasty discussion- not because the book itself was especially controversial, just another YA contemporary, but because the author had been extremely rude - and threatening - to a reviewer who had given it a polite but not enthusiastic review, for reasons that were explained. There are rules on Goodreads. You are absolutely not allowed to respond there to reviews, not even when the reviewer says, “I’m glad I didn’t have to pay for this book!” or “I only read eight pages, hated it!” And yes, I’ve had both of those in my own reviews! And gritted my teeth, but didn’t respond.  It’s not a professional site, after all, just one where readers share books they have read. They will say things pro reviewers never do, however rude those reviewers might be about a book. It is very influential, though. People make book choices according to GR reviews. 

So, I rarely use the star rating system and never rate a book I haven’t read. But others do. A popular author often gets five star ratings for books not yet published or even read by the reader concerned. And others, angry with an author for one reason or another, decide to stuff up the star ratings for him or her, by giving it one star without actually reading it. That happens sometimes - this wasn’t the first time. 

If you think you know which book and author I am talking about, I don’t want them named here. The drama has been over for a while. It’s not that I have any particular sympathy for the author, who behaved unprofessionally. I didn’t care much for the book, either, so I gave the author an interview, to let them explain it, as there may be plenty of others who will enjoy it. Then I gave it away. 

But I was shocked by the childish behaviour of all those readers who did the one-star thing as revenge. No. Not on. If you hate a book, fine, say so. If you think the author has misbehaved, absolutely say so. But don’t rate books you haven’t read. Not five stars for an unpublished, often unfinished, book by a favourite author, or one star for a book by someone who has made you angry. 

I did wonder for a while if I belonged there, but I’m still a member, posting the occasional review and updating my books and, of course, these posts appear on my author page . 

I joined Twitter, at first, because I was sick of missing author events in Melbourne, especially at the Wheeler Centre, where they have semi-regular talks and panels, and their Twitter account announces those.

Then I realised that despite some truly nasty political discussions and racist louts, there were also plenty of authors and artists, teachers and librarians, all chattering away about their work. There are celebrities who are happy to chat to their fans, as well as those who set up an account in order to get that social media profile and never actually tweet. There are big name writers who do post - Neil Gaiman, who krpt his fans up to date with the filming of Good Omens and answered what questions he could, and J.K Rowling. Harry Turtledove, author of alternative universe history(and, more recently, a fantasy thriller along the lines of Dan Brown, only he has a sense of humour, and his characters actually eat, sleep and, presumably, go to the bathroom, something that didn’t happen in The Da Vinci Code. I only knew about it because he mentioned it on Twitter). And many Aussie authors - a small community, so nice to be in touch and know when new books are being launched. 

And the occasional astronaut. Buzz Aldrin has an account and posts regularly. Amazing how fit and good he looks for his age! He chatters away cheerfully about stuff he is doing, and last year at this time, when someone invited us all to remember where we were on THAT day and Buzz said hilariously, “I was on the moon.” 

What social media do you do? And do you enjoy being able to speak directly to your favourite authors? 


Brian Joseph said...

I mostly use Twitter. I tend to Tweet a lot. I tweet a combination of bookish stuff, social issues and politics. Sometimes the bookish tweets mix with the other things. I try to be polite. I have gotten into great discussions with authors and others. I often engage in civil and constructive discussions with people that I disagree with. There is a certain level of nastiness however. Some people cannot help but to hurl insults at those they disagree with. I the end, I really love Twitter. I have a Facebook account that I hardly use.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Brian! Yes, I think we follow each other on Twitter, it sounds as if you use it very much the way I do.

AJ Blythe said...

I am on twitter, but it is such a negative place I really don't get involved in conversation. My active account is Instagram as I love looking at the photos (not selfies), and I like taking photos, so it works for me. Plus it fits my writing brand to take photos of our outdoors (which is what my posts are mostly of).

Sue Bursztynski said...

Twitter can indeed be a nasty place. I have heard Instagram is nicer, but nothing is perfect - recently the news mentioned an Instagram suicide. Anywhere human beings get together, there will be some nasty people saying horrible things. I just block them, after telling them what I think of them.

Last night’s Twitter discussion of choice for me was on the literary community being snobs towards readers and writers of YA. Good fun to chat about!

I take photos too, I just don’t post them all on line, though some on my blog, yes, and others on Twitter.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue - I'm always late ... but there it is! I don't do social media as I don't have books out there ... but have a FB account and pop in and out ... to keep up with mainly authorly friends and a few family/friends. I should do Twitter - but don't ...

I blog - and can understand why some people find it time consuming ... and have escaped elsewhere ... but it seems to me to be ephemeral ...

I note that Instagram seems to be the favoured place for authors now - ephemeral again ... there'll be something else soon. I don't react to anything that isn't relevant. It gets deleted and I move on ...

Thanks for this - interesting ... cheers Hilary

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Hilary! You do realise you don’t HAVE to do Twitter? I find it convenient for reasons I have mentioned above, but that’s my choice. I’m not into Facebook - also for reasons mentioned above - but most of my friends are. Each to their own!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue - yes ... I realise I only need to do what I want to do - hence have never got into Twitter or FB much ... and as you say - each to their own ... cheers Hilary