Turning Whine into Gold:
5 things readers want from novelists on social media
by Kathryn Craft
People are already reading your words on these sites and forming an impression, so it makes sense to think about what your readers want from you.
Here are 5 things I want from the authors I follow:
1. I want to be entertained.
It stands to reason that authors, due to their daily manipulation of language, have a greater command of it. Add to that a flair for comparison, an affinity for odd characters, a love of whimsical description, and the ability to thread an arrow through the very essence of story, and you have all the makings of an entertaining post.
2. I want to be challenged to think for myself
Fiction readers do not want to be told what to think. They want to be challenged to think. For this reason, lovers of story will rarely be swayed by an in-your-face political rant. They will simply agree or dismiss. If they dismiss, you’ve lost access to one of the most powerful roles a storyteller can play in our society: that of the sage who uses story to open the reader’s eyes to a different point of view.
In the fiction I love, I value the way an author will orchestrate a character set to examine a problem from all sides, the way John Irving did so brilliantly concerning abortion in The Cider House Rules. But in order to influence a reader, you have to get her to open your book. She might not if your frequent Facebook rants lead her to suspect that you are likely to preach.
Instead, why not raise a question and get people talking about the issue?
Did you see this video about the emotional reunion between the man and his partner’s arrival home from the Middle East? It really tugged at my heart. How about you?
The reader will receive the message: “This author is respectful of individual opinions. I might like her work.”
3. Exposure to the new and different
Many authors are drawn to odd jobs and odder experiences. Curiosity compels them to observe and investigate. They notice the lone dandelion pushing its way up through the sidewalk and see a story of triumph. From the things they’ll eat to the places they go to the ways they get there, an author’s life isn’t all about the word count. I want access to what their keen sensibilities can provide.
4. News Updates
I want to make sure I don’t miss out on new books and important career milestones.
Hope is crucial to survival, and wordsmiths are in the position to lead readers to it even in the most difficult times. A few short phrases evoking ordeals from around the world will remind you of this fact: The Book Thief. Bel Canto. The Life of Pi. Les Miserables.
I’m not quite sure why writers think it’s a good idea to use social media to vent about the industry that they hope will one day support them, but it goes against your social media campaign goals: you don’t want to turn your readers off to the book world! If you stoke your negativity with the full power of your word magic, you will pull your readers right down the rabbit hole after you, where you’ll all be miserable.
Instead, why not identify your fears more honestly and relatably, as Dani Shapiro did in her recent post, On Vulnerability (it’s well worth a read). Knowing that the authors whose works you idolize are human, too, is actually a source of great hope.
“Published author” is an honorific, bestowed by our culture because of your sensitivity, your keen eye, and dedication to artful communication through story. Social media is your chance to give your readers more of that—and with each bite-sized post, you are building the public persona that will earn you readers and carry your career as an author.
The next time you enter a public forum, think before you type: what is it you really want to say?
What do you want to see more or less of on social media? Do you love or hate "being online?" Which social media platform is your favorite, and why?
Kathryn Craft’s debut novel, The Art of Falling, will be released through Sourcebooks 0n January 28. To read more about her book, check out her author site, KathrynCraft.com. Pre-order links are live at bn.com and amazon.com! Her second novel, While the Leaves Stood Still, is due from Sourcebooks in Spring 2015.
Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania literary scene, she loves anything that brings writers together—conferences, workshops, retreats, and blogs like Writers in the Storm. She also blogs at The Blood-Red Pencil and at her personal blogs, The Fine Art of Visiting and Healing Through Writing. Connect with Kathryn on Facebook and Twitter.