It’s often easy to contact a writer these days, by email, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads etc. But how much contact, particularly two way contact is good? Do readers want writers looking over their shoulders? Is even a “thanks, glad you liked it” on an informal few lines long review on Goodreads an intrusion into a space the writer may have no business being? Once there’s a relationship, however slight, there’s a risk of interfering with how the reader judges the writer’s work.
If an author acts like a jerk then it makes people decide not to read their books. But is there an effect the other way around too? Does the fact an author and their fans chat on Twitter like they are old pals mean the reader might give the writer’s books a more positive rating than they would have otherwise, for fear of offending someone they interact with. That’s natural of course. We tell white lies all the time to spare people’s feelings, so doing the same about a book you’re actually a bit disappointed in would naturally follow.
Or even further on from that will the reader end up defending the books against those who are critical of it, even when deep down they agree with them, but they want to show the writer they’re a loyal fan? At what point does someone go from “loyal fan” to “minion”?
Let’s take an example, with me as the reader. I reviewed a book on Goodreads last week. It wasn’t m/m since I’ve decided not to review fellow m/m writers (and that’s a whole ‘nother blog post subject), but it was by a writer I’m in contact with on Twitter. And in fact she sent me the book free as an advance reader copy and I promised a review in return. Does that make me a minion helping to create a pre-release buzz for the book? (Not that she needs much help from me to get people to look forward to her books!) Did my relationship with her over Twitter and Facebook influence what I wrote about the book?
But looking at it from another angle – I started following her on Twitter etc. because I liked her previous books. I’m therefore likely to enjoy her future books and give them a good rating, whether we’ve ever Tweeted to each other or not, so it’s all a very grey area. I feel I was honest about what I thought about the book, but influence can be unconscious, so I can’t be absolutely certain.
I don’t think it’s possible that writers and readers will ever have the kind of distance they once had if the writer is participating in social media as part of their marketing efforts. And of course there are many good things about this contact. I’ve seen it from both sides now and it can be so enjoyable. But I think it’s also a potential minefield and we’re all still learning our way across it. Writers should be aware of the need for discretion about activities which may have undue influence on readers. Unless of course you are planning on building an army of minions to do your bidding. In which case, carry on.