No matter what stage of your career you’re currently at, being an author is a very different profession thanks to the age of the internet.
Authors used to bask in the shadow of anonymity. Even without a pen-name, they were mere names … perhaps illustrated with a grainy black and white photo and an aloof bio on the back cover of their novels. ‘C-C Lester lives with her cat Felix and her budgie Steve in Battersea, and enjoys strolls along the beach. ‘
(I don’t really… before you start Googling 😉 )
But the internet has changed all that. It’s not only added real-life faces to the grand names … but it’s also added real-life stories. Find one person who when you mention J.K. Rowling doesn’t remark on her rags to riches success, and the ‘writing on napkins in coffee shops’ story!
People spend a lot of time with books. They retreat to them, a private world they can slip in and out of, away from the hustle of a crowded train carriage, or the uncomfortable heat of a parental row. The characters become treasured friends, and it’s easy to attach similar affection and proximity to the person responsible for creating those characters. Readers want to know about their authors …
As a reader, I happily confess to reading author bios. I love the short paragraphs tucked inside book covers. I like to guess how much the writer has in common with her protagonist, muse over whether I’d like her in real life, and wonder if she’s using a pen name. I like to know if she’s young or old, pretty or ugly, married or single. I want to be able to put the book in context, to frame the story in a world outside of its pages.
I fully admit it … I’m a nosy reader!
And then, as an aspiring writer, I wonder how hard her path to literary success was. Did she find an agent as easily as I did? Were her rejection letters from publishers more inspiring than mine? How many rejections did she receive? How old was she when she first got published? How long did it all take?
Yes … I’m a nosy writer too!
The thing is, whilst some of the answers might be available in the book cover’s rigid biographical paragraph, the internet has provided an even better location to find answers to all those questions … and more!
Obviously there’s the Google-stalker factor, which is something I’ve discussed in previous posts – see ‘Why Blogging is like Facebook …’ and ‘The Pen Name … a Shield to accompany the Literary Sword?’ . One carefully worded Google search, and a reader can know an awful lot about his favourite author … provided she doesn’t use a pen name.
(A small aside – Bloggers with pen names BEWARE – I’ve noticed on a lot of comments that your REAL NAME comes up in the email address attached to your blog! )
But where authors are concerned, there’s a far easier way to find out the answers to all your nosey questions … and you’re staring right at it.
Authors blog! We are creatures of habit, who love to write, and by definition, enjoy touching others with our words, whether fictional or not. In the age of Twitter and blogging, what better way to reach others with our words, than with the immediacy of the internet?
By blogging, we are opening the fourth wall to our readers. We are showing them the workings behind the novel – whether it’s just generally the way our minds work, or more specific details about our lives and inspirations. Author blogs allow you to find the answers to all your nosey questions … how long DID it take her to find an agent? How many times DID she get rejected? What did those rejections REALLY say?
But the blogosphere isn’t a one-way street. It’s interactive. Not only is the author bearing (selective parts of) her soul to her readers, she’s also enabling them to challenge and question her. Finally readers are being given the thing they have never had with their favourite authors – dialogue. And an author’s willingness to partake in such a dialogue may well affect the way her readers see her.
This brings me back to Jess’s initial idea – a writer’s brand.
Think about the world we live in. Not only is it a world of Twitter and blogging … it’s also a world of PR and Marketing. And the savvy author needs to bear that in mind … particularly if she writes under a pen name. Those of us not protected by that particular shield (or like me, who have very brazenly stepped aside from their shield and revealed their true name) can only control to some degree the information available about them on the internet. But if you’ve created a person, you have full control of the data about that person on the internet. And even if you haven’t created a person, and are writing as yourself, then it’s wise to think about the things attached to your ‘writer persona’.
By creating this website, I have unwittingly created an author brand. If you type ‘C-C Lester, author’ into Google, the top four hits link to this blog, and the fifth to my Twitter (which is predominantly based on my blog). This blog has become C-C Lester, the author. And hopefully the brand I’ve unwittingly created is an honest and likable one!
I’ve said it before, in ‘Why Blogging is like Facebook …’ and I’ll say it again. Think about what you write. As far as we’re aware, the internet is here to stay, and the archives are endless. So make sure that everything you personally attach to your ‘author brand’ properly represents you as a writer. It’s also where posts like ‘Get It Write 😉‘ (about grammar and spell-checking) and ‘To Journal … or Not To Journal’ (on making your blog too personal) come in. In ten years time, when you’re a famous author, do you really want the world to know how much you hate your ex-boyfriend? Or that you don’t really know where apostrophes go, and have to rely on an editor to tweak such mundane things as grammar?!
Personally, I think it’s exciting! I like the idea of being more than just an aloof name and a grainy picture on a bookshelf. The role of authors is changing, and I just hope that my career will enable me to properly experience those changes first-hand. I hope, in years to come, that my story will be a positive one, and one full of inspiration and interest to my readers. And that somewhere down the line, I’ll look back at this post and smile at the legacy I began to establish back when I was a ‘nobody’ who simply enjoyed to write 🙂