Author disinformation

So here’s the thing…

Lately I’ve been writing author information about myself for various reasons, as you do. As I was doing this, I heard or read someone (bear with me, this is going to be a vague story), an agent or an editor, I think, rather than a marketing person, who claimed that she was a new breed of agent/editor and she was looking at selling the writer rather than the book, that she was actively seeking people who had some particular thing about them that would make readers interested in them, and that that make people want to read their books.

And what I’m been wondering is, why? who cares? what difference does it make who I am?

There is nothing I can say that is going to make anyone think, “Wow! What a fascinating/terrifying/pitiful/exotic/amusing/inspirational life. I absolutely must rush out and buy her book right now.” I am a middle-aged, middle-class, white, heterosexual, able-bodied woman who has suffered no tragedies, never been famous or related to anyone famous, and never had any very great adventures.

Can I put that in my author info? I don’t think so.

But why should it matter?

C S Lewis never went to Narnia.

J K Rowling is not a boy wizard.

Richard Adams is not a rabbit.

I can be anything I want to be when I write. And I can take you with me if you’ll let me. That’s the power of imagination.

Claire Watts

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4 Responses to Author disinformation

  1. Georgie Wickham says:

    Um, yes. And no? Eloisa James – big romance author – explicitly cultivates her author image –

    “It’s also important that you interact with readers in a real way. You can’t fake it. You have to be on social media, and you can’t be there just getting the reader to buy your book. You’re can’t go on Facebook saying, “Buy my book!” You need the reader to amplify you. The only way she’s going to do that is if she likes you. You have to be real on Facebook. For some people that’s hard and doesn’t work so well. If not, remember you’re an author, you can construct a semi-real you! She might be a cuddlier, more fun you. You can’t go on there and say, “I fought with my husband and I hate him.”
    There can’t be any religion, no politics, nothing really brutal, although you could certainly share things that went wrong. Readers will come back. I find my page incredibly engaging. It has sustained me through a lot of stuff, like when my mother was dying. The people on there are so kind. It’s such a great community. I really love them, and they really love me. Now, I don’t love 65,000 of them… but it can be an incredibly sustaining thing. You just can’t think of it as “this is only to sell my books.” You have to think of it as, “I’m creating this community. They’ll amplify my book and go out to see me and bring a friend along.” I think the worst thing I see is when people have a terrible page. These days it’s very hard to get discovered. There are no bookstores anymore, particularly for beginning people. Sam’s Club, Target, Wal-Mart, those places used to discover people, along with Borders and all the rest. They don’t take the mid-lists anymore and they don’t take the bottom for sure. It’s very hard to discover people now. That means you have to allow yourself to be found, put yourself out there for people to get to know but it has to be you, not, “here’s my book, here’s my book.” [You need to] work to let people get to know you. ”

    Now, I don’t think it has to be as blatantly manipulative as James’ approach (there’s definitely a Brand Thing going on there), and I do acknowledge that I probably found it easier to admire Dickens’ work wholeheartedly before I learned how he treated his wife. But even an author like Kate Atkinson is “doing” Facebook – albeit in a slightly more dignified format than James. I think on the whole, we want to personalise our reading – the days of “Sense and Sensibility: by A Lady” have gone. We expect to have – at a minimum – enough biographical detail to believe we are sharing our precious reading time with someone we would like to welcome to our lives.

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    • I agree with all this and I’m happy to tell people who I am if they want to know but it’s very difficult to make who I am sound engaging in the sort of three sentence format you get in most media. And don’t even get me started on writing a synopsis of my book…

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      • Georgie Wickham says:

        Claire Watts is proud of her bland exterior, which enables her to pass unobtrusively in a crowd, taking quiet notes – later to be transformed into her finely nuanced work. She attributes her colourless personality to having poured all her powerful imagination into her books, which teem with all the life, excitement & adventure that is sadly lacking from her own mundane existence. She is considering acquiring a tattoo to make her more interesting to her readers.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you. Uploading this onto all my digital presences immediately. Would you like a credit?

        Like

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