Friday, July 3, 2009

Author, Friend, or Both? What do fans want?

Let’s face it. We are a very connected world. And getting in touch with your favorite author is a lot easier these days.

I’ll never know if that letter I wrote to July Blume years ago telling her that Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret changed my life was lost in the mail, or if Ms. Blume just never got around to penning a reply. But these days, a quick note to an author is only a few keystrokes and a click of a mouse away. It’s instant access.

But are authors too accessible? And how much contact does a reader reallywant with an author?

I found myself asking that question a few weeks ago when I ran across a lovely write up someone had given my contemporary romance series on her blog. I noticed she was on Facebook and rushed to add her as a friend. Then I stopped. And wondered. Does this person really want to be my “friend”?

Just because she enjoyed my books, it doesn’t automatically mean she wants to share in the boring, sometimes inane updates that usually occupy my Facebook page. I’ll bet a lot of those people who have “friended” me are regretting it now, because unlike some authors, when it comes to sites like Facebook, my writing persona and real me are one in the same. And the real me just isn’t all that interesting.

It causes me to wonder just how much a reader who may have found me online really wants to know about me. Do you care if I went to the gym? Or that I’m watching Pride & Prejudice for the one-hundredth time? Or that revisions are kicking my butt?

My guess is no. I wouldn’t force that on anyone.

With Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and all the other social networking entities out there, the author/reader relationship has ample opportunity to grow. But maybe that should happen only if it’s agreed upon by both parties. I know a lot of readers may think it’s presumptuous to believe their favorite authors would want to be their online friend, but I personally believe authors shouldn’t assume a fan wants to be anymore than just a fan to you.

Tell me what you think?

Readers, do you mind when an author chooses to “friend you” on a social networking site?

Authors, what balance do you try to keep between your “fans” and “friends”?


Liane Spicer said...

I've been pondering this question recently after stumbling across a few lovely reviews of my novel on Goodreads and the Harlequin site. I wanted to thank the readers but felt like I was crashing into their world.

I decided then that I would add any reader who wanted to be on my friend list on any site, and of course respond to any overtures, but I'm not going to initiate contact. Still don't know if it's the right thing to do, though, but I'm sure that some readers feel harassed by authors 'pursuing' online.

Phyllis Bourne said...

Good question, Farrah. As a writer, I'm just so touched and honored when someone likes my book. It's tempting to reach out.

I have to remind myself that a reader, I love the world they created. I just want them to do it again and again.

C.J. Ellisson said...

I wrote a whole long, excellently worded response and the system didn't post it - darn it!!

Okay - short version: I have a lot of experience in this area with Facebook. If you'd like some help setting something up similar to what I've done, then please feel free to contact me. If I can save anyone the hours it took me then I'll consider it my good deed for the day.

Cheers and good luck,
writing as C.J. Ellisson

Anonymous said...

I was a reader before I was a writer. I love the fact that I've met almost all of my favorite authors - some of which I consider more of a friend than an acquaintance.

And I'm always happy when someone 'friends' me on myspace because they love historical romance.

But Farrah - You've hit on something. Readers might not want to connect the same way I do.

Personally, I don't want to seem stand-offish or unapproachable - but there may be those who want an arm's distance.

How *do* we know?
I'm going to be pondering this -
Hugs -

Anonymous said...

As a reader, a computer user and a "consumer" in general, I hate it when things are pushed at me. This is completely unnecessary when it is so easy for me to go and get things from the web or other electronic sources. For me, pushing is one step away from advertising and spam, which I also dislike intensely.

Authors who make themselves accessible but without foisting themselves upon my web spaces would be ideal for me. Of course, I fully understand if they are too shy or too busy to do even that. As a writer, that sort of thing scares me a bit.

PatriciaW said...

Depends. I love connecting with authors who move me to think, laugh, cry, or simply escape via their books. If anything, I worry about the reverse. Yes, the author wants me to pay for and read her book, but does she really want to "friend" me?

I like making contact and realizing that authors aren't imaginary beings nor extraordinary in the sense that they are outside the realm of reality. They are real and human and approachable. That works for me.