Start the conversation without me

At least a couple of times a week, exceptionally interesting and informative blog conversations pop up all over my little corner of the netverse. Some days, everyone seems to settle for posting quiz results, car repair woes, and head cold sagas, but other days, the repartee just seem to take off. Current events. Politics. The state of publishing. The popularity of YA/urban fantasy/pick your genre. Conversations that inform as well as entertain, that make an hour or more that I don’t have flash by in a wink.
I don’t start any of these discussions. When it comes to blogging, I’m a wallflower, a back of the packer. Once in a while, I post a comment or two, but for the most part, I come in late and make do with reading the comments of others, following the links to other blogs, the play-by-play and sidebar discussions. Like catching a wave, it seems that if I don’t catch these things as they’re developing, I’m soon swamped by the sheer volume. What’s worse, if I don’t read the conversation until a day or two later, it’s like reading last week’s newspaper. I’m too late. Everyone else has already moved on to other discussions. I might as well be reading a history book. “Blogging, Last Thursday.” Early Cretaceous. Sorry, we’ve moved on.
It’s so easy for me to fall into that blog trap, where the urge to remain current battles the drive to work on the current wip. I tell myself that it’s important that I stay on top of industry scuttlebutt, uncover every hint about which subgenre is heating up and which is cooling off, which editor has changed houses.
But then that little voice gibbers in the background, telling me that unless I work on novel proposals and short stories, unless I write and unless I sell, I won’t have any reason to keep up with the news.
Then I wonder whether I need to keep up with the news at all. Do I really need to make my presence known? Will it matter? Yes, I have a book coming out next week. I’ve blogged about the trials of writing it, posted sample chapters on my website, My Space’d, guest blogged, and newsgrouped. I have no idea whether I’ve done enough, though I tend to think I haven’t. And yet I’m left wondering…
So, the question for the house: think of your top five favorite active writers. Limit it to SF/F, or romance, or genre in general, or however you wish. How many of them did you learn of through discussions with friends, bookstore recommendations, what once were the usual routes? Which of them did you encounter online via blogs (theirs or their publisher’s)? Are there any who you don’t see online at all?
And finally, even though the answer may seem obvious, I’m still going to ask…given your answers to the previous questions, do you feel an online presence is a necessity for a writer these days?

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  1. 1. Angela

    There have been a few writers whom I’ve discovered via reading their blogs. There have been more whom I’ve vowed never to read because something on their blogs strikes me as so offensive or egregious. Not that I don’t have writers whose books I love & whose politics or personality I don’t like–but given how there’s never going to be enough time to read all the books I want in the world, when it comes to prioritizing, I’ll strike an author off my list if their blog really, really offends me.

    For my current top favorite writers, I think mostly they are old favorites, ones whom I discovered via reading reviews online or by friends’ recommendations. But for discovering new writers I definitely enjoy reading their comments on blogs (their own or others’). And often I hear about new writers I like on the blogs of authors I already read (“My friend x is coming out w/this amazing book, you should all read it!”).

  2. 2. Lynne Thomas

    I found a couple of new authors through this blog. I had already been reading Tate and Kelly, but I picked up Mindy Klasky’s latest book, along with a book by Marjorie M. Liu after seeing her blog.

    So, yes, sometimes it works.

  3. 3. Karen Wester Newton

    Yes. I think the fact that publishers expect authors to do their own publicity means an author has to have a web presence.

    However, whether that really helps an author get more popular or not is another question. My understanding is that book stores like authors to have web sites because it helps them answer customer questions. And I think once a writers has readers, those folks like to go to the author’s site to check what’s coming up. I do know some avid readers who will try a new author and if they like the book, they then check for that author’s website to see what else is out there.

    As someone trying to break in, I have a website because supposedly editors sometimes check to see if new writers have them.

    Of course it you’re Stephen King or JK Rowling, you don’t worry about it. But in my opinion, most authors can’t afford not to have a website.

  4. 4. lyda morehouse

    I feel the same way. I have a serious love/hate relationship with blogging. I sense, as you do, that it’s an authorial obligation, but I also think that readers (of blogs and books) are smart enough to sense when you’re writing just to be noticed versus actually having something important/interesting/humorous to say.

    Thus I tend to blog only when I have something to say — or I spend FAR TOO MUCH TIME thinking of something that’s actually meaningful to me — time that I should be spending writing fiction.

    I hear ya, sister.

  5. 5. Lisa

    All of my favorite authors at present were discovered through the wonder of the internet; through LJ, more specifically, since I read several booklogs there. But although I read a few author’s blogs, they’re mostly because I’m friends with the author (not always because their blog is amazing and interesting…), and I definitely place the most emphasis on word-of-mouth. Whether those recs come online or IRL, it doesn’t really matter.

  6. 6. Kristine Smith

    I do notice how favorite writers behave online. Yes, in one instance I was so repulsed by an award-winning writer’s behavior that I swore I’d never willingly read any of their work.

    Most of my blogging is pretty mundane. Dogs. Around the house. Lyda, I was following your fish misadventures very closely. I felt so bad for you.

    I feel that good blogging, like perfect pitch, is a gift. I think the most successful are blogging extroverts, who think as they write, or for whom writing *is* thinking–it pours out, lucid and funny and touching, all on the first take.

    I rewrite and edit. I shouldn’t have to do that. It’s too much like work, and I do think blogging should be fun. Otherwise, there’s no point.

  7. 7. Laura Reeve

    I believe authors should have an online presence, such as an informational web site with email contacts. In 2004, my agent advised me to start a web site and after it was operating, I wrestled with the question about blogging. I decided I didn’t have anything unique to add to the blogosphere, but I kept questioning my decision…

    After reading this entry, however, I went back through my book purchases in the last couple years and realized that I’ve never bought a *novel* based upon a blog, although I regularly read blogs by authors, agents, and editors. I try to read between one and three SF/F novels a month and I usually expand my reading list through blurb and first chapter browsing, both online and in bookstores. I’ve also recently bought novels based upon the recommendations of friends I trust and, once in a while, based upon exposure in the SF Book Club or Locus.

    Unfortunately, I don’t know if I’m an average SF/F reader or book buyer.

  8. 8. David de Beer

    A two-part answer:

    1)>think of your top five favorite active writers.

    John Irving: Once upon a slow day, a bored bookstore clerk (now ex-bookstore slave, thank God) riffled through his books and found a book called Garp…
    online presence – uhm, does he have a website? hell if I know.

    George Martin: By the power of comic book adaptations!
    online presence – yeah, I read it and most of it’s boring but now and then he talks interesting stuff and I like his football talks.

    Charles de Lint: found him in the library.
    online presence – I think so, I’m “friends” with him on myspace but I never check to see for blogs, just watch the bulletins, but by now it hardly matters.

    ok, that’s some of superfaves, but there’s a difference between them and:

    2) New writers:

    John Scalzi – picked up his book because I found his blog and was curious;
    Jim Hines – can’t remember, heard about him, found his lj and he makes me laugh, but by then I was already committed to buying Goblin Quest, so am actually not sure.
    Cherie Priest – discovered via online drooling and raving of other people. The drooling of others was far more effective than her online presence, which is cute, and I do like it for the fact that she’s not playing to the crowds, but would I have noticed her from blogging? I don’t know, but it does keep me up to date with what she’s busy with, sold, etc, etc. So, it helps, and for new writers, having access to blogs of people like Jim Hines, Eric Flint and John Scalzi is gold, because they’re very honest about the process and business of publishing.
    And then there’s the likes of Jeff Vandermeer, who’s blog tends to be contemplative about writing itself, and that’s exciting for me as both writer and fan.

    So, to answer the question, the important distinction between my groups 1) and 2) is that the latter group were all found online.

    >readers (of blogs and books) are smart enough to sense when you’re writing just to be noticed versus actually having something important/interesting/humorous to say.

    yeah.

Author Information

Kristine Smith

I'm a scientist by day, spec fic writer by nights and weekends. Author of the Jani Kilian SF series. Owned by two overgrown puppies. Visit site.

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