I’m Going to Post it For the World to See*
Subtitle: Reading and Writing in the Age of Social Media
One of the most important changes we’ve seen in the last ten years has been the advent of social media. It’s had a profound impact on the way we communicate. If you keep in touch with friends on Facebook, or catch up on news and sports stories through Twitter, or check out someone’s Goodreads reviews, you know what I mean.
It’s no secret that social media has transformed the way people buy, sell, review, and share crime fiction books. For readers, social media has made it possible to learn about books from all over the world in ways that would’ve been impossible just a few years ago. Choosing what to read isn’t just a matter of going to the local bookshop anymore, and being limited to that store’s selection. Now, readers can choose what they want from among many thousands of different places.
Social media empowers readers in another way, too. It used to be the case that readers relied on professional reviews from sources such as newspapers, Publishers Weekly, and so on. Today, readers do their own reviews, and publishers pay attention. Reviews on outlets such as Goodreads, Amazon, and book blogs play a major role in determining which books sell well. And that impacts what publishers choose to publish. If you keep a book blog, you’re already aware of this because chances are you’ve been asked to do reviews. Publicists, agents, and publishers know that people often base their reading choices on those reviews, and they tap that source of publicity.
What impact does this have on the genre? For one thing, it arguably makes the genre more diverse. More people have more access to more information about more books than ever before. This gives readers many options when it comes to what they will read. Of course, with so much to choose from, it can be harder to plan one’s reading – and budget. But social media has arguably empowered readers to learn about, read, review and discuss books in international communities, something that wasn’t possible just ten years ago.
Let me, if I may, offer one example. I was involved in an online crime book club for a couple of years, and it was a really positive experience. Each month, the group would vote on the crime fiction book to be discussed the following month. Then, we’d meet via Google Hangouts for our discussions. The group included people who lived in the UK, Australia, USA, and France, and could easily have included plenty of other places, too. It was a global discussion, set in motion by crime fiction readers, and it shows the ‘grassroots’ power that social media has when it comes to putting readers in contact with one another.
And it’s not just readers. Social media has also made some dramatic changes for crime writers. For one thing, it’s easier than ever for quality crime fiction to make it to publication. Authors can quickly connect with agents and independent publishers. And Facebook and other social media outlets have made it possible for authors to learn about conferences, workshops and other opportunities to meet people in the crime and mystery publishing field.
There’s also the matter of self-publishing. Even as recently as ten years ago, it wasn’t easy for authors to publish their own work. Today’s social media has meant that authors can connect with professional cover designers, editors, and publicists. And modern technology allows authors to quickly make their work available, and put the word out about it.
Of course, all of this has come at a price. Ask any crime writer about social media, and you’ll probably be told that it takes up a great deal of time. Maintaining a quality blog/website, connecting with readers, and being active on various social media outlets can eat away into writing time unless the author is very careful about it.
And there’s the matter of all of the choices available to today’s crime writers. It’s not just a question of choosing a publisher and hoping for a contract. Social media presents crime writers with a number of options for publishing (traditional publishing, independent publishing, self-publishing, etc.). There are also lots of choices to make when it comes to one’s online presence (Facebook author page, Goodreads author page, Twitter account, Instagram, etc.).
Social media does have its complications at times. But it’s made it possible for readers and writers from all over the world to get together, as we are for Mystery Thriller Week. It allows for rich, interesting, fun discussions of what’s going on in the world of crime fiction. And it opens up all sorts of opportunities for those who love crime fiction to work together. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
What are your thoughts on this? How has social media impacted the way you decide what you’re going to read next? If you’re a crime writer, how do you use social media to help you do your work?
Margot Kinberg is a mystery author and Associate Professor as well as a participating MTW author.
NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Dec3 ‘s We’re All Friends.