• icon
  • icon
  • icon
  • icon
  • icon
  • icon
  • Hannah Fielding - Romance Novelist

Twitter v books

I dreamed of being an author from a very young age – from the day I first understood how the many books on my parents’ shelves were created and formed the idea that someday I could do that myself.

In those days, to be an author was to be someone who wrote books. It was that simple. Other than dealing with your publisher and engaging in the occasional marketing activity, such as a book-signing event or penning an article for the press, the author’s job was simple: write the next book.

That was my dream job. All I ever wanted to do was write books, many books!

Fast-forward to 2012, and I finally felt ready to seek a publisher for my debut novel, Burning Embers – a book that in fact I began writing in my twenties, but shelved while raising my children and running my business. I was excited that finally I would be living the long-cherished dream of being an author.

But wait… the author job description had changed! No longer could an author just focus on writing books, it seemed. ‘Facebook,’ said my publisher. ‘A blog. Twitter. Goodreads. Instagram. Tumblr. Pinterest. Google-Plus. You must be out there, all the time, making connections, marketing your fiction.’

There was quite a learning curve for me, as I’m sure you can imagine, but soon I did as all authors today must do: I settled into a way of ‘being out there’ that works for me. I blog regularly on topics that interest me and relate to my fiction, and I post once or twice a day on Facebook and Twitter, where I connect with fellow authors and readers. I limit my ‘out there’ work to this, and am careful to ensure that I spend no more than one hour a day on such activities, because for me my novel writing must always come first.

This is what works for me, but all authors are different, and it strikes me that ‘being out there’ is a source of friction for writers. Last week, for example, British writer Joanna Trollope whipped up something of a frenzy by criticising JK Rowling’s ‘insatiable need and desire to be out there all the time… that’s entirely driven by [her] ego’. She was referring to Rowling creating a mass following on Twitter and tweeting several times a day.

People were quick to jump to JK Rowling’s defence and point out that she is a writer who has adapted very well to modern means of marketing and communication. A Radio Times reaction piece praised Rowling for having ‘truly discovered how to make her newest content sing’ on the internet.

While I do admire JK Rowling’s ability to be ‘out there’ so much, I wonder how that affects her ability to write the next book – which, to my mind, is still the author’s job.

In addition, I think Joanna Trollope made some points that are worth consideration. She said ‘she deliberately chose to stay away from social media because she expressed everything she wanted to in her books’ (source: the Guardian). I have a lot of respect for this approach. It reminds me of Italian author Elena Ferrante, who was determined to be anonymous. She wrote to her publisher before her first book was published: ‘I’ve already done enough for this long story: I wrote it. If the book is worth anything, that should be sufficient.’ (For more on this story, see my article ‘Thoughts on the exposure of Elena Ferrante’). I am also reminded of novelist Jean Rhys, who wrote: ‘All of a writer that matters is in the book or books. It is idiotic to be curious about the person.’

Joanna Trollope also expressed concern over the future of the author profession: ‘It’s so depressing to think that aspiring authors will look at famous writers with millions of followers, and think that that is how you have to operate.’ I agree that is not how you have to operate as an author. You may do; you may not – but it is a choice, and you are perfectly entitled to make it for yourself.

The key, I think, is to be careful not to stray far from your own definition of ‘author’. For me, being an author means always writing the next book, and so that is what I choose to do with the majority of my time. But in today’s world, no writer need be isolated, and that is where I find this new world of social media really comes into its own. It’s wonderful to connect to like-minded people – such as yourself. So thank you for reading my post today. Now, I had better get on with my novel-in-progress…

  • TREKnRay

    Thanks for a very interesting blog. I just read your linked blog about the outing of Elena Ferrante. When the outing came about I heard about it on NPR. I was outraged by the invasion of privacy when I heard it. I have a dislike for local TV news gotcha reporting. When they try to interview someone who refuses to be interviewed they make the refusal sound like they have a right to harass and their victim should just relent. If the reporter’s request is not granted the victim should be left alone. At least the tone of the news anchor should not be sarcastic as they are on our local news stations.

    • hannahfielding

      I quite agree. One of the greatest issues today is lack of boundaries, and lack of respect for boundaries. Thank you for commenting.

  • Love, mystery and desire under the scorching Spanish sun. A young writer becomes entangled in an illicit gypsy love affair, pulling her into a world of secrets, deception and dark desire.

    More about the book…

    Secrets, danger and passion under the scorching Spanish sun. A compelling story of love and identity, danger and desire, and the uncertainty of happiness when two worlds collide.

    More about the book…
    Buy from amazon.com

    Some encounters can never be forgotten… On the ancient island of Helios, Greece, a young archaeologist becomes caught in a web of dark obsession, mystery and seduction.

    More about the book…