Author visibility

8 April 2014 / Leave a Comment
In this DIY author world, in the middle of the digital revolution, it’s all about visibility, platform building and growing an audience. But just how visible do we have to be? How much of ourselves do we have to put out there? And how much do we have to interact with other people?

This may sound anti-social, in such an online social era, but since putting out my novel Searching for Von Honningsbergs on Screwpulp in January this year, my real writing has been hijacked by time spent on Twitter, Instagram, Wattpad, Goodreads and Google+. By Friday, invariably, I have social media burnout, my head aches and when I lie down to sleep I can feel my eyes scrolling up and down as if I’m on my smartphone.

I’m experiencing what one of my friends described as ‘a constant state of agitation.’ There’s this constant fear of what has someone posted where, that I have to check and respond to. So I find myself flitting between the different apps, thanking people, acknowledging people, accepting friend requests, adding people to my circles, responding to comments … and when I tally the time I’ve spent on this in a day, I wonder what it all meant anyway?

With Wattpad I gain followers all the time, without having to do a thing; people from all over the world, from Turkey, India, Latvia, Mexico, France, loads from the Phillipines, as well as the usual suspects such as the US and UK. I try to send a short thank you message to all of them. Then there’s also people that vote and comment on my work from out of nowhere. At first, I was putting all this pressure on myself to respond to everyone with something witty and writerly, but with my story Bequest being featured at the end of this month, I’m realising it’s unsustainable to respond to everyone in a deeply meaningful way.

I’m posting a chapter a week of a futuristic YA novel named Silver on Wattpad. I’m starting to get readers who are particularly engaged with this book and are making comments like ‘I would like to hear more about this …’, ‘or you could develop this further …’ After working in solitary confinement as a writer for years and years, I appreciate each and every person who takes the time to think and comment about my work. It’s really interesting working on Silver with  readers’ voices in my head, because in a way they are helping shape this book.

I’m learning lessons, as I go along. If a reader makes a storyline suggestion I can say, ‘great idea, thanks,’ but I can ignore it. It's still my work and I can't please everyone. And I’m being more careful with who I engage with online. I had a real creep scare the living daylights out of me a month or so back. He was off the planet weird, but it’s okay, because I’ve written him into Silver. Even creeps can be useful. But it taught me that just because I’m ‘audience building’ doesn’t mean I have to get into a conversation with every person that contacts me. I can be polite, but brief, I don’t have to give too much of myself unless that person warrants it.

The other day, Olga Grushin accepted my friend request on Goodreads. I couldn’t help but send her a gushing email, about how a good friend, with excellent taste in literature, had recommended The Dream Life of Sukhanov, and how I thought it was one of the best things I’d read. And I was happy when she didn’t respond, because she’s a serious writer, and she doesn’t need to.

And it made me reflect on what I’m trying to do. I want people to like my words, not my author profile picture, or some gimmicky youtube video of me standing on my head in a onesie before I write. I don’t think people need to know whether I wrote 1500k by 5.30am this morning or how many short blacks I drank to get me going. I do appreciate if anyone takes the time to comment on one of my stories or my posts and I will try to respond where I can. I can be visible, and discoverable, but people don’t have to know everything about me. And I still need to be producing my real work.

Rowena Wiseman writes literary fiction and children's stories. Her novel Searching for Von Honningsbergs was longlisted for the Australian Vogel Award in 2007 and has been published as an ebook on Screwpulp:*=info&id=70



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