Sunday, April 17, 2011

To Support or Not Support? A Thorny Question

Yesterday, I attended a well publicized literary festival in one of my local communities. This is an annual event run by an arts council and although the tables were nicely arranged and there were lots of great volunteers, there weren’t many more customers than there were displayers; however, this isn’t an unusual phenomenon at literary events. Unless organizers tie book events into larger events (fairs/festivals, etc.), or hold these events in high traffic areas, the customers won’t go out of their way to show up.

It’s interesting because this morning, I was on a forum where a writer was lamenting that the announcement of his new book—placed on several venues, and to family and friends—generated virtually no response. A couple of others writers commented that they’ve noticed a definite decrease in the amount of support and comments they’ve received on their blogs and for their books. Hmm. So, what’s going on? Well, I can only speak from personal experience.

When I started to build an internet presence about three years ago, it was great fun to meet other virtual friends, to “friend” all sorts of people on MySpace, etc., and to chat. A number of people proudly announced their books and asked for tags, votes in contests, reviews, and other forms of support. I tried to comply, but it soon became clear that the number of writers asking for support was multiplying faster than rabbits in spring.

Frankly, I was a bit taken aback that strangers were asking me for favors because I would never ask someone to vote for me for anything. Also, my review requests went directly to reviewers, not to forums at large, so to speak. I’ve also never put out a general requests for tags; if I tagged someone’s book, I didn’t ask to be tagged back, although I’m starting to now because tagging takes time. To this day, though, I don’t expect anything back from anyone. I make announcements, try to keep people informed about what I’m doing, and let it go at that. Some might call me a poor marketer, and maybe I am, but I have to do what feels right for me.

The thing is, I’ve drastically cut the number of votes I cast, tags I give, and comments of support because I’m overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people asking. It’s like an electronic tsunami that threatens to drown me if I don’t pull back and limit by internet time. Much of the week, I have to skim the many forum posts I receive daily, and I’ve already left a few groups.

The bottom line is that we all do what we can, but there are so many writers and so many requests that it’s becoming more difficult to offer the level of support that colleagues wish for. It’s like yesterday’s literary event: too many sellers, not enough buyers, and a little less support every year, for plenty of good reasons. But you know, hasn’t it always been this way, to some degree, for writers?


1 comment:

Pat Bertram said...

Good points. I'm noticing a definite drop in responses. Too many authors, too many requsts, too little reciprocity, and too few sales in relation to the time it takes to network has turned a lot of authors off of social networking as a way of promoting. And readers? They have always been in short supply, at least in relation to the millions of books that are published every year.

I don't know what the answer is. Just keep your name out there, I suppose, until you reach a critical mass of readers (the point where sales take on a life of their own) or until you get lucky.