I was feeding the digi-turtles on my iGoogle page the other day when I noted in my daily literary quotations one in which English author Daphne du Maurier states, “Writers should be read, but neither seen nor heard.”
Yikers. Were that the case, my babies would’ve had a few less new pairs of shoes over the last couple years. For it was while listening to Dan Brown speak years ago that I came to the conclusion which inspired me to write about books/novelists: Authors are rock stars whom don’t just want to, but need to be heard.
When I suggest authors need to be heard, I mean the field of competition for book sales is fierce and publishers’ promotion dollars are limited. So writers take to whatever online stage will have them: blog, live/board chat, twitter, facebook, etc. This form of cyber-hand selling may not be as effective as massive paid-media blitzes, and it’s ridiculously time consuming. But some of the approaches are paying off bit by bit for many by helping build brand and buzz, especially for new authors.
The fly in the i-ointment is that authors should have something to communicate during their online appearances. And that’s where we get to the “rock stars who want to be heard” portion of my observation. Because simply knowing how to write a novel that speaks to an audience doesn’t mean one knows how to, well, speak to an audience. And an aching need to relate the book in one’s heart often is welcomed by an online community more easily than a writer’s burning need to share what’s on her mind about any given topic.
We readers want to get closer to, and talk books with, our favorite authors; in romance, it’s definitely the way loyalties are developed and books are sold over time. But once an author begins discussing issues at large outside of writing, her genre and book fun facts, things can get pretty boring or wicked ugly in no time for a novelist who hasn’t identified the differences between writing a book and composing a blog post or in real-time comments, tweets, etc.
And there are minefields to traverse. What if folks begin to discuss a book online in ways the author thinks are unfavorable or might perceive as detrimental to sales? Many believe a novel is an author’s voice, and when the piece is presented, she’s been heard. So the decision to take part in these discussions becomes a sticky wicket for authors trying to decide whether they have a place in such a discussion.
The larger question du Maurier’s statement raises would appear to be, “Who cares what authors think?” I can tell you a lot of folks concern themselves with much of what authors think, simply because they see authors – especially those presented online in pop-culture venues -- as celebrities. Yet more care, as is apt, because they celebrate writers as accomplished, creative individuals worthy of note.
I’m pretty sure du Maurier knew she was being ironical when she wrote her opinion above, knowing clearly it would be heard. So I don't think she's suggesting writers having no valuable ideas to offer humanity. Rather, I believe she's giving advice for success many of we scribes share regularly, especially apropos in this era of myriad time-sucking, social-media distractions: Shut up and write.
What do you think du Maurier meant? How much – and about what – do you want to hear from authors? As an author, what do you want readers to know about you, your opinions, your books, etc. – and how much time do you spend sharing?