Friday

Author Molly Shapiro: From Hermit to Huckster

Molly Shapiro's debut novel, Point, Click, Love, is the very essence of a modern novel. I was sure that someone like Shapiro, who (quite literally) wrote the book on relations online would find managing her online "voice" seamlessly easy. But know this--when you struggle to calibrate your online voice, you are not alone. It is a universal quandary, although Shapiro raises some wonderful points about how authors can make decisions about what to post--and what to skip.

From Hermit to Huckster
By Molly Shapiro


When I published my first book of short stories, Eternal City, back in 1997, writers had just begun grumbling about how much publicity they were being required to do on their own. Now, almost 15 years later, as I publish my debut novel, Point, Click, Love, writers are a million times more involved in the marketing of their books. And while the grumbling hasn’t gone away completely, most of us have accepted—even embraced—this new role.

Sure, publicity and marketing are time-consuming, labor-intensive endeavors that take us away from our real job—writing. And yes, people who choose writing as a career aren’t always terribly outgoing, bold or self-assured, the kind of qualities that make a good salesman. But I’ve found that there are some advantages to being directly involved in the day-to-day publicity of a book.

It used to be that writers had to wait around for a newspaper review or a bookstore reading or a royalty check to get a sense of how their book was being received. Now we get a constant stream of online feedback from friends, followers, bloggers and readers. They post pictures of our books in stores across the country on Facebook. They Tweet about how excited they are to read our book. They write reviews on Amazon, where we can also track our sales—hour by hour, city by city. It can feel overwhelming at times. It can feel underwhelming when we don’t get the kind of reception we’d like. But the fact is that it always makes us feel that somebody really is out there reading and thinking and reacting, which is why many of us write in the first place.

But in order to get, you first have to give. It’s the writer’s job to give their Facebook friends and Twitter followers something to respond to. Because Point, Click, Love deals with love and relationships in the digital age, I might post about celebrity marriages gone bad or new stats about online dating. But rather than just sticking to a set of talking points, I’ll also post about my kids or my travels or random thoughts about the latest news. Still, I’m conscious of not coming off as too self-absorbed. Writers should definitely talk about themselves, but they should talk about other people too. This is SOCIAL media, not ME-ME-ME media.

Which leads to the next big question: How much to give? I don’t go by the motto: The more the better. While posting, tweeting and blogging are great, there can be too much of a good thing. So I often find myself trying to gauge whether I’m doing too much or not doing enough. Sometimes I hesitate before posting about my book for fear my friends and followers will see me as a dreaded spammer. Sometimes I’ll go a whole day without posting a thing and feel guilty about it, but I’ll stay quiet rather than force it, particularly if I’m not in the mood to be social.

All this worrying and wondering tends to take valuable time and energy away from writing. But this is the new world we live in, like it or not. While a part of me longs for the days when a writer could be the recluse, holing up in their room surrounded by books, removed from their sometimes adoring, sometimes indifferent public, another part of me likes how writing books has become less of a monologue and more of a conversation.

You can read more by Molly Shapiro at www.mollyshapiro.com.

8 comments:

  1. Nicely put, Molly.

    I'm a social person and some of this comes naturally--but not every day. Those days, it's better not to force it, at least for me.

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  2. I think we live in the age of compartmentalization -- we have our different selves, our public self, our private, the self for "Friends," and true friends, and you've done a nice job writing about this dichotomy for writers -- look forward to reading your novel -- congrats!! Truly, the author of LIE.

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  3. Petrea and Caroline--so true. Sometimes I'm quite happy to chat on Twitter, and other days it feels like I've stumbled into a crowded cocktail party where I don't know anyone.

    Compartmentalization probably existed before social media, but it was just less obvious?

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  4. Yes, Sarah! I love the "crowded cocktail party where I don't know anyone" analogy about Twitter! Very much how I feel sometimes. While on Facebook, I feel like I'm among friends and family, which I sort of am!

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  5. I'm finding all of this to be true. I long to be back on my own with my laptop, but at the same time I am excited to be helping my debut book on its way publicity-wise. A terrible clash though, requiring distinct 'compartments' of time so I don't go crazy, get wasted and use my energy unwisely.
    Thanks!

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  6. Yes, chillcat! I'm struggling with "compartments" of time as well.

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  7. I always tell my author-friends to use the bits of social media they enjoy, because if they aren't having fun it's going to be obvious! And who wants to read Tweets from a cranky writer? Not me!

    Just when I have a good grip on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn -- along comes Pinterest. I'm still figuring that one out!

    Thanks for the insights!

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  8. I related so much to every part of this.

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