Hungry Authors

TMI buttonFrank Bruni recently wrote a fascinating New York Times column about politicians desperate for attention. One of them was former Congressman Anthony Weiner, now famous for tweeting pictures of his privates to someone other than his wife, and then denying it.

Weiner explained his reckless behavior by saying he craved adulation, friends,  attention, and relentlessly sought them all via Facebook and Twitter. It was a sobering story and I think it has some lessons for us as authors.

When I published my first book, there was no Internet that we could search to see how our books were doing and where our careers might be headed.  There were reviews in print, and that was it.  By a certain point after a book was published, there wasn’t much to read anymore about yourself or your book, unless you were touring and there were interviews or features along the way.

Today, we’re drowning in information.  Maureen Dowd put it cleverly in the Times: “Everybody is continuously connected to everybody else on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, on Reddit, e-mailing, texting, faster and faster, with the flood of information jeopardizing meaning. Everybody’s talking at once in a hypnotic, hyper din: the cocktail party from hell.”

And we authors now have endless opportunities to make ourselves miserable by insatiably reading every last Amazon, B&N, or Goodreads review; checking whether our Facebook author page is getting likes; worrying about whether our tweets will get re-tweeted; obsessing over comments on our blogs; setting up Google alerts for every mention of our names and books; worrying that our web sites aren’t getting enough traffic.  Some authors, begging for attention, even go overboard and live too much of their lives in social media, recording every twitch of consciousness as if the fate of publishing depended on it.  Their neediness–however disguised–is epic and sometimes pathetic.

What we do as authors is so very different from politicians, and we spend so much more time alone.  But that’s exactly what makes the Internet as seductive  for us as it is for them.  It’s a drug we should all worry about relying too heavily on, at the expense of our work.  Increasing how many followers we have on Twitter or friends on Facebook shouldn’t be more important than making ourselves better writers.

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8 Responses

  1. Maybe not so much an addiction, Lev, as necessary to stay in the game. Most traditional publishers watch numbers carefully and can be merciless when it comes to keeping a series going.

  2. An excellent commentary, Lev, sending my blood pressure sky high again to think of it all. Yet as Camille notes, we have to do it–or lose the race with all those runners galloping past.us.

    • We don’t have to do it all, or do it in such a way that it makes us nuts and/or we offer TMI. And hey, way before the Internet there were plenty of people galloping past all of us. That never changes.

  3. I’m grateful that my first book was published way back in 1999. It’s still in print, still pays royalties, and has made more than any other title, even though I didn’t have so much as a website those first couple of years. That acts as a reminder that a great book – and that mysterious thing called luck – are more important than our social media presence. I do the social media I enjoy, in moderation, but I don’t believe my future success depends on being “out there” all the time.

    • I hear you! My best seller came out around then, has been translated into more than ten languages, and sells regularly, now at over 300,000 copies. All without benefit of anything more than word of mouth. MY partner’s first book has also done well, selling through three editions and staying in print since 1980. There is life without social media. And success.

  4. As a reader, I’m pretty happy about the excess of information on many authors and their works that is available online. The discovery of an unfamiliar author is a delight that breeds curiosity. Who is this person? Where is he or she from? Since I love what I’ve just read, are more titles available?
    That said, I’m easily sated on minimum information and am not plugged into much social media (Goodreads to some extent, Dorothy L 5 days a week, and Facebook logins of less than once a month). Too, I find even the idea of Twitter downright repugnant. I terminated cable TV becausol.e it was too intrusive, but that’s just me.
    What you’ve said, Lev, gets to the quick of where we all are at this stage of the Information Age complete with our own needs and anxieties. Good luck to us all in finding a happier medium when it comes to information contr

    • The situation for readers is very different from that for authors, who are being driven mad by ever-growing demands and expectations.

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