Being Online

I’ve just read an article which gave me pause for thought. And that thought is: I need to draw better e-boundaries.

Prior to entering into a publishing relationship with Freight, I had established a modus vivendi with Facebook. I had no FB friends whom I didn’t know in real life. No readers, no friends of friends, no people after my business (freelance editors, publicists etc.). My publisher suggested I turn my personal FB page into an author page – I already had all these captive readers!! I refused. After taking advice from my social media guru (aka my younger son) set up an author page.

Then came Twitter. See above.

Though Twitter has been great for making contacts, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to use it in a smarter, more focused way. I’m never going to be one of those people who’s online every five minutes, cataloguing my life and my opinions, and I don’t have the energy to get involved in 140-character debates. It’s both too involved and too limiting. I can’t be squashing my thoughts into Twitter-bites. (Twites?) A more profitable way of using Twitter might simply be to follow hash-tags that relate to areas of interest – West Wales, Welsh books, historical crime, crime festivals – and leave it at that.

Even just writing that down as a possibility makes me feel better.

At a crime festival I attended earlier this year I met an author I’ve admired since their first book came out. I’m not going to mention their name or even their gender as historical crime fiction is a small field and I don’t want to identify this writer who has taken such pains to be private. This is an author of literary historical crime of the highest standard; their work is properly Reithian – it entertains, educates and informs.

The reason I’m mentioning this author is that they have no online presence. None. I don’t mean you can’t find them online – there are plenty of articles and interviews, but the author maintains no online presence of their own, whatsoever. No website, no public Facebook page, no Twitter feed – I’m not going to go through all the social media, you get the picture.

And do their books still sell without relentless electronic self-promotion? Yes, they do.

Like mine, this author’s early books were set in a highly specific geographical area and, the author told me, that helped to sell them. It was all about turning up to events, networking in the real world, forming an actual eye-to-eye relationship with readers, booksellers and librarians.

I want to do the same. That’s one of the reasons I set up Crime Cymru – so that I would have meaningful, real world relationships with other crime writers whose life or work is set in Wales. Yes, following each other on Twitter and making supportive remarks can be useful, but not as useful as actual, real world contact.

It’s a bit early, I know, for new year’s resolutions but I’m resolving to worry less about social media in 2017 – specifically Twitter. Instead of agonising about whether to follow people back, I’ll just hit follow and see what comes of it – unless their profile suggests that they’re some species of knuckle-dragging homophobe, racist or misogynist, obviously. And you can always unfollow.

And I shall put my energies where my instincts have always told me to put them – into real-world relationships. I’m better in person than on the phone and goodness knows what my online presence suggests of me – if I took the necessary time to examine all these posts with the kind of fine-toothed comb and editorial eye I use for my fiction, I’d never write any books.

Having said that, the phone is beginning to feel like ‘real’ communication these days. And, in that context, I’m doing a phone interview tomorrow with a journalist from Golwg, a well-regarded Welsh-language arts magazine. I’m not the biggest fan of telephone interviews ever – in fact I’ve only done one and that was a kind of dry run with a producer from Radio Kent to see what kind of interviewee I’d make and whether I could speak to somebody without being able to see them. (I eventually did a series of interviews with the station from a sound-proofed media booth at Canterbury Christ Church university. Odd and it made me inclined to gabble (more than usual) as I couldn’t see the reactions of the person I was being interviewed by.)

I’m more nervous than I might be as I’m doing the interview in my second language, which I don’t get the chance to speak much. I’ve been practising by interviewing myself on my daily walks – dogwalkers must wonder what this odd woman is muttering to herself about as she strides about the fields! I know, if the going gets tough, I could always just fall back into English but it’s a point of pride not to if I can avoid it. I am a Welsh writer. I might not write in Welsh as I don’t think in Welsh but my books are set there and if I’m to claim any kind of authenticity as a Cardiganshire girl, I’d better make the effort to sound like one.

Till anon.


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