Sometimes, I wonder if anyone reads this blog. I wonder if anyone reads any blog anymore.
When I was first entering the crime fiction writing scene it seemed like everyone had a blog. There were group blogs, like this, that featured rotating author schedules. There were individual blogs. There were blogs that focused mainly on writing advice, while others posted jokes and others posted thoughts about life.
I had a blog. I used it as a disciplinary tool. It ensured that I started my day writing almost every day.
I soon found myself to be part of a blog community. There were other sites I went to every day for news. Some bloggers became online friends and I dropped in regularly to check in on what was going on with them.
There was a sense of community. There was a sense of connection. It may have been an illusion, but if I put people in the industry into two categories, grouped by those I connected to via blogging ten years ago and those I connected to post-blogging connections (those I've "met" through Facebook or Twitter) I'm in touch with more people from the blogging days.
Is it just me? Perhaps. I know lately things have been tense on social media because of politics. The result is that I see more evidence of writer fights and conflict than I recall back in the blogging days. I recently watched a 'friend' unfriend another actual friend simply because that person disagreed with their post.
Long story short, that 'friend' then deleted the post and posted that people were mean and the mean people should unfriend them. I told the 'friend' that just because a person disagreed with them it didn't make them mean.
I was unfriended and blocked.
Now, don't get me wrong. Back in the day there were blogger feuds. I was involved in a few myself, but there wasn't this same 'unfriend/block' action involved that made people disappear.
Perhaps the nature of the interactions back then made it possible to still be professionally connected to people who you weren't chummy with.
All I know is that now, it seems that the community is more fragmented. I know for myself that if someone takes a personal action against me, making it clear that they have no interest in my existence, I have no reason to think that person would want to deal with me professionally either. After all, I've started an author page on Facebook and anyone who wants information about my professional activities can follow that instead of following my personal page. I haven't done much with it because there's been limited interest. In fact, I've noticed some others abandoning their professional pages.
If there's a place people are interacting online regularly I don't know about it. (Didn't the ITW used to have a members only forum? Or did I hallucinate that?) I have limited time for online activities that aren't related to my work so I could never sustain the old blogging routine anyway, but I do find myself wondering if the fragmentation of the community has impacted people's ability to build their profile. I wonder if it's impacted our ability to work together professionally.
I found myself thinking about this yesterday because back when I entered the online community I learned a lot about writing and the business of publishing. There were a lot of blogs that dispensed bad advice. There were a lot of people flocking around self-appointed experts who had never been published themselves and didn't work in the business.
However, there were others who provided a lot of useful insight. I made mistakes starting out, as I'm sure all of us have, but I learned how to format submissions and I certainly learned what not to do after a rejection.
The thing is, I still see people making a lot of basic mistakes and I know that some good information is available online that can be found through a quick Google search. Heck, Spinetingler posts its submission guidelines, yet so many writers start off on the wrong foot because they do not follow them.
I was recently compiling material for Spinetingler's first issue in years. I was astounded at how many writers did not have websites. In some cases I couldn't find email contact information on their website. I tried contacting through Facebook Messenger in those cases - which I'm not a fan of doing - and almost all went unanswered. Did people get the messages or not? I have no way of knowing. Some people do not use Messenger at all.
We receive review copies almost every day. The emails that Spinetingler gets from some publicists about upcoming releases and the review copies we receive are almost the only indication I have of what's being published now.
This is making me rethink the future for the next issue of Spinetingler Magazine. Is it worth it to try to find a way to rebuild social media connections so that I can stay on top of what's going on so that I can determine what authors I should be featuring?
Or is it easier to let publishers and publicists call the shots? I recall a talk from a bookseller several years ago. He explained that even the publishers did not push all of their own books. They would concentrate their marketing on a few specific titles. He even said that sales staff from the publishing houses had told him directly which titles to skip and not stock in store.
Some authors could really lose out. I'm grateful for the publishers who do work with us; we have some wonderful colleagues in the industry. I just don't want to miss out on the authors at large publishing houses who aren't getting as much profile but are also worthy of attention.
Although I certainly don't have the time to do the blogging circuits the way I once did I do miss the old days. In order to combat this issue we're working on updating Spinetingler's Facebook page and website.
It still won't be as ideal as a personal page for communicating but it's a start. If you want to be among the first people to hear our upcoming news about our fall issue release connect to us on Facebook or Twitter.
I'm also thinking about creating a Spinetingler blog that would allow for more interaction. I'm not sure it's worth it; thoughts? Do people feel that social media isn't an effective means of marketing and therefore they aren't interested in forming online connections in the industry?
I think the proof for me was a few months ago. Someone I knew from the old blogging days submitted a story to Spinetingler. The other editor followed up with them about an acceptance but conveyed that the fall issue I was working on was full. The writer replied that they didn't even know I was working on a fall issue.
That's a problem, folks. If we can't get the word out to great writers effectively we lose out on the opportunity to publish them and they're missing submission opportunities.
On that note, here's some news. Submissions are now open for our next issue (release data to be determined). More big news coming soon.