Writers are expected to promote their books: Tanya Huff on social media

Tanya Huff is successful multi-genre author. Her most recent book is The Silvered and covers the convergence of science and magic. After an interview for Geek Native I was able to tag on some questions about social media and the future of publishing. Tanya kindly played ball and provided some insightful answers.

The takeaway for me here is how that writers are expected to promote their books. I think that's a takeaway for study because it fuels the question; "What do publishers do these days?". Social media can become a chore, with every comment or share carefully weighed.

I have to wonder how many authors have two Twitter accounts; one public, one private. The public/private division may happen at a platform level; Facebook for private stuff with Twitter for public.

Wikipedia says you've had stories published since 1980. How has the industry changed in that time?

My first short story came out in 1986 and my first novel in 1988 so Wikipedia is a bit ahead of the game.

The biggest change I've noticed is that writers, even at the large traditional companies, are now expected to take an active part in the promotion of their books. Back in the day, we were only expected to write them.

What do social media sites like LiveJournal and Twitter mean to busy authors? Are they another chore or useful?

They're a chore because we use them for promotion and that makes them part of the job so we have to weigh everything we post for effect. They're also a way for us to keep in contact with other writers and that helps fight the feelings of isolation that writers can sometimes fall into.

Do you have any suspicions on what influences book sales the most? Size of established fan base? Reviews and commendations? The efforts of publishers and marketing? A roll of the dice?

Luck. Loyal fans, reviews and commendation, marketing all help but you can have the most loyal fans – and mine are – and the best marketing and great reviews and still not get the numbers. It's a matter of your book pinging the gestalt at the right time.

Do you think the industry is better off with or without Amazon?

Not now – if Amazon suddenly disappeared today the hole in distribution would be terrifying. Would we have been better off had Amazon never happened? Hard to say. Things would be different for sure but different isn't necessarily better or worse. I disapprove of monopolies in principle but I'm not sure if Amazon is actively targeting the competition or just very good at what it does.

What do you think the story series of the future will be like? All electronic? Available for free?

I wouldn't even want to attempt to predict the future but I can say that if my books become available for free without another income stream replacing the cover price, I'll have to stop writing. The income from my writing is my only income and has been since 1992. Free books doesn't equal free groceries. Or free housing. Or free medical care. If books are free and provide no income then writing is no longer a profession, it's a hobby.


Please note that this article started life in 2014 on Zebra Eclipse, and moved here ten years later in a tidy up. 

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