Authors are becoming influencers, and it’s changing how we read
Writers are coming out of their shells and making the most of what social media can offer. Gwenllian Page-Gibby discusses this phenomenon, and how it might influence our taste in books.
Have you ever wondered how writers experience the creative processes or how they conjure up their characters? Well, now you need wonder no longer, as writers are now turning into online influencers. Whether on Twitter, Instagram or TikTok, writers are no longer sitting behind their laptop screens or typewriters and are, instead, basking in the limelight of social media.
A notable example of this is John Green, author of The Fault in our Stars and Paper Towns. Following in his brother Hank Green’s footsteps, John Green has taken Instagram by storm, garnering 1.7 million followers. His account allows fans to ask him questions about their beloved characters and books and gives them a glimpse of their favourite author’s fun-filled side. Green also uses his status as a former English teacher to highlight his favourite books and staples of the syllabus. This craze makes people whether this will increase his book sales and what consequences this type of following will have on the literary world.
Social media is fast becoming a crucial marketing ploy for prospective authors
From running Q&A sessions to premiere-style reveals of their latest books and book covers, social media is fast becoming a crucial marketing ploy for prospective authors. If used correctly, social media platforms can be as important to reputation and book sales as good writing. Content marketing is, of course, a major aspect of this phenomenon. Ruth Ware, psychological crime author, is a good example of this. Ware piqued her followers’ interests when she challenged them to guess which photographed cover was the American edition and which the British on her page. Amassing nearly 900 likes on her Facebook page alone, her new book was being discussed before it was even released. This begs the question: to what extent do our social media feeds influence our purchases?
According to Green Book Directory, “consumers engaged through social media such as Facebook and Twitter are over 50% more likely to buy and recommend than before they were engaged”. Social media, then, is a vital tool for literary success.
Having said this, we must also consider how previous writers got people talking about their work. One could argue that writers becoming influencers is a mere echo of Charles Dickens’ use of serialisation or the circulating libraries that Jane Austen mentions in her works. Authors using popular platforms to gain notoriety is, therefore, not a new practice.
Influential authors are not exempt from accountability, especially when their views spread hate speech
The use of social media can, in certain cases, also be detrimental to an author’s image. For example, J.K. Rowling’s infamous tweets in June 2020 sent shockwaves through the LGBTQ+ community and the world at large. Fans and actors in the Harry Potter film franchise slated Rowling for her controversial and discriminatory statements. A drop in her US and UK book sales demonstrates that influential authors are not exempt from accountability, especially when their views spread hate speech and target marginalised communities. Fans will not always brush such controversies under the carpet, a tough reminder to authors that they are not, by any means, invincible.
In short, the literary world is constantly evolving, and as long as people are looking for a good book to read, authors will be trying to sell their work. For now, bookworms can enjoy getting to know their favourite writers beyond the written word, thus opening up new possibilities for literary interpretation.