e-dapt or die

Attention all writers huddled in garrets, knee-deep in crumpled paper and empty mugs! Okay, today you’re more likely to be hunched over a keyboard, with lower back pain, a furrowed brow, incipient psychosis and about 133 different drafts of your Work In Progress on a computer. Either way, you need to look up from the page. The world has changed. Thought perfecting your prose would bring publishers running and readers reading? Thought it was all about writing your best novel? Whatever gave you that idea? Writing isn’t about writing any more. It’s about self promotion, marketing, pre-release hype, playing the social media game, building a readership before you’ve even typed The End, blogging, tweeting, webbing, glugging, plugging and (if you’re me) shrugging. It’s about building a brand.

This isn’t just one publisher’s advertising department gone mad. It’s the world. It has changed. Technology has brought us incredible opportunities with ebooks and physical books printed on demand; Electrik Inc is proof of that. It has also created a whole new set of shackles. For writers, that means although you can now share your work with the world, you also cannot just sit at home, write a book, get it published and turn up to book signings. You must engage your reader in every technological way possible. A lot more of your time will be spent away from the garret – sorry, keyboard – while you twit, blog, email, visit schools (okay, that could be fun) promote pre-launch ‘buzz’, whatever that is, and find new links you hope will grow your fanbase.

Otis Chandler, CEO of Goodreads.com says twitting and Facebooking aren’t nearly as good for promoting books as word of mouth. (Yes! One point to tradition!) He also warns video chats between authors and their readers will become increasingly important.

Video chats? You mean, like, my face? On a screen? Along with my Uh-oh-she’s-off-on-one-again Scottish accent? Are you kidding me? I’ll look like a cornered Bobcat.

But, like so many endangered species, the writer-who-just-wants-to-write, must adapt or be swallowed by history unheard – and unread.  In the interests of journalistic integrity, I checked up on my analogy with Bobcats. On one site they’re described as cantankerous, solitary, secretive, and adaptable. Oh dear. Sounds like someone I know.

And guess what? Like you, I’m going to have to stop howling into the wind and sit down and work out how to twit and buzz and self promote. Yes, I’d rather stick my head in a mincer. And no, there won’t be any wee video chats winging across the ether any time soon. But, as a writer, I’m going to have to adapt to the changes transforming the eworld. Because the eworld is not going to adapt to me.

Kay Leitch

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