Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Blood and Audience

by Matt Sinclair

How important is building an audience to you? As writers we often want to leave our art on the page. Be bold, we’re advised. Be honest and open. Bleed your emotions on the page, we’re told. Some of us have trouble with all that.

I won’t argue against the advice. In fact, I’d go further. Bleed everywhere. Ok, maybe not everywhere; that gets messy and tends to wig people out and attract vampires. Plus, it’ll cost a mint to replace those bed sheets all the time. I’m talking more metaphorically, anyway.

How has your audience found you? Do you have an audience yet? Sometimes they find you as a result of a blog post or an interview. In this era of Twitter and Facebook and other social media vehicles, you often don’t know where or how your next reader might discover you. Those retweets of retweets might just be an ore you’ve yet to mine.

But if you haven’t bled in your interview, if you haven’t compelled someone by your honest, open writerly persona, then you’ll be just another undiscovered talent waiting for someone to chisel out the real you.
But how do you do that if no one has asked those probing questions? Well, learn from what publicists do: suggest questions or avenues of thought. Most blog interviews of writers are done via email; let’s face it, the vast majority of us are not being called by Vanity Fair or the New Yorker or even Writer’s Digest for anything other than a new subscription. Heck, not even for that!

Remember to be polite in suggesting other questions. It’s their blog, not yours. Even if you’re writing up a guest blog post, they still control what goes out to the world from their channel.

In my opinion, readers don’t merely like to read great and entertaining stories, they like to find interesting voices. That voice happens not only in the manuscript but also in the interview. Readers like to learn a little bit about the writer behind the voice. If you’re an irascible curmudgeon, that’s fine. By all means, bleed curmudgeon juice. (What color is it, by the way?)

The object is to build an audience. Whether you’re approachable or mysterious, you don’t have many opportunities to make initial impressions. Don’t waste them. Be interesting.

Matt Sinclair, a New York City-based journalist and fiction writer, is also president and chief elephant officer of Elephant's Bookshelf Press, which published The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse, (available via Amazon and Smashwords) and Spring Fevers (also available through Smashwords, and Amazon) in 2012. The latest anthologies from EBP, Summer's Edge and Summer's Double Edge, will be published in July. Matt blogs at the Elephant's Bookshelf and is on Twitter @elephantguy68 


JeffO said...

Funny, I haven't thought of the idea of dictating (to a certain extent) your interview. I know in the couple I've done on my blog, I've asked the interviewee if there's anything in particular they want me to ask about; usually, they say, "No" (so long as at least part of it is about their book).

Matt Sinclair said...

Yes, Jeff. I do that when I interview people, too. Or I often leave a "any other questions you wish I'd asked" type of question at the end, so they know they can add more.