Being a writer is different these days. No longer are writers confined to their little cabins in the woods, shut out from all social contact until their next book tour. Instead they are now a part of a rapidly growing community of bloggers, messageboard fiends, and Internet Celebrities: and they’d better be ready and willing to take part in discussion with their fans, respond to criticism of their own works or just shoot the shit with friends they have never met in person, or they just might be left behind in the dust.

There seems to have been a tremendous shift in focus in recent days from publishers and authors alike, a shift that is taking authors off their untouchable pedestals and placing them down among their fans, in an effort to show just how real and genuine these authors really are. No longer are the days when the only contact a fan could have with their favourite authors is regulated to a yearly tour stop… if they come to your area at all.

This Internet phenomenon is an evolution of the old word-of-mouth advertising that has fueled book sales for hundreds of years. But in this new Internet-savvy world, instead of a fan being able to reach a dozen or so of their friends, blogs and message boards are now allowing this word-of-mouth to reach the eyes and ears of literally thousands of other readers. A simple post from a well established blog such as Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, or a favourable review from a popular website like SFFworld can go great lengths in bolstering the buzz or appeal around an author’s latest work. New Fantasy authors such as David Anthony Durham, Scott Lynch and Patrick Rothfuss have benefited greatly from the positive buzz associated with their novels throughout the Blog-o-sphere.

There is also something else, though, that ties each of those three authors (along with many others) together: they all run their own successful blogs. It is exciting, as a fan of these authors, to be able to follow along with them as they journey along on their publishing career, experiencing the ups and downs of the life of a published author. It is an incredible experience to be able to view these authors, who without the Internet would still be situated high up on their unreachable pedestal, as real people, with real opinions and an eagerness to get to know the fans, without whom they would still, perhaps, be living a pipe-dream.

It was a thrill for me the first time I visited an authors blog and left a comment, only to have the author himself respond to my comment personally. It was a crazy idea, at the time, to think that the author, someone whom I looked up to and respected, was interested enough in what I had to say that time was taken from their day to address me personally. This back and forth interaction between a fan and an author allows for a connection that has never before been available.

Social-networking web sites, such as Myspace and Facebook, are taking this phenomenon to a whole other level. Who would have thought, even five years ago, that you could have your favourite author on your “Friends List”, have the ability to send them a message that they can, and often will, personally respond to. On the flip side, all of a sudden these authors have an incredible amount of direct control over the promotion of their books. No longer are authors dependent on the whims of their publishing houses when it comes to getting word of their new novel out to the masses. Instead they can personally reach hundreds (or even thousands) of their “friends” and let them know exactly what’s happening with the latest release.

As with all things in life, though, there is a downside to this incredible level of interaction that authors are taking with their fans. It is difficult, for instance, for authors to ignore the critical comments that often find their way into conversation while on their blogs, browsing message boards or checking their email. How must one feel when they travel to a public forum, eagerly anticipating reactions to their novel, only to find it being roasted on a spit by a vocal detractor. Perhaps there may be a deluge of praise for a novel, numerous people writing glowing reviews of the novel, but it is always seems to be the negative comments that draw the most reaction.

How does one deal with this criticism? Some authors just choose to not read message boards, or post blogs, or respond to emails. This is fine and all, if they wish to avoid the negativity, but is this fair to their fans who genuinely enjoy their works? Somehow I don’t think so.

A Dribble of Ink has benefited greatly from this new interaction with authors. The most obvious reason for this is that blogs (such as this one) are finally starting, thanks to the hard work of people like Pat at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, Rob at Rob’s Blog o’ Stuff and Ken at Neth Space, to get respect from authors and publishing houses alike. They are starting to realize the sway that bloggers have over their audience and are eager to conduct interviews, provide prizes for contests and make sure that their latest and greatest publications fall into the hands of these influential “Internet Celebrities”.

I’ve often received comments from other bloggers about the fact that A Dribble of Ink seems to draw big names and they want to know what I’ve done to create such attention from people such as Robin Hobb. My simple answer is, “Nothing much”. The Internet has made it so easy to get in touch with authors these days that I haven’t had any trouble getting in touch with the ones I’m interested in speaking with: Robin Hobb runs a message board (HERE); Joe Abercrombie, Brian Ruckley, and Brandon Sanderson all post regularly on the SFFWorld Forums (HERE); David Anthony Durham not only runs his own blog (HERE), but is also a regular contributor to the official forums on his website; Patrick Rothfuss maintains a humours and engaging blog (HERE) that he updates on a regular basis.

The fact of the matter is that the authors are out there and all a fan (or blogger) has to do is find them. Whether it’s through a self-maintained blog, on a popular messageboard or through a social-networking web site, the authors are out there, willing to be found and more than happy to interact with their fans and create friendships in a way that wasn’t possible even just a few years ago.

It’s an incredible time to not only be an author (with powerful marketing tools available at your fingertips), but also a fan (access to the inner thoughts of many of your favourite authors). It will be interesting to see how this relationship between authors and fans will develop over the next several years and how it will impact the publishing industry as a whole as the two groups grow a closer and closer connection and the lines blur ever so slightly between author and fan.

  • Remy July 28, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    As a young new blogger, I am amazed by how accessible authors has been. I have contact a few authors and publishers but all of them have been extremely helpful and they have responded to my emails very promptly.

    I hope the current trend does not change very much over the next several years. If anything authors and publishers will become more accessible as book blogs become more popular.

  • Tia Nevitt July 28, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    When I did my first as-I-read-it review, which was of MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND, I was thrilled with Lisa Shearin found and commented on my blog within days of my first post. She was an enthusiastic commenter, often posting teasers of what came next. This spawned interest on another blog and for a while three blogs were putting up regular posts about her and her novel. I know that I generated some of that interest and Lisa and I have gotten friendly.

    The very next book I reviewed, THIEF WITH NO SHADOW, was wonderful, but the author never responded to my attempts to contact her and she never even visited her own MySpace page. It was kind of a drag after Lisa’s involvement.

  • Lawrence July 29, 2007 at 11:10 am

    That was a very neat article you just wrote there. I think you hit the nail on the head. Felt exactly the same when Patrick Rothfuss responded to my comment in mere minutes, also I once saw John Marco, author of the Jackal of Nar series visit my blog. Tobias S Buckell is quite accessible too, he deserves a honourable mention. As for publishers responding to inquiries, I have yet to have any luck with them, because most emails were never responded. It appears you are more interesting to them, since you found them so willing to cooperate. This might be because you are involved in the site managment of Terry Brooks, right?

  • David Anthony Durham July 29, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    Hey there. Nice article, Aidan. Believe me this whole internet review/blog thing was new to me with Acacia. I’d not have known that much about it if Colleen Lindsay hadn’t been hired by Doubleday to work on the novel. I’m so glad she was, and that I’ve come to understand some of how this works.

    From an authors’ standpoint I’d mention that in many cases queries sent to our publishers may not get to us. People there are working via their own game plan and may not see the benefit of involving the author with things not already on that plan. Doesn’t mean the author wouldn’t be keen, though. So, my advice – go to the author directly whenever you can. If they diss you they diss you, but at least you can be reasonably confident that it was a decision THEY made. If you go to the publisher, though, who knows whether the query ever reaches the author him/herself?

    Oh, and by the way, I love what you all do. Thanks for it, and for using this medium to connect communities outside the old system.

  • […] Over at Aidan Moher’s blog an article about the accessibility of the (new) authors via the blogosphere is posted. I think he hit the nail […]

  • aidan July 29, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    RE: Remy
    I don’t see the current trend changing a whole lot in the next several years, at least not in a negative aspect. As print publications spend less and less time doing things like book reviews and author interviews it is going to be up to us to pick up the slack!

    Publishers and authors aren’t dumb, they see the power that can be found in bloggers like us, and I expect them to take full advantage of it! It’s nice to have people like Pat who are really making waves with the publishers and opening up new doors for us newer bloggers.

    RE: Tia
    I know a few authors that I’ve spoken to who have had a tough time decided whether it is professional or not to post a comment on a review of their book. Of course if it is a favourable review then that is one thing, but what happens if someone doesn’t like their book? That’s when things could get messy.

    I haven’t ever had an author come and post a comment on a review of a book, but I have had authors come and post comments on other articles/interviews of mine, and that’s always a thrill! *coughcheckbelowcough*

    RE: Lawrence
    Lawrence, I’m glad to see you enjoyed the article. I will confess that whenever I post one of these I worry that I will check back on it and find it littered with comments equating it as nothing but definitive, uninformed trash!

    I’m not sure that anyone is very aware of my involvement with the various forums on the Internet, though it definitely can’t hurt. I’ve mostly approached various authors/publishers as the editor of this blog and I like to think that the content here speaks for itself and that that is what draws them to my blog.

    That being said, a lot of people seem to mention how much attention my blog seems to get from publishers/authors, but I don’t really feel that it gets any more attention than anywhere else! I’m quite flattered that people think that way!

    RE: David
    Well, if this isn’t the icing on the cake! It’s nice to hear the thoughts of an author on this subject. Colleen is tremendous at what she does, and the advertisement and marketing that she did for Acacia was, in my mind, a big step forward in getting the name of your novel out there! It was a great boon for me to get an advance copy of the novel near the beginning of the life of my blog, I was able to help provide some of the hype for a novel I might otherwise not have had the chance to read yet! (My budget for hardcovers is… erm, low at the moment.)

    Also, thanks for clearing that up about publishers. I, personally, try to approach authors directly and have found it to be the most effective way to set up interviews, etc…

    You love what we do and we love what you do! Without authors pumping out great novels/providing interviews, etc… we wouldn’t be able to continue with these blogs, so it’s all an endless circle!

  • Patrick July 29, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    Nice article, Aidan.

    All this is well and good, but let us not forget that the SFF online community represents an estimated 10% to 15% of the market. Which, in the end, explains why a guy like Scott Lynch appears to be as popular as GRRM on various message boards, when in truth he is far from being that popular.

    But we [the online community] are considered the “core” audience. And very often we are what it takes to get the ball rolling. Writers like Steven Erikson and R. Scott Bakker would never have garnered such a cult following without the online fans.

    Hence, I’m always glad when I can help spread the word about an author or a book.:-)

  • aidan July 29, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    That’s actually an excellent point that I didn’t touch on in my article (it does run counter to my point, afterall!). The perception that people have, based solely on online message boards and forums, is much different than what might really be going on in the real world.

    For instance, David Eddings is still a very popular author, moving a lot of units everytime he writes a new novel, but if you get on the message boards, you’ll find that what you refer to as the “core” audience is rather dismissive of the man, despite the fact that he sells so many novels. He’s clearly doing something right!

    You mention Steven Erikson and I’m glad you did. He’s actually one of the first people I thought of when I was considering this topic. I’m of the mind that if it weren’t for the Internet and the word of mouth spreading through dozens of forums, Erikson wouldn’t have found success. His books are hard to get into, and it seems as thought many people need to be poked and prodded many times to just “push through the first book and get to the second”. I don’t think you could find this level of community agreement outside of the Internet. Regular word of mouth is just so limited in its scope that it just wouldn’t be enough to penetrate the depth and scope of the series that Erikson is writing.

    But, because of the Internet he’s found great success and his audience is growing rapidly outside of the “core” group. I think what is also interesting about this phenomenon is that it generally seems to be new/young authors who are being talked about the most on the Internet. Many authors publishing today have been publishing for years without the Internet as a marketing tool and it’s taking all these young kids/new authors to show the “old folks” just how to do it properly.

    Glad to see your following the blog, Pat! It’s always a pleasure when you get involved in discussion.

  • Graeme July 30, 2007 at 12:38 am

    Great article Aidan!
    I know exactly what you mean about that rush you get when you an author replies to an email/blog comment etc for the first time :o) Being a sci-fi/fantasy fan used to be a really lonely business (unless you gamed with a group or knew other fans at school) but the internet has really torn down a lot of barriers in that respect. If that wasn’t cool enough, I get to talk to authors as well!
    My question though would be, does increased dialogue with authors influence your perception of their work? Should an author remain on their pedestal in order to make their fantasy world truly fantastical?

  • Lisa Shearin July 30, 2007 at 8:05 am

    Great article, Aidan. I’m a new author (MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND), and I consider blogs, forums, chats, message boards, etc. a God-send for getting the word out about me and my books (Yes, MLTF is the first in a series). I absolutely adore talking to my fans and actively encourage them to email or respond on my blog with questions. And I answer every last one of them. And just to make sure I stay on top of things, I do a daily Google search on my book. (That’s how I found you.) The Internet is an amazing marketing and advertising tool, and I can’t imagine any new author not taking full advantage.

    Lisa Shearin

  • Robert Thompson July 30, 2007 at 9:43 am

    Hey, great article Aidan! When I first started my music webzine, it was difficult approaching bands. Most of them were pretty unreceptive or required that you talked to their record label, publicist or manager first, so it was a bit difficult and frustrating, and one reason why I focused on unsigned bands who were much more responsive.

    When I started Fantasy Book Critic, what immediately impressed me was how so many authors were so supportive toward the blog and were willing to work with me. Of course not everyone is like that yet, but I think more and more writers are embracing the power of the Internet and everything it has to offer, and personally, I’m really interested to see how online promotion for books/authors will evolve in the next few years. Should be exciting…

  • Kevin A. Smith July 30, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    I agree with your article whole heartedly. I found one of my now favorite authors, John Scalzi, through his blog, the Whatever. I hadn’t really considered myself a SciFi fan, I had always stuck with fantasy and popular fiction, until reading a review of another book that mentioned the Whatever. After reading John’s blog for a few weeks I realized that if I enjoyed his blog this much I should try his books. I did and I can’t tell enough people about his books and blog.

    All of the communication with the authors can be a double edged sword as well. I read an interview on a blog much like this one of an up and coming author who’s book I was really interested in. I don’t know if he was having a bad day or if his humor didn’t translate well to the written word but he came off as an arrogant son-of-a-you-know-what and I quickly lost interest in reading his book. The book reviews have all been positive for said book but it’s hard to imagine buying a book and supporting a person like that.

    So I guess I would conclude that you can definitely build and expand a fan base with an online presence but you can just as easily loose potential readers if not done right.

  • aidan July 30, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    RE: Graeme
    Being and SF/F fan was definitely a lonely business back when I was in highschool! I was lucky that I had a mother who was into it, and a couple of friends, but other than those I didn’t have a whole lot of outlets to rant and rave about novels.

    Now, though the Internet is about the only place that I really get to discuss SF/F outside of my family!

    I checked out your response over at your blog, it’s always nice to see someone play counter to what I have to say. I left a response there for you!

    RE: Lisa
    Ahh, yet another author! You, I shall declare, are the sprinkles on top of David’s icing! It’s nice to hear about how much you enjoy interacting with your fans. Authors such as yourself make my job as a blogger that much easier!

    Drop me an email sometime soon and we can set up an interview!

    RE: Robert

    One of the main reasons I decided to start a blog focusing on books/writing/SFF is because of the ease of contact that I saw in the industry. I’m interested in a lot of other things in life: music, videogames, movies, etc… but none of them seemed as well suited to blogging as novels.

    It’s interesting to hear what you have to say about the music industry and the difficulty you have trying to make contacts. It seems to me that networking, and being willing to network, is the most important thing in the entertainment industry, it seems silly to limit where your marketing is coming from!

    As Pat mentioned, we “core” audience may only make up 10-15% of the total readers… but we’re a darn vocal minority and still constitute thousands and thousands of sales!

    RE: Kevin
    I’ve had an experience similar to yours, actually. Recently I too read an interview with a new author on a popular blog and left rather unimpressed. I found him arrogant, condescending and disillusioned about his own works and the industry in general. It washed away any interest I had in his novel and it will take a lot of effort for me to gain back any of that interest. I wonder if it was the same fellow!

    And on a similar note, if you check out Graeme’s blog you’ll find a falling out I’ve recently had with a long time favourite based on his interviews and online presence.

    So you’re definitely right when you call it a double edged sword, as much damage as good can be done! I just chose to focus mainly on the benefits in my article!

    I’m thrilled at all the discussion this article has garnered here and glad to know that you all enjoyed the article!

  • Robert Thompson July 31, 2007 at 6:06 am

    Aidan, to be fair, when I was starting my music zine, this was way back in 2001, so online promotion wasn’t anything close to what it is today. Blogging in fact is a very huge part of the music industry right now–record labels, producers, A&R, bands, etc., just about everyone has one now and they are widely accepted. Heck, I bet if you wanted to start your own music blog, you wouldn’t have any trouble in getting labels to work with you and lots of free music :D

    Personally, I think certain aspects of online promotion are better suited for music than books and vice versa. For bands, I think it’s easier for them to promote them selves. With the rise of Myspace, Purevolume and Youtube, garnering attention via mp3s or videos is as easy as pie, especially in attracting new listeners. With books, I don’t think it’s quite as easy. Sure, reviews help, as do interviews and excerpts, but they require a certain commitment that’s quite a bit different from just listening to an mp3 or watching a video. I know that you’re starting to see more video interviews, promotional trailers, Podcasts, etc. with authors, but this is an area I don’t think has been fully exploited yet by the publishing industry.

    On the other hand, I think the blogging world is better suited toward authors in connecting with their fans on a personal level. It’s not that bands don’t do that, it’s just that they’re interaction comes more from live shows & touring. With authors, it’s a whole different experience, much more intimate and an aspect that I really appreciate with the authors that I’ve had the pleasure of working with so far.

    What I would really love to see is a website like Myspace that is dedicated mainly to authors/books…a community where every genre is represented, divided into categories, where you can find any author, sample all of their works, interact with the author, with fellow readers, and so forth. I know that you can kind of do this with forums, and some authors/publishers use Myspace, but the potential is out there for something much much bigger. If I was any sort of programmer, I’d definitely be working on this :D

    between the author and the reader, where established writers

  • Patrick July 31, 2007 at 10:24 am

    To be completely honest, I don’t care much about author’s blogs, at least beyond information pertaining to the books, writing process, etc. Which is why, I guess, I follow very few author’s blogs. . .

    I mean, what do I care about what happened to that writer when he went to the grocery store this morning!?! Few have the sort of personality that will appeal to you strongly enough to read his or her random stuff. One that comes to mind is Neil Gaiman.

    I think there’s a difference between being accessible and sharing the excrutiating minutiae of every single boring detail of your every day life.

    I guess there’s a fine line between the two. . .

  • aidan July 31, 2007 at 10:51 am


    I think what the reason that blogs lend themselves so well to writers is that, well… it’s writing! I’m sure most would agree that I’m a more eloquent person when I’m writing as opposed to when I’m speaking because it feels like a more natural form of communication to me. I’m sure most writers are the same and so their personality might shine through a bit more on a blog than other entertainers.

    Which brings me to Pat’s point. I will agree with you that some bloggers/authors run blogs that aren’t, maybe, worth reading. But I also think that most of the time the authors that are blogging are more adept at spicing up the mundane than regular bloggers.

    I think that the other Pat (Rothfuss) is a prime example of this. He makes a story out of everything he posts, no matter how normal or benign the subject matter. His voice shines through brilliantly and so it doesn’t surprise me that my interview with him is still getting so much traffic through his blog (which seems to be visited by a bucketload of people each day). I suppose what he also manages to do is keep each post on topic, at least a little bit, so you’re always getting a little bit of news, even when he’s talking about his morning toast.

    An author that I hope starts a blog soon is Joe Abercrombie. I know this may sound self indulgent, considering I just published and interview with him, but I find myself always enjoying anything he writes and find him just as sharp and interesting as any of his characters.

    Gaiman is an obvious standout when it comes to blogging and I also particularly enjoy Brian Ruckley’s blog.

    I think the line begins and ends with content, if an author keeps their blog mostly industry/writing related then they can’t go wrong. But, hey… if there’s a little bit of spice thrown in via day-to-day stuff, I won’t complain!

  • Robert Thompson July 31, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    Aidan, I totally agree with you about that writing part. I’m just the same–I feel better able to express myself through writing than through speaking…

    Now when I said that authors are better suited at connecting with fans on a personal level, I didn’t mean sharing their personal lives. That’s not something I’m really a fan of either. I just meant that when it comes to interacting with fans, like responding to emails or blog comments, or participating on message boards…that kind of thing, I think they do a much better job than bands, especially the more popular ones :)

  • gavsstudio August 5, 2007 at 2:13 am

    I feel like the outsider in this conversation. As much as I love fantasy and sci-fi I am not a hardcore reader of either genre. I tend to stick to the magical realism end like Neil Gaiman, Jim Butcher, and Garth Nix to name the some visible ones. I also read quite a bit outside of genre, though I tend to find genre stuff more readable.

    For all it’s mainstream appeal – genre fiction (to use a sweeping generalisation) is still a niche market. And it has a lot of fans who keep it alive. I’m thinking of the small independent presses like Subterranean, PS Publishing; the mags like interzone; all the blogs, forums; and finally the readers who amerce themselves in all these worlds.

    And the difference is that fans often turn into writers and then never loose that fan quality. So Neil Gaiman is very supportive of the community, Stephen King still speaks to his constant reader. Writers still support the small presses who supported them when they started writing. The blogs, forums, myspaces, etc are a way of interacting with their readers for sure but they are still fans at heart so commenting anding reading is something they enjoy doing anyway.

    This interaction between readers and writers is just us all being fans together – we just happen to be on othersides of the fence.

    I could be wrong though.

  • aidan August 5, 2007 at 11:43 am


    I don’t think you’re wrong at all. I think you’re right that all of us, even the authors we look up to, are fans of something. It’s terrific when an author is able to keep in touch with the feelings and perceptions they had when they were just starting out, when they were still “nobodies”, and remember how they liked to be treated by their favourite authors.

    What is also terrific about these blogs/forums/myspace is being able to watch some of my favourite “Internet Celebrities” (Pat, Shawn Speakman, etc…) as they travel the road towards being published writers. Who knows, one day they may be megaselling authors and we can all look back on the days when we watched them climb the ladder!

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