An apparently random ‘like’ on a Facebook post mentioning In the Blink of an Eye last week reminded me of the answer to a question I’m often asked. ‘Why did you go with Linen Press?’ It also illustrates how social media does work for writers, though not always in the ways we expect.
Blogging – remember that?
Years ago, when I was just starting out in both writing and blogging, I followed a blog called The Elephant in the Writing Room ( no longer alive but you can follow the same author here) for its no-nonsense approach and the writer’s honesty in dealing with the ups and downs of her own career. In one particular post she had a bit of a rant about the publishing industry/book-buying public, explaining the dire situation for small presses and one in particular called Linen Press, purveyors of beautifully written and produced literary fiction.
So, partly from curiosity I ordered The Missing by Juliet Bates. Around the same time Linen Press cropped up on Twitter. I followed. I read their bits about ethos etc and sent them A Kettle of Fish. I got no joy there but if they ignored me as an author they noticed my reviewing efforts and some time afterwards a copy of Maureen Freely’s Sailing through Byzantium arrived in the post.
Much later again I received the wonderful Sometimes a River Song. I raved about this book on my blog and elsewhere. It went on to win the People’s Book Prize ‘Achievement’ Award but is still IMO last year’s most underrated novel!
From Twittersphere to real world
By this time I had had a fair bit of (mostly) Twitter contact with Linen Press and MD Lynn Michell, who has family in Bristol, suggested we meet for a writerly chat. Although I was gratified she had clocked my writing efforts, I had no book to offer her at that time. Maybe that was a good thing. With no axes to grind on either side we had an excellent chinwag and shared various writing and publishing woes. She did take away a few fragments of what later became Blink and got back to me to say she admired the writing but couldn’t quite see what was going on – a perfectly fair comment when I had less than 20000 words and no clear idea of what the overall shape of the book would be.
It wasn’t until several months later that I had the flash of inspiration which allowed me to bring the book together and finish it off. As soon as I had, and without any extensive editing or polishing, I sent it to Lynn. With no historical fiction on her list I didn’t think itI was her kind of book, so it wasn’t a formal submission, just a request for her opinion. She read an extract and said she liked it. Before she read more, she wanted to know if I was asking her to publish it. I decided I was. Because I admired Linen Press’s values, because I liked the look and feel of their books enough to trust mine would turn out the same, because we already had a connection.
To cut to the chase, she accepted it. The cover was ‘revealed’ not long ago and shared by another writer friend, and to come full circle, ‘liked’ by the the original blogger who unwittingly started the whole thing off!
Keep social media sociable
This roundabout story is nothing like the instant gratification we’ve come to expect from social media and maybe it wouldn’t happen today. Back then I kept in close contact with the handful of bloggers I followed regularly. Now I catch blog posts via Facebook or Twitter links, only clicking through if they look particularly intriguing. But I still think the story has something to teach us.
- social media works but it may take a while
- cementing online connections with real world talking helps (The corollary also holds. It’s good to bolster F2F meetings with online contact where it applies.)
- focus on the interaction, not the outcome you are looking for (I may have set out with a subconscious goal of bagging a publisher but it only happened when I was, in a sense, not looking for one.).
In short, social media is – or was – for being sociable. Trying to bend it to your will rarely works – or not at my level of expertise!
Of course there are times when things can and do happen quickly. Look out for Social Media for Writers Part 2 – the quick fix!