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By Antonia Senior

Reluctantly, moodily and finally enthusiastically;  I have embraced my inner tweeter. I once dismissed Twitter as a collection of inane ravings. It is that; but it is also the place of a wondrous new balance between reader and writer. There is magic amid the dross.

Consider the problem facing reader and writer in this new digital age: finding each other. Bookshops are on the retreat, review space in newspapers is squeezed and dominated by established writers and non-fiction. The algorithms on e-book retailers do the opposite of an old-fashioned browse: they force you into narrower niches. Just because I bought one Tudor mystery does not mean I only want to buy Tudor mysteries.

To break free of the algorithms you have to know what you are looking for; but the joy of being a voracious reader is not knowing what you want until it slaps you round the chops with a fabulous hook or an exquisite phrase.

The answer, at least for now, lies in social media. The sci-fi fans are there already, talking to each other and to the writers they like. They buzz in the ether, collectively sharing the dream of a story which won’t let you sleep.

Other genres are slowly but surely building their hashtags. Book bloggers are becoming hugely influential. My debut novel Treason’s Daughter received a lovely review from the book blog, http://forwinternights.wordpress.com/. The blogger tweeted as she was reading; this led to a very strange sensation of following someone reading my work in real time.

This was my first experience of the strange shift in balance between reader and writer. I am used to reader feedback – my time as a journalist coincided with the rise of the web, and reader comments under articles. You need a thick skin to read the mad, the angry and the contemptuous comments which appear beneath comment pieces. A vehemently pro-choice comment I once wrote produced some breath-taking vitriol, for example; although not quite as vicious as the time I accidentally implied that sci-fi was a non-literary guilty pleasure. Sorry, guys. Really.

But the writer of fiction is more vulnerable, in some ways. I don’t have a newspaper masthead to cower behind. It’s just me and my story, venturing out into a harsh world, looking for – and fearing - your opinion.

What tone do I strike, out there in cyber-space? I want to flog my book, but not irritate people. I want readers to like it, and to be kind to it – but I can’t ask for kindness. As the blogger tweeted each night about her experience of reading Treason’s Daughter that day, I wanted to thank her for reading, but worried that I would look desperate. So I watched her tweets, imagined her curled up with my book, and dreamt up wry but self-deprecating replies which I never sent.

When she posted her review, the other new facet of this hanging world became clearer. Blog reviews can be more personal, more visceral – and thus more powerful for those of us who are passionate readers.  I review on my blog antoniasenior.com and for The Times. In The Times, I might say: “A powerful compelling read.” On my blog, I might say. “I was up until midnight, falling in love with this book again and again.”

Now, as I wait for Treason’s Daughter to gather readers, I hope that someone, somewhere, is being kept up at night by it. And that they will tweet me to let me know.

 

 

 

 


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03/30/2015 8:58pm

Between reader and a writer, I think the reader is much easier than to be a writer. Why? Because when you read, you are free and a chance to read it from the start to the end or just pick paragraph you want to read. Also, you have privilege to comment either good or bad comment you have a lot of chances to do it. Unlike the writer, they’re the one who writes the article to the best that they can do or they love, right? But in case of the writer put their opinion that doesn't suit to their reader, like in the tweeter the riders starting to bash them till they stop writing, or worse till they not giving up their twitter account. But if you will look into the sight of simple person, readers and writers are equal, they can read and they can write, but people are different and that’s the big problem.

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09/04/2016 7:37pm

It's easier to gather opinions from different people on the internet, especially on social media websites like Twitter and Facebook. With Twitter, you have to be creative in expressing yourself within the confines of 140 characters or less. All must be concise.

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This is a good read, Antonia. It's refreshing to hear somebody, especially a writer, talk about the benefits of twitter (or social media) beyond traffic and sales. I like how you focused on how there seemed to become a more personal relationship between you and your reader. It gave you, as a writer, more room for to imagine how your reader is enjoying her book. This also kind of showed that writers are but mere humans who also gush and delight in getting noticed. Thanks for sharing!

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