Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It's Not About Reciprocity

What I'm reading: Death Watch, by John Sandford

Thanks, Susan for your thought-provoking post yesterday, and good luck with writing the book. I hope you do.

We had our first non-family guests the other day—a colleague of both mine and my husband's from my marine mammal conference days, his wife and his mother. They were interested in my writing and asked if they could buy a book, and if I'd autograph it. (No brainer, eh?). But what one said when I signed their books surprised me. She said she probably wouldn't get around to reading it, but she thought it was special to have a book signed by someone she knew.

(Reality intervenes here—while I'd like her to read the book, and like it enough to recommend it to others and maybe even buy another one, I took her money without hesitating.)

One thing I learned was that although writers are very supportive of each other, you can't expect reciprocity. When I first joined my local RWA chapter, authors would show off their new releases, and I'd gladly buy them, regardless of sub-genre, because these were my immediate writing colleagues. It didn't really matter that I probably wouldn't have picked up their books if I didn't know them personally.

But just because that's how I operated didn't mean others did. When I finally had my first book published, a very small percentage of the authors I'd bought books from actually bought mine. And that's fine. I wasn't buying their books to support me I was buying to support them. Support takes more forms than the monetary.

I think there's a universal insecurity among writers. "Will this be good enough?" "Will people like my book?" "Can I write another one?" "Is anybody actually aware I exist?"

So, what are some supportive things you can do? Let them know you're around. How do we know? We have hit counters, and we watch them. Visit blogs. Just clicking onto a blog helps make us feel our efforts aren't going out to blind eyes. Comments are great. Not required, but it's definitely another ego boost. We know it takes time (and I'm experimenting by taking off the spam filter. If I don't get robo-comments, I'll leave it off, thus saving you a step.) so it's greatly appreciated.

How many blog posts do you mention to others? Share via the social media? If you do, you're sending new faces by, and that's another ego-boost. Same goes for reading a book you like. Do you pass the word to friends? Word of mouth is still the best marketing tool. While I don't like doing reviews (an entirely different topic) I do report every book I read here.

If you belong to the social media sites, such as Facebook or Twitter, do you follow/friend/whatever these folks? Do you share/retweet? There are all those links at the bottom of so many blogs. Do you ever use them?

Have you ever sent a 'fan' e-mail or letter? It doesn't take long, doesn't cost anything, and trust me, those are like gold to a writer.

Do you join in "outside the blog" activities such as contests? Again, seeing contest entries stokes the ego. It means someone has taken a few minutes to enter (and might even want the prize).

And, down the line, it's likely your name will be remembered. Someone will visit your website or blog, or re-tweet, or share. And who knows? Someday you might get to meet these cyber-supporters face to face, and you'll find you have a new friend. Which is definitely golden.

What kind of support means the most to you? What kinds of support do you give others?

And speaking of contests, there are still two running here. Click the contest tab above. And take a gander at my Smashwords offerings – they have hit counters there too!


Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

If you have a minute (ha ha) check out my post & comments yesterday and today.
Support in any form is a wonderful thing.


Terry Odell said...

I did, Mary (but a hint -- people are busy. If you mention the blog, or create a one-stop link, it makes life easier)

Thanks for stopping by.


Suzanne Johnson said...

This is a great blog, Terry--lots of "food for thought" here. I do read blogs as often as I can, and try to comment. Your "fan mail" comment hit home, though. I usually don't do this because...well, I guess I thought the writer would think I was a stalker. But I realized that when my books come out, I will LOVE hearing from readers. So my goal this month...when I read a book and love it, email the author and tell her so!

Terry Odell said...

Suzanne - I don't think any author would consider a fan message stalking--not unless you start sending them hourly and say crazy things! One of my favorites was from a young, male, British mechanic who (thanks to my daughter) read Finding Sarah and wrote me to tell me how much he enjoyed it even though it wasn't his reading matter of choice.

Anonymous said...

Great post! Got me thinking.

I'd been on the social networks for about a year before I went to my first national conference. Maybe five or six times per day I hears, "Oh, YOU'RE Lynn Rush. You comment on my blog a lot." or "You're the one always tweeting or posting about bike riding." etc.

Even an agent mentioned some of my posts in my pitch session--that made me chuckle.

It was fun to put so many faces to the names of people I'd met online. It was an instant support system! Like we were old friends, meeting for the first time.

Terry Odell said...

Well, Lynn -- thanks for popping by and leaving a comment. Yes, it's fun to put faces (and voices) with our cyber friends. So often, at conferences, people zero in not on faces first, but on nametags and then say, "Oh, I know who you are." (Which never ceases to amaze me, because I'm NOT one of those well-known names.)

Maryannwrites said...

Terry, I try to visit as many blogs as I can and leave comments, as well as sharing interesting blogs via Twitter and Facebook. But I like what you said about not worrying about those efforts being reciprocal. If we are always focused on what we will get back, we really aren't freely giving of our support. Just a thought...

Terry Odell said...

Maryann-your comment sums up my post perfectly--and in a lot more word-efficient manner.

Anonymous said...

Hi terry. I'm a fan, so often check your blog: and several other writers I enjoy. I don't just visit many sites though (too time consuming) nor do I ordinarily respond. I do share it, when I meet an especially nifty blog: & I see others do that, also. I think, in general, the author community does make an effort to support and encourage their colleagues... Nancy of "Spinning the Baiji" fame :)

Terry Odell said...

Nancy - and thanks SO much for your kind words. Glad you popped out of lurkdom.

Carol Kilgore said...

I do what I can, when I can. Like you, I know how much support is valued.

Terry Odell said...

Carol-precisely. We all have busy lives. Some days I'll be all over the place, other days I have to put "me" first and deal with my life.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Terry: When I began writing, and went to my first writers' workshop, I thought authors were a competitive group. After all, they were all trying to succeed, and there's only so much space in the room (of publishing). I quickly learned that authors are the most supportive people in the world. They want to share what they've learned, they volunteer their time to judge contest entries of people they'll never meet. In what other industry would you find such support? So your post today is a good reminder for all of us.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I help fellow authors in as many ways as I can because I love to read, love writers, and understand how difficult it is for beginning writers to hang in there until they finally get published.

I've discovered some wonderful stories by purchasing books by debut authors (or requesting the library order the book). Sometimes I have to stick to promotional efforts because I don't dare bring one more book into the house.

I do get many lovely and unexpected paybacks, but mostly I hope writers pay it forward. Goodness knows there are plenty of excellent new authors out there who need our support, and there are lots of ways to support our friends with time instead of dollars.

Sarah Grimm said...


I'm one of those visitors who usually doesn't comment. Horrible, I know, since I look for comments on my own blog. Gah!

I also like to have 'guests' on my blog, to help spread the word about fellow authors.

Great blog, BTW. :)

Terry Odell said...

Joyce, it is impressive how little back-stabbing there is in our chosen craft.

Patricia - I almost titled this blog "Pay it Forward" but changed my mind. But that's what we're doing.

Sarah - thanks for leaving a comment today!

Carol Ann said...

I'm a firm believer in "paying it forward" in most aspects of my life, not just the writing. I read a lot of blogs but I don't always post a comment, unless I have something particular to say. I do pass along blogs to others and make mention on FB when I believe others might benefit. As a matter of fact, I just read Chip Macgregor's blog on August 9 about how he got started as a writer. Great information there on treating your writing like any other day job.
Thanks, Terry, as always for a thought provoking blog!
Carol Ann Erhardt

Cherie Le Clare said...

Hi Terry,
I agree with you, about giving support but not necessarily expecting it to be reciprocal, with one proviso - don't be embarrassed to ask. You've pointed out some great ways to return support, and one thing I was taught when learning how to market real estate was to never be afraid to ask a satisfied client to write a reference - no guarantees that they will take the time to do so but without suggesting it to them they may never have thought of it at all.
Cherie Le Clare

Terry Stonecrop said...

I do as much as I can to support other writers and comment on their blogs and appreciate their comments on mine.

My MC, Gardner West, just joined Twitter. But he (I'm:) so lost on it. I need to find the time to figure out the whole follow thing.

Now that I notice it, you're on Twitter. He can follow you:)

Great post!

Susan Oleksiw said...

This is a topic that comes to my mind often because, happily, several of my struggling fellow writers have had their first books published, and I want to support them as they have supported me in the past. I go to their events when I can, buy a copy of the book, and mention their names to others. You're right, Terry, about support taking many forms, and mostly we like our fellow writers to feel part of the community and just do their best. Support takes many forms, and all of it is welcome.

Susan Oleksiw

Terry Odell said...

Carol Ann - by all means, this shouldn't be interpreted as only writing.

Cherie - I'm still shy about asking. The hardest part of my writing for one of my publishers is having to grovel for cover quotes.

TerryS - try TweetDeck; at least you can filter groups of followers. And I'm happy to follow Gardner.

Susan - (and thanks again for yesterday's post), yes, I think we are a community, even though our work is usually done in isolation.

Terry Stonecrop said...

Thanks for the advice, Terry:) And thanks for following Gardner. Lost in Twitterland!

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Terry,
Great blog. You have really hit the nail on the head so to speak. I do try and comment on as many blogs as I can, but lack of time is my demon. I don't comment on blogs so people will reciprocate but it is nice when they do. That is the one thing I fear about blogging - what if no-one drops by to read what you have written?


Terry Odell said...

Margaret-you can't be everywhere every day. And comments are always much much lower than readers, so just because there aren't many comments doesn't mean people aren't reading. However, they ARE nice to get.

Autumn Jordon said...

Terry, Great blog. I was just thinking today how close our RWA community is. Over the past ten years, I've met hundreds of other writers who I now consider friends.

I try to support other writers by reading and commenting on their blogs(even days later), websites, covers, etc. And if I read their book and enjoy it, they and my friends will hear my opinion.

I will post my favorable review on Goodreads, Amazon, & B&N. I won't post unfavorable review, because, hey, it might be just me who don't get the author's voice.

I've picked up bookmarks and promo material from authors whose work I've liked and passed it on my reader friends and my library.

Do I look for those I support to support me? I don't, but if they do, I appreciate them.

Again, great post.
Autumn Jordon

Terry Odell said...

Autumn, well said. And I'm sure all the authors you're supporting appreciate it.

Joanna Aislinn said...

OMG, Terry, I'm so excited--I can finally post at your blog, lol!

What I love most about writing is the pay-it-forward attitude I've encountered since walking into my first critique group. Reciprocity implies expectation--ever hear that an expectation is a premeditated resentment?

So, I support other writers by visiting blogs when I can; posting their name/website/blog links whenever I mention them for any reason anywhere; inviting them to guest-blog, judge contests and offer help whenever someone asks and sometimes before they do!

BTW, I am always impressed with the quantity and quality of your posts and blog. Wish I had more time to get to more of yours and so many others.

Oh, and how do I feel best supported? Any time an e-mail or comment comes in, of course, but mostly when someone feels 'inspired' by what I put out there. And one more thing: I thank all the women who've read my book but there is definitely something special knowing a man has read and enjoyed too and asking for a sequel, lol!

Joanna Aislinn
The Wild Rose Press

Mariposa Cruz said...


Great post! Sometimes the little gestures of support mean so much.

That's wonderful that you actively post positive reviews.

LaVerne Clark said...

Hi Terry,

Fantastic blog! I do love your posts. How on earth do you find time to write?? Especially when you answer each comment too : )

I've been leaving more and more comments on each blog I discover and like, just to show support and to let the author know I like their work. As a newbie, I did mention my book in one and then thought after I'd posted - aargh! I hope they didn't think I was hinting!! I've been careful ever since, as I'd like my posts to come across as how I mean them to be - caring, interested and supportive - not advertisements! : )

I love your posts - can't wait to see what you come up with next : )

Terry Odell said...

Joanna - glad you can comment. And no clue why you couldn't before. I don't block any comments. I did remember to turn off the spam word requirement later in the day.

Mariposa, I agree. Thanks for your comment.

LaVerne -- I should probably spend more time writing! I think a mention of a book title, in contest, isn't a bad thing. I've seen commenters elsewhere who are obviously going for the 'reciprocity' angle--their comment has nothing to do with the post and is a poorly disguised plug for their book. As for answering -- well, I think someone who takes the time to leave a comment deserves my thanks, and this is how I try to show my appreciation.

Sheila Deeth said...

I think I'm only just learning about what support means to me - those hit counters are nice. Comments are great. And I'm only just learning better ways to support my friends. Retweeting is new to me. Linking to blogs. I do love to read and review, and to read and comment. And then life intervenes... I do love the support of the virtual writing community on blogs and facebook and twitter.

Jud said...

Terry: About the lady who wanted your autograph but had no interest in the book:

About a year ago I read some posts by a writer who impressed me so much with his depth of knowledge and wisdom that I was driven to track down all his books, both fiction and non-fiction. Most were no longer in print so I had to comb the second-hand dealers on Abebooks. One of the books was 'autographed by the author', an added bonus.

When the book eventually arrived from a small bookseller halfway around the world, I discovered that the autograph was a personal and very moving dedication to a multiple Emmy and Golden Globe award movie star. The actor is still alive, though in his 70s. I wonder how the book ended up on the market. I would never let something like that out of my hands.

Terry Odell said...

Jud - I picked up a book primarily because it had an autographed by the author sticker on it; I'd never seen one prior to that and thought it was cool. I ended up buying most of the backlist.

Right now, due to an error of my own, I have two autographed, personalized copies of a book. I might part with one if there's someone out there named Terry who'd want it.