December 14 – 20: “Are thriller writers active enough on social media?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5Are thriller writers active enough on social media? This week ITW Members Brendan P. Rielly, Larry D. Sweazy, Bernard Maestas, Chuck Greaves, Jean Heller, R. J. Harlick and S. Harrison discuss whether a writer must participate in social media, or if the constant messaging and familiarity diminish suspense?




unbeatenAn Unbeaten Man is Brendan Rielly’s first thriller. Brendan is a member of ITW and Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance and studied advanced fiction writing while attending law school. Brendan is chair of Jensen Baird’s litigation department and lives with his wife and three children in Westbrook, Maine, where he is the City Council President. Brendan is the middle of three generations of Maine authors with his father and son (as a high school senior) also published.


Say That to My Face by Bernard MaestasBernard Maestas lives in paradise. A police officer patrolling the mean streets of Hawaii, he has a background in contract security and military and civilian law enforcement. When not saving the world, one speeding ticket at a time, and not distracted by video games or the internet, he is usually hard at work on his next book.



Tom&Lucky_HC_r4 (2)A Shamus Award finalist for his Jack MacTaggart series of legal thrillers, Chuck Greaves‘ latest stand-alone novel TOM & LUCKY AND GEORGE & COKEY FLO (Bloomsbury) was hailed by the Wall Street Journal as “boisterous historical fiction” with “the wild energy of a 1930s Warner Bros. crime-movie . . . Mr. Greaves is one helluva good storyteller.”



thousand falling crowsLarry D. Sweazy is a multiple-award author of eleven western and mystery novels and over sixty nonfiction articles and short stories.  He is also a freelance indexer and has written back-of-the-book indexes for over eight hundred and fifty books in nineteen years which served as inspiration for the Marjorie Trumaine Mystery series.  A standalone historical thriller, A Thousand Falling Crows (Seventh Street Books), will be published in January, 2016. Larry lives in Indiana with his wife, Rose, two dogs and a cat.


Cold White Fear final coverCanadian author, RJ Harlick writes the popular wilderness-based Meg Harris mystery series set in the wilds of Quebec. With an underlying Native theme, each book explores not only the motives behind murder, but also issues facing Natives today and their traditional ways. The fourth book, Arctic Blue Death was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel. The latest and seventh in the series, A Cold White Fear, was recently released to critical acclaim. RJ is a past president of Crime Writers of Canada.


hellerMost of Jean Heller’s career was as an investigative and projects reporter and editor in New York City, Washington, D.C. and St. Petersburg Florida. Her career as a novelist began in the 1990s with the publication of the thrillers, Maximum Impact and Handyman by St. Martin’s Press. Then life intervened and postponed her new book, The Someday File, to publication in late 2014. Jean has won the Worth Bingham Prize, the Polk Award, and is an eight-time Pulitzer Prize nominee.


infinityS. Harrison is an author from New Zealand, where he often indulges in his love of watching superhero movies and art house films. He frequently escapes to the many islands of the South Pacific, where he is hard at work on his writing. Infinity Lost is his first novel.




  1. Like all writers, thriller writers are certainly active on social media, using it to connect with others, share ideas, and increase the visibility of their books. It’s difficult to know how effective it is because there is so much noise in the social media world. If everyone has a “platform,” then how can you draw attention to yours?

    I am on Facebook, both personally and with an author page. I find the author page to be fairly limited. The personal one is actually easier to communicate from. I am not on Twitter and would ask other authors whether they find that useful.

    One question I have is whether all of this social media posting ends up barraging the same people over and over. How do you reach new audiences?

    I’ve been thinking about ideas for a blog, but I think there needs to be a real original hook to a blog to make it attractive since there are more author blogs than anyone could ever read.

    So, I think authors in general, and thriller authors in particular, are trying hard in the social media world, but I wonder how effective it is in reaching new eyes and ears or whether we keep hitting the same people over and over.

  2. This is very much a “have you stopped beating your wife?” question.

    I personally don’t like social media. My life is interesting, but probably only to me. Why should I inflict my breakfast choices on thousands of people who really don’t want to know? But social media, regardless of how we feel about it, is a necessary evil, and some authors take that word, “evil,” too literally in the virtual world.

    Of the two major players, Facebook and Twitter, I have found postings on Twitter to be especially unpleasant. There are some authors I could name, but won’t, who seem to believe that because Twitter posts are short, they need to be numerous. One author actually posted 27 tweets about his new book, one right after another, for several days running. And he did it several times each day. On the other hand, the life of a tweet is so short – post now and in five minutes your tweet will be buried under 50 new ones from other people – perhaps this author felt the only way to combat a short life span was to create multiple lives. I didn’t buy the book. I don’t even recall the title, so all that repetition was drowned out by the irritation it generated.

    Facebook author posts are less intrusive, in my experience, because they are fewer. The absolute best author posts I’ve encountered are by a Florida writer who never makes a sales pitch. He tells amusing stories about things that were said or done at his signings and readings. He keeps his (non-fiction) work in people’s minds without sounding as if he’s asking for a sale all the time. He does mention when and where he is making author appearances, but judging from his success, people want to have this information. So more power to him.

    As for myself, I rarely use Twitter to promote my latest novel, THE SOMEDY FILE. I do use Facebook, but my preferred post is from another author I might or might not know who blurbs the book. Or from non-author readers who have something to say about my novels. I’ve always been told the best advertising is word-of-mouth, and I do see bumps in sales when somebody other than me has something nice to say about my work.

    Even if they use social media to say it.

  3. Hi everyone. I’m looking forward to an exciting week of discussion both with my confreres and you readers and writers out there. Everyone has an opinion about social media, so don’t hesitate to chime in.

    I don’t think I will get any disagreement if I say that in today’s crowded thriller market, social media is a must for all thriller writers, be they a best selling or a first time author. With publisher’s promotional budgets devoted to the select few, the best way to get the word out about the latest book is through social media.

    But as we all now, there are many forms of social media. Personally I’m a big fan of Facebook. I find it the best platform for connecting with my readers. I like the conversations that evolve with Friends. Often we aren’t even talking about my books, but interests we share. I have had many a person met on Facebook come to my launches and book signings, where we finally get to meet face-to-face.

    But I do have those Friends, screamers, I call them, that don’t let you forget that they have a new book out. Every post is telling you, how fabulous their book is, where it ranks on Amazon and so on and so forth. These are the posts I ignore in my newsfeed.

    The authors whose posts I do pay attention to are the ones that intermix posts about their day-to-day lives with their writing lives. I like to know more about them, than just the books they write.

    But Facebook is the only social media platform I use. There is a myriad of others out there and I’d love to learn more about them.

    So what about you? What is your favourite platform either as writer for connecting with your readers or as a reader, finding out more about your favourite authors?

  4. I’ve never been convinced at the effectiveness of social media. The constant “Buy My Book” posts are off-putting and annoying and if one has any sense of privacy, then it is also a difficult place to be. On the other hand, there is this idea that this new media allows contact with readers that writers have never had before. Developing an audience via social media seems crucial, a requirement. I’ve never been sure if writers should be followed or be the followers. Is it possible to follow readers and fans, and is it an effective way of communication? I’m not sure how comfortable I am with that idea.

    I am on Facebook and have an author page. I’m also on Twitter, and the two are linked so when I post on one it posts on the other. Same with my blog and Goodreads. I think there ways of spreading the message, whatever it may be, but that’s the question. What is the message? And how often should you post and communicate? I’m not sure there’s a right answer other than in moderation. I post on my blog once a week.

    I’ve always struggled with the time social media takes away form writing. I have a day job, a business to run outside of writing. Finding the right amount of time to invest properly comes and goes with the busyness of my seasons. With any marketing plan consistency and repetition seem to be key. I’m never sure if I use social media correctly or enough, and my approach is constantly evolving. I’m looking forward to this conversation to find out what other thriller writers think.

    1. I agree, Larry, that it is tricky coming up with a good balance between Facebook and other social media and our real writing. I don’t know if you are like me, but sometimes I use Facebook as a way to avoid my real writing particularly when I am in a difficult part of the story. It is also the main reason why I avoid twitter. I know that once I start tweeting I won’t stop. But I do wonder if I am missing another opportunity to connect with readers. What do the rest of you think?

      1. I think I have some readers on Facebook who follow along. Local readers have mentioned that they wouldn’t know about my book signings if it weren’t for Facebook, so I feel compelled to post info there, but sustaining a relationship in between book launches seem to be the problem for me. I don’t use Twitter much other than it’s linked to my blog. All of it takes time, but I guess a half hour a day or so is an investment worth making. It’s a good theory, anyway…

  5. Like most writers I know, I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I too have both a personal profile and an author page on Facebook, but do not use Twitter. When I first began posting on Facebook, at my agent’s insistence, I made the rookie mistake of engaging in BSP (blatant self-promotion) which felt a little smarmy and, I’m sure, annoyed the hell out of my new cyber-friends. I soon settled into a pattern of posting mostly personal matters on my profile, and exclusively author-related material on my page.

    I believe it’s a mistake to think you can sell many books on Facebook. If you’re anything like me, you probably have dozens, or perhaps hundreds, of fb friends who are also writers, and you soon realize that you’re shouting into an echo chamber. To my present thinking, the two greatest virtues of Facebook for a professional writer are:

    (a) To alert your “real” friends (people you’ve actually met, including old colleagues or classmates) to genuinely exciting news, such as a new book release, an award, or some similar milestone; and

    (b) To keep your finger on the pulse of the writing community, such as who’s got a new book, who has a movie deal, who’s going to which conference or convention.

    The other, non-professional virtue of Facebook, of course, is keeping tabs on the lives of people about whom you genuinely care. That, and cat videos. And therein lay the vice of spending too much time on line and not enough time with your nose in your current manuscript. It takes real discipline to find the right balance.

    I’ll close with a recent example of what I’m rambling about. Last week the Wall Street Journal named my latest novel TOM & LUCKY to its year-end list of the Ten Best Mysteries of 2015. I wanted the world to know this, of course, and so I posted on both my profile and page, as well as in several writing groups to which I belong. Lots of re-posts and messages ensued, and I’d soon spent an entire writing day on Facebook. Was it worth it? For that one milestone, I’d say yes. For the day-to-day grist of a writer’s life, however, I think you’re better off disconnecting from the internet and spending quiet time with your work-in-progress.

    What do you think?

    1. Chuck, I do the same thing myself, post whenever something special happens to one of my books, like the recent recommendation my latest A Cold White Fear received from CBC radio. And like you, I find my fans and friends get a thrill out of it too.

      And like yourself and a few others in our round table, I maintain both a personal page and an author page. And though I concentrate book related posts to the author page, I will share some key posts on my personal page, which I tend to use for more personal day-to-day life postings.

  6. I agree on the straight buy my books posting. Exciting news about recommendations or awards or listings always get a strong reaction while more mundane posts like when book signings are, get much fewer likes.

  7. I’m neophyte author from New Zealand, fresh off the presses if you will.In my little country,before I was published, whenever I told someone I was a writer it was generally met with raised eyebrows at first and then a pitying smile, the obligatory stifled giggle and a bemused “So you’re unemployed then?” It seemed that unless you were Katherine Mansfield or Eleanor Catton, Kiwi’s were not supposed to be writers, at least that was my experience.
    That consensus pushed me into a shame closet, and after I had finished writing my first book I didn’t really know what to do with it.I didn’t personally know any other writers that I could go to for advice and I didn’t feel confident enough to directly approach agents at the time, so I decided to turn to social media and post the entire manuscript on a website for aspiring writers to try and get some constructive criticism and feedback.
    The website was called Authonomy, it was run by Harper Collins and it was true, niche, warts and all social media. I made some great connections and some valued friends but on the flip side-if you think the trolls on Twitter and Facebook are bad, you should have seen the Machiavellian lengths some of the members of Authonomy would go to sabotage other writers ratings and push their books up the ranks simply for a chance to have it reviewed by a professional editor. My book thermometered up and down the ranks for over a year, but I don’t regret any of it for a second, because if it wasn’t for that horrible website my current agent would never have seen my book and I wouldn’t have a three book deal right now. Social media has it’s pros and cons of course, and my good fortune was mostly that-luck, but at it’s core, social media is simply communication in our electronic age. All forms of social media are platforms of exposure and it’s true, many of those platforms are covered in shit that you have to smear aside to garner any effectiveness from, but to completely dismiss social media when it can foster creativity, share ideas, create buzz and attract attention is, in my opinion, a very short sighted thing to do in this day and age.

  8. So, let me toss something else out there at the risk of making us all feel very old. Does anyone use Snapchati, Instagram, shoot videos on Vine or use other social media besides Facebook and Twitter?

  9. How do you guys feel about posting political/topical/controversial material on Facebook? On the one hand, we don’t want to alienate any of our fans/followers, but on the other hand it’s hard to resist joining the conversation when topics like mass shootings, primary debates, and terrorism are all over the news.

    What say you; politics or just politic?

  10. Chuck, I try to keep politics to a minimum unless it is something that is really important to me, like the recent election in Canada. I so didn’t want the return of our then current government, that I along with many of friends were making and sharing political posts.

  11. So, I’ll answer the question of this round table. No, I don’t think I’m active enough on social media, but there have been some ideas here that I think I’ll try–like looking beyond Facebook and Twitter. I get stuck in ruts and am resistant to try new things sometimes. And then there’s the time drain without an immediate return, which I know is unrealistic. Anyway, thanks for the ideas, folks. I hope to see you out and about, virtually or real life…

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