June 19 – 25: “Using new media to bridge readers with authors?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5This week we’re joined by ITW Members Melodie Winawer, Dennis Hetzel and J.H. Bográn as they discuss the advantages of using new media to bridge readers with authors.


Melodie Winawer is a physician-scientist and Associate Professor of Neurology at Columbia University. A graduate of Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Columbia University with degrees in biological psychology, medicine, and epidemiology, she has published over fifty nonfiction articles and book chapters. She is fluent in Spanish and French, literate in Latin, and has a passable knowledge of Italian. Dr. Winawer lives with her spouse and their three young children in Brooklyn, New York. The Scribe of Siena is her first novel.


As a native of Chicago, cheering for the Chicago Cubs, loving baseball and obsessing about politics come naturally to Dennis Hetzel. SEASON OF LIES is his second novel, following the award-winning Killing the Curse (written with Rick Robinson) in which events precede those that unfold in the latest novel. As a journalist and media executive, Dennis has won numerous awards for writing, industry leadership and community service, including the 2003 Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism for leadership in coverage of race and diversity issues. Since 2010, he has been president and executive director of the Ohio News Media Association in Columbus, Ohio, and president of the Ohio Coalition for Open Government.


J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist. He ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix. His works include novels and short stories in both English and Spanish.POISONED TEARS is his third novel in English and has already garnered positive reviews and recommendations. Jon Land calls it “a splendid piece of crime noir.” Douglas Preston says it’s a first class roller-coaster ride.He’s a member of The Crime Writers Association, the Short Fiction Writers Guild and the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator and contributor editor for their official e-zine The Big Thrill.


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  1. Whether you have a full time “publicity machine” supporting you from a major publisher or you are on your own in terms of publicity, new media platforms are essential to cut through the noise in today’s environment. That’s obvious to everyone in 2017. What isn’t as obvious is how to use it successfully as we try to market ourselves as brands.

    And maybe that’s the problem for many of us. We are so focused on publicity and brand building that too many efforts (including mine) come off as p.r.-ish.
    We’re doing what many authors do: I have a Facebook author page, a Facebook page for my new book and related events, my own website and a Twitter presence. I’m also a regular contributor to the HuffPost blog network, where I focus on media and politics. (Here’s an example: Who pays the price for making up news?) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/5930d989e4b0649fff2117bb

    However, I have had only rare success in using social media in the way that works best – as a multi-part conversation, not a one-way street. Most of my efforts don’t elicit much feedback.

    So, I would welcome advice on things people have done to spark more interaction.

    I do have a great, recent social media story to share. My new novel, “Season of Lies,” involves the Chicago Cubs and dirty politics among other things. My publicist went to the hotel in Cincinnati where the Cubs and fans were staying and found a decked-out Cubs fan who agreed to pose for a photo with my book. After we put the photo on Facebook and Twitter, the fan’s friends and family loved it. We had several thousand views, likes, or shares.

  2. My first novel, The Scribe of Siena, came out 4 weeks ago. About 4 weeks before that, I started my twitter ramp-up. Translation: I went from absolutely no experience with Twitter to multiple hours a day on twitter overnight. At first I was, perhaps justifiably, frightened. I’d heard stories of Twitter disasters and didn’t want to be one. I hung out on the sidelines, reading and not commenting for a long while before I ventured my first tweet, carefully choosing all my words. No one noticed. Time passed, I read the news, I watched some more. Finally, I got my first like. I learned how to tag, then learned how to tag slightly better. I periodically regretted my decision to leave the “the” out of my book’s hashtag (#ScribeofSiena not #THEScribeofSiena), then was happy about it, then regretted it again. I accumulated a few followers, then, exhilaratingly, a famous person followed me. (OMG!) I was excited for hours. The next day I began a heady high speed twitter fest with an international reader analytics publishing maven—and within minutes the size of my world had changed, as did the content of my thoughts—about my book, about publishing, about how readers think, By the week before launch I had settled in, I began to understand Twitter’s funny quick rhythm, high speed, and outstanding, amazing reach to thousands of strangers in seconds. It made my prior social media comfort zone—Facebook– feel like a geriatric luncheon.

    Launch Day: My phone was a sea of fabulous blue, screen after screen of alerts, sounding off every few seconds—the electronic counterpoint to the exhilarating triumph of seeing my once silent story leave my head and fly out into the word. By then it was a familiar barrage, and a welcome one. I felt for the first time worthy of my 12-year-old daughter’s respect (she even liked one of my Instagram posts!). Then—a week after publication, my first fan found me
    I was scanning Twitter for mentions of my book and found that someone I didn’t know had tweeted the moment she’d finished #ScribeofSiena by @melodiewinawer…and she had loved it.
    “Thanks for reading!” I tweeted back. A pause, just a few seconds, then WHOA THAT’S @melodiewinawer! Came back. I’m just a person, you know, but to her I was THE AUTHOR. Authors were once distant, inaccessible figures, pale, silent creatures locked in their studies chained to their typewriters, coming out rarely into the light to grace their readers with a moment of illumination, then disappearing again. But to this tweeter, I was THE AUTHOR, come out of the cloud smiling to say a weirdly accessible “Thanks!”

    We’d bridged the gap between reader and writer in one brief, less than 140 character moment. And from my perspective (and I think from the reader’s)—it worked. We were in the same place at the same time, a shared place and time that could never have happened before—until now.

  3. I’m Dennis. I have Facebook profile and separate author profile, I have twitter, and G+. I even had MySpace in its hayday. I’m staying away from Instagram and Snapchat. I’ve made some attempts to be funny, nothing got much traction.
    My new novel is set in New Orleans, so I tweeted a lot about the city. Then a couple of Saints players followed me. It was a great honor.

    The fun part with social media is not everything works for everybody and you must find your own rhythm. I complain about my failures with the author pages, however, I also own a Korean restaurant (no, I’m not Korean, but my wife and I decided to invest in one). So I handle the social media for the restaurant, that one, I’m proud to say has soared. We have over 10,000 followers in Facebook and we’re over 650 in the recently open Instagram.

    Applying what has worked for the restaurant to the author page has not worked. I guess that may be because everybody eats but not everybody reads. 🙂

    1. Everybody eats but not everybody eats Korean food! 🙂 I’m quite interested in the intersection between food and fiction, but until now did not know any restauranteur/authors, other than those who write about the food business…

      I find facebook author pages to be cumbersome and slow, and algorithmically challenging. Perhaps this is because they require financial input to have wider reach, which I resist….

      1. Sorry to disappoint, but there is no intersection of the restaurant and my writing other than that’s the place where I write. So I yet have to make that connection.
        My new novel has a Korean character (as a female assassin she’s great to work with), but the novel’s set in Taiwan.

      2. Facebook wants you to pay if you expect your posts to show up in anyone else’s feed. The work-around is to share the author or book page post to your personal page and encourage your friends to not just like your posts but also share them. Sharing is critical to FB’s algorithms, or so I’ve read. Of course, FB probably is several steps ahead in the quest to get you to pay.

        I’ve also found that different social media outlets seem to work better for certain topics or groups. I’m paying more attention to Twitter. I probably need to do Pinterest. (Anyone out there have Pinterest observations?)

        Then you find yourself wondering: “Do I see much cause-and-effect between most of these efforts and sales?” I am particularly skeptical of FB boosted posts now, even after refining the demographic and geographic filters as much as I can. Or, is it the quality of the post itself? Physical events like bookstore signings can prompt these same questions of course.

        I think the reality is that you just keep trying different approaches in the time you have available, hoping that lightning will strike with the right person or group that pushes your book to go viral.

        When I get too frustrated, I remember that this is the arts. Financial success is a bonus. And, I am buoyed by great reviews from people I’ve never met. I’m buoyed by how many people have told me how cool it is to have written and published these books, and that they wish it is something they could’ve have done.

        And they’re right, though they’ve never seen me play golf, cast a line or try to do anything beyond the most basic home improvement. We’re here to use the gifts we’re given.

        Still, it’s fun to dream. I am always reminded of a saying from my newspaper editor days: If you’re writing for yourself, you only need to print one.

  4. I think more interesting than the question of whether social media increases sales is how social media can change the relationship between readers and writers. This accessibility is a relatively new thing, fostered by technology.

  5. I don’t have a Facebook page. I don’t have Twitter. I have a good old fashioned website, blog and email account….and I am at peace with this. I love hearing from my readers, and I respond to every email. But, I frankly can’t justify the time tweeting and facebooking. I’d rather write. Am I an idiot?

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