On Adopting a Writer

By | on March 5, 2012 | 0 Comment

I recently passed on reviewing a poetry collection. It’s difficult to write about verse. I’ve only tried it once or twice. But what really stopped me was that I hadn’t read the last four or five seminal works by the author. So I felt I lacked the background. I prefer to adopt a writer:

Start with the writer’s debut. Debut novels or story collections are bloggers’ gold. Publishers frequently hope that I’ll review a writer who is on their fifth or sixth book.

Sometimes the more established a writer is, the longer their books become. I consider this a bad sign. The more veteran a writer is, the less likely it is that your review will have any impact.

Adopting a writer should start with their first steps. Writing about veteran authors is like trying to adopt a 55 year-old man. But when I review a debut novel, I am intending to follow that writer for the rest of their career. That’s why I call my blogger’s practice “adopting a writer”.

Another requirement of writer adoption is that you have to talk to them. But to introduce yourself to a writer you need to have a calling card on a silver salver: your review.

After posting your review, email the writer. On Facebook, you can request a friending and send the writer a personal message at the same time.

If your writer is not on Facebook, then perhaps they are a prof or aspiring to be one. All university faculty have an email address and that address is public and online at the university website.

In your personal message, identify your blog and refer to your review. The review is your resume. I sometimes like to include references. For a British writer that I recently contacted, I included the names of two other British writers who I knew would say what a great guy I am. Reputation is everything but it has to be built up slowly like a long-term investment.

The problem with working through publisher marketing departments is that they probably won’t allow you to talk to the writer directly. There are exceptions, of course. When Simon was keen for me to interview Colm Toibin, they just gave me his email address and suggested that I contact him.

On that occasion, I regret that I didn’t take more time to talk to CT before I wrote the interview questions. Mr. Toibin was utterly gracious. But I should have taken more time to get to know him a little better before the interview which, I thought, came off a trifle stiff. That was my fault.

You have to talk to the writer because they have to trust you. Most writers who read my reviews and talk to me, trust me. Mutual trust is required if you are going to adopt a writer.


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