Trends The starving writer scribbling alone in the garret is a thing of the past as authors engage with their readers over platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogger and LinkedIn, writes PREETI ZACHARIAH

The solitary writer! Mired in penury and obscurity perhaps, his genius unearthed only after his demise. Or maybe it was simply that deliberate, cultivated aloofness stemming from a sense of entitlement that greatness affords.

Writing is essentially a lonely vocation and all that once defined a writer was the work he churned out. The love, hope, despair, joy nestled between the pages of his book, the only connect between the author and the audience.

Not anymore. The glass palace has splintered; the lonely garret is now overrun. The invasion of social media has altered society’s norms, affected the way we relay information, changed the way an author and his work relate to his readers. Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, LinkedIn have sidled into the literary world and look like they are planning to stay there.

“Writers use these portals to bring people together, take greater interest in their work, take it forward and spread the word. Marketing has always been an important aspect of gaining literary credit and is an essential part of a writer’s kingdom,” says Dr Shyam Bhat, Psychiatrist, Integrative Medicine specialist.

Samit Basu author of the hugely popular Gameworld trilogy, agrees, “Social media is more useful for writers today than mainstream media. And the reason for that is that books coverage has fallen in general both in terms of quality and quantity,” he says.

“You can’t negate the power of the internet and reach of social media,” concurs Sreemoyee Kundu, a former journalist and author of Faraway Music. “But promotion needs to be done sensibly. We are writers, after all not advertising honchos.”

“We normally follow authors whose opinions interest or match with our own. And its good that these writers know how to use social media to their social and commercial advantage,” says Kenny Roger, who works in a private organization and follows writers such as Paulo Coelho and Salman Rushdie

“Also it connects you to them. There is a feeling that they are not some random far away famous people when you see them interact over social media,” adds Chrishelle David who follows writers like Judy Balan, Kiran Manral and Preeti Shenoy.

“It's fun. These are opportunities that today’s writers have, to interact with readers and other writers on a daily/real-time basis that writers in earlier eras simply didn't have. It is nice to be able to experience them. I've had many nice conversations with readers and have received useful feedback from writers and publishers abroad.” says Samit. “It is really interesting to see how stories evolve, and language evolves on the Internet, and many years later we might be looking at these years as a period that fundamentally changed how the written word reached an audience.”

However as with anything there is a flip side to it.

Noted writer, Shashi Deshpande who has completely eschewed social media portals says, “I know that a lot of writers use these platforms to connect with readers, I think I would be much happier if they just read my book. I see social media as a waste of time, at least for me. My day is so full already.”

“I find the all-pervasive shouting of many other writers on social media extremely annoying. I tend to unfollow these people,” adds Samit.

“As nice as it is to see these people as genuinely likeable and endearing, there is also the flip side where people often do and say things that are not very well mannered or politically correct or just don’t sit well with your own sense of right and wrong. And that bursts your bubble—before social media we never had that kind of access to their opinions and reactions to anything and everything,” says Chrishelle. “There is a constant need for human beings to come together and be part of something larger than them selves especially now in a society that is more fragmented than before. We have always had fan clubs for people we admire and this just makes it easier to follow and connect with them as the virtual world is easy to access.” says Dr Bhat. “But an author’s presence on social media does not necessarily translate into a bestseller. At the end of the day, the quality of the writing is what really endures,”