Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Writers’ Lives in the Internet Age

By Kay Kendall

Once upon a time the image of a writer was someone who sits in a quiet room all day long and scribbles, or types away like a maniac. The key point is that writers were seen as introverts. Even at the beginning of this new century, that seemed to be the stereotype.

Then as the decade of the 00’s advanced and publishing began to change, the digital intrusion into the world of writers hit. The difference from 2004 to today is extraordinary. For example, when I contacted agents in 2004, most of them would not take submissions by email. Now that trend is reversed. If an agent wanted to see a partial or full manuscript, then you snail mailed it. Agents’ websites (for the third that had them back then) warned against sending attachments. They feared viruses.

Now, only ten years later, each agency has a website. That is, if the agency survived. Literary agencies have been decimated by the digital revolution.  Writers can skip them as gatekeepers and submit directly to small publishers or choose to go the self-publishing route.

I chaired a panel at Bloody Words 2014.

Once you are a published writer—or about to become one—that’s when you must hit the marketing trail…Facebook, Twitter, your blog, your webpage, Pinterest perhaps, and many other parts of the internet world. This is super time-consuming, and if you skip these steps, your sales will languish and your publisher will not be happy with you.

For those writers who are true introverts, living in this new world is torture. All they really want to do is sit at home in a quiet room and compose their stories. So they are torn, and I do feel for them. I meet authors like this at writers’ conferences, where they moan and say how shy they are, how they want to retreat to their hotel rooms.

As for me, I love the networking and marketing and meeting readers so much that it’s easy to forget about the writing at the core of it all…which remains sitting alone in that room and facing an empty screen and throwing type up on it. For me, that is torture. Once I get past the first draft, then the rest is glorious.
Pictured left to right: Pamela Blance, me, Gloria Ferris, Lorie Lee Steiner, & Liz Lindsay
Last week I attended a terrific writers’ conference in Toronto, Canada. It was called Bloody Words 2014, and participants came from all over North America. I met many authors who were Facebook friends and now are real ones, not just virtual. There was a group of four women—all writers from the province of Ontario—who made my visit remarkably wonderful. One said she was an introvert, one was clearly an extrovert, and two I’d judged to be in the middle. Whatever. We all had a danged good time, and much of our chat was about the rigors of the publishing world today. I almost called this blog piece “Misery Loves Company,” but nixed the idea as too negative, especially when the whole conference was so marvelous that it didn’t deserve any bad connotation.

Gloria Ferris & her book Corpse Flower
As promised here in my previous post two weeks ago, I have included some photos from the event. Two interesting twists to the usual mystery conference were the Books on Legs runway walk. An author who had a book released in the previous half year would strut her stuff while wearing an enlargement of that book’s cover. There were no introverts visible on that runway!

The concluding banquet was also novel. Attendees were encouraged to dress as fictional characters from mysteries. Our group had these disguises—one biker chick, one hippie chick, one pathologist named Kay Scarpetta, and two (count ‘em, two!) grieving widows. The latter duo hinted that perhaps they had done in their spouses, but they would never tell.

A great time was had by all. Books were sold and autographed, contacts were established, and promises were made to continue networking on the internet and at future conferences. 

But now I'm back in my author’s lair, where the empty PC screen whispers that I'm 4,000 words behind on completing my manuscript by summer’s end. Or, as my grandmother used to say, “There’s no rest for the weary.”  


Kay Kendall is an international award-winning public relations executive who lives in Texas with her husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. A fan of historical mysteries, she wants to do for the 1960s what novelist Alan Furst does for Europe in the 1930s and 1940s--write atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit of the age.


  1. Great post Kay! I have to agree with your take on the speedy evolution of the writing world. Hard to even comprehend what it was like before the internet and social media ramped everything up. Like you, I value the networking and without venues such as Bloody Words and social media, many of us would be languishing - lacking encouragement, camaraderie, and just having a good time in the pursuit of our craft.
    Sure hope our paths cross again in the near future - we did have a good time didn't we :-)

    1. Hi, Liz. My goodness YES, we did have a great time. I am glad we can keep up by social media but I also hope our paths will cross again soon at other author events. Write on!

  2. Kay, an on-the-money post about marketing - and introverts vs extroverts! It was so nice to meet you in person, and the five of us did have a great time! Let's plan on meeting up at Thriller Fest in NY next July.

  3. I'm planning on that meet up next July for sure. Just gotta finish the book in time plus have the moolah to attend....just two little things. heehee. But I will make it happen! Keep poking me please!