I've recently said to my lovely friend Winn Smith, that I'm glad I've taken up writing, and that I am on Twitter. Why? Because I wouldn't have met her otherwise. It all started out with me posting a link to my short stories and she downloaded them and tweeted that she really enjoyed the bok. Of course I was flattered, I would be lying if I said I wasn't, but somehow it started a wonderful series (novel-sized by now) of e-mail exchanges about everything in life, and of course: writing. She's become a beta reader, a proofreader (very good one, I will add), a humorist and a friend. We're going to meet up shortly for the first time, because, although both living in London, we haven't managed to find a date in over a year. Sad, but true. I'm really looking forward to meeting her in person.
In fact, due to social media, I've become friends with quite a few people. Readers, who got in touch and befriended me on Facebook, now get a close update on what I'm up to. We chat, have exchanges about our everyday life, support each other when the going gets tough, etc. I've learned that many readers like to see a human being behind the author, and that they are also very interested in getting involved in the process of the writing. A few have offered to beta read my books, or I've asked them straight out. For an author there's almost nothing more important than beta readers in the early stages. Here is where a reader can have a say and be a big part of making a novel better. Although many authors say they write for themselves, as I do, I also want my readers to like what I'm writing. They need to connect to the book in order to feel something, so if they collectively don't like something in a book, I must go a back to square one and change it. Not that it ever happened, but my beta readers have their say and I take them seriously.
I've also seen enthusiastic tweets about my books or my writing, often from people I have never spoken to. They share their emotions through Twitter or Facebook with their friends, which, to me, is means the world. Nothing is better than word of mouth in the publishing business.
So, yes, it's not all bad in the virtual world. As long as the good outweighs the bad, I'm happy to be part of it.