The death of the author in a world of influencers

Do you remember the days, before Twitter, Instagram, or even the internet, when the only thing you knew about your favourite author was the list of books they wrote and whatever they had written on the bio inside the book cover?

I didn’t know anything about my favourite authors except how their voices sounded on the page, and that I could trust them with my utter voracity. If they published something, I would buy it and love it and buy the next one and the next.

Perhaps I knew if they were English or American, or those tidbits you immediately forget, like if they lived with a husband, wife, kids, pets. I didn’t know their political leanings, how many selfies they took on a daily basis and what their views on the Great British Bake Off were.

Books used to stand by themselves, existing solely alone, rather than attached to the author. The author name was more of a tag to identify what kind of book it would be, the same way a distinctive cover would do.

Authors now are meant to be building a brand, be online to interact with their readers, to let them know what they’re working on, when the next book is out. Reviewing other books, sharing thoughts, being involved in conversation…engaging.

It’s such a different world now.

I like being online and sharing my thoughts, most of the time. But on the other hand, the internet is a loud, loud place full of angry thoughts and people selling stuff, and shouting and hatefulness and disagreements just for the sake of it. We’ve become accustomed to sharing every single thought we have. And the more I do that, the fewer I have to put in my books.

It’s perhaps different with those authors we studied at school, from a different time and era. Or authors with very interesting lives.

But I don’t have an interesting life. I have an incredibly ordinary, pleasant life. I save the interesting things I think about or notice for my books.

I sometimes miss knowing nothing more about my favourite authors than the fact that I could trust them. That I loved them solely for their books. That I didn’t know what they looked like, how they felt about things or how they spent their days. It was something close to God, I think. Trusting in someone invisible that you somehow felt you knew.

So, what do you think? Do you follow your favourite authors online? Does seeing their normality make you feel closer to them? Do you need to know anything about an author to care about the book?

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