Authors as Role Models: Connecting with Your Readers Online

Stephen King and Josh

There is only so much time. We write and revise and revise some more. Sometimes we churn out 3,000, 4,000 words or more in one day. The ‘author platform’ advice haunts us. Some veteran authors and bloggers even advise us to back away from Twitter and Facebook and stop wasting all that time.

But is social media really a time waster?

And if we do invest in it, we constantly ask ourselves:

Can I afford to divert my energies away from my manuscript?

Am I getting much of anything in return?

After my good friend Kaarina Dillabough’s reminder in her excellent post last week, “I Want a Life,” I revisited these questions again.

It is something every writer needs to decide for herself, but as I thought about it, I was struck by two examples of successful writers I follow on social media. One is my favorite memoirist in the world and the other has just come out with his first book, a memoir that looks like it is going to be a runaway bestseller.

Two Successful, Social Media-Smart Authors

Many authors, when they become successful, abandon social media. They look at it as a tool they needed to get noticed, and nothing more. But these two gifted authors are showing me how to connect with readers on a personal and emotional level, in a way that builds an inclusive reader community.

And besides, they are just all-around good people.

Mary Karr, Memoirist Extraordinaire


Mary Karr describes herself as a poet first, but she is also a bestselling memoirist. called her memoir The Liars’ Club “a profoundly moving account of an apocalyptic childhood in rural east Texas.” Cherry is a powerful and engaging sexual coming-of-age story. In her memoir Lit she tells her story of falling into alcoholism, getting sober, becoming a mother and losing her own mother.

Mary’s memoirs sit on my library shelf, well worn and seasoned, like old friends. I read them over and over again, just pondering how she hooks me on her stories, how she makes the people in them so real (endearing, but not without their flaws), and how she became such an astute observer of the human condition.

Mary Karr’s Strategies for Connecting with Readers Online

She lets us see that she is a real person.

Whether it’s a proud mother’s news that her son won first prize in a film festival’s Best Music Video contest, or a snapshot of a broken foot in a walking cast, you get the real Mary Karr. And that helps us see her as more than just an author’s name on a book cover.

She responds to questions now and then.

When a reader poses a question to a bestselling author, she does not really expect a response. When she gets one, it stands out. :

Mary Karr on Facebook

She appreciates her readers.

This last May I tweeted a recommendation of her book Lit as a perfect present for a daughter to give her mom for Mother’s Day. She took the time to tweet a thanks to me and wish me “Happy Mama’s Day.” Now a popular author cannot recognize every comment, but random tweets of reader appreciation do have an impact.

She shares her works-in-progress.

Recently she shared a process she is using to outline her new book. So we feel we are already invested in it after having gotten a sneak peek at how she develops it:


If you’d like to learn more about Mary and her books, you can follow her on Twitter or like her Facebook page.

Josh Hanagarne, World’s Strongest Librarian


Josh is described as a “Mormon Librarian Strongman with Tourette’s Syndrome.” That is quite a unique combination.

I met Josh when he left a comment on my blog. Since then, I have read his blog and kept track of him on social media. And I just purchased, but haven’t yet started to read, his new book called—what else—The World’s Strongest Librarian. Amazon calls it “an inspiring story of how a Mormon kid with Tourette’s found salvation in books and weight-lifting.”

And Josh has another book in the wings.

Josh Hanagarne’s Strategies for Connecting with Readers Online

He gives us a sense of who he is and what he believes.

On his blog, pure and simple, without any pretense, he tells us what he is about: what he believes about people and life:

About Josh Hanagarne

The short answer: just some guy.

I’ve got a pretty simple philosophy of life.

  • Take care of your mind and your health
  • Protect your family and make sure they have what they need
  • Help who you can help
  • Laugh as often as possible
  • Ask lots of questions
  • Distrust the humorless
  • Nobody understood human nature better than Mark Twain
  • There’s always a way to be compassionate
  • Every situation can be improved

He is supportive of other bloggers and writers.

He left a random, totally unexpected comment on my blog once, when I was just starting out as a blogger. It meant a lot to me:

comment from Josh Hanagarne

He likes to help people.

Remember your school librarian when you were a kid? Well, multiply that by ten on the helpfulness scale because Josh has knowledge and he is not afraid to share it. If you are a bookworm, this librarian turned author has all kinds of free reading recommendations for you on his blog and through his eletter.

He arm wrestles with Stephen King.

Okay, that one was just for fun. The story is that at an event for Stephen King at the Mark Twain House, Mary Karr was trying to find out which one of them was the biggest Liars Club fan, the winner of the arm wrestling match to take the honors. Posted on Josh’s Facebook page and in Mary’s Twitter stream:


If you want to learn more, follow Josh on Twitter and like his World’s Strongest Librarian Facebook page.

What about you?

Do you have any favorite authors you follow on social media?

Any suggestions for us?

Make sure you don’t miss a post.


  1. Joan Z. Rough July 22, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    What a great post. I struggle with the question of social media all the time. And since I often feel time pinched, don’t do much with it except for my website and blog which I feel is where someone can really get to know who I am.

    I’m easily distracted and also have an addictive personality. I find that I can lose a whole day of writing to piddling around on facebook and/or twitter. Thank God that besides buying books, those are my worst addictions. I have recently had to promisemy writing coach I’ll not do that or worry about marketing my unfinished book until I have a first draft done.

    Mary Karr is a favorite of mine, as is Sheryl Strayed, but there are many others out there.



    • Judy Lee Dunn July 22, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

      “Piddling around on Facebook or twitter.” Yes, I know that feeling well. I feel like my blog in a non-negotiable tool because it’s my home base and a place to give people samples and snippets of my writing. The social media platforms are extra and I am cutting down time spent on them in order to work on my number one priority: the memoir. Sometimes I think it’s just a great big juggling act.

      I’ll be talking about my book from time to time as I work on finishing the rough draft but, yes, I agree. The writing takes priority over all else. Thanks for sharing here, Joan.


  2. Kaarina Dillabough July 22, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

    Short answer to your question: you 🙂 Thanks for the lovely tip of the hat. You know how much I love your writing! Cheers! Kaarina


    • Judy Lee Dunn July 22, 2013 at 4:16 pm #


      You made me smile with that one. You are good for the self-concept. And, sure, anytime I can link to such stellar content as yours, you know I will. : )


  3. Di Mace July 22, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

    I love receiving and reading your posts, Judy. They always make me think, feel and make new discoveries. And this time is no exception! I\’ve found several new places to meander and people to mingle with – but of course, my fave is still you. Shame the ocean distance between us is so far; I \’d love a good natter at the mo to divine our future 🙂


  4. Judy Lee Dunn July 23, 2013 at 9:16 am #


    Good to hear from you again. What, pray tell, is a “natter at the mo”? : )


    • Di Mace July 23, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

      Ha ha…isn’t the english language grand!
      Literally it’s – natter (gossip, chat, chin-wag, D&M) at the mo (moment) 🙂


      • Di Mace July 23, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

        Ah… and D&M means Deep and Meaningful (conversation), not any other interpretation 🙂


  5. Judy Lee Dunn July 23, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

    Oh, well, I should have a least figured out “at the mo.” Are you celebrating the birth of the Prince of Cambridge today?


    • Di Mace July 23, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

      Um, not especially… although I’m not a republican rabble rouser either! I kinda like having a monarch – we’re a dying breed of country though. Personally I feel sorry for the poor little soul – being brought up with no choice, no life and no privacy seems a tough life for anyone. Even if it is a privileged one.


      • Di Mace July 23, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

        I perhaps should point out that here, ‘republican’ here, means someone who wants us to become a republic – not the US political party.


  6. Judy Lee Dunn July 23, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

    Republican. Democrat. I think we can all come together. Bob says,
    “Don’t alienate people.” So I try not to. But this little one-day-old baby? He doesn’t have a say in his life. And that is kind of sad.


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