Thursday, January 27, 2011

To My Western Writer Buddies:

I think it's pretty well established that my preferred writing genre is Old West Fiction, or what everyone calls Westerns. That word conjures up a stereotypical picture of cowboys, Indians, and gunfighters. The Western genre is actually a very large one, encompassing not only cowboys, Indians, and gunfighters, but ranchers, gamblers, the military, settlers, traders, miners, railroaders, sheepherders, school teachers, and a host of other professions and callings, as well. I won't go into the red-light district here.

Sometimes I've chafed at the Western tag, mostly because my novels don't fit into the stereotype, and I've branded my books as "post-Civil War novels." Now I'm embracing the genre name, with a new look to my website coming soon, and a new signature in my email.

I've often wondered where the Western fiction market would be if we Western Writers could/would work the social media as effectively as writers in other genres do. You've got to admit some heavy word-of-mouth was involved in the success of the Suzanne Collins trilogy: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and MockingJay. That WOM was not only face to face, but using Twitter and Facebook and blogs and other varieties of social media to spread the word.

First, of course, Collins wrote a blazingly popular book, which wasn't her first, nor even her first series work. Second, readers all over the world eagerly anticipated the second volume, and then, the buzz for the third was unbelievable. Book review bloggers fueled the fire, and Collins's sales went through the roof. The buzz began MONTHS before MockingJay appeared.

Now, I don't read YA dystopian sci-fi novels, and I haven't read Collins's books. However, I do admire her sales record and respect the power of readers to spread their enthusiasm all over the world. We can take a lesson from YA writers and readers (whose numbers include a HUGE number of adults).

When are Western writers going to take the challenge, stop thinking in terms of the genre being a small niche, and bust the market wide open through getting a buzz going worldwide? No, not the morning-after buzz. The this-is-a-darn-fine-story-and-you-need-to-read-it buzz. Let's make it so more readers say about our books, "Oh, was that a Western I just enjoyed? Wow!"

Here's my challenge to Western writers: Start a blog. They are free. Write a post on it at least once a week. Interview your fellow Western writers. Review Western books you read. Get a Twitter account so you can tweet about your new interview/review/thoughts.

I won't go further into social media . . . yet. I do want you to keep an open mind about creating a Facebook fan Page, though. Get out of the Luddite mindset and embrace interacting with readers. Enable them to become your fans by reaching out and being available and approachable. Work together with other Western writers and readers to do your part to regenerate our awesome genre. It's either that, or get a job.


  1. Sounds like a good plan to me, though my first Western has yet to hit print. I have published in other genres, I do have a blog and I'm willing to support other writers. Who else wants to jump in?

  2. I have four blogs, one of them an interview site called "Writers of the West" , four Facebook pages and a Twitter page. I also belong to five writer forums. I don't have time for more. But I hope more Western-historical writers will take up your challenge, Marsha. It really pays off.

  3. Jean, you're a forerunner in doing your due diligence to publicize our genre. My hat is off to you!

  4. Well said, Marsha.

    Even though I interact with other Western writers via e-mail or listserves, Facebook, and an occasional blog comment, I do need to make up a blog of my own. That's next on my To-Do list :)


  5. I think the idea of western writers doing blogs and getting more 'friendly' with other writers might serve them well. Any interaction can only make things better.


I welcome your comments.

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