Nicholas Sparks and the danger of too much information


Nicholas Sparks. We’ve read his books, watched the movies . . . and cried obsessively over each heartwarming love story. Obviously, this guy with his amazing successfulness would be someone to be admired and looked up to in the literary world. Right?

In 2008, I was tasked with doing an informative speech on anyone or anything I found interesting in order to showcase my speaking skills for my Human Communication 1100 class. I chose Nicholas Sparks–not his plethora of romance novels, but his actual life. I had recently read Three Weeks with My Brother and was touched by how many of his beloved characters actually were echoes of real life heroines he had encountered.  A Walk to Remember was written for his sister who passed away at a young age due to a terminal disease. I remember crying as I read about his life and realized that in many ways Jayme wasn’t make-believe. She was as real as a fictional character could get.

But, even while I am one of the biggest fans of Nicholas Sparks you will ever find, I give him a definite C+ for his social media strategy. In a world where you are always combating critics (like the ones who created the graphic below), you should be working hard to maintain your fan base. Not bore them to death and discourage them from purchasing your future books.

I recently began following @SparksNicholas on Twitter. As an aspiring writer, I was excited to see if he would share some amazing tips and tricks of the trade. I was disappointed. While he spends a great deal of time tweeting out the word count of his current novel-in-progress, he very rarely actually tweets helpful hints for future writers. He also tends to over-share, tweeting about plot elements and future famous quotes from his soon to be finished novel. Frankly, I feel much less inclined to read his upcoming novel because I’ve already heard so much about it! So, after keeping a close watch on the @SparksNicholas twitter feed for the last few weeks, I have a few suggestions for Mr. Sparks. Obviously, I’m only one fan out of millions, but my opinion counts for something. SO, here are my three tips for Nicholas Sparks about how to stop killing our curiosity and our desire to read his new novels.

1. Stop over-tweeting old quotes. Yes your devoted fans love Noah best. They also have half the lines in each book memorized, and will argue vehemently over which ones are the “most memorable”. This raises engagement, but I gauruntee it isn’t bringing you any new fans. With a Klout score of 81, it’s obvious that there are a lot of fans re-tweeting. But, it’s mainly because they are too lazy to type the quotes themselves. Not because they think that they are reading a cool idea or concept. An occasional quote identification trivia question to keep fans engaged is nice, but in this case it is way overdone.

2. Don’t overshare about works-in-progress. When I pick up a book off the shelf, I like to start fresh. Don’t tell me ahead of time who the heroine is, what her major struggle will be about, or worst of all how much trouble you had talking yourself into writing that last 1000 words. I want to believe that the story wound itself effortlessly from an idea into the masterpiece of a love story I hold within my hands. It’s hard to view storytelling as magical, when each new day is filled with three quotes from the book, your word count for the day and any issues you are having with the plot.

3. Be Yourself. Finally, but arguably most importantly, is to be yourself whenever using social media. If Pew Internet Research were to poll the world about why the follow celebrities on Facebook, Twitter and other social medias, I can almost guarantee that the response would be: to see the real person. Social media outlets give us a chance to see, in essence, “the man behind the mask”. If we follow a celebrity, it is out of curiosity about their thoughts, ideas and feelings as a person. It is not because we wish to volunteer ourselves as an easily targeted audience for a daily marketing effort. We want to know the real person behind who we see reflected in traditional media reports.

Overall, this leaves me with three questions for Mr. Sparks:

1. How will your upcoming works differ from the pattern we see developing in your previous works?

2. What advice could you give young, beginning writers who aspire to be like you?

3. What can you tell us about yourself that makes you who you are and helped you become the                  amazing writer and speaker you are today?

Answering those questions should take up a few days of tweeting and give us a rest from “Which character has the best eyes?”.