Writers and Social Networking


I think this deserves its own post, although we’ve been discussing it in various comment threads lately anyway. Interestingly, Writers’ Digest magazine has an article on this topic this month, so it seems we who hang out here are not the only ones talking about it.

Just out of curiousity, let’s have a fun poll:

Personally, I have this blog and my Wandering Mind blog, and a personal Web site that is all just family/genealogy stuff, nothing writing related. Additionally I have accounts at Goodreads, and LinkedIn, Care2 which I had nearly forgotten about. Wikipedia’s entry on social networking sites lists 153 known sites from around the world, obviously not all of interest to writers.

I have to say that I, for one, resent being told that if I don’t put up all these silly useless sites that I am harming my chances for success. In addition to the sites and blogs mentioned in the poll, there are also various instant messaging clients available, other social networking sites (I was sent an invitation to one called Tagged, but discovered they have serious issues with confidentiality and spamming people) that I’ve lost track of. I was invited to join something called Plaxo, which I still don’t know anything about. And every time one of my ‘friends’ invites me to one of these sites, they have given out my e-mail address which, guess what? Results in more spam.

So when do we say enough? I can hardly keep up with blogs and keeping my own blog going. I do not want my time consumed by superficial interactions on the internet. I want to write. Maybe that’s naive and unrealistic, but how many of these things are we supposed to keep up with?

I don’t get it. How did writers ever succeed without all these sites and the internet? Really, someone explain it to me because there doesn’t seem to be an out anymore. The industry is virtually demanding it of us now, so how did writers manage before the computer age?

When I’m interested in getting info on a favorite band, such as when will they be playing my area, I don’t go to their MySpace page, I go to their regular Web site. I see all these silly people leaving comments on MySpace, as if the band members are actually going to read them and respond. And “friend” them? Why would I “friend” someone like Trent Reznor? The man probably has nothing to do with the page, they hire people for that. He tried Twitter and gave it up after some vicious comments started coming in about his fiancee. That’s a little too much interaction with fans if you ask me.

There are too many nutjobs in the world, and I think letting people think they are getting ‘close’ to you via all these online avenues almost invites stalking. As we discussed on the last post, people don’t necessarily want to know the author anyway, they want to meet the characters from the books that they fell in love with. I have no answers, I’m just annoyed that I have to waste my time with this nonsense.

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24 thoughts on “Writers and Social Networking

  1. I have my blog but it’s private. The only social networking site I belong to that I use is Linkedin and even that sporadically. The job I recently accepted puts me in charge of a national business and I did not get it because of who I know but because of what I can do.

    I do not believe that you have to be omnipresent in all these networking sites to succeed, in writing or any other category. Knowing people can sometimes put you in the path of things but at the end of the day it is still talent, dedication, the right attitude and hard work that is needed for success.

    Caveat – I have never cared for following popular decisions so my opinion comes from a non-conformist standpoint. However, even objectively, I still believe that the social networking sites are overhyped and adult playgrounds of popularity more than intelligent instruments of greater productivity.

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  2. Hi Venus,

    I have to agree that I think all this is way over-hyped. Everyone’s jumping on the bandwagon because…well, everyone else is jumping on the bandwagon. I wonder how many of the people who start sites on MySpace and the like give it up after a short amount of time? I hear people point to John Scalzi as one author who used the Web to his advantage to gain a following, but really he did all that before the advent of ‘social networking’ sites anyway. Joining the herd in joining these sites it seems to me will become a dead-end.

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  3. I think there are many sides to this. There are many good things to be said about social networking sites. Some good writing can come from them and some bestsellers can come from them. But the idea that a writer needs to be busy on the internet strikes me as quite wrong. What a writer needs is peace and quiet. The pressure for a platform seems to be coming from agents. Maybe it is coming from publishers too. But who are the people who are most challenged by the internet? I think it is agents first and publishers second. For writers the internet is great. They can get their work out there in front of dozens of markets simultaneously. They can promote themselves directly to publishers. They can publish themselves for next to nothing. Meanwhile agents’ margins are likely to get squeezed out of existence, just as happened to travel agents in the travel business and the agents in so many other businesses where they no longer add any value. Instead of literary agents with their old-fashioned cosy coteries, long waiting times and inapproachability, writers need professional modern marketers, who can give them the blog traffic, the website, the social networking presence and whatever else they require without draining their time or creativity. There will always be a market for good quality writing. Maybe the route to the market has changed. The media too will go through many changes over the next twenty years but the writer’s job is to write and always will be. Writers need to discover for themselves how best to do that but I suspect that for many of them it will involve turning off the iPhone and shutting down the browser, at least now and then.

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  4. I have a more or less private blog (the only ones who know about it are people I know from real – as opposed to virtual – life, plus a few of THEIR friends, plus I’m registered @ Goodreads altho I visit only occasionally. A few of my friends are addicted to Facebook, and they keep me up to date with all the info I need (sometime a little more) about acquaintances from high school, the old neighborhood, etc.

    I have a friend who is a working actor, who recently created a Facebook page with great reluctance, just in case potential casting agents, directors, and the like might want to see what he’s up to. In telling me about it, this charming, witty, empathetic man, a great conversationalist and raconteur in real life, rolled his eyes, sighed deeply, and said “I can’t stand it – I’ve got 237 ‘Friends’ already…”

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  5. I’ve found myself thinking the same thing. How did writers get known before the digital era? But let’s be realistic, writers have NEVER sold so much before. The web has its good and bad points, like everything else. For instance, right now an author’s new book is known all across the world, before it even debuts. This is BIG! I mean, think about it. It’s tiresome and time-consuming, but it can have all sorts of good results in just how much you sell and where you sell it to. I say this because I myself am intersetd in a lot of books that have yet to see the light of publication and I’ll probably be asking for them in my language.

    By the way, I have account in more places than I can count (more than half of which are related to drawing and online comics). Facebook, Goodreads, One blog about writing, one blog about drawing, one about anime/manga, one for other stuff. A personal website and a co-personal site (for my online comics), plus a few others on that matter. LinkedIn, Hi5, Twitter, Deviantart. And the list goes on. I loose track sometimes, but I only update regularly on some of those.
    For instance, I never use Twitter for personal info. I use it strictly to comment on books, movies and to say when I update my other blogs. Nothing much besides that. Only two of my blogs are updated regularly, the other two are from time to time (anime and other stuff). I barely update Hi5 or Facebook. It’s a matter of keeping control, though I’m not very good at that since I loose a lot of time online (shame on me).

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  6. Hi Ana!

    Wow, that’s amazing that you can keep up with all that, and actually get some art and writing done as well! I can barely keep two blogs going, this one seems to be taking all my time lately. 🙂

    I think I like your attitude towards Twitter, keeping it down to just announcements, and no personal info. It still seems like a lot of work, though, to try to FOLLOW a lot of people on Twitter.

    You make a good point that writers can now reach vast audiences, thanks to the Web. I think the potential is there, but it would be interesting to get some real numbers on how much good it really does. Are authors really selling more books, is it easier to get published? Or is it just sucking up time? I fear there is an information overload from all these diverse sources and it will make it harder to shout over the noise to be heard.

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    1. “I fear there is an information overload from all these diverse sources and it will make it harder to shout over the noise to be heard.”

      That’s because you actually want to WRITE, rather than call attention to yourself as a Writer. As w/ana and my friend the actor, some of that stuff is helpful in order to attract the attention of readers who communicate in that fashion, but IMO anybody who spends more time Twittering about writing, than actually writing, is exactly that: a Twit.

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  7. I was just about to ask how someone juggles an active online life with an active offline life and still find time for full time writing but I think MaryJ kind of answered it for me. There is simply no way to balance all that equally. Something will suffer in quality. I can see the internet being an advantageous marketing tool once you have a product to market but the product (writing) still needs to come first.

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  8. And as Joseph was saying as well, the days of agents seems to be drawing to a close. We’ll need to find new methods of marketing and publishing. I’m just not convinced social networking is going to be one of them. I have no idea how many hundreds of thousands (millions, maybe?) of people are using Facebook and MySpace, Twitter and the like, but I don’t see how authors are going to reach new markets, new audiences simply by creating accounts on these things. Unless someone is actually looking for what you’re selling on those overly-saturated sites, I don’t see how you’re going to attract anyone’s attention. If readers are already familiar with your work via other means (like your own blog or Web site) why would they even be looking for you on MySpace or FB?

    I really think it’s all going to circle back around to the tried and true: Word of mouth.

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  9. Nevermind the internet. Even before television, even before radio… Americans knew all about Dickens, the Brontes, Collins, Conan Doyle, Gaskell, Byron and Shelley, and on and on and on. And the other side of the ocean knew about Twain, and Harriet Stowe, and Alcott, Emerson, and….

    They heard about books through reviews in newspapers. Good reviews lead to people buying your book. They like it and then they tell their friends. Word of mouth.

    I’ve already made my feelings regarding Twitter and the rest well known. But I’ll just add: all the publicity in the world won’t help you if you haven’t anything of value to sell. Writing first. Avenues of publicity a distant second. (and only what you feel comfortable with). I don’t want hundreds of “friends”. That’s just creepy.

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  10. Even the terminology Twitter uses sounds stalker-ish: you have to “follow” people, and reciprocate when someone “follows” you to be able to respond directly to them. Minor nitpick, but it seems an unfortunate choice of word.

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  11. I cannot see the point to Twitter. Among other things it seems to diminish the value of inter-personal relationships by reducing them to simplistic connections.

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  12. To me, it’s just too many things to keep track of. If you have a blog, and a Web site, what further purpose does it serve as far as marketing? Are e-newsletters passé now? I guess for someone famous having a lot of “followers” on Twitter is taking the place of the old-fashioned fan club? (Like Ashton Kutcher being the first to have 1M followers).

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  13. ~And the dissenter arrives, takes a deep breath, and speaks an unpopular opinion.~ I absolutely love Twitter, and here is why. I keep an eye on the agents who Twitter, and now know *exactly* who I want to query and who I could never work with. I get book recommendations that I would have missed. There are a handful of people who are a support network. We read each other’s WIPs, we support each other, we spur each other on, we cheer each other up, we make each other laugh. Picture it this way. I’m having a bad writing night. I’m discouraged. I want to give up. I throw out a comment on Twitter. Within five minutes five other writers have responded, cheering me on. I write something, I think it sucks, I comment on Twitter. Somebody immediately offers to read a chapter and gives me the sort of feedback that gets me going again.

    I’m watching other writers move through the process of queries and requests and rejections and signings. I love this. It inspires me.

    I’m sorry people – Twitter may not be for you, but it is not evil, and it can be used very productively. And yes, it can be supremely stupid and vapid. The words ‘twitter’ and ‘follow’ and other things about Twitter are kinda corny, I’ll admit. I guess I believe that, like any thing else in life, it all depends on what you do with it.

    Maybe I love my social networking sites ( My wordpress Blog, Facebook, and Twitter) because I am isolated and have no friends, and especially no writer friends, here where I live. It’s contact with other human beings who are intelligent, interesting, and often funny. All contact is through the written word, which is fun for me. Someone is there at any time of day or night.

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  14. Good for you! Dissent away 😉

    I am delighted to hear that you are finding it useful, helpful, inspiring, that there is more to it than the silliness that celebrities bring to it. I don’t think Twitter is evil. I just feel I have enough demands on my time right now. Like you, my only contact with other writers is via the Web. Years ago as a stay-at-home mom, I was sucked into the world of chatrooms to ease my isolation and loneliness, and it kind of took over my life. I really was addicted to it. Maybe that is why I resist this now, I know how easy it is for me to fall into that trap. I just really have to limit my time online or I get nothing done.

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  15. Uppington,

    I hope none of myprevious comments regarding Twitter or Facebook were taken the wrong way. As I’ve said many times before- “to each their own”. I don’t like Twitter or the idea of FaceBook. For some of the reasons I’ve mentioned. I have no plans to use them. But that’s *me*.

    If you use it, and you like it- that is what matters. Not what I nor anyone else might think about it. Everyone should do the things they personally enjoy and find works for them. We all have different needs and wants.

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    1. Oh yes, Uppington – I love that we know somebody modern enough to benefit from that stuff! You’re another one who’s the real deal – you actually WRITE instead of just using various media to call yrself a writer. Rock on with your digital self!

      Gypsy – from one neo-Luddite to another, does it bug you, as it does me, to have to give up your privacy? I don’t want Twitter, or a GPS device in my car, or even one of those car transponder things (we call them EZ Pass here in NJ) that let you blow thru tolls and make one payment at the end of the month, because I don’t like being that easy to find. I promise you all, I live a pretty boring, law-abiding life, but it’s MY boring law-abiding life and I’m cautious about sharing it!

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      1. I’ve been bemoaning the loss of privacy for a long time. It irritates the hell out of me, frankly. It seems like most people just shrug and accept it now, but there was a time when we could reasonably expect not to have our every move tracked and recorded. People who use those EZ Pass things probably wouldn’t want their next door neighbor privy to where they go and when, but they don’t seem to mind the Feds having the info. And as we all know we can entirely depend on the U.S. Govt. to keep our info private…(insert eyeroll). Everytime we sign up for one of those Web sites they gather our info, and many of them make no bones about sharing it with ‘partner’ sites, marketing companies, etc.

        People were up in arms awhile back when their online purchases were going to be monitored. Web surfing has no guarantee of privacy, and these people who put it all out there on Facebook have to realize it’s basically all in the public domain. Even their security features are not iron-clad, they can get hacked.

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  16. Hey, DD and Tasha – I respect your points of view, of course. It’s just that if I walk into a room where everybody’s in agreement on something I have another POV on – I have to make my case. Glad we can still all be friends, lol.

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  17. Yes, please, feel free to speak your mind! How dull things would be if we all just sat around agreeing with eachother.

    In all fairness to Twitter, I have not tried it, and perhaps if I did I might find it useful as you have. For the time being, I am just not interested in it. However, that said, it’s good to know people are using it for worthwhile things, not just following celebrities or broadcasting to the world some inane tidbit about their lives. I expect someday I will try it, just right now the idea of it makes me tired. 😉

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  18. Uppington said,

    “It’s just that if I walk into a room where everybody’s in agreement on something I have another POV on – I have to make my case.”

    – And you should! 🙂

    Mary J asked,

    “Gypsy – from one neo-Luddite to another, does it bug you, as it does me, to have to give up your privacy?”

    Yes! Which is why I made the conscious decision not to discuss personal matters online. But I think you’re talking more about Big Brother? Yes, it more than bugs me. I hate when I research something online, and then I receive advertisements or such (related to the matter) afterwards. Very creepy.

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    1. “I made the conscious decision not to discuss personal matters online. But I think you’re talking more about Big Brother?”

      I agree on both counts. I don’t like leaving a trail of my personal decisions, no matter how mundane, around for people I don’t know, or only know slightly, to snooop around in – that’s why I never use my real name if can help it. My rules for living in the 21st century are:

      1. Don’t have more than 1 drink in front of anyone from work;

      2. Don’t put my name over anything, online, that I wouldn’t announce over a bullhorn, during rush hour, in the middle of Times Square.

      You all know I’m not shy about expressing an opinion, but a prospective employer, or nosy neighbor, could Google my real name from now until Blue Monday and not get anything except some mundane homework assignments and my wedding announcement from 16 years ago.

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