Friday, May 15, 2009

Publishing and Social Networking

Have you ever noticed how I come up with horrible blog headlines? That of course has nothing to do with today’s post, but I just wanted to point it out.

Facebook. Today’s hot new social phenomenon, sure to be replaced next week by something not quite completely new, but just as exciting. Just like everyone else on the planet, agents have joined the revolution and signed up for Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. But how do authors, especially those who are unpublished, know if they can be “friends” with the agents in question? It’s a weird line, isn’t it? It’s weird for agents too. Do we really want our clients to know what we’re having for dinner or to see the old prom pictures someone “kindly” posted for us? I know I don’t. My solution to that dilemma was to build two different Facebook accounts for myself.

I have my personal account, where I reconnect with high school friends, share personal photos and post ridiculous status updates, and I have my Jessica Faust BookEnds account, where I chat with authors, post links to publishing stories, and check in to see who’s not writing when she should be. So far it’s worked pretty well for me, and as for my business account, I pretty much accept any friend who wants to come my way. That’s not to say that I don’t get a number of requests to my personal account as well. After all, who would know? I simply “ignore” those.

I think that if you see an agent has a Facebook account and you wonder if it’s personal or professional, there’s no harm in simply hitting that link and asking to be her friend. If you feel like you want to say something extra, don’t hesitate to send a message that simply says you’re a writer looking to network with publishing professionals. The worst that can happen is the agent will “ignore” your request.

The Internet has made the world a very public place, and if you want to be online there’s not a lot you can do about that. Your one option is to control, as much as possible, how public you want to be. Some agents are okay with mixing their business and personal accounts, others are not. I don’t think there’s any right or wrong, but what works for you and the only way you’ll know if you can be an agent’s “friend” is to ask.

***a little addendum to to today's post. Just yesterday Kim and I both made the plunge into the world of Twitter. To follow what we're doing on a more regular basis feel free to check us out. You can find Jessica here and Kim here 



Dawn Maria said...

I wonder what your thoughts are on whether it's necessary for an emerging writer like myself to be on FaceBook and Twitter. I have a website and blog and I blog on another site. Between that, my day job and family, I need the rest of my time for my novel.

The current culture out there is -Get Noticed Now! Honestly, will Twitter help me get an agent? I'm not opposed to social networking at all, I just don't have the time. Are blogs so 2007 already?

The First Carol said...

We had this discussion at work yesterday as our business ferries through the new internet murk. As long as we're aware that everything we do leaves an e-trail, that it can never be completely scrubbed away, and we take the moment to breathe and reflect in that small space before hitting "publish" we're likely to make better choices.

Online nothing is private: post what you wouldn't mind your mother knowing, your kids knowing, your next door neighbor, your future employer. Reach for humor that doesn't bite, and save emoting for your private journal, or your BOOK. Online can soak up a lot of time, it shouldn't be one more form of procrastination for that scene you need to re-write.

I’ll get back to that scene, I still need to check Facebook, Twitter, My Space, LinkedIN, write a post for my blo,g and read my email…

And if it holds any weight, I'd like to mention I put you FIRST, Jessica, and in my way of thinking first is good, you know, First Carol, haha. Okay, I'll work on the humor.

Emily Cross said...

The First Carol - i think alot of people forget about the 'e-trail' which is always going to be there. kinda like big brother - especially with facebook trying to change its T&Cs. you have to be aware that everything you post will come back to haunt you.

thats why if/when i ever get published - i'm screwed lol.

BookEnds, LLC said...

Dawn Maria:

In your writing life writing has to take the first priority. You can only do what you can do and you have to figure out which is the most effective for you. No one can do everything.


Juliana Stone said...

I did the same thing. I have my personal facebook page and an author page. I just didn't feel comfortable sharing pics and stuff with a whole host of people I didn't really know!
Twitter has become my new obsession though. After avoiding for months...I took the plunge!

lauren said...

I've found Twitter to be useful -- not as a participant, but as an observer. A lot of agents, editors, and imprints have Twitter accounts and often answer questions from authors. Twitter is a really handy service for this. Maybe one day I'll jump in and start tweeting as well, but for now I'm content just to check in on various editors and agents who always have interesting things to say.

Also, I think it's less of a social leap to follow someone (say, an agent) on Twitter than to "friend" them on Facebook. For one thing, you don't need approval to follow someone on Twitter, whereas you do need confirmation from the other party to become their Facebook friend. If you're a Facebook member, you can view the friend lists of agents and editors who are on Facebook. Most of the ones I've seen limit their lists to their clients, their real-life friends and family, and people in publishing whom they personally know. I'm not sure what would be the advantage (or point) of friending an agent on Facebook unless he or she were MY agent.

And it wouldn't matter if I were FB-friended or Twitter-connected with every agent in the whole world if I didn't have a good, *finished* manuscript to send them at some point.

DeadlyAccurate said...

Dawn Maria,

Everyone has to do what's comfortable for them, but Facebook and Twitter offer a level of networking not easily found elsewhere. I'm biased toward Twitter, simply because it's less time-consuming than Facebook and less confusing to navigate. But the number of writers and other publishing professionals I've met through it is staggering. And I've picked up tons of books I never would have bought if it weren't for either knowing the authors via Twitter or because a writer I knew there recommended it.

Will it help you get an agent? I honestly don't know; my agent was the one who convinced her clients (and from the looks of things, several other agents) to get on Twitter to begin with, so I wasn't looking at it from that angle. But it will help you network.

Dawn Maria said...

Since I work for a school district, I've postponed any Twitter decision until we break for summer and I have more time to learn something new.

Deadly Accurate- I appreciate the honest advice and info. What I'm learning now is that the search for an agent is taking as much time and attention as writing my book did. It will be time well spent if I find the agent who is just right.

Kate Douglas said...

I refuse to go near Twitter. Facebook and MySpace are time sucks enough, though I do love the fact a lot of my readers have found me through both FB and MS. I rarely search people out, but I approve everyone who finds me. They're promotional tools for me more than a way to connect with old friends. I make a point of checking in a couple times a day, sort of the same way I check out blogs...then I write. That's my job and it has to come first. Besides, I have more fun in my imaginary world anyway!

Gina Black said...

I enjoy Twitter and Facebook. I'm a rather social person and writing is pretty solitary so it helps to satisfy my need for interaction. I also enjoy watching some of the big writers as they make their way through revisions (win the Newbery!) and publicity tours, and I have cringed at other writers who *only* use it for publicity--and I stop following them fairly fast because there is nothing more boring.

writermomof5 said...

Hi Jessica,

This isn't just uncomfortable for agents and editors but for writers too. Not too long ago, I posted something on Twitter and a woman answered, we exchanged a few tweets, I decided to check out her profile and found out she was an agent that I plan to query.

I'm not so sure I want a prospective agent to read my angst about editing, or housework, or... you get the idea.

After I thought about it, I decided to treat everyone on Twitter the same. Although I recognize the need to be professional, I'm not on Twitter to bag an agent or impress an editor.

Of course I have the option because I'm unknown. A few days ago, I received a tweet from a stranger asking me if I could help them get a query to a respected agent. It was a taste, I imagine, of what many agents and editors experience.

If you enjoy Twitter, use it; if you don't, I really don't think it will hurt your career.

Beatriz Kim said...

I don't have either accounts yet. I wasn't sure if it would be helpful to me yet. However, I never thought of having a professional account! Why didn't I think of that?

As always...thank you for this very valuable information!

Do you think a "just starting out" writer should sign up for both? Or can I wait, until I have more experience?


Melanie Avila said...

I'm so glad you posted about this. I get a ton of friend requests from other writers but they don't say anything personal, like telling me where they found me, etc. I think that's rude and unless we have thirty mutual friends I ignore those requests.

I don't have the nerve to friend published authors or agents because I don't "know" them, but that's true that they can ignore just as easily. And I always include a personal note.

Dara said...

That's a good idea to have a personal and professional one, especially as an agent.

I've been on Facebook forever, probably since sophomore year of college, a few months or so after it was developed. There's definitely pictures of me that friends of mine have posted that make me cringe. Of course I just go and "un-tag" myself out of them :P Thankfully though I was fairly smart in college and didn't take pictures that could've gotten me kicked out of school (thank goodness for private schools!).

I still haven't gotten the hang of Twitter. Perhaps in the future, should I ever get published, I'll update more often. Right now I don't think people would be too interested in my life and my silly updates. I just use the update section in Facebook instead.

As someone stated earlier, everything leaves a trail, even something that you think was deleted. It's always best to be cautious about what you are posting on your social networking site.

Word verification: whine. Huh. The first time I've actually gotten a word word used in everyday language :P

H. L. Dyer said...

I'm so glad you caved and joined Twitter.

I'm there twice, actually. As myself at HLDyer and as part of the Querytracker Blog team at Querytracker.

Sheila Deeth said...

I thought I'd at least follow you to Twitter. Technically, I guess I'll be following you on Twitter, but I'm still trying to learn how to make following make sense.

hippokrene said...

For an author, I think it's better to give your book/series a Facebook page, and then maintain your own website.

Keeping track of your MySpace, Facebook, website, blogging, and Twitering takes time, so you have to prioritize. As ‘in’ as Twitter is right now, it's not as content rich as other venues, and doesn't give you the tools to draw people in. If they're already interested in the minutia of your life, it's golden. If you're an aspiring or mid-list author, then a good website should be top of the list.

A blog attached to your writer persona is very valuable if you can *consistently* provide *quality* content geared to your readers or possible readers.

I believe this is the big stumbling block for many writers: they understand that an online presence will help them, but they don't work to make their online presence entertaining, informative, and unique. I can’t count the number of author web-pages I’ve stumbled on with just a bio, a list of books, and review blurbs.

Anonymous said...

"I wonder what your thoughts are on whether it's necessary for an emerging writer like myself to be on FaceBook and Twitter. I have a website and blog and I blog on another site. Between that, my day job and family, I need the rest of my time for my novel."

My suggesiton to you is: drop all online activities immediately until you sell a book. Then, forget about writing and embrace your online activities until the book has been out for 3 months. At that point, begin writing again...

To do anything else is pure foolishness.

Anonymous said...

Also, blogs are dead, useless icons of 2005. A blog is really just a website for non-technical people.

Anonymous said...

"And it wouldn't matter if I were FB-friended or Twitter-connected with every agent in the whole world if I didn't have a good, *finished* manuscript to send them at some point."

Ahhh, a sparkling gem of wisdom buried in a field of homogeneous rubble!

Anonymous said...

"What I'm learning now is that the search for an agent is taking as much time and attention as writing my book did. [now you're getting somewhere; remember that writing a book is easy, selling it is the hard part] It will be time well spent if I find the agent who is just right."

It will be time well spent if you manage to get any agent at all. Why query them at all if you wouldn't want them to rep you?! And if one offers, you're going to want to accept. What are you gonna do, say, "I just want to wait a few more weeks to see if any better offers come along..."?! In the event that you get multiple offers within the same few days, then you'll have an actual choice to make, but in all probability, you'll be lucky to get even 1 offer of representation.

So be honest with yourself and everyone else and just admit that you're waiting for any agent you've queried to make an offer, not "just the right agent," because why would you Q them in the first place if they couldn't do the job, right?

C'mon people, look alive out there. Bounce up on it.

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

I have Blogger and Facebook and Goodreads and Shelfari and countless Yahoo groups, as well as forums and email contact with other writers. I draw the line at Twitter. It's just one more mouth to feed.

Besides, Twitter has left a sour taste in my mouth due to recent shenanigans connected to my latest e-publisher and a certain reviewer. Hell, I'm only human.

Silicon Valley Diva said...

Social networking opens up so many problems when personal/professional overlap--I think every person no matter what their profession can relate.
I always thought it violated Facebook's TOS when a person created two accounts?
I'm not a published author but boy, sometimes I wished I had two separate accounts, one for all my writing buds and another for all my family and close friends LOL.

PurpleClover said...

Okay I'm going to friend you then. lol. I realized I did the same thing. I'm already "friends" on facebook with a handful of authors, aspiring writers, and an editor. I tried to "friend" another agent but realized too late it was a personal page rather than a public. He ignored me which is totally fine. I felt like the dummy. But I feel like I should have separated my "writing" self with my "home" self. I'm anonymous on my blog but now I have a group of bloggers that know the real me. So the line between the two worlds is blurring. Although it isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Anyhoo, what was the question?

Oh right no question. Just rambling about myself.

Okay well I just have to say I really appreciate that some agents and editors do set up these pages so that the social networking can continue for those of us still finding our way. :)

Also glad to know some agents realize we are mistakenly assuming their personal pages are business and in no way trying to stalk them. :D

Janet said...

I did the same thing on Facebook, splitting my personal and professional lives. Good thing I want to be published under a pen name.

spyscribbler said...

I'm odd in that I refuse to talk about writing when I'm blogging/twittering/myspacing/facebooking as my pseudonym. I fear it spoils some of the "magic" for readers. And I've never been fully convinced that writers marketing to other writers actually works; I try to stay out of that loop.

My spyscribbler/real name online life makes me a little worried. I love the outlet to talk about writing freely, but I do wish I'd never linked my real name. If my "real name" sells, I don't know what I'll do. It'd break my heart to stop talking writing "shop" with my friends!

And in the meantime, I teach piano. Our world, for some odd reason, thinks better of you if you are focused on one thing 24/7, if you live, eat, and breathe your "one" profession to the exclusion of everything else.

Julie Weathers said...

I was excited to see you and Kim on Twitter. I enjoy it more than Facebook, where I get flooded with invitations to time sinks.

Twitter is nice because someone can post a question, get an answer or an interesting variety of answers or just toss out a pearl of wisdom. I hope y'all enjoy it.