Strategies for surviving the epublishing revolution

One of the perks of being Program Chair of MWA, SoCal  is that I get to do outreach to interesting, dynamic people. On Saturday we had a very cool panel at our chapter meeting, including Marci Baun, publisher of Wild Child Publishing, and our own Jim Bell. Author Gary Phillips moderated the program, which was called, “Epublishing: Will it help your career, or kill it?”

Gary opened the discussion by citing some statistics: Today, epublishing is still a relatively small slice of the publishing world, but it’s growing exponentially. Baun, whose company is an innovator in the epublishing market, started off by setting aside the “myth” that publishers see huge savings by publishing e-books instead of paper.  (Gary has since alerted us to a NYT article on the same topic, Math of Publishing Meets the E-book.) Jim also fielded some questions about TKZ’s new e-book anthology, Fresh Kills.

The panelists stressed that to be successful in any kind of publishing, especially epublishing, it’s important to do social networking. Blogging, Facebook, Twitter: You have to get your name out there and work your networks. At one point they asked for a show of hands from the people who are active social networkers; many hands went up, but not a majority. I was surprised by that–I would have assumed that almost everyone in that group would be active online.  Around the lunch table, I heard some people say that they find social networking to be confusing and intimidating.

A small but consistent networking effort can be very effective  according to Baun, who said she requires an author to make a successful online marketing effort before she’ll launch a print run for their book.

The panel discussed the do’s and don’ts of social networking, including the importance of adding value to the discussion, and avoiding endless BSP. Among the strategies discussed were What to Tweet, and using ebooks as a loss leader. After the meeting I followed Jim’s suggestion to use Tweetdeck, and to get more actively involved in forum discussions.

Other than doing my weekly blog posts, I’ve been hit or miss in my social networking efforts up until now. As a result of Saturday’s meeting  I’ve resolved to spend at least 15 minutes a day making the networking rounds.

What about you? How much time do you spend social networking every day, and are you consistent?

28 thoughts on “Strategies for surviving the epublishing revolution

  1. My rule for writers, again, is this. Do what you can without taking away from the quality of your writing and personal relationships, and going into debt.

    In that regard, I probably spend 15-30 minutes a day on social networking, and perhaps another 30 – 60 minutes answering emails and the like.

    More than that and it begins to cut into my writing. If I have something coming out, then I will do more for a period of time, including guest blogging and so on.

  2. That is really good advice that I need to keep in mind, Jim. I tend to handle social networking a bit like I do dieting–I either overdo it or underdo. Consistent, smaller efforts will probably work much better for me.

  3. I try to minimize the time on social networking. Once I retweet two things and comment on two things I call it a day. I want to use social networking to keep up with others and meet others as well as create a platform. Yet I need to spend time writing ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I guess I spend about 30 minutes a day, most of which is reading blogs (and commenting from time to time). I’ll scan my twitter feed to see if anything interesting comes along, and I’ll do the same for Facebook. Of these three activities, I’d say reading blogs/blogging is the most valuable. But, as others have said, you can’t lose sight of what’s important–the writing.

  5. I use social networking for both my business and writing. I compare twitter to my local Christmas parade. No one is watching because the whole town is marching. It’s important that you don’t just “post and run.” It’s not a billboard. Talk to individuals who ask questions, relate to your customers (or readers). You can have a million followers, but if all you do is repeatedly post a link to your latest blog post, you’re not connecting with any of them.

  6. Personally, I see “social networking” as a black hole for time, not worth the “rewards,” assuming there are any. I don’t facebook, tweet, et cetera. I remain completly anon, running only a website with no commenting permitted.

    In spite of all that, I sell approximately $7,000 in ebooks monthy.

    The real secret is not to spend all your time brownnosing. It’s to write good books and get them out there where people can buy them. The word will spread and the rest will take care of itself.

    Just write good books. Spend your time there. Anyway, that my 2. I’m not saying “social networking” does no good, it probably does to some extent. I’m only saying it’s better to have another good book under the belt than get and send endless tweets and facebook messages about what movie you just watched.

    Frankly, when I see that stuff, I actually think LESS of the person. It’s like they’re so insucure that they need validation from their “friends” every minute of the day.

  7. Thanks for those thoughts, Heidi and Alan. Re-tweeting quality tweets (I know this sounds like Swedish to many people) is a great way to go. I love passing along good info, and it also helps the originator, who will be grateful.

  8. Say, Anon, I don’t think social networking has to be “brown nosing.” In fact, that never works. It should be about real and sincere exchanges. You are right about concentrating on writing great books and word-of-mouth, though. That’s primary, always.

    Say, that $7000 a month. Is that non-fiction? I assume it is.

  9. My participation on social netorking sites is directly proportional to the availability of a real computer. I use a BlackBerry when I’m on the road, and Facebook in particular is difficult to access and make comments.

    Ron, you touched on something that I find particularly compelling: the notion of a conversation on Twitter. I have no idea how to do that. By the time I get through the “DM RT @so-and-so” there are so few of my alotted 140 characters that I can’t make it work. I think that’s why Twitter tends to be a statement of what I’m doing now.

    This brings me to Facebook. If someone posts something engaging or just nice on my Wall, am I supposed to respond to my own wall, or to theirs?

    I stipulate that it’s all necessary, but it’s also very confusing.

    John Gilstrap

  10. I find Facebook to be by far the most conducive to actual communications. My friends there are usually actual friends and acquaintances, or at least friends of friends. I run my eye down the list most days to see what’s new with people, how they’re doing, and it’s been especially useful for reconnecting with far flung and distant family. I haven’t warmed up to MySpace at all, and only go over there when I get an update from someone I know. Twitter is good, but I find that I get overwhelmed by Tweets from people I really don’t know.

  11. …and I also feel pressured over at Twitter to collect as many “Followers” as possible, as if it’s some kind of giant popularity contest. I don’t feel comfortable with that.

  12. I spend about 10 minutes average on Facebook each day. I get 10-15 people a day adding me to their friends lists, and I usually send them a thanks. I’ve also reconnected with dozens of old friends going all the way back to grammar school with Facebook, many of whom have gone out and bought my books.

    Twitter may work for some, but I see it as a time-eating black hole. Every time I visit it I am tempted to delete my account. But just before I do, I get a message that someone else is “following” me.

    I never bothered to setup a MySpace page.

    Like others have noted here, as writers, our number one job is to write. Updating our Facebook status and tweeting is not writing. At the end of the day, if there’s any time left over, it should be devoted to drinking whiskey.

  13. I will neither confirm nor deny alleged time amounts spent on facebook. However, it has been helpful. I can invite people to signings and other events though the “events” tool, and I’ve connect with several book reviewers and a few fans through facebook.

    Personal contact with authors is intoxicating for a reader. I would know! On one of the first few days on Twitter I replied to an author I enjoyed, and she replied back. I had a total fan-girl moment over it.

    That said, it’s important not to use a social network as a hard-sales tool. In a day and age when everyone’s selling something – whether it’s products or ideas – you don’t want to be the obnoxious one. Everyone knows what desperation smells like.

  14. I go into Crimespace a few times a day; how much time I spend depends on how much s going on. I also actively follow about 30 writers and writing-related blogs.

    I have a Facebook account, but it’s mind numbing to go in there. I know I’ll have to hold up my end of the deal if it’s to be useful, but I figure it will be nine months to a year before anything I might get a contract for is publicly available. That should give me plenty of time to increase my presence without looking too much like a vulture.

  15. Like you Kathryn I’m a sporadic networker – overdone or underdone depending on what else is happening! I do find the whole thing intimidating as I try and balance the publicity with the writing that needs to get done. At the moment I’m concentrating on the latter but still try to keep up with facebook at least…

  16. “Say, that $7000 a month. Is that non-fiction? I assume it is.”

    It’s fiction–thrillers. In fact your books and mine are in many of the same categories. Both of us are often in the top 25.

  17. Social networking is fun and can be too time-consuming if you let it.

    Someone mentioned insecurity. Well, it posting can also be counterproductive in that it can be cliquish.

    And I’ve watched “big” authors get a lot of comments on their blogs from “little” authors and never return a visit to the “little” ones. Author A,B,C,D visited a few quite regularly. You’d see A,B,C,D; A,B,C,D. But you’d never see a return post to A,B,C,D. Still, A,B,C,D got a little attention by association, so that much was good.

    I agree that FB makes for easier communication than Twitter which looks like a lot of non-sequiturs and requires a little effort to read a thread.

    I’m surprised so few people are using them. And I’m reading that blogging is going by the wayside.

    Good article, and comments, all, thanks.

  18. I’d like to hear more from the first Anomymous on writing e-thrillers for fun and profit! Thank you!

  19. Sorry, meant to type,

    “Well, posting can be counter-productive,”


    “authors A,B,C,D,” plural.

    Makes a little more sense that way. Thx.

  20. We’ll have to have a black-and-white Anonymous ball where we all come dressed as our favorite authors. At midnight we all have to take off our masks, lol.

  21. I use Facebook and Twitter personally and also maintain the SN sites for the magazine I work for. In both cases I try to ask myself “As a follower, would I find this post useful?” before hitting the “Update” button. My goal is to always create a conversation, and I never post and walk away. I check back a couple of times throughout the day and respond to comments, which I’ve found makes a tremendous difference in communicating with readers.

    All in all, I probably spend about 45-60 minutes a day networking, and another 30 – 40 minutes answering e-mail. When it’s time to write, internet is off. It’s too easy to get distracted.

  22. I find that it is too easy to get sucked into a serious time warp if I use too many Social apps. Therefore when I found Tweetdeck I jumped on it. I now update Twitter, Myspace, LinkedIn, and 3 different Facebook pages (My personal page, fan page, and webradio talkshow page) all in one fell swoop and can choose which pages to drop specific content on.

    My main dilemma now is trying to decide how far or whether I should segregate my posts in relationship to my books/audio books vs. my talkshow. That and making sure to block out time for SocMed and turn it off after the alloted time.

  23. Oh, I’m all about the social networks. I love Facebook and spend most of my time there, although I also tweet sporadically. I also frequent the Amazon forums and several listservs

  24. I’ve got a group of blogs (such as this one) that I follow daily, along with Crimespace. With that one, though, I have to pick my spots, because a lot of the discussions there get bogged down in minutiae.

    I’ve also got my own website, where I post blogs every few days. Today was the first time in about 6 months that I did a (very) quick BSP. All of the other posts are musings from my twisted mind.

    Facebook? I’m on it, but I can’t figure out how to use it. The site is way too unwieldy and entirely too full of things like, “I just picked up the kids and now we’re heading home for dinner.” Occasionally, I’ll see someone else’s BSP, and I am turned off immediately, so I figure, what’s the point?

    Twitter? Forget it. It’s like an annoying version of Facebook.

  25. I think there’s a definite balance to be struck with social marketing (and anything on the Internet, really).

    Lately I’ve found myself trying to limit my social media to one block of time, rather than checking throughout the day to see if there’s “something new”–much like a compulsive e-mail checker. This works well in limiting my time.

    I have a list of Twitter followers I browse through for posts that interest me. I check my RSS feed of writing blogs. Finally, I use to set up time-delayed tweets for the next day. That way I’m engaging without getting sucked in.

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