My daughter is home sick from school with a bad cold, so after cancelling a delivery and calling a friend to let her know I couldn't meet her today, I sat down on my computer and started surfing my Social Network sites. My favorite is Inked-In, created by the Burry Man Writer's Center, because it's a site created by writers for writers. Lots of great, creative people and writing. But as I was reading blog posts from other Inked-in subscribers, I wondered... is spending an hour commenting on blog-posts and chatting on-line with people really a good way to spend my time?
I have a site on MySpace, Tribe, and a profile on Metaxu Cafe. I am also a member of the Emerging Writer's Network. And then there is Good Reads, which is based on the books people are reading. A friend sent me a link to Linked In, a network focused on the web-links people have favorited and I keep hearing about how wonderful Facebook is. There are so many social networks out there, not to mention all the great blogs with more links to more sites where more people can share ideas and chat. I could literally spend all day surfing the net, talking to people. And when I'm tired of being myself, I can log onto Second Life and pretend to be someone else and meet other avatars while dancing to someones MP3 collection under a cyber moon.
All of this surfing has not been a complete waste of time. Most of what I've learned about book publishing and operating a small press comes from people I've talked to on list-serves and via blogs. I've read thousands of articles created by people I "met" through social network sites and most of those articles have been extremely helpful. Because I don't have the cash or ability to travel, most of the Medusa's Muse marketing strategy is on-line. But how do you measure the impact of the hours spent on line compared to book sales?
I like meeting people on-line; not for cyber affairs or virtual sex, but for swapping ideas and creative energy. The internet allows me to talk with people from Scotland who love writing as much as I do, East Coast small presses who help me problem solve or "talk shop," and other mom's from all over the world who need to stay creative like I do. Posting the submission call for the Punk Rock anthology on line has helped me find excellent writers who've embraced DIY, even without their mohawk. It is the internet that makes it possible for me to publish books. It is also the internet that gobbles up all my time and keeps me from working on my own novel.
To make Social Networking really work, at least for my purposes (spreading the word about the press), you have to keep your profiles and blogs "fresh," which means writing new content and responding to comments. You also need to read other people's work and leave comments too. It's rude to befriend someone and then never visit their space to see what they've created. Don't be self-centered; support others in cyber-land. Think how much you LOVE it when someone leaves you a comment (and how sad you are when no one does).
There are numerous books available about using Social Networking to inform people of your work and/or business, such as Plug Your Book, by Steve Webber, which is very helpful (how he explains the way Amazon works alone is worth the cost). But here's something you need to remember; you're still networking with PEOPLE. Social Networking sites aren't just for selling more books, they're for connecting with other human beings who share your interests and who just might buy one of your books, if you're polite and aren't using them for internet status.
And I guess as long as I still have time to write and live my life outside of the internet, I can wander around My Space and discover more artists. Maybe I can sign up for one more social networking site (Linked In?)? Which leads me back to my original question: am I spending too much time in cyber land?