Friday, January 25, 2008

Social Networking

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?


Jessica Powers said...

Hey, Terena, I'm starting my own press this year--website not up yet but you can read the blog at I was wondering what you are doing for distribution. I've been going back and forth on whether I should even try for distribution since I want to focus my efforts on online sales. Curious about your thoughts.

Jessica Powers said...

And I should add to that: I don't mean online sales *only through my website* but through Amazon, B&N online, Ebay, Powell's online, etc. And of course, I'm planning ways to generate tons of traffic to the website by creating an ezine/blog/forum for the real "niche" category I'm going to be publishing (literary nonfiction about fertility & family) and using other methods to direct traffic that way. Still...I'm looking at different methods for doing all of this. Like any small press, I want to maximize profit while minimizing outlay of time and money.


It just depends on what sort of space you have for it in your life, I suppose, much like any other decision we make about what to spend time on. If you feel like you already spend enough time online, then maybe you can look at your other sites and elminiate one to replace it with this new one...

Or are you just having that weird cyberguilt? Maybe you don't know what I'm talking about, but I get this weird feeling that I am wasting time online, even if I am exchanging ideas with other people I find interesting, intelligent, creative. For some reason, because it isn't in real life, it seems not as valuable at times.

But you're talking about the more practical aspects...learning about a trade. Seems to me that you really are learning stuff, and if you have the time to do so, why no try another venue...see how profitable it is to your journey!

Kevin said...

Social networking is a great way to meet new people, get additional feed back, learn new processes and things you might not have otherwise known. It's how I found your site, actually, and am glad I did.

I also just signed up for that "linkin" site since I had never heard of it before. Thanks for the information, and keep on typing, it's been very helpful!