Category Archives: social networking

0

Tumblr cults

There’s a fun piece over at Huff Post about surprising Tumblr fandoms for books. When I clicked the link, I was expecting something a bit different, maybe more obscure. But I’ve read all but two of the books listed, and I can see just how they’d inspire a cult following. I think we all know about my love of Donna Tartt (despite what Miriam says, The Goldfinch is a fantastic book that’s worth the time it takes to read it!) and especially The Secret History. It’s probably good Tumblr didn’t exist when I read the book in college, or I would have most likely had multiple Tumblr pages dedicated to the book. And I can’t even look at the pages dedicated to Sideways Stories from Wayside School or I’d likely lose hours of productive work. Because when it comes down to it, I’m obsessed with obsessives.

So, dear readers, what book would you Tumbl for?
19

Tweet, tweet

I joined Twitter a few years back, because I realized that despite my aversion to it, it’s a really useful tool for keeping up on publishing.  From being more in tune with what the industry is talking about and where it’s headed to the stronger relationships with colleagues and clients, it’s proven to be the right choice, however much time I might waste trying to condense my overly verbose thoughts into 140 characters.  I don’t think it’s for everyone, but it’s for far more people than I realized, including me.

Still, I find myself wondering what’s really effective in using the platform for networking and promotion.  How do you maintain a balance between participating in the conversation and drowning others out?  How many tweets is too many tweets?  How few is like not being on it at all?  How much honesty do you allow yourself?  Does diplomacy rule your choices, or is Twitter a place for your unvarnished opinions?

And how do you promote yourself without turning people off?  I’d say Twitter markedly skews my perception of success toward people who are wildly good at self-promotion, even though certain strategies drive me up a wall.  Even the strategies I hate sometimes work on me.

So the question is: what works for you?  Let’s assume that as a person who is reading a literary agency blog you’re not averse to the notion of marketing in general.  Have you ever bought a book because of Twitter or learned about an author that way?  Do you follow the authors you are fans of?  Do you use Twitter primarily as a tool in your platform or primarily as a vehicle for socializing?  Do you primarily hope to reach readers or to network with authors?  And what really turns you off?  What Twitter “sins” make you unfollow?

Update:  Whoops!  I somehow managed not to tag this at all, so here I was wondering why no one had an opinion on Twitter, but actually I just wasn’t getting notifications because WordPress didn’t know I wrote it.  Thanks everyone for your feedback!

7

Writer’s block

I’ve been bad. About blogging. I haven’t blogged in quite some time. I don’t want to say how long, because it’s embarrassing, even to me. I could blame computer woes–it’s been fun! Or the fact that I’ve been really busy with work work. I could pretend I’ve made up for it by being very active on Twitter, but you’d find me out. So what gives?
I would blame writer’s block, but it’s not something I believe in. Because the truth is, it’s not that I can’t write about things. It’s that I don’t want to write about things. Call it a crisis of confidence if you will, but I can’t imagine there’s anything left to blog  about that either 1) I haven’t already blogged about or 2) someone hasn’t said better than I ever could.
I’ve been feeling pretty overwhelmed lately, but not by work–busy though that has been. I’m feeling overwhelmed by the constant stream of information: the RSS feeds, the news, TV, texts, movies, IMs, music, Twitter. It’s a cacophony, and I’ve been feeling especially mindful of my part in it. Am I just adding to the noise? Does what I say actually benefit anyone or add to their existence/knowledge/growth? Am I listening and learning? Why am I blogging and tweeting? Am I carrying on a meaningful conversation?
I’m not sure I have the answers. Sometimes I feel like I’m talking into the wind, and there’s no point in that. Other times, I feel like I’m making a real human connection, and I cherish the contacts I’ve made through social media (many of whom are now people I know in real life).
I hope my quietness or silence isn’t misinterpreted. I want to connect. I want to learn. I want to grow. But I also want to make sure that what I’m putting out there isn’t just for the sake of putting something out there. Bear with me?

Why buy?

For all the time we spend talking about marketing and social media and discoverability, we don’t necessarily have much more than gut instinct to go on.  X works, Y doesn’t, prevailing wisdom says, but do we really even know?  The one thing we’re all confident of is that word of mouth is effective, probably so much more so than everything else.  But every once in a while, I like to stop and think about why I’ve chosen to read something.

The other day a client of mine got a not-yet-revealable blurb that made think, “Huh.  I think I’d actually buy a book with that blurb on it.”  Which underscores just how little they impact my choices.  I think I once bought a book because an intern recommended it to me and it had a blurb by an author I love, but blurbs alone don’t do it for me.  I still think they’re incredibly valuable for a million other reasons (the blurber might mention the book later, it helps to grab the attention of people along the chain between editorial and the customer, lends credibility, etc.).  But I don’t typically buy because of them.

I do buy books because of Twitter.  Usually it’s a critical mass question.  If everyone in publishing is reading something, I buy it (and eventually read it, though I’ll admit not always speedily).  Gone Girl; The Fault in Our Stars; Code Name Verity; and Where’d You Go, Bernadette? all made it to my house on the strength of the wisdom of the masses/fear of being left out.  Occasionally, one tweet reveals a book so perfect for me that I’ll rush out to get it, like My Beloved Brontosaurus, which I came across in a tweet from its editor Amanda Moon (@amsciam).  By title alone I knew it was for me.  My favorite dinosaur is still the Brontosaurus, and Pluto’s my favorite planet, and no lousy scientists with their knowledge are going to change that.  I not only bought it, I pre-ordered it (which I never do out of a combination of cheapness and impatience), and ordered one for a dino-obsessed friend’s upcoming birthday.

As someone who used to license first serial (periodical excerpt) rights for the agency, I always wondered how well magazine coverage translated to sales.  The trouble is the newspaper or magazine wants something that works in its own right.  But recently I read what was either an excerpt or an article referencing The Age of Edison, and I was really intrigued.  When I spotted the book at B&N the next day, I grabbed it.  Conveniently, it turned out to be my book club book for DGLM’s next book club meeting.

I do sometimes read the books that hit all the best of lists at year end, but I will admit that it’s an imperfect source for me.  It brings books to my attention, but I judge them with a critical eye before deciding whether to buy.  I’ll be reading Just Kids this weekend, which I kind of sort of thought about buying when everyone was talking it up, but never did till it became the selection for my book club.  Likewise, Beautiful Ruins abounded on the lists in December, but I didn’t read that till my book club decided I had to.

Incidentally, I adore the cover of Beautiful Ruins.  It called to me from everywhere.  But I resisted buying it because it didn’t sound like a book I’d like so much as it looked like a book I’d like.  So I’ll pick a book up for its cover, but it’s not a guarantee that I’ll actually take it home.  Until I had to, I just didn’t.  And for what it’s worth, I thought it was wonderful and well worth the read.

Word of mouth is really hit or miss for me.  It depends entirely on the mouth.  And there are recommendations I’ll take from someone and others I’ll disregard, if I think it’s clear the book doesn’t fall in the center of the Venn diagram of our tastes.  I have definitely at times chosen not to read something, based on who I know who loves it.

So I guess in the end I’m much more about critical mass than anything else.  Given enough reasons, I’ll pick something up, even if I’ve previously decided not to read it.  Why do you buy?  What works for you, and what decidedly doesn’t?

12

The conundrum of social media

It seems to me that the distractions of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and all the other social media sites are really interrupting the daily flow of our lives.   And I don’t know if that is a good thing.

There is little doubt that these are wonderful new ways for us to communicate with each other and make new “friends” and contacts;  for those of us who “follow” – they are often enormously entertaining, sometimes even enlightening.

But, it seems to me that they are becoming such a distraction that they are taking us away from the serious writing we should be doing.  Indeed some of my authors spend so much of their time on social media – to promote their work or for other reasons – that they complain they have no time left to write their books.

I found this article by Matthew Dicks in The Huffington Post last Thursday and thought it was relevant as it speaks about those things that keep us away from our writing and how many of us have trouble overcoming them: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matthew-dicks/when-do-i-write-in-the-cr_b_2775893.html?utm_hp_ref=books

Indeed, I am almost afraid of the potential addiction of social media knowing that many of my colleagues spend so much time on it.  There’s a fine line between using social media wisely and abusing it to the exclusion of our more important work and it’s one I struggle with as much as everyone else.

I wonder what you think of all this?  Has social media taken over your life?  Do you feel you are drowning in it?  Or, do you want to spend all of your time chatting  with your “friends” and “tweeting”?

13

Social media—do I practice what I preach?

So, many of us here have been “preaching” to our clients for years about the importance of them using social media to build their fan base and to sell their books.  We have even created an “Author Website and Social Media Guide” which we share with everyone we represent.

This week, one of my authors called me on my Twitter usage (or lack thereof), saying that I wasn’t following her and asking me why that was.   She told me how important it was to her to have me follow her on these sites and I realized that if that was the case for her, then it must also be true for many of my other authors as well.  The fact is that I simply don’t use Twitter much and am only a bit better on Facebook.  Don’t even talk to me about LinkedIn.

Why is that?  The truth is that despite its value, I don’t really know how to use social media effectively – what to say, how often to say it, and most of all does anyone care are all issues that  stop me from being more active on these sites.  In fact, I who preach using it every day, several times a day to whomever will listen, am totally intimidated by it.

I wonder, as the year is coming to an end and I establish a new year’s resolution to increase my social media presence whether you can suggest ways to make this easier for me. I am eager to hear your ideas.

15

@jdystel

Happy New Year everyone!

So, after resisting the urge to join Twitter, I just read this piece in yesterday’s New York Times Book Review written  by Anne Trubek, and I decided it was absolutely time for me to get on board.

Quite frankly, I haven’t been certain that being a part of this community would be useful and, considering that all we have is time, I am very aware of how I use mine.  But Trubek’s piece makes some very good points about being isolated from those we really should be communicating with and so I am learning.  It is going to take a while, but I actually think this could be even more fun than Facebook.

I would love to hear what benefits you get from being on Twitter. Any and all opinions are welcome as I am at the beginning of my learning curve and as with everything I do, I would really like to get it right.

17

Book promotion sure ain’t what it used to be

In “the old days,” as recently as five years ago, it used to be that book publishers were instrumental in helping  authors with their publicity, promotion, and (for the major authors) advertising.  But, sadly that is no longer true.

Very few publishers these days do anything substantial to support their authors in these areas.  Especially their first time authors.  This lack of support often results in minimal sales and then, of course, the publisher doesn’t pick up their author’s next book because the last one didn’t sell.  It’s a frustrating and vicious circle.

So in this really troubling climate, what is an author to do?

Last spring, my client John Locke wrote and self-published a book titled How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months.  In a nutshell, this book describes John’s marketing system for becoming a bestselling author.  Among other things, he includes information about how an authors needs to identify their audience even before they write their books; how to create a memorable and creative website; how to use Twitter effectively; how to create a simple, no-nonsense blog; and how to write life-changing blog entries.

John’s system worked for him and for many, many he has shared it with.  I strongly believe it can also work for those who publish their books more traditionally as well.

Just last Friday, one of my publishing colleagues, an editor at an established publishing company e-mailed something that I have found to be very important and I think it worthwhile that I quote him here:

“About the digital and social media outreach, the one thing I’ve learned from experience is that it’s a little too late when the book is just launching to start an initiative.  You build those followings over months, even years and then blast them when you have a new product.”

I hope that all of those currently writing books will pay attention to this sage advice.  In this day and age where publishers are pulling back this kind of very important support, the authors themselves must step up to the plate.

Of course, I am always eager to hear your thoughts.

1

A different kind of pitch

A few weeks back, John blogged aboutNew York Times essay on author brand-building.  Inspired by the same piece, The Awl—one of the greatest things the internet has done for humanity—found some amazing YouTube videos of authors hawking others’ wares.  These days I feel like I hear (and, let’s be honest, talk) more about brands as extensions of individuals than about the term’s traditional product- and corporate-oriented definition.  In some ways that makes me sad for us all, to be sure.  The intrusion of marketing psychology and corporate speak into the realm of the individual has always felt a touch Orwellian for my liking.

On the other hand, I’d love to see authors finding new revenue streams, since they should get to be just as disgustingly, appallingly wealthy as musicians, actors, athletes, and the other people who provide us entertainment.  That said, actually, Mickey Spillane pushing Miller Lite kind of makes author Twitter accounts seem more…honest.  Do I think Mickey Spillane cared if I drank Miller Lite or that Kurt Vonnegut believes sincerely in the value of a Discovery card?  Not at all.  No more than I think that Britney Spears or David Beckham wants me to drink Pepsi.  (It occurs to me that I really have managed not to watch commercials for quite some time—thanks, technology!—since the reference I just pulled out is presumably a touch outdated.  Unless they both still shill for Pepsi, in which case, let’s just ignore this parenthetical and pretend that I’m totally with the times.)

But you know what I do believe?  I believe that authors want me to read their books.  They really, really, really want it.  And not just so they’ll get paid.  They want me to read because they’re passionate about what they do for a living.  And because they just want me to read in general, because they care about the written word and storytelling and narratives.  So, you know what?  I’m going to brush aside that last vestige of cynicism that lingered about as I talked to authors about the importance of authenticity and connection in social networking.  Trusted “authorities” have always been used to shill—and authors are traditionally undercompensated for the good they do for us all—but it’s not really shilling if you genuinely believe in what you’re selling.

It’s not always good to share

We DGLMers have spent the better part of the last two years hammering the idea of how important it is to build an internet platform into our clients’ heads.  We even went so far as to create a social media guide that we share with new clients when their agreements are signed.  Obviously, having a successful blog, lots of Facebook friends, Twitter followers and downloads of your videos on YouTube are the name of the game in today’s competitive publishing market. It’s not enough to write a great book, you have to be able to subtly, humorously, and persistently get all your friends, followers, and online stalkers to buy it and, better yet, talk about it.

But, as with all things, there’s a dark side to this platform building; when in our zeal to “share” our innermost thoughts, beliefs, and philosophy with our vast audience we get ourselves in trouble by writing or saying things that are better kept between the pages of our paper journals, you know, the ones with locks on them.  The recent firestorm caused by a prominent mommy blogger who confessed in a post that she preferred her son to her daughter is a case in point.   As the back and forth between the blogger and her readers became more irate and meanspirited, I wondered whether the blogging format with its insatiable need for content is in part to blame for this kind of injudicious oversharing.

Then, I think of certain writers who have no problem writing in a public space about their contempt for the publishing business in general and agents and editors in particular while assiduously courting us to represent or publish their work.  Are these people forgetting that everyone can see their posts…including the people they’re dissing?  Or are they just giddy with the thought of the thousands who will read their rants, if not their books?  I can’t speak for all my colleagues but I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that however brilliant an author’s work is if s/he is given to vilifying our industry while trying to get their foot in the publishing door and keep it there I don’t want to work with him or her.

So, yes, you need to blog and friend and be followed but be smart about what you say and how you say it.  And, really, before hitting “post” on that nasty or ill-advised commentary, put it aside and wait a while.  If you still want it out there after thinking it through, well, that’s what makes for internet s***storms.

Have you guys come across any particularly egregious examples of what I’m talking about?