Guest Blog: Authors & Social Networking Part II – Janni Lee Simner by Wendy Trakes

I have been fortunate enough to have developed a few friendships with several local Arizona fiction authors. They live all over the state, have touring schedules and “day jobs” and I don’t see them often, but, like most Americans with computers, we communicate regularly through email and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. It is through the electronic media that I have learned more about them, developed stronger friendships, and been even more enthusiastic about reading their latest books. I have learned about the differences and similarities between writing styles, the emotional attachment to the characters that they carry throughout a story as they write. In short, without social networking connections, I wouldn’t know half of what I do about them as people and as authors.
I recently asked three of my more online-active author friends, Yvonne Navarro (Highborn and Concrete Savior), Janni Lee Simner (Thief Eyes and Bones of Faerie), and Sam Sykes (Tome of the Undergates and Black Halo) to answer a couple questions about the impact of social networking on their work, sales, and relationships with fans and business associates. Each one had a different viewpoint on the impact of social media with their business. The similarities, however, were more surprising. It seems that while there is a lot of hype about using social networking sites as a means to raise business, for some in the book world this may not be worth the time spent. I suspect the following answers may be voiced by many more authors than just my friends.

Jamie Lee Simner

Q. What social networking sites do you use? (Twitter, Facebook, etc…)

A. Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal, Goodreads. Also have a LinkedIn account, but rarely use it.

Q. What purpose is your primary account on each of these sites? Are they for personal use? Business use? Both on one?

A. I’d say a mix. I use them mostly for business, but the line between business and personal is not always clear cut, and I do keep in touch with and chat with friends using them, too.

Q. How much time do you spend on social networking sites during the day or week?

A. Probably more than I want to know. 🙂 I’d say at least a couple hours a day.

Q. What are the benefits of authors using social networking sites to promote their work?   Are there any pitfalls? If so, describe a few?

A. I think my answer to these two sort of go together. My feeling is that using social networking sites to promote your work in a direct way actually doesn’t work all that well. It’s fine to tell people what’s going on with your work — when you have books coming out, links to reviews, and so on. But if that’s all you’re doing, or even most of what you’re doing, I think readers get bored and go away.

To me, social networking sites work better when one focuses on the social and the networking. I see it the same way I see a water cooler at work, or maybe going to a party. If you go to a party and shove your book (or whatever it is you do at work) at everyone, even complete strangers … it’s pretty off-putting. But if you talk to people, have real conversations, get to know each other … then, when they hear you’ve written a book, maybe they’ll be interested.

I’m online for the conversations more than the self-promotion. I think the conversations need to be worthwhile in and of themselves. I know I’d be online even if I never sold a single book there. It’s a place to talk, to hang out, to share common interests. It’s a place to have fun.

I feel like if being online isn’t fun — if it’s a job, if you do it just because you feel like you ought to — it’s not going to really be worth it, for you or those you interact with.

Q. Do you use any other online resources (chat rooms, video blogs,  podcasts) to promote your work?

A. I’ve done occasional Skype visits with bookstores and libraries.

Q.  What positive or negative effects have you noticed in your sales, promotional events, etc since you began promoting your work online?

A. It’s hard for me to tell, because I’ve been online one way or another since the early 90s. I’ve never been writing professionally and not hanging out online. I can’t really tell what effect being online has on my books — I think some readers have probably found my books because of my blog, but have no way of measuring it. What seems to happen more often, though, is that someone reads my books first, then finds me online afterwards. More than pulling in readers, I think my being online gives readers who already know about me a place to go to find out more.

Q. How has the use of these sites changed your relationship with your readers? Any examples?

A. Like I said, I was online before I sold my first story. What I have noticed is that now that when I write books for teens, I meet more of my readers than when I write for younger children, simply because many more teens are online. (And the community they’ve formed around blogging and reading is pretty awesome!)

Q. How has the use of these sites changed your relationship with your publisher/agent/business professionals? Again, any examples?

A. Mostly it’s just changed how we communicate — I don’t actually talk to my editor and agent more often by email now, less often by phone. I do find I’ve made contacts by being online. I’ve sold short stories, been invited to conferences (including the one I’m flying to now), and generally gotten to know other writers and readers better as a result of being active there.

Though probably my coolest online-related experience ever was inIceland, where I was offered a personal tour of part ofIceland’sMuseumofSorceryand Witchcraft by the museum’s manager as a result of a connection made through my blog. 🙂

~ by Vinny Alascia on May 5, 2011.