Thursday, September 24, 2009

More social networking thoughts for authors and illustrators

In preparation for a SCBWI talk I’m giving, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about social networks recently. My talk is going to focus on surviving as a socially networked author, and I’m sure I’ll touch on these two points.

1. Blogging means more than writing blog posts. It means commenting and linking, of course, but it also means being a blog consumer. Think of it this way: just as no self-respecting author would write books without also reading books, no self-respecting blogger should blog without reading other blogs. imageBut what other blogs? The “kidlitosphere” is blessed with an abundance of blogs from authors, illustrators, librarians, and industry types, so I don’t think there’s any need to enumerate the options. What I think authors who are new to blogging should consider is maintaining a diverse blog portfolio in their RSS readers. To continue the book analogy, I think most successful authors don’t limit their reading to the genre they write in. Most authors I know read very widely and that directly affects the quality of their work (for example). It should be the same for blogs. Make sure you’re following blogs completely unrelated to kidlit. In my case, I’m a cycling nut, so I follow way too many bike blogs. I’m also nurturing a new interest in photography, and photography blogs are big part of that for me. I’ve also been reading skimming pro blogs like BoingBoing, Gizmodo, and Lifehacker for years. These aren’t examples that you should rush right out and follow, necessarily. My point is that I think following blogs where your interest isn’t professional but is more driven by avocation or simple curiosity will give you fresh perspective on blogging and what makes a good post.

caution tape by rockmixer.2. Pause before you post. Anyone who spends much time on Twitter or Facebook will probably overshare. It happens. And when it’s just personal stuff, it’s probably just embarrassing. However, when you’re an author, an overshare can have professional consequences. Be aware that publishers have different expectations for and different comfort levels with authors on social networks. I know of no publisher that doesn’t want its authors to broadcast their enthusiasm for their books at the right time. But it needs to be the right time. If you don’t have guidelines on this or if you’re in doubt, then ask before you post.

Sharing details about your business relationships with a publisher is another thing to be cautious about. I know Facebook is a natural conduit for sharing exciting news—and a new business relationship with a publisher is certainly that—but it really is better to err on the side of keeping the business portion of your writing life somewhat private. So if your Facebook network extends beyond your family, it’s better not to post about that contract you just signed. In certain categories of book publishing (I’m thinking of school and library markets particularly), information about list development and acquisitions is closely held by publishers for very real economic reasons. Offering a sneak peak at a publishing choice far in advance of publication can be tantamount to revealing a trade secret.

So, there are two editor perspectives on social networking for authors. I’d love to hear author perspectives on those issues as well as suggestions for other social network survival topics.

-Andrew Karre