Addressing some more social networking questions

In my last Lerner blog post and in another post on the Carolrhoda blog, I wrote about social networking for authors. Social networks being, well, social, this led to some questions and comments. One astute commenter (on the syndication of this blog that runs on my personal Facebook) made many good points, and I’d like to riff a bit on couple. Denise M. Harbison wrote:

[T]oo much promo seems to be a turnoff. I like to see the writers, editors, agents . . . as people. You have pictures of your son AND you post business-related things. I’m shooting for a balance between business and personal (not too personal as you say)–sort of like an extended “about the author” on a book jacket. I have the same page for writing as my family and friends, but I keep in mind it is a public platform.  

I really like the idea of thinking about your Facebook as an extended “about the author.”I think that helps set some much needed boundaries and protocols for Facebook.

As I see it, Facebook, with its ever expanding user base and list of features, is the most thorny branch on the social network tree for authors. If you choose to maintain a single profile, then the blending of professional and personal is inevitable and can have privacy implications (it can also be fun: I’ve gotten excellent comments from readers of my blog who have nothing to do with my life as an editor—they just happen to be friends on Facebook). I think this is ultimately a personal comfort level question, and I don’t have a universal recommendation for authors.

A more troubling aspect of Facebook I think is features. Facebook offers a lot of advertising-and-broadcasting-like services that aren’t necessarily in every author’s interest. Yeah, the quizzes are a pain and I hate them personally, but that’s not what I mean. I’m thinking particularly of the event announcements and the so-and-so-became-a-fan-of ______ announcements. To borrow Denise’s about the author metaphor, these are the equivalent of the about-the-author page growing legs, coming into your living room, standing in front of your television. This doesn’t necessarily seem like the kind of exposure an author wants. At best, it’s a tool to be used very deliberately and judiciously, or so it seems to me. 

Denise had one other thought on Facebook I thought I’d share.

Facebook is such a great peer support tool. For instance, when I see the great 319-book Jane Yolan post that she got a reject, I feel like I can persist. The whole writing dream is real when I log on and see all my FB friends who have overcome the obstacles to publication. And FB friends teach me how to deal with the emotional aspects of being a writer–the ups and downs can be depressing. (Ahem, Edgar Allen Poe!) So in my mind, Facebook supplements the book knowledge and writing practice of the MFA program. It is like being out in the field.

Couldn’t agree more. This is where I think social networking can really shine for new and aspiring authors. It can be a knowledge base and an emotional support system.

I’d love to hear any other tales of Facebook triumph or tragedy.

-Andrew Karre