Wednesday, 12 January 2011

SF Signal Podcast Question, "Is social media good for the book industry, publishing and authors?"

The 23rd SF Signal Podcast dealt with social media with regards to the publishing industry, specifically:

"With Twitter and Facebook, publisher, author and fan are more connected than ever before. Is this instant communication good for everyone or has it become a distraction? Are the days of the anonymous author gone forever?"

It's a large topic, and those of us on the panel answered it with different focuses.  I don't tweet, so I thought of the question mostly from a blogging and facebook POV.  Mark Charon Newton mentioned on his blog recently how the blogging game has changed.  In the past, individual bloggers with good content could derive decent followship as they engaged in discussions on the internet.  More recently, the spheres once hosted exclusively by genre fans have been taken by the publishers.  With more author contacts, money and time, publishers have rolled in an become the mainstay of the regular blog.  They've made inroads into facebook - now has, what, 5 facebook pages?, all combing the internet for tidbits to put on your daily feed.

When I look at my google reader at the blogs I follow, I have a few of the bigger pre-publisher SF/F bloggers, some non publisher industry pages, then a ton of publishers, one or two authors and several literary agents.

Newton's right though, in that the information only flows one way.  While I might check out an author's site if they post to the publisher page, the chances that I'll follow the author are slim.

But that's not the purpose of this post.

I think the book industry and publishers in particular are thriving under the current social media focus.  It's a fast way of alerting a lot of people to what's coming out and reminding them of what's already on bookstore shelves.  And with so many people buying online - hard copies or digital - it's not hard to follow the link from a publisher page/tweet to the buy page.

When it comes to authors we, the podcasters, agreed that things were harder.  If you're a big author you don't really need a web presence.  Having one doesn't hurt, and could only help, but you don't need one.  For debut authors it's essential to get your name out there.  With fewer people browsing physical bookstores - and coming across the book that way, there are fewer ways of being 'discovered', making social networking, guest blogging and word of mouth even more important.  But the success/failure of the social scene really depends on author savvy.  If you can balance your time appropriately and are enough of a people person to not rub the wrong way, you need a web presence of some sort.

If not...

The days of authors who can thumb their noses at fans are over.  While personal life choices and political/other views shouldn't impact your audience, it does.  Elizabeth Moon's now infamous post has caused a lot of people to boycot her work, something that probably wouldn't have happened had people not been able to go and read what she said themselves.  Yes, other authors have suffered similar things before social networking became so popular, but the reach is further and faster than ever before.

Again, back to the podcast.  I found it interesting that while discussing the topic, we all sort of focused on one or two forms of social networking.  As I said above, my comments were made with blogging and facebook in mind, and I think Jay Garmon was coming from the same place.  Patrick Hester dabbled in all the forms.  Jeff Patterson mentioned forums (before the social boom), Larry Ketchersid dealt with twitter.  So it's a varied look at how things have changed.  Even the term 'social media' brings numerous platforms to mind.

Oddly enough, just before the podcast I checked my google reader.  Literary agent Janet Reid had a post about why it's important to be on twitter, quoting this book review, wherein the reviewer mentions they only read the book because SF Signal's own John DeNardo tweeted that he'd enjoyed it.  It really is a small world. 

So what are you waiting for?  Go listen to the podcast. 

And then write your answer to the question in the comments. 

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