Wednesday, February 4, 2009

To Facebook, or not to Facebook

Last spring I received an e-mail from a writing buddy of mine who I hadn't heard from in a few years. It was an invitation to visit her Facebook page. I'd mostly heard of MySpace, and as a parent, only the bad things about it. So I was a little leery entering this virtual world.

I followed the prompts and set up my own account. When I visited my friend's page, which at the time didn't have that much info, I sat back and scratched my head...huh? In other words, and at the risk of sounding like a nitwit, I didn't get it.

Almost a year later, I'm still not sure that I do, but at least my avatar isn't a swirly headed ghost person anymore.

I know as writers part of our job is to self publicize and connect with our audience. And even those among us who are pre-published (love that term, Brianna!) should get our act together and get out there on the web. I have no problem doing any of that. I do have to question, however, if I want potential fans to know that Robin is eating cold pizza and looking forward to Idol. Does it make me more human? Or seem pathetic? Or as a writer should I keep my status as Robin is toiling away on her next masterpiece...quiet, please.

Facebook IS addicting. Although I know Facebook is like the older, more mature first cousin of MySpace, it does make me feel like a teenager at times. Especially when it suggests that you get together with People You May Know. Imagine my surprise to see a picture of the girl (now woman) my high school boyfriend cheated on me with, pop up on the sidebar tempting me to "Add as a Friend". Yeah. Thanks, Facebook. Forgive and forget I have, but build that bridge again? I think I'd rather sing in front of Simon Cowell.

My one friend likes to post embarrassing pictures of me from various stages of my life, most recently a horrible picture from 1986, which was a colossal bad hair YEAR for me. I've also been Kidnap'd to Sydney with fuzzy pink handcuffs, involved in a virtual snowball fight and apparently am saving part of the rain forest every time I send someone a virtual plant for their L'il Green Patch. I've found out I was Marilyn Monroe in my past life and the 80s movie I'm most like is Say Anything. Don't even get me started on Pieces of Flair. Johnny Depp is my Hollywood Twin. (Who knew?)

Fun and games? Sure. Way to waste time I should probably be using for a higher purpose? Absolutely. Way to publicize myself and connect with possible readers? HELP. I'm not trying to be snarky here.

Recently while researching publishers, I Googled an editor I'd met at a conference. One of the links took me to her Facebook page. Her list of friends? Writers I admire. Editors I'd love to send my manuscripts. People who obviously enjoy Facebook, or at least see it's value.

So my questions are you think Facebook is a necessary publicity tool or just another way to waste precious time you should use for writing? And if you are using it, how is it working for you?


  1. Thanks for this post, Robin! I am wondering the same thing. I don't have a Facebook page - I've always said my kids (though grown) would kill me if I did. My publisher now has a Facebook page and invited me to join their group.

    In addition, I've been working on my own webpage. Getting ready to pre-publicize BENNO's release in a year.

    How many portals to the cyber world does a writer need? How many ways to procrastinate can I handle?

    I can't wait to read the comments to this post!

  2. Hi Robin,

    Great post! I joined Facebook in Nov after reading "Plug Your Book" which claims it is essential for authors to blog and network online. I don't totally get Facebook, and I mainly just use it to connect to high school friends many of whom have kids in the target age for my PB book. I've gotten a handful of sales.. not many. But i imagine it would help a lot if I got a second contract.

  3. Okay, I'll admit it, I'm pretty sure I hate Facebook! (Wow, it felt good to get that off my virtual chest.)

    A writer friend whose initials happen to be RC asked me to join Facebook a few months back. I still have no idea what purpose it serves, how to use it, or why I should even care that friend x just went to the gym, friend y is no longer on deadline, or friend z just cooked stewed tomatoes.

    I ignore almost all requests: What's the point of a virtual snowball fight anyway? I see no professional benefit to the site whatsoever. It's all a bunch of useless chatter; one more thing that interferes with my ability to focus.

    The only Facebook post I've enjoyed since joining was a list someone wrote called "25 random things about me." (Her initials also happen to be RC.) That alone was worth the price of admission.

    But...I'm convinced that, once I take the time to "get it," I'll discover that Facebook can be a useful tool, both personally and professionally. In fact, one of the books on my "to buy" list is called "I'm on Facebook, Now What???"

    After I read the book and become Facebook-savvy, I'll let you all know if I changed my mind. Until then, I have one word for Facebook: Poppycock!

    p.s. Dearest RC, despite what I said, please don't delete me from your page. I still want to be your Facebook friend, really! I just have to figure it all out. Plus, I'm feeling cranky right now. :-)

  4. To me a Facebook page might benefit an author who has a tween and YA audience. Would that audience go to Facebook before checking out an author website? Perhaps.

    I guess it could be fun, but time consuming, to have a page for personal stuff, but I don't want to play in the Facebook sandbox.

    Of course, if your publisher has a page for all their authors, that's a different matter. Then you have to get out your pail and shovel and join the group.

  5. Last night, J.A. and I drove into NYC to hear the Agents Panel at the New School. Sarah Burns said, that a blog/website could do great things to build your readership. But she also said you shouldn't blog it it's going to keep you away from your work.

    Hummmmmm....Notice I didn't take her advice.

  6. I joined Facebook in order to play Scrabulous. Oh well. I have a few friends who pester me to update my page and really get with the program. I've done nothing. I still have the swirly haired ghost as my avetar.

    I do think it is a fabulous platform for writers. Kids get it. Both of my kids communicate through Facebook.

    My biggest question/problem as a writer is the fact that it is so public. People can post photos, comments, etc. for all to see. It seems like you can lose control of your message.

    I guess I need to do a little research. See how writers who have successfully navigated the Facebook world have done so.

  7. Well, privacy is definitely my concern. I'm serious when I say I'm not sure I want potential readers to know my "stuff" and I also wonder if people in the business who use Facebook, use it more for personal use or professional use. You can't always be "on", so to speak.

    There are "fan" pages, where you can become a fan of something and go there for updates, but it's much different than having a personal page. As I said, it's fun, but a potential time waster!

    Thanks for the responses! It's still a very interesting topic for me. There's a few posts over on the blue boards if the topic still interests you.

    And J.A...I'm friending you!! Gotta go. Have to escape from Las Vegas and go Kidnap someone else :)

  8. One thing I don't really understand about Facebook: people can't view your page unless you friend them, right? So how does that give you publicity? Maybe I'm wrong about this, but can someone explain it?

  9. You can control your page -- it can be private, so you can't read it unless someone friends you, or it can be public. There are controls somewhere.

    Robin -- we're friends now! I tried to send you a message, and my computer went offline (those issues are not completely resolved). Grrrrr.

  10. I joined facebook a few months ago when a high school friend suggested our class to join to plan our next reunion. So mainly it is for social reasons, seeing my friends and family's photos and reconnecting. Now I do have some writer facebook friends, but most are authors that I "know" through their blogs or Verlas. I am a little concerned that I have all of my family photos (and embarrassing hs photos) with a wider range of friends. But then again, I guess I really don't have anything to hide either. Though I do ignore friend requests if I don't know who it is...
    I am a facebook addict, too!

  11. Well, I just became a fan of Bruce Springsteen (I have been one for more years than I want to mention right now, lol) while it's supposedly his "official" page, I didn't friend him (only in my dreams).

    So my understanding of this is you could probably have more than one account, one being your book, or an official fan page. You can have updates, etc, but it sort of seems similar to a website when you think about it that way. So I guess I don't really get it after all...hence my blog entry :)

    I think it makes you a little more accessible. But I still don't want to share bad hair pics!

    Thanks all for the lively comments!

  12. You're right, Robin. I forgot to mention, I have two Facebook accounts. The second is for professional writers (all genres), editors, and publishers in the town where I live. The page just went up, so being tech-challenged editorial types, we're all still trying to figure out where our wall is. Once it gets going full-throttle, I hope some good networking opportunities will come out of it.

  13. I had gotten quite a few requests from old friends to join, so I started feeling guilty and signed up. I'm new to it still, but most of my "friends" there are a combo of people I've known through message boards over the years or long, lost friends from school. I haven't felt any need to separate my personal stuff from my writing.