Friday, May 11, 2012

Writing: Mutual Admiration Society

Writers have it drilled into them nowadays--platform is a "must." Agents and publishers ask writers how many followers they have on Facebook and Twitter, which often leads to a mad scramble. Of course, if you want a dose of sanity, see what veteran publisher, Allen Arnold, says about "the numbing nature of numbers"in this post. Nevertheless, everyone seems to want to pad their numbers.

Recently, on one of the writing loops to which I subscribe, someone started a "like my author page on Facebook and I'll like yours back" activity. Initially I thought it might be a good idea, but as it morphed into a viral-like meme, I had second thoughts. And it brought to mind this question: do writers want numbers or do they want readers?

Here's what one published author said about that idea: "Is this thread leaving some of our members with the wrong idea about marketing and truth in advertising? In other words, if I have 101 likes on my page but no one has read my book, where does that get me? I’d rather have one like from someone who truly read my work and enjoyed what I write."

And another email I received included this thought: "I want my likes--both given and received--to mean something.  I 'like' pages because I actually LIKE the author's books, not because it's tit-for-tat.  And I want people to like my FB page for the same reason.  It has felt like a throwback to junior high."

And yet, on the other hand, I've seen numerous posts on that same loop saying how great an idea this has been. Some even say it's brought them closer to their fellow writers.

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I have a love-hate relationship with social media anyway. For some people it's a great way to communicate, to get to know, to stay in touch. For others, it's an intrusive necessity. Now it's time for you all to voice your opinion.

Do you "like" author fan pages on Facebook because you truly like that author's works? Do you figure that reading what they post makes them more real to you? What do you think about the offer of "like my page and I'll like yours." Is this like offering to trade 5-star reviews on bookseller sites (which, by the way, has been done)? I'd like to hear from you, pro or con.


Anne Mateer said...

I agree with your sentiments and the quotes from others. I'd rather have my likes from people who have read my book and liked it enough to find my page or my website. I "like" author pages because I like their work. I don't if I don't know their work. Which means I need to run out and find your page, Doc!

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks, Anne. Nice to have someone agree with the way I feel about this. I've stopped "liking" the fan pages of people who go to mine as a result of the thread that got all this started, unless I know them and/or have read their work.
And, in case you or anyone else is interested, my FB fan page is:
Facebook dot com slash rmabrybooks
(I put it in that form to foil web crawling robots)

Cara Putman said...

Definitely agree. When I like an author's page it's because I like their work. That's why I don't give out likes willy-nilly. I try to save them for people who really matter and that's a very personal thing.

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks, Cara. I have to confess that, at first glance, I thought this was a nice idea. But when I thought about it a bit, I came to the same conclusion as you. We need readers, not numbers.
As for the proponents who say this helps them get to know their fellow authors, let's see how many times they visit all those fan pages again in the next six months. If they don't come back and connect, they're not really followers.

Anne Baxter Campbell said...

Sometimes I like a page because I like the person, even if I haven't read his/her book yet. I hope people are doing the same to mine.

I will NOT subscribed to ones that say "like mine and I'll like yours," or blogs that do the same thing.
Anne Baxter

Unknown said...

Seth Godin wrote on this topic concerning businesses who have FB pages and who are doing the same thing. The bottom line is, does those likes garner more business and revenue and does it serve the customer?

We are misrepresenting our work when our pages are loaded down with tit-for-tat likes.

Furthermore, what is the use of author blogs when so many of them offer writing tips or industry chit-chat--that's well and good if that's the purpose of the blog. But if not--do readers really care? Is that serving our customers?

I used to offer writing tips and talk about publishing woes, but then I analyzed the situation and said, "Hold up. Do readers really want to hear this?." In the final analysis, I think not. Case in point--ever since my book, The Red House: Almost A Memoir came out last year, I have been selling it steadily. Then last month, I let it go free one day and got 1,062 down-loads and have received rejuvenated sales and guess what--no new followers and no extra hits on my blog. But hey, my readers just want to read my books and that's fine by me.

As to the blog, I'm thinking about how to make it fun, different and interesting.

Mary L. Hamilton said...

As a pre-pubbed author, I at first thought this was a great idea. But I jumped in late so was able to read a few other thoughtful comments. I do like the added social aspect of meeting and getting to know other writers. But in the end, I want the "likes" to be people who truly enjoy and respect me and/or my work, no matter what that might mean for agents and publishers.

Richard Mabry said...

Anne, thanks for sharing your viewpoint (with which I agree--so that's always nice).

Charmaine, saw the Seth Godin piece and have to agree. Appreciate your dropping by.

Mary, very perceptive. Thanks for your comment.

Mocha with Linda said...

Great post. I totally get the insecurity and the desire for the numbers. We all long for approval and validation. But those who are just randomly asking for likes and "liking back" will miss the joy that comes when they get a notification that a fellow author discovered their site and genuinely, voluntarily, liked it.

Richard Mabry said...

Linda, Well put. Thanks for your comment.

Erica Vetsch said...

I've wondered this for awhile, with FB pages, twitter, etc.

If I'm following you and you're following me, who is in the lead and where are we going?

Richard Mabry said...

Erica--Good question. Reminds me of the lines: "Where are they? Which way did they go? I must find them. I am their leader."

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Richard, I have similar questions about many things that happen on social media. I didn't add my page to that list because just looking at it made me tired. :-)

We work in a strange industry and we need to discern what is useful from what is a needless expenditure of energy.

Richard Mabry said...

Rosslyn, I have to admit that, as a knee-jerk reaction, I added my Facebook Fan Page URL to that list. Now I regret it. Like the others who've commented, I think a "like" should be just that--not a "tit for tat" transaction.

Carol J. Garvin said...

Then there's Klout. On Saturday Laura Best did an interesting blog post on the newest kid on the social media block, designed specifically to track what they call your influence, but what is essentially numbers. My take on it -- and all the other methods of accumulating followers -- is that the focus on numbers is taking away from the importance of the relationships.

I'm not at the point of having a fan page, but I've "liked" several authors who I respect and want to support. I don't "auto-follow" anyone because that would be an artificial response.

Richard Mabry said...

Carol, I've stayed clear of Klout, mainly because I was turned off by apparently automatically generated tweets that told me how people had achieved thus-and-such a score there. I agree--it's a numbers game.
As always, thanks for your comment.