a poll and a teaser

by Toni McGee Causey


I would really love it if you all would help resolve a bit of a mystery for a lot of us freaks/writers/authors/scribblers…

Lately, I’ve seen a tremendous amount of discussion on a couple of writers loops I’m on, and elsewhere on various blogs, about how important social media is to a writer’s career. We all pretty much agree that it’s important to have a website (she said, the person who has not updated her own in a long time, yikes)… but there is the assumption / pressure / voodoo guesswork that it’s critical for an author to also be present on Facebook and Twitter and other social media sites.

The assumption is that social media helps authors sell books. And the corollary is that a lack of presence means lost sales (bad author, bad author).

I think these are incorrect assumptions, but I could be wrong.

My theory is that most people who “follow” an author on Facebook or Twitter do so after they’ve already learned about the author–usually by buying their books or visiting them on blogs. I’m not sure that the exposure to the author on Facebook or Twitter actually compels a follower who hadn’t already been interested in buying the author’s books to then do so. 

Does that make sense to you all? 

Now, don’t get me wrong–I enjoy Facebook and Twitter and I think that it’s funt to build a relationship with readers, and I know in my case, many readers have become real friends, so that’s a lot of lagniappe, there. Subsequently, there have been times that these friends have talked about someone else’s books and I’ve gone to check that book out and then I bought it. But I bought it on word-of-mouth, not on the author having posted information. (In each case where this happened, the person had bought and read the book; they had not re-posted anything from the original author.)

I also know that there have been a few times when I’ve seen an author be so… repugnant… on their social media interactions, that I am no longer interested in their books, so the social media thing can definitely backfire.

So I’d like to know if the mandate to “get a FB and Twitter account” to “help sell books” is a fallacy… or if it helps… or if sales are just an occasional side benefit. 

Would you mind telling me which of the following is true for you? Please feel free to pick more than one if you do some of one, some of the other. I’m looking more for overall trends here, so feel free to elaborate.

Now, this is not just aimed at readers, but I really hope you all will come out of lurkdom and post. To make it fun, one lucky commenter will receive a $25 gift certificate to the online bookstore of their choice.



a) I follow authors on FB/Twitter after I’ve read their books, not before.

b) I follow authors on FB/Twitter after I’ve heard about them from their blogs — this does not mean I have bought or will buy their books.

c) I follow authors on FB/Twitter after someone else has mentioned them / tweeted about them / shared a link, but that’s more out of curiosity, and does not mean I will be buying their books.

d)I follow authors on FB/Twitter, and in some cases (or all cases), have then subsequently bought their books.

e) I follow authors on FB/Twitter after I heard about them from their blogs, and I have then subsequently bought their books.

f) I follow authors on FB/Twitter after someone has mentioned them/tweeted, etc., and I often then buy their books.

g) I follow authors on FB/Twitter and ended up buying something they recommended. (Doesn’t mean I bought that author’s books, though.)

h) What the hell? Who the hell follows authors on FB/Twitter? I don’t “follow” authors online, and I still buy books.



And now, for the teaser part of the post…

For the next two weeks, you will see all of our workspaces and hear about our writing processes. Well, everyone except moi… mine was posted a couple of weeks back here. I think this is a first for us–a concentrated two week look into the same aspect of each of our lives, and how similar–and different–we all are.

On my Sunday, two weeks from now, we have a round-up of photos from a bunch of cool writers friends, and we’re adding more through this week. (Seriously, you will love glimpses into these writer’s workspaces — Lee Child, David Morrell, Laura Lippman, MJ Rose, Anne Stuart, Lani Diane Rich, Karin Slaughter, Lisa Gardner, Cindy Gerard, Erica Spindler, T. Jefferson Parker, CJ Lyons, Jeff Abbott, James Born, Gayle Lynds, Jonathan Maberry… and YOU.)

I want YOU, yes, YOU to send me your photos of your workspaces, because you’re a part of us. So many of you have visited with us every day, and we’d love to include you in our pictorial. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE A WRITER. We LOVE READERS. There are a bunch of writer friends who post here for whom I do not have an email address, and yes, I want you on board. All of you. What a cool round-up that would be.

Here’s what you do — take a photo of your workspace. I don’t care if it’s a barn, a desk in a cubicle, an assembly line, a backhoe… take a photo of your workspace and email it to toni [at] tonimcgeecausey [dot] com. Any photo will do, and don’t worry if it’s dark or whatever–I have Lightroom, I can deal with it. Email it and tell me in a sentence or two something about your workspace and what you do there.

C’mon. Join the fun. I’ve got photos right now of everything from a Starbucks to a highrise apartment to a bed. (Yes. A bed. Which is so perfect.) So send me yours, dear ‘Rati. You belong here. 

Now, on to your answers! And thank you.

55 thoughts on “a poll and a teaser

  1. Mikaela

    h) I don't have twitter, cause I can't really see the point at this stage! And facebook are for keeping in touch with family and friends 🙂

    For me a regularly updated webpage is most important.

  2. Karen in Ohio

    All of the above, except I don't Twitter, and have no desire to do so.

    However, the biggest influence on buying books lately–in the last two or three years–is if I read something that intrigues me by an author on a blog. For instance, I've bought a lot of the Murderati members' books, solely on the strength of your blogs. And enjoyed most of them. Even guest bloggers have a better chance of selling me on their books than authors I've never had the slightest bit of contact with, and the same holds true of books recommended by bloggers.

    Facebook is such a time sink. If I were writing full-time I would rarely post there. And I don't actually "follow" anyone, other than to read random posts made. If I "like" a post FB tells me when there's more activity after I "liked" it, and sometimes I'll reread to see what other comments were made, depending on how amusing the original post happened to be. But if none of you were on Facebook it would not make any difference to me. Again, much, much more likely to read a blog.

  3. Karen in Ohio

    Okay, it's the middle of the night, and I meant to say "All of the above, at one time or another".


  4. Grace

    I have met some new wonderful writers through blogs and word-of-mouth. The grapevine is a wonderful source – I check out website and blogs and of course it builds from there because then I come across more wonderful writers. Facebook and Twitter don't impress me much.

  5. Steve in Germany

    h) What the hell? Who the hell follows authors on FB/Twitter? I don't "follow" authors online, and I still buy books.

    I will ocassionally visit a author website or blog, but FB/Twitter doesn't hold an attraction for me. I'll read reviews and comments from another author and at times will buy the book to see if all of the praise is just lip service. I hate it when I get taken in, but that doesn't happen often.

  6. Vicky

    I have an FB account, but use it only for friends. I don't follow authors on it. I prefer to latch on to authors through blogs like this one and recommendations from friends. I also use reviews in the local paper and on my library's website.
    P.S. You won't see a photo of my writing place–too embarassing. Remember that scruffy old recliner Fraser's dad sat in? That's it.

  7. Dudley Forster

    Ah, Toni you setup a poll and posted early so I would have something to do during an attack of insomnia. That’s very kind and thoughtful of you. 😉

    a) Almost Always
    b) The only time I follow an author on FB if I have not read any of their books is if at least one of their books is in my TBR pile and I participate in discussions on one of their blogs.
    c) Nope
    d). See answer to b
    e) See answers to a & b.
    f) See answers to a & b.
    g) YES and other readers who recommend books, but only on FB pages authors I already read.

    h) I don’t tweet. I don’t have time to follow Twitter, I can barely keep up with DorothyL. I also think Twitter promotes the “I just did the dishes posts” On mundane things like this I don’t care if one of my daughters does it, let alone anyone else.

    On FB I follow authors I read except per b above. I am not sure why you would follow authors you have never read? On fan pages you have to press a button that says “like” How do you know you “like” an author you have never read her books? BTW I like authors who have both "fan" pages and friend you on their personal pages. J.T. has a note on her personal page that says "this is filled with silly putty" As I post below, I like silly putty.

    i) FB use: For me FB and authors are an interesting phenomenon. I am not a fanboy. I follow my favorite musicians, some TV shows, and many products I use. But I have never once posted on these pages. They are information only. But reading is such a personal medium and so integral in my life I want to know authors, I want to support them in their work. I not only like the FB pages where discussion is solely about books, tours and links to nifty reviews, but off topic stuff too. Last week Pari talked about making homemade applesauce. This sparked a discussion about apples, pie etc. It was old fashion, over the back fence conversation. Does this type of discussion directly bring in new readers, probably not. But it does cement relationships with current readers and I can’t believe it doesn’t increase word of mouth sales. And isn’t word of mouth the ultimate social network?

    FB abuse: I think an author’s use of FB can distance readers and hurt sales. There are some FB pages where the author just gives information about books and it is all marketing. They don’t even interact much with readers about their books, let alone anything else. Worse, some FB pages read as if the author is not FBing at all, but some publicist or assistant. These are not common and are usually the pages of authors with huge bestsellers. I don’t bother much with their FB pages.

    False assumptions: FB pages directly attracts new readers. Social networking is about, well, networking . . . building connections and relationships. That is what attracts new readers and reinforces the bond with current readers.

  8. Laura Jane Thompson

    h. Like some of the other commenters, I don't use Facebook except for family and friends, and Twitter can make a girl crazy. I do follow author blogs/web sites, however, and I think it's because a full site or blog actually gives you a comprehensive sense of the writer, whereas Facebook and Twitter posts are usually just a couple lines of promotion or a random comment about what the author ate for breakfast. Not my scene.

    i. I will say this. I cannot stand it when authors don't give readers an opportunity to contact them with feedback online. I'd never heard of this until my cousin got interested in Stephenie Meyer books, and was heartbroken that she couldn't e-mail the author about how much she loved the books. An author doesn't have to reply to every comment s/he receives, but it seems so arrogant to say, "Sorry, I'm so famous that I don't have time to receive your feedback." That's infuriating.

    I know that's a bit off-topic, but I think it ties in with the whole Internet presence issue. I think it's important for authors to connect with their audience outside of their books, but I don't think it's necessary to join every social networking site available (or any of them for that matter.)

  9. Dudley Forster

    Oops forgot to mention that Twitter can be useful if the author just tweets about cool stuff, like,” I’m at B’Con and this just happened” Since I don’t follow Twitter you have to have it linked to FB, but then you don’t want to tweet telling the world you just washed your underwear, cause that is just TMI.

  10. Gretchen

    I follow on Twitter when I learn about authors form others I follow. I've bought two books in the last two weeks because of announcements on Twitter.one was a friend I tweet with the other finally wore me down and her book came to mind when I was too lazy to get up and go find my TBR pile. I think that's where the ebook thing comes into play and the iPad will be way more important in marketing ebooks than the other readers. I will go from a Twitter book link and go buy the book. You don't get that with any of the dedicated readers.

    Facebook, I really use that to keep up with all my hippie friends I knew thirty years ago. and I mostly think it's annoying for anything else.

  11. Cornelia Read

    H. I can't imagine doing Twitter, or even following people on it. Two blogs is enough for me. I like reading quickly through people's posts on Facebook, every once in a while. I have a lot of friends on it, but most authors I'm friends with are people who friended me, other than people I know personally whom I asked. But it's a great way to keep in touch with old friends from all the different places where I've lived.

  12. Dudley Forster

    One question that has been nagging me and I'm going use this topic to ask. Why are there no links to your websites or blogs on this page? I should be able to click your photo and go to your page.

  13. JD Rhoades

    As some of you may have noticed, I do spend a lot of time on FB, keeping up with friends and acquaintances. It's useful for that. And I love it when they share music with me.

    For some reason, I get anywhere from four to ten friend requests per day, the vast majority of them from people I don't know. Since part of the reason for doing this in the first place was to get the word out about the books, I go ahead and accept. Many of them seem to be aspiring writers, but that's fine with me, because that's a group to whom I can easily relate. They're very likely to be readers, too!

  14. PK the Bookeemonster

    I don't follow on FB or Twitter. Having a website is essential. Having an updated website is even more so. Each month there's about 70 crime fiction novels released. In the past two months I have visited (or attempted to visit) all of them for my newsletter. I am shocked at how poorly maintained the majority of the sites are. I hear authors complaining about the lack of publicity support from their publishers and that they have to do so much themselves but the one huge thing they can do to promote their work is so out of date and lacking in the things that readers look for in order to buy a buy, it's ridiculous. And it runs the gamut from the lack of any info (or no website) to a website so busy it is unreadable. Ask yourself or picture yourself in a bookstore and you're interested in a book; what do you do to decide whether to buy it or not? You read the back or inside cover to get an idea of the plot, maybe see what else the author has written that you're maybe familiar with, you skim a few pages of the inside to see if you like it. That's the experience of a good website too. I may be in the minority but I don't care about the itinerary of a book tour because like it or not most of America doesn't live in those cities. Recipes, no; awards, yes. A blog, sure, as long as you stick to the book world because that is the purpose of the site — to promote you as an author and your works. If you want to talk politics or anything of that ilk, set up a different website for that purpose.
    And maybe I'm one generation past getting the social media thing. I kinda do both and it's nice to know what family/friends are doing but to use it for promotional purposes? Yikes, too much like a blaring commercial in the middle of a drink with friends.
    We're having a big ol' thunderboomer of a rain storm this morning — perfect reading weather. Woot!

  15. Debbie

    Okay, so maybe I'm a little backwards but yes, I found all of you through an author's blog. When I finished reading the archives and had a huge respect for said author, I trusted the links and found Murderati. At first I was interested in that authors posts and found the others interesting. Now I feel like I know most of you and want to read all your books. As for Twitter and Facebook, count me out. I check out an authors page on MySpace because I find them more personalized and I want to get a feel for a person-feel more connected-but after I've been there once, I probably wouldn't return.
    Voice is important to me. I'll read Dudley's book without promotion just because I like his comments. Same goes for others here.

  16. Kaye Barley

    I don't Twitter, but I love Facebook.
    Usually, Facebook isn't going to sway me one way or another about buying a book, I like all the other stuff that goes on at Facebook, not too much the promotion. I have "hidden" some writers who are using it only for promotion 'cause I found it to be pretty boring.
    I do think websites are pretty important, especially if there are samples of the writer's work available. I'm able to tell from a fairly short piece of writing if it's a book I'm going to like, or if it's a writing style I enjoy.

  17. judy wirzberger

    I don't "follow" but I do check in on Cornelia every once in a while and some other local authors (Cornelia was once local). However, I got happily attached to this blog and have read books by almost every one of the authors. I went to M is for Mystery to meet JT and have read all her books, Tess I had already been a reader, I consume Alex's lessons on writing both here and on her page. Zoeeeeeee was new and I've picked up her books, Louise is always a must read. I could go on and on but I'll just say that a quality blog about writing, the writing life, like Murderati, is worth the use of my limited time. It's like being on a train headed for my publishing goal and being able to enjoy the scenery along the way. Some of the other group blogs I've looked at set me down in Disneyland, or Coral Gablesl and while nice, not where I wanted to head on my writing path. Thanks Murderati gang…it's a pleasure to ride along with you.

  18. Gayle Carline

    b) I guess. I usually follow authors I've either met via blogging or in person. If they have a voice and a genre that interests me, I'll try one of their books, but not always. I do use FB and Twitter, but I try to keep it interesting and mix it up with book and personal stuff. (Note: since I also write a humor column about my family, the personal stuff is kind of business, too.) I like it when authors talk about what's happening in their lives. It keeps me from thinking everyone else is making TONS of money off their writing and I'm DOOMED to the poorhouse. I hate it when the only status I get from an author is "My book is here. Buy my book. My book is great. Have you bought my book?"

    P.S. A photo of my workspace will be difficult. Sometimes I'm in the living room at my desk… sometimes I'm in the kitchen with the dog… sometimes I'm in the recliner in the family room… it'll have to be a collage.

  19. karenfrommentor

    The only authors I've followed on twitter that I don't know in real life are Brett Battles and Tim Hallinan. And the only reason I followed them was to hype them to my readers/followers when they're wandering about giving interviews for their newest books.

    I don't do facebook, and I resisted twitter forever but caved when I needed a way to hype my flash fiction ezine. I got a personal account a bit later to hype my own published fiction and poetry.

    I'm much more pleased when people follow my blog and come in to read me and comment on a regular basis.

    Twitter is most useful for me as a fun little flirty lift to the day. I worry about the people who "live" there and who live and die with their follower numbers.

    I like twitter followers, but all the jockying for more followers got old for me really quickly. It's a time suck and not something that I'm interested in investing energy into. When people find me by accident that's great, but I'm not out casting a net or getting software to "enlarge my twitter following" [yes they have that]

    I've also seen the obnoxious behaviour on twitter and it has soured me on a couple of artist's work.

    I don't think we need to know everything about every artist whose work we like. I'd enjoy a little old fashioned discretion making a comeback.

    So, to answer your question Toni. Um….no. I don't think more social media is always a good thing.
    I don't follow authors I like online. I buy their books.

  20. Stephanie

    My answer would be a combination of d, e, and f. I don't know whether I support or deconstruct your argument. I was just at Barnes & Noble yesterday looking for books of two people I encountered through social media. I believe in both cases I encountered their blogs before I began following them on Twitter. But those authors tweet at their friends, of course, and I've discovered new authors through those tweets. I then follow those authors and look for their books. In addition I read people who are mentioned/recommended by the authors I follow on Twitter. Then again, I still think most of this interaction is at the authors' blogs, rather than Twtiter.

  21. Barbie

    I follow authors I like on Twitter or friend them on Facebook (though, on Facebook, I've had authors I don't read nor interact with friend me, and I accepted because I don't like to be rude, so, they're just there, and I don't pay much attention, really). Sometimes, they'll link a blog from another author, and I may check it out. If I like the author's voice, I'll check their Twitter and website, and I may just buy their books, if I'm interested. Or not. Sometimes, an author I know will mention me or RT me and another author I don't know will interact with me. In which case, I interact back, I may follow them, and, again, if I find them interesting, I may buy their books. Or not. And I have this concept that if someone can make themselves seem interesting on Twitter and their website– even if they aren't in real life — they can write interesting books.

    You know, I really don't like it when an author adds me on Facebook (follows on Twitter, sure, it's there for everyone to see, but FB I find more personal), which they probably find me through mutual friends. But, really, just because I read books from 20 of their friends doesn't mean I want to read theirs. They must realize that when I like an author, and I want to "befriend" them, I'll look for them on Facebook. So, there's no need for them to friend me. I feel I'm being used for promotion, right there. Like they're suggesting themselves to be. Really, is anything sadder than "Will you read my book?" Maybe I'm being too critic here. (And I mean really unknown authors here. If there's an author I often interact with in a blog, and they add me — knowing I'm me, from the blog — than I'm more than happy to add them as my friends! 🙂 (I don't like to authors I randomly know from blogs because it may seem weird).

    What was the letter/option for that again?? 😛

    My workspace is my bed. But… If I were to send a picture, I'd send a picture of my bed made, in which case it would not be my workspace since when I'm "working" (aka reading school stuff, taking notes, doing some kind of homework) everything thrown around, pillows on the floor, stuffed animals hanging on for their dear life. Wouldn't that be cheating? 🙂

  22. KellyJ

    For me, the answers are A and E.

    I am more influenced by author's blog posts, because if I like the way they write I am more likely to buy their books. For example, I met Allison Brennan when she was a guest blogger on a blog written by a member of my local RWA chapter. I loved what she had to say, and her style, so I bought one of her books and then followed her here. And here, I met the fabulous Toni McGee Causey and Tess Gerritsen, and now my bookcase is home to Bobbie Faye and Jane Rizzoli and I am so glad. So for me, it's blog posts and Amazon recommendations and word of mouth.

    And I am so excited about seeing the photos of the author's work spaces!

  23. Doug Riddle

    Great post Toni, but to be honest I think social media is a waste of time for most authors.

    First, FB is for family and friends. Second, I would say the majority of readers of author blogs are would-be writers looking for insight. . . .also, blog visitors more often then not are already fans of the author so it is preaching to the choir. Myself, I follow half a dozen blogs, does that mean I read them all everyday, no. It depends on the subject that the author of the day is writing on. I think that is probably a pretty average reaction by most blog readers.

    Here is some unofficial market research you might find interesting; The day job is dealing with insurance matters for a very large university hospital, and right around the corner from me is a call center of roughly 80 people. . . . 98% are women, age 24-60, the largest book buying demographic. Now to get coffee I have to walk through their work area, and being one of those would-be writing types I am not about to pass up a chance to take a peek and see whoes books are on their desks, and here is what I see…….1. the majority of books are mystery/thrillers…(the guys tend to read paperback fantasy/sci-fi)…..2. there is an even split between hardcover and paperbacks, and only a few are from the library……3. most of the authors are women, with Brown, Robb/Robers and Evanovich most common, though I have seen the names of authors on this blog….male authors tend to be Patterson, Grisham and King……4 And here is the BIGGIE…..I would bet my salary that less then five of these women have had any kind of social media interaction with an author, and that includes visting an authors web site…..hell, I'll make that 3 women.

    But what I do hear at work…..is one reader asking another about a book, if it is any good, etc?……and the answer to that question has a bigger impact then all the internet social media. And here is the kicker, if the answer is positive, it is usually followed by either an offer to loan or a request to borrow the book in question.

    Is the science behind this perfect, no far from it, but I haven't met a perfect human yet.

  24. pari noskin taichert

    Oh, great, Toni . . .
    Since you didn't post pix today, everyone gets to be horrified tomorrow with my post. Argh.

    I don't follow most authors on FB. Though I have a Twitter acct., I haven't started using it yet.

    I have 2-3 pages on FB; a personal page, a "fan" page and the Big Chile (Left Coast Crime page).

    I despise being marketed to. That's really strange since I'm such a PR maven.

    So, my personal page is for fun conversations. I don't look at it as a vehicle for selling books . . . simply as a way to expand my world and meet interesting people. The "Fan" page is for talking about writing, posting my daily numbers, and if I have an important announcement about my writing, I might . . . might, put it there.

    The Big Chile page is to start getting people engaged and to answer questions. I also maintain a blog on the convention website — right now the content is the same in both places b/c I want people to get in the habit of checking now (I'm asking questions about NM) so that when they need info, they'll ask.

  25. tanya

    I don't like facebook's use of personal info – so do not follow anyone on it. I follow a few writers on twitter that offer writing tips (though honestly haven't read them in a while).

    I DO follow writers with blogs – 99% of them i have read their books – sometimes before finding their blog – sometimes after. Usually find the blog via links – like their blog and buy their books.

    I follow sites like this more often than note – as they give me the perspective of more than one writer. NEAT.

    There is one blog i follow that i have not read his written work (scalzi) – as i don't normally read his genre. BUT i love his blog 'whatever' and have bought books based off his "The Big Idea" column – actually picked up books based off that column that i would never have found. I will eventually buy his books – as i would assume they would be as good as his blog.

    Now given all of that – SOME writers share too much info. Will not say names but a good example is a top seller in urban fantasy whose books should now be sold in romance (nothing against romance – which i do read) but come one…the 1st 5 books are so different from the others. She shares way too much info on her personal life and honestly that ruins the books for me. DO NOT over share…we are interested in your writing process, ideas, etc but not your personal life. Superficial sharing is fine – but intimate details – keep em to your self.

    Non media related – i have been to a few cons JUST to listen to a writer i like speak.

  26. Spencer Seidel

    For me, it's A,F, and G for sure. I definitely follow authors after I've read a book I like or after someone else on Facebook or Twitter has recommended them.

    As an author, my philosophy is unless you're a total ass, being on Twitter and Facebook won't hurt sales and may just help. But in the end, who knows?

  27. Anon

    I do absolutely no social networking, nothing, nada. Even when I post a comment, which is rare, I do it as anon. Ironically, my books sell just fine and I'm making many tens of thousands of dollars a year off my writing. Why is that?

    My theory is that the books themselves are their own advertising. Write a good book and people will be looking for the next one. Have your book in the top ten of a Kindle category and the ranking itself becomes a self-fullfilling advertisement.

    In the end, readers are looking for a good book, not a new e-buddy.

  28. Spencer Seidel

    Hmm, I should probably clarify my comment… I didn't mean to say that you're an ass if you're not on Twitter or Facebook. I meant to say that unless you're an especially annoying or unpleasant person, being on them probably won't hurt sales 🙂

  29. toni mcgee causey

    Wow. Seriously, I love you 'Ratis! And I already have THREE new 'Rati photos… but I should have more! (I am serious, I really want you to participate.) Vicky — I would love that photo. 😉 Gayle — a collage is FINE. And Barbie, put everything on your bed just like you were working and send me a pic.

    On the answers… this is fascinating. I can't wait to see the rest of the answers today. I promise to compile them and post the results! Please keep them coming!

  30. Dudley Forster

    Since the topic has swerved onto websites and blogs I am going to get on my soap box. If you don’t know HTML and CSS DON’T build your own site, most of those are horrid. Don’t use your best friend’s teenage son either, even if he can build a site because he won’t maintain it and you don’t know how to. Find a professional webmaster. There are even webmasters that specialize in author’s sites. They will build great sites AND maintain them.

    I use an author’s website for three things. To read their faq/bio. To look at book tour schedules because sometimes you do go to Seattle and for some authors I will drive 6 hours for a signing. To get the books’ titles an order. Finally, please, please list your books by series and by order. If you have more than one series split them out.

    Blogs: I don’t care if you stay on a book/publishing theme, though personally, I’d stay away from the third rails of politics and religion. Inconsistency is the hobgoblin of blogs. If you are going to blog try to do it in some regular manner. Not everyone uses a feed reader. Use a feed! Some authors’ blogs don’t have a feed setup, right J.T.? Finally, setup a crosspost to FB. I know, FB has a problem with timely posting of them, but someday they’ll fix that.

    Doug – I strongly disagree with your analysis, except the word of mouth part. One author's FB page has grown from 3500 followers last fall to over 9000. She has an active discussion page for readers to play in. When she posts, even about cupcakes, she'll get 20- 100 responses. She doesn't talk about the writing process at all and I have seen very few aspiring authors post writing related questions. Almost all of the followers are dedicated readers who love the author's books and like the author. I did a quick survey of followers at the 5000 mark. 20% were men and 80% were women, right down the national demographic. One of the most common post is a reader saying she/he gave or recommend the author's books to a friend and they love them. You can't tell me this does not have a marketing impact.

    Sorry about posting three times but as a computer consultant I live on the web, hell I even order pizza on the web, so I have some strong opinions about it.

  31. Philip Hawley, Jr

    Toni, I seriously doubt the notion that social networking has any positive effect on a novelist's career. People following your social networking activities are probably already aware of your writing career and are likely familiar with your books. The number of incremental sales arising from social networking (as a percent of the total) is probably a very small number indeed.

    On the other hand, I see a big risk of social networking causing "frictional" erosion of one's writing career — especially from lost writing time, diminished focus, and less time imagining your next novel (that is, the time writers spend "living" with the story and characters of their work in progress).

    In my opinion, there's only one reason to participate in social networking sites: because you enjoy it. I don't think it can be justified as a means of promoting one's writing career.

  32. Fran

    My FaceBook page falls into two categories with a pleasant blurring: friends and family, and authors whose books I'd probably like to read but who has time to read everything? It's partly personal and partly business for me, and at times that's kinda awkward but hey, much of life is.

    Too much of Twitter is about what people ate, but I like it at times because it can help relieve my worry about people. When the flooding in Nashville happened, I watched for JT's Tweets to be sure she was okay. A short blip on Twitter can ease worry.

    I tend to follow blogs with multiple authors, like this one, or blogs where guest authors get a chance to shine. I've found some wonderful authors that way, people I wouldn't normally have read otherwise (I'm thinking of Natalie Collins here, actually), and I love the way my favorite authors introduce me to their favorite authors and it becomes this ginormous kudzu-like expansion.

    As has been mentioned above, though, FB and Twitter accounts make authors more accessible, and to a fan, that's important. It builds loyalty, not something to be taken lightly.

  33. Eika

    I'm an i, but that's because… I had a friend remind me of my twitter account yesterday, and I rarely remember my facebook. However, if it comes to blogs, I follow Tamora Pierce's blog because I've read her for years. If we included blogs/LJ, then I'd be either A or C. I'll certainly check out something a friend links, or look at something she recommends (because after reading her stuff for half my life, and seeing several of our favorite books coincide, it may be smart) but I won't BUY anything just on that.

  34. Cherie

    Good morning. I just would like to say that yes I follow a few of my favorite authors on FB. It has nothing to do with me buying their books. I check the pages to see when they may have a new book coming out but other then that, I am more inclined to go to the book store look in my favorite section and pick a book up. For me it is more work of mouth about an author/book and I do agree with anon.

  35. Doug Riddle

    Dudley I think you might have mis-read my post concerning FB and blogs.

    When I said "FB is for family and friends" I was speaking about how I use FB, which is the way most people use FB. An author having 9000 friends on FB is great, but did it really impact her readership/sales? I doubt it did, since like you said "Almost all of the followers are dedicated readers who love the author's books and like the author", so I am guessing most of those "friends" were already her readers/buyers before they became her friends…….so again as with most author/reader social media it involves preaching to the choir, not growing the author's visibility or readership/sales base.

    Also when I said "the majority of readers of author blogs are would-be writers looking for insight" I was speaking of Blogs, not FB. And maybe a "majority" might be a little strong, but looking at how often people responding to posts mention their own writing, I don't think I am that far off the mark.

    The bottom line, is yeah it may be great for an author to have 10,000 FB friends and their blog read by thousands, but if these friends and readers are already Buyers, then no social media didn't increase the authors visablilty/sales, and wouldn't the author be better served writing their next book? Isn't one of the reasons we read blogs, etc., is because we don't have a new book by our favorite authors to read?

  36. Sarah

    I do follow a number of writers on FB, and a few on Twitter. Most are people I have read, though sometimes I end up connected to someone who has been commented about or their work recommended.

    I DO end up buying things because of these connections. I find out about anthologies a favorite author is in that I wouldn't buy otherwise. Or a book is highly recommended by several people I follow so I check it out.

    I've tracked down magazines because a writer has a short story in it. I've also read fiction that a writer has posted on-line and gotten hooked on them and then bought books.

    So I think that a presence can certainly help. Most writers on FB and Twitter are interesting and make me want to read them more.

    On rare occasion someone is a complete nimrod and I mark them off my reading list. That is quite rare.

  37. Dudley Forster

    Doug – I agree that some authors may play on FB or Twitter too much, but authors wouldn't be authors if they didn't have the self discipline to write. To clarify my view, I don't believe social networking directly affects readership. What it does do is cement readership loyalty, thereby causing a sales increase through word of mouth. Can this be quantified? Maybe by someone a lot smarter than me. But I think the anecdotal evidence is there.

  38. gayle

    Letter H all the way. I don't follow anyone on Twitter or Facebook. For me social media still means actually being with the person.

    I do like to visit author web sites, especially if an author is new to me and has written multiple books in a series. That way I can see the titles and the order in which I should read the books. When I see that a web site has not been updated in years, I do get the impression that they don't really care about their readers or have not written anything recently.

    I find out about new authors though print reviews such as Booklist and Mystery Scene. I have also come across new book reccomendations by reading book blogs, which I enjoy.

    So I suppose the answer is some sort on interaction on the internet is probably helpful to sales. Just because I don't use it, doesn't mean that others don't. I'm probably in the minority when it comes to Facebook/Twitter. I want real friends, not virtual ones. A real friend will take me to the hospital at 3:00AM when I'm writhing on the floor in pain, a virtual friend can't.

    I also have crossed some authors off my list because of what are to me abhorrent views that they have posted on blogs. While their books may be good, I can't justify giving money to support someone whose opinions are repellant to me.

  39. Catherine

    I'm a strong H on the basis that if I was to start playing around keeping up with all the FB doings and following twitter threads t would get little done.I had a couple of months without a computer earlier this year, and it really woke me up to how much time I was spending online. The time suck factor of FB and twitter are my chief reasons for avoiding it like the plague. I'm also perversely resistant to some forms of communications that I find shallow.

    I spent money with wild abandon this past weekend at the Brisbane Writer's Festival with a multitude of justifications, including developing a mild brain crush on someone's writing, supporting a friend, and yes Val McDermid why does the bridegroom obviously not survive the wedding day? I have much more measured response online. Oh and as aside do not trying reading JJ Cooper's 'The Interrogator' at 3 am because you can't sleep.

    I found Murderati through a mention on an author's blog a couple of years ago. I tend to use the author sites to see what they have out, almost out and excerpts of work. Sometimes you also get led to good blogs. I have also found some great authors from guest posts here too. Thanks. Like a lot of other people commenting today after finding Murderati I sought out books by the Rati..

  40. MichelleKCanada

    Here are my answers to your poll. My responses are in below.
    I get what you are trying to understand so I hope my response is helpful to you.

    I put Facebook and Twitter in different catagories however they are similar.
    Facebook – If I am searching for an author on FB it is because I loved their work. I ususally start with the author's own blog/website and if it interests me, then I go to Facebook. I friend them. I love the group comment sections after a status post because I can read what other fans are responding. I especially love when a FB author comments on my stauts or my wall. Woot hoot! I also like when I can read the full URL address of post or blog recommendation. Like that is why I am here today. Toni Causey posted on FB. (love Toni Causey BTW)

    Twitter – If I have friended the author of FB, I will check out to see if they are on Twitter (I don't start with Twitter.) I have found more NEW authors on Twitter that have peaked my interest than FB. The reason is the re-tweets. When I frequently see one of my Twitter authors retweet other authors (unknown to me) and I like their posts, it will encourage me to want to follow their comments too.

    I find FB more personable. I love when the authors often try and communicate with their readers and publish teasers posts about up and coming books. I love when they just relax and talk with their fans and post something personal like "My son won an award" etc…Shayla Black and Maya Banks are my favorite FB author friends because they are always talking with their fans. There never seems to be "drama" URG! Speaking of drama, when I see an author that I like go all drama and weird on me, I drop them. I feel kinda bad for authors because I know as fans, we tend to put them of pedestals but venting on FB about writing or publishers or SPAMMING them (basically anything that is about their craft) I really hate it.

    Twitter is probably harder for authors to ever really get the chance to respond back. Twitter is kinda like a stalking tool. LOL If an author responds back on Twitter it is a one on one conversation. Other fans don't see (unless they are friends too) and often on Twitter some authors posts like every 10 mins. So even though a tweet makes you smile or makes you think you'd like to respond, you don't really because it could be hours later and that would just be to hard to match up the response to the comment.

    So both have their pros and cons.

  41. KD James

    Interesting you should post this today, Toni, as I'm ending my month-long break from the internet (though I confess I've read THIS blog every day on feed). And I'm debating whether I want to resume Twittering. Initially, I saw it as a way to connect with other writers and had nothing to do with whether I liked or even read their books. It was fun and sometimes flirty and a nice break — a way to touch base with other writers and not feel so isolated. At some point it became, I don't know, less fun and more chore-like. Serious. Not sure why. Maybe it's me. Maybe I need to follow different people. [shrug]

    However, Twitter HAS become an excellent source of links to articles and posts about writing and publishing (and news), although that can become overwhelming pretty quickly. After all, how much do I really need to know about what someone "thinks" is going to happen in publishing and how many articles can I read about someone else's career path? Still, good source of information.

    I'm more likely to try a new writer as a result of a blog post (and am MOST likely to try a new writer just by browsing; really, I'll try almost anything). Sometimes that link comes from Twitter, but not usually. I once got a (much appreciated) book recommendation from someone via Twitter — had just finished writing a rather intense scene and needed something "light" to read. Asked for suggestions, got one almost immediately from someone whose opinion I trust, it was a writer I'd been planning to read but hadn't yet, went over to Amazon, bought the ebook and was reading within minutes.

    I know people have found and read my blog via Twitter and maybe someday (once I'm published) they'll buy my books as a result of that connection. Though I don't view Twitter as a place to "promote" — that's irritating as hell.

    Facebook? Um, I don't know. It confuses me. Seems like it's all about posting pictures and I think we've discussed how I feel about that. Then again, never say never.

    Looking again at your questions, they all seem to revolve around "why/when do you follow" people on T/FB. Aside from industry professionals, I guess I follow people I think are fun/funny or who have "talked" to me. Or who seem likely to talk to me. Otherwise, what's the point? It's not about amassing followers, it's about making friends. There are writers I don't/won't follow because frankly they intimidate the hell out of me. I'll still read their books, but chatting with them? Not going to happen.

    Bottom line, Twitter and FB don't sell books. Good writing sells books. Social media connects people to other people, and the reasons for and satisfaction derived from those connections are as varied and diverse as the people involved.

    Looking forward to seeing everyone's work spaces and hearing about different processes.


  42. Robert Gregory Browne

    My thoughts on social media from an author's POV.

    Twitter is a complete waste of time. Really. It's absolutely pointless. I still have close to a thousand people following me over there despite the fact that I've posted about twice in the last six months. What does that tell you?

    Obviously, nobody even knows you're gone. Or cares. And when I go to the home page and look at the tweets by all the people I'm supposed to be following, all I see are a few either uninteresting or semi-interesting blurbs and a shitload of self-promotion.

    Facebook is fun. It's a place where I can relieve stress when I'm on deadline—which is all the time, lately. I don't really look at it as a promotional tool, but more of a yeah-me-too tool. It's always nice to hear those me-toos when you're a little stressed. Other than that? I don't think it helps much career-wise.

    Blogs. I have a blog called castingthebones.com. I have several articles for writers there and I often get thank you emails. At one time I considered making it a pay membership blog, but realized that was a little ridiculous, so I gave away the milk for free.

    Except I asked my readers one favor. I asked that if a reader/aspiring writer gets anything from my articles that they consider buying one of my books, and I added a link to Amazon for all of my books.

    The sight has been up for over a year now and not one single book has been bought through the site. And I get a TON of hits on that site. So how-to blogs do not sell books.

    Blogs like Muderati. A great place to, like Facebook, get things off my chest. But the pressure to come up with a decent post every couple weeks sometimes weighs heavily and sometimes interferes with my writing time—which isn't good. I have no idea how many Murderati readers, casual or otherwise, have bought and read my books, so there's no real way to measure it's value to me as an author.

    So, all in all, I'm beginning to think of social media as a nice distraction, but a completely useless time suck for authors. In fact, I'm think self-promotion is pretty much a waste of time altogether.

    The only way authors will ever sell books is through strong publisher support.

  43. Robert Gregory Browne

    "One question that has been nagging me and I'm going use this topic to ask. Why are there no links to your websites or blogs on this page? I should be able to click your photo and go to your page."

    Good point, Dudley. You can now click our photos to go to our websites.

  44. Sharon M.

    i) I follow authors on Facebook and Twitter after I've read their books AND I follow authors whose books I'm considering purchasing (often recommended by authors I'm following in the 1st half of this answer) in hopes of liking their personality enough to buy their books.

    Hope this helps!

  45. Catherine

    Rob although it's not easy to quantify maybe people are buying your books after looking at your blog, just not through Amazon. I know I waited a polite month after you published ' Down amongst the Dead Men' before starting to hound my Australian Indie bookstore for a copy. I'll give it another go when I get home from the city…

    I try my local indie store first and then if it looks like it's going to take forever to get hold of a copy…I look at an alternate to Amazon online bookstore. So in my case I will be buying your book based off your Murderati posts, and your website, but it won't be via Amazon.

    I also want to amend my previous possibly snippy comment about shallow social networking ( that was a poor description brought on by an early morning, no coffee and a crowded train where I was typing with my knees almost to my shoulders). Origami typing at it's best.

    I may not understand the allure of FB and twitter, but I do respect other's right to engage.I'm also really interested in what this poll shows.

  46. toni mcgee causey

    This has been terrific, everyone. I'm going to compile the responses and look at the trends/consensus — here and elsewhere — and on my round-up Sunday in two weeks, post what I think I've learned. The response has been tremendous — thank you. (I'll pick a winner by Saturday and ask Allison to post it for me on her day next Sunday.)

  47. Cathy

    RGB –
    I would never have bought down among the dead men, the boulevard, the harrowing, or crap, what's cornelia's? too tired to go paw through the mountain in the corner, if not for this web site. Yeah, it makes a difference
    But re the poll – h

  48. Robert Gregory Browne

    Well, it's good to hear that people are buying our books, but honestly Murderati is not really about that for me. I was simply stating the belief that, in terms of sales, none of the social network does a whole lot in my opinion.

    I don't think signings do a thing, either. I don't think appearances at conferences do anything in terms of sales (they're more about networking).

    In other words, I pretty much think self-promotion is a waste of time. I sell better in the UK than I do in the US and I've never done a lick of self-promotion over there.

    Maybe I'm just in a bad mood because I have a deadline approaching. 🙂

  49. JM Kelley

    i) WRITE IN YOUR TAKE ON THE USE / ABUSE / FALSE ASSUMPTIONS about Facebook and/or Twitter.

    I have to take this route because I'm not a logical enough person to fit in one group. I don't really think that Facebook or Twitter is ESSENTIAL to an author's career, but I personally enjoy finding an author there and having an opportunity to follow their updates. I think it keeps my interest up, if an author is willing to engage their audience. I like getting a peek into their personalities, see how it relates to the words they write.

    I also click on recommendations that I see on Twitter. Hey, I can't help it. I'm addicted to books. It's expanding my reading horizons by doing so, ultimately.

    I have, because of my own writing, developed a habit of following accounts of published authors. And because of that, I've been introduced to stories I may not have considered on a trip to the book store. There is one author in particular who I find so engaging and charming in her interactions with her fans that I will soon be reading an historical romance for the first time, just because of her positive and very interactive presence on her accounts. I'd rather support someone who reaches out rather than someone who completely scorns his/her audience.

    I do think if an author decides to participate in social networking, that if they have a uh, less than endearing personality or it is apparent that a personal assistant is the one doing updates, it can be a detriment. Word spread when someone in the limelight showcases an inability to remain professional and gracious. Just ask Mr. Gibson how that works.

  50. Barbara_NY

    Poll answers: B & G.

    Further comment: There are so many books out there today that it is challenging to trust something new. When I do trip upon a blog entry, or other internet reference that I relate to, or enjoy the content of, I often begin following them on Facebook or Twitter. Then the relationship begins. For me, it is that relationship that determines what comes next. If the short-term connection wains I unFriend them (or its equivalent) and that's that. If it grows, so does a steadfast loyalty. It is that loyalty that drives me to buy that author's work, relentlessly recommend them to others, and checkout everything else they suggest. So, the social network may or may not motivate an initial buying reaction, but, it can evolve into a perceived bond that generates referrals, loyalty, and ultimately added profits.

  51. Simone Cooper

    The questions in this poll are skewed rather than being asked neutrally. I personally agree with the sentiment, however.

    A, B, C: Yes
    D: No
    E, F: Rarely
    G: Rarely
    H: n/a
    I: A good mention or review on Twitter, FB, or a blog might get me interested to look at a book, but often the people I follow are folks who give great advice to writers, but whose genre is not one I personally read. In terms of getting me to actually look at the front cover and first few pages of a book I'd never otherwise have heard of, I suppose it is one good tool.

  52. kc

    I follow a few author blogs, but not so much on FB or Twitter. Okay that's not entirely true. I follow one author on Twitter because her posting make me laugh out loud, but I don't go looking to follow other authors, not even my favorites. Guess I'm just more interested in the blogs than a short little ancillary post. I buy books based on what I read either in the first few pages or on the book cover. That's it. I hardly ever take a friend's recommendation. Been burned too many times in that respect.

  53. Kath in Seattle

    I buy books without knowing about the author. Sometimes I will look for their blog after the fact. Also, I follow a few authors on FB and LiveJournal who I haven't yet read, mostly because its fun to hear their thoughts and I love the fact that we're all writers together, even if what they write isn't my shtick.

    Twitter … yeah, well, I haven't succumbed to it. Personally, it just seems like too huge a time sink to follow a bunch of one sentence blurbs. It could also be that I'm missing the point of Twitter, as I haven't checked it out at all. I'm letting my prejudice hang out here.

    It makes me a little crazy that authors, most of whom have day jobs, are now expected to blog, tweet and FB on a regular basis. All that social media-ing cuts into my writing time! And trust me, after a full-time day job, writing time with any brains at all is sometimes hard won.

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