My own opinion is that it's a waste of time unless you really want to do it and it's something you enjoy doing.
But if you're doing it because you think it will help promote you and your book then that's the wrong reason to be doing it. My own personal thoughts have always been that writers should write. Now that is writing per say, but I'm saying if you want to be a fiction writer you should be writing fiction as much as you can instead of blogging.
I don't think it's a great promotional tool. Maybe if you're an established author who already has a wide audience than it's a cool thing for your fans out there. But if you don't have an audience then your not going to pick up very many more people because A. There's 1 million and 1 blogs already out there competing against you and B. Your competing against technology and blogs are already getting old. The new thing is Twitter and by this time next year someone else will have something else.
In your blog post, the way you've posed the question is fairly critical. Like, you're asking the question, but the post itself forms the answer. So be it. Clearly, in-depth online communication ( I *will* not call it microblogging!) is not for everyone. Yet there are aspects of it I adore. Different strokes, yes?
You ask if it's a worthwhile promotional tool. I posit that you're not asking the right question. Facebook, Twitter and the like are not meant to be about promotion. That's not what they were created for and it's not what they're best at. But my 16-year-old niece who lives a couple of thousand miles away? We have never been so close. We communicate -- in a real and enjoyable way -- every single day. I know what's going on in her life and -- if she cares to keep her head up -- she can know what's going on in mine: at least, the bits that I let loose anyway.
In the year and a half I've been on Facebook, I've reconnected with old friends, long since lost and I've deepened my relationship with friends I see on a regular basis. (That one is into Batik? I didn't know that. This one longs to visit Nepal? I never realized. That one wants a child? A child? She told me she didn't have time for a dog!) And status updates? In a world so busy, we often don't have time to just sit and catch up with our friends, isn't it lovely to be able to have a little beam right into their lives and their hearts? And, sure: going in, it seems to take a lot of time. (Timesuck was the word you used.) But after a while you're in and out of there very quickly. I still have lots of time to write and play and walk with my dog.
OK, all right: it's new. It's different. It's not the way we deepened communication even a half decade ago. But it's here and, used with a delicate touch it can add a new dimension to human interaction. Is it a dimension you want? Perhaps not. But it's nice to know it's there, all the same.
From Gerald So, posted to the LJ version of my blog:
"What sold me on Twitter was the ability to synch my blog feed with it, so whenever I posted a new entry, that would show up on Twitter. You don't have to use it for anything else, and it would get the audience on Twitter to read your blog."
See this sort of thing is what made me curious about it in the first place. Curmudgeonly stance notwithstanding, I posted that rant to see if I could get people to prove me wrong.
I do very little conscious promotion other than my blog, signings and occasional cons. However, I do believe that simply being interesting is the best kind of promotion. (Being a talented and prolific writer is a given - any sort of promotion must be in addition to, never instead of the real writing.) That's the kind of promotion that works best on me as a reader. If someone is interesting, I buy their book. One of the ways I find out if someone is interesting is by reading their blog.
When I started testing the mircoblogging waters by posting status updates on Facebook, I got a lot of instant replies from people I don't know. Clearly those updates are reaching someone other than my immediate friends. I have no idea if this is because I'm already an established author or because they know other people who know me or what.
Anyway, I'm not really looking for a concrete answer here, just opinions. Pro or con, they are all helping to put things in perspective.
So maybe I shouldn't be such a Luddite. Maybe there is a Twitter account in my future. But until then, I've got a jealous tie-in project with a 1/1 deadline that's demanding my attention.
Is the above an example of microblogging? In other words, a very short statement on some web site or other -- either because you enjoy posting, or because you hope to promote your books?
My feeling about blogs, whether macro or micro, is that they need to be engaging and frequent enough to make people come back to be informed and to engage in conversation. Most writers don't have the time to devise interesting topics every single day. The forum here is a good place for pople to post when they cannot write a blog everty day.
As for promotion (announcements of releases and reviews), that belongs in my opinion on your web site where people are presumably going to find out these things. Posted in other places, this sort of news reads like a commercial, and most of us don't much like those.
Nah, the above is just part of a virtual conversation. (And if you read the whole original rant, way too long winded to be micro-anything.) I posted this question to provoke thought and both pro and con responses, not to promote myself. Plus I see blogging, micro or otherwise, as more one way, whereas this kind of forum discussion is more open and reciprocal. All of the responses have been very interesting so far and I find I'm starting to rethink some of my original opinions as a result.
I think it's like 24 hour news, by its very nature it tends to be mundane. It's not real communication. It is simply the illusion of communication. It makes mountains out of molehills. Being a writer doesn't simply mean typing, it means applying some thought to what you're writing. All these incessant updates as to what someone is up to at any given moment: "Now I'm writing. Now I'm writing. Now I'm having lunch. Now I'm jerking off (no one is ever honest enough to microblog that, near as I can tell) are just so much dull chatter. If I have fans out there who really want to know what I'm doing at any given moment, let them put their imaginations to use. What they come up with is most likely going to be more interesting than what I'm really doing anyhow.
There's plenty you can do with Facebook or this place or any number of other social networking sites without it being annoying. I think microblogging is annoying. The sort of thing that makes me glad I don't have children.
The status update on Facebook is microblogging, and it could be useful for promotion. When you go to the homepage of Facebook, after logging in, you will see everything that your friends have done. It lists them. So for instance, Bill left a comment on Jim's Wall. And you can click on that and read it. And when someone updates their status, it will show on the homepage. So my status could say John is excited about his new book coming out Dec. 15, and everyone who is my friend on Facebook will see that update. It's a way to promote yourself without it being annoying.
You can contrast this with Crimespace, which has "friends" but that feature has been rendered useless because of the BSP rules. You would think that if you accept someone as a friend, you wouldn't mind if they sent you an email saying they have an event coming up, but if you do that here people go ape shit for some reason. So there's no real reason to have friends on here. But on Facebook you can promote something and have your friends see it, and no one will consider it annoying because it isn't directed at them.
And your friends will see everything, including notes which can be a blog entry or anything, and you can also create groups on Facebook. So there could be a Crimespace group, and you would get updates from everyone who is a member of that group.
This all means that you have to have friends, so I don't know how effective the status update feature on Facebook would be for finding new fans. You can comment on somone's status though, which means that my friend Steve can comment on my status, maybe say good luck with the new book, or whatever, and one of Steve's friends who isn't my friend will see that comment and maybe be interested.
I don't know how Twitter or Tumblr work as far as networking with other people, but "blogging" itself is a lot like the Facebook status. And another thing is that the mundane stuff like, "I'm writing now," is only a fraction of the stuff that people say on twitter or facebook or wherever. Most of the time these things are used to express feelings, like I'm excited about the game tonight, or as one of my friend's statuses says right now, "[name] has done 100% of her xmas shopping online and is willing to pay 6 bucks shipping to save her sanity". So it's a quick way to express something and it's not meant to be taken so seriously.
And to Eric, it definitely is communication. Not too long ago there was a report of a shooting at my local university campus, and one of my friends works in an office there. The campus went on lockdown so no one could leave, but my friend updated his status both on Facebook and Twitter and provided more information about what was going on then the news was. And since you can comment on these things, there were several of us chatting about it just on the Facebook status.
Still sounds like a time waster to me. Also the definition of "friends" is presumably elastic. I guess by my definition they are pleasant strangers.
I will say that I enjoy the occasional blog of someone reading one my books, but those I look up on purpose and to stay in touch with readers' opinions.
I'd say it's mostly a time waster too, but there is potential for promotion. It'll probably be more useful in upcoming years as the publishing industry makes it's way over to the internet, which I suspect it will if it wants to survive. But that's another discussion.
I'm not much for the "this is what I'm doing today" kind of blogging, because I'm truly a boring person. I write, I cook, I sleep, and I ranch badgers, which is not an exciting life, and I don't think folks can possibly be interested in the minutiae of my life.
I do have a regular blog, but in that blog I write about pop-culture and the business behind it, because I prefer to study and analyze how things work, or don't, and try to get my modest little audience thinking, or talking about it. But writing about myself just doesn't appeal to me, and definitely wouldn't appeal to readers.
"I write, I cook, I sleep, and I ranch badgers..." which to me begins to start like the beginning of a book in itself. (Get along little doggie! Badger ranching?)
And a lot of you -- a *lot* -- overlook the best part of all of this stuff: fun. If (insert name of "microblogging" menu here) it is not fun to you, please don't do it. And why? Because if you're doing it to promote your book and not because it *is* fun, you're going to look like an idiot. I know several people who look like idiots in just that way right now.
And if you do not think it's fun, you don't need to ridicule those of us who *do* think it is and who also -- perhaps mistakenly, but what the hell -- also think that the relationships we enjoy there are real. I mean, fer cryin' out loud! You wanna promote a book? Hire a publicist, contact bookstores, take it on the road ala Konrath, do any number of things that we know to be promoting your book. But don't whine about social networking being a waste of time when it has the word "social" right in what it actually is. ("Microblogging" Phhhhh.)