Social Media News for Writers

This is a new column designed to bring you news about developments in social media that might be of interest to writers. In my other life, the one where I'm not a novelist [], I'm an expert in emerging trends and technology for a major think tank. In my job, it's important (obviously) to stay up on technology news, particularly about emerging media. On a typical week, I see a handful of stories of interest to the novelist, stories about a new or interesting twist to what's going on in publishing. I decided to start putting a link wrap-up post on my blog on Fridays, and Rocky asked if I wouldn't mind doing a monthly edition for HWA.

These columns for HWA won't contain all the links from the Friday wrap-ups, just the highlights. If you want to see the whole thing, you can mosey over to my blog [] on Fridays. If you find these helpful, or even if you don't, drop me or Rocky a line. And if you really enjoy this stuff, you can come see me at World Horror Con, where I'll be on the social media panel.

1. Is this a publishing model worth replicating? Best-selling author Tim Ferriss [] didn't get where he is today by doing anything in a conventional manner. I had the opportunity to hear him speak at a private conference where he discussed the very unconventional things he did to get his first book, The Four Hour Work Week, to the best-seller's list. In this blog post [] at ReadWriteWeb, John Paul Titlow dissects Ferriss' most recent controversial move to not only partner with Amazon as his publisher, but to market aggressively on BitTorrent [], the file-sharing site best known for illegal downloads of media including, uh, books. Will more people buy, rather than steal, Ferriss' book? Ferriss' reasoning: "If someone is willing to spend time finding a legit bootleg source and reading a DRM-broken hard-to-read copy of my book on a computer screen not intended for reading, just to avoid spending $12 or so, they weren't ever my core audience to begin with. If I get them, it's nothing but bonus points."

2. Can Facebook's Social Graph Search Help You Find Readers? Ostensibly, Facebook's new search function is supposed to help businesses get discovered on Facebook, but the jury is out as to whether it's working or not. If you are of a DIY-mind, you might be inclined to roll up your sleeves and poke around after reading this article [] from Mashable's Todd Wasserman. Wasserman figures that if you're a small business that's doing well enough to have super fans who are willing to post about you, you might be able to get the new search tool to work in your favor and help direct new potential followers to you. All without spending ad bucks.

3. Looking for good book blogs? Not just to follow and read, but as potential sites to pitch to feature your book, let you write a guest post or plain ole get-the-word-out-about-you? I'm always on the lookout for good lists of blogs in the hopes of finding new popular ones that I don't already know about. When I got a link for this list [] of "100 Essential Book Blogs for Voracious Readers" I was skeptical, especially considering that it came from one of those pop-up content sites (in this case,, which--if you're going to content-farm for advertising dollars, better for a Master's degree in English than for, I don't know, time-share rentals.) The list is pretty good, it turns out: it has all the stand-bys like The Millions [] and Bookslut [], but some I'd never heard and some that were good for certain niches, including some book clubs for various genres. Worth casting your eye over.

4. Et tu, Google Alerts? It looks as though Google Reader isn't the only tool about to bite the dust. Rumors have been circulating that Google won't be supporting Google Alerts for much longer [], and if you use it (as I do) you've probably noticed that the service isn't what it used to be. If you're in the market for a new tool to replace it, one I've tried recently is Mention []. It's too soon to tell if it will be a good substitute and the two systems aren't exactly alike: Google Alerts were better for indexed Web pages (naturally) while Mention does better with social media, most notably Twitter.

There are many social media monitoring tools out there, most of them are by subscription. If there's enough interest, I'll post a list of them in the future. For most authors--if you're not J.K. Rowling or E.L. James, for instance--the volume of traffic generated about you is such that you're not going to need a service. You can do it yourself, and in the future, I'll tell you how.

And if you're still stuck on the fact that Google Reader is going away this summer, here's a list [] of other RSS readers you might want to try.

5. Amazon Kindle Tell-All? Jason Merkoski was part of the team that developed and birthed the first Kindle in the mid-2000s and you can imagine he has some interesting stories to tell about. Well, as much as the lawyers at Amazon will let him (I know all about non-disclosure agreements). If you're interested in learning more, you might be interested in his book, Burning the Page, which--fittingly--is only available as an e-book. As this article at Paid Content [] says, Merkoski can't tell too many stories of what went on at Amazon, whether Bezos was intent from the very start on disrupting the publishing industry, but he has some interesting thoughts on the future of the book and which mega corporation may win out in the end.

6. Vine is the top free app in the iTunes app store. New media types love it. Any mojo there for writers? Well, this is how bands and musicians are using it []. Maybe you could do something similar--videotape a portion of your next reading, an interview, your book trailer.