A lot of authors and agents and editors nowadays have an online presence. (See, e.g., the whole list of links to my right. And that's only scratching the surface.) And it's pretty much conventional wisdom now that, once you sell a book, you should set up a website, and update it regularly, and perhaps even get a blog. But Patrice Michelle over at Fangs, Fur, and Fey has a good question: as an author, how online should you be?
Theoretically, at least, every minute I spend updating this blog, or my facebook page, or my myspace page, or twittering is a minute I'm not spending working one my current magnum opus (of course, if you look at my last entry, there's a whole lot of minutes I'm spending not doing that already). And JA Konrath says that, for him, it's important to be where the people are. And if you look at the list of links in that post, I think you'll agree that there aren't many places he isn't.
But I disagree with him, and here's why:
In my life as a lawyer, I am obliged to carry a Blackberry so that I can respond to urgent questions at a moment's notice. I must be accessible 24/7 in the event that something CATASTROPHIC happens and someone needs to send me an email about it. But the truth is that very little is actually catastrophic. I don't work with criminals (that I know of...KIDDING!), so no one is going to be sitting in county hoping that I respond to my email. It's just normal work stuff. So, generally, unless I'm waiting for an appointment or travelling or something, I don't check my Blackberry outside of work hours. And even when I do check it, I usually don't send a response right away, but, instead, wait for work hours.
Because I have learned that when you respond to every little email instantly like it was the most important thing in the world, you train people to think of each little email they send as the most important thing in the world. Which it is not.
It's all about setting expectations. If you typically get a response from me in 24 hours, you'll learn to expect one, even subconsciously, within 24 hours, and won't start getting antsy about it until 36 hours has passed. But if you typically get a response from me in 5 minutes, then 10 minutes feels like a long time and 24 hours is an eternity. (An eternity during which you will have sent me approximately 17 follow-up emails saying things like "just wanted to make sure you got my last email." ugg.)
That's how I feel about all those social networking sites. If I sign up for every one of them, then people will expect me to be active on every one of them and the people who prefer Twitter, or Facebook, or whatever new thing comes along tomorrow will only look for me there. And I will be forced to update, and remember passwords for all those sites, and respond to people who contact me through them and blah blah blah. It becomes neverending.
So right now, I just have this blog.* I would have this blog even if I weren't hoping to have a book published. It's not a "platform" for me, but something I like to do--to talk (semi-)publicly about my thoughts on writing and see what the authors and agents have to say. And, if and when The Book (or a subsequent book) gets bought (fingers crossed), I'll get a website, so that people can find me. And if I just have a website and a blog, then people who like my stuff will eventually find me where I am. Sure, someone might prefer it if I had a Twitter feed, or an email newsletter, or a flickr account, but no reader of my books is going to say "Well! I'm not reading Jay ever again until she gets an email newsletter!" If they like the book, they will come to the blog (or subscribe to the RSS feed--I'm not a total Luddite!) and will not care a whole heck of a lot that I'm not updating my status every two hours.
Again, it's about setting expectations.
That's not to say that I wouldn't ever have a Twitter feed, or a ChirpChirp Book**, or a YA Is Awesome Page***--I understand what JA Konrath means when he says that a writer should go where the people are--but life is finite, so I would prefer to keep my outreach to things I like and would do anyways.
* I actually also have a myspace page, but all it is currently is a blank page with a link back here. I find MySpace to be a design disaster, and, should I ever actually make use of it, I'm going to hire someone to design mine. Oh, and I have a Facebook page, but that's for people I know in "real life" and not something that I would use to connect with readers.
**Totally made up.
***Also, totally made up. But a little scary how I can see these things actually happening.