While it’s been common for authors to contractually agree with publishers that they will promote and market, explicit agreements are now showing up in contracts regarding social media. The verbiage varies but the upshot is the author agrees to post on Facebook and Twitter and to Blog. Some language calls for doing these things three months either side of the pub date and some calls for just doing them, which means all the time.
I’m a proponent of specific language in contracts. Vague language can create uncertainty, invite interpretation complications and leave the author or the publisher in gray areas under clouds of doubt about exactly what vague terms mean. That’s never as good a thing as explicit language, which lets everyone know who exactly is to do what/when/how. There’s no confusion.
One challenge right now is that both publishers and authors are trekking thru new territory, and that makes being specific difficult. If you don’t know where things are going, how can you forge an express path on getting there? Yet we do need to be as clear and specific as possible to avoid confusion.
I’m concerned about the promotional clauses naming specific social networks. Why? Think about Myspace. It was a wonder. It was hopping. It was all the rage. And the rage and wonder passed and people flocked to Facebook. If you look at the networks histories, you’ll see that there’s less than a decade that they enjoy being “the” place to go. Facebook has been that place for nearly half a dozen years (to book lovers).
For many Facebook Fatigue has set in. Where people used to check-in four or ten times a day, they now check-in a few times a week. Authors too are getting fatigued. There are constant changes. And while many of those changes are welcome, they each require a new learning curve, and time investments that take away from writing time. Let’s look at an example.
A couple years ago, you started a Facebook account—what’s now a personal account (versus a page). You build it and start a group for discussions. One day, you hit 5,000 “Friends” and you discover that no one else can sign up. Friends are limited to 5,000. So there’s a waiting list. You might have 2,000 on your waiting list (I was there). So the recommendation is you move to a Page. There, the number of “Fans” which later was changed to “Likes” is unlimited. So you merge. (See my earlier post, The Joys of Merging on Facebook). But all those on the waiting list do not come with you. They’re lost. The posts and work you’ve done, all the conversations—posts—are gone. I lost several thousand Friends in this process. Groups and other features, like receiving messages, were gone. All those pretty extra pages had to be recreated, but the language changed too, so unless you were using an outside resource, you had to recreate differently. In my case, it was another learning curve and challenge.
So now you have a Page. There’s little on it, so you begin building again. And then they change your page to the new time-line version. It takes a while to find things, and you discover that only a small percentage of your “Likes” are seeing your posts in their time-lines. So you might have built a large number of followers, but posting doesn’t mean they see what you post. Now, just two days ago, comes another change. Sponsored posts.
If you want to make sure that all your Likes see your post, then you pay for that privilege. If you’ve paid for a promoted post and one of your Likes interacts with the post—likes, comments, or shares it—then the post will also appear in their friends’ time-lines. This too is a paid premium. I read the information on it, but one thing wasn’t listed on the info sheet—the price. So I have no idea what promoting a post costs. I’m sure it’s there somewhere, but I didn’t find it.
Don’t misunderstand and think I’m knocking Facebook. I’m not. It’s a huge system trying to mold itself into an entity that serves its users needs—and those needs are extremely diverse.
Do understand that all the changes and the constant need to adjust create Facebook Fatigue. Too, that your posts don’t appear in all your Likes time-lines hasn’t been talked about much, or known by all (probably still isn’t). This new promotional post ad deal surprised many who were unaware. I did know about the non-appearance though I didn’t know that such a low percentage (9% – 20%) of posts actually were seen by others. Now, Facebook tells you what percentage of people you reached with a post, so you can look at the bottom of your posts on your Page and see the low percentages. This is advantageous now, so you’ll get promotional post ads. It wasn’t advantageous before, because who’s going to post if no one is reading?
Anyway, I’m getting bogged down in minutia. The point is that building on Facebook doesn’t mean your reach is building as many thought it did. It does mean it’s a venue for advertising if your budget allows and your investment (time, energy, resources) is best spent there.
Engagement and reach are two key words the user should deem important. Both require time and money, in my humble opinion, and a lot of flexibility because changes have been constant and will continue to be. You can’t meet the needs of a diverse many without constant change.
So I’m thinking that with fatigue setting in, it’s probably not a good idea to explicitly state specific social networks in publishing contracts or you could wind up having to post to ones that have been abandoned.
There is value in social networking but this is one occasion when I’d advocate general language in a contract so that author and publisher can adapt to the times, invest where it is most beneficial to the author and the publisher. Maybe something as simple as “The author will engage in social networking…”
Twitter is a little different. Its users have established it as a means of getting word out on things and in events/situations where that can be difficult. It’s a micro blog (short posts) with a lot of features. Since it has proven useful in practical (largely political) matters on a global level, and it hasn’t fatigued people with constant change (add a feature, then add another feature), it hasn’t created Twitter fatigue. The fact that it is a micro blog probably helps in that regard. Now will it be popular with readers a year from now? Two years from now? Will readers move on to the next social networking rage? Who knows.
Pinterest has been generating a huge buzz. It’s pictures with one-line comments or very, very short statements—a mini-micro blog, if you will. Maybe it’ll be the next rage. Or Tumbler. Or any of a hundred others. (My money and time are on Pinterest. It’s visual. People like visual. I like visual.)
While I’ve taken the circuitous route in chatting with you this morning, I hope the point has made the trek. Be careful about naming specific social networks in contracts. When the lights are out and the party is over, you want to go to where the party is, not to be posting to an empty room. Otherwise, you’re like the guy in MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL. Walking a leash because you’ve been paid to walk a dog that’s now dead.
Two notes to my book Readers:
1. LOVE IS MURDER—the thriller anthology edited by Sandra Brown with my WED TO DEATH story in it—has arrived. Be sure to snag a copy. The proceeds go to International Thriller Writers to assist authors.
2. SURVIVE THE NIGHT—the first book in the Lost, Inc. series I’m doing for Love Inspired Suspense, is available for preorders. The cover isn’t done yet, but they’ve got some special 4 for 3 deal going and it’s in it. That’s all I really know about it, but mindful of the economical pinch, I wanted to mention it.
Special Note to the Prayer Warriors and Patriots:
Mission almost accomplished. The charges against Diane Tran have been dismissed. The motion to expunge this nonsense from her record goes before the judge today. FMI: helpdianetran.com.