If introducing yourself to the entire population of Internet users with your homegrown website or blog is not your idea of a good time, you can cozy up to a much more intimate group of like-minded book lovers or book authors on a networking site devoted to your specific area of interest. Think you’re too quirky to find someone already inhabiting your cyberniche? Then start your own group and invite members who share your enthusiasm.
There are far too many variations on this theme to describe them adequately in a single blogpost. Following are just a few examples in several general categories of online discussion groups tailored to authors and their readers. You can join groups that best suit your individual style. The one thing they all have in common is connections established online.
Sampler of book- and writing-centered social networking sites
This online service features many existing groups for both readers and authors, including periodic writing contests sponsored by traditional book publishers. It’s also the Web platform for Starbucks Book Break.
Register any book (perhaps one you authored) on this site. Then leave the book in public where it will be found by a new reader. Check the BookCrossing site to learn whether the finder logged on and wrote a book review or comment. Follow the book’s journey from person to person and get to know the people it meets along the way.
Founded in 1985 and now operated by the Salon Media Group, the WELL describes itself as “a place made of words, an extraordinary word palace with thousands upon thousands of topics of interest.”
Sampler of social cataloging sites
Published or soon-to-be-published authors whose books are entered in LibraryThing, and who have cataloged on the site at least 50 books from their personal libraries, can be distinguished from other LibraryThing members by the yellow “LT Author” badges marking their profiles. You may be able to add a LibraryThing widget to your blog. On the other hand, do you really want everyone to know about your complete collection of Nancy Drew Mysteries?
It’s easy to explore groups, join a discussion of the book you’re currently reading, or host your next book club meeting on the Shelfari site. [Updated January 13, 2016: Shelfari was merged with Goodreads.]
This social networking site for book lovers (and critics) also prominently lists members who are published authors, so you can see what they’re reading.
Ouch! Check out the “Most unpopular 20 books on Goodreads this week.”
Add an application to your Facebook profile in much the same way you would install a widget on your blog or website. Among this social networking site’s popular book applications are Books iRead,
Shelfari Books, Books (there are two apps with this name), and Goodreads Books. Click through your book’s title and make a connection with another member who enjoyed it.
Revish is designed much like Shelfari, but it goes a step further by helping authors, agents, and publicists to make books available to the site’s users for review. If a book has an ISBN, Revish will help match it to any reviewer to whom the author is willing to mail a review copy, and it will also notify the author of the outcome.
Sampler of hyperlocal event schedulers
If you’re an author with a website, you’ve probably already offered to send email to notify the site’s visitors of your upcoming public appearances. Online social networking services often permit members to post event information, and some include an RSVP feature, so other members can see who has promised to attend.
What if you don’t yet have an online presence and want to schedule a book club meeting or a book signing? Maybe you’re looking for an existing group that shares your esoteric interests, but like many people you prefer to meet the group members in person. Some very effective online event scheduling services can simplify the connections:
Sampler of traditional online forums for authors
If you’ve been a Web habitué for at least a decade (or happen to be a devoted online gamer), then traditional online forums, boards, and groups may provide a familiar and comfortable way for you to network. For those who lack the patience to follow myriad discussion threads, online social networking services (described above and in a previous blogpost) display group discussions that might be a bit easier to scan than discussion boards. Nevertheless, for the diehard traditionalist:
Online communities that share a publisher
If you’re a published author, there is probably an online forum or group devoted to sharing information about the experience with the publishing house you chose. Each imprint’s group of authors will have at least a few unique concerns. Groups of authors are also likely to be interested in how to gain publicity, increase sales, and schedule book signings or speaking engagements. CreateSpace, the new Amazon publishing subsidiary, is expected to expand quickly and foster a lively online community. Lulu Friends & Groups already hosts hundreds of members.
This is only the tip of the iceberg, so feel free to add comments and share links to your favorite online discussion groups for authors.
Part 1: Online social networking for authors
Next in the Series
Part 3: Managing your online identities
Part 4: Launching a book’s website
Part 5: Starting an author’s blog
Part 6: Book reviewers on the Web
Part 7: Free publicity for book authors
Part 8: Book video trailers