Sunday, August 5, 2012

"Example is the best precept." *

Setting up a professional writer's page in today's social network can be daunting; but in comparing the Facebook pages of some well-known authors, I have been able to find both bad and good examples to follow in order to create a successful online presence. Tasked with searching through the professional pages of three authors, I chose those of Patricia Cornwell, John Hart, and Debbie Ridpath Ohi. Cornwell, one of my favorite authors, writes serialized crime novels, while Hart produces mysteries and Ohi writes and illustrates for children and middle grade students. Of the three, the one whose Facebook page has given me the best example of utilizing a social network as an author is Ohi's.

When it comes to having a natural voice, one of the best practice points in our class lecture this week, Ohi appears to have no pretensions at all. When she is excited about something, you know it; but she never comes across as a braggart at all. For example, her profile picture shows Ohi broadly grinning and holding up a new copy of the latest children's book she has illustrated. While there are posts on her page about the book throughout its development, that one picture shares with her readers the exhilaration she feels about her accomplishment. 

 (Debbie Ridpath Ohi, by David Weingart)

In one post, Ohi speaks about an illustrator whose doodle is described thusly: "Cuuuute pig on Katie Wools' illustration blog. I could so see this fellow in a picture book!" This is definitely a more casual way of sharing another person's work about which she is excited. In that same post, she goes on to give a link to the doodle and blogpost. In yet another post, indicating some technical issues she is having with some linking from one site to another, Ohi asks for advice and input from her readers. When she receives it, she is quick to express her gratitude. All is done naturally and easily, as if she is speaking directly to the reader face to face, and not from "on high".

In reading John Hart's facebook page, I noticed gaps in posting that went on for a month or more at times (he has been on facebook since 2010). That kind of inconsistency would lose me as a reader or subscriber if it were carried to extremes. Cornwell and Ohi were much more consistent with both women posting several times a week, if not daily. Cornwell may actually be the more consistent in posting, but from a writer's standpoint (and because of some other issues that threw me personally on Cornwell's page), it is Ohi that I look to as an example. If there is a gap, it is seldom longer than a week, and there are hardly ever more than one or two postings on a given day. With Cornwell, sometimes there are far too many posts (many unrelated), that can be confusing to a reader.

All three of the authors' pages I studied showed diversity in their topics, but again, I was drawn to Ohi's most. Hart shared some news on his writing, some comments about his community, and information about other writers. Cornwell shared many, many updates on her latest book to be released and a book being turned into a TV movie, but she also shared comments on current events (including the Colorado theater shooting), pictures of her piloting her helicopter or working in various forensics areas, etc. Some of what she shared was almost distracting because it covered so much territory and little related to actual writing. Ohi, though,shared information on her work, information about numerous other authors and illustrators, interviews, links to other websites, photos of interest to readers, and much more. Being able to learn more about other authors in addition to the one I'm following on Facebook helps me as a writer to broaden my horizons and I greatly appreciate that. Also, I greatly enjoy the humorous aspect of her illustrations that she posts; it keeps the page interesting and lively.

                                                     (by Debbie Ridpath Ohi)

The one area in which I find Ohi's Facebook page lacking is that there seems to be very few comments made to her posts, and virtually no posts made by others to her page (this is not to be confused with the actual responsive comments). This leads me to believe that the posts are moderated or somehow disallowed. It may be that people don't feel compelled to comment on Ohi's posts as often. It may be that she isn't comfortable leaving a lot of "kudos"-type comments left on her page in case that seem self-serving. It is not a topic that is addressed on her page that I have found.

Both Hart and Cornwell have many comments on their pages, both individually generated and in response to their updates. There is even a debate on Cornwell's page in which a reader has become huffy because she just found out that Cornwell supports psychiatric and psychological research for the mentally ill. (This makes sense to me as Cornwell has bipolar disorder). The reader has berated Cornwell for this support; and while she acknowledges the author's great work in her books and has loved the stories, she will no longer read them and is giving away what she already has. The last time I checked, Cornwell has not yet replied on this thread, but she is active in other threads on her page. In any event, the comment and other readers' responses are allowed to stay for all to see. There doesn't seem to be any overt moderation of comments on her page.

In this aspect of interaction, I don't see that Ohi is as involved. Readers' interactions seem to be involved in only the ability to "like" a status, rather than to comment. If she were to reply more frequently to her followers, I think her facebook page would be almost perfect as an example to follow. Still, I do enjoy her natural voice and the exuberance that comes across in her page, the consistency with which she posts which is not overwhelming in quantity, and the diversity of her postings. She inspires me to do much the same thing on my own writer's page (Kimberley B. Hart).

Cornwell, Patricia. Patricia Cornwell. Web. 5 August, 2012.

Hart, John. John Hart. Web. 5 August, 2012

Ohi, Debbie Ridpath. Debbie Ridpath Ohi, Author & Illustrator. Web. 5

          August, 2012.

Weingart, David. Debbie Ridpath Ohi. 2012. Debbie Ridpath Ohi, Author & Illustrator.

         Web. 5 August, 2012.

Ohi, Debbie Ridpath. Punctuation for Sale. 2012. Debbie Ridpath Ohi, Author &

          Illustrator. Web. 5 August, 2012.

* Aesop

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