The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

Ghost social networking — to do or not to do?

In publishing, we’re all familiar with ghost writing.  But what about ghost blogging?  And ghost tweeting?  The other week, I met up with a team from a popular book and author website; one person mentioned she’s seen more and more publishing houses boasting of “Twitter campaigns,” but didn’t quite understand how a house could tweet in an author’s stead.  (This is where I make the analogy of someone wanting a baby but having a surrogate carry the baby and a nanny raise it.)

Yesterday, Dave Fleet posted about the issue of “ghost blogging,” explaining why it’s a bad idea and suggesting some alternatives.  For example, he suggests having multiple people blog under their own names rather than having them blog under the guise of one person.

Social networking is about making connections.  If an author isn’t willing or able to do that his/herself, I think it’s best to channel the marketing efforts elsewhere.  Twitter may be the buzz word of the day — and used properly it can sell a lot of books — but a heck of a lot of books are also sold without it.  Think about it this way — if an author isn’t willing to speak about a book at an event, would you hold the event with the editor or publicist instead?  Granted, some bookstores have had success with authorless events, and certain panel events do work well with people involved with a book who are not the author, but the vast majority of author events depend on, well, the author.

Years ago, back when Friendster was still alive, I created and maintained a profile for an author.  But that was the first and only.  Logistically, it simply takes too much time to maintain a profile that’s not my own.  And sometimes, it takes too much time to maintain my own.  Every so often I’m asked by colleagues about whether it’s a good idea to start author profiles on sites like Facebook.  (Now I can just forward this link!)  Would you as a book publicist create and maintain an author profile on a social networking site or would you leave that task to the author?  As an author, how do you feel about having someone network for you?


February 25, 2009 - Posted by | Online Marketing, Social Networking | ,


  1. This is a great issue to ponder, Yen. I’ve worked with several authors on setting up the foundations of their social media campaigns (a word which is not really even appropriate — perhaps “platforms” or “presences” would be better), but would never blog, tweet, or facebook connect AS an author. The majority of my efforts go to training on the how-to’s and whatnots’s of social media. A lot of authors (well, a lot of people in general) are intimidated or just not convinced it’s worth their time to get involved with social media. Once they try it out, and start having some meaningful conversations with people who share their passions, they are hooked and pretty much good to go. (or, on a few occasions, they hate it and that’s the end of that).
    Point being – social media networking is all about authenticity, transparency and making connections on a personal level. A publicist might be able to START a conversation blogging or tweeting in the guise of their client, but they could never meaningfully take the conversation very far.

    I am even extremely hesitant to use my own social networking to publicize an author or book, unless it’s a natural extension of a conversation I’m already having — there’s nothing quicker to kill the magic that is social networking than inserting a promotional ploy or press release into the chat.

    Thanks for broaching the subject, Yen. It’s so important that publicists “get” the social part of social media – and educate and empower their authors to socialize with their readers.

    Comment by Kat Meyer | February 25, 2009 | Reply

  2. As an author, social networking has been invaluable. A vast majority of my book sales have been achieved through social networking and the tools these sites have to offer (targeted advertisements, fan pages, etc.). I can’t imagine a publisher or editor maintaining a site FOR me. It would lack the personal touch. Maintaining a website is one thing, but a social network presence, due to the constant and often real-time conversation, seems like it should be more personal. If the publicist/publisher attempts to pretend the author is maintaining the site, it will at some point be transparent to the fans.

    Comment by J.E. Braun | February 25, 2009 | Reply

  3. As a first-time author, I think social networking (read: Facebook) is my #1 tool for generating early awareness, and it wouldn’t be nearly as effective if turned over to a publicist. My FB friends are the people most likely to buy my book, most likely to evangelize, and I want them to have direct access to me so they stay engaged. For example, to choose between some copy alternatives for my back cover, I put several out to my FB friends (through a Survey Monkey survey) and let them decide. Which got me some better copy, and gave my friends some ownership over the book. For authors who are not comfortable doing their own social networking, I think it would be fine for a publicist to create official pages (as in Facebook fan pages) because they don’t require as much personal interaction and can be used more like mailing lists. But I’d say you’re correct that outsourcing social networking is, at best, a last resort.

    Comment by Andy Raskin | February 25, 2009 | Reply

  4. I think it depends on both the “who” and the “how” when it comes to ghost blogging.

    If, for example, the “who” that’s being blogged on behalf of is an insanely-busy artist for whom keeping in touch with her/his fans is important, but the doing of it is crazy-making, obtaining a ghostblogger is an appealing option.

    And this is where the “how” comes in. If the how is that the ghostwriter sits down with the artist in question and they chat about multiple topics and the ghostwriter takes that information and crafts one or more posts from it, I see no danger.

    There is connection with between the artists and fans that is real, albeit one generation removed.

    If, on the other hand, this same artist simply acquires a ghostwriter and provides absolutely no content concepts to the blog, then perhaps there is a level of dishonesty to it all. I do not, however, feel that it is black-and-white.

    Comment by christy | February 25, 2009 | Reply

  5. I don’t see why one can’t have some sort of web presence in the social networking spaces. Granted, I’m not the type that gets too involved in all of that, though. I have a Myspace that I don’t use, primarily because I can’t stand Myspace and haven’t the heart to get rid of it because some of my friends aren’t on Facebook, and I have a Facebook (obviously), which I do use, but not very often (I make a lot of comments on there and seem active, but I’m not the kind that spends countless hours on there, and that’s really not required, I don’t think).
    Granted, I may be doing the Facebook thing wrong, but I think all authors should have some sort of presence on similar sites, even if it’s minor. I don’t think an author should spend countless hours working on such things (I don’t even know how to fiddle with Facebook beyond adding apps…).
    As for how I would feel if someone was maintaining these things for me: I think I’d be iffy on it if I had no hand in it. If my website were maintained by someone else, and all the posts were written for me (including publicity things), I think I would have a problem. If I was involved in some of it, then I’d be okay. A lot of the publicity side of things can be quite time consuming and if I had someone to do such things (if I were a published author, anyway), then that would mean I could spend more time doing things like writing, etc.

    But that’s me…

    Comment by shaunduke | February 25, 2009 | Reply

  6. […] Ghost social networking — to do or not to do?Yen broaches a delicate subject. We think many publicists miss the point of the social in the social networking. […]

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  7. I’ve had a number of authors ask me to blog or setup & maintain social network profiles for them, but they usually don’t know what’s involved and haven’t bothered to find out before rejecting the idea of doing it themselves. So instead they’ve had an assistant set up a social network profile that is incredibly impersonal (and seems it–like your name is the book title) and the author will never check. That seems so insincere and more likely to cause a backlash.

    Haven’t there been incidents where it was revealed the blogger wasn’t really the blogger and a huge storm came back?

    There are also more honest alternatives where a publicist can participate.

    I’ve also done a blog where I was a contributor (with publicist status clearly marked) and the author blogged once a week while I handled the 4 other days posting excerpts, reviews, guest blogs, and some of the latest news in the field (this lasted about a month).

    Facebook Fan page works well, although they only have a field for “Writer” and not “Book” (which annoys me).

    I would offer to do the initial setup if I didn’t think it was essential to the author understanding how the website works.

    Comment by Alice | February 25, 2009 | Reply

  8. As a writer who is overwhelmed by everything I should be doing to publicise my book, I would love to have someone else to take over the social networking end of things…on the other hand, as a reader, I would feel betrayed if I found out I was having a conversation with a writer’s publicist instead of the writer him- or herself.

    There are lots of great things a publicist can do for you, pretending to *be* you on Facebook or a similar site shouldn’t be one of them.

    Comment by Heather Justesen | February 28, 2009 | Reply

  9. […] } Ghost social networking — to do or not to do? « The Book Publicity Blog. Buenísimo, sobre personas que escriben para otras en las redes sociales!! […]

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  10. […] Ghost social networking — to do or not to do? « The Book Publicity Blog. Buenísimo, sobre personas que escriben para otras en las redes sociales!! […]

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